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Base de données à usage des professeurs

Cette base de données appartient à Learn French at Home et est à usage exclusif
des professeurs de cette école de langues.

Fiches techniques

Exercices

Sites web

Vidéos & Audio

Movies and Movie Talks

Articles

Petites histoires et poèmes

Chansons

Langage professionnel

Images

Jeux de rôle

Le coin des branchés

Enfants 1 (sites généraux, jeux, vidéos, vocabulaire,
grammaire et phonétique)

Enfants 2 (chansons, contes, comptines et histoires courtes)

******

 

Sommaire des fiches techniques

Adjectifs

Adjectifs possessifs

Adjectifs démonstratifs

Adverbes

Aimer

Aller

Amener, apporter, emmener, emporter...

An vs année, jour vs journée, soir vs soirée

Anglicismes

L'apostrophe

Articles définis et indéfinis

Articles partitifs: de, du, de la, etc.

Bon, bien, meilleur, mieux...

C'est vs Il est

Chez, à la, au

Comparatif

Conditionnel: would, should, could

Conditionnel passé

Connecteurs logiques

Conseiller, recommander, suggérer... NEW

Coordonnées personnelles : comment les donner (How to communicate contact details)

DELF/DALF - Méthodologie

Depuis, ça fait, il y a, pendant, durant, pour, dans, en (voir: "Temporal prepositions")

Etre en train de... Venir de... Etre sur le point de...

Les exclamations

Faire : to do / to make

Falloir / Il faut : Do I have to? Or should I?

Futur

"Il faut" (et non: "C'est nécessaire")

Il y a

Imparfait vs passé composé

Impératif

Le langage grammatical

Majuscules et minuscules

Manquer

Marcher

Le masculin et le féminin

Negative forms

N'importe, n'importe quoi, n'importe comment...

On dirait que, il semble que, il paraît que, ça a l'air...

On vs Nous

Opinion (comment exprimer son avis, son opinion, dire qu'on est d'accord ou non, etc.) (voir aussi : Penser)

Passé composé et accord du participe passé : règles générales
- accord du participe passé pour les verbes pronominaux

Passé simple

Passer

Penser, trouver, croire, imaginer, supposer : the various ways to say "I think that" (voir aussi : Opinion)

Phonétique

Planter

Le pluriel

"Plus" ("more" ou "no more" ?

Plus-que-parfait

Le langage de la politesse

Prépositions "à" vs "de"

Pronoms "en" et "y"

Pronoms indéfinis (quelqu'un, quelque part, quelque chose, quelquefois)

Pronoms indirects et toniques

Pronoms réfléchis

Mots de quantité

Les questions :
1) Que, quoi, quel, qu'est-ce que?...

2) Qui, où, pourquoi, quand?...
3) Combien ?...
4) Lequel ?...

Regarder vs Voir

Savoir vs connaître

Subjonctif

Temporal prepositions:
I. depuis, ça fait,
il y a, pendant, durant, pour
I. dans, en

Le temps (météo)

Le temps (durée) et la fréquence

Tout

Verbes en "er"

Verbes en "ir"

Verbes en "re" et "oir"

Verbes réfléchis / pronominaux (voir aussi : Passé composé et accord du participe passé)

Verbes mal utilisés: visiter, retourner, venir, sortir etc.

Verbes mal compris: penser/croire, regarder/voir, écouter/entendre, sentir/ressentir, prêter/emprunter

Le vocabulaire des cinq sens

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Negative forms

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)
Je n'aime pas les escargots.= I do not like escargots.

Ne... que (only)
Cet enfant ne fait que pleurer.= This child does nothing but cry.

Ne… jamais (never)
Je ne mange jamais de viande.= I never eat meat.

Ne... aucun (any, none)
Je n'ai aucun problème.= I don't have any problems.

Ne... rien (nothing)
Je ne comprends rien ! = I don't understand anything.
Elle ne fait rien de toute la journée.= She does nothing all day long.

Ne... personne (nobody, no one)
Je ne connais personne.= I don't know anyone.

Ne… plus (no more, no longer, anymore)
Je ne fume plus.= I don't smoke anymore.

Ne... ni… ni (neither. . . nor)
Je ne regarde la télé ni le matin ni le soir.= I watch TV neither in the morning nor in the evening.
Je ne mange ni les escargots ni les huîtres.= I eat neither snails nor oysters.

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.

Examples:
"Pas" au passé: Je n’ai pas regardé le film hier. = I didn’t watch the movie yesterday.
"Pas" au futur proche: Je ne vais pas regarder le film. = I'm not going to watch the movie.

"Que" au passé: Je n'ai bu que trois verres. = I only drank three glasses.
"Que" au futur: Je ne vais boire que du champagne. = I am only going to drink champagne.

"Jamais" au passé: Je ne suis jamais allé à Bordeaux. = I never went to Bordeaux.
"Jamais" au futur proche: Je ne vais jamais aller à Bordeaux. = I’m never going to go to Bordeaux.
"Plus" au passé: Il n’a plus neigé après décembre. = It no longer snowed after December.
"Plus" au futur proche: Il ne va plus neiger après décembre. = it’s not going to snow any longer after December.

"Rien" au passé: Je n’ai rien mangé ce matin. = I didn’t eat anything this morning.
"Rien" au futur: Je ne vais rien manger ce matin. =I’m not going to 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.
"Aucun" au futur: Je ne vais avoir aucun problème dans mon voyage.= I'm not going to have any problems during my trip.

"Personne" au passé: Je n'ai rencontré personne en route. = I met nobody on the way.
"Personne" au futur: Je ne vais voir personne au bureau. = I'm not going to meet anyone at the office.

"Ni…ni..." au passé: Je n’ai bu ni vin, ni bière. = I drank no wine, nor beer.
"Ni…ni..." au futur: Je ne vais boire ni vin, ni bière. = I’m not going to drink 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 ?
Non, je ne veux pas DE sucre !

Est-ce que vous prenez DE LA crème dans votre thé ?
Non, je ne veux pas DE crème dans mon thé !

Est-ce que vous voulez UN gâteau avec votre café ?
Non, je ne veux pas DE gâteau avec mon 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.
Example:
Je n’ai pas jamais fumé dans ma vie. = I have not never smoked in my life.
If you’ve never smoked in your life, then you should write:
Je n’ai jamais fumé dans ma vie.

But, you will see examples of a double negative:

Je ne vais plus jamais faire ça ! = I'll never do that again!

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Faire = to do / to make

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
Tu fais = You do/make
Il/elle/on fait = He/she/one does/makes
Nous faisons = We do/make
Vous faites = You do/make
Ils/elles font = They do/make

Examples:
Vous faites un gâteau d'anniversaire pour votre fille ? = You're making a birthday cake for your daughter?
Elle fait un travail difficile = She is doing a difficult job.

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?
Quelle température fait-il aujourd'hui ? = What temperature is it today?
Il fait chaud ou froid = It is hot or cold.
Il fait beau = It's nice.
Il fait frais = It's cool.
Il fait doux = It's warm.
Il fait mauvais = It's bad weather.
Il fait soleil = It's sunny.
Il fait 35 degrés  = It's 35 degrees.
Il fait du vent = It's windy.

Note that we use:
The verb pleuvoir to express "rain" = Il pleut (it's raining).
The verb neiger to express "snow" = Il neige (it's snowing).

C'est is used in the following weather contexts:

C'est nuageux = It's cloudy.
C'est orageux = It's stormy.
C'est humide = It's humid.

Il y a is also used in the following weather expressions:

Il y a du vent = There is some wind.
Il y a du brouillard = There is some fog (you can use either faire or il y a ).
Il y a une tempête = There is a storm.
Il y a une tempête de neige = There is a snowstorm.
Il y a des nuages = It is cloudy.

Note: we use the verb être when talking about time (many confuse the word temps for clock time):
Quelle heure est-il ? = What time is it?

Faire for sports:

Je fais du yoga = I do yoga.
Je fais du tennis = I play tennis.
Je fais du vélo = I bicycle.

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.
Je fais du piano = I play the piano.
Je fais de la guitare = I play the guitare.

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.

To cook:

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.

To shop:

Je fais les courses = I'm food shopping.
Je fais les magasins = I'm shopping (clothes or other type of shopping but not for food).
Je fais des achats = I'm buying things.

To pack:

Je fais les bagages = I'm packing.

To worry:

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!

 

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Falloir / Il faut: Do I have to? Or should I?

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:
Il faut + verb in the infinitive form.

Examples:

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:
Il faut que + subject + verb (in subjonctive form)

Personal using the above examples:

For giving directions : Il faut que vous alliez (subjonctif) à gauche = You must/have to go left.
For giving orders : Il faut que vous arriviez (subjonctif) au bureau tous les jours à 9 heures = You must/have to get to the office everyday at 09:00.
For making strong suggestions : Il faut que tu prennes (subjonctif) ton temps dans la vie… = You have to take your time in life…

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.

Examples:

Vous devez finir votre travail ce soir = You have to finish your work tonight (no choice).
Elle doit partir = She has to leave.

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:
Je devrais, tu devrais, il devrait, nous devrions, vous devriez, ils devraient = I should, you should, etc..

Examples:

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!
Vous devriez acheter une nouvelle bagnole, car celle-ci est vraiment moche ! = You ought to buy a new car, since this one is really ugly !

At this point it is no longer an obligation but something that should eventually be done.

 

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Que, quoi, quel, qu'est-ce que?... : What? Which?

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.

Examples:
Quel animal vois-tu ? = Which/what animal do you see?
Quel animal est-ce que tu vois ? = Which/what animal do you see?
Quel(le) will also be used directly with the verb être (to be).
Quelle est votre destination ? = What is your destination? (Note that it is still an interrogative adjective and must agree with the noun).

Quel(le) can also be used as an exclamatory adjectiveused 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:

Examples:
Quelle histoire ! = What a story!
Quel bel homme ! = What a handsome man!

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:

Examples:
Que préfères-tu ? = What do you prefer?
Qu'est-ce que tu préfères ? = What do you prefer?

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.

Examples:
Qu'est-ce qui arrive ? = What's going on, What's happening?
Qu'est-ce qui fait le plus peur aux enfants ? = What is it that frightens children the most?

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.

Examples:
A quoi pensez-vous ? = What are you thinking about ?
Dans quoi mettez-vous le pain ? = What do you put the bread  in ?
De qui parlez-vous ? = Who(m) are you talking about?

Quoi can also be used for informal questions.

Examples:
Tu fais quoi ? = You're doing what? (instead of Qu'est-ce que tu fais ?)
Tu aimes quoi ? = You like what?

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.

Examples:
Je ne comprends pas ce qu'il dit ! = I don't understand what he is saying!
Ce matin j'ai appris ce qui m'empêchait de dormir la nuit. = This morning I discovered what was preventing me from sleeping at night.

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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.

Example :
Qui connaissez-vous ? = Whom do you know?

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.

Example :
Vous connaissez qui ? = You know whom?

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.

Example :
Qui est-ce que vous connaissez ? = Whom do you know?

Any of the 3 above formats work very well, you just need to pick the one that comes to you easily.

= where

Let's look at some examples with the interrogative expression in the 3 above formats:
1. Interrogative word placed at the beginning: allez-vous ? = Where are you going?
2. Interrogative word placed at the end: Vous allez   ? = You are going where?
3. Question with est-ce que = est-ce que vous allez ?   = Where are you going?

Pourquoi = why

A few more examples with pourquoi:
1. Pourquoi partez-vous ? = Why are you leaving?
2. Vous partez pourquoi ? = You're leaving why?
3. Pourquoi est-ce que vous partez ? = Why are you leaving?

As in English, you can use pourquoi in an exclamation to express “ why not ” : Pourquoi pas  !

Quand = when

A few examples with quand:
1. Quand vas-tu chez le coiffeur ? = When are you going to the hairdresser?
2. Tu vas quand chez le coiffeur ? = You go to the hairdresser when?
3. Quand est ce que tu vas chez le coiffeur ? = When are you going to the hairdresser?

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:
Who is it? = Qui est-ce ? OR: C'est qui ?
Where is it? = Où est-ce ? OR : C 'est où ?
When is it? = Quand est-ce ? OR: C'est quand  ?

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Combien ?...

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.

Examples:
Combien de personnes viennent à la réunion ? = How many people are coming to the meeting?
Combien de lait voulez-vous dans votre café ? = How much milk do you want in your coffee?
Note how de follows combien in each example.

Combien de temps ?

When you add de temps to combien , it means that you're asking how long it takes to do something.

Example:
Vous partez pour combien de temps ? = How long are you leaving for?
Note that the choice of the time preposition is important in these kinds of questions. In the one above, pour projects the time reference into the future. If you wish to ask how long it took to do something in the past, you will need to use pendant instead of pour: Vous êtes parti pendant combien de temps ? = How long were you gone for?

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?
Note that in the last example, the verb will usually be in the present, since the action is still going on.

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.
However, it is possible to be specific in the question: C'est à combien de km d'ici ? or C'est à combien de temps d'ici ?

Example: If you want to ask "How far is the hotel?" you would say either:
L'hôtel, c'est à combien de temps d'ici ?
Or: L'hôtel, c'est à combien de km d'ici ?
Note that you can also ask these two questions without saying C'est: L'hôtel est à combien de temps d'ici ?

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.

Example:
Combien de fois par semaine allez-vous au restaurant ? = How many times per week do you go to the restaurant?

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Lequel ?...

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:
lequel (masc. sing.)
laquelle (fem. sing.)
lesquels (masc. plur.)
lesquelles (fem. pl.).

Examples :
Quel film veux-tu voir ? = which movie do you want to see?
Lequel veux-tu voir ? = Which one do you want to see?
Note that we replaced quel film by lequel.
Je voudrais la table vers la fenêtre = I would like the table by the window.
Il y en a plusieurs , laquelle préférez-vous ? = There are many of them, which one would you prefer?

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):
auquel, à laquelle,
auxquels, auxquelles
duquel, de laquelle
desquels, desquelles.

Just think of the normal contractions of à and de with the definite articles le and les.

Example with auquel:
J'envoie le contrat à mon client
= I'm sending the contract to my client.
Auquel envoies-tu le contrat ? = To which one/to whom are you sending the contract?
Note that, in this example, auquel replaces à mon client.

Example with de laquelle:
J'ai besoin de te parler d'une professeure = I need to speak to you about a female teacher.
Ah bon, de laquelle veux-tu parler ? = Oh really, which one do you want to speak about?
Note that de laquelle replaces d'une professeure.

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Savoir vs connaître

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.

1. Savoir

We use it mostly to express something that we know how to do. 
NOTE that savoir is normally, in this case, followed with another verb in the infinitive form.

Examples:
Je sais parler français. = I know how to speak French.
Savez-vous faire du ski ? = Do you know how to ski?
Elle sait faire la cuisine. = She knows how to cook.

We also use savoir to say that you know something, a fact.

