Direct Objects

Compléments d’objet direct (COD)

French direct objects
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A direct object is a noun, whether person or thing, that someone or something acts upon. In the simplest sentences, the direct object directly follows the verb, so it’s very easy to see the effect that the verb has on the noun.

Par exemple…

Je veux la peinture.   I want the painting.
Elle connaît Guy.   She knows Guy.
Il lit un roman.   He’s reading a novel.

Characteristics of direct objects

  1. Are always used with transitive verbs
  2. Are never preceded by prepositions
  3. Cannot be removed without altering the meaning of the sentence
  4. Become the subject when sentence is turned around into the passive voice
  5. Can always be found by asking "Whom?" or "What?"

Par exemple…

What do I want?   The painting.
Whom does she know?   Guy.
What is he reading?   A novel.

Direct object pronouns

In order to avoid repeating nouns in a series of sentences or when answering questions, both French and English replace direct objects with direct object pronouns.

 En comparaison…

Elle voit Marc. Elle connaît Marc depuis 2 ans.   She sees Marc. She’s known Marc for 2 years.
Elle voit Marc. Elle le connaît depuis 2 ans.   She sees Marc. She’s known him for 2 years.

As you can see, the second version sounds much more natural, in both languages.

French direct object pronouns

me (m’, moi) me   nous us
te (t’, toi) you   vous you
le (l’) him, it   les them
la (l’) her, it      

+ The first and second person singular pronouns have three forms each:

  1. Normal forms: me and te
  2. Contracted forms: m’ and t’, for use in front of a vowel or h muet
  3. Stressed forms: moi and toi, for use in a particular imperative construction

+ The third person singular pronouns have two forms:

  1. Normal forms: le and la
  2. Contracted form: l’, for use in front of a vowel or h muet

 À noter :

  • Le replaces any masculine noun, whether human or inanimate, while la replaces any feminine noun.
  • Le is also a neuter object pronoun

+ The plural direct object pronouns have just one form each.

Word order

In French, direct object pronouns generally precede the verb, whereas in English they follow it – learn more.

Par exemple…

Je le connais.   I know him.
Nous la buvons.   We’re drinking it.
Tu m’aimes ?   Do you love me?
Elles vous voient.   They see you.

Advanced word order

In compound tenses like the passé composé, direct object pronouns precede the auxiliary verblearn more.

Par exemple…

Je l’ai dit.   I said it.
Nous t’avons vu.   We saw you.

With semi-auxiliary verbs, direct object pronouns usually precede the infinitivelearn more.

Par exemple…

Je dois le dire.   I have to say it.
Nous pouvons te voir.   We can see you.

 Quiz: Direct objects

 Related lessons

Learn Spanish En español

Learn Italian In italiano

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French direct object

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