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Replacing people with lui, leur = him, her, them (indirect object pronouns)

Tip: If the words "indirect object pronoun" strike horror and panic into your heart, scroll to the cartoon video in the examples explaining what indirect objects are. They're actually pretty easy to figure out. And of course, you can also have a look at our Jargon Busters at the bottom of the lesson!

Or, just learn by example.  Notice how lui and leur are used in these examples:

Je lui parle.
I'm speaking to him (or her)

Je leur demande où sont les WC.
I'm asking them where the toilets are.

Tu lui demandes quelque chose.
You're asking him (or her) something.

Il va leur téléphoner.
He's going to telephone them

Je lui téléphone.
I phone him/her.

-> Note here that in French we say téléphoner à quelqu'un (to telephone *to* someone), therefore using lui or leur as object pronouns.

Pour calmer mes enfants, je leur lis une histoire.
To soothe my children, I read them a story.To soothe my children, I read a story to them.

-> Note that you say lire quelque chose à quelqu'un (to read something *to* someone), therefore using lui or leur as object pronouns.

 

ATTENTION

  • lui means either him OR her (depending on the context) and
  • leur means them, irrespective of the the group's gender.  

BUT we only use these words when the verb being used normally goes with à:

  • téléphoner à <quelqu'un> (to telephone <someone>)
  • demander à <quelqu'un> (to ask <someone>)

 

How and when to turn people into lui or leur (like magic...)

Look how these sentences change when specific people are replaced with pronouns:

Je parle à Paul. -> Je lui parle.
I'm speaking to Paul. -> I'm speaking to him.

Je demande à mes amis où sont les WC. -> Je leur demande où sont les WC.
I'm asking my friends where the toilets are. -> I'm asking them where the toilets are.

Il va téléphoner à ses parents. -> Il va leur téléphoner.
He's going to telephone his parents. -> He's going to telephone them.

In each case, the verb in the original sentence is followed by à, which disappears when the specified person is replaced by lui or leur, which also skips in front of the verb.  

When NOT to use lui and leur (indirect object pronouns)

Contrast this with the following example where the verb is not followed by à = appeler <quelqu'un>.


Il va appeler ses parents.  ->  Il va les appeler.
He's going to call his parents.  ->  He's going to call them.
We see here that instead of leur, les is used to say them. 
Lui and leur are only used with verbs usuallly followed by à.  Other pronouns are used for the other cases.
 
Grammar note: Remember verbs always have a subject (je/tu etc.) but only some have objects. Use object pronouns to replace nouns that are the object of the verb. Objects can be direct or indirect - they are indirect if separated from the verb by à

See also Position of direct and indirect object pronouns with negation 

 

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Et tout là-haut le vent,Qui siffle dans les branches...
And all above the wind, Which whistles in the branches...


Je leur demande où sont les WC.
I'm asking them where the toilets are.


Subject, verbs and objects (direct and indirect) MADE EASY!


Il va leur téléphoner.
He's going to telephone them


Pour calmer mes enfants, je leur lis une histoire.
To soothe my children, I read them a story.To soothe my children, I read a story to them.


Je lui parle.
I'm speaking to him (or her)


Je lui téléphone.
I phone him/her.


Tu lui demandes quelque chose.
You're asking him (or her) something.


Q&A

Dina

Kwiziq community member

3 April 2018

4 replies

To or from?

Sorry, the previous one jumped out without me knowing...

As I can understand, lui/leur is more when we are addressing an action towards someone, right? je lui parle, je leur demande, etc. in the test the question was about "voler" FROM sbody. So is it an exceptional case, or is it both "to" and "from" direction? Thanks!

Chris

Kwiziq community member

4 April 2018

4/04/18


Hi Dina,


it can be confusing to tie the use of lui/leur to the English translation using to/from. A better way to think about them is to realize that they replace persons as indirect objects (CID in succinct French) when they are preceded by the preposition "à".


Je parle à Marie. -- Je lui parle. (I spoke to her)
J'ai demandé à Mike. -- Je lui ai demandé. (I asked him.)
Avez-vous téléphoné aux voisins ? -- Avez-vous leur téléphoné? (Did you call them?)


Next to the indirect object there is also a direct object. It isn't preceded by a preposition which is its distinguishing feature. You use direct object pronouns to replace direct objects (COD in French parlance).


