Complément d’objet direct (COD) me,te,le,la, nous, vous, les

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What is COD in French? It sounds like some nasty grammar thing.

Today, you’ll learn how to use complement object direct properly and stop being confused.

Direct Object : Complément d’objet direct

There is a tendency for the language to be economical,  looking for an effective way to convey the most information without too many words.

Rather than repeating the subject all the time, we use pronouns. And instead of repeating the object, we use COD or complément d’object direct.

The direct object is a word or (group of words) that joins the verb without a preposition to complete its meaning. It undergoes the action performed by the subject.

First, let’s find a direct object in the sentence.

Clara donne le gâteau à Emma.

Clara gives the cake to Emma.

Le gâteau is the direct object of the sentence, completing the verb donner. The object is essential because the sentence would not make sense without it. This simply means that the subject or object of a sentence receives an action carried out by a verb, as in the example.

The subject is Clara because she performs an action. In this case, “the cake” is the direct object (COD) since it is the object directly affected by the action, while Emma is the indirect object because he is the indirect beneficiary of the action.

The direct object (COD)  answers the question “qui” (who) or “quoi” “what” and is never introduced by a preposition.

This means that the verb is a direct verb (they fall into the category of verb-transitive direct. The verb “transits” to the object of the sentence, but without the help of any preposition (such as “à” or “de”).

Due to the similar pattern in English, it is easy to identify what word is the object. Subject-Verb-Object is the standard sentence construction in both languages.

French direct object pronouns

French                     English

  • me (m’,moi)       – me
  • te (t’, toi)             – you
  • le (l’)                    – him, it
  • la (l’)                    – her, it
  • nous                     – us
  • vous                     – you
  • les                        – them

As you noticed, there are three forms of the pronouns in the first and second-person singular

    1. Usual forms: me and te
    2. Use m‘ or t‘ before a vowel or before h muet
    3. A stressed form: moi and toi that is used in an imperative construction
  • The third-person singular pronouns have two forms, besides the usual forms (le, la). It also has a contracted form: l’, for use in front of a vowel or h muet.

Characteristics of COD

  • part of the verb group
  • designates the object of the action
  • never introduced by a preposition
  • since it is an essential complement, it cannot be deleted, otherwise, the sentence makes no sense
  • it’s always preceded by a direct transitive verb.
  • becomes subject when the sentence is turned into the passive form

How to Find COD?

To find the COD, you just have to ask quoi or qui .

The direct object complement answers the following questions:

Qui ?
Sonia attend son amie. Sonia + attend (verbe) + son amie (qui ?).

Quoi ?
Emilie mange un croissant. Emilie (sujet) + mange (verbe) + un croissant (quoi ?).

The object can be replaced by pronouns “le”, “la”, “les”, “que”

Tu conduis une voiture. 

Tu conduis quoi ?

Une voiture. 

The COD in this sentence can be replaced by the pronoun la. Tu la conduis.

   Tu manges la banane. → Tu la manges.

Where to Place COD In the Phrase

A direct object complement is directly following the verb.

Anne (sujet) + mange (verbe) + la (la pomme) (quoi ?)

Qu’est ce qu’elle mange? Ell mange une pomme.

But, la, in front of the verb manger, is COD, replacing la pomme.

The COD (complement d’objet direct) when in the pronoun form (me, te, lui, leur…) are placed:

•  before the verb

Anne la mange.

Anne eats it.

•  before the auxiliary être or avoir

Tu les as vus hier ?

Did you see them yesterday?

•  before the infinitive

Tu ne leur as pas demandé d’argent ?

You didn’t ask them for money?

In the imperative, the pronouns are placed:
•  before the verb in the negative form

Ne me trompe pas !

Don’t deceive me!

In the affirmative form, me becomes moi and te becomes toi.

If you want to test your knowledge about COD in French, click here.

French Your Way

Fortunately, learning direct objects in French isn’t so different from English.

In most cases, the order of the words is pretty much the same. Subject-Verb-Object is the standard sentence construction in both languages.

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