Examples:
Je sais où se trouve Juliette.= I know where Juliette is.
Je ne savais pas ça.= I didn’t know that.
Nous savons ce que nous devons faire.= We know what we should do.
Qu’est-ce vous en savez ? = What do you know about it?

2. Connaître

It is mostly used when you want to say that you know someone, something, a place, etc.

Examples:
Je connais la France. I know France
Je connais la géographie. I know geography.
Connais-tu Alain ? = Do you know Alain?

Usually, when the verbs connaître or savoir are usedin a question, you can reply with the same verb.

Examples:
—Est-ce que vous savez faire des crêpes? = Do you know how to make crêpes?
    Oui, je sais ! = Yes, I know how to!
Est-ce que vous connaissez le livre "Le Petit Prince" ?= Do you know the book "Le Petit Prince"?
Oui, je le connais bien.= Yes, I know it well.
  
Something that might help you to keep these 2 verbs straight:  You will notice that most of the time savoir will be followed by another verb in the sentence (the 2nd verb is placed either right after savoir or later in the sentence):
Vous savez conduire un camion ?  = Do you know how to drive a truck?
Whereas connaître is just followed by a noun:
Tu ne connais pas Marie ? = Don't you know Marie?

More examples:
Je sais que vous ne pouvez pas venir aujourd’hui. = I know that you cannot come today. 
Je sais que votre femme ne mange pas de viande. = I know that your wife doesn’t eat meat. 
Je connais la situation. Ne vous inquiétez pas ! = I know the situation. Don’t worry!
Je connais votre idée. Venez me voir ! = I know your idea. Come and see me!

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Pronoms "en" et "y"

We hear them and we see them everywhere. How do we use them?

1) En

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.
When it is replacing only the number 1, then we will add un or une at the end of the sentence. You can even add another number if you want to communicate precisely the number of that items that you own.
In a negative context, en can be translated as "some" or "of it," or "not any."
Examples:
─Tu veux du café ? = Do you want some coffee?
Oui, j’en veux ! = Yes I want some! There isn’t a specific quantity, so we can just replace it by en.
─Tu veux des biscuits avec ton café ? = Do you want any cookies with your coffee?
Oui j’en veux un. = Yes, I want one.You just want one item, so we reinforce it by adding un.
─Vous avez une voiture ? = Do you have a car?
Oui, j’en ai deux. Yes I have 2 of them. Here you clarify the number of cars.
─Avez-vous de l’argent pour acheter un nouvel ordinateur ? = Do you have money to buy a new computer)?
Non, je n’en ai pas. = No, I don’t have any.

If there is an expression of quantity like beaucoup de (a lot of), peu de (a little of) then en will replace the noun.
Examples:
Veux-tu un peu de crème dans ton café ? = Do you want some cream in your coffee?
Oui, j'en veux bien un peu, merci ! = Yes, I would like some, thank you!
Est-ce que tu as beaucoup d'étudiants ? = Do you have many students?
Oui j'en ai beaucoup. = Yes, I have many of them.

Note: En usually cannot replace de + verb.

Examples:
J'ai décidé de prendre ce travail – J'ai décidé de le prendre = I decided to take this work – I decided to take it.
J'ai essayé de mettre la robe – Je l'ai essayée = I tried to put on the dress I tried it on.

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.
Examples:
Est-ce qu'il rêve de partir ? = Does he dream of leaving?
Oui il en rêve.= Yes, he dreams about it.
Il s'occupe du dossier fiscal ? = He takes care of the tax file?
Oui, il s'en occupe
.= Yes, he takes care of it.

Finally, you will find en in some everyday expressions – they are very useful to learn! The French use them quite frequently.

Examples:
Je m'en vais ! = I'm leaving!
J'en ai assez ! = I've had enough!
J'en ai marre ! = I'm fed up!
Je m'en fiche ! = I don't care!
Je n'en peux plus ! = I can't handle this anymore!
Ne vous en faites pas ! = Don't you worry about it! (a negative command)
Je lui en veux, ou j'en veux à… ! = I cannot forgive him, or I am upset with…!

2) Y

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.

Examples:
Est-ce que tu vas chez Annick aujourd'hui ? – Oui j'y vais ! = Are you going to Annick's place today? Yes I'm going (there).
Nous allons au marché – Vous voulez y aller ? = We're going to the market Would you like to go (there)?

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.

Examples:
Penser à = to think of/to think about. Je pense à mes vacances ! – J' y pense= I'm thinking about my Holidays I'm thinking of them.
Répondre à = to respond to. Je réponds à mes e-mails – J' y réponds = I'm replying to/answering my emails I'm replying to/answering them.
BUT:
Je réponds à Jean – Je lui réponds = I'm answering John I'm answering him (John is a person and can't be replaced by y).
Participer à = to participate in. Je participe à ce film – J' y participe. I'm participating in this movie I'm participating in it.

Note: Y usually cannot replace à + verb!

Example:
Je pense à faire ce travail – Je pense à le faire = I'm thinking about doing this job I'm thinking about doing it.

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Chez, à la, au

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)

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Adjectifs possessifs

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)


Ta = ‘your' followed by a feminine noun (ex: ta femme = your wife)

Ton = ‘your' followed by a masculine noun (ex: ton mari = your husband)

Tes = ‘your' followed by a plural noun (ex: tes amis = your friends)


Sa = ‘his/her' followed by a feminine noun (ex: sa femme = his wife; sa maison = her house)

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 )


Votre
= ‘your' followed by either a feminine or masculine singular noun = (ex: votre voiture = your car)

Vos = ‘your' followed by a plural noun = (ex: vos clés = your keys)


Leur = ‘their' followed by either a feminine or masculine noun = (ex: leur chat = their cat)

Leurs ='their' followed by a plural noun = (ex: leurs animaux = their animals)

More examples :

Ma maison = my house (maison = feminine noun)
Mon ordinateur = my computer (ordinateur = masculine noun)
Tes enfants = your children (enfants = plural noun)
Votre voiture = your car (voiture = feminin noun)
Votre livre = your book (livre = masculine noun)
Notre mère
= our mother (mère = feminine noun)
Notre père = our father (père = masculine noun)
Nos parents = our parents/relatives
Leurs vélos = their bikes (vélos = plural noun)

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Articles partitifs : de, du, de la, etc.

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:
Du pain = some bread; du jus de fruits = some fruit juice; du papier = some paper; de l'encre (masc. word) = some ink.
De la farine
= some flour; de la colle = some glue; de l'huile = some oil (fem. word).
Des œufs
= some eggs; des sirops = some sirop; des timbres = some stamps; des arbres = some trees.

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).

Examples:
Beaucoup de pain =
a lot of bread
Un sachet de poudre =
a packet of powder
Un kilo de tomates =
a kilo of tomatoes
Un litre d'eau (fem. word) =
a liter of water
etc.

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).
Examples:
J'aimerais du chocolat
= I would like some chocolate; Je ne voudrais pas de chocolat = I don't want any chocolate.
Il achète des fruits =
he is buying some fruits; il n'achète pas de fruits = he doesn't buy any fruits.
Elle veut de la soupe =
she wants some soup; elle ne veut pas de soupe = she does not want any soup.
Il prend de l'eau =
he takes some water; il ne prend pas d'eau = he doesn't take any water.
Tu as mangé des œufs ? =
did you eat some eggs? Tu n'as pas mangé d'œufs ? = you did not eat any eggs?

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Aller

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
Tu vas = you're going
Il/elle/on va = he/she/one is going or we are going (on is more informal than using nous)
Nous allons
= we're going
Vous allez = you're going
Ils/elles vont = they're going

To express how one is doing in salutations:

Vous allez bien? = How are you doing?
Ça va ?
= how are you doing? (when speaking to a friend or close acquaintance or child)
Comment vas-tu ? = How are you?
Comment-allez vous ? = How are you?

Aller is also used to talk about the near future, just as it is in English, for what one is "going to do".

Examples:
Je vais travailler ce soir = I'm going to work this evening
Nous allons au cinéma cet après-midi = We're going to the cinema this afternoon

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

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Verbes en "er"

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
Tu aimes - Tu demandes
Il/elle/on aime - Il/elle/on demande
Nous aimons - Nous demandons
Vous aimez - Vous demandez
Ils/elles aiment - Ils demandent

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.

Examples:
Je travaille sur ce projet = I' m working on this project
Je travaille chez BMW = I work for BMW
Je mange de la soupe = I'm eating soup
Je mange des plats épicés = I eat spycy foods
Je parle avec Carla = I'm speaking with Carla
Je parle trois langues = I speak 3 languages

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:

Je mange
Tu manges
Il/elle/on mange
Nous mangeons
Vous mangez
Ils/elles mangent

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Verbes réfléchis/pronominaux

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
Reflexive pronoun: me (m')
What it means: myself

Subject pronoun : tu
Reflexive pronoun: te (t')
What it means: yourself

Subject pronoun : il/elle/on
Reflexive pronoun: se (s')
What it means: himself/herself/itself/oneself

Subject pronoun : nous
Reflexive pronoun: nous
What it means: ourselves

Subject pronoun : vous
Reflexive pronoun: vous
What it means: yourself (formal)/yourselves (formal or informal)

Subject pronoun : ils/elles
Reflexive pronoun: se (s')
What it means: themselves.

Now, where to place the reflexive pronoun in a sentence ?

Here is the sentence formation pattern:
Subject pronoun + reflexive pronoun + reflexive verb

One way to use the reflexive pronouns is when someone is speaking about an action they're doing to themselves, just like in English.

Examples:
Je ME motive pour finir mes devoirs. = I'm motivating myself to finish my homework (see how the reflective pronoun ME is placed before the verb motiver).
Tu TE regardes dans le miroir ? = You're looking at yourself in the mirror?
Nous NOUS faisons des biscuits. = We're making some cookies for ourselves.
Ils SE regardent un film. = They're watching a movie by themselves.

However, we use these reflexive pronouns a lot more than we do in English. Many verbs in the French language need them. These verbs are called reflexive verbs.

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
Se lever = to get up
Se laver = to wash
Se raser = to shave
Se doucher = to take a shower
Se sécher = to dry up
S'habiller = to get dressed
Se brosser les dents = to brush one's teeth
Se maquiller = to put on make up
Se préparer = to get ready
Se coucher = to go to bed.

Important NOTE: If you're doing these actions to someone else, then don't add the reflexive pronoun.

Example:
Je réveille mon enfant tous les matins à 8h. = I wake up my child every morning at 8am.
Notice how the action réveiller (to wake up) is done to the child, not to oneself.

Here is an example of someone relating their typical morning, before going to work:
Le matin, je me réveille à 7h, puis je me lève immédiatement. Et voici ma routine : je me douche, me rase, m'habille, je prends mon petit déjeuner et je me lave les dents. Je me prépare en 45 minutes. Je réveille ma femme avant de partir .
In the morning, I wake up at 7, then I get up immediately. And here is my routine: I take a shower, shave, get dressed, have breakfast and I brush my teeth. I get ready in 45 minutes. I wake my wife up before leaving.

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
Se parler = to speak to one another
Se regarder = to look at each other (you could also use it for one person if he or she is looking at themselves in the mirror)
Se disputer = to argue with each other
Se soutenir = to support one another
Se respecter = to respect one another
S'appeler = to call each other.

Here is an example of a man talking about his relationship with his wife:
Ma femme et moi, on s'aime vraiment ; on s'écrit avec nos smartphones au moins 10 fois par jour. Dès qu'on est ensemble le soir, nous nous parlons sans cesse. On ne se dispute presque jamais et surtout on se soutient constamment. C'est mon âme sœur.
My wife and I, we truly love each other; we write to each other on our smart phones at least 10 times per day. As soon as we're together in the evening, we speak nonstop to each other. We rarely argue with each other and most importantly we constantly support one another. She's my soul mate.

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)
S'évanouir = to pass out/to faint
s'en aller = to leave, take off
S'ennuyer = to be bored
Se souvenir de = to remember
S'inspirer de = to get inspired
S'habituer = to get used to
Se dépêcher = to hurry
S'entendre = to get along
Se marier = to get married
Se passer = to happen
Se reposer
= to rest
Se sentir = to feel
Se tromper = to make a mistake
S'endormir = to fall asleep
Se fâcher = to get angry
Se trouver = to be (situated)
Se taire = to be silent
Se promener = to take a walk.
S'amuser = to have fun.

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:

Imperative form:

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:
te becomes toi ;
vous and nous stay the same.

Examples:
Lave-toi les dents ! = Brush your teeth!
Préparez-vous  ! = Get ready! (talking to one person or a group of people)
Levons-nous ! = Let's get up!
Asseyez-vous ! = Sit down!
Couche-toi tout de suite ! = Go to bed right away!

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.

The pattern is quite straight forward:
Subject + pronoun + auxiliary verb + past participle.

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):
Hier, je me suis réveillée à 5h du matin. Mon mari et moi-même, nous nous sommes levés à 6h 30. Je me suis douchée et habillée, puis nous nous sommes promenés au centre ville pendant 1h. = Yesterday, I woke up at 5am. My husband and I, we got up at 6:30am. I took a shower and got dressed, then we went for a stroll downtown for 1 hour.

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.

Examples:
Valentine, tu ne t'es pas réveillée avant 10h ? = Valentine, you didn't wake up before 10am?
Raoul et Christophe ne se sont pas lavés avant d'aller se coucher. = Raoul and Christophe didn't wash up before going to bed.

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:
Nous nous sommes lavé les cheveux = We washed our hair.
Elle s'est lavé les dents. = She brushed her teeth.
Ma femme s'est cassé la jambe l'hiver dernier. = My wife broke her leg last winter.

However, if you don't add the part of the body, then you'll need to add the agreement:
Ce matin, nous nous sommes lavés. = This morning, we washed up.

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.

Example:
Aline et moi, nous nous sommes parlé. = Aline and I, we talked to each other.

Futur proche with aller

As you might already know, there are 2 future tenses in French: the futur proche with the verb aller (to go) and the futur simple. The future simple is very straight forward as you just need to conjugate the main verb in the future and the reflexive pronoun is placed before the verb. As for the futur proche, the reflexive pronoun is placed in between the verb aller and the infinitive of the main verb.

Here is the sentence pattern for the futur proche :
Subject + aller (conjugated in the present tense) + pronoun + verb in the infinitive form.

Examples:
Je vais aller me coucher. = I'm going to bed soon.
Tu vas te changer. = You're going to go change.
Nous allons nous préparer. = We're going to get ready.

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:
Je ne vais pas aller me brosser les cheveux encore une fois ! = I'm not going to brush my hair one more time!

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Comparatif

(more…. than// less…than// as…..as)

En français: ….plus+adjective+que…..
….moins+adjectif+que…..
….aussi+adjectif+que…..

Examples:
La voiture est plus rapide que le vélo (+)
Le vélo est moins rapide que la voiture (-)
L'autobus est aussi rapide que la voiture (=)

Adjectifs irréguliers :

bon ---> meilleur (= good-better)
mauvais à plus mauvais
ou pire (= bad-worse)

Examples:
Le poulet est meilleur que la dinde = chicken is better than turkey.
Le poulet est aussi bon que la dinde =
chicken is as good as turkey.
Pour moi, le lundi est pire que/ plus mauvais que le vendredi =
for me, Monday is worse than Friday.

