French Pronouns

In this video, we are going to learn the French subject pronouns, “les pronoms sujets”.

French subject pronouns are very important. If you don’t know them you won’t be able to conjugate French verbs because French verb forms change with every subject pronoun.

Let’s see for example the conjugation of the verb “Parler” (to speak or to talk).

Je parle    (I talk or speak)

Tu parles   (You talk or speak)

Il / elle parle   (He /She talks or speaks)

Nous parlons    (We talk or speak)

Vous parlez     (You talk or speak)

Ils parlent        (They talk)

All the words in red are the French pronouns, French subject pronouns to be more precise.

In fact, there is another one, the French pronoun “on” but we will talk about this one in another lesson.

In French, you must always put a subject pronoun if there is no other subject in a sentence.

Now let’s see each of these French pronouns more in detail.

French pronouns: French subject pronouns

1. French pronoun JE

“JE” means “I”.  The [ʒ]  sound of JE is like in the English words “confusion” or “usually”. The difficult part is probably the sound [ə]

It sounds like the English word ago with a British accent.

Don’t worry if you can’t pronounce it correctly right now, with a little bit of practice you will  get used to it and you will be able to pronounce it.

There is something you must be careful with the subject pronoun JE.

Whenever “Je” is followed by a vowel or a an H, “Je” contracts to “J’”.

Before Vowel or H:  J—>J’

For example with the verb AIMER (to like or to love)

You don’t say Je aime but J’aime.

This is called an elision, “L’elision”,  but we will see this in detail in another video.

To keep things simple for the moment, just remember that when “JE” is followed by a vowel (including y) or the letter H,  “Je” becomes “J’” ok?

2. French pronoun TU

“Tu” means” you”. But it’s a familiar or informal You. It is used when you talk to a single person who is a friend, a family member, a child or someone close to you.

Let’s see the pronunciation of the pronoun TU.

The difficult part is the sound [y] in “TU“. This is probably one of the most difficult French sounds. But there is a little trick that will make you pronounce it quite easily.

First say [u]. It’s a sound like in the word “boot” but shorter. Now without moving your mouth, try to say [i] (like in fish or six)

And that’s it, you will see you are actually saying the sound [y].

In the spoken language, you will very often here the elision with “tu”. Although it is grammatically incorrect, it is very common.

For example: T’aimes les pommes ? (do you like apples ?) instead of Tu aimes les pommes ?

3. French pronouns Il and Elle

“Il” means “he” and “elle” means “she”. It’s just like in English and the pronunciation is not that difficult except that in the pronoun “elle” there is an open “e”. You have to open more your mouth to pronounce it.

 

Il and elle can also mean IT. In French, all nouns are masculine or feminine, so to replace them you must use “il” or “elle” depending on their gender.

For example:

La table est grande. (The table is big). Table is a feminine noun in French, so you can say : Elle est grande. (It is big), referring to the table.

4. French pronoun Nous

NOUS means WE and it is used just like in English.

There is only one thing you must be careful with. In fact, when followed by a vowel or an H, you have to make a “liaison” (linking words in speach).

For example with the verb parler, you won’t hear the final “s”

Nous parlons

But with the verb AIMER,  the final s is pronounced like a zed.

Nous aimons

This is the French liaison.

5. French pronoun VOUS

“VOUS” is the plural form of “TU” but it is also the formal “YOU”.

In English there is only one “YOU”, but this is not the case in French.

You use “VOUS” when you talk to more than one person in an informal way.

But “vous” is also the formal you. You must absolutely use it when you don’t know the person very well, to older persons or to someone you must show respect.  This is very important in French. Using “tu” with people you don’t know very well can sound rude in French.

Let’s pronounce it :

The “v”sound is like in the English word “very”.

And be careful with the liaison, before a vowel or an H you must pronounce the s  like a zed.

Vous parlez. (you don’t pronounce the final “s”)

Vous aimez (you make the liaison and the final s is pronounced like an English zed.

6. French pronouns ILS and ELLES

They both mean “they”. They are the plural forms of “il” and “elle”.

But the pronunciation is exactly the same except if there is a liaison.

“Ils” is used for a group or men or when it’s a mixed gender group.

Ils parlent (=they talk. You use it  for a group of men or boys or when there is at least one girl)

Elles parlent  (=they talk for a group of women or girls)

Remember that ils and elles can also refer to a group of nouns.

And once again, be careful with the “liaison”.

Before vowels or an H,  you pronounce the final s like a zed :

Ils aiment

Elles aiment.

 

Ok, so this is all for today. Now you know the French subject pronouns.

Here are the conjugations of the two verbs we have seen as examples PARLER and AIMER. Don’t forget the liaison (in red) and the contraction of Je in green!

Je parle                                           J’aime

Tu parles                                        Tu aimes (t’aimes)

Il / elle parle                                  Il / elle aime

Nous parlons                                Nous aimons

Vous parlez                                  Vous aimez

Ils /elles parlent                          Ils aiment / elles aiment

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