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le, la, les

… not just the French words for 'the'!

The words le, la and les are potentially confusing for beginners. Often they mean simply 'the', as in the following:

  • Le garçon joue au foot.
  • La maison est située à 2 kilomètres de la ville.
  • Les livres sont intéressants.

But le, la and les have an entirely separate function, too, as object pronouns, when they can mean 'him', 'her', 'it', 'them', and so on. Consider the following examples:

  • Je le vois. [= I see him/it.]
  • Je les aime. [= I love them.]
  • Pierre la voit souvent. [= Pierre sees her often.]

In the first set of examples above, le, la and les function as definite articles and mean simply 'the'. In the second set of examples, they function as object pronouns.

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