As we mentioned in our last lesson, a direct object is a noun that receives the action of a verb (such as "the ball" in "I throw the ball"). On the other hand, an indirect object indicates to whom or for whom the action is done (such as "my friend" in "I throw the ball to my friend"). Just as direct object pronouns replace direct objects (e.g. "I throw it to my friend"), indirect object pronouns replace indirect objects ("I throw the ball to him/her"). There are six indirect object pronouns in French:
me (to me) nous (to us)
te (to you) vous (to you)
lui (to him/her) leur (to them)
In French, an indirect object pronoun usually replaces "à (to) + a person." Unlike direct object pronouns, which can refer to either people or things, indirect object pronouns only refer to people.
Je jette le ballon à mon amie. / Je lui jette le ballon.
I throw the ball to my friend. / I throw her the ball [or "I throw the ball to her"].
The following example contains a mixture of direct and indirect pronouns. How did the speaker know when to use which?
Il m'a dit: "Je le garde". Ben, je lui ai dit: "Écoutez, expliquez aux quatre cents personnes...”
He told me, "I'm keeping it." Well, I told him, "Listen, explain to the four hundred people...”
Cap. 24, Actu Vingtième: Vendanges parisiennes
It all depends on whether the verb in question would normally be followed by the preposition à. Garder isn't followed by à: you would say garder quelque chose (to keep something), but never garder à quelque chose. If you watch the video, you'll know from context that the speaker is referring to le fromage (cheese). So instead of saying je garde le fromage, he uses the direct object pronoun le (je le garde). On the other hand, you would say dire à quelqu'un (to tell someone), but never dire quelqu'un. Because of that à, the speaker knows to use the indirect objects me and lui.
Here are some other examples of indirect object pronouns in action:
Si la nuit me parle de souvenirs passés
If the night speaks to me about past memories
Cap. 3-4, Boulbar: New York, 6 heures du matin
Mais je te donne plus que des mots
But I give you more than words
Cap. 12, Corneille: Comme un fils
Et là, je leur ai envoyé une petite nouvelle…
And here, I sent them a little short story…
Cap. 86, Claudine Thibout Pivert: 2ème Salon du livre et des vieux papiers Mazamet
We know these are indirect object pronouns because they all replace "à + person" in the verbal expressions parler à quelqu'un (to speak to someone), donner à quelqu'un (to give to someone), and envoyer à quelqu'un (to send to someone).
As you learned in our last lesson, when a direct object pronoun is followed by a verb in the past tense (passé composé), the past participle needs to agree in number and gender with the direct object pronoun. On the other hand, you don't have to worry about agreement in the passé composé with indirect object pronouns. That's why you have je leur ai envoyé in the example above and not je leur ai envoyés or je leur ai envoyées.
A direct object is a noun that receives the action of a verb, such as the word "cookie" in the sentence, "I'm eating the cookie." It generally answers the question "what?" or "whom?" ("What am I eating? The cookie.") A direct object pronoun replaces the direct object when the latter is already implied. So instead of "I'm eating the cookie," you could just say, "I'm eating it."
The French direct object pronouns are:
me (me) nous (us)
te (you) vous (you)
le (him, it) les (them, masculine and feminine)
la (her, it)
Direct object pronouns have the same function in French as they do in English, with a few important distinctions. The most notable of these is that whereas in English the direct object always comes after the verb, in French it always comes before (except in the imperative, as we discussed in a previous lesson):
Ce livre me fascine.
This book fascinates me.
Quand un copain t'appelle pour son déménagement
When a friend calls you to help him with his move
Cap. 4, Oldelaf: La Tristitude
The third-person singular direct object pronouns (le and la) have the same gender as the noun they refer to:
Le silence tue la souffrance, l'émoi
Silence kills suffering, the struggle
L'entends-tu, est-ce que tu le vois?
Do you hear it, do you see it?
Cap. 21-22, Indila: S.O.S.
La tarte à l'oignon! -Ouais, comment vous la faites? -Je la fais pas, je l'achète.
Onion tart! -Yeah, how do you make it? -I don't make it, I buy it.
Cap. 17, Actu Vingtième: Foire aux oignons
In the first example, the le of le vois refers to le silence. In the second, the la of la faites/la fais refers to la tarte à l'oignon. Both examples demonstrate another rule that applies to all singular direct object pronouns (me, te, le, and la): when the verb that comes after the pronoun begins with a vowel or silent h, the e or a of the pronoun is dropped and is replaced with an apostrophe (this is known as elision). That's why you have l'achète instead of la achète, l'entends instead of le entends, and t'appelle instead of te appelle.
