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Reinforce the Noun with French Stress Pronouns

A French stress pronoun replaces or emphasizes a human object. You can find it alone, after c’est (it is), or after a preposition. The beauty of this pronoun is that it’s nonintegrated, which means you don’t need to worry about where to put it in the sentence: It goes right after the preposition or c’est!

There are eight French stress pronouns:

  • moi (me)

  • toi (you [singular informal])

  • lui (him)

  • elle (her)

  • nous (us)

  • vous (you [singular formal or plural formal and informal])

  • eux (them [masculine])

  • elles (them [feminine])

Stress pronouns can replace a French noun

After the expression c’est (this is), or also used alone, the stress pronoun emphasizes or points out someone, like in these examples:

Est-ce que c’est Paul, là-bas? (Is that Paul over there?) — Oui c’est lui. (Yes, that’s him.)
C’est toi qui as fait ça? (Did you do this?) — Oui, c’est moi. (Yes, it’s me./Yes, I did.)
Qui veut du chocolat? (Who wants some chocolate?) — Nous. (Us./We do.)

Using c’est + the stress pronoun is a good equivalent to using the English I did or we do, which don’t really translate into French otherwise.

After prepositions like avec (with), pour (for), and chez (at the house of), the stress pronoun replaces a noun to avoid a repetition. Here’s an example:

Tu viens avec nous, ou tu pars avec Pierre et Julie? (Are you coming with us, or are you leaving with Pierre and Julie?) — Je pars avec eux. (I am leaving with them.)

You also use a stress pronoun after certain verbs + de, like avoir besoin de (to need) and être amoureux de (to be in love with), when the object of these verbs is a person, not a thing. Check out these examples:

Il a peur de son prof de math. (He is afraid of his math teacher.) → Il a peur de lui. (He is afraid of him.)
L’enfant a besoin de ses parents. (The child needs his parents.) → L’enfant a besoin d’eux. (The child needs them.)

When verbs like penser à (to think about) and s’intéresser à (to be interested in) are followed by a human object, you have to use a stress pronoun in place of an indirect object pronoun. Here are some common verbs of this kind.

  • penser à (to think about someone)

  • tenir à (to hold someone dear)

  • faire attention à (to pay attention to someone)

  • être à (to belong to someone)

  • s’intéresser à (to be interested in someone)

Here they are in action:

Il pense à ses amis. (He thinks about his friends.) → Il pense à eux. (He thinks about them.)
Ce livre est à Anne. (This book belongs to Anne.) → Ce livre est à elle. (This book belongs to her.)

Stress pronoun reinforce a noun

The stress pronoun can also reinforce the subject of a verb, for effect. As long as it refers to a person, that subject can be a noun, like son mari (her husband), or the subject pronoun (je, tu, and so on). In both cases, the stress pronoun is placed right after the subject, often separated by a comma.

Jeanne part en vacances; son mari, lui, travaille. (Jane is going on vacation; but her husband, he’s working.)
Moi, je me suis bien amusé samedi. Et vous? (Personally, I had a lot of fun Saturday. And you?)

The stress pronoun can reinforce a subject pronoun, but it can never replace it. In other words, the stress pronoun can never be the subject of the verb. Don’t say Moi mange beaucoup de chocolat. (Me, I eat a lot of chocolate.) You still have to use the subject pronoun (underlined in the example): Moi, je mange beaucoup de chocolat. (Me, I eat a lot of ­chocolate.)

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