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Indirect object pronouns used in possessive constructions with body parts

The indirect object pronouns are used in a possessive construction in French with 'body parts' where English would use possessive determiners (like 'my', 'your', 'his', 'her', etc.):

  • On lui a cassé le bras

They broke his arm

  • Elle s'était coupé le doigt

She had cut her finger

  • La sueur me coulait dans le dos

Sweat was running down my back However, the indirect object construction is not possible with verbs which do not describe actions:

  • Elle lui lave le visage

She is washing his face


  • Elle lui aime le visage


  • Elle aime son visage

She likes his face

This construction is also normally impossible with non-body-parts. However, it can be found in some regional varieties of French:

  • Elle lui a cassé le magnétoscope

She broke his video recorder

After mastering this lesson, these related pages might interest you: Possessive determiners, Omission of the article, Exclamatives & Plurals in cardinal numbers.

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