Again, this only applies to singular direct object pronouns. With the plural pronouns, all you have to think about is number agreement. In the following examples, les refers to both the masculine plural ils and the feminine plural les pommes, and it doesn't change before a verb beginning with a vowel:
À l'assemblée, ils ont reçu un prix qui les touche mais les concerne peu…
At the assembly, they received a prize that touches them but concerns them little…
Cap. 25, Le Journal: Nouveaux artistes pluriculturels
Est-ce que tu aimes les pommes? -Non, je ne les aime pas.
Do you like apples? -No, I don't like them.
The only other tricky aspect of French direct object pronouns occurs in the past tense (passé composé). If you have a feminine singular, feminine plural, or masculine plural direct object pronoun before a verb in the passé composé, you need to make sure that the past participle agrees in number and gender with the noun you're referring to:
Je n'ai pas les jouets. Je les ai oubliés.
I don't have the toys. I forgot them.
Mais si toutes ces technologies existent depuis si longtemps, pourquoi est-ce qu'on ne les a pas utilisées?
But if all these technologies have existed for so long, why haven't we used them?
Cap. 3-4, Il était une fois - Notre Terre: 25. Technologies - Part 6
The root (masculine singular) forms of the above past participles are oublié and utilisé. But since jouets is masculine plural, we need to add an s to oublié to make it plural (oubliés). And since technologies is feminine plural, we need to add an e to utilisé to make it feminine and an s to make it plural (utilisées).
Stay tuned for part two of this series, which will focus on indirect object pronouns. À bientôt!
The subject of Lionel's latest video is Article 49-3 of the French Constitution, which gives the prime minister the power to push through legislation without a parliamentary vote. The government most recently invoked Article 49-3 to push through a labor reform bill that has sparked much controversy in France. Public outcry over the bill culminated in the Nuit Debout protest movement, which Lionel has also been covering for Yabla.
In his video, Lionel uses the verb phrase se passer de (to bypass, to do without) to describe the government's action:
Au final le gouvernement a décidé de passer en force, et s'est passé du vote de l'Assemblée Nationale et du Sénat.
In the end, the government decided to force its passage, and bypassed the vote of the National Assembly and the Senate.
Cap. 7-8, Lionel L: Le 49-3
The de in se passer de is crucial. If you remove it, you'll get a completely different expression, as Lionel demonstrates later on in the video:
…et que d'ores et déjà nous pouvons comparer à ce qui s'est passé en France
…and that already we can compare it to what happened in France
Cap. 19, Lionel L: Le 49-3
By itself, se passer means "to happen" or "occur," as in the expression, Qu'est-ce qui se passe? (What's happening?/What's going on?) You'll also hear it in the impersonal expression il s'est passé...:
Et il s'est passé quelque chose de complètement inédit pour moi…
And something happened that was completely new for me…
Cap. 45, Watt’s In: Indila - Dernière Danse Interview Exclu
But that's not all! Se passer can also mean "to pass" or "pass by" when referring to a period of time:
Six mois se sont passés depuis ma dernière visite.
Six months have passed since my last visit.
Stay tuned to Yabla to learn more about ce qui se passe (what's happening) throughout the French-speaking world!
At the end of "Tango," new on Yabla this week, Mélanie Laurent sings:
Parce qu'au fond tu l'aimes bien, elle te manquerait je crois
Because deep down you really love her, you would miss her, I think
Cap. 52, Mélanie Laurent: “Circus” & “Tango”
When you're talking about missing someone in French, manquer is the verb to use. However, in this context, manquer actually means "to be missing" rather than "to miss." Though elle te manquerait might appear to mean "she would miss you" upon first glance, its literal translation is actually "she would be missing from you," which is just another (perhaps more romantic) way of saying "you would miss her." So when talking to someone close to you whom you haven't seen in a while, make sure to say tu me manques ("I miss you," literally "you're missing from me") rather than je te manque ("you miss me," literally "I'm missing from you").
On the other hand, manquer does mean "to miss" when you're talking about missing something in the sense of not being there for it. In this context it's synonymous with the verb rater:
J'ai manqué [or raté] le bus.
I missed the bus.
The expression "manquer de + infinitive" (or just "manquer + infinitive") means "to nearly do something." "Faillir + infinitive" has the same meaning:
Il a manqué d'être tué [or: Il a failli être tué].
