Advanced Indirect Objects

Advanced indirect objects
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COI : notions avancées

In French, an indirect object is a person found after a preposition (usually à or pour).

Par exemple…

Il donne des fleurs à son amie.   He’s giving his friend flowers.
J’achète le jeu pour mes enfants.   I’m buying the game for my children.

This preposition + indirect object can usually be replaced by an indirect object pronoun:

Il lui donne des fleurs.   He’s giving her flowers.
Je leur achète le jeu.   I’m buying the game for them.

However, some verbs do not allow indirect object pronouns; instead, the preposition must be maintained after the verb along with the indirect object.

Il pense à son amie.
Il lui pense.
  He’s thinking about his friend.
Je fais référence aux avocats.
Je leur fais référence.
  I’m referring to lawyers.
On s’habitue au nouveau prof.
On se lui habitue.
  We’re getting used to the new teacher.

Alternatively, the indirect object can be replaced by a stressed pronoun:

Il pense à elle.   He’s thinking about her.
Je fais référence à eux.   I’m referring to them.
On s’habitue à lui.   We’re getting used to him.

Less commonly, à + indirect object may be replaced with the adverbial pronoun y:

Il y pense.   He’s thinking about her.
J’y fais référence.   I’m referring to them.
On s’y habitue.   We’re getting used to him.

"No indirect object pronoun" verbs

These are the French verbs that do not allow their indirect object to be replaced by an indirect object pronoun. Note that all but two are followed by the preposition à:

aller à   to go to
en appeler à to appeal to, address
avoir affaire à to have to deal with
avoir confiance en**   to trust, have faith in
avoir recours à to turn to, appeal to
croire à to believe in
être à to belong to
faire allusion à to allude to
faire appel à to appeal to, address
faire attention à to pay attention to
faire (qqch) pour   to do (something) for
faire référence à   to refer to
penser à to think of, about
prendre garde à   to watch out for, take care of
prêter attention à   to pay attention to
recourir à to have recourse to
en référer à   to refer, submit to
réfléchir à   to think about
renoncer à to give up, renounce
revenir à to come back to
rêver à to dream of
songer à to think, dream of
tenir à to be fond of, care about
venir à to come to

 ** However, the very similar expression faire confiance à does allow the indirect object pronoun: je fais confiance à Marc je lui fais confiance.

In addition to the above, all pronominal verbs followed by à plus a person disallow the indirect object pronoun, including

s’accoutumer à   to get used to
s’accrocher à   to hang on to, cling to
s’adresser à   to address, speak to
s’attacher à   to attach oneself to
se faire à   to get used to
se fier à   to trust
s’habituer à to get used to
s’intéresser à   to be interested in
se joindre à   to join, mingle with
se livrer à   to devote oneself to
s’opposer à   to be opposed to, rebel against
se plaindre à   to complain to
se présenter à   to introduce oneself to
se référer à   to refer to

Likewise, pronominal verbs followed by de plus a person cannot take an indirect object pronoun:

s’inquiéter de   to worry about
se méfier de   to distrust, be suspicious of
se moquer de   to make fun of
s’occuper de   to deal with, take care of
se souvenir de   to remember

For these verbs you have two other options: you can either keep de and replace the person with a stressed pronoun or replace both with the adverbial pronoun en.

Par exemple…

Je me méfie de mon voisin.
Je me méfie de lui.
Je m’en méfie.
  I’m suspicious of my neighbor.
I’m suspicious of him.

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French indirect object

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