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Temporal prepositions

I. Depuis, ça fait, il y a, pendant, durant, pour

As you learn French, you will discover the important "temporal prepositions": depuis / ça fait, il y a, pendant / durant, and pour, and you will notice that they are used quite differently in French than in English. Using the wrong preposition can change the time period of your message, and thus may create real confusion.

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.

Examples:
Je travaille chez Apple depuis 3 ans. = I've been working at Apple for 3 years.
J'attends depuis 2 heures. = I've been waiting for 2 hours.
Note that the verbs in both sentences are simply conjugated in the present tense. It's an easier sentence structure in French than in English.

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:
How long have you been studying French?
It is translated as follows:
Depuis combien de temps apprenez-vous le français ?

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:
Elle était prête depuis 3 heures quand je suis allée la chercher. = She had been ready for 3 hours when I went to fetch/pick her up.

There is another option than depuis : ça fait.  
You will hear the French say ça fait quite a bit, it is very common in everyday conversations.
Ça fait is placed at the beginning of a sentence and indicates how long an action has been going on. The main verb is also conjugated in the present tense.

Example:
Ça fait 15 minutes que j'attends le bus. = It's been 15 minutes that I've been waiting for the bus.

You can also use it in a question when you want to know how long an action has been going on.
Ça fait combien de temps que tu attends ? = How long have you been waiting?

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:
Il y a 5 ans ... = 5 years ago...

Note that in French, il y a always comes in front of the time expression.

Examples:
J'ai déménagé en France il y a 4 ans. = I moved to France 4 years ago.
Je suis arrivée ici il y a 2 heures. = I arrived here 2 hours ago.

3) PENDANT and DURANT

Pendant and durant both express 3 different time situations:
1. Any action you do regularly in life.
2. Any completed action in the past.
3. You might also hear it, at times, in the future.
Therefore, you'll hear/see them in numerous situations in different time periods, which are indicated by the tense of the verb. Pendant and durant are interchangeable.

Examples:
Je fais du jogging tous les matins pendant / durant 30 minutes. = I jog every morning for 30 minutes.
J'ai travaillé sur ce projet pendant / durant 10 jours. = I worked on this project for 10 days.
Nous irons en vacances pendant / durant 2 semaines. = We will go on vacation for 2 weeks
Note that the first sentence about jogging is an action that is done regularly. The second one about the project is a finished situation. The third one about a vacation is going to happen in the future. Pendant and durant are versatile prepositions of time.

4) POUR

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:
- Pour combien de temps partez-vous en Allemagne ?
Or: Vous partez en Allemagne pour combien de temps ? = For how long are you going to Germany?
- Je pars en Allemagne pour quelques jours. = I am going to Germany for a few days.
Note: The French might also use pendant in this case; either one is acceptable: Je pars en Allemagne pendant quelques jours.

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:
Dans combien de temps est ton rendez-vous ? = When is your appointment?
Il est dans 5 minutes. = It's in 5 minutes.
Le film commence dans un quart d'heure. = The film will begin in 15 minutes.

2) EN = indicates the amount of time it took (or takes) to complete an action.

Example with en + combien de temps:
En combien de temps arrives-tu à l'école ? = How long does it take to get to school?
Or: Tu arrives à l'école en combien de temps ?
J'y arrive en 12 minutes = I get there in 12 minutes.

Other examples:

Elle a lu ce gros livre en deux jours ! = She read this huge book in two days!
Je fais mes devoirs en 1 heure = I do my homework in 1 hour.

 

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Pronoms indirects et toniques

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).

Examples:
Est-ce que tu regardes la télé ? = Do you watch TV? Oui, je la regarde = Yes, I watch it.
Est-ce que tu aimes le professeur ? = Do you like the teacher? Oui je l' aime bien = Yes, I like him.
Est-ce que tu m'amènes chez Rose ? = Are you taking me to Rose's? Non, je t'amène chez Karine ! = No, I'm taking you to Karine's!

The French direct object pronouns are as follows:

Me/m' = me
Te/t' = you
Le/l' = him, it (masc)
La/l' = her, it (fem)
Nous = us
Vous = you
Les = them

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
Te/t' = you
Lui = him, her
Nous = us
Vous = you
Leur = them

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.

Examples:
Est-ce que tu parles à ta voisine ? = Do you speak to your (female) neighbour? Oui, je lui parle ! = Yes, I speak to her!
Est-ce que vous écrivez un email aux étudiants? = Are you writing an email to the students? Oui je leur écris des directives = Yes I'm writing some directions to them.

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:
-after prepositions such as: sans (without), pour (for), dans (inside), après (after), chez (at someone's place), avec (with), devant (in front), etc…
-when you have a double subject: Paul et moi allons au cinéma ce soir = Paul and I are going to the cinema this evening.
-after the preposition à in many expressions, être à indicating possession, faire attention à, penser à: Ce stylo est à moi = This pen is mine. C'est très gentil de penser à nous = That's very nice to think about us.
-
alone in answer to a question or for emphasis: Qui est là ? Moi ! = Who's there? Me! Lui, il est vraiment con ! = He is really stupid!
-
together with -même (moi-même = myself, lui-même = himself)
-after c'est and ce sont : Ce sont eux qui sont venus ici = They are the ones who came here.
-with the negative adverb ne… que and conjunction ne… ni… ni  : Je ne prends qu'elle dans mon équipe ! = I'm only taking her in my team! Je ne prends ni elle ni lui ! = I don't take either her or him!

The tonic pronouns are as follows:

Moi = me
Toi = you
Lui = him
Elle = her
Soi = one
Nous = us
Vous = you
Eux = them (masc)
Elles = them (fem.)

Note that with the tonic pronouns, you must distinguish between masculine and feminine in the third person singular and plural.

Examples:
Tu viens chez moi ? = You're coming to my place?
Non, je vais chez elle ! = No, I'm going to her place!
J'achète ce livre pour toi ! = I'm buying this book for you!
Attention ! Devant toi, il y a une voiture ! = Careful! In front of you there is a car!
Je suis vraiment bête, moi ! = I'm really stupid!
Cette voiture est à vous, monsieur ?= Is this your car, sir?

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Verbes mal utilisés: visiter, retourner, venir, sortir, etc.

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:

1. Visiter

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.
Example: Demain, je vais visiter Notre-Dame. = Tomorrow, I’m going  to visit Notre-Dame.

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.

Examples:
Après le travail, je vais rendre visite à Caroline.
Après le travail, je vais aller voir Caroline.
Après le travail, je passe voir Caroline.

NOTES:
Rendre visite is conjugated with the auxiliary avoir: Hier, j’ai rendu visite à Caroline. = yesterday, I visited Caroline).
Aller voir and passer voir are conjugated with the auxiliary être in the passé composé: Hier, je suis allé(e)/passé(e) voir Caroline. = Yesterday, I went to see Caroline).


2. Retourner

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.
  
Example:  You’re in England and you’re saying to a friend: Je retournerai en France dans 2 mois. = I’ll go back to France in 2 months.

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.

3. Rentrer

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.

4.  Sortir

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.

Examples
Je sors ce samedi soir ! = I’m going out this Saturday evening!
Je sors un moment dans le jardin ! = I’m going out for a while in the garden.

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).

Example: Je sors la poubelle/le chien. = I’m taking the trash/dog out.

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.

5. Venir/arriver

When telling someone that you’re coming soon, you can use venir but you can also use arriver.

Example: Je viens/j’arrive demain != I’m coming tomorrow!

 NOTE: Venir and arriver are conjugated with the auxiliairy être: Je suis venu(e)/arrive(e) hier. = I came yesterday.

6. Revenir

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.

Example: Ce restaurant était délicieux, je reviendrai samedi prochain avec des amis. = This restaurant was delicious, I’ll be back next Saturday.

NOTE: Revenir is conjugated with the auxiliary être: Je suis revenue(e) hier. = I came back yesterday.
  

7.  Partir

Partir is to leave a place and to depart; we use it a lot in travelling situations.  

Examples
Je pars pour l’Angleterre demain. = I’m leaving for England tomorrow.
Le train part à 16h. = The train is leaving at 4:00 pm.

NOTE: Partir is conjugated with the verb être in the passé composé: Je suis parti(e) hier pour l’Angleterre. = I left yesterday for England. Le train est parti à 16h. = The train left at 4:00 pm.


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Imparfait vs passé composé

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:
J'ai regardé la télé. = I watched some TV.
Tu as regardé le nouveau film. = You watched the new movie.
Il / elle a regardé le DVD. = He/ she watched the DVD.
Nous avons regardé le programme. = We watched the programme.
Vous avez regardé les informations. = You watched the news.
Ils ont regardé le spectacle. = They watched the show.

A few examples with a verb that is conjugated with être: Aller:
Je suis allé à l'école. = I went to school.
Tu es allé au marché. = You went to the market.
Il est allé à l'hôpital. = He went to the hospital.
Elle est allée au magasin. = She went to the shop.
Nous sommes allés au restaurant. = We went to the restaurant.
Vous êtes allées chez les voisins. = You went to the neighbours.
Ils / elles sont allés à Marseille. = They went to Marseille.

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.

Examples:
Hier, je suis allée aux Galeries Lafayette et j'ai acheté une nouvelle robe ! = Yesterday I went to the Galeries Lafayette and I bought a new dress.
Pendant le dernier cours de maths, je me suis particulièrement ennuyé(e) (reflexive verb: s'ennuyer). = During the last Math class, I got particularly bored.
Avant-hier, j'ai travaillé pour mon père. = The day before yesterday, I worked for my father.
Note that the above examples express punctual and completely finished actions.

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.

Example:
Hier soir, ma mère était très belle, elle était décontractée et elle souriait sans cesse ; elle était visiblement amoureuse . = Last night, my mother was very beautiful, she was relaxed and she continuously smiled, she was obviously in love.

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.

Example:
Quand j'étais jeune, j'allais tous les dimanches voir ma grand-mère. = When I was young, I used to go (I would go) every Sunday to see my grandmother.

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…)

Example:
Hier soir je pensais à nos vacances pendant que je regardais une émission sur les voyages. = Last night I was thinking about our vacation while I was watching a programme on travel.

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):
Je parlais, tu parlais, il / elle/on parlait, nous parlions, vous parliez, ils parlaient.

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.).
While with faire (nous faisons), the stem is fais (je faisais, tu faisais, vous faisiez, 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:

Être:
J'étais à Paris. = I was in Paris.
Tu étais chez moi. = You were at my place.
Il / elle était triste. = He/she was sad.
Vous étiez fatigués. = You were tired.
Nous étions heureux. = We were happy.
Vous étiez en France. = you were in France.

Vouloir:
Je voulais du chocolat. = I wanted some chocolate.
Tu voulais partir en Turquie. = You wanted to leave for Turkey.
Il / elle voulait du thé. = He/she wanted some tea.
Nous voulions travailler en France. = We wanted to work in France.
Ils / elles voulaient de l'argent. = They wanted money.

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Bon, bien, meilleur, mieux...

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

BON is technically an adjective, which means that it modifies a noun. Bon or bonne (féminin) can be translated as "good" but it can also mean "suitable," "efficient," "correct," "useful," etc.

How is bon used:
Since bon is an adjective, you’ll find it placed in front of a noun (bon with a masculine word, bonne with a feminine word).

Examples:
Un bon docteur. = A good doctor.
Une bonne étudiante. = A good student (female).
Une bonne soirée. = A good evening.
Un bon vin. = A good wine.
J’ai une bonne voiture. = I have a good car.

BUT we also use it in other ways, especially with the verb être:
—When we speak about tasting something, the French will mostly use bon:
Ce gratin est bon. = This gratin is good.
Cette bière est bonne. = This beer is good.
—Many times, a waiter in France will come to the table and say: Ça va ? C’est bon ? = Everything's OK? Is it good/tasty?
—You’ll also hear bon when something is correct/right/valid:
Ce passeport n'est pas bon
.= This passport is not good/valid.
Cette réparation est bonne.= This repair job is good.
—The French will also sometimes say C’est bon ? when asking if something is finished.
NOTE also that the French say very frequently Ah bon ? when they mean "Oh, really?"

The comparative of bon is MEILLEUR, meaning "better."
 
Examples:
Ce vin est un meilleur vin. = This wine is a better wine.
C’est une meilleure voiture. = This is a better car.
As-tu un meilleur oreiller ? = Do you have a better pillow?

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."

Examples:
C’est la meilleure étudiante de la classe. = She’s the best student of the class.
Le meilleur film de l’année est "Patients". = The best movie of the year is "Patients."
Ce vin est le meilleur. = This wine is the 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:
Ce vin rouge est pire que ce vin blanc.

LE/LA PIRE expresses "the worst":
C’est la pire étudiante de la classe. = She’s the worst student of the class.

2. BIEN, MIEUX and PLUS MAL

BIEN is normally an adverb, meaning that it modifies a verb, an adjective or another adverb. It means "well" or can be used to emphasize something, in many different contexts.
You’ve heard many times: Je vais bien a typical reply to Comment allez-vous ? As you can see, bien, in this case, modifies the verb aller.

Other examples:
J'ai bien mangé.= I ate well.
Nous avons bien travaillé aujourd’hui.= We worked well today.
Je me sens bien.= I feel well.
Ferme bien la porte.= Close the door well.

As mentioned above, bien can also modify an adjective.
Examples:
Il est bien gentil. = He’s quite nice.
C'est bien bête. = It's really stupid.

Or it can modify an adverb.
Example:
C'est bien mieux.= That's much better.

NOTES
:
—When you want to say that you like someone with the verb aimer (to love), you simply add bien, which reduces the meaning from "to love" to "to like":
J'aime bien Patrick.= I like Patrick (as a friend).
J'aime Patrick. = I love Patrick.
—You will notice that bien can be used as an adjective with state-of-being verbs like être, as in:
Je suis bien ici ! = I'm great here (I feel great here)!
Il est bien comme professeur.= He is good as a teacher.
Elle est très bien, celle-là ! = She is really great!

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.)

Examples:
Les repas sont bons dans ce restaurant.  = The meals are good in this restaurant.
BUT: La décoration de ce restaurant est bien. = This restaurant's decoration is good.
Le dossier est bon. = The file is good (correct).
BUT: Le projet est bien. = The project is good (meaning it’s a good/positive one).

The comparative of BIEN is MIEUX, meaning "better."
 
Examples:
Tu parles mieux français qu’avant. = You speak better French than before.
Vous dansez mieux que François. = You dance better than François.
Ton vélo marche mieux que le mien. = Your bike is better than mine.

The superlative of bien is LE/LA MIEUX, meaning "the best."

Examples:
C’est toi qui parles français le mieux.= It’s you who speak French the best.
C’est François qui danse le mieux.= It’s François who dances the best.
Cette secrétaire est la mieux de toutes.= This secretary is the best of all.