He was nearly killed.
But in the negative, this expression more often means "to not forget to do something":
Ne manquez pas de vous arrêter au numéro treize de l'avenue Junot
Don't forget to stop at number thirteen Avenue Junot
Cap. 12, Voyage dans Paris: Butte Montmartre
Another common meaning of manquer is "to lack," usually in the expression "manquer de + noun":
L'hôpital manque de moyens, comme toutes nos formations sanitaires, hein?
The hospital lacks resources, like all our medical facilities, huh?
Cap. 22, Le Journal: Hôpital ultra-moderne à Burkina Faso
In fact, the noun form of manquer, un manque, specifically means "a lack":
J’ai compris qu'il y avait un manque énorme au niveau, euh... alimentaire
I saw that there was an enormous lack at the, uh... alimentary level
Cap. 7, Alsace 20: Mangez bien, mangez alsacien!
Finally, manquer is also used in the impersonal expression "il manque + noun" ("x is missing"):
Il ne manque plus que l'argent nécessaire.
All that's missing is the necessary money.
Cap. 6, Il était une fois - Les découvreurs: 13. Stephenson - Part 6
In our last lesson, we introduced the French imperative mood, which is used to express a command or a request. We concluded the lesson with a discussion of reflexive verbs, which become hyphenated in the imperative: for example, se souvenir (to remember) becomes souviens-toi! (remember!). In fact, any imperative verb followed by an object pronoun requires a hyphen:
Ouais, donne-moi l'info.
Yeah, give me the info.
Cap. 45, Plus belle la vie: Episode 2771 - Part 7
An imperative verb can even precede two object pronouns (and therefore two hyphens). For example, we could shorten the above sentence to:
Yeah, give it to me.
Let's break that down: donne is the imperative verb (give), la is the direct object pronoun ("it," referring to "the info"), and moi is the indirect object pronoun (to me). Note that in imperative expressions like this, the direct object pronoun always comes before the indirect object pronoun. You can learn more about French object pronouns here.
On the other hand, when you negate an imperative verb with object pronouns, the hyphens disappear and the pronouns move before the verb:
Ne te souviens pas.
Ne me la donne pas.
Don't give it to me.
Though we mentioned in our previous lesson that the imperative is nearly identical to the present indicative form of a verb, there are four very common verbs for which this is not the case: avoir (to have), être (to be), savoir (to know), and vouloir (to want). For these verbs, the imperative is nearly identical to their present subjunctive forms:
Mon ami, n’aie pas peur
My friend, don’t be afraid
Cap. 18, Arthur H et M: Est-ce que tu m’aimes?
Mais soyons prudents!
But let's be careful!
Cap. 17, Il était une fois - les Explorateurs: 10. Amerigo Vespucci - Part 4
Sachez qu'il y a de nombreux trains directs de Paris vers Trouville, Deauville.
Know that there are numerous trains direct from Paris toward Trouville, Deauville.
Cap. 35, Voyage en France: La Normandie - Cabourg
The imperative form of vouloir is mostly used in the second-person plural (veuillez) as a formal way of saying "please":
Veuillez ne pas quitter. Vous allez être mise en relation avec notre secrétariat.
Please stay on the line. You will be connected to our secretary's office.
Cap. 5, Manon et Clémentine: Rendez-vous chez le médecin
That about covers it for the imperative! Don't forget (n'oubliez pas) to check out our new videos this week and don't hesitate (n'hésitez pas) to tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In our last lesson, we looked at three different ways of saying "to look like" in French. We'll continue that pattern in this lesson by introducing the three different ways of saying "to feel": sentir, se sentir, and ressentir. Though these verbs all look alike and have the same meaning, each of them is used in a different context.
Sentir (related to "sense" in English) generally refers to feeling the physical effects of something, such as a post-run stretch or a cool breeze:
Tu dois sentir une petite tension au niveau musculaire.
You should feel a little tension at the muscular level.
Cap. 12, Joanna: La course à pied - Récupération
J'aime sentir la brise rafraîchissante sur mon visage.
I love feeling the cool breeze on my face.
Besides bodily sensations, sentir can refer to feeling any kind of external pressure:
Mais cette année on sent la crise, hein.
But this year we're feeling the financial crisis, you know.
Cap. 25, Actu Vingtième: Le vide-grenier
But "feeling" isn't the only sense of sentir. It can also mean "to smell," both in terms of smelling something and giving off a scent:
Peut-être que vous sentez les odeurs qui sortent des studios de temps en temps.
