Inherited from Vulgar Latin illī, which sounded il in Old French, to which a plural -s was added. While il was the nominative form from late Latin, els, eus was the oblique form ("them") that had evolved from late Latin illōs, and is the ancestor of modern French eux'.
In Old French, "they", being a nominative, was il from late Latin *illi, thus it didn't have the final -s, thus it was il used both for "he" and "they". The -s was added at the end of the 13th century in some regions, at the time the declension system of Old French started to collapse. As a consequence, some oïl languages in France have retained the original Old French il-form, and in some other regions, the ils-form supplanted the older one. Some dialects have even retained both forms depending on the locals.
See cognates in regional languages in France: Angevin, Champenois, Lorrain, and Orléanais is; Bourbonnais-Berrichon ils; Bourguignon âs; Franc-Comtois and Poitevin-Saintongeais és; Gallo i and iz; Norman i and is; Picard is and i; Franco-Provençal ils; Occitan els (Gascon eus); Catalan ells; Corsican egli.
- (standard and higher registers) IPA(key): /il/, (in liaison) /il.z‿/
- (familiar and informal registers, France)
Audio (France) (file)
- Homophones: île, il
|Singular||First||—||je, j’||me, m’||—||—||moi|
- 1 Also used as the first person plural.
- 2 Also used as the polite singular form.
- 3 Also used when a group has both men and women.
- 4 Also used as third person plural reflexive.
- “ils”, in Trésor de la langue française informatisé [Digitized Treasury of the French Language], 2012.