The opposite of mieux is PLUS MAL.

Examples:
Tu parles plus mal français qu’avant.= You speak French worse than before
Vous dansez plus mal que François.= You dance worse than François.

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N'importe, n'importe quoi, n'importe comment...

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
Example: Tu veux passer me prendre ou je viens te chercher ? N'importe – c'est comme tu veux ! = Do you want to come by and pick me up or should I come and get you? It doesn't matter – as you wish!

N'importe quoi ! = nonsense/rubbish!
Examples:
Tu regardes n'importe quoi à la télé ! = You're watching rubbish on TV!
Elle a dit n'importe quoi ! = She said all kinds of stupid things.

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
Example: Tu fais ce travail n'importe comment ! = You're doing this job badly!

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!...

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Le temps (durée) et la fréquence (Time and frequency)

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.

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Le subjonctif

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.
On trouve qu'il fait plus froid ici. Nous espérons que tout ira bien ( espérer normally triggers the use of the future).

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.
Il ne croit pas qu'elle puisse finir à temps.

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.
BUT : Il est peu probable que Paul vienne 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.
This really defies logic in a sense, because one would think that il me semble que would be much more an expression of a personal opinion, but this is one of those fascinating exceptions in the French language:

Il semble qu'il tienne beaucoup à choisir le plus beau cadeau pour sa femme.
BUT: Il me semble que j'ai oublié mon portefeuille à l'hôtel.

In the rather lengthy list of conjunctions that require the subjunctive, there are some interesting exceptions.
Among the most commonly used conjunctions that require the subjunctive are avant que, jusqu'à ce que and pour que.

Nous le ferons avant que tu partes.
Je t'attendrai jusqu'à ce que tu sois libre.
Pour que vous le sachiez , j'ai donné les clés à Marie-Claire.

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.
This is often the case when you use the superlative, since it really isn't sure that whomever or whatever you mention is actually the best or biggest or the most important:

Je cherche un mécanicien qui sache réparer ma vieille Simca ( You don't really know if it is possible to find one).
Elle a la plus jolie voix que le monde ait jamais entendue.

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)
Soyez sages, les enfants ! = Be good, children! vs. Je suis désolé que vous ne soyez pas à l'heure. = I'm sorry that you aren't on time.

Now, just keep repeating to yourself, “I love the subjunctive, I love the subjunctive, I love the subjunctive”…

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Aimer : How do you say properly Je t'aime in French?

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.

Examples:
Je vous aime OR Je t'aime ! = I love you!
J'aime Robert ! = I love Robert!
To say that you've fallen madly in love:
J'aime Robert à la folie. = I'm madly in love with Robert.

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.

Examples:
J'aime bien Robert. = I like Robert.
J'aime beaucoup Robert. = I like Robert a lot.
Je t'aime bien. = I like you. 

I like chocolate

When you wish to say that you like or love something, aimer will be appropriate to use again.

Examples:
J'aime le chocolat. = I like chocolate.
Tu aimes la vie. = You love life.
Nous aimons cette ville. = We like this city.

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.

Examples:
Aimes-tu le chocolat ? Oui, j'aime ça ! = Do you like chocolate? Yes I like it.
Est-ce que tu aimes lire ? Oui, j'aime ça. = Do you like to read? Yes I like it.
Les cigarettes, je n'aime pas ça. = I don't like cigarettes.

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:
J'aimerais un verre d'eau avec mon café svp (s'il vous plaît! = I would like a glass of water with my coffee please!
J'aimerais un kilo de carottes bio svp. = I'd like one kilo of organic carrots please.

Another popular alternative for “ to like ” = ( se ) plaire.

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:
Tu me plais. = I like you.
Ça me plaît. = I like it.
Il me plaît. = I like him.
Elle me plaît. = I like her.
Etc...

Examples:
Robert me plaît = Literally it means “Robert pleases me” but really what you're saying is “I fancy/like Robert” (it could be expressed either in a romantic or a friendly way).
La maison me plaît. = I like the house.
Le film me plaît. = I like the movie.
Nous nous plaisons ici. = We like it here.
Paris te plaît ? = Do you like Paris?
Mes parents se plaisent bien dans cette ville. = My parents like it in this city.

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!

Examples:
J'adore ce peintre. = I truly love this painter.
J'adore la soupe. = I truly love the soup.
J'adore la mer. = I truly love the sea.
Mon mari adore prendre l'apéro dans ce bar. = My husband loves having an aperitif in this bar.
J'ai adoré ce film. = I truly loved this film.
J'adore les romans d'amour. = I truly love romance novels.
J'adore Robert, il est drôle ! = I really like Robert, he's funny!
BUT
J'aime Robert. = I love Robert (stronger than adorer).

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.

Examples:
- J'aime bien le fromage, mais je préfère le chocolat. = I like cheese, but I like chocolate better.
- Elle préfère son oncle à sa tante. = She likes her uncle better than her aunt.
- Mes fils préfèrent jouer au foot qu'au basket . = My sons like playing soccer better than basketball.
- J'aime bien le vin mais ce que je préfère c'est le Champagne. = I like wine but what I like best is Champagne.

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.

Je te kiffe. = I love you.
Je te kiffe mortel, Je te kiffe grave. = I am wild/crazy about you.
Tu kiffes tellement les frites ? = You like French fries so much?

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.
On peut voir que tu la loves, cette fille ! = We can see that you love this girl!

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Futur

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

Examples :
Je vais manger une soupe à midi = I'm going to eat a soup for lunch.
Tu vas manger… Il/elle va manger… nous allons manger… vous allez manger…ils/elles vont manger… = you're going to eat…he/she is going to eat… we're going to eat… you're going to eat… they're going to eat…

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.

Examples :
Nous allons déménager en France l'année prochaine = We're going to move to France next year

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:
Être = je serai, tu seras, il/elle sera, nous serons, vous serez, ils/elles seront
Avoir = j'aurai, tu auras, il/elle aura, nous aurons, vous aurez, ils/elles auront
Aller = j'irai, tu iras, il/elle ira, nous irons, vous irez, ils/elles iront
Faire = je ferai, tu feras, il/elle fera, nous ferons, vous ferez, il/elles feront

The futur simple is used to indicate upcoming events, but they are usually not yet planned in a timetable.

Examples:
Un jour, j'irai vivre en France = One day, I will live in France
La semaine prochaine, j'irai à la gym = next week, I will go to the gym (even though it is next week, we don't' exactly know when… If we did know, then the futur proche would be most likely used in this instance…)


Le futur simple is also used in si clauses
(if clauses) i.e. if something is true, then something will take place. The French will not use the futur proche option in this type of construction.

Examples:
Si j'ai le temps, je viendrai te voir = If I have time, I will come to see you.
Je finirai ma peinture aujourd'hui, si je peux = I will finish my painting today, if I can.

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.

Examples:
Quand tu finiras tes devoirs, tu pourras regarder la télé = when you finish your homework, you will be able to watch TV.
Dès que tu commenceras ton nouveau travail, je resterai à la maison 2 jours par semaine = once you start your new job, I will stay at home 2 days per week

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.

Examples:
Je suis prête dans quelques minutes ! = I'll be ready in a few minutes!
J'arrive demain ! = I'll arrive tomorrow
Je rentre ce soir = I'll come home tonight.
Je pars dans 2 heures = I'm leaving in 2 hours
Je t'appelle demain matin = I'll call you tomorrow morning.

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Amener

1) Amener :

-Conduire vers un endroit ou vers une personne une personne, un animal :
Je vous amènerai mon fils samedi prochain = I'll bring you my son next Saturday.
Amène ton ami à la maison = Bring your friend to the house
Qu'est-ce qui vous amène ici ? = What brings you here?

-Apporter (fam. emploi critiqué) :
Amène les ustensiles ! = Bring (get) the utensils

-S'amener (fam) = venir :
Elle s'amène tous les vendredis avec ses marmots = She turns up every Friday with her kids

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 mouvoir :
Allez me chercher cette pomme et apportez-la-moi = Go and get me this apple and bring it to me
Va chercher le bébé et apporte-le-moi = Go and get the baby and bring it to me

-Porter quelque chose avec soi en venant :
Le professeur a apporté son ordinateur à l'université = The teacher brought his computer to the university

3) Emmener :

-mener avec soi une personne, un animal du lieu où l'on est vers un autre lieu :
Il emmène ses enfants à l'école tous les matins = He takes his children to school every morning
Je l'ai emmenée au restaurant = I took her to a restaurant
Voulez-vous que je vous emmène ? = Would you like a ride?

- emporter (fam. emploi critiqué) :
Emmène le portable dans le salon = Take the laptop into the living room

4) Emporter :

-prendre avec soi et porter ailleurs un objet inanimé ou un objet animé qui ne peut se mouvoir :
Il a emporté des oranges à la plage = He took oranges to the beach with him
Elle emporte le bébé dans ses bras = She carries the baby in her arms
Vous pouvez emporter ces feuilles = You can take all these sheets with you
J'ai emporté des vêtements chauds = I took warm clothes with me
Tu vas emporter ce vieux manteau ? = Are you going to take that old coat with you?

-s'emporter : se mettre en colère :
Il faut lui pardonner : elle s'est emportée = She must be forgiven : she lost her temper

5) Ramener :

-amener de nouveau vers quelqu'un une personne, un animal :
Il a ramené son ami chez nous = He brought his friend back to our place

-amener avec soi au lieu qu'on a quitté :
Elle a ramené un oiseau à la maison = She brought a bird back home

-faire revenir quelqu'un au lieu d'où il est parti :
Elle a ramené son fils à la maison = She took her son back home
N'oublie pas de ramener les enfants = Don't forget to bring the children back
Il m'a ramené à la maison = He drove me back home

-Rapporter (fam. emploi critiqué) :
Si tu vas à l'épicerie, ramène-moi un journal = If you go to the grocer's, bring me back a newspaper

-Se ramener à : se résumer à  :
Sa philosophie de la vie se ramène à trois mots : manger, boire, dormir = His philosophy comes down to three words : eat, drink, sleep

6) Rapporter :

-Apporter de son lieu d'origine un objet inanimé ou un objet animé qui ne peut se mouvoir :
Nous avons rapporté une bouteille de vin de l'épicerie = We brought back a bottle of wine from the grocer's
N'oublie pas de me rapporter mon parapluie = Don't forget to bring me back my umbrella
Il m'a rapporté le bébé = He brought the baby back to me

-Apporter une chose au lieu où elle était :
J'aimerais que tu me rapportes mon dictionnaire = I would like you to bring me back my dictionary
Rapporte la balle, Prunelle ! [Prunelle est un chien] = Bring back the ball, Prunelle!

-Produire, donner un bon revenu :
Ces obligations rapportent beaucoup = These bonds give a good return

-Faire le récit de ce qu'on a vu et entendu :
Gérard m'a rapporté l'incident = Gérard told me about the incident

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L'impératif: More Friendly Than You Think

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:
Asseyez-vous, s'il vous plaît ! = Have a seat, please!
Entrez, je vous en prie ! = Come inside, please!
Prenez un verre ! = Have a drink!

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:
Donnez-moi votre manteau, mettez-vous à l'aise ! = Give me your coat, make yourself comfortable!
Servez-vous ! = Help yourself!
Faites comme chez vous. = Make yourself at home.
Utilisez notre téléphone ! = Use our telephone!
Ne partez pas si vite, restez encore un peu ! = Don't leave so quickly, stay a little longer!

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!

Note
that at times you will hear Je vous en prie used with the imperative. The translation in this case is “please”, rather than “you're welcome”.

Example:
Imagine that a man opens the door for a woman and says Passez, Madame, je vous en prie ! = Please go ahead, Madam! - very gentlemanly, indeed, but very French also!!

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:
Sois heureux = Be happy (tu form); Soyez heureux = Be happy (vous form); Soyons heureux = Let's be happy (nous form).

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”):
Parle clairement, stp = Speak clearly, please (tu form).
Partons tout de suite = Let's leave right away (nous form).
Achetez du pain, s'il vous plaît = Buy some bread, please (vous form).
Va à l'école ! = Go to school! ( tu form - notice that the “s” of vas has been dropped).*
Mange ton petit déjeuner ! = Eat your breakfast! (tu form)
Ne pars pas ! = Don't leave! (tu form - here the infinitive partir doesn't end in er).

If there are object pronouns involved, those pronouns come after the verb and are joined with a hyphen:
moi, lui, leur, nous, vous, le, la, les.

Examples:
Téléphonez-moi à midi = call me at noon (vous form).
Donne-le à ton père = Give it to your father (tu form).
Regardons-les après le repas = Let's look at them after the meal (nous form).
Appelle-moi plus tard = Call me later (tu form) .
Ecris-nous quand tu seras en Angleterre ! = Write to us when you are in England! (tu form) .

However, if the command is negative, the pronouns go back in front of the verb:
Ne me regarde pas comme ça = Don't look at me like that.
Ne lui téléphonez pas avant 18h = Don't call him/her before 6 pm.
N'en parlons plus ! = Let's not talk about it any longer!

If you are using a reflexive verb, then you need to add the reflexive pronoun after the verb, again with the hyphen.

Examples:

s'asseoir = to sit down:
Assieds-toi ! = Have a seat! (tu form)
Asseyez-vous ! = Have a seat! (vous form)

se lever = to get up:
Ne vous levez pas ! = Don't get up (vous form).

____
* Note that the “ s ” will be re-inserted if the word following Va begins with a vowel. Ex .: Vas-y !

 

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Le conditionnel: would, should, could

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”:

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.

Examples:
Je devrais faire mon travail = I should/ought to do my work.
Tu devrais appeler ta mère aujourd'hui, c'est la fête des mères = You should/ ought to call your mother, it's Mother's Day.
Je devrais faire le ménage aujourd'hui mais je n'ai pas envie = I should/ought to do the house work but I don't feel like it.

Could

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:
Est-ce que je pourrais vous poser une question ? = Could I ask you a question?
Est-ce que je pourrais avoir un verre d'eau avec mon café ? = Could I have a glass of water with my coffee?
Est-ce que vous pourriez me donner un peu de papier cadeau ? = Could you give me some gift wrapping paper?

Using it in a suggestion context – examples:
Il n'y a plus de place dans le train mais vous pourriez prendre le bus ! Il part dans 10 minutes. = there is no more space in the train but you could take the bus! It's leaving in 10 minutes.
Vous ne savez pas lequel acheter ? Vous pourriez acheter ce téléphone portable et s'il ne vous convient pas, vous avez 10 jours pour l'échanger  = You don't know which one to buy? You could buy this cell phone and if it doesn't suit you, you have 10 days to exchange it.

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 .

Examples:
Je ne pouvais pas travailler hier, j'étais trop fatigué = I could not/ I was not able to work yesterday, I was too tired.
Pourriez-vous me dire si je dois venir au travail demain ? = Could you tell me if I must come to work tomorrow?

