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Opinion (comment exprimer son avis, son opinion, dire qu'on est d'accord ou non, etc.) (voir aussi : Penser)
Verbes réfléchis / pronominaux (voir aussi : Passé composé et accord du participe passé)
Turning a positive sentence into a negative is quite straightforward in the present tense. However, the placement of the negations is a bit more complicated in the passé composé or the future proche tenses, they need special attention.
1. For the present tense
Let’s start with the present tense: the construction of the negative forms in French is composed of two elements: the first element, ne (n'), comes in front of the conjugated verb; the second or main negation (pas, que, jamais, rien, etc.) has to be placed after the conjugated verb.
In spoken French, The use of ne is flexible. At school, we learned that we must always place ne before the verb in order to support the negative, but you will notice in spoken French that it often disappears. Instead of saying Je NE lis PAS le journal (I don’t read the newspaper), you’ll most probably hear Je lis PAS le journal. Although it is nearly always written, ne is very often dropped in spoken French.
Note also that ne becomes n' in front of a verb starting with a vowel or a mute h.
Here is a list of the common negations the French use regularly, with examples:
Ne… pas (not, don't)
Ne... que (only)
Ne… jamais (never)
Ne... aucun (any, none)
Ne... rien (nothing)
Ne... personne (nobody, no one)
Ne… plus (no more, no longer, anymore)
Ne... ni… ni (neither. . . nor)
2. For the passé composé and futur proche
Now, let’s look at the placement of these negatives in the passé composéand futur prochewith "aller":
─With the passé composé, the negative words pas, que, plus, jamais, rien, are placed after the auxiliary verbs avoiror être, and before the main verb. However, the negative words aucun, personne, ni…ni…, ne que are placed after the main verb.
─With the futur proche, the negative words pas, que, plus, jamais, rien are placed after the verb aller and before the main verb. It's the samefor the passé composé, aucun, personne, ni…ni…, ne que, are placed after the main verb.
"Que" au passé: Je n'ai bu que trois verres. = I only drank three glasses.
"Jamais" au passé: Je ne suis jamais allé à Bordeaux. = I never went to Bordeaux.
"Rien" au passé: Je n’ai rien mangé ce matin. = I didn’t eat anything this morning.
"Aucun" au passé: Je n’ai eu aucun problème pendant mon voyage. = i didn’t have any problem at all during my trip.
"Personne" au passé: Je n'ai rencontré personne en route. = I met nobody on the way.
"Ni…ni..." au passé: Je n’ai bu ni vin, ni bière. = I drank no wine, nor beer.
Note: Another particularity of the negative structure is the use of de before a noun. In a normal, positive statement or when asking a question in the affirmative form, you would use articles such as un, une, de la, des, du, BUT when the response is negative then you will notice these same articles are replaced by de:
Est-ce que vous voulez DU sucre dans votre café ?
One common mistake is to add too many negative words in a sentence which could turn it into a positive one. If you add pas and jamais in the same sentence, then the sentence is no longer negative.
But, you will see examples of a double negative:Je ne vais plus jamais faire ça ! = I'll never do that again!
One of the first verbs to master in the French language is the verb faire . It is used to express both of the following actions: "to do" and "to make", but it is also widely used in many different contexts such as the weather, sports, household tasks, and many, many more…
Faire is an irregular verb and when conjugated in the present, you will notice how the vous form does not end in ez:
Je fais = I do/make
The verb faire is used in the following situations:
Expressions about the weather (le temps):
Quel temps fait-il aujourd'hui ? = What's the weather today?
Note that we use:
C'est is used in the following weather contexts:
C'est nuageux = It's cloudy.
Il y a is also used in the following weather expressions:
Il y a du vent = There is some wind.
Note: we use the verb être when talking about time (many confuse the word temps for clock time):
Faire for sports:
Je fais du yoga = I do yoga.
Note: we mostly use jouer (to play) for team sports : je joue au foot.
Faire for a musical instrument:
Je fais du violon = I play the violon.
For odd jobs:
Je fais du bricolage = I do odd jobs.
For saving money:
Je fais des économies = I'm saving some money.
For getting into mischief:
Je fais des bêtises = I'm doing some bad/mischievious things.
To be careful/to watch out:
Je fais attention = I'm careful.
Je fais la cuisine = I'm cooking.
To do housework:
Je fais le ménage = I'm doing housework.
Je fais la vaisselle = I'm washing dishes.
Je fais le repassage = I'm ironing.
To sleep in:
Je fais la grasse matinée = I'm sleeping in.
Je fais les courses = I'm food shopping.
Je fais les bagages = I'm packing.
S'en faire = To worry! Ne t'en fais pas, tu vas réussir ton examen ! = Don't worry, you'll pass your exam!
It's been a long time:
Ça fait longtemps que je n'ai pas cuisiné = It's been a long time since I've done any cooking.
Note: in the following situations, the verb faire is not used:
To make someone happy/sad:
When "to make" is followed by an adjective, it is translated by rendre : Mon mari me rend heureuse = My husband makes me happy.
To make/take a decision:
It is translated by prendre une décision (to take a decision): Aujourd'hui je prends une decision ! = Today I'm making a decision!
Il faut ! If you live or have travelled in France , you've probably heard these two short words over and over again. When do we use it exactly and how does the sentence construction work? We use il faut to express directions, orders and very strong suggestions. Il faut can be expressed in an impersonal or personal way. Instinctively, foreigners are likely to say c'est nécessaire de, each time they want to express “it's necessary to”, but the French will almost always say il faut !
There are two ways to use “il faut” – Impersonal and general or personal and specific to the person you are talking to.
1) If you're making it impersonal, then you
don't need to add a second clause with both a subject and a verb, but
just a verb in its unconjugated infinitive form. The impersonal “It's
necessary to” in French is simply:
For giving directions : Il faut aller à gauche ! = it's necessary to go (turn to the) left!
For giving orders : Il faut arriver au travail tous les jours à 9 heures = it's necessary to get to work everyday at 09:00.
For making strong suggestions : Il faut prendre son temps dans la vie… = It's necessary to take one's time in life…
2) If you're making it personal (which means adding que + a second clause with both a subject and a verb), then it works like this:
Personal using the above examples:
For giving directions : Il faut que vous alliez (subjonctif) à gauche = You must/have to go left.
Note: Il faut is the present conjugation of the verb falloir - it is a very unusual verb because you can only conjugate the verb with il! You cannot say je faut , vous fallez , etc…
When expressing obligations or directions, you can either use il faut or the verb devoir ! In the second choice, the verb is conjugated as such : je dois, tu dois, il/elle doit, nous devons, vous devez, ils doivent. Devoir implies a stronger obligation – almost a moral imperative – than il faut.
Vous devez finir votre travail ce soir = You have to finish your work tonight (no choice).
What about when you want to suggest? What would you say? This is where it can get confusing. As you know, Devoir means “must” or “have to” in the present tense, BUT when devoir
is conjugated in the conditional (equivalent of “would” in English),
then this verb changes its meaning and it becomes “should”! This is how
it works when devoir is used in the conditional:
Demain, je devrais aller chez le coiffeur, mes cheveux sont vraiment trop longs ! = Tomorrow I should go to the hairdresser, my hair is truly too long!
At this point it is no longer an obligation but something that should eventually be done.
You might be a beginner or have been learning French for a while and you're still unsure about the correct French interrogative expression for "what" or "which". Que, quoi, quel(s), quelle(s) or qu'est-ce que (qui) ? Which one should you use?
When "what" precedes a noun, you need to use the interrogative adjective quel (m) or quelle (f) in front of the noun. Quel(le) can be used with the inversion construction form or with est-ce que to make the question.
Quel(le) can also be used as an exclamatory adjective – used for emphasis. In this instance, quel(le) is again followed by a noun and another adjective can also be used for further emphasis. Used this way it means "what" or "what a". Note that there is an exclamation mark at the end of the sentence:
Que and its longer form qu'est-ce que are interrogative pronouns and are used as direct objects in a sentence. They are used to ask questions about things. As the object of a question, que may be followed by either inversion or with est-ce que:
Note : A straight and simplified translation of "what do" is qu'est-ce que…
The alternate form qu'est-ce qui is used when the “what” of your question is the subject of the sentence.
Use quoi when you have a preposition involved (à, de, dans, etc..) and the question can be formed either with inversion or with est-ce que.
Quoi can also be used for informal questions.
Be careful when "what" joins two clauses. In such cases, it is a relative pronoun and is used when whatever you are talking about is indefinite or uncertain. Do not use one of the above interrogatives, but use ce que, ce qui.
|Qui, où, pourquoi, quand ?...
First, let's look at the three different word order possibilities in forming questions; there are a couple of shorter versions and a longer version with est-ce que. They are all widely used, but when speaking you might hear the shorter versions more often during informal conversations.
In the shorter versions, there are 2 possible word orders:
1. In this format, the interrogative expression comes first in the question: Interrogative expression + verb + subject pronoun.
2. In the second case, the interrogative word comes last in the question so you need to make sure that you are raising your intonation at the end of the question. This version might sound a bit more straight forward. Subject pronoun + verb + interrogative word.
3. In the longer version, est-ce que is added. It might feel a bit heavy but we do hear and read it quite a bit; some French learners like to add it as it gives them the confidence that the French person will indeed know that a question is being asked.
Any of the 3 above formats work very well, you just need to pick the one that comes to you easily.
Où = where
Let's look at some examples with the interrogative expression où in the 3 above formats:
Pourquoi = why
A few more examples with pourquoi:
As in English, you can use pourquoi in an exclamation to express “ why not ” : Pourquoi pas !
Quand = when
A few examples with quand:
Finally, when you're using Qui, Où or Quand with the verb être (to be), do not use the long version with est-ce que – it would sound too heavy and awkward. You may use the short versions:
The word Combien has many functions. It is used in many everyday practical situations, especially when speaking about cost, quantity, distance, or time. Since this word carries a lot of importance, we felt that we should give it some special attention. Read on to find out how it is used in the following contexts:
Ça coûte combien or C'est combien ?
Most French learners have been taught to say combien in the early stage of their learning process. Each time you wish to know the cost of something, you should use one of these two expressions. Adding ça coûte or c'est to a question, softens the question versus saying combien by itself, as this would sound a bit abrupt. Ça coûte combien ? means "How much does it cost?"; and C'est combien ? means "It's how much?".
Another option is to add the thing you are inquiring about; for example, if you wish to know the price of a concert ticket, you can ask: Combien coûte le billet de concert ?
Combien de... ?
Combien followed by de + any item both means "how many of... or how much of...". This is quite straight forward, but you have to be sure to add the preposition de after combien and before the thing you are asking about.
Combien de temps ?
When you add de temps to combien , it means that you're asking how long it takes to do something.
If you wish to know how long something has been going on, which means the action is still on-going at the present time, then you will need to add depuis: Vous êtes marié depuis combien de temps ? = How long have you been married?
C'est à combien d'ici ?
When a French person wishes to know how far away a place is, she/he will typically ask c'est à combien d'ici ? And the answer could be a distance or a time measurement unit. For example: c'est à 10 km or à 10 minutes.
Example: If you want to ask "How far is the hotel?" you would say either:
Combien de fois ?
Many French learners will confuse combien de fois with combien de temps when wanting to say "how many times". In this situation, "times" is translated as fois and not temps.
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Let's clarify how to use the different forms of lequel, duquel and auquel.
Lequel ? Laquelle ?...
Lequel means “which one” and it has four basic forms, because it is a pronoun and has to agree in gender and number with the noun it replaces:
In addition, lequel has several contracted forms when either à and de comes in front. In this case, lequel will become one of the following (again, depending on the gender):
Just think of the normal contractions of à and de with the definite articles le and les.
Example with auquel:
Example with de laquelle:
All the students make the same common mistake when expressing "I know…" Of course, it is quite confusing, as the French language has two verbs that can be translated into English by "to know"! Therefore, you have to choose between savoir or connaître; and you have a 50% chance of getting it right. I hope we can help you understand how to decide which one to use through the following explanations and role play.
Savoir and connaître are used in different contexts and can describe different aspects of knowing.
We use it mostly to express something that we know how to do.
We also use savoir to say that you know something, a fact.
It is mostly used when you want to say that you know someone, something, a place, etc.
Usually, when the verbs connaître or savoir are usedin a question, you can reply with the same verb.
We hear them and we see them everywhere. How do we use them?
Let's first start by defining en. As a pronoun (be sure not to confuse it with the preposition en), it is used for many reasons and in many contexts. Here are the most important ones.
En is a pronoun that replaces a noun that follows an indirect article such as un, une, du, de l', de la, des. It is most often used for indefinite quantities of something.
If there is an expression of quantity like beaucoup de (a lot of), peu de (a little of) then en will replace the noun.
Note: En usually cannot replace de + verb.
Some verbs trigger the preposition "de." In this case, you can replace that preposition and the noun attached to it with "en." For example, if we say Je parle de mes vacances (I'm speaking about my vacation), you will see that parler triggers de, therefore we can replace de mes vacances with en: J'en parle (i'm speaking about it). Here are a few verbs followed with the preposition de: discuter de (to discuss), rêver de (to dream), s'occuper de (to take care of), se souvenir de (to remember), etc.
Finally, you will find en in some everyday expressions – they are very useful to learn! The French use them quite frequently.
Y is a pronoun that replaces a place, usually a prepositional phrase beginning with à, chez, dans, etc. You can translate y by "there". Even though you don't need to add "there" systematically in English, you will need it in French.
Note: If the verb happens to be venir, "to come", then you will need to replace what follows it by en, not y! Why? Because when speaking about location, venir is always followed with the preposition de.
The other use of y is when a verb is followed by the preposition à before a noun (not a person though). This is tricky as this means that you have to know which verbs are normally followed by à . To start, it is good to know a few of these verbs that you are most likely to use when speaking.
Note: Y usually cannot replace à + verb!
Chez, à la, au :
Chez is used in the following situations:
Chez + all medical professions = chez le dentiste, chez le docteur, chez le kinésithérapeute, chez la pharmacienne, etc….
Chez + all specialised professions = chez le plombier, chez l'électricien, chez l'architecte, chez le maçon, chez l'avocat, chez le boulanger, etc.. ( Note that in this instance, it is the person practising these professions that is referred to. You would say chez le garagiste – a person, but au garage – a place. See list below)
Chez + Proper Noun = chez CHANEL, chez ROLEX, chez CARREFOUR, etc..
Chez + people's homes = chez les voisins, chez moi, chez Jacques, chez mon professeur, chez ma sœur, chez qui ?, etc…
Here is a list of the usual professions in a city:
Chez le boulanger = at the baker's; BUT à la boulangerie = at the bakery
Chez le boucher = at the butcher's; BUT à la boucherie = at the butcher's shop
Chez le pâtissier = at the pastry chef's; BUT à la patisserie = at he pastry shop
Chez le fromager = at the cheese maker's; BUT à la fromagerie = at the cheese shop
Chez le cordonnier = at the shoe repairman's; BUT à la cordonnerie = at the shoe repair shop
Chez le poissonnier = at the fish seller's; BUT à la poissonnerie = at the fish market
Chez le fleuriste = at the florist's; BUT au magasin de fleurs = at the flower shop
Chez le coiffeur = at the hair dresser's; BUT au salon de coiffure = at the hair dresser salon
Chez le pharmacien = at the chemist's; BUT à la pharmacie = at the pharmacy
Chez le quincaillier = at the hardware man's; BUT à la quincaillerie = at the hardware store
Chez le traiteur = at the caterer's shop.
A (au, à l', aux) is used for places, buildings, monuments, etc.
Je vais à l'hôtel = I'm going to the hotel
Je vais au marché = I'm going to the market
Je vais à l'église = I'm going to the church
Je vais à la mairie =I'm going to the city hall
Je vais à l'hôpital = I'm going to the hospital
Je vais à la piscine = I'm going to the swimming pool
Je vais au restaurant = I'm going to the restaurant
Je vais à la gym = I'm going to the gym
Je vais à la Tour Eiffel = I'm going to the Eiffel Tower
Je vais à l'école = I'm going to school
Je vais à l'université = I'm going to the university
Je vais aux Galeries Lafayette = I'm going to the Galeries Lafayette
Je vais au magasin de vêtements = I'm going to the clothing shop
Je vais à la poste = I'm going to the post office
Je vais à la banque =I'm going to the bank
Je vais au cimetière = I'm going to the cemetery
Je vais à la presse = I'm going to the newspaper stand
Je vais au cinéma = I'm going to the cinema
A is also used in front of the names of cities and villages
Je vais à Paris =I'm going to Paris
Je vais à Athènes = I'm going to Athens
J'habite à Berlin = I live in Berlin
Je vais à Génolhac ( c'est un petit village ) = I'm going to Génolhac (it's a small village)
The adjectif possessif agrees in gender and number with the noun it modifies. In English, the choice of his or her depends on the gender of the subject. It is important to remember that the form of the possessive adjective, masculine, feminine or plural, depends on the noun it modifies and not on gender of the person who is the possessor.
Ma = ‘my' followed by a feminine noun (ex: ma femme = my wife )
Mon = ‘my' followed by a masculine noun (ex: mon mari = my husband)
Mes = ‘my' followed by a plural noun (ex: mes amis = my friends)
Ton = ‘your' followed by a masculine noun (ex: ton mari = your husband)
Tes = ‘your' followed by a plural noun (ex: tes amis = your friends)
Son = ‘his/her' followed by a masculine noun (ex: son mari = her husband; son bateau = his boat)
Ses = ‘his/her' followed by a plural noun (ex: ses amis = her/his friends)
Note that for pronunciation purposes, the masculine form mon, ton, son, is used in front of feminine singular nouns, or another adjective, that begin with a vowel. ex. mon amie, ton ancienne maison, son attitude.
Notre = ‘our' followed by either a feminine or masculine singular noun = (ex. notre maison = our house; notre livre = our book)
Nos = ‘our' followed by a plural noun = (ex: nos enfants, nos amies )
Vos = ‘your' followed by a plural noun = (ex: vos clés = your keys)
Leurs ='their' followed by a plural noun = (ex: leurs animaux = their animals)
More examples :
Ma maison = my house (maison = feminine noun)
De is not only a preposition. It can an also be a partitive article (article partitif). In this case it means: "some".
There are 4 forms of the partitive article: du (masculine singular); de la (feminine singular), de l' (in front of a vowel), des (masculine or feminine plural). See how they are used in the following examples:
Note: When a specific quantity is expressed, use de instead of du:
When you add a word which expresses quantity such as beaucoup (= a lot), un peu (= a little), un kilo (= a kilo), un litre (= a liter), un sac (= a bag), etc., you have to use de, both for the masculine and the feminine, and whatever the word following de is in the plural or not (or d' in front of a vowel).
The special case of the negative:
Du, de la and des all become de when the sentence is negative (and de l', as well as des become d' when they are followed by a word starting with a vowel).
The verb aller is irregular and it literally means "to go", but it is also used idiomatically to express how one feels or is doing. Aller is conjugated:
Je vais = I'm going/I go
To express how one is doing in salutations:
Vous allez bien? = How are you doing?
Aller is also used to talk about the near future, just as it is in English, for what one is "going to do".
Useful words expressing time and frequency:
Tous les jours = every day
Tous les mois = every month
Toute la journée = all day
Tout le temps = all the time
Tous les jeudis = every Thursdays
Une partie de la journée = a part of the day
De temps en temps = from time to time
Souvent = often
Rarement = rarely
A midi = at midday
A minuit = at midnight
The biggest category of verbs is those that end in –er. The conjugation of these verbs in the present tense has a set pattern, you just need to drop the ‘er' ending of the infinitive form of the verb (in English, it is the verb preceded by the word ‘to'; it is called the stem or radical) and add the following endings instead:
Aimer (to like/ to love), demander ( to ask)
J'aime - Je demande
Note : When we conjugate the verbs in the present tense, the same pattern applies when expressing the continuous present with the "ing" or the simple present.
A list of the er verbs : arriver (to arrive); chanter (to sing) ; adorer (to love/to adore); détester (to hate); chercher (to look for); donner (to give); étudier (to study); jouer (to play); jardiner (to gardern); acheter (to buy); échanger (to exchange); penser (to think); garder (to keep); emprunter (to borrow); prêter (to loan); travailler (to work); trouver (to find); voyager (to travel); parler (to speak/to talk); regarder (to look/to wach/to watch for); rêver (to dream); penser (to think); dépenser (to spend money); payer (to pay); préférer (to prefer); appeler (to call); habiter (to live); casser (to break); marcher (to walk); changer (to change); écouter (to listen); commencer(to start); terminer (to finish); aider (to help); continuer (to continue); rentrer (to enter); gagner (to make money, to win); coûter(to cost); cuisiner (to cook); amener (to take someone); apporter (to bring); déménager(to move); préparer (to prepare); essayer (to try).
