French Direct Objects and Direct Object Pronouns

"Complément d'objet Direct"

A family eating bread
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Direct objects are the people or things in a sentence that receive the action of the verb. To find the direct object in a sentence, ask the question "Who?" or "What?"

  • Je vois Pierre. –> I see Pierre. (Who do I see? – Pierre)
  • Je mange le pain. –> I'm eating the bread. (What am I eating? – bread)

Direct object pronouns are the words that replace the direct object to avoid repetition. If it weren't for direct object pronouns, we would be saying things like "Marie was at the bank today. When I saw Marie, I smiled." Instead, we usually say "Marie was at the bank today. When I saw her, I smiled." The use of direct object pronouns makes sentences sound more natural.

The Direct Object Pronouns

The French direct object pronouns are:

  • Me / m' –> me
  • Te / t' –> you
  • Le / l'  –> him, it
  • La / l' –> her, it
  • Nous –> us
  • Vous –> you
  • Les –> them

Me and te change to m' and t', respectively, in front of a vowel or mute 'H'. Le and la both change to l'.

Like indirect object pronouns, French direct object pronouns are placed in front of the verb.

  • Je le mange. –> I'm eating it.
  • Il la voit. –> He sees her
  • Je t'aime. –> I love you.
  • Tu m'aimes. –> You love me.

General Rules

Four main constructions use the French neuter object pronoun.

1. To Replace or Refer to an Idea Contained in an Adjective, Noun, or Clause

This is the case in the following examples:

  • Si tu es satisfait, je le suis aussi. –> If you're satisified, I am too.
  • Êtes-vous américain? Oui, je le suis. –> Are you American? Yes, I am.
  • Il est espion! Non, il ne l'est pas. –> He's a spy! No, he's not.
  • Il t'aime. J'espère que tu le comprends. –> He loves you. I hope you understand that.  
  • Je vais me venger. Je le jure! –> ​I will get revenge. I swear it!

2. In the Second Clause of a Comparison

This is the case after the words aussiautreautrementcommeplusmoinsmieux. Note that the ne that shows up in the second clause of many of these examples is also optional.

  • Il est plus grand que je ne le croyais. –> He's taller than I thought.
  • Cela vaut moins que tu ne le penses. –> That's worth less than you think.
  • Elle est autre qu'il ne l'espérait. –> She's different than he hoped.
  • Il n'est pas aussi stupide qu'on le croit. –> He's not as stupid as people think.
  • Ce n'est pas gentil de parler des autres comme tu le fais. –> It's not nice to talk about others like you do.

3.With Negative Expressions of Opinion and Desire: 'Ne Pas Penser,' 'Ne Pas Vouloir,' 'Ne Pas Croire'

  • Va-t-il venir? Je ne le pense pas. –> Is he going to come? I don't think so.
  • Allez, viens avec nous! Je ne le veux pas. –> Come on, come with us! I don't want to.

4.With the Verbs 'Croire,' 'Devoir,' 'Dire,' 'Falloir,' 'Oser,' 'Penser,' 'Pouvoir,' 'Savoir,' 'Vouloir'

  • Comme vous le dites, ce n'est pas juste. –> As you say, it's not fair.
  • Viens quand tu le pourras. –> Come when you can.
  • Il pourrait aider s'il le voulait. –> He could help if he wanted to.

Tips and Notes

When a direct object precedes a verb conjugated into a compound tense such as the passé composé, the past participle has to agree with the direct object. 

If you're having trouble deciding between direct and indirect objects, the general rule is that if the person or thing is preceded by a preposition, that person is an indirect object. If it's not preceded by a preposition, it is a direct object.

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Team, ThoughtCo. "French Direct Objects and Direct Object Pronouns." ThoughtCo, Dec. 6, 2021, Team, ThoughtCo. (2021, December 6). French Direct Objects and Direct Object Pronouns. Retrieved from Team, ThoughtCo. "French Direct Objects and Direct Object Pronouns." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 23, 2023).