Would

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)…

Examples:
Je voudrais 500 grammes de crevettes = I would like 500 grams of shrimps.
J'aimerais un peu de crème chantilly sur les fraises = I would like some whipped cream on the strawberries.
Préféreriez-vous une voiture automatique ou avec boite à vitesse ? = Would you prefer an automatic or stick shift car?
Est-ce que ça vous dérangerait de changer de place ? = Would you mind changing seats?

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.

Examples :
Si j'étais vous, j'irais vivre en France ! = If I were you, I would live in France! (notice that si triggers the imparfait : “si j'étais” and the second verb “j'irais” is conjugated in the conditionnel).
Achèterais-tu une voiture si tu avais assez d'argent ? = Would you buy a car if you had enough money? Notice here that it is possible to reverse the order of the two clauses…
Si je pouvais avoir plus de temps, je ferais de la peinture = If I could have more time, I would do some painting.
La vie serait plus agréable s'il y avait moins d'exigences dans la société = Life would be more enjoyable if there were fewer demands in society.

 

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On vs Nous

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:
On va chez Marie-Claude = we're going to Marie-Claude's home (the conjugation of on is the same as for il or elle – if we were to say “he is going to Marie-Claude's home”, we would conjugate the verb exactly the same way: il va chez Marie-Claude).
On pense que la cuisine ici est superbe ! = We think that the food here is wonderful!
Avec Claire, on fait du ski en janvier = With Claire, we go skiing in January.
On aimerait vous inviter à dîner chez nous  = We would like to invite you for dinner at our place (note that you can use on even for an invitation. It's a more friendly approach, than using nous).
On en parlera plus tard = We'll talk about that later.

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.

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Adjectifs

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):
Elle est contente = She is happy
Il est content = He is happy
Elles sont contentes = They (female only) are happy
Ils sont contents = They (man only or mixture of female and male) are happy.

Note how we simply add an e to agree with a feminine subject and a s to agree with plural subjects.
Other examples are adjectives such as joli (pretty); petit (small); grand (big, tall); chaud (hot/warm); froid (cold); intelligent (smart/intelligent); préféré (preferred); anglais (English).

2) Some masculine adjectives, already ending with an e, don't change in the feminine form.
Such as:
drôle = funny
comique = comic/funny
triste = sad
sale = dirty
malade = sick
jeune = young
adorable = lovely.

Examples:
-triste (sad) : il est triste  ; elle est triste  ; ils sont tristes  ; elles sont tristes
-malade (sick) : il est malade ; elle est malade ; ils sont malades ; elles sont malades
-jeune
(young ) : il est jeune ; elle est jeune ; ils sont jeunes ; elles sont jeunes.

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.

Examples :
boulanger (baker) : boulangère 
infirmier (nurse) : infirmière
fermier (farmer) : fermière
étranger (foreigner) : étrangère
régulier (regular) : régulière
premier (first) : première.

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.

Examples:
-Feminine ending in euse:
vendeur (salesperson) : vendeuse
conteur (story teller) : conteuse
serveur (waiter) : serveuse
menteur (liar) : menteuse.
-Feminine ending in rice:
directeur (director) : directrice
acteur (actor) : actrice
instituteur (primary school teacher) : institutrice
dessinateur (designer) : dessinatrice.

Note: the adjectives of profession that end in er or eur can also be used as a noun (see above).

Examples:
Marc est fermier (Marc is a farmer), BUT: le fermier du village est Marc (the farmer of the village is Marc).
Juliette est actrice (Juliette is an actor), BUT: l'actrice principale du theâtre est Juliette (the main actor of the theatre is Juliette).

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.

Examples:
bon (good) : bonne
gros (fat/big) : grosse
épais(thick) : épaisse
mignon (cute) : mignonne
lycéen (high school student) : lycéenne
gentil (kind) : gentille
nul (not very good, a dummy) : nulle.

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
Cette femme est belle = This woman is beautiful
Ces garçons sont beaux = These boys are handsome
Ces femmes sont belles = These women are beautiful.

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
La route est longue = The road is long
Les chemins sont longs = The pathways are long
Les routes sont longues = The roads are 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)
Il est joyeux
Ils sont joyeux
Elle est joyeuse
Elles sont joyeuses.

Other common adjectives in eux are:

douloureux/douloureuse = painful
heureux/heureuse = very happy
amoureux/amoureuse = in love
sérieux/sérieuse = serious; curieux/curieuse = curious.

Those adjectives ending in if in the masculine singular have an ive ending for the feminine:
Il est créatif = He is creative
Elle est créative = She is creative.

Other examples are:
fautif/fautive = at fault
sportif/sportive = sports minded
éducatif/éducative = educative
fictif/fictive = fictitious

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.
One of the more common ones is vieux (old, aged), which becomes vieille in the feminine:
Il est vieux
Ils sont vieux
Elle est vieille
Elles sont vieilles.

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:
un parti national = a national political party
des partis nationaux = national political parties
une fête nationale = a national holiday
des fêtes nationales = national holidays

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.

Examples:
Un petit chat = A small cat (note how the word petit just has 2 syllables, it is considered short so it is placed before the noun).
Un chat intelligent = An intelligent cat (note how the word intelligent has 4 syllables, it is considered long and is placed after the noun)
Un petit chat blanc intelligent = A small intelligent white cat.
Une belle voiture bleue = A beautiful blue car.
Une assiette ronde = A round plate.
Un enfant français = A French kid.

The above explanation on the adjectives placement has quite a few exceptions. Especially in judgements about personality or physical attributes:
Un animal moche = an ugly animal
Une personne douée = a gifted person
Une idée nulle = a stupid/bad idea.

NOTE: In French, for all the dates, we almost always place the adjectives dernier/dernière and prochain/prochaine after the noun:
Samedi dernier = last Saturday.
La semaine dernière = last week.
Le mois prochain = next month.
La semaine prochaine = next week.
For everything else, the same adjectives are placed before the noun:
Le dernier train = the last train.
La dernière fois = last time.
Le prochain exercice = the next exercise.
La prochaine leçon = the next lesson.


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C'est vs Il est

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.

Examples:
Qu'est-ce que c'est ? = What is it?
C'est un arbre exotique = It is an exotic tree (identifying something).
Qui est-ce ? = Who is it?
C'est Charles, mon ami = This is Charles, my friend (introducing someone).
Qui sont-ils ? = Who are they?
Ce sont des Américains = They are Americans.

- To announce oneself (for example on the telephone).

Examples:
Allo, c'est Carole ! = Hello, this is Carole!
Est-ce que c'est Carole ? = Is it Carole?
Non, ce n'est pas Carole ! = No, it's not Carole!

- To make a general statement.

Examples :
Les vacances, c'est bien ! = Holidays, they're great!
Le travail, c'est difficile = Work, it's difficult.

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.

Examples:
Carine ? Elle est grande, brune et intelligente = Carine? She is tall, brunette and intelligent.
Il est sympathique, le professeur = He is nice, the teacher.

- 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).

Examples:
Carla est informaticienne = Carla is a computer specialist.
Elle est française = She is French.
Elle est célibataire = She is single.

BUT you will add an article if you add a descriptive adjective, and in this case you will say:
C'est une informaticienne intelligente = she is an intelligent computer specialist.

Note that we also use c'est for expressing the following: Oh, c'est bien ! = Oh, that's great!

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Adverbes

Je t'aime UN PEU, BEAUCOUP, VRAIMENT, PASSIONNEMENT... PAS DU TOUT !
I love you a little, a lot, truly, passionately... not at all!

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).

Examples:
vraiment = really
franchement = frankly
lentement = slowly
rarement = rarely
bizarrement = strangely
carrément = totally
clairement = clearly

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:

-Frequency:
parfois or quelquefois = sometimes
souvent = often
rarement = rarely
toujours = always
encore = again, still

-Time:
aujourd'hui = today
demain = tomorrow
hier = yesterday
tard = late
tôt = early
longtemps = a long time
actuellement = currently
maintenant = now

-Mannerism:
bien = well
mal = badly
vite or rapidement = quickly
lentement = slowly

-Place:
ici = here
là-bas = over there
partout = everywhere
loin = far

-Quantity:
beaucoup = a lot
peu = a little
assez = enough
moins = less
plus = more
tout = everything

-Doubt:
peut-être = perhaps
probablement = probably

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.

Examples:
-Tu conduis lentement.= You’re driving slowly.
-Tu n’aimes pas beaucoup le travail ? = You don’t like the job very much?
-Tu regardes parfois la télé ?  = Do you sometimes watch TV?
Other possibilities:
Tu regardes la télé parfois ?
Or: Parfois, est-ce que tu regardes la télé ?

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.

Examples:
-J’ai vraiment aimé le texte ! = I really loved the text!
-Tu n’as pas bien écouté ! = You didn’t listen well!
-Tu as franchement aimé le film ? = Did you really like the movie?
Other possibility: Franchement, est-ce que tu as aimé le film ?

3. When the adverb modifies an adjective or another adverb, it is placed in front of the word it modifies.

Examples:
-Je suis profondément triste. = I am profoundly sad. (profondément modifies triste).
-Tu parles vraiment lentement.= You speak really slowly.
-Ce film était vachement chouette. = This movie was really nice.

As for the adverbs of TIME which refer to days, they can be placed at the beginning or end of the sentence:
Aujourd’hui, j’ai cassé ma montre. = Today, I broke my watch.
Ma mère part demain. = My mother is leaving tomorrow.


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Le langage grammatical

Principaux termes du langage grammatical

1) Adjectifs

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.

2) Adverbes

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...

3) Articles

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.
Ou il aide à préciser de qui ou de quoi on parle. Exemples : ce tableau a été peint par mon père ; le concert a commencé par des chansons...

- 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...

5) Pronoms

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...

 

6) Verbes

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...
-avec un sens réfléchi (aussi appelés "verbes réfléchis") : indiquent une action que la personne fait sur elle-même. Exemples : se laver, se demander, se livrer...
-avec un sens réciproque : utilisés quand il y a une réciprocité entre deux personnes. Exemples : s'écrire, se parler, se vouvoyer...

Conjugaison des verbes - liste des principaux temps :
- infinitif (manger)
- infinitif passé (avoir mangé)
- présent (je mange)
- passé composé (j'ai mangé)
- imparfait (je mangeais)
- passé simple (je mangeai)
- plus-que-parfait (j'avais mangé)
- futur simple (je mangerai)
- futur proche (je vais manger)
- futur antérieur (j'aurais mangé)
- impératif (mange ! mangez ! mangeons !)
- conditionnel présent (je mangerais)
- conditionnel antérieur (j'aurais mangé)
- subjonctif (que je mange)
- gérondif (en mangeant)

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Tout

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:
Je suis tout bêtement tombé en faisant du vélo = I quite stupidly fell when I was biking.
Il parle tout doucement = He speaks very quietly.
Il habite tout près de chez ta mère  = He lives very close to your mother's.

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:
Elle est tout heureuse = She's very happy.
Les étudiants en classe sont tout étonnés  = The students in class are very surprised.
Les jeunes Anglaises sont tout enthousiastes de visiter Paris = The young English girls are very enthusiastic to visit Paris.

Examples with tout followed by an adjective beginning with a consonant:
Son sac est tout mouillé = Her hand bag is completely/totally wet.
Les fleurs ? Elle sont toutes petites = The flowers? They are very small.
Elle est toute triste = she is very sad.

Note also the following popular expressions with tout as an adverb:
A tout à l'heure ! = See you later on today!
Tout à fait ! = Absolutely!
Tout de même ! = After all! Actually! C'mon!
Tout à coup ! = All of a sudden!
Tout de suite! = Right away!

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).

Examples:
En France, toute femme qui veut garder son nom de jeune fille peut le faire (toute + noun) = In France, Any (every) woman who wishes to keep her maiden name can do so.
Toutes les grandes îles du Japon sont accessibles par avion (toutes because îles is feminin plural) = All of the large islands of Japan are accessible by plane.
Tous les jours, les enfants sont tous ici (tous because jours is masculin plural) = Every day, all of the children are here.
J'ai travaillé pendant toute ma vie (toute because vie is feminin singular) = I have worked all of my life.
Durant toutes ces vacances, j'ai passé mon temps à faire la fête ! (toutes because vacances is feminin plural) = During all of these holidays, I spent my time partying!
Le train roule à toute allure (à grande allure - feminine word) = The train travels at high speed.

3) Tout as a noun: it is for the most part invariable usually translated as "the whole it" or "all of it" or "everything".

Examples:
Prenez le tout !  = Take the whole of it (or: all of it)!
Tout le monde = All of the world, which really means ‘everybody or everyone'.
Il risque le tout pour le tout = He's risking 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.

Examples:
J'avais demandé à mes amies d'applaudir, toutes l'ont fait (toutes = mes amies). I had asked my friends to applaud. All of them did it.
Les invités ? Il sont tous arrivés ! = The guests? They have all arrived!
Tout va bien ! = Everything/all is fine!
Tout est possible ! = Everything is possible!

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.

Example:
Il travaille tout en écoutant la radio = He works while listening to the radio.

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Le masculin et le féminin

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 :

—"an": an(year), écran (screen), océan (ocean), roman (novel), plan (plan), volcan (volcano), etc.
BUT there are a few exceptions, the most important one is maman (mum).

—"ou": bijou (jewel), chou(cabbage), cou (neck), etc.
BUT there is one exception: une nounou (a nanny).

—"phone": téléphone (telephone), magnétophone (tape recorder), etc.
EXCEPT for a word describing a person, in such case it is feminine when it concerns a woman.
Example: un anglophone, une anglophone.

—"in": destin (destiny), sein (breast), terrain (piece of land), bain (bath), pain (bread), grain (grain), frein (brake), coin (corner), etc.
BUT there are a few exceptions, such as: une main (a hand), la fin (the end).
NOTE: Some of these words can become feminine by adding an "e" at the end, and the pronunciation changes as you can notice by listening to the audio link: un coquin, une coquine (a naughty person), le cousin, la cousine (the cousin).

—"age": courage (courage), fromage (cheese), garage (garage), voyage (travel), ménage & nettoyage (cleaning), etc.
BUT there are a few exceptions, such as: la plage (the beach), une cage (a cage).

—"et": alphabet (alphabet), arrêt (stop), projet (project), budget (budget), secret (secret), objet (object), etc.
BUT there are a few exceptions, such as une forêt (forest).

—"ment": gouvernement (government), médicament (medication), vêtement (piece of clothing), etc.
BUT there is one exception: une jument(a mare — female horse).

—"eau": bureau (office/desk), couteau (knife), tableau (painting), etc.
BUT there are two exceptions: l'eau (water) and la peau(skin). 