Manger (to eat) is conjugated a bit differently in the nous form:
Reflexive verbs (also called pronominal verbs - verbes réfléchis or verbes pronominaux in French) play an important role in the French language. They have a particularity: these verbs are always accompanied with a reflexive pronoun. These reflexive pronouns technically mean “myself”, “yourself”, “himself”, “ourselves”, “themselves”.
I. What are the use, the form and the types of the reflexive verbs?
Since a reflexive verb always needs a reflexive pronoun, let's first see how the reflexive pronouns matches with the subject pronouns :
Subject pronoun : je
Subject pronoun : tu
Subject pronoun : il/elle/on
Subject pronoun : nous
Subject pronoun : vous
Subject pronoun : ils/elles
Now, where to place the reflexive pronoun in a sentence ?
Here is the sentence formation pattern:
One way to use the reflexive pronouns is when someone is speaking about an action they're doing to themselves, just like in English.
So the question is: WHICH VERBS fall in the category of reflexive verbs? Well, since the definition of a reflexive verb is not straightforward, we have divided this category of verbs into 3 main groups: Common everyday action verbs; Reciprocal verbs; Just because they are (or idiomatic verbs).
1) Common everyday action verbs: some typical actions one does to himself/herself to get ready in the morning or evening:
Se réveiller = to wake up
Important NOTE: If you're doing these actions to someone else, then don't add the reflexive pronoun.
Here is an example of someone relating their typical morning, before going to work:
Note: With the pronouns me, te and se, the e is dropped when the verb starts with a mute h or a vowel. In the paragraph above, notice how habille has just a m' before the verb: je m'habille.
2 ) Reciprocal verbs:
These verbs are actions or feelings that you do/have with another person: to/for each other, one another. For instance, if you're talking about 2 people who love each other, you would say ils s'aiment.
Have a look at this list of verbs (you'll notice how many of them are verbs of communication):
S'écrire = to write to one another
Here is an example of a man talking about his relationship with his wife:
3. Verbs that are reflexive “just because they are” or some grammar books will call them ‘Idiomatic verbs':
As the title of this paragraph suggests, some verbs in French are reflexive “just because they are”. In these cases, it's difficult to attribute any specific meaning to the pronoun, or say that the verb has a particular meaning without the pronoun.
Here is a list of these useful verbs that need a reflexive pronoun:
S'appeler = to name (je m'appelle Caroline)
II. Conjugating the reflexive verbs
How to use reflexive verbs in the imperative, the past tense (passé composé), the future (futur proche) and in the negative forms:
The French people use the imperative form very frequently, as they like to give orders. Since it's a command, we use the imperative form only with the subjects tu, nous and vous. There is a particularity in using a reflexive verb in the imperative form: the reflexive pronouns is part of the construction but it is placed after the verb and it is joined with a hyphen. You will remember that the subject pronoun is dropped in commands.
When the reflexive pronoun comes after the verb, it is transformed into a tonic pronoun:
Note: Remember that in the imperative, with non-reflexive verbs as well as with reflexive verbs, the s in the tu form of er verbs is dropped: Tu te couches, Couche-toi !
If you have ever attended a French class, you have more than likely heard your teacher use this imperative mode to tell you what to do.
Passé composé form:
You will recall that the passé composé requires an auxiliary verb, either être or avoir, in front of the past participle and sometimes it's not easy to decide while one to use. The good news with reflexive verbs is that you don't have to wonder which one to pick. You always use être.
It's important to note that, in most cases, the past participle of pronominal verbs agrees in gender and number with the subject of the reflexive pronoun, that is, an e is added to the past participle to agree with a feminine subject and an s is added for a masculine plural subject and an es is added for a feminine plural subject.
Example (a woman speaking):
The negative form with the passé composé : the ne + pas will be placed around the auxiliary verb être with the ne coming in front of the reflexive pronoun.
As you can imagine, there are exceptions on the agreement of the past participle. One of them is when a direct object following the verb is a part of the body:
Furthermore, in cases where the reflexive pronoun is an indirect object rather than a direct object, as in the verb se parler (parler à), there is no agreement.
Just another quick note regarding the 2 future tenses: the futur proche is mostly used in contexts when the action is most likely going to take place; the decision has been made to take that action. The futur simple doesn't always mean that the action is going to take place, it could be a wish.
The negative form: the ne and pas are placed around the verb aller:
(more…. than// less…than// as…..as)
En français: ….plus+adjective+que…..
Adjectifs irréguliers :
bon ---> meilleur (= good-better)
I. Depuis, ça fait, il y a, pendant, durant, pour
How would you translate the following question without getting into a muddle?:
-How long have you been studying French?
It might seem daunting and difficult, but once you understand which preposition to use, the sentence structure is actually quite simple. In the above example, you might be thinking that you need to translate the verbs "have", "been" and "studying" literally, but actually you don't! All you need is the verb "studying" conjugated in the present tense. Read on to understand how it works. And we also strongly encourage you to listen to the examples in red by clicking on the accompanying audio links.
1) DEPUIS and ÇA FAIT
Let's first define the usage of depuis and ça fait, that are very close.
Depuis is used to indicate an action which started at a specific moment in the past and is still an ongoing situation today, in the present. Since the action is still current, you simply conjugate the verb in the present tense.
If you need to ask a question about how long something has been going on, then you will need to place depuis in front of combien de temps.
Now, let's look at the example we gave at the beginning of this article:
Note how we just need to conjugate the verb apprendre (studying) in the present tense. Again, this is much easier than in English.
We mentioned that depuis is used and the verb is conjugated in the present if the action is still happening today. However, you can use depuis when speaking in the past tense about an action that is over:
There is another option than depuis : ça fait.
You can also use it in a question when you want to know how long an action has been going on.
2) IL Y A
Il y a is a straight forward translation of "ago" and it is used for things that are completed and that took place in the past. As you might already know il y a also means "there is" or "there are"; but here we're looking at it in a time context. The structure is simple, you just need to start with il y a then add the number of years, days, minutes, etc., such as:
Note that in French, il y a always comes in front of the time expression.
3) PENDANT and DURANT
Pendant and durant both express 3 different time situations:
Pour is used to project how long a specific action or situation will last in the future. You will never see this preposition indicating a time situation in the past.
Examples with pour + combien de temps:
II. Dans, en
1) DANS = indicates the start of a specific action, or a situation which will take place in the future. Again, you may conjugate the sentence in the present when you're speaking about timetables.
Exemple with dans + combien de temps:
2) EN = indicates the amount of time it took (or takes) to complete an action.
Example with en + combien de temps:
Elle a lu ce gros livre en deux jours ! = She read this huge book in two days!
Replacing nouns with pronouns makes our use of the language much more fluid and economical. In both English and French, the choice of which pronoun to use is determined by its role in the sentence, i.e. subject, direct object or indirect object, etc. In French the choice is made even a bit more complicated because of the existence of the so-called disjunctive, or tonic, pronouns. Leaving subject pronouns aside, let's look at how you can make the correct choice of whether to use lui, la or elle when you want to say “her” or between lui or le when referring to “him”.
1) Direct object pronouns
The direct object is the person or thing that receives the action of the verb in a sentence. To determine the direct object in a sentence, ask yourself the question: Who? or What? Direct object pronouns take the place of the direct object nouns. While a noun that is the direct object follows the verb, the pronoun is instead placed in front of it, for example: Tu prends l'avion (You take the plane). Tu le prends (You take it).
The French direct object pronouns are as follows:
Me/m' = me
Note: me, te, and lela change to m', t', and l' in front of a vowel or mute h.
2) Indirect object pronouns
Indirect objects can only be used for persons and are those people in a sentence to whom the action of the verb occurs. You can determine the indirect object by asking yourself the question, “To whom” or sometimes “for whom”. Many of the verbs of communication (parler, écrire, dire, répondre, demander, téléphoner) take an indirect object.
The French indirect object pronouns are as follows:
Me/m' = me
Note that it is only in the third person singular and plural where there is any difference between the actual form of direct and indirect object pronouns. It is also important to remember that the indirect object pronoun lui can mean either “to him” or “to her”.
Like the direct object pronouns, the indirect object pronouns are placed in front of the verb.
Note : When deciding between direct and indirect objects, the general rule is that if the person is preceded by the preposition à, that person is an indirect object.
3) Tonic pronouns
Tonic pronouns are used for emphasis and in some special situations. They always refer to a person.
They are used mainly:
The tonic pronouns are as follows:
Moi = me
Note that with the tonic pronouns, you must distinguish between masculine and feminine in the third person singular and plural.
I'm visiting a friend in Paris and I’ll return on Monday. Even though the French translation of these verbs seem quite straight forward such as visiter and retourner, they are not used the same ways as in English. A handful of verbs of motion or travelling have their own particular place in the language and can only be used in certain situations. Following is a list of them backed up with some examples. I hope this will bring you some clarification:
This verb is often misused. You’re visiting a friend? Instinctively, a native English speaker will say je visite. In French, we visit a city or a tourist destination but NOT a person; therefore we cannot use the verb visiter in this situation. We would have to use "going to see" (aller voir), "passing by" (passer voir) or "to render a visit" (rendre visite à).
Visiter = to visit a place or a tourist destination.
NOTE: Visiter is conjugated with the auxiliary avoir in the passé composé: Hier, j’ai visité Notre-Dame. = Yesterday, I visited Notre-Dame.
Rendre visite àor aller voir or passer voir = to pay a visit to or to go see someone. This is how the French express themselves when they’re visiting SOMEONE.
Retourner means: to go back to a place you’ve been to before but you’re not present at that place when you’re expressing it.
You’re at work, you need to go out for a break and you say to a co-worker: "I will return in 15 minutes." In French, we cannot use the verb retourner in this situation. Retourner means "to go back", not "return." We need to say: Je reviens dans 15 minutes. = I’ll come back in 15 minutes.
NOTE: Retourner is conjugated with the verb être: Je suis retourné(e) en France il y a 2 mois. = I went back to France 2 months ago.
This verb is used very frequently to say that you’re going home (your house or your country).
Example: Je suis fatigué, je rentre ! = I’m tired, I’m returning home.
NOTE: In this case, rentrer is conjugated with the auxiliary être in the passé composé : Hier soir, je suis rentré(e) à 23h. = last night, I went/came home at 11:00 pm.
Rentrer has a second meaning = to bring or take something inside. Example: Je rentre la voiture dans le garage. = I’m putting the car in the garage.
NOTE: In this case, rentrer is conjugated with the auxiliary avoir in the passé composé: Hier, j’ai rentré la poubelle.= yesterday, I brought the trash bin in.
When we want to say that we’re going out for a few hours or to go for an outing, this is the ideal verb to use.
NOTE: In this case, sortir is conjugated with the auxiliary être in the passé composé: Hier soir, je suis sorti(e). = Yesterday, I went out.
Sortir = to take something outside (the opposite of rentrer).
NOTE: In this case, sortir is conjugated with the auxiliary avoir in the passé composé: Hier, j’ai sorti la poubelle. = Yesterday, I took out the trash.
When telling someone that you’re coming soon, you can use venir but you can also use arriver.
Revenir means come back/to be back, expressed when you’re telling someone you’re coming back to the place where you’re standing at that moment.
NOTE: Revenir is conjugated with the auxiliary être: Je suis revenue(e) hier. = I came back yesterday.
Partir is to leave a place and to depart; we use it a lot in travelling situations.
The passé composé versus the imparfait ! When studying French, everyone needs to spend some time going over the tricky relationship between these two main past tenses. Instead of trying to figure out how they translate exactly into English grammar terminology (it doesn't work in many cases), it is better to understand how and when they are used in French. First, it is important to understand the distinctions between the passé composé and the imparfait in order to be able to describe past events accurately and with the correct tense.
1) Let's start with understanding when and how the passé composé is used:
The passé composé is used to relate a punctual and completed action which has taken place in the past. For example: "We ate early this morning," or: "The train arrived on time."
Whereas in English this kind of past action is expressed with a simple conjugation, in French the passé composé, as its name implies, is a compound tense and has two elements to it: an auxiliary verb and the past participle of the verb you are conjugating. The auxiliary verb will always be either the verb avoir or the verb être , and the conjugation involves simply using the auxiliary verb in the present tense followed by the past participle of main verb.
Note : 80% of French verbs are conjugated with avoir. The other 20% that take the verb être are mostly verbs of motion , such as aller (to go), partir (to leave), venir (to come), retourner (to go back), arriver (to arrive). Also, all reflexive verbs are conjugated with the verb être. The most common reflexive verbs are se coucher (to go to bed), se réveiller (to wake up), se lever (to get up), s'habiller (to get dressed), s'ennuyer (to be bored), etc…
A few examples with a verb that is conjugated with avoir: Regarder:
A few examples with a verb that is conjugated with être: Aller:
Important to know: the past participle agrees, just like an adjective, with the feminine and plural subjects only with the verb être – not with avoir (unless you have a direct object before the verb, more on that later). Notice the four possibilities when the subject is vous.
2) The Imparfait: The other past tense is used for the following three situations:
1) To describe someone's physical or emotional state, a mood, the weather or a general condition or situation… It is generally used to describe the more passive actions vs the active ones.
2) For an action or a habit that took place repeatedly in the past. The equivalent in English would be "I used to..." or "would".
Note that we do not have a word in French to express "used to" but the imperfect tense is used to communicate the equivalent.
3) A continuing action in the past that has not been completed yet. We don't know when the action finished. In English, the equivalent is was/were + verb ending in "ing" (I was thinking, I was playing…)
The conjugation of verbs in the imparfait has a simple pattern, you just need to take the verb minus its infinitive endings and then add the following endings.
An example with the verb parler (to speak):
For some irregular verbs, the form of the verb used in the imperfect, or the stem, is the same as the conjugation for nous in the present tense minus the ons ending.
For example, with choisir (to choose), we say: Nous choisissons (the present tense), and the stem used for the imperfect will be choisiss… (je choisissais , tu choisissais , etc.).
Note : you will hear the verb être and the verb vouloir most of the time in the imparfait. We would advise that you automatically conjugate these two verbs in the imparfait and not in the passé composé each time you use them.
This is how they are conjugated:
C'est bon ? Non, c’est meilleur ! If you’re learning French, I know that you’ve asked yourself, more than once, should I be saying bien or bon? The same type of question comes up in trying to choose between meilleur or mieux. It is confusing, and since they are extremely present in the French language you need to understand them so you can use them with more confidence.
1. BON, MEILLEUR and PIRE
How is bon used:
BUT we also use it in other ways, especially with the verb être:
The comparative of bon is MEILLEUR, meaning "better."
The superlative of bon is LE/LA MEILLEUR(E), meaning "the best." Adding the article le or la will mark the difference between "better" or "best."
What if you wish to express the opposite?
PIRE would be the appropriate word. If you want to express it as a comparative, such as this red wine is worse than this white wine, then you would simply say:
LE/LA PIRE expresses "the worst":
2. BIEN, MIEUX and PLUS MAL
As mentioned above, bien can also modify an adjective.
Or it can modify an adverb.
BE CAREFUL not to say: Elle est très bonne, celle-là ! You will be making a comment about how she is in bed…
Again, when you’re making sentences with the verb être, you will choose bon when talking about food, or when something is right or wrong. Otherwise bien will be used mostly with the verb être (please note there are a few other exceptions – you can find more information in French Accent magazine Nr. 13, June-July 2008.)
The superlative of bien is LE/LA MIEUX, meaning "the best."
The opposite of mieux is PLUS MAL.
When you have your neighbour over for an apéro and you ask him: Qu'est-ce que tu aimerais boire ? (“What would you like to drink?”), he might reply: N'importe – ça m'est égal (“Anything – it doesn't matter.”) This expression and other variations are difficult to translate literally.
The group of n'importe : these are tricky as we cannot literally translate all of their different forms:
N'importe = any/anything at all/ it doesn't matter
N'importe quoi ! = nonsense/rubbish!
Note: Some people translate n'importe quoi as “anything” but it's doesn't work. If you wish to express “anything” such as “You can do anything you wish”, then you will need to say: Tu peux faire ce que tu veux.
N'importe comment ! = badly done
N'importe où = anywhere
N'importe qui = anyone
N'importe quand = anytime
N'importe lequel/laquelle = anyone of them
A few more useful expressions which cannot be translated literally:
Il n'y a pas de quoi ! = You're welcome!
Ça m'est égal ! = I don't mind!/ It doesn't matter!/ It's all the same to me!
Je m'en fiche/Je m'en fous ! = I don't care!/ I don't give a damn!
Ça ne fait rien ! = It doesn't matter! / No problem!
J'en ai marre ! = I'm fed up!/ I'm sick and tired (of it)!
J'en ai assez ! = I've had enough!
J'en ai ras-le-bol ! = I'm fed up (with it)!
Tant pis ! = Oh well – too bad!
Tant mieux ! = Good for you! / That's all the better!
Ce n'est pas terrible = It's not great! - One would think that it meant, “It's not terrible,” but actually it means the opposite!...
Here is a list of common time expressions and when to use them:
À bientôt ! = used when you are going to see that person again one day but you're not sure when! The equivalent of “see you later.”
À samedi, à mercredi, à ce soir, à demain, à la semaine prochaine, à demain soir, à midi, etc. = when you are indicating the specific day and time when you will meet again. Just start the phrase with à + any specific day or time.
À tout à l'heure ! = said when you are going to see that person again in just a few hours within that same day. The equivalent is “see you later on today”. The younger kids and adults may just say à tout' and will pronounce the t at the end of the word.
À plus tard ! = used when you are unsure if you're going to see that person again or not but most likely will. The equivalent is “see you later”. The younger kids and adults may just say à plus and will pronounce the s at the end of the word. In text messages (SMS), they simply write: A+ .
À une prochaine ! = same as above. The equivalent is “see you next time”.
À un de ces quatre ! = When you are not sure when you will see someone again. The equivalent of “See you one of these days.”
Time frequency : a few of the following expressions are very similar and can be subtle, especially those which indicate “sometimes”:
De temps en temps = from time to time.
Parfois = once in a while
Quelquefois = sometime
Tout le temps = all the time
Tous les jours = every day
Souvent = often
Rarement = rarely, seldom
Jamais = never
Expressions for specific time references :
Many times students say le soir dernier to indicate “last evening/last night”. It is, of course, understandable, but it's not how the French would say it. Here is how these expressions are used and translated:
Hier soir/hier après-midi et hier matin = yesterday evening/night and yesterday morning
Le lendemain = the day after/the next day
Le surlendemain = 2 days after
La veille = the evening before/the eve
Ce jour-là = on that day
La semaine d'après = the week after
La semaine d'avant = the week before
Avant-hier = the day before yesterday
Après-demain = the day after tomorrow.
Unfortunately, lots of folks have severe cases of fear and trembling that very often reflect the attitudes of classroom instructors who present the subjunctive as something so terribly difficult that non-native speakers will never really be able to use it in their everyday speech. Rather than present it as a fascinating and essential aspect of language use, they either spend lots of time teaching their students how to avoid using it or else in giving such complicated and detailed explanations that they end up confusing them completely. Actually, that it is a question of attitude ! The subjunctive is an important and necessary part of speaking the language, it can easily be mastered and it can actually be a satisfying and enjoyable challenge. You have to learn to love the subjunctive!
While it's true that the subjunctive is not used nearly as much in English as in French, it is, nevertheless, not solely a feature of French or the other romance languages. And not everyone really uses it correctly in English, but you hear and see it all the time in sentences like “If I were you, I would...” or “It's important that you be on time for your interview.” However, you really can't call yourself fluent in French until you can use the subjunctive. It is an essential part of the language.
What is most important to remember is that the subjunctive is a mood and not a verb tense and, as such, there are various tenses of the subjunctive. Most of what we say is expressed in the indicative mood and it is used to deal with concrete and factual information. Il fait beau, J'ai faim, Le Président s'appelle Nicolas, Marie m'a dit qu'elle viendra ce soir, etc. But the moment we begin talking about personal opinions, doubts, fears, possibilities, necessities, etc., you have to use the subjunctive mood. J'ai peur que tu sois en retard, Je voudrais que tu fasses la vaisselle ce soir, Il faut que nous partions. Notice that the subjunctive appears in the second part of these sentences following the que – an essential element.
There are really two aspects to using the subjunctive correctly: one is to decide when to use it; the other is knowing the form of the verb. The verb forms themselves are really quite simple and easy to remember. There is a set of endings for the regular verbs that is so easy to remember, you will be amazed. Those endings are simply added to the stem of the verb for the subjunctive, which is in most cases the same as the ils form of the verb in the indicative minus the ent ending. For regular er verbs, which make up 80% or so of French verbs, there is no difference from the indicative stem. If you can remember how to use a verb with ils for ir and re verbs, there is no problem identifying the stem for the subjunctive: ils finissent, ils perdent, ils dorment, ils écrivent.
Let's take a look at some of the really interesting ways it is used, as well as some of the seemingly illogical exceptions.
The verbs penser, croire, trouver and espérer, although you might be tempted to think that they express a subjective attitude, take the indicative:
Je pense qu'il est intelligent.