Elle me donne un cadeau. -- Elle me le donne. (She gave it to me.)
Je préfère ta maison. -- Je la préfère. (I prefere it.)
Marie aime les fleures. -- Marie les aime. (Marie likes them).


The verb "voler" usually takes a direct object as the thing that is being stolen:


Le cambrioleurs ont volé des livres. -- Le cambrioleurs les ont volés. (The thieves stole them.)


I hope that helps, -- Chris (not a native speaker).

Dina

Kwiziq community member

4 April 2018

4/04/18

Thank you Chris, this really helps!

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

2 May 2018

2/05/18

Hi Dina,


If I may add to what Chris has already said...


In the case of the verb 'Voler', meaning to steal , In French you can "Voler quelque chose à quelqu'un"  "steal something from someone" so it can have both a direct and indirect pronoun .


Look at the following simple dialogue: 


"Martine :  Alain a volé un livre à Patrick!


Louise : C'est pas vrai!


Martine: Oui, il le lui a volé." 


'le' replacing livre and 'lui' replacing Patrick.


Hope this helps!


 


 

Dina

Kwiziq community member

2 May 2018

2/05/18

Hi Cecile, merci beaucoup! I understand that this works similarly with all verbs which are used with "a" as a grammar rule, penser a, voler a, etc. Thanks for help! 

Paul

Kwiziq community member

24 March 2018

3 replies

Qui siffle

Chris

Kwiziq community member

26 March 2018

26/03/18

Please repost your question here. -- Chris.

Paul

Kwiziq community member

26 March 2018

26/03/18

Thanks, Kwizbot is having trouble accepting questions right now.


My question is: "Et tout la-haute le vent, Qui siffle dans les branches" is included in the Examples and Resources for this lesson. Can you please explain how it relates to this lesson on indirect object pronouns?  

Chris

Kwiziq community member

27 March 2018

27/03/18

Good question. I don't see the connection either. Probably needs to be removed.


-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Zaira

Kwiziq community member

17 January 2018

1 reply

Je ________ ai demandé s'ils aiment la canneberge. Why the answer is"leur not les"

Chris

Kwiziq community member

17 January 2018

17/01/18

Hi Zaira, the answer is "leur" because in French you say "demander à quelqu'un".
So you need the indirect pronominal object (leur) and not the direct one (les). Here are two examples:


Je parle aux (à+les) enfants. --> Je leur parle. 
(aux enfants = indirect object)
Je cherche les clés. --> Je les cherche. 
(les clés = direct object)

-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Dragana

Kwiziq community member

7 January 2018

3 replies

leur or leurs? when does either apply? in what context - I am confused with the plural.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

7 January 2018

7/01/18

"Leurs" is used when the noun it refers to is in the plural. An example:

Ils aiment leurs enfants. -- They love their children.
Ils aiment leur enfant. -- They love their child.

-- Chris.

Olof

Kwiziq community member

18 January 2018

18/01/18

This is right, but I think you missed a point. In this lesson we discuss pronouns, that is when you replace people with lui/leur. For example:

Il téléphone à ses parents -> Il leur téléphone

You never replace people with 'leurs', as leurs is not a pronoun.

But there are also what's called "possesive determinants", that you use when someone owns something. English examples might be 'my', 'your', etc. The examples you point out above are possessive determinants, and they can indeed be 'leurs' if their are multiple things that are being owned (sorry for referring to children as things that can be owned, but you get my point).

So if you want to replace multiple people with a word - go with 'leur'.
If you want multiple people to own multiple things - go with 'leurs'.

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

14 February 2018

14/02/18

Hi Dragana, you are actually confusing 2 different types of pronouns.


The lesson you refer to is actually about indirect object pronouns. ( me-te-lui-nous-vous-leur ) "leur" in this case means them or to them and it doesn't need an 's' as it is  already a plural, "lui" can be used for a man or a woman and means him /her or to him/ to her. 


There is another type of pronouns called Possessive Pronouns which will be covered by another lesson and there is a "leur" ( singular) and a "leurs" ( plural ) to translate "their ".


e.g. C'est leur frère , c'est leur mère , ( It is their brother, their mother) , Ce sont leurs frères ( These are their brothers) , Ce sont leurs affaires, ( These are their things ). 


The "leur", "leurs" here agree ( singular or plural ) with the noun they refer to.


Hope this helps!


