French Subject Pronouns

French subject pronounsIf you’re new to learning French you’ll have to learn the subject or personal pronouns: je, tu, il, elle, on, nous, vous, ils, elles. A subject pronoun is the person who carries out an action on a verb. When formulating sentences, a subject pronoun often starts the sentence, he goes, she eats, etc.

personal pronouns chart

je Inous we
tu you (singular familiar)vous you (singular formal + plural)
il, elle, on he, she, oneils, elles they (masculine only or mixed, they female only

personal pronouns – meanings & examples

Now let’s learn about the subject pronouns individually and look at some example sentences.

je – I

Je simply means I. In grammatical terms je is called the “first person singular.” When je is the first word of a sentence it needs to be capitalized. However, unlike English, when je appears in the middle of a sentence it doens’t need to be capitalized.

par example:

  • Je parle français. I speak French.
  • Il ne sait pas quand j’arrive. He doesn’t know when I’m arriving.

tu – you (singular familiar)

Tu is you singular. In grammatical terms tu is called the “second person singular.” This means you use tu when addressing one single individual and not two or more. Familiar means that you use tu with and individual who you know and are comfortable being around or a child. Do not use tu with strangers!

par example:

  • Est-ce que tu aimes Paris? Do you like Paris?
  • Tu viens d’où? Where are you from?

il/elle/on – he, she, one

Il means he, elle means she and on can me “one” or we. This line is called the “third-person singular.” Examples of il and elle.

  • C’est Marie. Elle est intelligente. It’s Marie. She’s intelligent.
  • C’est Martin. Il est professeur. It’s Martin. He’s a teacher.

Unlike English, tangible objects can be referred to with il and elle.

  • C’est un vélo. Il est bleu. It’s a bike. It’s blue.
  • C’est une pizza. Elle est chaude. It’s a pizza. It’s hot.

Here you can find an entire lesson c’est vs. il est/elle est.

The pronoun “on” means one or we. Discussing on is opening a whole can of worms! Here are a few quick examples.

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  • On mange à 17h00? Shall we eat at 5pm?
  • On va chez toi? Shall we go to your place?
  • En France on parle français. French is spoken in France.

Here you can find an entire lesson on the subject pronoun on.

nous – we

The subject pronoun nous means we and there’s not much to explain. Grammatically, nous is called the “first-person plural”.

par example:

  • Nous commençons à 18h00 ce soir. We’re starting at 6pm tonight.
  • Nous savons où nous sommes. We know where we are.

vous – (singular formal + plural)

In French you use vous for an individual who you don’t know or know every well or one or more people (you guys or y’all in English).

par example:

  • Pourriez-vous m’aider? Can you help me?
  • Est-ce que vous comprennez? Do you understand?
  • Bonjour madame, comment allez-vous? Hello, ma’am. How are you?

Here you can read an entire article describing the differences between tu and vous.

ils, elles – they

Ils and elles both mean they. These are referred to as the “third-person plural”. Ils is used to refer to a group of males only or a group of males and females. Elles refers to a group of women only. If there are 99 women and one single man, use ils!

par example:

  • Je connais Marie et Pierre mais je ne sais pas où ils habitent.
    I know Marie and Pierre but I don’t know where they live.
  • J’adore l’équipe feminine de rugby. Elles vont gagner!
    I love the women’s rugby team. They’re going to win!
Related lessons:
More resources:

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