However, when penser, croire or trouver are negated or used in the interrogative, they take the subjunctive:
Pensez-vous qu'il soit intelligent ? Je ne trouve pas qu'il fasse plus froid ici.
You will, nevertheless, find in the spoken language that many French will choose to use the indicative in the above situations.
The expression il est probable que falls more into the realm of something that is sure or certain and, therefore, takes the indicative. However, adding a peu to the equation brings us back to the subjunctive:
Il est probable que Paul vient ce soir.
Il est possible que, on the other hand, suggests doubt and takes the subjunctive:
Il est possible que nous partions avant vous. (It's possible, but not certain).
Il semble que takes the subjunctive, whereas Il me semble que takes the indicative.
Il semble qu'il tienne beaucoup à choisir le plus beau cadeau pour sa femme.
In the rather lengthy list of conjunctions that require the subjunctive, there are some interesting exceptions.
Nous le ferons avant que tu partes.
However, the one notable exception is the conjunction après que, which takes the indicative. You will, nevertheless, find some people who use the subjunctive.
Nous partons après que tu finiras tes courses. (Note that après que usually calls for a future tense).
The subjunctive is also used when the existence or validity of something is in doubt.
Je cherche un mécanicien qui sache réparer ma vieille Simca ( You don't really know if it is possible to find one).
Note also that while there is a past tense of the subjunctive (formed simply with the subjunctive of the auxilliary verb être or avoir plus the regular past participle of the verb you are conjugating – see the example above) there is really no future tense; the present subjunctive is also used to express a future event.
And finally, be sure not to confuse the forms for the imperative of the verbs être, avoir and vouloir with the subjunctive. They are spelled exactly the same, but the usage is totally different:
N' ayez pas peur ! = Don't be afraid! vs. Il est important que vous ayez un bon niveau de français = It is important that you have a good level of French)
Now, just keep repeating to yourself, “I love the subjunctive, I love the subjunctive, I love the subjunctive”…
An important question: How do you say I love you, or I like you, in French? And more widely, what verb do you use when you want to say that you like cheese a lot but that you like chocolate better?
Have you ever seen a child in France plucking the petals of a daisy one at a time while saying “Je t'aime, un peu, beaucoup, passionnément, à la folie, pas du tout” (I love you, a little, a lot, passionately, madly, not at all), the last petal determining your degree of love for that person?
As you probably already know, using the verb aimer in reference to a person means “to love” that person, but love can be expressed in varying degrees just like when you're plucking the petals of a daisy, and according to the adverb you choose to qualify your love, it can actually end up meaning “to like” instead of “to love”. This is where it can become confusing and tricky. How do we simply say to a friend “I like you”? Let's clarify how the verb aimer is used and also have a look at some other options:
I love Robert
When you wish to make declaration of love to someone, the verb aimer is most appropriate.
I like Robert
When you wish to express that you like someone, then you have a few options. To say that you “like” or are “fond of” someone, it would then be appropriate to use aimer, BUT you need to add an adverb, such as bien, or beaucoup. Strangely enough, these adverbs make aimer less strong, so that they can be used with friends rather than family and lovers.
I like chocolate
When you wish to say that you like or love something, aimer will be appropriate to use again.
Note that with aimer and other verbs of feelings such as préférer (to prefer), apprécier (to appreciate), détester (to hate) you will always use the definite article (le, la, les) and not the partitive article (du, de la, des).
You cannot say J'aime du chocolat when you're just making a “like/love” statement. Therefore, you can say J'aime le chocolat, je préfère le chocolat, je déteste le chocolat, etc.
If you wish to replace the word le chocolat by “it” , you can use the regular direct object pronouns (je l'aime), but the French have a strong tendency to replace “it“ with the indefinite demonstrative pronoun ça.
I would like
The French tend to use je voudrais = “I would like” when they want to ask for something in a polite way. Simply saying je veux can be a bit abrupt and less polite than je voudrais. The French will also use aimer a lot in the conditional which also means “I would like” .
This is how we use it:
Plaire literally means “to please” , but in French it really means to like something or someone. The French use it a lot as an alternative to aimer.
Here is how it is used and conjugated:
To adore/ to truly love
Adorer is used to express a true love for something but it is not quite as strong as aimer when expressing love for/to people!
To like better/best
The French rather tell you je préfère than j'aime mieux when they want to say that they like someone or something better or best. Therefore, the meaning of this verb is slightly different than “to prefer” in English.
The news ways to say Je t'aime
Kiffer, which means to love, to like, to be crazy about someone or something, is a slang expression from Arab origin mainly used by teenagers and young men and women, especially the ones living in low-income housing developments or neighbourhoods.
Love ... Yes, like so many English words, the verb “to love” has entered the French vocabulary, and, again, is mainly used by young people, especially those who are part of the upper classes or who live in the chic parts of Paris or big cities.
Je te love . = I love you.
The future can be expressed in three different ways - the futur proche (aller + infinitive form of the verb), the futur simple or even at times with le présent. The choice depends mostly on whether you're talking about a planned event which will definitely take place; or whether you are thinking about something that could eventually take place one day, or if your speaking about actions that will take place in the very near future. A French person will instinctively use the appropriate one without thinking. The distinction between le futur and le futur proche is not always clear - there are many situations where you can use either one.
Le futur proche :
It is a useful alternative to the futur simple tense as it uses the combination of the verb aller with an infinitive. We usually use it to indicate an event or actions which are planned and are most likely going to happen soon. When one starts learning French, it is best to first learn the futur proche tense since the verb aller is usually one of the first verbs we learn to conjugate. It is translated as "going to" and mirrors very closely how it is used in English. This is how it works:
Subject + the present tense of aller + infinitive of a verb
Again, the French have the tendency to use this tense to indicate something they have planned and will most likely happen. It can be a short or long term planned event.
Je vais partir du travail vers 17h = I'm going to leave work around 5pm
Le futur simple :
This tense is widely used and the conjugation is close to the "conditionnel tense". A bit more difficult to pronounce but inevitably, it is important to learn it if you wish to progress or become fluent. It is the equivalent of ‘will' in English. The conjugation is not so difficult; it involves adding an ending to the future stem (most of the time the infinitive)
Manger (to eat) = Je manger+ai, tu manger+as, il manger+a, nous manger+ons, vous manger+ez, ils manger+ont… = I will eat, you will eat, etc… (Note that the endings are very close to the present conjugation of the verb avoir).
Of course, some irregular verbs, such as être , avoir , faire and aller have an irregular future stem. You will have to learn them by heart:
The futur simple is used to indicate upcoming events, but they are usually not yet planned in a timetable.
Another important reason to use the futur simple is when you are using quand (when), dès que (as soon as), une fois que (once that---), après que (after that). Whereas in English, the present tense is used.
Le présent (for expressing a future action) :
Have you ever queued at the train station to buy some tickets and when you arrive at the window, the clerk puts up a sign stating je reviens dans quelques minutes (I'll be back in a few minutes)? This is a typical way to communicate an action that will take place in the upcoming minutes or hours… Instead of using "I will…" or "I'm going to…", you may just simply use the present tense of the verb. We especially express ourselves this way with verbs of movements: aller (to go), revenir (to come back), partir (to leave), rentrer (to return home), sortir (to go out), etc.. It adds more energy to the sentence, lightens up the speech and gives confidence that the action will indeed really take place.
1) Amener :
-Conduire vers un endroit ou vers une personne une personne, un animal :
-Apporter (fam. emploi critiqué) :
-S'amener (fam) = venir :
2) Apporter :
-Prendre avec soi et porter au lieu où est quelqu'un
ou quelque chose un objet inanimé ou un objet animé qui ne peut se
-Porter quelque chose avec soi en venant :
3) Emmener :
-mener avec soi une personne, un animal du lieu où l'on est vers un autre lieu :
- emporter (fam. emploi critiqué) :
4) Emporter :
-prendre avec soi et porter ailleurs un objet inanimé ou un objet animé qui ne peut se mouvoir :
-s'emporter : se mettre en colère :
5) Ramener :
-amener de nouveau vers quelqu'un une personne, un animal :
-amener avec soi au lieu qu'on a quitté :
-faire revenir quelqu'un au lieu d'où il est parti :
-Rapporter (fam. emploi critiqué) :
-Se ramener à : se résumer à :
6) Rapporter :
-Apporter de son lieu d'origine un objet inanimé ou un objet animé qui ne peut se mouvoir :
-Apporter une chose au lieu où elle était :
-Produire, donner un bon revenu :
-Faire le récit de ce qu'on a vu et entendu :
In most French classes, the imperative is usually introduced as a verb form that should be used when giving commands and orders , something that can make many French learners extremely hesitant to use it. It takes a lot of confidence for a non-native speaker to tell a French person what to do or not to do, such as: S'il vous plaît, arrêtez de parler si vite ! = stop talking so quickly; Avancez ! = Move on!...
However, the imperative has a positive side as it also expresses warm and welcoming actions. For example, if you are invited to someone's place, you will hear enthusiastic and friendly phrases such as:
If this same person/host politely asks you if you wish to sit down: Est-ce que vous aimeriez vous asseoir ? = Would you like to sit down?; at this point, the person is using a very formal question and it is difficult to actually know if the person truly feels like having you sit on their sofa! But if that same person says, Asseyez-vous, s'il vous plaît = Have a seat please, then you are receiving a strong and friendly signal because they want you to feel comfortable in their home. Therefore, when you are inviting French people over for an aperitif or a dinner, do not hesitate to use the imperative form as you will make them feel comfortable and welcome!
Here are some very welcoming phrases you could say next time you're inviting a French person to your place:
Also, in English, a wonderful way to show enthusiasm for doing something is to add “let's” in front of the verb: Let's go out tonight! In French, you would use the imperative, thus the translation would be Sortons ce soir !
In conclusion, if you use the imperative in a social context, the French will truly appreciate it and will indeed feel right at home!
The imperative is also used for giving straightforward directions such as Allez tout droit = Go straight ahead. Or in a job or at school: at the end of the day, for example: S'il vous plaît, éteignez votre ordinateur = Please turn off your computer. In this context, it is very useful and an integral part of using the language on a day-to-day basis.
How to conjugate the imperative?
There are three forms of the imperative: tu, nous and vous. The imperative is formed by simply using the corresponding forms of the present tense of the verb in question.
There are a few irregular verbs where this is not the case, especially the verbs avoir and être which have an irregular form that is the same as the subjunctive, but without the subject pronouns.
The lack of a subject pronoun is what identifies the imperative verb être:
Verb avoir : Aie du courage ! = Have courage! (tu form) Ayez du courage ! = Have courage! (vous form) Ayons du courage ! = Let's have courage! (nous form).
The verb voir (to see) conjugated in the nous form is used widely in French. Just like when we're thinking in English, we might hear “Let's see…”. In French, we do the same thing by saying Voyons !
For all other verbs, you just need to conjugate the verb in the present tense (but note that the “s” for the conjugation for “tu” is dropped if the infinitive of the verb ends in “er”):
If there are object pronouns involved, those pronouns come after the verb and are joined with a hyphen:
However, if the command is negative, the pronouns go back in front of the verb:
If you are using a reflexive verb, then you need to add the reflexive pronoun after the verb, again with the hyphen.
s'asseoir = to sit down:
se lever = to get up:
Le conditionnel is a verb mode which expresses wishes, suggestions, or requests in a polite form; in other words, this tense is able to give the appropriate French equivalents of “could”, “should” and “would”. While there is a verb for “could” which is pouvoir and a verb for “should” which is devoir , there isn't one for the modal “would”. The only way we can express the equivalence of “would” is by conjugating the main verb which follows “would” in the conditionnel tense (ex: I would like = je voudrais ).
In English, “would” has a strong presence but in French it is used a lot less. For example, you may use it in English to express something you used to do in the past: “When I lived in the US, I would receive the newspaper every morning in front of my door”. Not in French, we cannot use “would” in this context. Since this action has taken place in the past, we would automatically use the imparfait . So how do we clearly use the conditionnel and in which contexts? Let's first start with “should”:
As most of you know, devoir in the present tense is translated as “have to” or “must”. Ex: Je dois faire mon travail = I must do my work. Nevertheless, when devoir is conjugated in the conditionnel , it becomes je devrais and its meaning changes into a suggestion rather than an obligation! Therefore, anytime you wish to give a suggestion to someone or to yourself, you need to use je devrais, tu devrais, il/elle/on devrait, nous devrions, vous devriez, ils devraient.
The French use “could” instead of “can” to create a more polite approach to the request. You can use “could” when giving a suggestion.
First, the conjugation of pouvoir in the conditionnel :
Je pourrais, tu pourrais, il/elle/on pourrait, nous pourrions, vous pourriez, ils/elles pourraient.
Using it in a polite form context – examples:
Using it in a suggestion context – examples:
Note: We often hear a common mistake with the conjugation of the verb pouvoir . As a reminder, pouvoir in the imparfait is conjugated as such : je pouvais, tu pouvais, il/elle/on pouvait, nous pouvions, vous pouviez, ils pouvaient and the conjugation of the verb pouvoir in the conditionnel is je pourrais, tu pourrais, il pourrait, nous pourrions, vous pourriez, ils pourraient . When you want to express something that you could or could not do in the past (was not able to do), make sure that you use the imparfait and not the conditionnel .
As mentioned earlier, no word in French translates into “would” – it simply does not exist. The notion of “would” is indicated in the main verb when it is conjugated in the conditionnel, and we use it mainly for 2 reasons. But first, let's learn how to conjugate this tense:
When conjugating a regular verb ending in er such as parler or jouer , for example, you just need to add the imparfait ending to the infinitive/future stem of the verb. The conjugation is simply a combination of using the endings for the imparfait with the stem for the futur.
Parler : Je parler+AIS, tu parler+AIS, il/elle parler+AIT, nous parler+IONS, vous parler+IEZ, ils/elles parler+AIENT.
Venir : Je viendrais, tu viendrais, il/elle/on viendrait, nous viendrions, vous viendriez, ils viendraient.
Vouloir : Je voudrais, tu voudrais, il/elle/on voudrait, nous voudrions, vous voudriez, ils voudraient.
Etre : Je serais, tu serais, il/elle/on serait, nous serions, vous seriez, ils seraient – you will notice that it is very close to the future…
Avoir : J'aurais, tu aurais, il/elle/on aurait, nous aurions, vous auriez, ils auraient.
Aller : J'irais, tu irais, il/elle/on irait, nous irions, vous iriez, ils iraient.
1) To communicate in a polite form
Whenever you have a request and you want to avoid saying je veux (I want) or c'est possible de (not very attractive..), you could change your request into a more elegant and polite form by saying j'aimerais or je voudrais (I would like), or serait-il possible de (would it be possible to)…
2) To communicate a wish/ a hypothesis using the “if” construction:
When expressing a wish which most likely will not happen anytime soon, you will be working with the following construction: if + subject + verb conjugated in imparfait + second verb in conditionnel.
The tiny word on carries great importance in everyday spoken French. For Anglophones learning French, on is frequently misunderstood or ignored because many think that on only expresses its English equivalent of ‘one', while many of those who understand that it's also an alternative to using nous hesitate to use it because of the false belief that it's more formal. To make matters worse, French grammar books seldom deal with this issue.
Let's clarify the usage of on and to encourage you to use it as frequently as the French do.
On, the personal pronoun expressing "We":
Contrary to what many French learners think, using on does not carry a formal or even pompous connotation, as is sometimes the case with the English "one". In fact, it's a very convivial word. If you say on préfère le thé que le café, you're not actually saying “one prefers tea to coffee”, but you're simply saying “we prefer tea to coffee”. On is more casual than nous and is actually more economical in terms of the number of syllables used. In fact, when speaking, most people of all different generations use on when referring to an action they are going to do or have just done. When two people use nous, the tone of the message is more formal. It's just like if you were using vous instead of tu.
Even though on really means nous, the conjugation of the verb is still in the third person singular, the same as if you were conjugating a verb with il or elle.
A few examples of on as a personal pronoun:
In conclusion, don't hesitate to use on instead of nous – you will indeed sound more French and more fully integrated!
On , the indefinite pronoun, expressing a generality:
In this case, on is not designating anyone in particular but instead it's vaguely referring to someone else or to a group of people. The French use it frequently in making general statements about a habit, a custom, a tradition, a way of doing things, an instruction, or a philosophical statement.
A few examples using on as an indefinite pronoun:
Expressing a habit: En France, on prend beaucoup de vacances = In France, one (meaning the French people) has lots of holidays.
Expressing a tradition: Aux Etats-Unis, on organise une “baby shower” avant la naissance de l'enfant = In the United States, one (mea-ning the Americans) organises a baby shower before the birth of a baby.
Expressing a way of doing things: En France, on ne doit pas tutoyer son professeur d'école = In France, one (meaning the students) must not use the ‘tu' form with their school teacher.
Expressing an instruction: Au travail, on doit envoyer un email au département des ressources humaines pour toute demande de jour de congé = At work, one (meaning the employees) must send an email directly to the Human Resources Department for any request for a day off.
Expressing a philosophical statement: On n'est jamais sûr de rien dans la vie = One (people in general) is never sure of anything in life.
When learning the different components of a French sentence, it may at times be difficult to identify the adjective. As a reminder: an adjective is a word which modifies a noun by describing it. These words are descriptions such as colours, sizes, nationalities, moods, and more. For example, have a careful look at the following phrase: La belle langue française (the beautiful French language). In this short phrase, there are 2 words describing the language: belle and française. Notice where these 2 adjectives are placed and how they are formed: the adjective française after the noun, whereas in English, it would be placed before, and an e was added to française because it has to agree with the feminine word langue.
Learning the formation and the placement of the adjectives is quite a mental sport. French adjectives change to agree in gender and number with the nouns that they modify, which means there can be up to four forms of each adjective whether the noun is feminine, masculine, feminine plural or masculine plural. There are also different categories of adjectives with different endings:
1) Let's start with an example of a regular adjective:
Etre content (to be happy):
Note how we simply add an e to agree with a feminine subject and a s to agree with plural subjects.
2) Some masculine adjectives, already ending with an e, don't change in the feminine form.
3) When the adjective ends in er, we need to add an accent grave (è) on the e of er for the feminine form. Many of them are used to describe a profession, in which case the word can be used both as a noun as well as an adjective.
Note: to form the plural form of all of the above, you just need to add a s: boulangers, boulangères.
4) When the adjective ends in eur, which also happens often for professions, but not exclusively, it becomes more complex, since for some of them the ending changes to euse and for others it becomes rice in the feminine form.
Note: the adjectives of profession that end in er or eur can also be used as a noun (see above).
5) There are also a few adjectives ending with a consonant such as n, s or l, that change in their feminine form by doubling the consonants before adding the e.
Note: to form the plural form of all of the above, you just need to add an s: bons, bonnes.
6) There is also the category of irregular adjectives with different endings:
One of the very peculiar ones is the common adjective beau (beautiful) which becomes belle in its feminine form. In the plural, one has to add an x to the masculine, and a s to the feminine:
Ce garçon est beau = This boy is handsome
Note: In the case of beau, when it is used in front of a masculine noun beginning with a vowel, it becomes bel: Marc est un bel homme ( Marc is a handsome man). Quel bel arbre ! (What a beautiful tree!) .
Another peculiar one is the other common adjective long (long), which becomes longue in the feminine. In the plural, both have a s at the end:
Le chemin est long = The pathway is long
Some other adjectives ending in eux in the masculine, change to euse in the feminine. The masculine plural remains the same; while a s is added for the feminine plural.
Example : joyeux (happy)
Other common adjectives in eux are:
douloureux/douloureuse = painful
Those adjectives ending in if in the masculine singular have an ive ending for the feminine:
Other examples are:
And there is also another category of adjectives that end in ieux
in the masculine singular and that don't change in the masculine
plural, but have a very different ending for the feminine forms.
Note: This adjective also has a special form when it is placed in front of a masculine singular noun beginning with a vowel: vieil ; un vieil homme, c'est un vieil arbre.
There are also adjectives that end in al in the masculine singular that have a special ending for the masculine plural, aux, but the femine singular and feminine plural follow the normal pattern for adjective endings:
Other examples are: spécial, communal.
Placement of the adjectives
This is where it can get tricky! In general, short, descriptive adjectives are placed before the noun, while longer adjectives are usually placed after. Except for the adjectives describing a colour, a shape or a nationality, they are always placed after.
The above explanation on the adjectives placement has quite a few exceptions. Especially in judgements about personality or physical attributes:
NOTE: In French, for all the dates, we almost always place the adjectives dernier/dernière and prochain/prochaine after the noun:
Don't you find it puzzling when you hear a French person using c'est about a person? For instance: c'est un Anglais – il est avocat (he is an English man, he is a lawyer). As you probably already know, c'est means "this/it is" so why not use il est or elle est ? Well, we just have to accept that when introducing or presenting something or a person, the French will use one or the other but the choice is not always straight forward. Here are some guidelines that we hope will help you:
First, a brief reminder that the plural of c'est is ce sont (these are). The plural of il/elle est is ils/elles sont (they are).
