How to use the tonic pronouns in French?

Hey students! Today I’m going to teach you about the tonic pronouns in French. These are important little words that you’ll need to know how to use properly in order to make yourself understood by French native speakers. So without further ado, let’s get started!

The text below is a transcription of the YouTube video of the channel « Learn French Fun » dedicated to tonic pronouns.

Activate the subtitles to have the translation in English
  • “You’re talking to moi ?”

OK, this is not Robert De Niro in “Taxi Driver”, but the idea is here:

  • To me? You’re talking to me?

So, I don’t know why, but even very good students don’t always understand when and why they have to use pronoms toniques.

So we will see together.

What is a French tonic pronoun?

Take the list of subject pronouns: je, tu, il, etc, and in correspondence, the list of tonic pronouns.

So you have :

the subject pronoun……matches the tonic pronoun.
je
tu
il
elle
nous
vous
ils
elles
moi
toi
lui
elle
nous
vous
eux
elles

It’s easy, so now you have to memorize them to use them when necessary. And yes, it may seem like a detail, but it is important.

So the next question is: When do we use a tonic pronoun?

Why and how are French tonic pronouns used?

To use a tonic pronoun there are four situations:

  1. First situation, to reinforce a noun or pronoun.
  2. Second situation, just after a preposition (à, de, chez, avec..).

Don’t worry, we’ll give examples for each situation.

  1. Third situation when the tonic pronoun is used alone.
  2. Fourth situation, with “also” (aussi) or then “neither” (non plus).

📌 Before I forget to tell you, I have prepared a Bonus PDF with more information, with exercises and correction. And it’s all free. Gift for you, this is the Little Bonus PDF 😅 

So let’s go back to the four situations.

First situation of use of French tonic pronouns: strengthening a name or a pronoun. 

Let me explain.

Reinforce, this means that we will bring more strength, more impact on the noun or pronoun.

We will therefore use the tonic pronoun to bring more impact to the sentence. Let’s take an example, a classic phrase:

Je m’entraîne 5 fois par semaine
(I exercise five times a week.)

A sentence with the tonic pronoun:

Moi, je m’entraîne 5 fois par semaine
(Me, I exercise five times a week.)

You see that it brings more impact, more force in the sentence. We can clearly see in this example that the moi, the French tonic pronoun moi is not necessary, it is not obligatory. You understand the sentence when I don’t use moi.

👉 But it’s stronger, I want to insist, I want to give impact to the sentence.

Let’s take another example:

You (toi), Hanz, you don’t play sports at all.

You see that here I am using the pronoun tonic “you” (toi) to mark that it is specifically Hanz who doesn’t play sports at all.

Let’s see the second situation.

The French tonic pronoun after a preposition.

Est-ce qu’elle vient avec nous ?
(Is she coming with us?)

Vous allez chez eux ?
(Are you going to their place?)

So in this situation, the student’s problem is good know the list of French tonic pronouns, because it is possible to be wrong and mix the tonic pronouns with indirect complement pronouns and make a bit of a big salad, and make a sentence which is not correct.

It’s your job to you, to memorize well tonic pronouns and see in the sentence:

  • Is it a verb which is used in the normal way, usual, with indirect supplement like téléphoner à quelqu’un (calling someone)? There, it is an indirect complement?
  • Or, is the pronoun tonic coming, to specify, which is added, because it is after a preposition?

But do not worry, we are going to make a specific video on complement pronouns direct and indirect, may be a specific video for direct supplements, another for indirect supplements, because it’s really often the question that students ask me.

Christian, why do I have to say:

  • Je lui téléphone, je l’appelle? When is that …? 
  • No problem, we will see that in detail.

Third possibility to use French tonic ponoun, the case where we use the tonic pronoun by itself. 

Question:

  • Qui veut du gâteau ? (Who wants cake?)
  • Moi ! (Me!)

Obviously! 😅

In this situation, the tonic pronoun is his all alone sentence. You see there is no need to use a verb, to use something else.

The tonic pronoun by itself expresses a complete idea that allows you to understand.

Qui veut du gâteau ? Moi !

The “me” (moi) is sufficient. I don’t need to say:

Moi, je veux du gâteau.
(Me, I want cake.)

Moi. Everyone understands because before there is the question which allows us the answer to understand.

And finally, the fourth situation when we use the tonic pronoun with “also” (aussi) or then “neither” (non plus).

French tonic pronoun with “also” (aussi) or “neither” (non plus)

This situation happens in an exchange, in a dialogue with someone.

When we take up a sentence, when we answer and for example, when we repeat an affirmative sentence, we are going to use the “me too” (moi aussi).

Example:

J’aime les sushis (I love sushi)

Moi aussi. (Me too.)

Or when we resume a negative sentence:

  • Je n’aime pas le thé I don’t like tea (negative sentence)

negative response which takes up the same idea:

  • Neither does he (lui non plus)
  • I don’t like tea.
  • Neither does she (elle non plus).

It means that me, I don’t like tea and she, also, she doesn’t like tea.

So quite simply, with the tonic pronoun and the form neither (non plus), the answer is sufficient. We have the full answer.

Summary

So, to sum up what we just saw:

1. It is important to memorize the list of tonic pronouns.

Which pronoun? For what form?

📌 Remember that you have the “little Bonus PDF” to help you with that 😅 

2. We use a tonic pronoun to reinforce a pronoun or a noun.

Example:

Moi, je le fais.
(Me, I do.)

3. We use a tonic pronoun after a preposition.

Example:

Come with me (viens avec moi), 

4. We use a tonic pronoun alone.

Example:

– Qui en veut ?
– Moi !

– Who is coming ?
– Me !

5. And we use a tonic pronoun in a response, with “also” (aussi) or “neither” (non plus).

Example:

I like football. Lui aussi.

I do not like football. Lui non plus.

Conclusion

Well, that’s it for tonic pronouns! I hope you’ve enjoyed this short lesson. If you want to learn French from a native speaker and explore the language with other students online, sign up for our live course today!

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