Maybe you smell the aromas that come out of the studios from time to time.
Non, oh pas vraiment parce que nous, on est derrière les cuisines et puis ça sent!
No, oh not really because us, we're behind the stoves, and so it smells!
Cap. 9-10, 4 Mains Pour 1 Piano: Médaillon de Homard - Part 1
When you make sentir reflexive (se sentir), it becomes less about external, physical feelings and more about internal, emotional ones. While sentir usually takes an object, se sentir usually precedes an adjective or adverb to describe a person's condition or state of mind:
Très vite, elle se sent menacée.
Very soon, she feels threatened.
Cap. 5, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Espion dans l'immeuble - Part 1
Ah, je me sens mieux!
Ah, I feel better!
Cap. 42, Cap 24: Les bus sont-ils toujours en retard ?
Finally, there's ressentir, which literally means "to feel again." That might give you a clue about this verb's connotations. Like se sentir, ressentir also refers to an interior feeling, but it's generally used to describe an intense emotion, something you strongly feel. Like sentir, it usually takes an object:
Vous voyez cette exigence que je ressentais…
You see this demand that I felt…
Cap. 20, Le Journal: Défilé de mode - Part 4
C'était vraiment quelque chose que je ressentais, qui me rendait vraiment heureuse.
It was something that I really felt, that made me really happy.
Cap. 5, B-Girl Frak: La danse
Though ressentir is related to the English verb "to resent," it doesn't have the same meaning. Le ressentiment, however, does mean "resentment."
Sometimes it's tough to talk about your feelings—no matter what language you're speaking. These three verbs will help you do it in French!
In this lesson, we'll introduce three different ways of saying "to look like" in French.
The first expression is ressembler à, which looks a lot like the English word "resemble" (but note the extra s) and is used in much the same way:
Chacun de tes gestes ressemble aux miens
Each of your gestures looks like mine
Cap. 2, Ina-Ich: Âme armée
Ressembler is always followed by à, except when à is replaced by an indirect object pronoun:
Elle me ressemble.
She looks like me.
Cap. 31, Le saviez-vous? - La conjugaison au au présent, au passé et au futur
The second expression, avoir l'air de, is more informal and figurative than ressembler à. Its literal translation is "to have the air/appearance of," but it generally means "to look like" or "to seem":
Tu n'as pas l'air de trouver ça suffisant, Psi.
You don't seem to think that's sufficient, Psi.
Cap. 41, Il était une fois... L'Espace: 6. La révolte des robots - Part 7
Ce chien a l'air d'un loup.
That dog looks like a wolf.
When the expression is in front of an adjective, the de is dropped:
Ça a l'air délicieux, mais j'ai des crampes à l'estomac, je peux rien avaler.
It looks delicious, but I have stomach cramps, I can't swallow anything.
Cap. 4, Plus belle la vie: 2772 - Part 3
Avoir l'air (de) can often be replaced with the verb sembler (to seem):
Tu ne sembles pas trouver ça suffisant, Psi.
You don't seem to think that's sufficient, Psi.
Ça semble délicieux, mais j'ai des crampes à l'estomac, je peux rien avaler.
It looks delicious, but I have stomach cramps, I can't swallow anything.
Finally, there's on dirait, which literally means "one would say," but is often used idiomatically to mean "it looks like":
À première vue, on dirait une pharmacie, mais non...
At first glance, it looks like a pharmacy, but no...
Cap. 1, Le Journal: Chocolats
On dirait qu'il va neiger.
It looks like it's going to snow.
The main difference between these expressions is that ressembler à is only used to compare similar things, whereas avoir l'air de/sembler and on dirait can also be used to convey an impression of something.
We hope this lesson lived up to its title! Feel free to tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to email@example.com.
In this lesson, we'll take a look at some special uses of the elementary French word petit(e), which, as you probably already know, means "little," "small," or "short." Though it generally refers to something or someone of a small size, it can take on a variety of other related meanings. For example, since children are smaller than adults, petit(e) can also mean "little" as in "young":
-Mais tu voulais vivre de la musique? T'étais attachée à la musique?
-Depuis toute petite. Oui, oui.
-But you wanted to make a living from music? You were attached to music?
-Since [I was] very little. Yes, yes.
Cap. 23-24, Alsace 20: Femmes d'exception - Christine Ott
In fact, if you turn the adjective into a (usually plural) noun, you get an informal word for "children":
Les petits sont à l'école.
