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Lui – Him (or her)

Lui – Him (or her)

The French pronoun lui has several meanings and can cause a lot of confusion. It can mean both him and her, depending on the context and grammatical structure of the sentence. This post explains the various uses of the French pronoun lui and provides lots of example sentences with audio.


means him or her depending on context

French pronoun lui

What does the French pronoun lui mean?

French “Lui” In A Nutshell

In the sentence, “Je lui parle“, lui is a indirect object pronoun. Thus, this sentence translates to both “I speak to him” and “I speak to her.

Je lui parle.

I speak to him/her.

In the sentence, “Je travaille pour lui“, lui is a stressed pronoun. Thus, the sentence has one single translation: “I work for him”.

Je travaille pour lui.

I work for him.

Lui as an indirect object pronoun

What is an indirect object pronoun?

An indirect object pronoun is a word that’s used to replace a person. For example, “I speak to John” -> “I speak to him“. “I speak to Mary” -> “I speak to her”. In these examples, him and her is the indirect object pronouns.

In French, lui is the indirect object pronoun for both him and her. It is used for verbs following the preposition à, which means to or at.

For example:

Je parle à Pierre -> Je lui parle.

I speak to Pierre. I speak to him.

Je parle à Marie -> Je lui parle.

I speak to Marie. I speak to her.

Thus, you can see that when used as an indirect object pronoun, lui can mean both him and her. To understand which one it means, you must know the context of the sentence.

Here are some other examples where lui means both him and her when used as the indirect object pronoun for verbs followed by the preposition à.

Je lui réponds.

I reply to him/her (I answer him/her).

Je lui obéis.

I obey him/her.

Example of "lui" in French

More examples using this structure:

  • Je lui téléphone. I call him/her.
  • Je lui donne quelque chose. I give him/her something.
  • Je lui dis quelque chose. I say something to him/her.
  • Je lui explique quelque chose. I explain something to him/her.

Interestingly, for the verb penser (to think), you must used the stressed pronoun (link to lesson at bottom of page) say Je pense à lui (I’m thinking about him). You cannot say, je lui pense.

Je pense à lui / Je pense à elle.

I’m thinking about him/her.

French pronouns lui vs le

Many students confused when to use lui and when to use le as object pronouns.

The answer is simple: Use lui for him and her for verbs followed by à and le for him only for verbs not followed by à.

For example:

  • Je lui réponds. I answer him/her. (verb is répondre à; to answer)
  • Je le vois. I see him. (verb is voir; to see)

Je le vois.

I see him.

Lui as a stressed pronoun

What is a stressed pronoun?

Stressed pronouns (also called emphatic, disjunctive and tonic pronouns) are used to put emphasis on a person. They are called disjunctive because they can appear on their own.

For example:

  • Qui aime la glace? – Moi! Who likes ice cream? Me!
  • Moi, je n’aime ce film! (Me,) I don’t like this movie!

When used as a stressed pronoun, lui means “him”.

Important note: For all the example sentences below, if you wanted to say, “her”, you’d have to use the stressed pronoun “elle“, not lui.

Stressed pronouns can be preceded by prepositions such as pour (for), sans (without), avec (with) and chez (at the place/home of).

Here are some example sentences of lui being used as a stressed pronoun when preceded by a preposition.

Je travaille pour lui.

I work for him.

More examples:

  • Elle habite avec lui. She lives with him.
  • Il est chez lui. He’s at home.

Il est chez lui.

He’s at home (at his house).

When used as a stressed pronoun, lui can be used to put emphasis on the the subject. For example:

Lui, il n’aime pas son travail.

He doesn’t like his work.

To express possession, à lui can be used. For example:

La voiture est à lui.

The car is his.

As a stressed pronoun, lui can also be used for comparisons. For example:

Je cours plus vite que lui.

I run faster than him.

French lui – conclusion

Felicitations! Congratulations! Now you’ve mastered how to use lui in French. The next step is to check out our lessons covering both direct and indirect object pronouns and stressed pronouns.

More resources:

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David Issokson

David Issokson is a lifelong language enthusiast. His head is swimming with words and sounds as he speaks over six languages. Of all the languages he speaks, he's the most passionate about French! David has helped hundreds of students to improve their French in his private online lessons. When procrastinating working on FrenchLearner, David enjoys his time skiing and hiking in Teton Valley, Idaho.

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