French Grammar Guide for non-francophones

Order of Object Pronouns

Overview of Pronoun Order

The order of object pronouns is presented in the following table :

A B C  D  E example
me le, la les lui y en Joseph me parle.
te Joseph te le donne.
nous leur Il y en a trois.
vous Joseph la leur donne
  Joseph lui en donne.

While this way of representing pronoun order may be helpful, one should not conclude that all suggested combinations will appear! No more than two object pronouns ever appear together. The only possible combinations are those in side by side columns of the table (e.g.: me from column A can combine with les from B; la from column B can combine with lui from column C). Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • no more than two object pronouns ever appear together
  • y only combines with en, and only in the expression il y en a

There are a small number of cases where the pronoun does not precede the verb, e.g.:

  • penser + human object, e.g.: Je pense à lui (and NOT Je lui pense).
  • Avoir besoin de + human object, e.g.: J'ai besoin de vous (and NOT Je vous ai besoin).

Pronoun Order in Imperatives

Any pronoun that is used in an imperative follows the verb and is joined to it by a hyphen, e.g.:

  • Mange-le!
  • Parlez-lui!
  • Attends-moi!

Unlike what is found for declarative sentences, the order in imperatives is "direct object + indirect object + other", as illustrated in the following table:

Direct object Indirect object Locative Partitive Example
le moi/toi
   y   en    Donne-le-moi!
  nous/vous Donne-nous-en!
les lui/leur
  m'/ t'
Fais-m'y penser!

Of course, the likelihood of having more than two pronouns in a row is, well, nil!. However, two-pronoun sequences are common. The main thing to keep in mind is that when there are two, the "thing" comes first and the person who receives comes second (Donne-le-moi).

In negative imperatives, the pronouns are placed before the verb (without a hyphen) and follow the same order as in declarative sentences, e.g.:

  • Ne me parle pas de cette affaire!
  • Ne lui donne pas mon livre!
  • N'y va pas demain!

Furthermore, no hyphens are used in negative imperatives.

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