In general, c'est or ce sont are followed by a noun (c'est une voiture allemande = it's a German car; c'est un livre = it's a book; c'est Julien = it's Julien…) while il/elle est or ils/elles sont are followed by an adjective (il est gentil = he is nice; elle est adorable = she is adorable).
Where do we use c'est or ce sont?
C'est is used:
- To identify or introduce a person or a thing.
- To announce oneself (for example on the telephone).
- To make a general statement.
Note: If you have a possessive adjective such as mon, ma, mes, then you would always use c'est: c'est mon chien = it's my dog; c'est ma voiture = it's my car.
Where do we use il/elle est or ils/elles sont?
Il/elle est is used:
- To describe something or someone in particular.
- When talking about someone's profession, nationality, religion or family status. In this case, you don't add an article (take out the un, une, des, le, la, les).
BUT you will add an article if you add a descriptive adjective, and in this case you will say:
Note that we also use c'est for expressing the following: Oh, c'est bien ! = Oh, that's great!
Je t'aime UN PEU, BEAUCOUP, VRAIMENT, PASSIONNEMENT... PAS DU TOUT !
As you're plucking the petals of a French daisy wondering how much your sweetheart loves you, you are also reciting a lovely list of adverbs. Adverbs are found in nearly every sentence as they fill in crucial information, give a level of impact, or describe how things are done. It is important to know them if you wish to express your ideas with a certain precision.
Different types of adverbs have different purposes, and the type you want to use depends on what you want to say - Are you talking about how often something happens? Where it happens? When? Adverb position depends in part on the type of adverb you're using.
Many adverbs are formed from adjectives, in both French and English. These adverbs express how something happens, and in English they usually end in "ly" (slowly, frankly, politely, etc..) and in "ment"in French (lentement, franchement, poliment).
However, there are also many adverbs that are not derived from adjectives and have their set form. The trick with adverbs is to know where to place them in a sentence. Thankfully, there are some rules when dealing with the adverbs of MANNERISM, QUANTITY AND FREQUENCY (there is a bit more flexibility with the adverbs of frequency and long adverbs which can be found at the beginning or end of sentences).
The adverbs can be listed in the following categories:
Where is the adverb placed in a sentence?
1. When the adverb modifies a verb in the PRESENT tense, it is placed after the conjugated verb. Note that if the sentence is negative, then the adverb is placed after that negation.
Again, adverbs of frequency can be placed at the beginning or at the end of a sentence.
2. When the adverb modifies a verb in the PASSE COMPOSÉ, it is placed immediately after the auxiliary verb être or avoir.
3. When the adverb modifies an adjective or another adverb, it is placed in front of the word it modifies.
As for the adverbs of TIME which refer to days, they can be placed at the beginning or end of the sentence:
Principaux termes du langage grammatical
Adjectif indéfini : ne donne en général pas d'informations très précises. Exemples : quelques, plusieurs, même, tout, aucun...
Adjectif numéral : donne une indication chiffrée. Exemples : un, dix, soixante, le premier, une douzaine...
Adjectif possessif : mon, ma, mes, ta, ton, tes, son, sa, ses
Adjectif démonstratif : ce, cette, ces
Adjectif verbal : formé à partir d'un verbe. Exemples : négliger (verbe) --> négligeant (adjectif) ; fatiguer (verbe) --> fatiguant ; etc.
Adverbe : mot invariable qui modifie un verbe ou un adjectif. Exemples : vite, très, trop, comme, ensemble, beaucoup, ici, ailleurs...
Adverbe de modalité : mettent un peu d'emphase dans ce qui est dit. Exemples : évidemment, en effet, enfin...
Article défini : le, la, les...
Article indéfini : un, une, des...
Article partitif : du, de, de la... Exemples : il n'y a plus de pain ; il y a du soleil aujourd'hui; tu as de la chance...
4) Prépositions :
-à(au), en : indique le lieu. Exemples : à la maison, à Paris, au cinéma, etc.
- avec : fait le lien entre deux personnes, deux objets, deux événements. Exemples : avec mon mari ; avec les voitures ; avec le vent...
- de(du/de la/des) : peut indiquer également le lieu mais surtout la provenance, ou la possession, ou la cause. Exemples : loin de la ville ; arriver des Etats-Unis ; près du marché ; la maison des frères Martin ; une lampe de bureau ; un chien d'aveugle ; mourir de faim ; un kilo de fruits ; une tasse de café...
- en : peut aussi indiquer le lieu mais aussi la manière de s'habiller, l'état dans lequel on se trouve, etc. Exemples : en France, en Suisse, en robe, en noir et blanc, en métro, en rond, en forme, en colère, en chinois...
- par : indique un rapport avec le lieu, un moyen, etc. Exemples : passer par la porte, appeler par son nom, par amour, par intérêt, par hasard, par bonheur.
- pour : exprime la destination, le but, la cause, etc. Exemples : une lettre pour vous ; travailler pour rien ; magasin fermé pour congés.
Prépositions de temps : depuis, pour, pendant, dans, en, il y a...
Pronoms sujets : je, tu, il, elle, nous, on, vous, ils, elles.
Pronoms compléments : le, la lui, les, en, y
Pronoms d'objet direct (aussi appelés pronoms directs) : le, la, les... pour se référer à une personne ou une chose déjà mentionnés avant, et souvent utilisés en réponse à une question. Exemple : Tu prends l'avion ? Oui, je le prends.
Pronoms d'objet indirect (aussi appelés pronoms indirects) : me, lui... Leur rôle et similaire à celui des pronoms d'objets directs, mais ils sont utilisés seulement pour une personne et avec des verbes de communication. Exemples : je parle à Caroline ; je lui parle ; elle me parle...
Pronoms indéfinis : ils désignent surtout une personne ou une chose non précisée. Exemples : quelque chose, quelqu'un, quelque part, tous, chacun...
Pronoms possessifs : le mien, la mienne, les miens, le tien, la tienne, les tiens, le sien, la sienne, les siens, le leur, la leur, les leur
Pronoms relatifs : qui, que, quoi, dont, où...
Pronoms relatifs composés : lequel, lesquels, auquel, duquel...
Verbes auxiliaires : avoir, être (tous deux irréguliers)
Verbes réguliers du 1er groupe, en -er : aimer, demander, donner, manger, continuer, etc. (sauf aller, qui est du 3e groupe)
Verbes réguliers du 2e groupe, en -ir : finir, grandir, applaudir, bâtir, réussir, etc.
Verbes réguliers du 3 e groupe, en -re, -oir (et autres exceptions, comme aller) : écrire, lire, vendre, etc.
Verbes irréguliers : 81 verbes au total sont considérés comme partiellement irréguliers, mais les verbes qui ont des différences les plus marquantes sont un peu plus d'une douzaine, dont : aller, avoir, dire, être, faire, devoir, pouvoir, savoir, valoir, vouloir, etc.
Verbes de mouvement : aller, partir, sortir, venir, rentrer, revenir, visiter...
Verbes pronominaux : s'en aller, se souvenir, se moquer, s'évanouir, se méfier, s'enfuir...
Conjugaison des verbes - liste des principaux temps :
Tout can be used as an adjective, adverb, noun, or pronoun. Of course, this means that it can at times be quite puzzling when you have to decide how to use it properly in a sentence.
1) Tout as an adverb:
Tout as an adverb is nearly always invariable (which means that it doesn't agree with feminine or plural). It can be used to modify another adverb or adjective.
Examples of tout as an adverb used with another adverb:
Note that we use tout quite often to indicate complètement, entièrement (completely, fully).
Tout as an adverb used with an adjective.
Now here is the trick, if tout is followed by an adjective that starts with a vowel OR with a mute h (hmuet - a silent h), then tout will not agree with the feminine or plural. Nevertheless if tout is followed by an adjective starting with a consonant, then it will agree with the feminine singular and plural (toute, tous)!
Examples with tout followed by an adjective beginning with vowel or a mute h:
Examples with tout followed by an adjective beginning with a consonant:
Note also the following popular expressions with tout as an adverb:
2) Tout as an adjective:
First of all, since it is an adjective, it means that tout needs to agree in and number with the noun or pronoun it modifies.
Therefore tout can be formed in four different ways:
- Tout (masculin singular)
- Tous (masculin plural)
- Toute (feminin singular)
- Toutes (feminin plural).
3) Tout as a noun: it is for the most part invariable usually translated as "the whole it" or "all of it" or "everything".
4) Tout as a pronoun: in this case, tout replaces a noun and can take on 2 different forms in the plural: toutes & tous.
Note : When tous is used as a pronoun, the final s is pronounced. That is, however, not the case when it is used as an adjective.
Tout can also follow the pronoun en; it is used as a gerund.
One of the major challenges that drives many of our students crazy is that every noun has a gender! It has a to either masculine (masculin) or feminine (féminin).
Globally, there is no specific reason for it; the determination of its gender depends very much on its origin, with the suggestion that the word refers to something which is supposed to be more masculine or feminine. But it would be a loss of time to find any real logic. For example, why is boulevard masculine and avenue feminine? Why is virilité feminine and féminisme masculine? Why is malheur (misfortune) masculine and peur (fear) feminine? Why is magazine masculine and revue, which has exactly the same meaning, feminine? Idem for vélo (m.), and bicyclette (f.), which both mean bicycle, or for profession (f.), and métier (m.) which both mean profession, etc.
The question that all our students ask us is: How can one know or recognize the gender of a particular word? Unfortunately, most of the time they just have to try and memorize them, and to admit that they will always make mistakes, that the French will easily understand anyway. Still, there are a few rules or patterns that can provide some clues.
I. MASCULINE WORDS
1. The following endings are almost always masculine :
—"eau": bureau (office/desk), couteau (knife), tableau (painting), etc.
2. The following endings are always masculine:
3. Nouns with the following endings can be either masculine or feminine:
4. In the plural: domination of the masculine
Even though old traditional ways of looking at things are changing, grammatically France remains a misogynist society. When you refer to a group of people, there only needs to be one man in the group for the entire group to be masculine when defining or describing it (we would definitely say ils and not elles when referring to the members of a mixed group).
This is the same for words. Each time you have an enumeration of words, if only one is masculine, the whole group will be masculine when an adjective is used to modify the group.
II. FEMININE WORDS
The following endings are usually feminine:
—"e" very often marks the feminine, such as in: vie (life), voiture (car), lumière (light), visite (visit), bêtise (stupi-dity), joie (joy), baignoire (bathtub), marque (brand), bicyclette (bicycle), salade (salad), habitude (habit), chance (luck), connaissance (knowledge), agence (agency), nourriture (food), journée (day), poubelle (garbage can), bataille (a battle), grenouille (frog), etc.
—té: société (society), beauté (beauty), liberté (freedom), santé (health), etc.
—on, ion, and especially tion: maison (house), passion, décision, situation, solution, profession, collection, etc. EXCEPTIONS: un poisson (a fish), un avion (a plane), un lion, etc.
—eur: couleur (color), peur (fear), erreur (mistake), douleur (pain), fleur (flower), chaleur (heat), etc.
Sometimes, the feminine form of a profession follows the pattern of er/ère, as in boulanger/boulangère.
III. MOTS COMPOSES
1.When a compound word is composed of two nouns, its gender is most of the time determined by the gender of the first noun.
When both nouns are masculine, the compound word is obviously masculine.
When both nouns are feminine, the compound word is feminine.
2. When one of the elements of a compound noun is a verb, it is masculine.
NOTE that among the very few exceptions, an interesting one is with the verb garder (to keep): while most words composed with this verb are masculine, such as un garde-meuble (storage unit), une garde-robe (wardrobe) is, however, fem. like robe (dress). This is because, originally, the full expression was "armoire garde-robe", which was feminine like the first noun, armoire (closet, cabinet). It remains like this even if armoire disappeared over the years from this compound noun in everyday language.
3. When a compound word is composed of a noun and an adjective, it is most of the time the same gender as the noun.
4. When a compound word is composed of a noun and an adverb, it is usually of the same gender as the noun.
5. When a compound word is composed of a noun and a preposition, it is most of the time masculine.
If you have found these rules difficult, let's end with some good news: the easiest word of all is après-midi(afternoon), considered both masculine and feminine! Whether you say un après-midi or une après-midi, you are never wrong!
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regarder = c'est une action volontaire, c'est à dire – actif (= to look)
voir = c'est quelque chose qui entre dans votre champ de vision sans que vous fassiez un effort particulier, c'est-à-dire – passif (= to see)
Exemple : Je vois un oiseau
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N'oublions pas que nous percevons le monde sensible par nos cinq sens. Lorsque nous rédigeons une description, il faut se le rappeler.
Fermons les yeux et laissons–nous guider par nos sensations : la vue, l'ouie, l'odorat, le toucher et le goût. Pour évoquer une sensation, on peut utiliser des verbes, des noms ou des adjectifs variés.
Les verbes de perception
Les formes, volumes, consistances et dimensions
adjectifs : arrondi(e), bombé(e), hérissé(e), sinueux(se), ondulé(e), uniforme, difforme, plat(e), épais(se), long(ue), allongé(e), large, pointu(e), haut(e), profond(e), gluant(e), visqueux(se), coriace, rugueux(se), doux(ce)...
noms : gémissement, plainte, grincement, grognement, roulement, hurlement, brouhaha, rumeur, cacophonie, tapage, tintamarre, tumulte, clameur, fracas, vacarme, chant, mélodie, chuchotement, clapotis, frémissement, murmure...
adjectifs : cristallin(e), affaibli(e), étouffé(e), régulier(ère), vibrant(e), feutré(e), harmonieux(se), léger(ère), mélodieux(se), aigu(ë), grave, détonant(e), assourdissant(e), perçant(e), percutant(e), strident(e), violent(e), bref(ève), prolongé(e), sec(he)...
Odeurs et saveurs
adjectifs : suave, fugace, sucré(e), musqué(e), délicat(e), délicieux(se), velouté(e), âcre, aigre, amer(ère), agressif(ve), capiteux(se), suffocant(e), écœurant(e), pestilentiel(le)...
adjectifs : calleux(se), cotonneux(se), soyeux(se), satiné(e), velouté(e), poli(e), noueux(se), rugueux(se), doux(ce), lisse, mou fem.: molle), ferme, dur(e), piquant(e), rêche, rugueux(se), tiède, collant(e), gluant(e)...
In French, the adjectif démonstratif agrees with the gender of the noun immediately placed after. In English, these words agrees with the subject.
Ce = masculin (this) Cet = masculin (this) followed with a noun that starts with a vowel – example : cet arbre Cette = féminin (this) Ces = masculin or féminin pluriel (those) Ceci = masculin (this) Cela = masculin (that) Celle-là = féminin (that one) Celles-là = féminin pluriel (those ones) Celui-là = that one Ceux-là = those ones Celle-ci = this one (féminin) Celui-ci = this one (masculin) Celles-ci = féminin (these ones) Ceux-ci = masculin and féminin (these ones)
As French teachers, we always dread the moment when a student asks me: "How do I know whether to use à or de ?" It is one of those questions to which it is impossible to give a simple answer, and this choice is a constant challenge for students of French. In order to clarify the usage of one or the other, we've written a synopsis which categorizes them depending on various contexts. We would like to encourage you to study it carefully. Despite their tiny size, if these two prepositions are not used properly, the meaning of the sentence can change completely!
Generally speaking you will need to use them in the following ways: à means to , at , or in de (which becomes d' in front of a vowel), means of or from. Note that when followed by a definite article, both of these prepositions form contractions:
1) Destination: à
2) Location: à
3) Distance in time or space: à
4) Purpose or use: à
5) Possession: à
6) Manner, characteristic and style: à
Which verbs are followed by de or à before another verb in the infinitive form? Up until now, I have been able to draw up a summary of the general use of these two prepositions. Nevertheless, when it comes to figuring out which verbs trigger à , which ones trigger de or which ones are not followed by any preposition, there are no rules to help you. Therefore, I suggest selecting a few very useful verbs and seeing how they work.
First, let's start with a list of verbs that are not followed by a preposition (you will notice that many of the verbs ending by oir are included in this list):
Let's continue with a list of some very common verbs which take de , or d' before the infinitive form. Here is a selection of the most useful verbs for you to study:
Finally, here is a selection of the most useful verbs which trigger the preposition à before the infinitive form:
Note : One more important note concerning the usage of de ..: in many cases, we add de after an adjective and before a verb in the infinitive form :
And that we use de after a word expressing a quantity : beaucoup de, peu de, un kilo de…:
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Il y a is the equivalent of "there is" or "there are"– In English you would use the verb "to be" but in French the verb avoir, therefore you're really saying "there has". Il y a works both for singular and plural.
Note: In a negative sentence, the article in front of the noun becomes de.
Definite or Indefinite Articles: leor un, la or une, les or des... How to Choose?
No matter how long one studies French, the definite and indefinite articles seem to be a challenge for all. Even though they can be directly translated from English to French, there are situations where these articles are not used in quite the same way. Moreover, in some cases, French will use a definite article whereas the English language doesn’t use any articles. For example, in English, one can say "I’ll buy apples and eggs at the market" and in French there will be an article in front of "apples" and "eggs" so you’ll hear "Je prendrai DES pommes et DES œufs au marché"...
The definite articles:
The straight equivalent in English is THE.
When do we use the definite articles?
1. To communicate something specific (just like in English). You are speaking about a precise object, situation, place, people, etc.
2. To communicate possession
The shop’s manager is friendly. = Le responsable du magasin est chaleureux.
3. To communicate general statements : When making a general statement, nothing specific, you need to add a definite article.
4. When communicating certain verbs of feelings such as "love, admire, hate":
The indefinite articles:
The equivalent in English for un/uneis: a, an or one.
How to we use the indefinite articles?
Indefinite articles are usually used when we’re talking about nonspecific items and/or quantities.
When using a plural noun, you’ll need to add des:
Exception: You don’t need to add an article in front of a profession.
Let’s look at other examples when we use un, une, des:
How about de la et du?
These are unspecified singular quantities, and it communicates the notion of "some" in English. We use them a lot in French when something is not measured such as for food or drinks or something that cannot be quantified such as: love, patience, time. In French grammar, these small articles are called "partitive articles".
Negative constructions: The Indefinite articles change to de. The strange particularity about negative constructions in French with indefinite articles is the fact that they become de.
A few more examples:
However, the definite articles remain the same in negative constructions.
It is debatable whether the Passé simple is actually simple to learn or not. When you are told that it's not necessary to study the conjugation forms of the passé simple for speaking, you would probably let out a sigh of relief. It's a fact; you don't need to learn this tense in order to speak the everyday language as you will rarely ever hear it unless the person comes from the French aristocracy. In reality, the passé simple sounds somewhat pompous when spoken. However, you will come across this tense in many written texts, newspapers, novels, historical documents, etc. Most readers will agree that the passé simple is actually a lovely tense and makes the reading enjoyable.
As a general rule, the passé simple serves exactly the same function as the passé composé. In comparison to the passé composé, which involves 2 verbs ( être or avoir + verb) when conjugated, the passé simple only needs one - thus its name. This is why the passé simple is more elegant as it brings lightness to a sentence, and you don't have to worry about all those sticky questions of past participle agreement.
Our goal is to help you recognize the passé simple form when you're reading a text.
Just like the passé composé, the passé simple is used when it exp resses an action that took place at some definite time. The action is OVER.
How is the passé simple conjugated?
You've already noticed that “simple” is part of the title passé simple; that is in part because the conjugation form is indeed quite straightforward as there is a clear pattern to follow. This is how it works:
– ER verbs:
The first, second, and third person singular verb endings are the present tense forms of avoir. This makes these endings really easy to remember and recognize:
The plural forms are more irregular:
– IR and –RE verbs:
These 2 categories of verbs take the same endings.
Savoir, pouvoir and vouloir – they all end with a different pattern:
Notice the similarities with the past participles of these irregular verbs-
Like any verb tense form, avoir and être change radically from one tense conjugation to another:
As mentioned at the beginning, the passé composé appears “heavier” when reading whereas the passé simple brings a lighter feel to it.
To see the difference, read the following dialogues:
Passé composé: Il a enfin parlé avec sa copine. = He finally spoke to his girlfriend.
Passé composé: Nous avons voulu le voir lors de son passage à Paris. = We wanted to see him while he was in Paris.
Passé composé: Ils ont prit le train pour aller à Amsterdam = They took the train to go to Amsterdam.
How to Speak Like a French Person, Not Like a Foreigner : The key phrases, verbs and words
Comment vas-tu ? or Comment allez-vous ?... It's probably the first question we ask our students before starting a lesson. In English, the reply is “I'm well, I'm fine”, so it is natural for an English speaker to wish to translate the reply as such into French. It doesn't work if you translate directly and use the verb “to be”! The French use aller to indicate how they are, they feel…
Don't say: Je suis bien when replying to Comment allez-vous ?
