Pronouns are little words like it, he and she, him and her, they and them, this and that and those and these. They are used mostly to replace Nouns and Noun Phrases.
Notice that in French, pronouns take on the same gender as the noun in the phrase they replace. So Une couche d'ozone is replaced by elle.
Pronouns are usually organized into sub-groups. We will deal here with Subject Pronouns, Object pronouns, and Disjunctive pronouns.
The other sorts, Relative Pronouns, Interrogatives, Demonstratives, Possessives And Indefinites, are dealt with under these headings in the Grammar.
Tu is the "familiar" singular form, used when speaking to friends, family and small animals. It is not common in the sorts of written texts we are dealing with. Vous is used for either one or more people and so is always equivalent to you when going from French to English. For on, see below.
Note that il and elle, agreeing with the noun they represent, often correspond to it rather than he or she.
Notice too the following use of subject pronouns in questions, quite different from English:
Note that both sentences are interrogatives (they ask a question). When the subject of an interrogation is a noun (le virus, les fréquences), it must be repeated as a pronoun after the verb.
On is a very common pronoun. It refers to people in general, like one use of the word one in English:
On has a different use which is common in spoken French. Here it is commonly used as a substitute for nous. If someone says to you: On devrait y aller. it means We should be going. On est allés au cinéma. = We went to see a movie.
Although this use may seem similar to the use of on in the general sense, it is in fact very different. When you say On ne sait jamais. the on refers to anyone and everyone. When you say On est allés au cinéma. the on refers to the speaker and some of his or her friends.
These pronouns are used to represent the Object of the sentence or clause. They come after the verb in English, but usually before the verb in French.
Forms of object pronouns are
me, te, se, nous, vous, le, la, l', les, lui, leur
Most of these forms can represent either direct (She hit him) or indirect (She said it to him) Objects. But le, la , l' and les are always direct, while lui and leur are always indirect.
Indirect object pronouns representing people are often used in the sense of for me, for him:
If the pronoun is not used with a verb, but rather after a preposition, a disjunctive form must be used. (Disjunctive just means that it's separated from the verb.)
moi, toi, lui, elle, nous, vous, eux, elles
En is used to replace any expression beginning with de. It may not need to be translated in English.
Y can be an indirect object, referring to a thing, or it can be an adverbial, meaning there.
Here are, in order, the 30 most frequent pronouns you need to recognize. These are among the most common words in the language. Practice them in the exercises if you are not sure about their meanings or use.
il, se, qui, je, elle, ce,
tout, on, que, nous,
le, me, vous, lui, en,
où, celui, dont, moi,
cela, rien, la, tu, ça,
eux, leur, te, celui-ci,
lequel, quoi, personne.