The fundamental principles of French grammar

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Personal pronouns

Personal pronouns are the three grammatical persons: je, tu, il, elle, on, nous, vous, ils, elles; le, la, les, l', me, te, se, lui, leur.

Examples : Je suis étudiant. | I am a student.

Ils ont des enfants. | They have children.

Il te suit depuis que tu lui as parlé. | He's been following you ever since you talked to him.

Note: The indefinite personal pronoun on replaces: quelqu'un, chacun, nous ou vous/toi (colloquial).


Possessive pronouns

Possessive pronouns replace the noun while showing its belonging. It's considered a noun, so it can have all the functions a noun can have (subject, COD, COI).

These pronouns are:: le mien, le tien, le sien ; la mienne, la tienne, la sienne ; les miens, les tiens, les siens ; les miennes, les tiennes, les siennes ; le nôtre, le vôtre, le leur ; la nôtre, la vôtre, la leur ; les nôtres, les vôtres, les leurs.

Examples : Mon chat a disparu ; est-ce que le vôtre est toujours là ? | My cat has disappeared; is yours still here?

J'ai pris tes chaussures parce que les miennes sont sales. | I took your shoes because mine are dirty.

J'ai pris les leurs car j'ai perdu les siennes.| I took theirs because I lost his.


Demonstrative pronouns

Demonstrative pronouns also replace a (group of) noun(s) and are used to situate in time and space.

These pronouns are : ce, c', cela, ça, ceci, celui, celle, ceux, celles.

Examples : Ceci ne me convient pas.| I'm not comfortable with this.

Ceux qui sont absents auront un autre travail à rendre. | Those who are absent will have another job to do.

Celles avec les fleurs sont les plus belles. | The ones with flowers are the most beautiful.


Indefinite pronouns

Indefinite pronouns replace an indefinite/indeterminate person or thing.

These pronouns are : certain(e)s, aucun(e), chacun(e), personne, rien, tout, tous…

Examples : Certains ne sont pas venus. | Some of them didn't come.

Personne n'arrive à comprendre ce qui est expliqué. | No one can understand what is being explained.

Tous ont eu une amende. | They all received a fine.

Notes : Aucun can sometimes mean certain : Some people think this is normal.

Nul is always the subject in a negative sentence and means nobody: Nul (nobody) can do it.

When all is subject, the s is pronounced, unlike when it is determiner: Ils sont tous revenus.


Interrogative pronouns

Interrogative pronouns take the place of the person or thing about which a question is being asked.

These pronouns are : laquelle, duquel, qui, que, auquel…

Examples : Qui vient à la maison ? | Who's coming home?

Laquelle est la plus chère ? | Which is the most expensive?

Quel est le mot de passe ? | What is the password?


Numerical pronouns

Numeral pronouns express the number of something that is not repeated.

These numbers are : un, deux, trois, …

Examples : Parmi les maisons du quartier, deux sont à vendre. | Among the houses in the neighborhood, two are for sale.

Dans le sac de billes, cinq sont à moi. | In the bag of marbles, five are mine.


Adverbial pronouns

Adverbial pronouns substitute non-animate nouns or place names.

These pronouns, en and y, are often accompanied by a personal pronoun or another word.

Example : Je dois m'y rendre pour demain. | I have to be there tomorrow.


Relative pronouns

Relative pronouns are used to link a noun or pronoun with a relative proposition. This type of pronoun is of the same gender, number and person as the noun it replaces, so it has its own function in the sentence. Some of these pronouns can be used without antecedents.

These pronouns are : qui, que, dont, où, lequel, laquelle, auquel, duquel, desquelles…

Examples + Notes :

  1. The pronoun qui is the subject of the relative : La personne qui travaille est mon frère.

  2. The pronoun que is the COD of the verb in the relative: : L'étudiant que nous avions vu était très nerveux.

  3. The pronoun dont can be the COI of the verb in the relative or the complement of the noun:: a) L'horloge dont tu m'as parlé est cassée |The clock you told me about is broken. . b) Les voitures dont les parebrises sont sales sont arrêtées. | The cars with dirty windscreens are stopped.

  4. The pronoun où can be a place or time complement:: a) La maison j'ai grandi n'existe plus | The house where I grew up no longer exists. .b) L'année j'ai eu fini l'école, je me suis envolé pour l'Espagne.| The year I finished school, I flew to Spain.

  5. The compound pronouns lequel, laquelle, lesquels et lesquelles are always accompanied by a preposition (avec, pour, sans, sur...) : J'ai cassé les chaises sur lesquelles je me suis assis. | I broke the chairs I sat on.

  6. The compound pronouns duquel, desquels et desquelles are contractions of the preposition de and the pronouns lequel, lesquels et lesquelles : Le bateau au bord duquel j'ai voyagé était magnifique. | The boat I travelled in was magnificent.

  7. The compound pronouns​​​​​​​ auquel, auxquels and ​​​​​​​auxquelles are the contraction of à and the relative pronouns​​​​​​​ lequel, lesquels and ​​​​​​​lesquelles : Les magasins auxquels je vais sont très grands. | The stores I'm going to are very big.