A subject pronoun stands for the subject in a sentence. In French, subject pronouns indicate number (singular or plural) and gender (masculine or feminine).
- In French, je (I) is not capitalized, except at the beginning of a sentence.
- Tu is informal, whereas vous is formal (see Chapter 1). Vous is also the plural form of tu and in this case, it is neither formal nor informal.
- In French, not only people but also things have gender. That is to say, things are either masculine or feminine. There is no separate pronoun for it. Il is masculine, used for he or masculine it. Elle is feminine, used for she or feminine it.
- On means one and is used in contexts where English speaker might use you informally. In Canadian English, the subject pronoun one (e.g., “Where does one sit at a hockey game?”) sounds stuffy, but its use is extremely common in French. On is also used in spoken French to mean we.
- If there is a mix of masculine and feminine people or objects, French always uses the masculine plural. A group of ten women and one man would use the subject pronoun ils.
Exercice 5 : Subject Pronouns
Identify the French subject in each of the following sentences and give its English equivalent.
Modèle: In the sentence “Elle est américaine,” elle is the French subject, and she is its English equivalent.
- Ils sont professeurs.
- On mange beaucoup à Noel.
- Nous sommes étudiants.
- Elles dansent bien.
- Il aime Chantal.
- Tu es jeune.
Exercice 6 : More Subject Pronouns
Indicate which French subject pronoun you would use to correspond to the subject in each of the following sentences.
Modèle: In the sentence “My sister is tall”, the French subject pronoun that corresponds with sister is elle.
- I like apples.
- Teachers are often helpful.
- Are you coming to class today?
- George and I are going to the movies tonight.
- My mother is not strict.
- He eats a lot of protein.
- Maria, Caroline, Christina, and John are in my study group.
- We speak French in class.