Saying him, her, it: the pronouns le and la in French

On the previous page, in our introduction to French pronouns, we saw a glimpse of the pronun le, which means him, as in I saw him. In fact:

  • le means him or it, referring to a masculine noun;
  • la means her or it, referring to a feminine noun.

For example:

Referring to...MasculineFeminine
Person
tu connais mon père?
do you know my dad?
oui, je le connais
yes, I know him

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tu connais ma mère?
do you know my mum?
oui, je la connais
yes, I know her

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Thing
tu vois le théâtre?
can/do you see the theatre?
oui, je le vois
yes, I (can) see it

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tu vois la cathédrale?
can/do you see the cathedral?
oui, je la vois
yes, I (can) see it

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Note that if the verb begins with a vowel, then le and la become l'. This is quite common in the perfect tense, because all of the present tense forms of avoir begin with a vowel:

il l'aide beaucoup
he helps him/her a lot
je l'ai acheté hier
I bought it yesterday
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Notice how, because both le and la reduce to the same form l' before a vowel, l' is ambiguous beween him and her. In practice, the meaning is usually clear, though.

Next: saying them in French

The next page looks at the plural equivalent of le and la, namely the pronoun les, which is used to say them.

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This page written by Neil Coffey. Copyright © Javamex UK 2014. All rights reserved.