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How do you order pronouns in the affirmative imperative in French?

The imperative mood is used when giving commands to a number of persons: either the 2nd person singular 'tu', the 1st person plural 'nous' or the 2nd person plural 'vous'. Whilst negative constructions of the imperative keep the usual word order, affirmative imperatives change the order.

Let's start with simple, non-reflexive verbs. In the three persons, construct the imperative mood of the verb manger  -  Mange! Mangeons! Mangez! 

Now if you wanted to give the command to eat something in particular, you would need to use a direct object pronoun ‘le’ to represent this object receiving the action (or in other words, being eaten). So in order to attach the 'le' pronoun to the imperative command, you place it after the verb, connecting the two words with a hyphen. Mange-le! Mangeons-le! Mangez-le! 

Often it gets more complicated when there is more than one pronoun in the mix. If you need to use more than one, for example in the command: 'Give it to her!', you need to decide which order they go in. This sentence contains both indirect and direct object pronouns.

So let's take the imperative of donner for the 2nd person singular ‘tu’: Donne!

Next, to add on ‘it’ or the direct object pronoun ‘le’, you have to place it after the verb connecting with a hyphen again. Donne-le!

Finally, to add on 'to her’ or the indirect object pronoun ‘lui', you have to place it after the direct pronoun, like this: Donne-le-lui!

For a reflexive/pronominal verb, such as se lèver there is a small change:

Tu te lèves in the imperative would not be Lève-te!  but instead Lève-toi!

In fact, the pronouns ‘te’ and ‘me’ always change to ‘toi’ and ‘moi’ in the imperative, for example Dis-le-moi! 

EXCEPT if ‘me’ and ‘te’ are followed by either ‘y’ or ‘en’, in which case they contract to m’ and t’ 

For example Donne-m’en!

Don’t forget to put in hyphens, and remember to omit the object pronouns. (tu) Mange!

I will split them into groups to show which ones come first, and this order stays the same regardless of how many groups you need to use: 

1) le la les      2) moi/m' toi/t' lui      3) nous vous leur    4) y     5) en

Lauren R. A Level French tutor, GCSE French tutor, 13 plus  French tu...

10 months ago

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