2) When speaking about an obligation, or something that must be done
In English, “it's necessary to…” is a common way to express obligation and the word “necessary” in English is directly translated as nécessaire de, BUT we do not use it as such in French! Every time a French person hears c'est nécessaire de …, they immediately know the person is not a French native.
Don't say: C'est nécessaire de …
Important note: the negative form of il faut : if you hear il ne faut pas…, then it becomes a prohibition!
Example : Il ne faut pas être en retard au travail = One must not be late for work (it's a prohibition).
3) Timetables, making appointments
Again, because of direct translations, the wrong prepositions are used when referring to days of the week:
Don't say: sur lundi, dans le matin...
Example : Je suis libre le lundi = I'm free on Mondays.
Note that putting the definite article in front of a day of the week usually expresses something that happens in general every Monday or Saturday.
Don't say: Je vous parle à vendredi
Note: In French, we don't say that “I'll speak, write, see you on …”, we just add the preposition à in front of the day of the week and this automatically indicates that you will either see, write or speak with that person on that day – it's already planned! In the following case, the choice of verb and word is not appropriate:
Don't say: Je voudrais faire un appointement.
Note that “rendez-vous” in French is not a romantic appointment; it is an appointment for business or at a service place such as a hairdresser, doctor's office, lawyer's office, etc…
4) Ordering, drinking, eating
When ordering in a restaurant or telling someone what you've had for lunch, in French we use the verb prendre and not “have” like in English:
Don't say: J'ai un café
5) Shopping for food
This is a tricky one because it doesn't at all translate directly from English:
Don't say: J'achète la nourriture.
6) To cook There is an actual verb cuisiner and you should use it.
La cuisine also means “cooking” and “kitchen”. We rarely ever use la nourriture in this context which means food; we use it mainly to talk about food in general to say how expensive it is or to ask if there are any food stores… but otherwise, you should be using the word la cuisine or the verb cuisiner.
Don't say: Je fais la nourriture.
Don't say: La nourriture dans le restaurant est bonne.
7) The weather
The favourite subject when making small talk and for an ice breaker: talking about the weather! For typical phrases such as “it's a nice day”, “it's hot today”, “it's cold today”, “it's a bad day”, we don't use the verb “to be” like in English but the verb faire – a very popular verb indeed…
Don't Say: Il est beau aujourd'hui.
8) Watching a programme on TV, listening to the radio
Again, because of direct translation of prepositions from English to French, it is easy to add the wrong ones.
Don't Say: J'ai regardé sur la télé or J'ai écouté sur la radio.
9) Bank accounts and money
A similar situation exists in choosing the correct preposition for talking about bank accounts. In English, one says that he/she has a certain amount of money “in” an account. In French, the preposition to use is sur.
Don't Say: J'ai dix mille euros dans mon compte en banque.
Don't say: C'est beaucoup de monnaie. Je n'ai plus de monnaie !
10) Visiting a friend In French, the verb visiter is used mostly for tourism or discovering a new city and not for visiting a person. When we want to say that we've visited someone, a friend, a family member, we need to add another verb in front of visite : rendre = rendre visite à...
Don't say: Je visite ma mère.
Don't Say: Je vais visiter le docteur.
When speaking about flying , we rarely ever use the verb voler which litteraly means “to fly” (and also “to steal”). In French we use voler mostly when speaking about birds or when someone stole something. As for flying in an airplane, we add prendre in front of the noun vol = prendre un vol.
Don't say: je vole à New York.
12) It's OK/It's alright…!
D'accord is used when you agree or accept an invitation/a suggestion/a task which needs to be done.
Example: Tu veux sortir avec moi ? = Do you want to go out with me ?
Don't say: C'est d'accord de m'appeler.
13) Having a good time/bad time
Again, another situation where the verb “to have” is not the appropriate verb in French to ask someone if they had a good time… We would need to use the verb passer or the verb s'amuser.
Don't say: As-tu du bon temps ?
14) Excited about doing something or seeing someone
The word excité in French is a bit risky as it can be interpreted as sexually excited, so to avoid any potential misunderstanding, it is best to use the verb se réjouir!
Don't say: Je suis excitée de te voir !
15) Feeling Here is a tricky one! When you wish to express that something feels good, we cannot use the reflexive verb se sentir. We use instead the verb faire followed with du bien.
Example: Faire la sieste fait du bien = Taking a nap feels good.
When you wish to tell someone how you feel, then you can use the verb se sentir:
If you wish to express your feeling about a situation you've seen or experienced, then you will mostly hear avoir l'impression (to have the impression that) or penser (to think).
16) Looks good/looks bad
Another one which cannot be literally translated; in this situation, the French will use the phrase avoir l'air.
Note that the verb regarder is used when you are looking at something.
17) To attend something
This is a typical false friend. Depending on the situation, the verb "to attend" in French is assister or aller. Let me remind you that the verb attendre in French means to wait.
In these 2 examples, the first one expresses a place a person has been to for a certain period of time, therefore the French will automatically use aller. The second one informs us that the Manager attended a punctual event which calls for a more specific verb such as assister.
Another big false friend – it is an easy mistake to make.
Example: En fait, je ne suis pas né à Lyon, j'ai grandi là-bas mais je suis né à Paris = Actually, I was not born in Lyon, I was raised there but I was born in Paris.
If you've read point number 18, at this point you already know that actuellement means “currently”.
Example: Actuellement, je ne travaille pas mais je cherche un travail = Currently, I am not working but I am looking for a job.
20) Driving/going to a place
In English, we use the verb “ to drive ” more often and for more situations than we do in French. Yes, conduire is the verb “to drive” but we only say it when we want to specifically express that the mode of transportation we took to go to a place is a car. Otherwise, we just use the verb aller or the verb faire when speaking about the distance we've travelled.
Example: Ce week-end nous allons à Paris = This week-end, we're going up to Paris.
Same idea with driving someone to a place; the French would use the verb amener (to bring).
Example: J'amène ma fille à l'école = I am driving my daughter to school.
21) Best wishes
22) Having an affair
This one definitely needs clarification! If someone is having an affair, we don't use the word “affaires” but we use the word un amant ou une maîtresse which really means a lover.
23) Having an argument, not a discussion
Here is another interesting false friend. If two French people are having an argument, they're having a dispute; the verb is se disputer.
24) To earn money
This one also deserves clarification, as you've probably heard the French verb “gagner” when speaking about earning money! Indeed, the French will use 2 verbs in money making situations: gagner or faire (to make).
25) Too much… Too many…
The French love to share a good meal and good wine, but at times you might have to stop them from giving you too much and this is where this four-letter word comes in handy: trop. As a teacher, I often hear c'est très beaucoup which really means “it's very a lot” or I might hear c'est trop beaucoup – neither works in French, as you cannot follow trop with beaucoup.
Don't say: C'est trop beaucoup !
26) I'm full!
Again, you've eaten trop and you wish to communicate politely that you're full -what will you say? You cannot literally translate it as je suis plein – it just doesn't work. The only time we hear that a living being is plein, is when used for an animal which is pregnant! For example, you could hear ma chienne est pleine which means that “my dog is pregnant”.
Don't say: Je suis plein(e).
27) Can you help/assist me…?
I would like to clarify the use of the 2 verbs: assister and aider. The English may use the verb “to assist” when wanting to help someone but in French the verb assister really means to attend something like a meeting, a conference…
Don't say: Est-ce que vous pouvez m'assister ?
28) That's right!
This is a difficult one as you have quite a few choices. I do hear at times c'est d'accord from our students and such an expression just may leave your French friends scratching their heads.
1. If you agree with someone about something, you can say:
2. If you reply to someone's question positively, you have a few choices:
Note : You can also say: Oui, il est correct !
Don't say: C'est d'accord.
29) To support
The verb supporte r is a typical false friend; the meaning is completely different from the English verb. Supporter means “to stand something, a situation or a person.”
Don't say: Je supporte ton initiative.
30) Par hasard Here is another false friend! In French the word hasard has nothing to do with the English version of “hazard”. When something is hazardous, we use the word dangereux.
Note that par accident is not expressed in this type of situation like in English. Par accident is used when you did something negative by accident!
Don't say: J'ai rencontré mon professeur par accident au cinéma.
31) La monnaie svp !
If a French person comes up to you and asks you: Excusez-moi, mais est-ce que vous avez la monnaie pour un billet de 20 euros ? – don't misunderstand this person thinking he's asking or begging for money; he's asking for some small change for his bill.
Don't say: Est-ce que vous avez du change pour 20 euros ?
32) L'endroit, not la place
It is so difficult to stop using la place when we are speaking about places in general. It seems unfair that we cannot use it the same way we do in English!
Note that la place in French is used mainly:
Don't say: J'aime ce restaurant, cette place est belle !
Note that you can also use endroit in this example.
33) La librairie
Here is another well known false friend! Librairie does not mean “library” but it means “bookstore”. If you wish to say “library”, then you will need to use the word bibliothèque.
Don't say: J'ai emprunté des livres à la librairie (I borrowed books from the bookstore).
34) The opportunity
There is a direct translation for the word opportunity which is l'opportunité but it is used mostly in a professional context.
Don't Say: J'ai eu l'opportunité d'aller faire du ski dans les Alpes françaises.
It's only natural to move on to this topic as this is giving us the occasion (the opportunity) to elaborate about the word occasion! We learned above that occasion can be used to replace the word opportunité. You will also notice that this same word is also used for second hand or used things.
Don't Say: J'ai acheté une voiture usée.
36) Complete During our French lessons, we often hear the word complet used in many contexts from our students. It's understandable that it sounds a bit awkward to the French ear, especially after hearing it so often. So when do we use the word complet? Mostly to indicate that a hotel is full or a concert hall is sold out.
In regards to the French verb compléter, we can use it when filling out documents, even though we use the verb remplir even more… You can hear either: Pouvez-vous compléter ce document ? or: Pouvez-vous remplir ce document ? We mostly use compléter when we're adding something for improvement.
Otherwise, each time you want to say that you've completed something in a context that you've finished it, you should use the verb terminer.
Don't say: J'ai complété mes études.
37) To bring someone to a place Are you picking up or taking a friend to the airport? The verbe prendre can mislead you. We cannot use the verb prendre when telling someone that you're taking them to a place. You need to use the verb amener which means to bring.
Important: If you use the verb prendre, you're saying that you're picking up this person! Therefore, you could be communicating the opposite action. Think that you're bringing someone to a place (instead of taking), and you'll be safe.
Don't say: Je prends mon père à l'aéroport = I'm picking up my father at the airport.
Note: The verb amener is mostly used to bringing people to a place but you will also hear the French say it for bringing things.
38) To pick up someone vs to pick up things
We want to clarify the usage of two French verbs which both mean “to pick up”: ramasser et aller chercher.
First, ramasser means to pick up or gather things from the ground such as mushrooms in the forest, clothes on the floor, leaves on the lawn, etc… We cannot use ramasser to pick up someone.
If you need to pick up someone, then you should use aller chercher (to go pick up). Note that it's important to add the verb aller ; if you forget to add it, then you are changing the meaning of the action since the verb chercher by itself means “to look for”.
Don't say: Je ramasse mon mari au travail.
We need more evidence before judging someone! The French word évidence is a false friend and cannot be used in this context. Evidence in English = une preuve, which really means “a proof ”.
So what is the meaning of évidence in French? We use it when something is obvious.
Don't say: Il me faut plus d'évidences.
40) Let me introduce myself!
Bonjour, je me présente, je m'appelle Sophie !... Présenter is the verb to use when introducing yourself or someone. A common mistake we hear is the use of introduire instead of présenter. In times past, the upper echelons of society would use introduire to introduce oneself, but times have definitely changed and it would sound too old fashioned to use it. So think that you're “presenting” yourself and not introducing.
Introduire does have another meaning, actually several, and is seen more in written forms, such as in instruction manuals. The main meanings are “to insert, to put in, to launch, and to bring in”.
Don't say: Je suis heureux de vous introduire mon fiancé.
41) Who is the main character of the story?
Another interesting false friend! We cannot use the word caractère in referring to someone who has a role in a movie. We use the word le personnage, which comes from the Latin word persona, originally meaning the mask of the actor.
Personnage is also used when we speak about someone who has accomplished something remarkable, or has a lot of character.
However, when speaking about the character of a person, you can use the direct French translation of caractère.
Don't say: Elle est le caractère principal du livre.
42) Is it serious, doctor?
Have you ever heard the French ask if something is grave in a deep serious tone? It doesn't mean that we're burying someone, not yet anyway, but it is a very serious condition.
Again, when the word grave is in a negative sentence, then it expresses the contrary of serious!
Don't say: La situation actuelle est sérieuse après cette catastrophe naturelle.
43) It feels like a summer day!
“To feel” can be translated in many ways. However, we didn't speak about the type of expression: it feels like…As you can imagine, it is not a straight forward translation. We need to think of it in this way. One would say = on dirait….
Don't say: Ça sent un jour d'hiver.
44) I have an issue, not an exit!
An easy mistake to make is to use the French word issue to express a problematic situation. This is a false friend. In French, the word issue is used to indicate either an emergency exit ( issue de secours ) or when there is no solution to a complex situation.
Don't say: J'ai une issue avec cette personne.
45) I've heard this many times!
When speaking with our students, we often hear beaucoup de fois when they tell us about an action that was done many times. This is a literal translation and even though the French person will clearly understand what you're saying, the French will say plusieurs fois OR très souvent instead of beaucoup de fois.
Otherwise, it's best to say souvent or très souvent, especially when you speak about a place you've been to many times.
Don't say: J'ai entendu cette chanson beaucoup de fois.
The of capitals in French varies considerably from how they are used in English. Indeed, in modern French we use capital letters much less than in English. In the past, however, capitals were used more frequently, but nowadays, the tendency is to use lower-case letters, especially in adverts or when trendy language is used in marketing, fashion, or in new literature.
When the French learn English, they say that they learn l'anglais (no capital), while when the English learn French, they use a capital letter for it…
There are two ways of writing the nationality of someone: when used as a noun, it starts with a capital letter, but when it is an adjective it starts with a lower-case letter.
Note : When speaking about a French man or a French woman, you just say : un Français, une Française. You don't need to specify un homme français or une femme française.
In abbreviations in French for the names of persons, or titles of certain professions, usage is different from English. We don't write “Mr” in French, for example, but “M.” Here are the most frequently used:
Note : In principle, when written in full, monsieur, madame, mademoiselle, docteur, professeur et maître, are capitalized only if we address the person directly. The above abbreviations are always capitalized.
4) Titles of articles or books
As regards titles of articles, the French rule is very clear: only the first letter of the title is capitalized, unless the title contains a proper name.
Examples of titles (articles):
As regards book titles, one often sees various usage: some authors/publishers would put only a capital letter at the definite or indefinite article starting the title, others will capitalize both the article and the first word of the title, and we can even find titles with more capital letters (both for books published some time ago as well as for some contemporary titles).
Examples of titles (books):
5) Days, months, birthdays, holidays...
Unlike in English, in French the dates (days or months) never carry a capital letter, unless it is the first word of a sentence, or it marks an historical date (see below). It is the same for the French national day (14 juillet). But most other jours fériés carry a capital letter: Noël, le Jour de l'An, Pâques, Mardi gras.
In referring to the president of France, they usually say: le président de la République, or le chef de l'État. République and État therefore always carry a capital letter, but not the President himself.
As regards the ministers and ministries, common usage is mainly as follows (but some people prefer to use more - or fewer - capital letters in the daily use):
However, when one talks about History (especially the History of France), a few more capital letters are used: l'Histoire ; la Révolution française ; la Résistance ; la Première Guerre mondiale, also called la Grande Guerre ; la Seconde Guerre mondiale ; Mai 68.
Usually, all proper names of locations (countries, cities, streets, rivers, mountains, etc.) carry a capital letter, but not the type of geographical location (city, mountain, street, lake, etc.) itself. Examples :
Une majuscule = a capital letter; écrire en majuscules = to write in capital letters.
Une minuscule = a lower-case letter; écrire en minuscules = to write in lower-case letters. Notes : minuscule is also an adjective which means = very little.
And when the French talk about la capitale (= the capital city), of course, they mean Paris...
BUT , in technical language, used by the professionals of the printing industry, the words are different:
Un nom propre = a proper name (always takes a capital letter in French, as in English).
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Pour aider les étudiants qui préparent les examens du DELF/DALF, voici une fiche méthodologique pouvant être utile pour évaluer leur niveau :
Est-ce que tu te laves les dents après manger? Do you wash your teeth by yourself after eating? What a strange question to ask someone! Clearly, most people can wash their teeth by themselves.
When translating literarily some everyday chores from French to English, the sentences do sound awkward because some of these verbs require, in French, a reflexive pronoun: Myself = me
These pronouns are placed before the verb and immediately following the subject pronoun.
Here is the full conjugation of the verb se laver (to wash oneself) in the present tense with its appropriate pronoun:
There is no great logic on how the verbs were chosen to be classified as “reflexive verbs” but some English verb expressions which are preceded by the verb “to get” or are followed by the word “up” are considered reflexive in French:
Notice how the pronoun se (himself, herself or themselves) contracts to s' if the word which follows starts with a vowel or an “h”.
A few other important verbs to remember which are also reflexive:
Important note: If the action is not done to the subject of the sentence but to someone else, then the pronoun is dropped and the verb is no longer reflexive!
While in English, the apostrophe ( ' ) is used mainly to simplify a sentence ( ex. : “can't”, “that's nice”, etc.) or show possession (“my mother's house”), in French, it is used slightly differently. It is never used to show possession; its only purpose is to indicate that an “elision” (élision, in French) has taken place, which means the obligatory suppression of the final unstressed vowel (usually e, but also i or a) in many short words (definite articles, pronouns, prepositions, etc.) coming just before another word that begins with a vowel, or the letter h when it is mute. For example le animal can only appear as l'animal.
Here are most frequent cases when the apostrophe is obligatory, with a few examples:
1) Definite articles le and la:
NOTE that there is no elision with the indefinite article une , even tough it ends with the vowel e.
Also NOTE that when an h is aspirate, elision can't take place. Ex .: le héros, le Havre.
2) Subject pronouns je and ce:
3) Object pronouns me, te, se, le, la:
NOTE that we also see elision with some object pronouns ( le , la , moi , toi ), when they appear after a verb in the imperative, especially before the pronoun en. Ex .: Va-t'en ! (= Leave!, Get lost!).
4) The negative marker ne:
5) The conjunction que and the relative pronoun que:
NOTE that the same applies to other conjunctions ending in que, such as: jusque, parce que, puisque, est-ce que, etc.
7) In colloquial spoken French, the apostrophe is more and more frequently used with the pronoun tu in front of the verbs avoir or être.
We encourage our students to learn the following polite forms and practice them as often as they can with their teacher, or if they are in France, use them with the locals. Ideally, these expressions should become automatisms. Expressing every request with a polite expression, together with a smile, puts them in a better position to getting a kind and helpful reply in return.
Je voudrais , j'aimerais = I would like…
First, let's understand the verb tenses used in making polite requests. Most of the time, we use the conditionnel tense which is the equivalent of “would” and “could” in English. We don't have a French word to express “would” but to get the equivalence, we conjugate the main verb of the expression in the conditionnel tense.
For example, most French learners are either familiar with the expression Je voudrais or J'aimerais; they both mean “I would like”. Je voudrais is the verb vouloir (to want) and J'aimerais is the verb aimer (to like) and when you conjugate either aimer or vouloir in the conditionnel, it translates as “I would like”.
You can also use Je voudrais with a noun:
Je voudrais/J'aimerais both work very well for simple everyday transactions in stores, at the markets, or for obtaining general information. However, when you wish to ask for a favour or some additional information, Je voudrais/J'aimerais might seem a bit too demanding. It would be more appropriate to turn your requests into questions.
The popular polite question forms are:
This is the polite form of P ouvez-vous …? (Can you...?). When pouvoir is conjugated in the conditionnel, (pourriez), it becomes the English equivalent of “could”.
Notice that we used the question inversion format ( Pourriez-vous ). In normal, everyday speech, it's more lively and lighter than saying Est-ce que vous pourriez ... ?
However, if you wish to ask if you can do something : Could I.. . ? Then the French would use the Est-ce que question form.
In other words, if you wish to say:
Don't hesitate to use this form for any requests and again the second verb placed right after Serait-il possible de... doesn't need to be conjugated.
Auriez-vous... ? = Would you have...?
This is the polite form of Avez-vous ? ( Do you have?). Again, you're conjugating the verb avoir in the conditionnel.
Est-ce que ça vous dérangerait de… ? = Would you mind to…?
In this form, the verb déranger literally means “to disturb, to bother” so you're really saying “Would it disturb/bother you to... ?” . This expression is used a lot when you're asking for a favour. In this case, déranger is conjugated in the conditionnel and the second verb is left unconjugated.
Le passé composé et l'accord du participe passé
Note that in most instances the auxiliary verb is avoir.
