Hi, why are we using an indirect object in this case? Is the expression "tenir à/par" to hold someone's hand (by the hand)?
The verb tenir is transitive so needs a direct object to complete its meaning -- to take / grasp / take hold of.
In this case, the direct object is "la main" but who's hand (La main de quelqu'un?)
The hand of him or her (lui)
"You have taken / grasped/gripped the hand of him (his hand) when he was afraid (had fear)"
"Vous lui avez tenu la main quand il avait peur"
Hope this helps.
This is a very French way of denoting possession. The indirect personal pronoun has the function to express whose hand you are holding. Here are a few example.
La vent lui a fouetté la face. -- The wind whipped his/her face (lit. The wind whipped him the face)La vent nous a fouetté la face. -- The wind whipped our face. (lit. The wind whipped us the face)
Fouettér -- like tenir -- is a transitive verb and requires a direct object (la face in the examples above). The indirect object specify the face of whom is getting whipped. There is no English parallel to this, which is why it gets translated in English using the standard possessive pronoun (his/her, our). Yet, if you want to sound French, you use the indirect object pronoun in cases such as these.
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