2. The following endings are always masculine:

—"eu": feu (fire), jeu (game), cheveu (hair), etc.
—"isme": socialisme (socialism), capitalisme (capitalism), féminisme (feminism), etc.
—"al": métal (metal), animal (animal), cheval (horse), journal (newspaper), festival (festival), etc.
—"er": panier (basket), courrier (mail), baiser (kiss), etc.
—"ard": cafard (cockroach, or depression), retard (delay), hasard (chance), etc.
—"oir": couloir (hallway), trottoir (sidewalk), espoir (hope), etc.
—"ail": ail (garlic), travail (work), corail (coral), etc.
—"eil": sommeil (sleep), réveil (waking up), soleil (sun), conseil (advice, council), etc.
—"euil": seuil (doorstep), fauteuil (armchair), écureuil (squirrel), etc.
—"ouil": fenouil (fennel) the only one with this ending.

3. Nouns with the following endings can be either masculine or feminine:

—"iste": dentiste (dentist), garagiste (car mechanic), raciste (racist), féministe (feminist), activiste (activist), cycliste (cyclist), etc.

NOTE: They can be either masculine or feminine because they refer to the profession, the specialty or the personality of an individual. They always have the same spelling, but their gender depends on whether the person you are talking about is a woman or a man.

Examples:
- Jacques est un bon dentiste. = Jacques is a good dentist.
- Marie est une jeune activiste. = Marie is a young activist. 
- Mon voisin est un vrai raciste.= My neighbour is a true racist.

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.

Examples:
La robe, le manteau, la jupe et la veste sont bleus.= The dress, the coat, the skirt and the jacket are all blue.
La maison, la cabane, le château et la grange sont habités toute l'année. = The house, the cabin, the castle and the barn are inhabited the whole year long.

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.
However, there are MANY EXCEPTIONS to this rule. For example: un verre (a glass), un problème (a problem), un groupe (a group), un parapluie(an umbrella), un immeuble (building), le foie (the liver), un territoire (a territory), un mensonge (a lie), un squelette (a squeleton), un stade (a stadium), le silence (the silence), le lycée (the high school), etc.

NOTE that e also marks the feminine when talking about animals: le chat, la chatte(the cat), le chien, la chienne (the dog). While for human beings there is an e at the end of both un homme (man), a masculine word, and une femme (woman), feminine.

—té: société (society), beauté (beauty), liberté (freedom), santé (health), etc.
BUT there are a few exceptions: un côté (a side), un été (a summer), un comité (a committee), 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.
BUT there are many exceptions, such as : un moteur (an engine), le malheur (misfortune), le bonheur (happiness), le cœur (the heart), un ordinateur (a computer), etc.

NOTE that for professions, -eur, used for men, is frequently transformed, for women, into either: -rice, -euse, or even -eure,a fairly recent trend when referring to feminine professions.
Examples: un acteur, une actrice (an actor); un directeur, une directrice (a director); un coiffeur, une coiffeuse (a hairdresser), un chanteur, une chanteuse (a singer); un auteur, une auteure (an author), 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.

Examples:
un appareil-photo(camera) is masculine: appareil (appliance, device) is masc., and photo is fem.;
une station-service(gas filling station) is feminine: station is fem., and service is masc.;
un chou-fleur(cauliflower) is masculine: chou (cabbage) is masc., and fleur (flower) is fem.;
la bande-annonce (trailer) is feminine: bande is fem., and annonce is fem.;
un timbre-poste (postage stamp) is masculine: timbre is masc., and poste is fem.

When both nouns are masculine, the compound word is obviously masculine.
Example: le ciné-club(film club) is masc. as well as the two words that compose it: ciné (diminutive of cinéma) and club.

When both nouns are feminine, the compound word is feminine.
Example: une année-lumière(light year) is fem., as well as the two words which compose it: année (year) and lumière (light).

2. When one of the elements of a compound noun is a verb, it is masculine.

Examples:
un tire-bouchon(corkscrew) is masculine: tire is the verb tirer (to pull) in the present tense and in the 3rd person singular, while bouchon (cork) is masc.;
un sèche-cheveux(hair dryer) is masculine: sèche comes from sécher (to dry), cheveu (hair) is masc.;
un chasse-neige(snowplough) is masculine: chasse, from chasser (to hunt) is masc., neige (snow) is fem.

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.

Examples:
un court-circuit (short circuit) is masc. like circuit;
la basse-cour (poultry) is fem., like cour (courtyard);
un petit-fils (grandson) is masc. like fils;
une petite-fille (granddaughter) is fem., like fille.
BUT there are a few exceptions: un rouge-gorge(robin) is masculine, even if gorge (throat) is fem.

4. When a compound word is composed of a noun and an adverb, it is usually of the same gender as the noun.

Examples:
un arrière-goût (aftertaste) is masc., like goût (taste);
une arrière-boutique (back shop) is fem., like boutique (shop);
un avant-bras (forearm) is masc., like bras (arm);
une avant-première (preview) is fem., like première (first, fem. of premier).

5. When a compound word is composed of a noun and a preposition, it is most of the time masculine.

Examples:
un sans-faute (faultless) is masc. even if faute (mistake) is fem.
un sans-papiers (homeless) is masc., like the word papiers (papers).
un a-côté (extra income) is masc., like the word côté (side).
un en-cas (little snack – literally meaning: in case we are a little hungry) is masc., like the word cas (case).
BUT there are a few exceptions, such as un en-tête (heading), which is masculine, even if tête (head) is fem. NOTE that nowadays it is acceptable to write entête as one word.

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 vs Voir (voir aussi: Le vocabulaire des cinq sens)

regarder = c'est une action volontaire, c'est à dire – actif (= to look)
Exemple : Je regarde par la fenêtre

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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Le vocabulaire des cinq sens

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

Voir
avec attention : épier, dévisager, reluquer, examiner, guetter, inspecter, observer, regarder, toiser, viser, fixer, espionner, scruter, surveiller...
avec émerveillement : admirer, contempler, dévorer des yeux...
sans pouvoir détacher les yeux : être fasciné, hypnotisé par...
brutalement : constater, découvrir, remarquer, sauter aux yeux...
rapidement : jeter un coup d'œil, lorgner, saisir à la dérobée, viser du coin de l'œil...

Entendre
écouter, ouïr, percevoir, tendre l'oreille, venir aux oreilles...
Un bruit agréable peut : bercer, caresser, charmer, réjouir...
Un bruit désagréable peut : agresser, déchirer les tympans...

Sentir
le fait de sentir : aspirer, flairer, humer, renifler, respirer...
comment les diverses odeurs se font remarquer :
- bonnes odeurs : dégager, fleurer, exhaler, embaumer, parfumer...
- mauvaises odeurs : empester, empuantir, puer...  

Goûter
savourer, avaler, déguster, se délecter, se rassasier, se goinfrer, dévorer, croquer...

Toucher
avec brutalité : appuyer, cogner, frotter, heurter...
avec douceur: caresser, câliner, enlacer, flatter, chatouiller...
avec insistance : tripoter, triturer, palper, pétrir, presser, tâter...
avec légèreté : effleurer, frôler...
avec hésitation: tâtonner...

Les formes, volumes, consistances et dimensions

noms : rond, cercle, carré, ovale, rectangle, triangle, cylindre, masse, pic, pointe...

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)...

Les bruits

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

noms : arôme, bouquet, flagrance, parfum, senteur, bouffée, effluve, émanation, exhalaison, puanteur, puanteur, pestilence, infection, relent, remugle...

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)...

Impressions tactiles

noms : choc, coup, heurt, pression, caresse, effleurement, sécheresse, moiteur...

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)... 

 

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Adjectifs démonstratifs

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)

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Prépositions "à" vs "de"

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:
à + le = au ; à + la = à la ; à + les = aux
de + le = du ; de + la = de la ; de + les = des À  vs De : which one to use, and when?

1) Destination: à

When telling someone which city you are going to:
Je vais à Paris = I'm going to Paris. VS Departure: de
When telling someone from which city you came from:
Je viens de Paris = I'm coming from Paris.

2) Location: à

When telling someone where you are currently located:
Je suis à Paris = I am in Paris. VS Origin: de
When telling someone where you come from:
D' où êtes-vous ? = Where are you from?
Je suis de Paris = I am from Paris. Note that the preposition à is used with cities and with masculine countries (those that don't end in an e ). For feminine countries, the preposition en is used.
Je vais à Montréal demain = I'm going to Montreal tomorrow.
Elle habite en France = She lives in France.
Nous voulons aller au Brésil cet été = We want to go to Brazil this summer.

3) Distance in time or space: à

When describing how far or how long it takes to go to a place:
Il travaille à 10 minutes d'ici= He works 10 minutes from here.
Il habite à 2 kms d'ici = He lives 2 km from here.
VS Indicating the starting point: de
When you are telling someone the place where an action starts:
De Paris, il faut 3 heures de TGV pour aller à Marseille = From Paris, 3 hours by TGV are needed to get to Marseille
À is also used for telling time
When telling someone at what time an event starts:
Ils arrivent à 20h pour le dîner = They are coming at 8 pm for dinner.

4) Purpose or use: à

When telling someone what an item is for:
Une boîte à biscuits = a box for cookies.
Un verre à vin = a wine glass.
Un moule à soufflé = a souffle mold. VS
Contents / description: de
When referring to the contents of a recipient:
Une boîte de biscuits = a box full of cookies.
Un verre de vin = a glass of wine.

5) Possession: à

When telling someone the relationship between 2 people or a person and a thing
Un voisin à moi  = a neighbour of mine.
La voiture est à mon mari = It's my husband's car.
VS Belonging = de
When telling someone a possession with names and nouns. It is equivalent to 's or s' in English:
Le livre d' Alex =Alex's book.
La plus belle ville de France est Paris = The most beautiful city of France is Paris.

6) Manner, characteristic and style: à

When expressing something that is handmade, or done in a specific style:
C'est fait à l'ancienne = It is done the old-fashioned, traditional way.

When describing a physical appearance or a characteristic:
Une fille aux cheveux blonds = a girl with blond hair.
Une tarte aux pommes = an apple pie. Note that when speaking about the main ingredient in a food dish, you will need to use à :
Une lasagne au saumon = a salmon lasagna.
Un sandwich au thon = a tuna sandwich.
VS Defining feature: de
When defining what an object or place is for:
Un livre de géographie = a geography book.
Un cours de français = a French class.

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):
Aller: Je vais manger = I'm going to eat.
Vouloir: Je veux vivre en France = I want to live in France.
Devoir: Je dois partir = I must leave.
Pouvoir: Je peux vous demander quelque chose ? = May I ask you for something?
Falloir: Il faut se concentrer = One has to focus.
Aimer/adorer: J'aime/J'adore prendre le train = I like/I love to take the train.
Faire: Je fais faire des maths aux enfants = I'm having the kids do maths.

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:
Choisir de : Je choisis de faire ce métier = I choose to do this job.
Conseiller de : Je conseille de faire les devoirs = I advise (you) to do the homework.
Décider de : J'ai décidé de vivre en France = I've decided to live in France.
S'excuser de : Je m'excuse de vous déranger = I'm sorry to disturb you.
Finir de : J'ai fini de faire la lessive = I've fnished doing the laundry.
Oublier de : J'ai oublié de vous appeler = I forgot to call you.
Promettre de : Je vous promets de revenir = I promise you that I will be back.
Proposer de : Il me propose d' habiter avec lui = He's offered to move in with him.
Risquer de : Je risque d' être en retard = I risk being late.
Refuser de : Il refuse de me répondre = He refuses to answer me.
Essayer de : J'essaie de faire plus d'efforts pour parler en français = I'm trying to make a greater effort to speak French.
Venir de : Je viens juste de voir mon voisin = I've just seen my neighbour.

Finally, here is a selection of the most useful verbs which trigger the preposition à before the infinitive form:
Aider à : J'aide à cuisiner = I help with the cooking.
Apprendre à : J'apprends à faire du tennis = I'm learning how to play tennis.
Arriver à : Je n'arrive pas à faire cet exercice = I'm not able to do this exercise.
Continuer à : Je continue à voir mes amis tous les lundis soirs = I continue to see my friends every Monday evenings.
(Note : You will also frequently hear de used after continuer . Ex: Il continue de m'embêter = He continues to bug/to bother me.)
Commencer à : Je commence à avoir faim = I'm starting to get hungry.
S'habituer à : Je m'habitue à mon nouveau travail = I'm getting used to my new job.
Encourager à : J'encourage mon fils à faire du sport = I encourage my son to do some sports.
Hésiter à : J'hésite à déménager en France = I hesitate to move to France.
Réussir à : J'ai réussi à joindre Mark = I was succesful in reaching Mark.

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 :
Il est gentil de conduire = He is kind to drive.
Je suis heureuse de vivre ici = I'm happy to live here. Note also that in the two examples above gentil and heureuse are both adjectives.

And that we use de after a word expressing a quantity : beaucoup de, peu de, un kilo de…:
J'aimerais beaucoup de parmesan sur ma soupe = I would like lots of parmesan on my soup.

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Il y a

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.
Ex:
Il y a un tableau sur le mur = there is a painting on the wall

Note: In a negative sentence, the article in front of the noun becomes de.
Ex: Il y a DES chiens dans le jardin = Il n'y a pas DE chien dans le jardin
Il y a UNE table dans le salon = Il n'y a pas DE table dans le salon

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Articles définis et indéfinis

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:
Le (masculine singular)
La (feminine singular)
L’ (both genders when followed by a vowel)
Les(plural)

The straight equivalent in English is THE.
These words are used almost the same way as in English. But let’s clearly define in which contexts they are used.

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.

Examples:
Je voudrais le plat du jour. = I would like the "special of the day."
Je lis l’email. = I'm reading the email.
Où est la gare ? = Where is the train station?
Je joue avec les enfants. = I’m playing with the kids.

2. To communicate possession
In English, we use an ‘s (apostrophe s) to indicate that one noun possesses another. In French, the order of the words is reversed, and we need a definite article.
Examples:
My daughter’s car is red. In French, we would say: The car of my neighbor is red. = La voiture de ma fille est rouge.

The shop’s manager is friendly. = Le responsable du magasin est chaleureux.
My aunt’s daughter’s cat is 12 years old. = Le chat de la fille de ma tante a 12 ans.

3. To communicate general statements : When making a general statement, nothing specific, you need to add a definite article.

Examples:

Le sport est excellent pour l’équilibre mental. = sport is excellent to get a balanced mind.
La vie est belle ! = life is beautiful!
Les Français mangent du pain tous les jours. = French people eat bread everyday.
La jalousie peut détruire les relations. = Jealousy can destroy relationships.

4. When communicating certain verbs of feelings such as "love, admire, hate":
There is a handful of verbs that trigger the definite articles. Most of them are considered verbs of feelings such as:
Aimer = to love/to like; ex.: J’aime la France. = I love France.
Adorer = to adore/love; ex.: J’adore le ski. = I adore/love skiing.
Admirer= to admire; ex.:  J’admire le travail de ma mère. = I admire my mother’s work.
Préférer = to prefer ; ex.: Je préfère le vin rouge au vin blanc. = I prefer red wine over white wine.
Haïr =to hate; ex: Je hais les propos racistes. = I hate racists commentaries.
Détester = to detest; ex.: Je déteste les betteraves. = I hate beets.

