French Pronouns Part 2: Reflexive, Emphatic and Adverbial Pronouns

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  • Created by: M Toynbee
  • Created on: 08-10-15 15:18

Reflexive pronouns

A reflexive pronoun is a pronoun which is used with reflexive verbs. These are verbs on which the action "reflects" back onto the subject: "I washed myself".

The reflexive pronouns in French are:

  • 1st person singular: me (contracting to m')
  • 2nd person singular: te (contracting to t')
  • 3rd person singular: se (contracting to s')
  • 1st person plural: nous
  • 2nd person plural: vous
  • 3rd person plural: se (contracting to s')

Reflexive pronouns almost always go directly in front of the verb with which they are linked (they only follow the verb in the imperative mood). Some examples of their use:

  • Je me lave les dents.
  • Nous nous sommes réveillés par un bruit fort.
  • Ils se voyaient avant son départ.

The translation can vary: in the first sentence, it is "I brush my teeth"; in the second, "We were woken up by a loud noise"; in the third, "They saw each other before his departure". Only the third has a pronoun translated into English.

Emphatic pronouns

An emphatic pronoun (also called a disjunctive pronoun) is a pronoun which often indicates stress. It has a variety of uses, which we will summarise later.

The emphatic pronouns in French are:

  • 1st person singular: moi
  • 2nd person singular: toi
  • 3rd person singular: lui, elle, soi
  • 1st person plural: nous
  • 2nd person plural: vous
  • 3rd person plural: eux, elles

As mentioned, emphatic pronouns have a variety of uses which are quite distinct:

  • For emphasis
  • After c'est or ce sont
  • With multiple subjects or objects
  • In questions
  • After all prepositions except à or pour
  • In comparatives after que
  • With -même for emphasis
  • After ne...que or
  • After à when indicating possession
  • With verbs that don't allow indirect object pronouns (such as croirefaire attentions'habituer and penser


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