Subject pronouns (I, you, she, etc.)

Bonjour! Today, a lesson for level "R", or "Roots", i.e. debutants/beginners.
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Le magazine Elle. "Elle" means "She"

Today, we are learning some basics:
the subject pronouns in French (I, you, she, etc.)
Allons-y! Let's get started!

To listen to this lesson, click on the icon below:
SDPPronomsSujets by sandrinedeparis

Je is I
Tu is You
Il is He
Elle is She
On is One or We
Nous is We
Vous is You
Ils is They (masculine or mixed genders)
Elles is They (feminine)

Il, Elle = mean "he" or "she" but also "it"! In French, things and concepts are gendered! So you say "she" when you talk about a "guitare" (because it's a feminine noun) and "he" when you talk about a "piano" (because it's a masculine noun)

You: Tu or Vous?
The French language has 2 ways of saying "You"
Tu is singular, when addressing one person. It's also informal: this person is a friend, a family member, a child, a pet...
Vous is either plural ("y'all") when addressing several people or singular-formal/polite when addressing a person you don't know (at a store, at a café...) or a person with whom you are not on familiar terms (some teachers, neighbors, a boss,...)

How do I know?
Sometimes you are not sure if you should address someone with "Tu" or "Vous"...
1- Listen. When someone calls you "tu", you can generally use "tu" back.
2- When unsure, use "vous". People will let you know that you should call them "tu".

"Coucou!" "Hi there!" by Astérix* and Obélix.
They are good friends: they say "TU" to each other.

NB: The verb meaning "using TU" is "tutoyer". The verb meaning "using VOUS" is "vouvoyer".

We: Nous or On?
"Nous" used as a subject has become a little formal. Most people use "On" nowadays. "On" means "One" as in "One needs to eat a lot of veggies to be in good health", and, just like in English, it is conjugated at the 3rd person singular (= like "he" and "she").
example: "On aime Paris" means "We love Paris", and can be literally translated as "One loves Paris".

J'aime Paris! I love Paris!
Art by ©Altrered Gypsy

The apostrophy: Je or J'?
Je becomes J' when it precedes a verb starting with a vowel.
Let's take an example with words that are pretty similar in French and English:
- Je presse une orange (I press an orange)
"Je" remains "Je" because the initial of the verb "to press" is the consonant. "p".
- J'aime les oranges (I love oranges)
"Je" becomes "J'" because the initial of the verb "Aimer" (to like/to love) is the vowel "a". (It flows better to drop the "e" of Je and replace it with an apostrophe.)
"J'aime" sounds like one word ("Jaime").

- On: makes a nasal sound (Say "Oh" while expelling air by the nose), you don't pronounce the final "N".
- The "OU" of Nous and Vous is pronounced "oo".
- Nous, Vous, Ils, Elles: all end with a silent "S". You write it but don't pronounce it!
- Tu: the sound "U" this is not an "oo" sound. This is a sound that you make with your lips forward -what my friends call "french face"...  Think of the Olsen twins saying "Prune" to look more glamorous for the papparazzi. Or try say "ee" with your lips forward, as if you were smoking a thin cigarette...

Exercice 1: translate
Nous =
Ils = masc. or mixed genders
Elles = fem.
Vous = plural or polite
Je =

Exercice 2: translate
On = or "one"
Il =
Elle =
Tu = (singular, informal)
J' = before a verb starting with a vowel

To view the answers: click here.

*Astérix by writer Goscinny and illustrator Uderzo is one of the most popular comic books series in France. Read more about Asterix on Wikipedia.

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