The kids [or "little ones"] are in school.
But if you address someone as mon petit or ma petite, you're affectionately calling them "my dear." (You could also say mon chéri/ma chérie.)
Speaking of affectionate uses of petit(e), the words for "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" are petit ami and petite amie (literally, "little friend"):
Et pour parler de ma première petite amie, l'une de mes premières petites amies est encore ma femme.
And as for my first girlfriend, one of my first girlfriends is still my wife.
Cap. 18, Mario Canonge: Ses propos - Part 1
Going back to petit(e) as in "young," the words for "granddaughter" and "grandson" are petite-fille ("little daughter") and petit-fils ("little son"). Note that these words are hyphenated, unlike petit ami/petite amie:
Les parents de ma petite-fille sont morts dans un accident de voiture, et c'est moi qui l'élève.
The parents of my granddaughter died in a car accident, and I am the one raising her.
Cap. 13, Plus belle la vie: Episode 2771 - Part 3
If you're only a little bit hungry, you might want to eat something with une petite cuillère (a teaspoon):
Si vous avez une petite faim, je vous recommande de vous arrêter quelques minutes juste ici.
If you're feeling a little hungry, I recommend that you stop for a few minutes right here.
Cap. 12, Voyage dans Paris: Autour de l'Hôtel de Ville
...et pour finir, des couverts comme une fourchette, un couteau, ou une petite cuillère.
...and finally, some cutlery like a fork, a knife, or a teaspoon.
Cap. 34, Joanna: Son nouvel appartement
You can also use the word to give a rough approximation of something:
Il y a une petite dizaine de places...
There are barely ten seats or so...
Cap. 25, Voyage dans Paris: Cité Florale
The number of expressions with petit(e) is by no means small! Here are a few more, just to give you un petit goût (a little taste):
avoir une petite mine (to look pale)
avoir une petite pensée pour quelqu'un (to be thinking of someone)
une petite douceur (a little something sweet)
en petite tenue (in one's underwear, scantily clad)
chercher la petite bête (to nitpick)
à petite dose (in small doses)
une petite nature (a weakling)
une petite foulée (a trot)
une petite voix (a quiet voice)
petit à petit l'oiseau fait son nid (every little bit helps; literally, "little by little the bird makes its nest")
In her hit song "Christine," the French artist Christine and the Queens (aka Héloïse Letissier) plays with the phrase tenir debout:
Je ne tiens pas debout
I can't stand up
Cap. 7, Christine and the Queens: Christine
Ça ne tient pas debout
It doesn't hold up
Cap. 9, Christine and the Queens: Christine
The expression in the first caption is se tenir debout, which means "to stand up" (literally, "to hold oneself upright"). Since it's a reflexive expression, there should actually be a me in the caption (Je ne me tiens pas debout), but reflexive pronouns are often dropped in informal speech.
Without the reflexive pronoun, tenir debout is an idiomatic expression meaning "to hold up" (its literal translation), "to add up," or "to make sense."
Se mettre debout and se lever are two other common ways of saying "to stand up":
Donc on se lève et l'effet de surprise les fait s'envoler dans le filet.
So we stand up and the surprise effect makes them fly into the net.
Cap. 9, Canal 32: Les secrets des cailles des blés
Il s'est mis debout quand je suis entré dans la chambre.
He stood up when I entered the room.
These phrases describe the action of standing up, but if you wanted to describe someone who is already standing, you would use the phrase être debout or even just debout by itself:
Par exemple lui, il était debout, elle, elle était allongée.
For example, him, he was standing up; her, she was lying down.
Cap. 17, Niko de La Faye: "Visages" - Part 1
Debout, une rose à la main
Standing up, a rose in hand
Cap. 17, Indila: Love Story
We can't talk about standing up without also talking about sitting down! There are two expressions for sitting in French: s'asseoir (to sit) and être assis/assise (to be seated):
Le Jardin du joli Cœur est un tout petit parc où on peut s'asseoir tranquillement.
The Jardin du Joli Cœur is a very small park where you can sit quietly.
Cap. 35, Joanna: Son quartier
Tout le reste du temps, je dors... là où je suis assise.
The rest of the time, I sleep... right where I'm sitting.
Cap. 15, Le Journal: Les navigateurs du Vendée Globe - Part 2
Thanks for reading! If you have a suggestion for a future lesson topic, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet us @yabla.