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

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.


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


Q&A

Robin

Kwiziq community member

13 December 2018

3 replies

seems like a direct object, and not an indirect object

I used les because it seemed like a direct object to me.  So I could find helpful more clarity on why this is not a direct object in the sentence.  Thank you.

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

13 December 2018

13/12/18

Hi Robin, what was the sentence? 

Robin

Kwiziq community member

13 December 2018

13/12/18

Thank you but never mind my question please.  I just re-read a lesson and since the verb required a preposition, that made the object indirect.  I should just read more before asking a question!

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

14 December 2018

14/12/18

No worries! Yes, if the verb the requires a preposition when used with an ordinary noun then the object is indirect (I think of the preposition as getting in the way of the object and the verb, so it's not in 'direct' contact). It's also worth bearing in mind that we can't rely on English to tell us if it's indirect or direct. Many verbs that take direct objects in English take indirect objects in French and vice versa, so you need to think about the form in French used with a noun and then work from there. 

Hope that helps!

Livie

Kwiziq community member

5 December 2018

1 reply

In the phrase, "j'arrive à manger du riz", how does one rephrase it using the indirect object pronoun method. Since lui, leur refer to people.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

5 December 2018

5/12/18

J'arrive à manger du riz. -- I manage to eat rice.

Which noun do you want to replace with a pronoun? There is only "du riz". You can't replace manger du riz as a group with a pronoun since it is an action.

J'arrive à en manger. -- I manage to eat some.

Sandra

Kwiziq community member

21 September 2018

3 replies

In the video, the phrase "je donne une pomme à Paul" was given, but what would be the correct way of replacing that sentence with the pronouns?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

21 September 2018

21/09/18

Hi Sandra,

Je donne une pomme à Paul. -- Je lui en donne une. 

Shelley

Kwiziq community member

27 October 2018

27/10/18

Je la donne a lui

Rant

Kwiziq community member

17 November 2018

17/11/18

What about -- Je lui donne une pomme?

Linda

Kwiziq community member

13 August 2018

2 replies

But lui is male ?? Should it not be her??

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

13 August 2018

13/08/18

Bonjour Linda !

Unfortunately, I don't know what specific sentence you're referring to, but in any case, note that "lui" can apply to either masculine or feminine = to him/to her :)

Bonne journée !

Shelley

Kwiziq community member

27 October 2018

27/10/18

lui is mâle or female

David

Kwiziq community member

6 August 2018

1 reply

"Le vent lui fouettait le visage"

Which of these two is correct, or are both correct. I expected that #2 is correct but it seems the Kwiziq writing challenges expect only #1. I can see both in use elsewhere on the web but I only understand the reasoning behind #2.

1. " Le vent lui fouettait le visage"

2. " Le vent fouettait son visage"

Isn't le/son visage the direct object?

Isn't the use of lui implying that there is an indirect object?

But fouetter does not use indirect objects, does it?

Are we supposed to look at this as:
Subject: The wind

Verb: whips

Direct object: the face

Indirect object: (of) him

But why? There is no "à" in this sentence "Le vent fouettait le visage de Marcel", only a "de".

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

10 August 2018

10/08/18

Bonjour David !

Actually, in this structure, the person is the indirect object:

Literally (and very clunkily), the sentence would be "Le vent fouettait le visage- à Marcel.". 
It's like the face and the person are two different entities in that structure:
"The wind whips the face to Marcel."

It sounds very weird, I completely agree with you, but this is definitely how such sentences are structured in French :)

Bonne journée !

Helen

Kwiziq community member

4 August 2018

1 reply

Can’t see the cartoon video relating to this lesson?

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

7 August 2018

7/08/18

Hi Helen,

If you mean the 'Grammar made easy' one, it plays for me so maybe it's a problem with your device.

Would somebody else be kind enough to check on theirs?

James

Kwiziq community member

24 May 2018

6 replies

I ticked both of the her/him boxes, but only the `her` reflected in my results.

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

25 May 2018

25/05/18

Bonjour James !

I had a look at your answer, and unfortunately, there's no way for me to reproduce the issue.
I know that sometimes I untick answers by mistake before going on to the next one.

Please let us know if it happens again, 

Merci et bonne journée !

Serge

Kwiziq community member

10 June 2018

10/06/18

Same issue.

Victoria

Kwiziq community member

13 June 2018

13/06/18

I had the same issue. Marked me as incorrect as only 'him' showed in my results even though i had ticked him and her. 

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

13 June 2018

13/06/18

Thanks very much for letting us know !

I checked the lesson's questions and didn't see any apparent issue with their scoring.

Could you please give me the exact question you're referring to, so that I can investigate further?

Merci beaucoup !

Theresa-Marie

Kwiziq community member

10 July 2018

10/07/18

Bonjour Aurélie -- it just happened to me, too.

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

10 August 2018

10/08/18

Could everyone on that thread please let us know which exact question they're referring to?

Our technical team is looking into the issue, but needs as much info as possible :)

Merci beaucoup!

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

5 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).

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

26 May 2018

26/05/18

You are quite right...

Have alerted Aurélie to it.

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

29 May 2018

29/05/18

Bonjour Paul !

Thanks to you, that example is now linked to the relevant lesson on relative pronoun "qui"  :)

Merci et à bientôt !

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).

How has your day been?