Subject pronouns are essential elements in language that replace nouns as the subjects of sentences. In French, subject pronouns (or pronoms sujets) like “je” (I), “tu” (you singular), “il/elle” (he/she), “nous” (we), “vous” (you plural/formal), and “ils/elles” (they) are crucial for clarity and verb conjugation. French verbs often vary depending on the subject pronoun, making their correct usage vital for effective communication and grammatical accuracy in French conversation and writing.

What is a Subject? 

In the context of French language and grammar, a subject is the person, thing, or entity acting as the verb in a sentence. Subjects can be identified by asking “Who?” or “What?” before the verb. For example, in the sentence “Jean mange une pomme” (Jean is eating an apple), “Jean” is the subject because he is performing the action of eating. Identifying the subject helps determine the appropriate verb conjugation in French.

What is a Pronoun?

Pronouns are words that replace nouns to prevent repetition and maintain fluidity in language. They serve to represent people, places, things, or concepts already mentioned or easily understood within a context. They include personal pronouns (e.g., I, you, he, she, it, we, they), demonstrative pronouns (e.g., this, that), and relative pronouns (e.g., who, which). Use pronouns whenever you need to refer back to a noun without repeating it, enhancing clarity and efficiency in communication.

What are the French Subject Pronouns or pronoms sujets?

Here are the French subject pronouns, including their singular and plural forms:

Je – (I) – Used when referring to oneself as the subject of a sentence.

Tu – (You singular, informal) – Used when addressing a person in an informal context.

Il – (He) – Used when referring to a male or masculine noun as the subject.

Elle – (She) – Used when referring to a female or feminine noun as the subject.

On – (One, We, They) – Informal substitute for “nous” (we) or “ils/elles” (they), also used for general statements.

Nous – (We) – Used when referring to oneself and others as the subject.

Vous – (You singular/formal, You plural) – Used when addressing one person formally or multiple people.

Ils – (They, masculine or mixed group) – Used when referring to a group of males or a group containing at least one male.

Elles – (They, feminine) – Used when referring to a group of females.

These pronouns are crucial for conjugating verbs correctly and ensuring clarity in French communication.

First PersonJeNous
Second PersonTuVous
Third PersonIl/ElleIls/Elles

How to use the subject pronoun ‘je’ in French?

Here are some usage guidelines and examples for the subject pronoun “je” in French:

Usage Guidelines:

  • “Je” is used when referring to oneself as the subject of a sentence.
  • It corresponds to the English pronoun “I.”
  • “Je” is followed by a verb conjugated in the first person singular form.


1. Je mange une pomme. (I am eating an apple.)

  • In this sentence, “je” is the subject pronoun representing the speaker, who is performing the action of eating.

2. Je suis étudiant. (I am a student.)

  • Here, “je” is used to indicate the speaker as the subject, stating their identity as a student.

3. Je parle français. (I speak French.)

  • In this example, “je” is the subject pronoun, indicating the speaker is the one who speaks French.

How to use the French subject pronoun ‘on’?

Here are five ways “on” can be used as a subject pronoun in French:

Informal ‘We’:

Example: On va au cinéma ce soir. (We are going to the movies tonight.)

Here, “on” is used informally to mean “we,” commonly used in spoken French instead of “nous.”

General Statements:

Example: En France, on parle français. (In France, one speaks French.)

“On” can be used to make general statements about people or situations, similar to “one” in English.

Indefinite or Impersonal Subject:

Example: On dit que c’est difficile. (It’s said that it’s difficult.)

“On” can represent an unspecified or indefinite subject, often used in impersonal expressions or idiomatic phrases.

Singular ‘They’:

Example: On m’a dit que le train est en retard. (They told me that the train is late.)

“On” can also be used to refer to a group of people or things in the third person singular form, similar to “they.”

Including Oneself:

Example: On se retrouve à la bibliothèque? (Shall we meet at the library?)

“On” can include the speaker in the group, suggesting a proposal or invitation while also implying the speaker’s participation.

These various uses make “on” a versatile and commonly used subject pronoun in French conversation and writing.

How to choose between the French ‘on’ and ‘nous’?

Here are the key differences between “on” and “nous”, along with guidance on their usage:

Informality vs. Formality:

“On” is informal and commonly used in spoken French, while “nous” is more formal and often used in written or formal contexts.

  • Example with “on”: On va au cinéma ce soir. (We are going to the movies tonight.) – Informal spoken French.
  • Example with “nous”: Nous devons discuter de ce projet. (We need to discuss this project.) – More formal or written French.

General vs. Specific:

“On” is often used for general statements or observations, while “nous” is used when referring to a specific group of people.

  • Example with “on”: En France, on parle français. (In France, people speak French.) – General statement about people in France.
  • Example with “nous”: Nous avons besoin de plus de temps. (We need more time.) – Referring specifically to a group of students.

Overall, “on” is more commonly used in everyday conversation and informal contexts, while “nous” is typically used in formal or written French and when referring to specific groups of people. The choice between them depends on the level of formality and the inclusiveness of the speaker in the group being referred to.

How to use ‘tu’ and ‘vous’ in French?

