Pronoun order

Pronoun OrderA Spanish sentence can have both a direct object and an indirect object pronoun. These “double object pronouns” cannot be separated, and the indirect pronoun always precedes the direct pronoun.

Nos lo da. He’s giving it to us.
What is he giving? – It
To whom? – Us.
Te lo muestro. I’m showing it to you.
What am I showing? – It.
To whom? – You.

Double object pronouns usually precede the verb(s) they modify. In the case of infinitives, present participles, and affirmative commands, they can get attached to the end – learn more.

Double object pronoun replacements

When a third person indirect object pronoun (le or les) precedes a third person direct object pronoun (lo, la, los, or las), the indirect pronoun must be changed to se. Context will let you know whether the se is replacing le or les.

les +
{ lo
= se lo
se la
se los
se las

Por ejemplo …

Se lo da. He’s giving it to them.
Se lo muestro. I’m showing it to her.
  •  This replacement is not optional; native Spanish speakers would never say le lo or les lo.
  • However, when se stands for les and is followed by the neuter pronoun lo, Spanish speakers in Latin America will often replace lo with los for clarification.
Spain: Nadie se lo dijo.
Latin Am: Nadie se los dijo.
No one told them.
Spain: Se lo aseguro [a Uds].
Latin Am: Es verdad, se los aseguro.
It’s true, I assure you.

Related lessons

 En français

  • Ordre de deux pronoms compléments

Double Pronoun Order

Pronoun Order
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Sometimes one pronoun just isn’t enough. A sentence might need both a direct and indirect object, or a reflexive pronoun as well as an adverbial. When this happens, word order becomes an issue: how do you know which pronoun to place first? It’s actually pretty easy, once you learn the rules.

 Be sure you fully understand how to use each type of pronoun before continuing with this lesson.

As you know, object, reflexive, and adverbial pronouns precede the verbs they modify in every tense and mood—except the affirmative imperative, when they follow it (learn more). When a verb has double pronouns, they still precede or follow, but the order of the two pronouns themselves also varies.

Normal pronoun order

In the vast majority of verb tenses and moods, the pronouns precede the verb and must be placed in this order:

1 2       .       .       .       3 4
me te se nousvous le lui
Subject pronoun la y en conjugated verb
les leur

Par exemple…

Il me les montre. He’s showing them to me.
Je le lui ai donné. I gave it to him.
Ne la leur envoie pas. Don’t send it to them.
Il y en aura beaucoup. There will be a lot of them.

How-To Guide: Using Pronouns Correctly and Other Editing Tips

It may seem like a no-brainer, but many of us in casual conversations occasionally misuse pronouns. In spoken language, those errors go by instantly and will not likely be remembered even if noticed. Not so with the written word.

The following, from Ace Copyediting, is excerpted from their website, Ace Copyediting is a for-profit editorial service that provides lots of free tips for writers and editors.

We make no endorsement of the company, but do encourage you to explore the site.

  • LESSON: The use of pronoun cases.
  • Do you make any of these pronoun usage errors?
  1. Wrong: Him and I are going to see Titanic tonight.
  2. Wrong: Mary invited both he and I to her birthday party.
  3. Wrong: Me and her are going to eat out tonight.
  4. Wrong: Me and John and you should take Spanish lessons.

Wrong: Who's going to the party tomorrow? Myself and her.

Are you asking, “What's wrong with that?” From this moment on, you're going to know!

  • Correct: He (or she) and I are going to see Titanic tonight
  • Correct: Mary invited both him and me to her party.
  • Correct: She and I are going to eat out tonight.
  • Correct: You, John, and I should take Spanish lessons
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Correct: Who's going to the party tomorrow? She and I.

RULE: Pronouns have three cases: nominative (I, you, he, she, it, they), possessive (my, your, his, her, their), and objective (me, him, her, him, us, them).

Use the nominative case when the pronoun is the subject of your sentence, and remember the rule of manners: always put the other person's name first!

HELPFUL HINT: Use this test. Leave out the other person's name in your sentence and then your own; you'll get a better idea of the correct pronoun form to use. “Me is going to see Titanic tonight.” “Him is going to see Titanic tonight.” Obviously, both examples are incorrect!

Practice several other examples, until you understand the rule.

Susan and he will be at the party. (Susan will be at the party. He will be at the party.)

Mary invited both him and me to the party. (Mary invited me to the party. Mary invited him to the party!)

Russ and she are the new managers. (Russ is a new manager. She is a new manager.)

He and she are co-anchors. (He is a co-anchor. She is a co-anchor.)