It is very easy to form the past participle of regular verbs ending in er, such as acheter (to buy), manger (to eat), parler (to speak), trouver (to find), diner (to dine), laver (to wash), former (to train), profiter (to enjoy), etc.: you just need to drop the ‘r' and add an accent aigu on the ‘e'.
Examples : J'ai mangé, tu as parlé, il a trouvé, nous avons dîné, vous avez lavé, ils ont formé.
Regarding the participe passé of verbs, we mentioned above how easy it is to form the endings for the Regular er verbs and the good news is: it is the biggest group of verbs as there are a total of 6428 verbs in this group!
As you may already know, there are 3 main groups of verbs in French. We've already seen the er verbs, but we also have the ir verbs and the re verbs categories. And, of course, let's not forget the irregular verbs!
Some of the ir verbs are: finir (to finish), choisir (to choose), établir (to establish), punir (to punish), mentir (to lie), accomplir (to accomplish), agir (to act), convertir (to convert), grandir (to grow).
In this case, when forming the participe passé, you just need to drop the ‘r', and voilà ! There are only 339 verbs in this group.
Now, the third group of verbs is the most problematic because it includes verbs ending in re such as vendre (to sell), perdre (to loose), répondre (to answer), attendre (to wait for), descendre (to go down), and the past participles of all of these verbs follow the same pattern. They all end in ‘u': vendu, perdu, répondu, etc. There are, however verbs such as prendre (to take), or mettre (to put or place), and their past participles end in is : pris, mis, compris, etc.
J'ai vendu la voiture = I sold the car.
There are a number of irregular verbs , i.e. verbs that don't follow a similar pattern in their conjugation and that you have to memorize the conjugations of. A lot of these verbs end in oir , such as savoir (to know), pouvoir (to be able), devoir (to be obliged to), voir (to see), etc. Many of these irregular verbs ending in oir , have a past participle that ends in ‘u'. There are a good number of verbs that end in re that are irregular verbs, and their past participles simply have to be memorized: craindre (to fear) = craint; boire (to drink) = bu; faire (to make or to do) = fait; naître (to be born) = né; être (to be) = été; dire (to say) = dit.
As for the irregular verbs être, avoir, faire, aller, here are the past participles:
Now, going back to the original question of this article: when does the past participle agree with the subject of the sentence?
Generally, the past participle doesn't agree with the subject when avoir is used as the auxiliary.
For example, in the following sentence, the subject is feminine plural and the direct object des films is masculine plural, but no agreement is added to the past participle regardé :
Note : even though les filles is a feminine subject, the verb ending doesn't agree with it, its ending will just be ‘é', there is no need to add an ‘es'.
Ils n'ont pas réussi l'examen = They didn't pass the exam.
Same case here; even though the subject ils is plural, the verb réussi is left alone; again, it doesn't agree with the masculin plural subject.
Other examples :
However, when the direct object comes before the past participle, then the past participle does agree with that direct object (not with the subject).
For example :
Note how les films is the direct object (it answers the question: “What did they watch?”) and how the past participle agrees with this direct object, and not with les filles, which is the subject.
You might ask: does the agreement of the past participle ever affect the pronunciation? Well, it does when you're dealing with a feminine direct object and a verb from the second or third group.
Finally, when forming a sentence in the passé composé with the auxiliary verb être, then it will be necessary to make the past participle agree with the subject :
Since the subject is feminine and the auxiliary verb is être, then you have to make the past participle of the verb aller agree with the subject so you have to add an ‘e' to allée. Adding an ‘e' or an ‘s' doesn't change the pronunciation in this case.
As mentioned earlier, there are a lot more verbs which are conjugated with the auxiliary verb avoir, than with the verb être.
It might help you to remember that most of the verbs of movement such as aller (to go), venir (to come), rentrer (to go in), sortir (to go out), partir (to leave), retourner (to return), descendre (to go down), monter (to go up), tomber (to fall) need the verb être.
One exception is the verb visiter which requires the auxiliary verb avoir, and the verb passer (to pass by, or to spend time) does require agreement when it is used as a verb of motion, but not when it is used to mean to spend time (or when it is used in a situation where it takes a direct object).
And to refer to the beginning and the end of life, the verbs: naître (to be born), mourir (to die) are conjugated with être as the auxiliary:
|Le passé composé et l'accord du participe passé dans le cas des verbes pronominaux
The question of whether to make that past participle agree with the subject, is much more complex with pronominal verbs. You might have heard other related terms when referring to pronominal verbs, such as reflexive verbs or reciprocal verbs; so we'll have a look at them, and how the past participle agreement works in each situation.
Here are some common reflexive verbs:
With all of the above verbs, the action is done to the subject of the verb, but if you take out the reflexive pronoun, then the action of the verb is done to someone or something else.
Here is an example without the reflexive pronoun:
Another type of pronominal verbs are called reciprocal verbs. The difference between reflexive and reciprocal is that reflexive verbs have one or more subjects acting up upon themselves individually, while reciprocal verbs indicate that there are two or more subjects acting on one another in a reciprocal way.
Here are some common French reciprocal verbs:
Now, let's go back to the original question of this article : do the past participles of those verbs in this list of pronominal verbs agree with the subject pronoun in the passé composé? The answer is yes and no:
If you can ask the question “what?” after the verb, and if a noun or pronoun answers it, then it is a direct object. In this case, the past participle of the reflexive verb does not agree with the subject pronoun.
Before we look at a few examples, let us remind you that all reflexive verbs are conjugated with être in the passé composé. The reflexive pronoun is placed before the conjugated form of the auxiliary verb être .
This is how the structure works:
Examples with the direct object placed before the verb - This is the most common usage of reflexive verbs:
In the above examples, there is no direct object following the verbs lavée, couchés, réveillées and rasé, therefore the past participle agrees. The pronouns s', se and me act as the direct object and are placed before the verb.
Examples of non agreement rule with the direct object coming after the verb:
To make the decision about whether we need to make the past participle agree with the subject elle, we can apply the direct object rule by asking the question quoi? (what) after the verb: Elle s'est brossé QUOI ? (What did she brush?) = She brushed les dents - the teeth.
Elle s'est maquillé les yeux = She made her eyes up.
Ils se sont lavés = They washed.
Elles se sont lavé les dents = They washed (brushed) their teeth.
Les enfants se sont disputé s fortement = The children argued loudly.
Elles se sont connu es en Allemagne = They met each other in Germany (a reciprocal use of the verb).
Les lettres qu'elles se sont écrites = The letters they wrote to each other.
In cases where the reflexive pronoun is an indirect object rather than a direct object, as in the verb se téléphoner and in most verbs of communication, such as parler, dire, répondre, écrire, then there is no agreement. How do we know if we're dealing with an indirect object? You just need to ask the question à qui ? (to whom?) after the verb (instead of asking quoi ? as we did for determining direct objects):
Finally, there is also a list of idiomatic pronominal verbs, verbs that take on a different meaning when they are used as reflexive verbs. Here are some of the common French idiomatic pronominal verbs.
With this list of idiomatic pronominal verbs, the past participle agreement rule is usually applied except for those verbs that normally take an indirect object, such as demander.
En plus de la leçon, les professeurs peuvent encourager les étudiants à travailler eux aussi ce sujet directement avec les deux magazines (No 44, août-septembre 2013 pour les voyelles, et No 45, octobre-décembre 2013 pour les consonnes), où ils peuvent écouter l'Audio pour tous les exemples donnés.
I) Les accents
The accents are very important to learn, as they can change the pronunciation, or the meaning, of a word. Depending on how the accent is positioned on certain vowels and on the consonent “c”, the sound changes.
é: The acute accent (accent aigu) is only used on the letter e and gives it the same sound that you find in the English word “hay”. Ex.: parlé = spoken; été = summer; études = studies.
è: The grave accent (accent grave) is used with the e and changes the pronunciation to something similar to the “e” in the English word “bed”. Ex.: très = very; mère = mother; misère = misery.
à, ù: It is also used on the a and u. In this case, it doesn't change the pronunciation, but distinguishes between two different words with the same spelling.
ê, î, ô, û: The circumflex accent (accent circonflexe) when used with the e gives it the same pronunciation as the grave accent. Ex.: tête = head, être = to be.
With the a, i, o and u, it gives a slightly different pronunciation; listen carefully to the audio.
It is also used to distinguish du (the contraction of de + le ) from dû , the past participle of the verb devoir = to be obliged to, to owe.
ë, ï: The dieresis (tréma) is used to indicate that two vowels that are together are pronounced separately. Ex.: naïve; Noël.
ç: The cedilla (cédille)¸ is the only accent mark used on a consonant and is found only on the letter c to indicate that it has a soft s sound. Ex.: ça = that; glaçon = ice cube.
Note that the cedilla is never used on a c when it is followed by an e or an i because in these situations, the c automatically has the soft s sound..
II) Les voyelles nasales
There are four nasal vowel sounds in French that are produced when certain vowels or combination of vowels are followed by an m or an n, either if it is followed by another consonant (not another m or n) or if it is the final sound of a word. They are called nasal vowels because the sound is produced in the nasal cavities. Listen carefully to the audio and repeat it. You should feel a distinct vibration in the nasal passages if you are pronouncing them right. It really isn't hard at all.
Note that all of them can be found in different spellings.
1) Nasal an sound - both the letters a and e are found here. Ex.: en = in; an = year; emporter = to take away; entier = entire; gant = glove; champignon = mushroom.
2) Nasal in sound. Ex.: vin = wine; pain = bread; important = important; faim = hunger; bien = good; plein = full; moins = less; moyen = average; thym = thyme; syntaxe = syntax.
3) Nasal on sound. Ex.: bon = good; ombre = shade.
4) Nasal un sound. Ex. : lundi = Monday; parfum = perfume.
III) How to pronounce the vowels?
The vowel a can be pronounced in different ways:
1) The most common is: a. Ex.: ma = my; la = the (fem.); papa = dad; facile = easy.
2) With an accent, the vowel a, written either à or â, is pronounced differently (see above).
3) When it is attached to another vowel, other pronunciations are possible:
2. a-i , which can be written in 2 ways (there is a slight nuance between the two - listen carefully to the audio):
3. in (the nasal in sound, in the group of letters: ain). Ex.: main = hand; pain = bread; bain = bath.
4. o (when attached to the vowel u : au). Ex.: faux = wrong; gauche = left; sauce = sauce.
4) When it comes before the consonant n, it is often pronounced an (the nasal an sound). Ex.: maman = mom; dans = in; man gue = mango; or France…
1) The most common pronunciation is: e. Ex.: je = I; leçon = lesson; petit = short; melon = melon.
Note that an e at the end of a word is normally not pronounced. We call it: “silent e”. This might also be the case when e is associated with nt ent), especially in verb conjugations. Ex.: ils dorment (dormir) = they sleep; elles parlent (parler) = they talk; ils perdent (perdre) = they lose.
But attention, in other types of words, adverbs for example, ent will be pronounced like the nasal an. Ex : vraiment = really; totalement = totally.
2) With an accent, the vowel e, written either è or ê, is pronounced differently (see above).
3) When it is used together with the vowel u = eu , it is pronounced eu (close to e, but a little different; listen carefully to the audio). Ex.: eux = them; deux = two; feu = fire.
Note than when these two vowels are followed by r, the pronunciation is different. Ex.: heure = hour; peur = fear; fleur = flower.
But be careful, sometimes eu can also be pronounced u, such as the past participle of the verb avoir : eu. Ex.: J'ai eu peu r = I was afraid.
4) When it is attached to the vowels a and u (the group of letters: eau) , it is pronounced o. Ex. : eau = water; beau = beautiful; bateau = boat.
5) When it is attached to the vowel i = ei, it is pronounced è. Ex.: treize = thirteen.
But it can also be closer to é when followed by the letter l. Ex.: abeille = bee; soleil = sun.
6) When it comes in front of a single consonant (except m or n), the pronunciation often becomes é, and the consonant is not pronounced:
1. er. This is the infinitive ending for verbs of the 1 st group: aimer = to love; aller = to go; marcher = to walk… and we also find it in a few words ending by either er ou ers: métier = profession; volontier s = gladly.
7) When it comes in front of the consonants m or n (em , en) , the pronunciation is most of the time an (see also above: nasal vowels and the adverbs ending in ent). Ex.: emballer = to wrap; entrer = to enter; lent = slow; ventre = belly…
But be careful, it can also, exceptionally, have the nasal in sound. Ex.: bien = good; chien = dog.
A major exception: in the word femme = woman, e is pronounced a.
8) When it precedes 2 consonants, the pronunciation often becomes è, and the consonants are pronounced. Ex.: lettre = letter; mettre = to put; belle = beautiful (fem.); tienne =yours.
1) The most common pronunciation is: i. Ex.: il = he; lire = to read; fini = finished; hiver = winter.
2) When there is a circumblex accent, î, the pronounciation changes slightly (see above).
3) When it comes in front of the consonant n, it will most of the time have the nasal in sound. Ex.: inconnu = unknown; interdit = forbidden; matin = morning; destin = destiny.
Note: The combination ill usually has the same pronunciation and the two l are silent. Ex.: famille = family; paille = straw.
1) The most common pronunciation is: o. Ex.: os = bone; oreille = ear; olive = olive; lavabo = sink.
2 ) When there is a circumflex accent, ô, the pronunciation changes slightly (see above).
3) The double vowel œ is pronounced eu. Ex.: œuf = egg; bœuf = beef, cœur = heart.
However, in the plural - œufs, bœufs - the pronunciation is slightly different.
4) When o is attached to another vowel, other pronunciations are possible, such as :
5) When o or oi are attached to the consonants m or n, other pronunciations are possible, such as :
1) The more usual pronunciation is: u. Ex.: utile = useful; tortue = turtle; mur = wall; uni = united.
2) When there is a circumflex accent, û, the pronunciation changes slightly (see above).
Note: exceptionally, eu can be pronounced u (see above, in letter e).
3) When it is attached to the consonant n, it is most often pronounced as the nasal un sound. Ex.: un = one (masc.); brun = brown (masc.); chacun = each.
4) In some cases, mostly for technical words, a final um is pronounced eum. Ex.: sérum = serum, forum.
1) The most common pronunciation is: i. Ex.: tyran = tyrant; cyclisme = cycling; syllabe = syllable.
2) At the beginning of a word, it is pronounced like the y in English. Ex.: yaourt = yoghurt; yéti = yeti; yeux = eyes; yoga.
3) When it comes in front of an m or an n, it has the nasal in sound. Ex.: sympa = nice; symbole = symbol; symphonie = symphony; syntaxe = syntax.
IV) How to pronounce the consonents?
1) It can be pronounced either:
- s, when it is followed by a “soft” vowel: e, i. Ex.: placer = to put; cinéma = cinema.
- k, when it is followed by a consonant. Ex.: crème = cream.
- g, in the word second = second/2 nd (the main reason is that, if we pronounce the c as it should be, it can be understood as ce con = this jerk!).
2) When it is associated with h, in ch, two pronunciations are possible:
- ch is the more frequent. Ex.: chat = cat; chemise = shirt; marcher = to walk.
It is almost always pronounced d.
1) When it is used alone, it can be pronounced either:
- j, when it is followed by a “soft” vowel: e, i. Ex.: manger = to eat; magie = magic.
2) When it is followed by the consonant n, it can be pronounced:
- ni. This is the most usual. Ex.: signal = signal; souligner = to underline; pignon = pine nut; égratignure = scratch.
The h is not pronounced in French, but there are, nevertheless, two kinds of h in French: a silent h and an aspirated h. The main difference between the two is that you can't link from a final consonant of one word to a word beginning with an aspirated h. You can't make elision with the definite articles le or la (l') as is normally the case with words beginning with a vowel.
However , in order to use the right definite article, you must know whether the h is silent or aspirated, and that comes through practice. Most dictionaries place an* in front of words beginning with an aspirated h.
As regards the association of h with other consonants, see the letter c above, and the letters p and t below.
It is usually pronounced p, but it is not at all breathy like in English, but rather very clear and crisp. Ex.: partir = to leave; perdu = lost; pilote = pilote; poli = polite; pour = for; public.
But, when associated with an h, it is pronounced f. Ex.: photo = photo; téléphone = telephone; phonétique = phonetics.
This is a consonant, always pronounced k, that is, in the majority of words, followed by the vowel u, which is not pronounced. Ex.: quart = quarter; choquer = to shock; quitter = to leave; quotidien = daily.
The group of letters qu is found in the most common pronouns. Ex.: quand = when; que = that; qui = who; quel = which; lequel = which one; quoi = what; pourquoi = why.
Note : There are two main words in which q is not associated with u: coq = cock/rooster; cinq = five (and the combination of other numbers, such as: vingt-cinq = twenty five).
It can be pronounced either:
1) s, when:
2) z, in all other cases. Ex.: visage = face; valise = suitase; rasoir = razor; mesure = mesure.
Note: s is also pronounced z when it marks the liaison before a word starting with a vowel or a silent h. Ex.: chers amis = dear friends; de jolis enfants = pretty children; ces insectes = those insects; les olives = the olives; des heures = hours.
Most of the time it is pronounced t, even when it is associated with a h. Ex.: thé = tea; théâtre = theatre.
Exceptionally, it can be pronounced s. This happens when t is followed by the vowel i, itself followed by another vowel.
The majority of the words using w are from foreign origin. However, the pronunciation differs depending on the words in which it is used.
Most of the time, it is pronounced almost the same as in English. Ex.: watt = watt; whisky = whisky; kiwi = kiwi fruit; patchwork = patchwork.
But in a few cases it can also be pronounced v. Ex.: wagon = wagon; WC = toilet (but sometimes you will hear French people say: les waters ).
X , x
This is another tricky consonant, that can be pronounced in three different ways depending of its position in the word.
1) Very often, when it follows a hard vowel or is followed by a consonant, it is pronounced ks. Ex.: taxi = taxi; toxique = toxic; texte = text; exprimer = to express.
2) When it is followed by a vowel or a silent h, and in most words starting with w, it is pronounced gze. Ex.: exemple = example; exhiber = to flaunt; exotique = exotic; xénophobe = xenophobic.
3) In some figures or numbers, it is pronounced s. Ex. : dix = ten; six = six; soixante = sixty.
But when these numbers are followed by a word beginning with a consonant, the x is silent, and when followed by a vowel, they link as a z sound. Ex.: dix personnes ; six enfants.
4) In numbers deriving from deux (two), it is pronounced z: deuxième = second/2 nd.
5) Except for the 2 previous cases, it usually remains silent when it appears at the end of a word (see below).
But it can be pronounced s when it marks the liaison between two words when the 2nd one begins with a vowel (idem for s, see above). Ex.: les joyeu x écoliers = the happy schoolchildren; de beaux arbres = beautiful trees.
V) If the consonant is at the end of a word, when is it pronounced?
1) Basically, we don't pronounce a final consonant in the majority of cases (except when the liaison with the following word has to marked), especially:
1. when it is the ending of a verb of the 1 st group (ending in er). Ex.: aimer = to love/to like; manger = to eat; parler = to speak.
2. when it ends a verb conjugated at any tense (s, t or z). Ex.: tu aimes = you like; je pars = I leave; nous sommes suivis = we are followed; je disais = I was saying; il fuit = he escapes; il pensait = he was thinking; vous allez = you go; partez ! = go!
3. when it marks a plural of a noun (s, or x). Ex.: voitures = cars; amis = friends; bijoux = jewels; oiseaux = birds.
4. in most of the words ending in er and ier. Ex.: boulanger = baker; plancher = floor; rocher = rock; dernier = last; jardinier = gardener; cerisier = cherry tree. However, there are a few exceptions (see below, under r).
5. in most of the words ending in:
2) But we usually pronounce the last consonant in the words ending in:
Note: In their feminine form, several of these words (especially the adjectives) end with an e, and the consonant is no longer final, thus it is pronounced. Ex.: boulangère ; dernière ; jardinière ; froide ; chaude ; sourde ; blanche (fem. of blanc) ; gentille.
Plus de pain ? Plus de fromage ? Plus de gâteau ?…" We have witnessed on several occasions our foreign guests get a little confused when, invited to a dinner by a French family, they are asked such questions. "More bread or no more bread? More cheese or no more cheese? More cake or no more cake?... What was the question, exactly?" Very few short French words are as confusing as plus, because it can be either a superlative adjective or an adverb and which, indeed, can mean either "more" or "no more", depending on the context, its position in a sentence, and the way it is pronounced.
Let's see, through some examples, how plus is pronounced in each case, because the pronunciation of the word makes all the difference.