The indefinite articles:
Un (masculine singular)
Une (feminine singular)
Des (plural)

The equivalent in English for un/uneis: a, an or one.
Des is the plural of un/une but you'll  rarely see any articles in English in front of plural nouns. Whereas you need them in French.

How to we use the indefinite articles?

Indefinite articles are usually used when we’re talking about nonspecific items and/or quantities.

Example :
Je mange une pomme. = I’m eating an apple.
 As you can see in the above example, we’re not talking about a specific apple, it’s about any apple. It is a direct translation from French to English.

When using a plural noun, you’ll need to add des:
Je mange des pommes. = I’m eating apples. Notice how you don’t need to have an article in front of "apples" in English whereas in French, you need to have one! This is a major difference in the 2 languages. You almost always need to add an article in front of a noun!

Exception: You don’t need to add an article in front of a profession.

Example:
He is a doctor. Here you have the pronoun "a" in front of doctor whereas in French you don’t add anything! Il est docteur.

Let’s look at other examples when we use un, une, des:
Je fais des biscuits.= I’m making cookies.
Je bois un verre de vin.= I’m drinking a glass of wine.
J’achète des haricots verts. = I’m buying green beans.
Je travaille sur un gros projet.= I’m working on a big project.

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".

Examples:
Je voudrais de la crème pour mon café. = I would like cream for my coffee.
In this above example, you want cream but you’re not indicating how much of it. And since crème is feminine, then you have to use de la.
J’espère voir de la neige. = I hope to see snow.
Axel a du courage. = Axel has courage.
J’aimerais du vin rouge. =  I would like red wine.
Je prends du café. = I’m having coffee.
J’ai du temps. = I have time.

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.

Examples:
In an affirmation, you will say: Je mange du fromage.= I eat cheese.
But look how de will replace du in a negative statement:
Je ne mange pas de fromage.= I don’t eat cheese.

A few more examples:
Affirmation : Je cherche des films français.
Négation : Je ne cherche pas de films français.
Affirmation : Je vois des pigeons.
Négation :  Je ne vois pas de pigeons.
Affirmation : J’achète de la glace.
Négation : Je n’achète pas de glace.

However, the definite articles remain the same in negative constructions.

Example:
Affirmation : J’aime la glace au chocolat !
Négation : Je n’aime pas la glace au chocolat !

 

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Le passé simple : it is really simple?

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:
je: – ai
tu: –as
il/elle/on: –a

The plural forms are more irregular:
nous: –âmes
vous: –âtes
ils/elles: –èrent

Examples:

Parler
je parlai / nous parlâmes
tu parlas / vous parlâtes
il/elle/on parla / ils/elles parlèrent

Acheter
j'achetai / nous achetâmes
tu achetas / vous achetâtes
il/elle/on acheta / ils/elles achetèrent 

IR and –RE verbs:

These 2 categories of verbs take the same endings.
je: –is
tu: –is
il/elle/on: –it
nous: –îmes
vous: –îtes
ils/elles: –irent

Examples:

Choisir
je choisis / nous choisîmes
tu choisis / vous choisîtes
il/elle/on choisit / ils/elles choisirent 

Vendre
je pris / nous prîmes
tu pris / vous prîtes
il/elle/on prit / ils/elles prirent

Savoir, pouvoir and vouloir – they all end with a different pattern: 
je: –us
tu: –us
il/elle/on: –ut
nous: –ûmes
vous: –ûtes
ils/elles: –ûrent

Examples:

Savoir
je sus / nous sûmes
tu sus / vous sûtes
il/elle/on sut / ils/elles surent

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:

Avoir
j'eus / nous eûmes
tu eus / vous eûtes
il/elle/on eut / ils/elles eurent

Être
je fus / nous fûmes
tu fus / vous fûtes
il/elle/on fut / ils/elles furent

As mentioned at the beginning, the passé composé appears “heavier” when reading whereas the passé simple brings a lighter feel to it.

Examples:

To see the difference, read the following dialogues:

Passé composé: J'ai été contente de te voir ! = I was happy to see you!
Passé simple: Je fus contente de te voir !

Passé composé: Il a enfin parlé avec sa copine. = He finally spoke to his girlfriend.
Passé simple: Il parla enfin avec sa copine.

Passé composé: Nous avons voulu le voir lors de son passage à Paris. = We wanted to see him while he was in Paris.
Passé simple: Nous voulûmes le voir lors de son passage à Paris.

Passé composé: Ils ont prit le train pour aller  à Amsterdam = They took the train to go to Amsterdam.
Passé simple: Ils prirent le train pour aller à Amsterdam.

Passé composé: Elle a pu finir sa toile à temps = She was able to finish her painting in time.
Passé simple: Elle put finir sa toile à temps.

 

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Anglicismes

How to Speak Like a French Person, Not Like a Foreigner : The key phrases, verbs and words

1) Greetings

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 ?
SAY: Je vais bien = I am fine.

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.


How do the French express “it's necessary to…”, “we must…”? Well, use and abuse the verb falloir. It communicates the fact that something needs to be done and this is why it can only be conjugated with the subject pronoun il.

Don't say: C'est nécessaire de …
SAY: Il faut… = It is necessary to...

Examples:
- For things that need to be done:
Il faut appeler le plombier = We must call the plumber, it is necessary to call the plumber.
Il faut apprendre le français = We must learn French, it is necessary/needed to learn French.
- For directions:
Pour venir chez moi, il faut aller au centre ville et il faut tourner à droite au grand rond-point, etc… = To get to my place, you must go to the city center, then you have to turn right at the round about, etc.

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...
SAY: le lundi, le matin = on Mondays, in the morning...

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.

Example :
Je travaille lundi = I work this coming Monday.
Je travaille le lundi = I work on Mondays (every Monday).

Don't say: Je vous parle à vendredi
SAY: A vendredi ! = I'll speak to you/see you on Friday!

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.
SAY: Je voudrais prendre (un) rendez-vous = I would like to make an appointment.

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
SAY: Je prends un café = I'm having coffee (I'll have a coffee).

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.
SAY: Je fais les courses = I buy food (I am shopping for food).

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.
SAY: Je cuisine/Je fais la cuisine = I'm cooking.

Don't say: La nourriture dans le restaurant est bonne.
SAY: La cuisine du restaurant est bonne = The food in the restaurant is good.

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.
Say: Il fait beau aujourd'hui  = It's nice today.

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.
SAY: J'ai regardé cela à la télé ; J'ai écouté une belle chanson à la radio = I watched that on TV; I heard a beautiful song on the 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.
SAY : J'ai dix mille euros sur mon compte en banque = I have ten thousand euros in my bank account. And it should also be noted that “money” cannot be translated as monnaie as we frequently hear. In French, “money” is argent, while monnaie means “small change”. And change means “currency exchange”; faire du change = to do currency exchange.

Don't say: C'est beaucoup de monnaie. Je n'ai plus de monnaie !
SAY: C'est beaucoup d'argent. Je n'ai plus d'argent ! = It's a lot of money. I don't have any more money!

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.
SAY: Je rends visite à ma mère = I'm visiting my mother.

If you're visiting a professional service like a doctor or a lawyer, then it would be more appropriate to use aller voir = to go see or aller chez = to go to…

Don't Say: Je vais visiter le docteur.
SAY: Je vais voir/ je vais chez le docteur  = I'm going to see the doctor.

11) Flying

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.
SAY: Je prends un vol pour New York = I'm flying to 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 ?
Oui d'accord ! Je veux bien! = Yes OK ! I would like that! But to say that it's alright, that it's OK/permitted to do something, we use the verb aller :

Don't say: C'est d'accord de m'appeler.
SAY: Ça va de m'appeler = It's alright to call me.

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 ?
SAY: Passes-tu du bon temps ? Est-ce que tu t'amuses bien ? = Are you having a good time? Are you having fun?

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 !
SAY: Je me réjouis de te voir ! = I look forward to seeing you!

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.
Ça fait du bien = That feels good.

When you wish to tell someone how you feel, then you can use the verb se sentir:

Examples:
Je me sens bien = I feel good.
Je me sens triste = I feel sad.

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).

Examples:
1. Je pense que Jill partira demain = I have the feeling that Jill will leave tomorrow.
In this example, it's a feeling which comes from analyzing the situation – perhaps Jill is looking into train schedules. It's a thought more than a feeling.
2. J'ai l'impression que tu n'aimes pas cette photo = I have a feeling that you don't like this picture.
In this example, it's a feeling triggered from an image – perhaps the person who was looking at the picture made a face.

16) Looks good/looks bad

Another one which cannot be literally translated; in this situation, the French will use the phrase avoir l'air.

Examples:
Cette photo a l'air bien sur ce mur = This picture looks good on this wall
Le film n'a pas l'air intéressant = The film doesn't looks interesting.

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.

Examples:
Je suis allé à la Sorbonne pendant un an en 1996 = I attended La Sorbonne for one year in 1985.
Le directeur a assisté à la réunion des employés = The Manager attended the staff meeting.

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.

18) Actually

Another big false friend – it is an easy mistake to make.
Actuellement means “ currently ” (next point on this list) and “actually” is translated into the following small phrase:
En fait (make sure you pronounce the ‘t').

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.

19) Currently

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.
Vraiment ? Vous y allez comment ? = Really? How are you getting there?
On va conduire ; c'est long car on va faire 7 heures de route = We're going to drive ; it's long because we'll drive for 7 hours.
In this example, the English person would have most probably said “ this week-end, we're driving up to Paris ” as the French would use the verb aller.

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

A quick clarification needs to be given on how to end a letter or an email, we have often read Meilleurs voeux or even Félicitations from our English speaking students, expressions which don't translate into “Best wishes”.
Meilleurs voeux = is written only around Christmas Season in Christmas Cards or different advertisements around that time of the year.
Félicitations = Congratulations. What can we say at the end of a letter? It's best to write:
Cordialement (quite formal) or:
Amicalement (if you've had a few friendly exchanges with this person).

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.
The word affaires does exist but it is used in 2 completely different contexts such as:
- business;
- one's personal belongings.

Examples:
Patrick, mon voisin, a une maîtresse = Patrick, my neighbour, is having an affair.
Ne prends pas mes affaires ! = Don't take my personal belongings!
Je fais des affaires avec les Français = I do business with the French.

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.
Not to confuse with the French word argument which is used very differently, it means “making a good case” or “deciding factors”.

Examples:
Hier soir, je me suis disputée avec ma sœur = Last night, I argued with my sister.
Quels sont les bons arguments pour changer l'âge de la retraite ? = What are the deciding factors to change the retirement age?

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).

Examples:
Chez Siemens, je gagne plus que chez IBM = At Siemens', I earn more than (I did) at IBM's.
En ce moment, je ne fais pas beaucoup d'argent = At the moment, I don't make much money.

Note that the verb gagner is also used for winning a game or at a lottery:
Séville a gagné le match contre Paris Saint-Germain = Séville won the game against Paris Saint-Germain.

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 !
SAY: C'est trop !

Examples :
J'ai trop mangé ! = I ate too much!
Il y a trop d'étudiants dans cette classe = There are too many students in this class.

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”.

This is what French people will say:
J'ai bien mangé, merci ; je n'ai plus faim = I ate a lot, thank you; I'm not hungry anymore.
Or at times you will hear je n'en peux plus which means = I can't eat anymore of it.
The more elegant choice is the first one, indicating that you ate well shows that you're very satisfied.

Don't say: Je suis plein(e).
SAY: J'ai bien mangé, merci, je n'ai plus faim !

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…
Therefore, in French you should only use the verb aider in this situation.

Don't say: Est-ce que vous pouvez m'assister ?
SAY: Est-ce que vous pouvez m'aider  ?

Examples:
Excusez-moi Monsieur, pouvez-vous m'aider à remplir ce formulaire ? = Excuse me, Sir, could you help me fill out this form?
Oui, bien sûr, je serais heureux de vous aider = Yes, of course, I would be happy to help you. Again, assister would be used in a completely different context such as:
Voulez-vous assister à la réunion d'information ? = would you like to attend the information session?

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.


Here are a few different ways to express “ that's right ” depending on the circumstances:

1. If you agree with someone about something, you can say:
C'est ça ! Exactement !
C'est vrai !

Examples:
Je trouve qu'il y a trop de chefs dans cette cuisine ! = I think there are too many cooks in this kitchen!
Exactement, il y en a trop ! = That's right, there are too many of them!
Or you could hear:
C'est ça, il y en a trop !
C'est vrai, il y en a trop !

2. If you reply to someone's question positively, you have a few choices:
C'est juste ! En effet ! C'est correct ! 

Examples:
Avez-vous vérifié le calcul ? = Have you checked the calculation?
Oui, il est juste ! = Yes, it is right!

Note : You can also say: Oui, il est correct !
Allez-vous au cinéma ce soir ? = Are you going to the movies this evening?
Oui, en effet ! = Yes, that's right! (it can also be translated as “Yes, indeed!”).

Don't say: C'est d'accord.
SAY: Depending on the context: C'est vrai !
C'est ça ! Exactement ! C'est juste ! C'est correct ! En effet !

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.”
To support someone, an idea or a project, the verb you would need to use is soutenir. It is conjugated in the present tense the same way as tenir: j e soutiens, tu soutiens, il soutient, nous soutenons, etc.

Don't say: Je supporte ton initiative.
SAY: Je soutiens ton initiative.

Examples:
Je ne supporte pas la fumée de cigarette = I can't stand cigarette smoke.
Elle n'a pas supporté la grosse chaleur = She couldn't stand the heatwave.
Je soutiens mon mari dans son choix = I support my husband in his choice.
Nous soutenons l'équipe de football de Lille = We support the Lille football team. 

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.
In French, par hasard is often used and it expresses “by chance” or “by accident” when you come across a person you know unexpectedly or if you're asking someone if they happen to have something you need.

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.
SAY : J'ai rencontré mon professeur par hasard au cinéma.

Examples:
Durant mon séjour à Paris, j'ai rencontré l'actrice Catherine Deneuve par hasard, dans un magasin ! = During my stay in Paris, I ran into the actress Catherine Deneuve by chance in a shop!
Julie, est-ce que tu as par hasard le numéro de téléphone de Claire ? = Julie, do you happen to have Claire's telephone number?

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.


The French word monnaie is used for 2 purposes:
-small change;
-money currency. If you wish to speak about money in general, then you would use the French word argent (which also means silver). The verb changer in a money context is only used in the situation where one wishes to exchange currency!

Don't say: Est-ce que vous avez du change pour 20 euros ?
SAY: Est-ce que vous avez de la monnaie de 20 euros ?

Examples:
Je ne peux pas acheter mon billet de métro avec la machine car je n'ai pas de monnaie ! = I cannot by my metro ticket with the machine because I don't have any small change!
Quelle est la monnaie utilisée en Malaisie ? Je devrai faire du change quand je serai là-bas = What is the currency used in Malaysia? I will have to change some money when I am there.
Je ne peux pas partir en vacances cette année, je n'ai pas assez d'argent ! = I can't go on holiday this year, I don't have enough money!

