Basics on personal pronouns in French : Subject pronouns

Personal pronoums subjects are essential in French, especially in Sentence structure. They are used in almost 95% of sentences.

So, what are they used for ?

French Personal pronouns subjects are used to replace a noun in a sentence, in order to avoid repetition.

Example : Mathieu  est professeur. Mathieu  aime les enfants. 

It seems weird to have Mathieu repeated. It would be simple to just say in the second sentence : Il aime les enfants. => He likes children. That's where comes in hand your personal pronoun subject.

Personal pronouns subjects will also tell you which conjugated  form of the verb you should use. They are the subject of the verb.

How many of them do we have in French? Let's take a look.

Singular personal pronoun subjects

  • When the pronoun Je is used in front of a verb starting with a vowel or a silent H, then you should use the apostrophe. Example : J'aime le cinéma => I like cinema

  • The pronoun Il/elle as you can see can also mean It when replacing things. Example :  Le ciel est nuageux => the sky is cloudy / II est nuageux => It is cloudy.

  • The personal pronoun On can be used to replace the pronoun We or it can mean people or someone not specifically defined. As a matter of fact,  even if it could replace we, it is conjugated as the pronouns il and elle. Example : Nous allons en France. => On va en France. 

Plural personal pronoun subjects

As you should have noticed, there are two ways of saying They in French. This depends on the gender of the people we are refering to. Ils = only men or men+women. The male gender is dominant. Elles = only women.

Example : Les femmes sont sérieuses. => Elles sont sérieuses. => They are serious

Les hommes et les femmes doivent voter=> Ils doivent voter. => They must vote.

Making the difference between tu et vous

As you would have noticed, there are two ways of saying You in French.

When the personal pronoun represents one person, it can be tu or vous indeed

Tu is used for informal relationship. For example, I would use Tu when talking to friends, family members, to asomebody younger than me.  Example : Papa, tu peux me prendre s'il te plait? => Dad can you carry me please?

Vous is used in a formal situation. For example in a professional context, when talking to somebody older than me, or to someone that I don't know.  Example : Vous êtes M. Martin? => Are you Mr Martin?

When the personal pronoun represents several person, we always use vous.

Exemple : Vous êtes venus ensemble? => Did you come together?

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