When plus is an adverb meaning "more", very often used in a comparison, it is always pronounced "plus". Here is how it is used:
1) Before a noun:
2) After a verb and directly followed by the pronoun que:
3) When it is accompanied by en - en plus - (meaning "more", "moreover", etc.):
I. When plus is a superlative adjective meaning "more"
Plus is also very often used in a comparison as a superlative adjective, but its pronunciation depends on the word that follows in the sentence:
1) Before an adjective that starts with a consonant: it should be pronounced "plu":
Before an adjective that starts with a vowel or with a silent h: it should be pronounced "pluz":
2) Before an adverb: it should also be pronounced either:
- "plu", when the adverb starts with a consonant:
- or "pluz", when the adverb starts with a vowel or with a silent h:
II. When plus... plus is an adverb meaning "the more… the more":
1) When the word following plus starts with a consonant, it is pronounced "plu":
2) When the word following plus starts with a vowel or with a silent h, it is usually pronounced "pluz", but "plu" is also acceptable:
III. When plus is an adverb meaning "no more", "not anymore"
1) When the next word (noun, adjective, verb, adverb…) starts with a consonant, it is pronounced "plu":
2) When the next word (noun, adjective, verb, adverb…) starts with a vowel or a silent h, it is usually pronounced "pluz", but "plu" is also acceptable:
Speak Like a French Person by Saying Il faut Instead of C'est nécessaire
If you live or have travelled in France, you've probably heard French people use the phrase Il faut in numerous contexts, especially when someone is telling you how to do something, or how to get to a place, or how you shouldn't do something... It is a very popular short phrase and used widely in the everyday language. Il faut can be expressed in an impersonal or personal way. Instinctively, foreigners tend to translate literally and say C 'est nécessaire de... each time they want to express “It's necessary to...”. It is not wrong but not very French; they will almost always say “il faut”! Try to do the same when you wish to give directions, orders and very strong suggestions.
There are two ways to use Il faut : impersonal and general, or personal and specific to the person you are talking to.
1) If you are giving an impersonal order or a suggestion, meaning that you're not pointing your finger at anyone, but you're just stating how something needs to be done, or how to get somewhere, then using Il faut is perfect. Not only do the French use it all the time, but it's easy to express it verbally with a simple sentence structure. You don't need to add a subject and a verb, but just a verb in the infinitive form. The impersonal form “It's necessary to” in French is simply:
Il faut + verb in the infinitive form.
2) If you are making it personal , meaning that you're telling a specific person what to do, how to get to a place, or you're giving a strong suggestion, then you change the structure somewhat and add que, plus a subject and a conjugated verb. You'll have to learn how to conjugate the 2 nd verb in the subjunctive form.
Here is the structure of the personal form with Il faut:
The subjunctive conjugation of verbs ending by er is not difficult, it's the same as conjugating the verb in the present tense except with the vous and nous subjects where you'll need to add an i to the ending of the verb.
Example : conjugation in the subjunctive form of parler:
However, the other groups of verbs are a bit trickier as some verbs change completely, especially the irregular ones.
For example, the verb être (to be) changes completely:
Personal - using the above examples:
Now, if you wish to say "You don't have to", then you'll want to use ne pas obliger de.
Coming back to obligations or directions, you can either say Il faut or another well known verb called devoir. The conjugation of devoir is: je dois, tu dois, il/elle/on doit, nous devons, vous devez, ils/elles doivent. Devoir implies a stronger obligation – almost a moral imperative – than il faut. The meaning is really "must".
What about when you want to suggest something? This is where it can get a bit tricky. As you know, devoir means “must” or “have to” in the present tense, BUT when devoir is conjugated in the conditional (equivalent of “would” in English), then this verb changes its meaning and it becomes “should”! This is how it works when devoir is used in the conditional:
At this point, it is no longer an obligation but something that should eventually be done.
To summarize this article:
- When you wish to give general directions or tell someone how something is to be done, use the form Il faut + verb at the infinitive form:
- When you wish to give a strong order, use devoir in the present form:
- When you are giving specific directions or orders to a person, use il faut que + subjonctif:
- When you wish to tell someone that they don't have to do something, then use pas obliger de:
Le temps qu'il fait et le temps qui passe… (the weather we're having and the time that goes by). When discussing the weather with a French person, we sometimes need to be specific about which (weather or time) we are talking about. The fact that temps means both weather and time is often the source of confusion. However, when a French person talks about le temps , it is in most cases about the weather that he is referring to. In France, as is probably the case in many other parts of the world, le temps qu'il fait is usually the first thing French people talk about when they meet: with their neighbours, at the boulangerie or when talking with friends or family. And the prévisions météo on TV are certainly the most viewed in the country. Therefore, understanding what is being said, and being able to give one own's opinion about such an important topic when meeting French people is essential for foreigners living in France or visiting the country.
Below is a list of the most frequently used vocabulary about the weather, and examples of how these expressions are used in everyday life.
I. The vocabulary of weather
1) Le temps = the weather.
2) La température = temperature.
3) Les précipitations = rain/snowfall.
4) Le vent = wind.
5) Le soleil = the sun.
6) La neige = snow.
7) L'orage = a storm.
II. The most common expressions used about the weather
1) The verb faire is widely used:
Quel temps fait-il ? = What's the weather like?
* The adjective sacré(e) = sacred, or the adverb sacrément is often used in French to insist on something or to highlight what one is saying. Ex: cet enfant a un sacré caractère = this child has a special temper; il est sacrément bon ce fromage ! = this cheese is really good!
2) Il pleut, il neige !...
The verbs pleuvoir (= to rain) and neiger (= to snow) are conjugated only with il, in the 3rd person singular:
Geler (= to freeze) is conjugated with il when one talks about the weather in general, but can also be conjugated normally with other personal pronouns when referring to one's own sensations:
Note : The verb venter (= to blow, to be windy) exists, but it is used (only with il , in the 3rd person singular) mainly in literature or poetry, almost never in the everyday language. Idem with the adjective venteux (= windy).
3) C'est is also widely used, in the following weather contexts:
C'est nuageux = It's cloudy.
4) Il y a is also used in several expressions:
Il y a du vent = There is some wind/It's windy (one can use either faire or il y a).
Are you planning a trip to France anytime soon? If so, don't forget that while you're there, you might need to clearly communicate your personal contact information. If you have been studying French, you should be able to do so without too much effort. However, it's not always as easy as one thinks. We've noticed that many French learners who can already express themselves in different situations in French have a difficult time spelling their names or their email address! For example, if a person asks for your email address, would you be able to give it to her/him with confidence?
Take time to review these basics :
1) Your name (votre nom)
You might hear French persons asking you to spell your full name (nom). They might ask:
Of course, to be able to spell, you have to be comfortable with the French alphabet. If you're not, then we suggest that you listen to it, get familiar with communicating the letters of your name, home address and email. Repeat it as many times as you need to:
2) Your address (votre adresse)
You might have to give your full address over the phone or during check-in at a hotel, for example. If someone wants to ask for your address, she/he will ask you: Quelle est votre adresse ?
This means that you should know your numbers, both single digits and double digits.
Do you need to refresh your memory on how to say the double digits?
Note: When we add the number "one" to "twenty", "thirty", "forty", "fifty" and "sixty", you'll also need to add et (and). Not for the other numbers!
3) Your cell phone number ( votre numéro de mobile/portable )
Note: To give the country code, this is how you say it:
4) Your email address (votre adresse email, or mail)
To express your email address clearly, the best way to do so is by using a word starting with that letter (like the system used in the military). For example, if you wish to say the letter T, it would be best to associate it with a proper noun, like a first name or a city/country.
Example of expressing a email address:
5) Your credit card information (votre carte bancaire or carte bleue)
The type of questions you could hear:
To understand the plural forms of French articles, subject pronouns, adjectives and nouns is not as easy at it might seem. Fortunately, most of the time, in the plural form of nouns, like in English, you basically add an "s" at the end of the word. However, the "s" is not pronounced in most cases, and many words have a different ending in the plural. The good news is, at least for the articles, the plural has the advantage of being the same when used with masculine or feminine nouns! In this article, we're introducing the most usual ways of forming the plural plus a few exceptions.
To hear the correct pronunciation, listen carefully to the audio links, and repeat each phrase several times out loud.
The plural of the French definite articles: le (masc.), la (fem.) and l' (masc. or fem., used in front of a vowel or a non-aspirated h), meaning "the" is always: les.
NOTE that we don't pronounce the "s" in "les", except before a vowel or a non-aspirated h, but then the sound is closer to a "z". Listen to the following examples to understand the difference:
The plural of the French indefinite articles: un (masc.) and une (fem.), meaning "a" in the singular and usually "some" in the plural, is always des.
As regards the pronunciation of the "s", it is the same as above, for the definite articles.
2. Subject pronouns
In the plural form, the subject pronouns differ, like in the singular form, and several will change depending on the gender of the person. Here are the pronouns:
Examples with "on":
In most cases, an "s" is added to the adjective in the plural form.
Irregular plural forms
1. Some adjectives have the same ending in the plural form, but only when they agree with a masculine word, while the feminine just takes an "s". This is the case for adjectives ending in "x" such as heureux (happy) or doux (sweet). It is the same for adjectives that already end in "s" in the singular, such as or gris (grey), précis (precise) or bas (low).
2. Adjectives ending in "au", when agreeing with a masculine word, add an "x" in the plural and not an "s", such as: beau (beautiful) or nouveau (new).
3. The adjectives (also used with a masculine word) that end in "al" also end in "aux" in the plural, such as amical (friendly), central (main) or génial (genious).
Most nouns add an "s" in the plural, but there are several exceptions, some of them being similar to those for the adjectives.
NOTE that, like for the adjectives, the "s" is not pronounced, except before a vowel or a non-aspirated h, but then the sound is closer to a "z".
Different plural forms
1. The words ending in "x" or "z" do not change in the plural, such as croix (cross), choix (choice) or gaz (gas).
2. Like for the adjectives, several nouns that end in "al" end in "aux" in the plural, such as journal (newspaper), but there are a few exceptions, such as festival.
3. Several words ending in "eu" add an "x" in the plural, such as jeu (game) or cheveu (hair), while some others, such as pneu (tyre) add an "s".
4. Several words ending in "ou" add an "x" in the plural, such as bijou (jewel), chou (cabbage) or genou (knee), while others, like fou (crazy) or cou (neck) add an "s".
5. A few irregular plurals
The more common words with an irregular plural are (listen carefully to the audio and repeat it):
6. Compound words (mots composés)
There are precise rules as regards the plural of compound words, but also many exceptions. It would be too long to give a list of all of the compound words and their plurals. Here are just the main rules:
1. Adjective + noun: both add an "s" or an "x" depending of their usual plural form:
2. Two adjectives: both add an "s":
3. Noun + preposition + noun: only the 1st noun takes an "s" or an "x":
4. Noun preceded by a preposition: the plural is the same as the singular:
5. Verb + verb: the plural is the same as the singular:
6. Verb + its object noun: an "s" is added to the noun in some cases (even if there are many exceptions):
7. Verb + adverb: only the noun takes an "s":
In this article, we focus on three different expressions that are very helpful when you wish to communicate precisely the timing of an action: what you're in the process of doing now, what you've just been doing, and what you're about to do.
If you've been learning French for a while, you've probably realized that you cannot literally translate a sentence from English to French when the verb is conjugated in the present progressive tense and when talking about actions that are occurring now. For example: I am talking, She is eating, They are studying, etc.
The French language doesn't have a verb tense equivalent to the present progressive tense; instead the simple present tense is used. For example, je parle means either I speak or I'm speaking. However, sometimes you need to emphasize that something is happening right now; how can we communicate that present moment? There is a solution, you need to use the expression être en train de...
1. Être en train de... = To be in the process of, in the middle of...
Être en train de... expresses an action that is in the process of taking place.
2. Venir (juste) de... = To have just done something...
When you wish to express a recent action that you've just completed, you can use that expression venir de...
The construction is also very simple:
For example, if you wish to tell your French teacher that you've just finished your homework, you would say:
You'll hear French people adding "juste" to this expression to indicate that the action has just now happened, a few minutes or hours ago. This is to emphasize the timing of the action. In this case, you'll also hear:
3. Être sur le point de... = To be about to do something...
So far, we've explained how to express yourself when you're in the middle of doing something, and what you've just accomplished, and how let's have a look at the near future: how to express what you're about to do. Each time, you wish to express an action that is imminent, about to happen, you can say Je suis sur le point de...
Again the construction is as easy as the other two expressions above:
For example, you're about to go out for the day and you don't have time to speak to someone:
Did you know that the opposite of quelqu'un (someone) is personne (no one)? Regularly, I hear students struggling to choose the appropriate indefinite pronoun. These words represent non identified people, places, things, etc. They're very useful in everyday communication: Just like in English, they are frequently used in the French language.
1. When talking about people: Quelqu'un
The translation of quelqu'un is "someone/somebody" or "anyone". When you want to know if someone/anyone called this morning, you would just say:
And if the answer is negative:
As mentioned above, the opposite of quelqu'un is personne.
Here is another example:
NOTE: You might have heard n'importe qui but it's used in a different way than quelqu'un. The translation is closer to "whoever." You would use it when you say something that is very general, like a rule or something easy to do. For example: "Anyone can cook pasta." In this context, "anyone" needs to be translated as n'importe qui: N'importe qui peut faire cuire des pâtes. It communicates the idea that whoever is doing the action isn't a specific person. It can have somewhat of a derogatory or judgmental connotation, like in Tu parles avec n'importe qui ! ("You talk to anyone!", meaning people who are not worth talking to).
2. When talking about things: Quelque chose
The translation of quelque chose is "something." For example, if you want to know if anyone heard something about a new project, you would say:
If the answer is negative:
The opposite of quelque chose is rien meaning "nothing" or "not... anything."
Here is an example with quelqu'un and quelque chose:
NOTE: You might have heard people say, n'importe quoi, which is used to express something that is rubbish... For example, if you want to say that a movie is rubbish, you would say: Ce film, c'est n'importe quoi !
3. When talking about places = Quelque part
The translation of quelque part is "somewhere." For example, if you want to know if someone is going somewhere this morning, you would say:
If the answer is negative:
The opposite of quelque part is nulle part meaning "nowhere/not anywhere".
NOTE: You might also hear n'importe où, meaning anywhere, BUT it doesn't express the opposite of quelque part. It really means "any place." For example, if you're invited to someone's house and you want to know where you can put your coat, the host might respond, "You can put it anywhere": Vous pouvez le mettre n'importe où.
It is also important to know that if any of these indefinite pronouns listed above are used with an adjective, you'll need to add "de/d' ":
It works the same way with the opposites:
It is translated as "sometimes/occasionally." For example, if you want to tell someone that you sometimes go to the gym, you would say:
The French will also say de temps en temps and parfois instead of quelquefois.
If you wish to express the opposite:
An important group of verbs in the infinitive form end in ir. Apart from the irregular verbs, they are conjugated with the following endings that are added to the stem.
The stem is formed by dropping the ir ending from the infinitive:
Example: finir (to finish).
Here is a list of some common verbs that follow the same conjugation pattern:
Irregular verbs ending in ir:
There is a first category of irregular ir verbs. These verbs actually have two stems in the present and their conjugation takes the following endings:
Note that the stem for the first three conjugations drops the consonant before the ir ending of the infinitive. That consonant returns for the stem of the final three conjugations.
Example: partir (to leave)
Some other ir verbs are conjugated just like er verbs:
Example: ouvrir (to open)
Finally, the verbs tenir (to hold) and venir (to come) and their derivatives have totally radical conjugations:
Examples: venir tenir
Here are a few other common verbs that follow the same conjugation pattern. Note that all these verbs have either venir or tenir at the end:
The verbs that end in re and oir have different endings when conjugated. Some of them end in ire, and are conjugated just like one type of the verbs ending in ir :
Example: écrire (to write)
Among the other common verbs of this category are: décrire (to describe); inscrire (to enrol); vivre (to live).
A few other verbs also ending in ire are conjugated in a different form:
Example: lire (to read)
Other verbs of this category are : interdire (to prohibit) ; conduire (to drive) ; construire (to build) ; traduire (to translate)
The verbs ending in tre are also conjugated in a different way:
Example: mettre (to put/to put on)
Other verbs with the same ending are: permettre (to allow); or promettre (to promise).
The verbs ending in dre are conjugated in two different ways. We encourage you to learn at least the two basic conjugation forms, according to the following examples:
First example: vendre (to sell).
Other verbs conjugated like vendre are: répondre (to reply); entendre (to hear); perdre (to lose); attendre (to wait).
Second example: Prendre (to take)
Other verbs conjugated like prendre are: apprendre (to learn); comprendre (to understand).
Finally, the verbs ending in ‘oir’ are conjugated in the following way:
Example 1: boire (to drink)
Example 2: recevoir (to receive)
Un peu d'eau, s'il vous plaît ? Expressing Quantities
‒I would like some water please!
If you try to translate all the above into French, you might get a bit muddled. Expressing quantity in French is often tricky. The French have a precise list of words used to communicate either vague or specific quantities.
Combien de... ?
One easy word that we learn quickly in French is combien dewhich means "how much" or "how many".
The question combien de can trigger many possible answers and they can be vague with words like: a bit, a few, more, etc. Or they can be more specific such as: 1 kilo of, a slice of, etc.
Expressing quantities that are not specific
Let’s start with a list of words that express quantities that are not so specific. And note how these expressions of quantity end with de or d':
Assez de (enough):
Beaucoup de (lots of):
Plus de(more of):
Moins de (less of):
Un peu de (a bit of):
Trop de (too much of):
Several expressions are not followed by de:
Since we have looked at the list of expressions of quantity, let’s try to translate these above requests for water from the first paragraph:
‒I would like some water please. = J’aimerais un peu d’eau/J’aimerais de l’eau s'il vous plaît.
Food-related French expressions of quantities
Now let’s look at the common more precise expressions of quantities. We find them a lot in relation to food shopping, eating in a restaurant or making recipes: I need a kilo of mushrooms. Would you like a bowl of soup? Or a plate of cheese?
There are many of them, but here is a selection of a few common ones:
Une bouteille de vin = a bottle of wine
De vs À
Again, when you wish to express the quantity of something, these means of measurements are followed with de. However, you’ve probably heard and seen the preposition à after these words as well such as un verre à cognac.
So what is the difference between Un verre à cognac and un verre de cognac ?
Many French students might ask: what does the term connecteurs logiques mean? These words connect one thought to another and using them will inevitably improve the flow of your speech. They express oppositions, examples, concessions, causes, goals, conditions, etc.:
1. Connectors that communicate the order of a thought:
Premièrement = firstly
2. Connectors that communicate a cause:
Parce que/car = because
3. Connectors that communicate a consequence:
Donc = so/therefore
3. Connectors that communicate an example:
Par exemple = for example
4. Connectors that express a reformulation of an idea:
5. Connectors that communicate an opposition:
Apart from the obvious "mais" (but), here are a few others to choose from:
6. Connectors that communicate additions:
Apart from the obvious "et" (and), here are a few others to choose from:
7. Connectors that express a condition:
Si = if
8. Connectors that communicate a goal:
Afin de = in order to
Our students and all French learners are often confused by a few French verbs that look quite similar, but have a different meaning. Here are a few of these pairs that are very commonly used in French.
I. Penser vs Croire
Penser mainly means "to think", whether it is followed or not with the conjunction "que". There are slight nuances when it is followed by the preposition "à": then, it may mean "to think of", "to consider", "to remember (to do something)".
The verb croiredefinitely means "to believe," and has this meaning mainly when talking about religion or when you want to express that you're very convinced of something. But in everyday language, the French use it much more to express an idea, a thought, a reflection. Then it means "to think". When French people talk among themselves, a very usual reply to someone who says something unexpected or surprising is: Tu crois ? = Do you think so?"
II. Regarder vs Voir
Regarder essentially means "to look". It's an active and voluntary action. For example: Je regarde par la fenêtre = I'm looking out the window. We also use it sometimes to say "to watch", "to check", among its more usual meanings.
Voir is used when something enters in your field of view while you aren't looking specifically for something. It's a passive and not a voluntary action, meaning "to see". Another very frequent meaning is "to visit".
III. Ecouter vs Entendre
Confusing these two verbs is one of the most common mistakes that students make! Entendremeans "to hear"; it is a passive action, while écoutermeans "to listen to", which is a voluntary one. Frequently, when we start a Skype session, the students say Vous m'écoutez bien ? (Are you really listening to me?) while they really mean Vous m'entendez bien ? (Can you hear me well?)
IV. Sentir vs Ressentir
The distinction between these two verbs isn't as easy to figure out as for the previous ones. Ressentir and sentir are usually translated in the same way in English: "to feel." So it's a bit difficult to know which one to use.
V. Prêter vs Emprunter
The difficulty with these two verbs is that while they are very similar when you pronounce them, they mean exactly the contrary! Prêter is "to lend something to someone", "to let someone use something that belongs to you", while emprunter mainly means "to borrow something from someone", or money from a bank...
Who has not been confused over the difference between jourvs journée, soirvs soirée and anvs année? The reasons for using one or the other can be complicated, therefore, we would like to give an easy and straight forward explanation. The idea is to avoid thinking too much about it when speaking to a French person.
