Je is the French version of I. For instance:
- Je vais réussir: I will succeed
Tu corresponds to You.
You should only use tu when you speak with friends and family. Tu is an informal way of addressing people.
You can use vous when referring to people at work, or other formal contexts.
Il and elle are the equivalent to he and she. They can be used in the same way as in English.
Il and elle can also be translated to it. More on this later.
We can translate on with one, for instance:
- On peut essayer d’être heureux: One can try to be happy.
However, it is very common to use on to refer to a group of people – nous:
- On va y aller: We are going there.
Nous also means we. However, nous is the formal way of saying we.
You’ll see it a lot in formal contexts, not so much in films and series, nor in the everyday language.
Vous means you, it’s the plural version of you:
- Vous êtes prêts?: Are you ready?
It should be noted that you can use vous to refer to an individual person. This is considered polite and can be used in formal contexts.
For instance if you are in a store in Paris:
- Pourriez-vous m’aider? Could you help me?
Ils och elles
Ils and elles corresponds to they.
There are 2 different versions because of the use of gender.
If a group of people includes at least one men, we’ll use ils.
- Ils sont méchants: They are mean
If the group includes only women, we’ll use elles.
- Elles sont méchantes
We can replace names with il and elle.
In this case, we are referring to a woman called Anna.
We will replace her name with elle.
It’s the same principle here.
However, now we are referring to a man – John.
We’ll replace the name John with il.
It’s very common to use vous instead of nous, and vice-versa, in the beginning of our language journey.
It’s a good idea to learn them by heart:
- Vous: You (plural)
- Nous: We
There is another way of choosing the right pronoun. The conjugated verb that comes after the pronoun will tell us which one we should use:
- Nous avons un chien: We have a dog.
- Vous avez un chien : You have a dog
We’ll use ils if the group includes at least one man, just like I mentioned in the beginning of this article 🙂
We’ll use elles if the group only includes women.
We can conclude that we are referring to 2 persons, moi (me) and mon ami (my friend)
It’s common to think that the correct answer should be ils/elles.
It would be weird and incorrect to say:
- Me and my friend, they are nice.
The correct answer is nous. The translation of the sentence will be:
- Me and my friend, we are nice.
You can also pick the pronoun based on the conjugated verb that comes after – avons.
Nous and avons are linked to each other.
It would be incorrect to write Ils sommes.
This is a common expression.
Tu vas bien means are you ok? (The direct translation would be are you going well)
You need to be familiar with the conjugation of aller in the present tense to know the answer of this exercise.
- Je vais
- Tu vas
- Il/elle/on va
- Nous allons
- Vous allez
- Ils/elles vont
You’ll probably ask yourself if you need to learn all the different verbs and their conjugations?
Not really, but you need to learn the most common verbs, and aller is definitely included in this category 🙂
Intermediate and advanced
We need to look at comprenons. What should precede comprenons?
It’s nous. I can show you why:
- Je comprends: I understand
- Tu comprends: You understand
- Il/elle/on comprend: He/she/one understands
- Nous comprenons: We undersstand
- Vous comprenez: You understand
- Ils/elles comprennent: They understand
Don’t feel discouraged if you feel overwhelmed by all the different verbs, we’ll practice a lot in this article :-).
This exercise gives us the same problem as the previous one. Aller (to go) is the infinitive of va.
We need to know what we should insert before va.
Va can be linked to:
- Il/elle/on va
Vas can only be linked to tu.
Vont can only be linked to Ils/elles.
And like I mentioned before, aller is a very common and useful verb. You should learn it by heart.
You can think of the famous song by Abba – voulez-vous :-).
The infinitive of voulez is vouloir – to want.
Vouloir is another key verb to learn.
We need to look at me to figure out what we should insert.
Me is a reflexive pronoun.
Je can only be linked to me.
Here are the reflexive pronouns:
- Je me
- Tu te
- Il/elle/on se
- Nous nous
- Vous vous
- Ils/elles se
We need to look at se lève.
You know by now that we can link il, elle and on with se lève.
It’s not possible to link se with tu.
Do you remember the reflexive pronouns?
We can actually use se for both il/elle and ils/elles.
However, the answer can’t be il/elle in this case.
- Il/elle se connaît
The correct answers can be both Ils and Elles.
We don’t know, given the context, if the sentence is referring to a group of men or a group of women.
The solution to this exercise is avoir in the past tense. More precisely le passé compose.
Have you seen this verb before in le passé composé?
- J’ai eu
- Tu as eu
- Il/elle/on a eu
- Nous avons eu
- Vous avez eu
- Ils/elles ont eu
The answer can only be vous avez 🙂
This is another grammatical tense. We have put arriver in the future tense, more precisely le future simple.
Let’s look at the conjugation of arriver in le futur simple:
- Tu arriveras
- Ils/elle/on arrivera
- Nous arriverons
- Vous arriverez
- Ils/elles arriveront
You need to be familiar with the imperfect tense in order to solve this exercise.
Let’s see where it can fit in:-)
- Tu avais
- Il/elle/on avait
- Nous avions
- Vous aviez
- Ils/elles avaient
This is the conjugation of avoir in the imperfect tense. Avoir is a very important verb that is the foundation of other important tenses, for instance the pluperfect tense.
I mentioned earlier that we can use il/elle to refer to things.
The theory behind this is quite easy to understand.
In French, every noun (word) has a gender.
In this case, we are referring to a car (une voiture).
Une voiture is a feminine noun.
Therefore, we can replace une voiture with elle.
Let’s look at an example with a masculine noun:
- Je n’aime pas mon ordinateur, il est lent : I don’t like my computer, it’s slow.
In this example, mon is a possessive adjective:
- We’ll use mon for masculine nouns.
- We’ll use ma for feminine nouns.
Are you still struggling to make sense of the subject pronouns? You are more than welcome to leave a comment.
I enjoy answering questions as it helps me to understand French from different perspectives.