  1. Wrong: Me and Henry will be late, as usual!
  2. Correct: Henry and I will be late, as usual!

Would you say, “Me will be late, as usual!” or “I will be . . . .”?

LESSON: Agreement errors: singular subjects with plural pronouns. In most cases you should use a singular pronoun if your sentence has a singular subject.

Sometimes, however, you do not know the preferred gender of the subject of your sentence or the subject identifies as neither male nor female.

In those cases you might rework the sentence to eliminate the need for a singular pronoun or, if that is not possible or results in awkward or unclear writing, you can use they, them or their as a singular, gender-neutral pronoun.

In the past, writers used “his” as a generic pronoun to include both male and female. This is no longer acceptable.

  • Wrong: Every parent wants his child to succeed in school.
  • Correct: Parents want their children to succeed in school.
  • Correct: All parents want their children to succeed in school.
  • Wrong: Each employee will submit his choice for an HMO by Friday.
  • Correct: Employees will submit their choice for an HMO by Friday.
  • Wrong: Everyone has an opportunity to express his concern.
  • Correct: All of you have an opportunity to express concern.
  • Correct: Everyone has an opportunity to express concern.


  • 1 Subject pronouns
  • 2 The pronoun on
  • 3 Stress Pronouns moi, toi, lui, elle, soi, nous, vous, eux, elles
  • 4 Object Pronouns me, te, se, nous, and vous
  • 5 l', le, la, and les
  • 6 Note
  • 7 lui and leur
  • 8 y
  • 9 en
  • 10 Pronoun order
    • 10.1 Order chart
    • 10.2 Order rules
  • 11 L'impératif
  • 12 Possessive pronouns

A pronoun replaces a noun in a sentence. Often used to prevent repeating the noun. French has six different types of subject pronouns: the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person singular and the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person plural.

GrammarSubject Pronouns · Les pronoms soumis
1st person singular je I
plural nous we
2nd person singular tu you
plural vous* you
3rd person singular il, elle, on** he, she, one
plural ils, elles*** they (masculine)they (feminine)


* When referring to more than one person in the 2nd person, “vous” must be used. When referring to a single person, “vous” or “tu” may be used depending on the situation. Tu is informal and used only with well-known acquaintances.

In case of unknown persons you have to use the polite form Vous. A good example, to explain that is the following: If two business acquaintances meet another, they say Vous. If they later fall in love, they say Tu. When unsure, it is better to say “vous.

” Also, grammatically, even the singular form of “vous” behaves as though it were a plural, so even if you are addressing only one person, you would still use verbal grammar consistent with addressing multiple people, similar to English (as in “you are”, “you [all] are”, “they are.

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“) Nevertheless, the adjectives or past participles are declined according to the true number of the referring pronoun.

Examples, addressing one person:

  • Tu chantes – you sing (informal)
  • Vous chantez – you sing (polite) – (also, to address many persons)
  • Tu es grand – You are tall (informal)
  • Vous êtes grand – You are tall (polite, male)
  • Vous êtes grande – You are tall (polite, female)

Examples, addressing many persons:

  • Vous êtes grands – You are tall (formal or polite, male, many persons)
  • Vous êtes grandes – You are tall (formal or polite, female, many persons)

** – il denotes masculine nouns, elle denotes feminine nouns, and on is for indeterminate subjects (see below).

*** – While the third person plural “they” has no gender in English, the French equivalents “ils” and “elles” do.

However, when pronounced, they normally sound the same as “il” and “elle”, so distinguishing the difference requires understanding of the various conjugations of the verbs following the pronoun.

Ils is used with all-male or mixed groups, elles is only used when all members of the group are female.

  • Jack et Philippe parlent – Jack and Philippe speakIls parlent – They speak (all-male group)
  • Jack et Lucy parlent – Jack and Lucy speakIls parlent – They speak (mixed group)
  • Lucy et Dina parlent – Lucy and Dina speakElles parlent – They speak (all female group)

The pronoun on[edit]

French pronouns carry meanings that do not exist in English pronouns. The French third person “on” has several meanings, but most closely matches the English “one”, except that it is not so formal, and is more common. It has a number of uses:

  • It is used in the same ways as the English personal pronoun one:
    • It is used in expressing generalities: « C'est en forgeant qu'on devient forgeron. » (“It is by blacksmithing that one becomes a blacksmith.”)
    • It is the implicit subject for an infinitive that has no other implicit subject: « penser qu'on a raison » (“to think that one is right,” i.e. “to think oneself right”).
  • Because of French's limited passive voice, it is often used as an empty subject when the agent is unknown or unimportant: « On me l'a donné. » (“[On] gave it to me” or “I was given it” or “It was given to me.”)
  • It is used as a less formal substitute for the subject pronoun nous (we). In this case, note that even though on always takes a third-person singular verb, it takes plural adjectives (« On est américains », “We're American”). Also, note that the other forms of nous (direct object, indirect object, and disjunctive) are not replaced by forms of on unless on is the subject as well. (Hence, « Ils nous l'ont donné », “They gave it to us,” but « On se l'est donné », “We gave it to ourselves.”)
  • It is not the number 1, and therefore is not used to mean “one of them.” In French as in English, numbers can be used as pronouns — « Deux sont entrés et un est ressorti », “Two went in and one came back out” — but the number 1 is un(e), not on.

