Indirect Objects

Compléments d’objet indirect (COI)

French indirect objects
Share / Tweet / Pin Me!

An indirect object is a person that someone or something does something to indirectly. In the simplest sentences, the indirect object directly follows a verb + preposition, so it’s very easy to see the effect that the verb has on that person.

Par exemple…

Il donne des fleurs à son amie.   He’s giving his friend flowers.
Je l’achète pour mes enfants.   I’m buying it for my children.

Characteristics of indirect objects

  1. Are connected to the verb with a preposition
  2. Cannot be removed without altering the meaning of the sentence
  3. Can be found by asking "to whom?" or "for whom?"*

Par exemple…

To whom is he giving flowers?   To his friend.
For whom am I buying it?   For my children.

*The person following "for" is only an indirect object when s/he is a recipient, as in "I bought it for you." When "for" means "on behalf of," as in "I think I speak for everyone when I say this," the noun after it is called an object of the preposition.

Indirect object pronouns

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

  En comparaison…

Je lis à mes enfants. Je lis à mes enfants chaque soir.   I’m reading to my kids. I read to my kids every evening.
Je lis à mes enfants. Je leur lis chaque soir.   I’m reading to my kids. I read to them every evening.

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

French indirect object pronouns

me (m’, moi) me   nous us
te (t’, toi) you   vous you
lui   him, her   leur them

+ 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

+ There’s no distinction between "to him" and "to her" in French; use lui for both. If you need to make a distinction, you can add à lui or à elle: Je lui ai donné le livre, à elle.

+ The first and second plural indirect object pronouns are identical to the first and second person direct object pronouns – learn more.

Word order

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

In addition, the French indirect object pronoun replaces both the preposition and the noun, but in English, some verbs have to keep the preposition, while other verbs have the option of keeping it.

Par exemple…

Il me parle.   He’s talking to me.
Je t’achète une chemise.   I’m buying you a shirt, I’m buying a shirt for you.
Elle nous donne son canapé.   She’s giving us her couch, She’s giving her couch to us.

 Fais gaffe !

Some French indirect objects are equivalent to direct objects in English, and vice versa.

Nous lui téléphonons une fois par semaine.   We call him once a week.

Lui is an indirect object because the French verb is téléphoner à. However, "him" is a direct object because "call" is not followed by a preposition.

Où est Luc ? Je le cherche depuis midi.   Where’s Luc? I’ve been looking for him since noon.

Le is a direct object because the French verb is chercher with no preposition. But "him" is indirect because the English verb is "to look for."

Learn more: Direct vs indirect objects

   
Quiz: Indirect objects

 Related lessons

Learn Spanish En español

 Share / Tweet / Pin Me!

French indirect object

Any Questions?

 Get help on the forum.
  
 

More Lawless French

 Subscribe to my twice-weekly newsletter.
       

Support Lawless French

  This free website is created with love and a great deal of work.

If you love it, please consider making a one-time or monthly donation.

Your support is entirely optional but tremendously appreciated.