Lui Meaning (French Pronoun)

Lui: Everything you need to know about this tricky French pronoun.

What does the French pronoun lui mean?

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

The French pronoun lui has several meanings including both him and her, depending on whether it’s being used as an indirect object pronoun or stressed pronoun.

This article will explain the various definitions of the French pronoun lui and provide example sentences.

For more background information, this page covers direct and indirect object pronouns and this page covers and this page covers stressed pronouns in detail.

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 à.

  • Je lui réponds. I reply to him/her (I answer him/her).
  • Je lui téléphone. I call him/her.
  • Je lui obéis. I obey 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.

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 and le for him only for verbs not followed by à.

For example:

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  • Je lui réponds. I answer him/her.
  • 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.
  • Elle habite avec lui. She lives with him.
  • Il est chez lui. He’s at home.

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 job.

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.

The verbs penser (to think) and songer (to think of, about) can cause some confusion.

Even though both of these verbs are followed by à, they take the stressed pronoun and not the indirect object pronoun. Hence:

  • Je pense à lui (I’m thinking of/about him) -> Correct!
  • Je lui pense (I’m thinking of/about him) -> Incorrect!

We hope this explanation of lui has helped and that you now understand when it’s used as an indirect object pronoun and when it’s used as a stressed pronoun!

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