In a nutshell, you should use the shorter version: jour, soir and an when you’re talking about a number of jours, etc., which means that there will be a number placed in front or after the word. However, when you are adding descriptive words (such as interrogative words, indefinite adjectives or certain prepositions), then you will mainly use the longer version with the suffix "ée" or "née": journée, soirée and année. Let’s shine some light on things with examples:
1. Expressing numbers:
‒A number of days and years ago
2. Using descriptive words, adjectives, prepositions:
Again, in short, with adjectives in general, you will most of the time use the longer version.
NOTE: At times it is possible to say ce-jour là and quel jour. It really depends on the situation.
NOTE: When quelle is an exclamation, is it also followed by the long form.
3. Exceptions to remember
A few exceptions are worth remembering because we say and hear them very frequently:
HOWEVER, we say:
Another example with the masculine/feminine situation in a rather frequency situation:
HOWEVER, we say:
‒Tonight and last night
It's very interesting to compare how the French and English-speaking persons express various emotions through exclamations. Generally, the French use them much more frequently, both in their daily conversations and in written communication, emails, texts, etc., than do the British and Americans. Some people even have a tendency to overuse them, and it's not uncommon that they use one or several points d'exclamation, even when there is no real need to add any. Below, we explain the main grammatical structures used by the French when they want to use exclamations.
Note that, in French, we always leave a space between the last word of a sentence and the exclamation mark (it is the same with question marks, colons semi-colons, but not with commas or periods).
1. One word is enough: the interjections
An exclamatory sentence (une phrase exclamative) can be composed of only one word. We just need to add an exclamation point after it, and, in the spoken language, use the right tone depending on the context.
There is a multitude of interjections used by the French. Here are the most common:
─Eh ! Expresses an unpleasant surprise, or impatience.
─Ouf ! Expresses relief after something that was difficult, tricky or dangerous, such as "phew!" in English.
─Chut ! The French equivalent of "Shh!", sometimes whispered or expressed only with the same gesture as in English.
─Aïe !In English you would say "Ow!" or "Ouch!"
─Quoi ! Comment ! When "what" or "how" are followed with an exclamation point instead of a question mark, they express feelings of shock, strong surprise (sometimes after bad news), disbelief, etc. Both mean "what", and are often followed with an interrogative sentence.
Many other words used alone can also serve as interjections. Some are used to insult people, but not always...
2. The imperative form
In Nr. 65, February-March 2017, of French Accent, we devoted our whole Grammar section to this mode. As we explained, the imperative is often used when giving commands or orders, to express warm, welcoming or encouraging actions, or to call for help. In all these cases, the phrases are exclamatory.
3. The exclamative adverbs and adjectives
Here are the ones you will heard more usually in exclamatory expressions: comme, que (qu'), quel (quels, quelle, quelles), and also qu'est-ce que, which is more frequently used in interrogative sentences. They can express very different feelings.
4. Que, followed by the subjunctive
Expressing exclamations with que (qu') followed by a verb in the subjunctive form is not as common as the ones described earlier in this article, but still, it may be useful to know it, as it's a very good way to give orders or to express very clearly any wish... or discontent!
5. Mais, a discrete but useful conjunction
Mais, which basically means "but", is also quite frequently used in an exclamative sentence, either to express a positive or a negative feeling. It cannot always be translated literally, as you can see in the following examples, as it mainly serves to emphasize what you're saying.
This verb is very interesting as it means at the same time "to lack" or "to run out of something", to "fail", and, its main meaning, "to miss". And this is when it becomes very confusing for English speakers as it is used in a very different way. It is interesting, too, to discover a few expressions in which manquer is used in everyday language.
1. To miss:
a. I miss someone/something
More and more nowadays, manquer is used when talking about someone that you miss, or something you are attached to, such as your home country. But, contrary to the English, you don't say that you miss someone or something but that someone or something is missed by you, which seems very bizarre to all English speakers!
b. Someone misses me
In this sentence format, it is necessary to add the preposition à after manquer.
c. I missed the train
Manquer also means to miss the train, for example, but in common language, the French have a tendency to use the verbs rater or louper (see page 6).
2. To lack, to run out (of something)
When meaning "to lack", manquer is used in many common expressions, such as those listed below. When it has this meaning, manquer is followed by de or d'in front of a vowel. For example: Manquer de courage = to lack courage, manquer de goût = to lack taste, manquer de respect = to lack respect, etc.
3. To fail
When meaning "to fail", the verb manquer is usually followed by à, except when it is used to talk about an exam. But in such case the verb rater is more frequently used nowadays (see page 6).
4. A few expressions with the verb manquer
Several interesting expressions are useful to know. Here are the most commonly used by the French, and how they are used in context with examples.
Je n'y manquerai pas = I'll be sure to/I'll do so.
This expression is always used like this, in the future tense.
Manquer à l'appel = to be missing, to be missed
It's main use is when you're talking of a student who is missing at school when the teacher calls the roll (fait l'appel). But nowadays it is more and more often used when talking of someone who is away when people were hoping he/she would be there. In this case it means "to be missed".
This is another interesting expression, which means je manque de temps (I lack time, I run out of time) which is also commonly used in French. But the construction of le temps me manque (or le temps nous manque) is surprising as it literary says: time is lacking to me!
An idiomatic expression expressing a strong disagreement or disappointment.
5. Rater and louper
As we said earlier, the verbs rater and louper replace more and more often manquer in some contexts, both to mean "to miss" or "to fail". Rater is more frequently used, while louper is a familiar verb that can be slightly pejorative sometimes. Rater and louper also mean to mess up.
You’re looking through your window and you want to say in French "It looks like it’s raining"; later you’re reading the weather forecast on your smartphone and you want to say "It seems that it’s going to get warmer at the end of the week." How would you translate these observations and comments?
These phrases "it seems that" or "it looks like" can be translated in different ways, such as:
However, they have their place depending on the context. So which one do we use in which situation?
1. When you are making a comment from watching or observing a person/thing/situation, you can use: on dirait que(qu') or ça/il(s)/elle(s) (or any other subject) a l’air, ont l'air.
Again, this statement came from observing the rain coming down.
2. When you discover some new information through reading, or someone has told you about it, then you want to use il paraît que (qu').
Therefore, this is how you translate "It seems that it’s going to get warmer at the end of the week":
3. When you have an opinion or a feeling that you get from observing people and things. You can say:
You can also use on dirait que since it is mostly a feeling that comes from observation but the pronoun "me" in "il me semble que"gives it a more personal touch.
Again, this comes probably from a combination of observation and feelings.
If you spend a day listening to French people speaking to one other, you will hear the verb passer over and over. It is an extremely rich verb and probably one of the most important ones to master since it is used in so many everyday life contexts. Passer also has the particularity to take either the auxiliary avoir or être in the passé composé depending on its meaning. Let’s have a look at these 10 different meanings backed up with examples.
1. Passer du temps = To spend time
This translation is straight forward. Anytime, you wish to say that you’re spending time with someone or something, you can just say passer du temps avecor sur.
2. Passer un bon week-end/de bonnes vacances = To have a good week-end/vacation
This is widely used for asking if someone had a good weekend, evening, day, or great holidays, etc. In English, the verb is "to have", but in French, it is passer.
Note that you’ll also hear the French use passer to wish a good day/evening or week-end:
3. Passer voir quelqu’un = To stop by to see someone
The French will use passer voir to say that they’ll stop by to see someone for a brief moment vs using rendre visite.
4. Passer devant chez quelqu’un/par une ville = To pass in front of someone’s place/by a city
Passer is also used to inform someone that we are passing by a place but we’re not stopping.
5 Qu’est-ce qui se passe ? = What’s happening/going on?
You hear a commotion or you see something unusual, the French will most likely say qu’est-ce qui se passe to ask what’s happening/going on.
6. Comment ça se passe ? = How is it working out/going?
A general question the French might ask when they want to know how something or things are going or working, or if everything is going ok.
7. Ça se passe en France = It takes places in France
When speaking about location, where something took place, se passer will be used.
8. Se passer de quelque chose/quelqu’un= To do without something or someone
This is an alternative to je n’ai pas besoin de (I don’t need). This is a more casual way to express something or someone that you can live without.
9. Passer un examen = To take an exam
Here is a false friend. To take an exam, we need to use passer. And if the exam was a success, then you would use réussir.
10. Passer quelque chose à quelqu’un= To pass/to hand over something to someone
We’ll finish the last one on an easy straightforward translation: passing or handing something to someone.
Le conditionnel passé is a noteworthy tense as it enables you to express certain feelings, wishes or speculations. It can be translated in English as "would have," "should have" and "could have."
You will also frequently see the conditionnel passé with si (if) clauses, wishing that things could have been different, although you cannot change a thing since the action has already taken place.
Many French students find the conjugation of the conditionnel passé easier than the conditionnel present because it is not necessary to learn different verb endings for this tense. All you need to do is learn the conjugation of the auxiliary verb "avoir" and "être" in the present conditionnel form, then add the past participle of the main verb. In another words, it is a compound tense which follows the exact same rules for the past participle agreement as the passé composé.
To form a sentence with the conditionnel passé, let’s first learn the conjugation of avoir or être in the conditionnel présent form:
Examples of passé composé and conditionnel passé
Passé composé: J'ai regardé le film. = I watched the movie.
In a negative sentence, the negations such as pas, jamais, plus, rien, etc.. are placed before and after the auxiliary verb, just as we do for the passé composé.
When do we use the conditionnel passé?
There are several situations when you need to use it:
1. For regrets or reproaches.
Examples for regrets:
Examples for reprimands:
2. For unverified facts, an alleged piece of information.
3. For politeness.
4. For hypotheses with si (if) clauses.
Have a look at this following sentence; you will see how these 2 tenses work together:
One of the favorite pastimes the French indulge in is to have a good conversation with friends sitting around a table while having a meal. What do we mean by a "good" conversation? One that is filled with stimulating thoughts and opinions. Questions that are just answered by oui or non or simple facts will most likely seem dull to a French person. They’re interested in your thoughts, your feelings on a situation, a person, something that you’re looking at, tasting or drinking, etc.
We would like to share some useful verbs that should help you in expressing your thoughts and feelings. You’ll see that these verbs are followed with que and you’ll notice that the verb that follows que is conjugated in the present indicative in positive statements whereas it will trigger the subjunctive in a negative statement.
There are so many different words that express a thought or an opinion, and today we are going to look at 5 verbs that are widely used by the French. Some of these are quite subtle in their usage, so read carefully the examples.
One question that you’ve probably heard on numerous occasions : Qu’est-ce que vous en pensez ? = What do you think of it? You’ll notice the pronoun en in the question which replaces the object of the question. Otherwise penser is followed by de.
Je pense que = I think that
Je pense is a straightforward translation from English but there is a slight difference. The use of penser doesn’t project a strong opinion. It translates as being unsure, it emanates incertitude.
2. Trouver VS penser
Je trouve que = I find/think/I feel that
When a French person wants to know what you think of something or a person that you’re observing, or a dis/drink that you’re tasting, you’ll often hear : Comment trouves-tu…? = What do you think/how do you find...?
Examples to note the difference between je trouve que and je pense que:
Je trouve que ce vin est bon. = I think that this wine is good.
Again, expressing an opinion about an action in the future with je trouve que doesn’t work.
Je crois que = I think/believe that
The verb croire literally means to believe. However, the French use it the same ways as penser as well. They can be, most of the time, interchangeable. Nevertheless, croire expresses a bit more uncertainty than penser. It does after all mean that you believe which is not based on facts.
Let’s compare the 3 verbs with a question
—Que pensez-vous de cette agence immobilière ? = What do you think of this real estate agency?
J’imagine que = I’m assuming/I imagine that/I guess
Here is another verb that is used a lot by the French, much less in English. When there is an assumption, a thought about what could be or should be, you’ll hear j’imagine que.
Je suppose que = I’m assuming that/I think that
Here is the case of a verb that acts as a false friend. In English, when you say "I suppose that," it means that you’re guessing. However, in French, it means that you’re assuming, or thinking that something will happen. To compare it with imaginer, we can say that it is more abstract than supposer whereas, it is more concrete.
In this article, we give you some of the most popular phrases and words that the French use to express their opinions whether they’re "for" or "against" something, they agree or not, or they’re unsure.
First, have a look at these short words that are frequently used to emphasize a personal opinion:
Perso and moi, je / toi, tu
These words are used to open a discussion when sharing an opinion. Perso is short for personnellement (perso-nally).
Another word that you will hear a lot which emphasizes one’s position when sharing an opinion is by adding a pronoun such as moiin front of je. This also happens with the other subjects:
Again, you will often hear the French start with either one, so don’t hesitate to use these to position your thoughts.
1. How to ask someone what they think
Here are the typical ways of asking someone:
– Et vous ? Qu’en pensez-vous ? = And you? What do you think?
– Quelle est votre opinion ?= What is your opinion?
– Quel est votre avis ? = What is your opinion? (another choice instead of the French word opinion, the French use both very frequently).
– Tu es pour ou contre ?= Are you for or against?
2. How to express your opinion when you agree
You will hear the following expressions and words in bold here below. Notice how I started some of these sentences by adding perso or apronoun to emphasize the position.
– Perso, je suis d’accord != Personally, I agree!
– Moi, je suis pour le passeport vaccinal. = Personally, I’m for the vaccine passport.
– Tu as raison pour le passeport vaccinal. = You’re right for the vaccine passport.
– Je pense que le passeport vaccinal est une bonne idée. = I think that the vaccine passport is a good idea.
3. How to express your opinion when you disagree
Some of the above expressions can be simply formed in a negative sentence:
– Perso, je ne trouve pas que c’est normal.= Personally, I don’t find this to be normal.
– Perso, je ne suis pas d’accord. = Personally, I don’t agree.
– Moi, je suis contre la peine de mort. = (As for me) I’m against the death penalty.
– Tu as tort. = You’re wrong.
4. How to express your opinion when you’re unsure or feeling neutral
Undecided? Here are a few options:
– D’un autre côté, je suis contre l’idée de n’avoir qu’un seul choix d’éducation. = On the other hand, I am against the idea of only one choice of education.
– Je ne suis pas sûre, je dois réfléchir à la question. = I’m not sure, I have to think about the question.
– Je suis plus ou moins d’accord avec vous. = I more or less agree with you.
5. Additional words to introduce an opinion at any time
If you wish to take the initiative in expressing your opinion, these phrases will be useful:
– Selon moi, on doit laisser les enfants s’exprimer. = According to me (but it really means "in my opinion"), we have to let children express themselves.
– Quant à moi, je crois que les enfants doivent apprendre la discipline. = As for me, I think that children must learn discipline.
– À mon avis, tu es trop stricte. = In my opinion, you’re too strict.
– Pour ma part, je trouve que la nouvelle génération doit manifester. = As far as I’m concerned, I think that the new generation must protest.
– Je suis convaincu que les jeunes sont l’espoir dans ce monde incertain.= I’m convinced that the young ones are the hope in this incertain world.
What is so perfect about the plus-que-parfait? Well in my opinion, this tense deserves to have the word parfait in its name because unlike the other 2 past tenses, it is easy to understand how and when to use it. It has a clear and logical explanation; it isn’t ambiguous like the passé composé and the imparfait. In addition, it is directly translatable as the past perfect in English (the equivalent of "had + the verb"). How perfect is this?
In a nutshell, the Plus-que-parfait is used to describe an event that took place before another event in the past. For example: "When I walked into the room, you had already prepared dinner." This second part of the sentence, "you had already prepared dinner," indicates that this action had been done before "I walked into the room," and this would be translated with the plus-que-parfait tense: tu avais déjà préparé le dîner. You will see the adverb déjà (already) quite often with this tense.
How does the formation of the plus-que-parfait work?
The conjugation of the Plus-que-parfait is a compound tense and, as with the passé composé, it calls for the same 2 auxiliary verbs avoir or être conjugated in the imparfait tense + the past participle of the main verb.
This is the reason that most French teachers will start teaching the plus-que-parfait only after their students have gained a comfortable level in conjugating thepassé composé tense with être or avoir and have acquired a clear understanding on how the pattern of these 2 auxiliary verbs works with the passé composé. If you feel comfortable in conjugating the passé composé by knowing which verbs take the auxiliary être or avoir (as you might know, most verbs take avoir) then the plus-que-parfait will be a piece of cake to conjugate!
Note: When you’re dealing with the auxiliary être, don’t forget to make the past participle agree with the subject of the verb. For example: ma mère était allée (agreement with the feminine subject).
Finally, you might have noticed that the placement of déjà is situated between the auxiliary verb and the main verb (like most adverbs).
Example of conjugating an "er" verb in the plus-que-parfait which takes the auxiliary verb avoir:
Demander (to ask):
Example of conjugating an "er" verb in the plus-que-parfait which takes the auxiliary verb être:
Aller (to go):
J’étais sortie de chez moi quand ils sont venus. = I had left home when they came.
As you can see from the examples above, the plus-que-parfait is used to describe an action/event that took place before another event in the past. However, another reason to use this tense is when we’re imagining how we could/should have changed a situation in the past by adding the si (if) clause. We use the equivalent past perfect in English for the same situations.
Examples with the si clause:
Si j’avais lu le livre, j’aurais mieux compris le film.= If I had read the book, I would have better understood the movie.
Céline Van Loan
Ça marche ?
I like to hang out in cafés in France and listen for words or expressions to take home that will inspire me for a write up, and last Thursday I went home with the verb marcher. As I was ordering a café crème from the serveur who immediately answered with ça marche, and then I heard it again in other contexts a few times that day, I felt that this verb deserved some special attention.
Marcher is used constantly in conversations, and you’ve probably heard it. Let’s have a look at the main contexts in which it’s used the most:
1. Marcher = to walk
Since it is an easy "er" verb to conjugate, most French learners first discover the verb marcher in the context of walking to a place. For example: Je vais marcher jusqu’à la gare.= I’m going to walk to the train station.
Also, you might have heard aller à piedto somewhere? That’s another way to express walking. For example:
Side note: If you hear someone say Il marche à quatre pattes, it’s an expression that means that the person is crawling.
2. Ça marche != OK
The waiter who replied ça marche! to my café crème is a typical example of how a person will okay a situation, an order, a request, etc... It’s a 2 thumbs up situation. Or you can translate it as "that works." It’s a very widely used expression.
3. Il/elle/ça marche = It functions/it works
When we wish to express how something works, if it functions well or not, the French will frequently use marcher instead of fonctionner (to function).
4. Some other useful expressions with marcher
In addition to these 3 main usages, there are a few more expressions with marcher that we often hear and that are interesting to learn:
There are other expressions with marcher, but I will end it with this one as this is another popular one:
Céline Van Loan
The verb planter, and its reflexive version se planter, that are both used a lot in everyday language, have very different meanings depending on the context in which they are used.
Let's have a look at the more common ones, backed up with examples.
1. To plant (trees, vegetables, etc.), or to sow
Do you know the French nursery rhyme (la comptine): Savez-vous planter les choux ?*
As we can see from this song, the main meaning of planter is "to plant": vegetables, flowers, trees, etc.; or to sow seeds, even if the verb semeris mainly used in this case.
2. To hammer, to stick (nails on the wall, etc.)
3. To crash (a computer, etc.), to freeze
4. To dump, to ditch, to get rid of someone
It can be temporary, or it may be definitive. In such case, you can use either planter or plaquer or larguer.
5. To set (the scene)
Planter le décor can be used to talk about the scenery of a play, or in the figurative.
6. To stab (a knife) in the back, to snick (a knife)
Planter un couteau may mean what it says, but is more often used in the figurative; in this case we add dans le dos.
7. To put up, to pitch (a tent)
II. Se planter
1. To get it wrong, to mess up, to screw up, to make a mistake
2. To stand in front of someone
Céline Van Loan
Je vous conseille...How to Ask for Advice?
Asking for recommendations or giving advice is something that the French like to do. Part of the fun of visiting a new city is finding those unique restaurants, bars, boutiques, markets, exhibits, etc. and there is nothing like getting recommendations from a local. Furthermore, asking for advice is a great way to strike up a conversation and practice your French! This article will give you the language to be able to ask for advice and how to give it.
How to ask for advice?
When asking a question, conjugating pouvoir in the conditionnel by saying Pourriez-vous… ?, meaning "Could you…?" is a good way to start the question. It is a very polite approach, and the French will be impressed.
Having said that, you’ll hear the French use the present tense as well on a regular basis.
The 3 main verbs used to give advice are:
Formulating the answers on giving advice
When answering, you will mostly use the conditionnel tense to express "should." If you use the présent tense, then you’re giving orders, not suggestions.
─Vous devriez… = You should. This expresses somewhat of a strong suggestion. Important note: You do not want to use the present tense in this case. If you say vous devez instead of vous devriez, then you’re saying, "you must." It is no longer simply a suggestion.
Other formulations on giving advice:
─Je vous conseillerais de…/Je vous conseille de… = I would advise you/I advise you. It’s ok to use either the conditionnel or présent tense, but the conditionnel will be a gentler suggestive approach.
Here is another useful word to learn: plutôt,meaning "rather." You’ll hear it quite often when giving suggestions.
Céline Van Loan