Use tu (you) in informal situations and vous (you) in formal contexts: 

Use tu to address people informally: with your family, your friends, your colleagues, and with children. Children and young people use tu among themselves. Beware when random people in the street stop addressing you with tu; it is seen as a sign of ageing! 

  • Tu es mon meilleur ami. (You are my best friend.)
  • Tu veux aller au cinéma ce soir? (Do you want to go to the movies tonight?)
  • Tu as vu le nouveau film de Jean? (Have you seen Jean’s new movie?)

Use vous:

1. to address people formally, e.g. to talk to someone with respect, like your teacher or your director, or to address a person you don’t know well, like your dentist or a shop assistant.

  • Bonjour madame, est-ce que vous vendez des piles ?
  • Good morning, madam, do you sell batteries?

2. to talk to a group of people, regardless of if they are your friends or people you don’t know.

  • Vous allez bien, mesdames et messieurs? (Are you all doing well, ladies and gentlemen?)

How to use ‘il(s)’ and ‘elle(s)’ in French? 

Here is a detailed explanation of the usage of “il(s)” and “elle(s)” as subject pronouns in French, along with examples:

“Il” (singular, masculine):

  • Used to refer to a singular masculine noun as the subject of a sentence.
  • Example: Il travaille dans un bureau. (He works in an office.)
  • In this sentence, “il” replaces a masculine noun (e.g., “Jean,” “le professeur”) to indicate that the subject of the sentence is male.

“Elle” (singular, feminine):

  • Used to refer to a singular feminine noun as the subject of a sentence.
  • Example: Elle est arrivée en retard. (She arrived late.)
  • Here, “elle” replaces a feminine noun (e.g., “Marie,” “la professeure”) to indicate that the subject of the sentence is female.

“Ils” (plural, masculine):

  • Used to refer to a plural group of masculine nouns or a mixed group containing at least one male as the subject of a sentence.
  • Example: Ils sont allés au cinéma. (They went to the movies.)
  • In this example, “ils” replaces a group of masculine nouns (e.g., “les garçons,” “Jean et Marie”) or a mixed group to indicate that the subject of the sentence includes males.

“Elles” (plural, feminine):

  • Used to refer to a plural group of feminine nouns as the subject of a sentence.
  • Example: Elles sont parties en vacances. (They went on vacation.)
  • Here, “elles” replaces a group of feminine nouns (e.g., “les filles,” “Marie et Anne”) to indicate that the subject of the sentence consists of females.

These subject pronouns are essential in French for maintaining agreement with the gender of the nouns they replace and for constructing grammatically correct sentences.

Differences between English pronouns and pronouns in French 

There are several differences between pronouns in English and French:

Formality and Informality:

  • French has formal and informal pronouns for the second-person singular (“tu” and “vous”), while English generally only has one form (“you”). The choice between them in French depends on the level of formality or familiarity between speakers.

Gender Agreement:

  • French pronouns (such as “il,” “elle,” “ils,” “elles”) must agree in gender with the nouns they replace, while English pronouns (like “he,” “she,” “they”) do not change based on the gender of the noun.

Plural Forms:

  • French has distinct plural forms for pronouns (“nous,” “vous,” “ils,” “elles”), which vary depending on the number of people or things being referred to. English also has plural forms (“we,” “you,” “they”), but they remain the same regardless of formality or gender.

Inclusive Pronouns:

  • French has the inclusive pronoun “on,” which can mean “we,” “one,” or “they”, depending on the context. English has similar constructions but uses different words or structures.

Positioning in Sentences:

  • Pronouns in French generally come before the verb, while in English, they can appear before or after the verb, depending on the sentence structure.

Relative Pronouns:

  • French has several relative pronouns (such as “qui,” “que,” “dont”) that introduce dependent clauses, which can have different forms depending on the gender and number of the antecedent. English also has relative pronouns (“who,” “whom,” and “which”), but they do not change based on the gender or number of the antecedent.

Understanding these differences is crucial for effectively using pronouns in both English and French.


Mastering subject pronouns is crucial for effective communication in French for several reasons:

Clarity: Subject pronouns clarify who performs an action, preventing misunderstandings.

Verb Conjugation: They are essential for correct verb conjugation and sentence formation.

Agreement: Pronouns must agree in gender and number with the nouns they replace, ensuring coherence.

Formality: They also indicate formality, with “tu” for informal and “vous” for formal contexts.

Cultural Competence: Mastering subject pronouns enhances cultural competence and communication with French speakers.

Overall, mastering subject pronouns is fundamental for fluency and proficiency in French communication, enabling learners to express themselves accurately and navigate social interactions effectively.

Instructors at La Forêt French Class will guide you around French grammar topics such as this and provide essential tips. This will make it easier for you to grasp the grammar topics. Check out our language proficiency courses from DELF A1 to DELF B2 to learn all about us. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

1.Is ‘Le’ formal or informal?

‘Le’ is a definite article in French, used before masculine singular nouns. It is neither inherently formal nor informal but depends on the context and register of speech or writing.

2.What is ‘nous’ in French?

‘Nous’ is the subject pronoun for the first-person plural (we) in French. It is used to refer to a group of people, including the speaker.