Difference between subjects, objects and pronouns - Grammar Point

A verb has a subject (the person or thing doing the verb), and may have an object (the thing being done to).

Languages have a variety of positions for the subject, verb and object. English is mostly a subject-verb-object, or SVO language.  Consider these two sentences:

subject verb object
John throws the ball
Marie studies English

French is also (mostly) SVO. Consider these sentences:

subject verb object
Jean lance la balle
Marie étudie l'anglais

In French, however, when we replace the object noun (la balle or anglais, in the above examples) with an object pronoun (la, le, l', les), the object pronoun moves in front of the verb, making the sentence structure SOV:

subject object (pron) verb meaning
Jean la lance Jean throws it
Marie l' étudie Marie studies it

Also note that the subject can be replaced with a subject pronoun:

Il la lance.He throws it.

Elle l'étudie.She studies it.

Want to make sure your French sounds confident? We’ll map your knowledge and give you free lessons to focus on your gaps and mistakes. Start your Braimap today »

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Il la lance.He throws it.
Grammar made easy: subjects, verbs and objects explained.
Elle l'étudie.She studies it.
Let me take a look at that...