 


 

Alvin

Kwiziq community member

4 January 2018

4 replies

Which verbs take which object: direct or indirect?

I think I understand the concept of when to use le/la/les vs lui, leur. However besides the three verbs (téléphoner, parler, demander) you used as examples, I don't know which verbs take a direct or indirect object. How does one determine which type of object a verb takes?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

4 January 2018

4/01/18

Good question. One I wish could be answered by a simple rule. I guess you just have to study them. After a while you develop some kind of feeling for this. If I remember correctly, Laura has a good site on here webpage. I'd google it.

-- Chris.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

4 January 2018

4/01/18

Here is the page I had in mind:

https://www.lawlessfrench.com/grammar/direct-vs-indirect-objects/

-- Chris.

Alvin

Kwiziq community member

4 January 2018

4/01/18

Claus,
Yeah I wish there was a simple rule because unfortunately Larousse doesn't cover whether the verb should be followed by à, de, etc.

I will review Laura's page. Thank you for pointing out another article that may help clear things up.

-- Alvin

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

15 February 2018

15/02/18

Hi Alvin,


The 3 verbs you mention demander, parlertéléphoner (donner is the same) use "à quelqu'un" after them so with these type of verbs you will use the indirect object pronouns lui and leur.


I don't think you can learn lists of verbs, it is just a case of practising and you will learn which ones sound right.


An interesting little example , compare what happens in the next sentence which has the same meaning, to call someone using the 2 different verbs, appeler quelqu'un and téléphoner à quelqu'un.


J'ai appelé mon frère hier -> Je l'ai appelé hier.


J'ai téléphoné à mon frère hier -> Je lui ai téléphoné hier.


Hope this helps!

Sharon

Kwiziq community member

28 August 2017

5 replies

Salut! S'il vous plait ,Is this sentence correct?'

Salut! Si'vous plait ,Is this sentence correct?' Je vais leur demander que quel chose? I am going to ask them something?

Ron

Kwiziq community member

28 August 2017

28/08/17

Bonjour Sharon,
Perhaps there is a typo in the French phrase, if that's not the case then this is how I would phrase it:
Je vais leur demander quelque chose ?
Yes, the indirect object pronoun goes between «vais» and «demander» since one would not say «leur vais demander». I don't like to use online translators but I have not seen this structure before. It did translate it as «I would ask them» but I have no idea how that would translate like that. Rest assured that there is a lot of misleading information about French language on the internet and I think this translation is probably one.
Bonne chance et bonne continuation,
Bonne chance.

Sharon

Kwiziq community member

28 August 2017

28/08/17

Bonjour Ron,
D'accord. Merci . I take it from you that it literally means "i would ask them"?. Not "i would ask them something"?.... Just want to be sure my sentence in french is properly phrased and its translation in english..
Merci beaucoup!

Ron

Kwiziq community member

28 August 2017

28/08/17

«Je vais leur demander que quel chose» this is the phrase you typed in your question; however, I took it to mean «je vais leur demander quelque chose» --> I am going to ask them something.
Pardon my confusing statement. When I ran «je leur vais demander» that came back as I would ask them; however, in French the elegant and proper way of stating that is:
«je voudrais leur demander» or similarly «je voudrais leur demander quelque chose»
It was not my intent to provide a confusing example. As can be read, the indirect object pronoun still precedes demander and not voudrais.
I hope that helps.

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

29 August 2017

29/08/17

Bonjour Sharon !

So just to sum up:
Je vais leur demander quelque chose. = I'm going to ask them something.

This is a perfectly correct sentence :)

Bonne journée !

Sharon

Kwiziq community member

29 August 2017

29/08/17

Bonjour Aurelie, Merci beaucoup! Glad to know my sentence is correct. Je suis encouragè.

Shubham

Kwiziq community member

25 May 2017

2 replies

I would like to know if it is correct...

I wrote a quotation in English and now I translated it in French. It's something like that: ( Dans le grand schéma de l'univers, ni vous ni un millier d'autres gens n'aurez un jour de l'importance. Nous ne sommes qu'un infime grain de sable dans une immensité que l'on ne peut même pas imaginer. En acceptant cela, le seul sens que votre vie, ou n'importe quelle autre vie, peut avoir dans une telle immensité est le sens que vous la donnez. Rêvez en grand, amusez-vous, et surtout soyez honnête et soyez heureux. ) In English: ( In the grand scheme of the universe, nothing you or one thousand other people do will ever begin to remotely matter. We are nothing but an infinitesimal speck on a scale we cannot even begin to fathom. Accepting that, the only meaning that your life, or any life, can have on such a scale is the meaning for which you give it. Dream big, live fun, and most importantly be honest and be happy. ) I would like to know if I have translated my quotation correctly in French. Thank you in advance! Note: All my writing pieces are solely my literary work and authorized.