On does not have ordinary direct- and indirect-object pronouns, only the reflexive pronoun se.

Similarly, its disjunctive-pronoun form, soi, is only used when on is the subject and soi refers to the same entity.

The pronoun quelqu'un (“someone”) can fill some of the roles of on, in the same way that one and someone are sometimes interchangeable in English.

Stress Pronouns moi, toi, lui, elle, soi, nous, vous, eux, elles[edit]


  • moi – me
  • toi – you
  • lui – him
  • elle – her
  • soi – one
  • nous – us
  • vous – you (plural/formal)
  • eux – them (masculine)
  • elles – them (feminine)
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  • after avec or chez
    • avec moi – with me
    • avec lui – with him
    • chez soi – at one's place
    • chez eux – at their place

Object Pronouns me, te, se, nous, and vous[edit]


  • me – me, to me
  • te – you, to you (singular, informal)
  • se – to him/her (or himself/herself/itself – reflexive)
  • nous – us, to us
  • vous – you, to you (plural, formal)
  • se – to them (or themselves – reflexive)

Place in sentences[edit]

  • These pronouns are placed before the verb that they modify
    • Je te vois. – I see you.
    • Je veux te voir. – I want to see you.
  • If a perfect tense is used, these pronouns go before the auxiliary verb.

Direct object replacement[edit]

  • Il me voit. – He sees me.
  • Il te voit. – He sees you.
  • Il nous voit. – He sees us.
  • Il vous voit. – He sees you.

Indirect Object Replacement[edit]

  • Il m'appelle. – He calls me.
  • Il te le lance. – He throws it to you.
  • Il nous le lance. – He throws it to us.
  • Il vous le lance. – He throws it to you.

l', le, la, and les[edit]

l', le, la, and les are pronouns which are used as direct objects and hence are called direct object pronouns. A direct object is a noun that receives the action of a verb.

  • Il lance la balle. – He throws the ball.

In the above sentence la balle is the direct object.

You have learned earlier that names and regular nouns can be replaced by the subject pronouns (je, tu…). Similarly, direct objects, such as “la balle”, can be replaced by pronouns.

  • le – replaces a masculine singular direct object
  • la – replaces a feminine singular direct object
  • l' – replaces le and la if they come before a vowel
  • les – replaces plural direct objects, both masculine and feminine

The direct object pronouns come before the verb they are linked to.

  • Il la lance. – He throws it.
  • Il les lance. – He throws them.


When direct object pronouns are being used with the passé composé tense with verbs that do not represent movement (i.e. use the auxiliary AVOIR in a conjugated form before the past participle), some endings are added to the past participle.

Object Endings
Masculine Singular None
Feminine Singular e
Masculine Plural s
Feminine Plural es

Examples: J'ai lu ces livres – I read these books -> Je les ai “lus”

lui and leur[edit]

Indirect objects are prepositional phrases with the object of the preposition. An indirect object is a noun that receives the action of a verb.

  • Il lance la balle à Jacques. – He throws the ball to Jack.
  • Il lance la balle à Marie. – He throws the ball to Mary.
  • Il lance la balle à Jacques et Marie. – He throws the ball to Jack and Mary.

Lui and leur are indirect object pronouns. They replace nouns referring to people and mean to him/her and to them respectively.

  • lui – replaces a singular masculine or feminine indirect object referring to a person
  • leur – replaces a plural masculine or feminine indirect object referring to a person

An example follows:

  • Il lui lance la balle. – He throws the ball to him.
  • Il lui lance la balle. – He throws the ball to her.
  • Il leur lance la balle. – He throws the ball to them.
  • Whether lui means to him or to her is given by context.
  • In English, “He throws him the ball” is also said, and means the same thing.
  • When used with the direct object pronouns le, la, and les, lui and leur come after those pronouns.
  • Il la lui lance. – He throws it to him.

Note that while le, la, and les are used to replace people or inanimate objects, lui and leur are not used to replace innanimate objects and things.

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