French Direct Objects and Direct Object Pronouns

Complément d'objet direct (COD)

"Je mange le pain." (I'm eating the bread.). RoBeDeRo / Getty Images

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

  • I see Pierre. / Je vois Pierre. / Who do I see? Pierre.
  • I'm eating the bread / Je mange le pain. / ​What am I eating? - Bread.

Direct object pronouns are the words that replace the direct object, so that we don't say things like "Marie was at the bank today. When I saw Marie I smiled." It's much more natural to say "Marie was at the bank today. When I saw her I smiled." 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.

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


  1. 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. 
  2.  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.

There are four main constructions in which to use the French neuter object pronoun - the italics indicate both the neuter pronoun and what it is referring to - note that English often does not have a translation for this le.

1. To replace or refer to an idea contained in an adjective, noun, or clause

  • 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, after aussiautreautrementcommeplusmoinsmieux...
(Note that the ne which shows up in the second clause of many of these examples is also optional - see lesson on ne explétif)
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 penserne pas vouloirne 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 following verbs: croiredevoirdirefalloiroserpenserpouvoirsavoirvouloir

  • 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.