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

29 May 2017

29/05/17

Bonjour Shubbam !

Nice text !
A couple of corrections:
- nothing ...do... = "rien de ce que vous ou un millier d'autres personnes ne faites n'aura jamais la moindre importance."
- Accepting that, here it's used in the sense of "Once you accept that":
"Une fois que vous acceptez ça/cela/ce fait"
- est le sens que vous *la* donnez. = "donner [quelque chose] à [quelqu'un], so here you need to use the indirect object pronoun:
"que vous *lui* donnez"

Here are links to the related lessons:
https://kwiziq.learnfrenchwithalexa.com/revision/grammar/ce-que-what-which-relative-pronouns
https://kwiziq.learnfrenchwithalexa.com/revision/grammar/how-to-say-no-one-and-nothing-personne-ne-and-rien-ne-negative-expressions

I hope that's helpful!
À bientôt !

Shubham

Kwiziq community member

3 June 2017

3/06/17

Bonjour Aurélie! C'est vraiment un conseil utile. Je vous remercie de votre aide. À bientôt!

Judy

Kwiziq community member

11 April 2017

1 reply

Why is Lui used in the following sentence?

I don't understand the use of lui rather than il in this sentence. Paul est mon meilleur ami. Lui, seul comprend mes problèmes.

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

11 April 2017

11/04/17

Bonjour Judy !

In this sentence, "lui" is the disjunctive/stress pronoun (moi, toi, elle, lui...) rather than the indirect object pronoun.
It is usually used for emphasis, but this is the specific case when you use it in conjonction with "seul" to express "only he" :
"Lui seul me comprend." (Only he understands me.)
"Moi seul la comprend." (Only I understand her.)
"Elle seule t'écoute." (Only she listens to you.)
etc

I hope that's helpful!
À bientôt !

Dzoan

Kwiziq community member

22 February 2017

1 reply

Verbs that go with de?

What's about verbs that go with de? Like je parle de mes enfants.

Ron

Kwiziq community member

31 August 2017

31/08/17

Bonjour Dzoan,
You are on the correct track with your question; however, with one thing to keep in mind. Like the use of «à» following certain verbs, there are certain verbs that the use of «de» is obligatory.
Here is a list from another online site that I found:
French Verbs followed by “de”
There are many verbs followed by the preposition “de”.
accepter, accuser, achever, admettre, arrêter, charger, cesser, se charger, choisir, commander, conseiller, défendre, décider, envisager, éviter, finir, se hâter, s’indigner, interdire, jurer, se mêler, menacer, négliger, omettre, suggérer, etc.
Here are some examples of the use of these verbs:
Ils ont accepté de nous vendre la maison. (They agreed to sell us the house.)
On l’accuse d’avoir volé l’argent. (He is accused of stealing the money.)
Arrêtez de crier ! (Stop screaming.)
J’envisage d’acheter une maison. (I’m considering buy a house.)
Il nous suggère de partir tout de suite. (He suggests that we leave right away.)
Je vous propose d’écouter cet extrait. (I propose that we listen to this excerpt.)
I think I recall reading a lesson on this site about this; however, I am unable to locate it.
J'espère que cela vous aiderait.
Bonne chance.

Prashanth

Kwiziq community member

8 December 2016

2 replies

Example 6: Je LEUR lis une histoire...

Does this mean "lire" is a verb for which "à" is commonly applied? Or is it in this case that the full sentence would be "Je lis une histoire à mes enfants", and hence the usage of "leur" is warranted?

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

8 December 2016

8/12/16

Bonjour Prashanth !

It's the second case: the structure is "lire à ".

À bientôt !

Alvin

Kwiziq community member

4 January 2018

4/01/18

Hi Aurélie,
I know this is an old question but I would like to get some clarification. Based on your response to Prashanth's question does that mean the proper way to say "I read them a story" is "Je les lis une histoire." ?

Thanks,
Alvin
Let me take a look at that...