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:
-to indicate a specific place for an object or a seat on a train, bus, etc.;
-to indicate the square in a city such as la Place du Marché;
-to show a person's place in society.

The French word for expressing places in general is: endroit.

Don't say: J'aime ce restaurant, cette place est belle !
SAY: J'aime ce restaurant, l'endroit est beau !

Examples:
La maison est dans un endroit magnifique ! = The house is in a beautiful place!
Quel est ton endroit préféré dans le monde ? = What is your favorite place in the world?
Cette place est occupée, Madame ? = Is that seat taken, Madam?
Voici la place de la télé ! = Here is the place for the TV!

Note that you can also use endroit in this example.
Ce n'est pas ta place ici ! = this is not your place here!

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).
SAY: J'ai emprunté des livres à la bibliothèque.

Examples:
Je vais à la librairie demain matin et je vais acheter un dictionnaire français. = I'm going to the book store tomorrow morning and I will buy a French dictionary.
Je fais mes recherches à la bibliothèque municipale = I do my research at the city library.

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.

Example :
Chez Siemens, j'ai eu l'opportunité de lancer un nouveau projet = At Siemens, I had the opportunity to launch a new project. However, when you wish to express the word opportunity in a social or casual context; then it will sound a bit awkward to use l'opportunité. Best would be to say la possibilité or l'occasion.

Examples :
J'ai eu l'occasion de rencontrer la femme de Laurent = I had the opportunity to meet Laurent's wife.
Avec mon voisin, j'ai l'occcasion (ou j'ai la possibilité ) de parler en français = With my neighbor, I have the opportunity to speak French. L'occasion will be used when referring to a lucky type of opportunity while la possibilité communicates that you have a distinct and possible opportunity in a professional sense.

Don't Say: J'ai eu l'opportunité d'aller faire du ski dans les Alpes françaises.
SAY: J'ai eu l'occasion/la possibilité de faire du ski dans les Alpes françaises = I had the opportunity to go skiing in the French Alps.

35) Second hand/ used

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.

Example :
J'ai acheté une voiture d'occasion = I bought a used car. Idem with used books: des livres d'occasion; used furniture: des meubles d'occasion, etc. If you are in France, you've probably seen it many times on signs. Notice also that we do not use the word usé for old or second hand because that would give the object a negative connotation. Usé means that is has been used a lot and it is no longer in a good shape or worn out.

Don't Say: J'ai acheté une voiture usée.
SAY: J'ai acheté une voiture d'occasion.

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.

Example :
L'hôtel est complet = The hotel is full.

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.

Examples :
Je complète ma formation avec un stage en cuisine = I'm completing (rounding off or supplementing) my training with a an internship in cooking (this tells you that you're adding more training to improve your overall abilities).
Je complète ce livre avec des photos = I'm completing this book with pictures. In other words, I'm adding pictures to this book.

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.

Examples :
J'ai terminé mes études à Paris il y a 5 ans = I completed my studies in Paris 5 years ago.
On a terminé le projet hier soir = We completed the project last night.

Don't say: J'ai complété mes études.
SAY: J'ai terminé 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.

Example :
J'amène mon fils à l'école = I'm bringing my son to school (in English, we often say “we drive our kids to school” as in French, once more, we really use the verb amener and not so much the verb conduire).

Don't say: Je prends mon père à l'aéroport = I'm picking up my father at the airport.
SAY: J' amène mon père à l'aéroport = I'm bringing my father to 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.

Example :
J'amène le vin ce soir = I'm bringing the wine tonight. Many French students ask the difference between amener and apporter: in general, we use amener for bringing people and apporter 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.

Example :
Thierry a ramassé beaucoup de coquillages sur la plage = Thierry picked up lots of shells on the beach.

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”.

Example :
Je vais chercher mon fils à l'école = I'm going to pick up my son at school.

Don't say: Je ramasse mon mari au travail.
SAY: Je vais chercher mon mari au travail.

39) Evidence

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 ”.

Example :
Nous ne pouvons pas juger cette personne correctement, nous n'avons pas assez de preuves = We cannot judge this person rightfully, we don't have enough evidence.

So what is the meaning of évidence in French? We use it when something is obvious.

Example :
C'est une évidence qu'il est innocent = it's an obviousness that he is innocent. Evident which is the adjective form, is widely used in France:
C'est évident = it's obvious!

Don't say: Il me faut plus d'évidences.
SAY: Il me faut plus de preuves = it's necessary to have more evidence.

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.

Example:
Je vous présente mon père, Jérémie = Let me introduce to you my father, Jérémie.
Enchanté ! = The typical reply from the other party meaning “It's nice to meet you”.

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”.

Examples:
- J'introduis la clé dans la serrure = I'm inserting the key in the lock.

Even though it is correct to use the verb introduire in this above example, when spoken, we hear mettre a lot more: Je mets la clé dans la serrure.
- Nous introduisons une nouvelle gamme de vêtements cet été = We're introducing (bringing out) a new line of clothing this summer.
In the above example, introduire is also correct but when communicating verbally, we'll most probably say: nous lançons une nouvelle gamme de vêtements…
Again, it is not wrong for you to say introduire in these 2 examples but it is not often said.

Don't say: Je suis heureux de vous introduire mon fiancé.
SAY: Je suis heureux de vous présenter mon fiancé = I'm happy to introduce my fiancé to you.

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.

Example:
Marion Cotillard est le personnage principal du film “Edith Piaf” = Marion Cotillard is the main character in the movie “Edith Piaf”.

Personnage is also used when we speak about someone who has accomplished something remarkable, or has a lot of character.

Example:
Gustave Eiffel était un personnage exceptionnel car il était visionnaire et audacieux en créant la Tour Eiffel = Gustave Eiffel was an exceptional man because he was visionary and audacious in designing the Eiffel tower.

However, when speaking about the character of a person, you can use the direct French translation of caractère.

Example:
Le mari de Laureline a un très bon caractère, il est doux et gentil = Laureline's husband has a very good character, he is gentle and kind.

Don't say: Elle est le caractère principal du livre.
SAY: Elle est le personnage principal du livre = She is the main character of the book.

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.

We use the adjective grave for two situations:
-To indicate a very serious case or incident usually involving potentially negative consequences: c'est grave !
-To say “don't worry, it doesn't matter, no problem”: ce n'est pas grave ! If you've had some bad news of any sort, it would be best to use grave, instead of sérieux. Even though, we do hear and use sérieux frequently, it is mainly used to indicate that someone or something is taken seriously. However grave is deeply serious involving negative consequences.

Examples:
Mon frère a un grave problème de santé = my brother has a serious health problem.
L'état financier de la société est grave, on va être obligé de licencier beaucoup de gens = The financial state of the company is serious, we are going to be forced to lay off a lot of people.

Again, when the word grave is in a negative sentence, then it expresses the contrary of serious!

Example:
Oh désolée, j'ai renversé un peu de café sur la nappe ! = Oh sorry, I spilled some coffee on the table cloth!
Pas de souci, ce n'est pas grave! = Don't worry, it doesn't matter, never mind!

Don't say: La situation actuelle est sérieuse après cette catastrophe naturelle.
SAY: La situation actuelle après la catastrophe naturelle est grave = The current situation after this natural catastrophe is deeply serious.

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….
Therefore, to say “it feels like a summer day”, it would be translated as “one would say it is a summer day”: on dirait un jour d'été.

Example:
This shirt is so soft, it feels like silk = Cette chemise est tellement douce, on dirait de la soie.

Don't say: Ça sent un jour d'hiver.
SAY: On dirait un jour d'hiver = it feels like a winter day.

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.

Example:
There are no easy solution to this economic crisis = Il n'y a pas d'issue facile à cette crise économique. When you wish to say that there is an “issue” at work or in your social life, then you would need to either use the word soucis or the word problème.

The French use soucis loosely in their everyday conversations, usually for a relatively small problem. The French word problème is more serious.

Examples:
J'ai un souci avec ma carte bancaire, elle ne marche pas très bien dans les distributeurs = I have a small issue with my bank card, it doesn't work really well in the ATM machines.
J'ai un problème avec ce dossier car la facture est encore impayée = I have an issue with this file because the invoice is still outstanding.

Don't say: J'ai une issue avec cette personne.
SAY: J'ai un problème avec cette personne = I have an issue with this person.

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.
Plusieurs fois will be used to refer to something you've seen or done a few times like when you've seen a movie.

Example:
J'ai vu ce film plusieurs fois = I've seen this movie a few times.

Otherwise, it's best to say souvent or très souvent, especially when you speak about a place you've been to many times.

Example:
Je suis souvent allé au Café de Flore quand j'habitais à Paris = I went to the Café de Flore many times when I used to live in Paris.

Don't say: J'ai entendu cette chanson beaucoup de fois.
SAY: J'ai souvent entendu cette chanson = I heard this song many times.

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Majuscules et minuscules

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.

1) Languages

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…

Examples:
-C'est vrai que tu apprends l' italien ? Non, j'apprends l'anglais pour commencer, c'est plus facile comme ma langue natale est l'espagnol.
- Et toi, tu aimes parler français ? Oui, mais c'est difficile, je suis plus à l'aise en anglais.

2) Nationalities

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.

Examples:
-L'homme qui a obtenu ce travail est français (adj.) . C'est un Français (noun) qui a obtenu ce travail.
-Cette femme qui fait la pizza ce soir est italienne (adj.). Ce soir, la pizza est préparée par une Italienne (noun).

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.

3) Abbreviations

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:
Monsieur : M.
Madame : Mme
Mademoiselle : Mlle
Docteur : Dr
Professeur : Pr
Maître : Me

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.

Examples:
- Qui est madame Dupont ? C'est la cousine du Dr Charpentier.
-Bonjour Madame Dupont, vous êtes bien la cousine du docteur ?
-Cher Monsieur, serez-vous au dîner ce soir ?
-Oui bien sûr, cher Maître, je serai là. Savez-vous si monsieur Dupont, le docteur, sera là aussi ? Et le Pr Martin ?
-Je vais vérifier auprès du professeur, et de Mme Martin.
-Bonjour Professeur, avez-vous reçu notre invitation chez maître Lepic ?

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):
- Lancement d'un nouveau modèle de voiture électrique.
- Les Jeux olympiques d' hiver 2018 viennent d' échapper à Annecy.
- Le scandale DSK propulse François Hollande au premier plan.

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):
- Les Misérables, 1862, Victor Hugo.
- À la recherche du temps perdu, 1913 à 1927, Marcel Proust.
- Bonjour tristesse, 1954, Françoise Sagan.
- Trois Femmes puissantes, Marie NDiaye, 2009, prix Goncourt 2009.

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.

Examples:
- Lundi, c'est le 31 juillet? Non, lundi, c'est le 1er août .
- Elle est née le 14 juillet, le jour de la fête nationale française !
- Nous voyagerons en train le lendemain de Noël.
- Nous restons toujours en famille pendant les vacances de Pâques.

6) Officials

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):
-a minister doesn't carry a capital letter, except the prime minister: le Premier ministre ;
- for the others, only the ministry to which he is attached has a capital letter: le ministre de l'Intérieur, le ministre des Affaires étrangères, etc. However, when one talks about the ministry itself, such as le ministère des affaires étrangères, it is usually all in lower-case letters. Most other officials never carry a capital letter.

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.

Examples:
- Le chef de l' État, accompagné du Premier ministre, a convoqué les ministres au ministère des finances.
- Le pape a été accueilli par le président de la République et le maire de Paris.
- Mon grand-père a connu la Grande Guerre, mon père la Seconde Guerre mondiale et la Résistance, et moi j'ai fait Mai 68...

7) Geography

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 :
- La ville de Paris.
- L' avenue des Champs Élysées.
- La cathédrale de Chartres.
- L' océan Atlantique.
- Le lac d' Annecy.


The proper vocabulary

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:
-Ecrire en capitales = to write in upper-case letters.
-Ecrire en bas de casse = to write in lower-case letters.

Un nom propre = a proper name (always takes a capital letter in French, as in English).

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DELF/DALF - Méthodologie

Pour aider les étudiants qui préparent les examens du DELF/DALF, voici une fiche méthodologique pouvant être utile pour évaluer leur niveau :

Cadre européen commun de référence pour l'apprentissage/enseignement des langues

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Pronoms réfléchis

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
Yourself = te
Himself = se
Herself = se
Yourselves = vous
Themselves = se

These pronouns are placed before the verb and immediately following the subject pronoun.

For example:
Je me lave les dents après le repas de midi = I wash my teeth after lunch. Notice how the pronoun me is placed before the verb lave . Here, you are literally saying: I wash my teeth by myself after lunch. In simplified terms, reflexive verbs really indicate that the action of the verb is done to the subject of the sentence.

Here is the full conjugation of the verb se laver (to wash oneself) in the present tense with its appropriate pronoun:
Je me lave = I wash myself
Tu te laves = You wash yourself
Il/elle se lave = He/she washes him/herself
Nous nous lavons = We wash ourselves
Vous vous lavez = You wash yourselves
Ils/elles se lavent = They wash themselves

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:
Je me réveille = I wake up
Tu te lèves = You get up
Elle s'habille = She gets dressed
Il se lave = He washes
Nous nous préparons = We're getting ready
Ils s'entendent = They're getting along
Je me marie = I'm getting married
Il s'ennuie = He's getting bored (He is bored)

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:
Je m'appelle Caroline = My name is Caroline
Tu te brosses les cheveux = You're brushing your hair
Elle se couche = She goes to bed
Il se promène = He's taking a walk
Nous nous amusons = We're having fun
Vous vous occupez de la maison = You're taking care of the house.
Ils s'inquiètent = They're worrying (are worried)
Je me baigne = I'm going for a swim

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!

Examples:
1) Je me lave = I am washing myself.
Je lave mon bébé = I am washing my baby (the reflexive pronoun me has been dropped).
2) Elle s' appelle Caroline = Her name is Caroline
Elle appelle Caroline pour rentrer à la maison = She is calling Caroline to come inside (notice in this sentence that the reflexive pronoun se or s' has been removed).

 

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L'apostrophe

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:

SAY: l'oiseau, and NOT: le oiseau (= bird)
SAY: l'homme, and NOT: le homme (= man)
SAY: l'usine, and NOT: la usine (= factory)

NOTE that there is no elision with the indefinite article une , even tough it ends with the vowel e.
Ex .: une amie … (= a friend).

Also NOTE that when an h is aspirate, elision can't take place. Ex .: le héros, le Havre.

2) Subject pronouns je and ce:

SAY: j'aime, and NOT: je aime (= I love)
SAY: j'oublie, and NOT: je oublie (I forget)
SAY: j'ai faim, and NOT: je ai faim (I am hungry)
SAY: c'est bien, and NOT: ce est bien (that's good)

3) Object pronouns me, te, se, le, la:

SAY: je m'attache, and NOT: je me attache (= I get attached).
SAY: je t'écoute, and NOT: je te écoute (= I listen to you).
SAY: elle s'amuse, and NOT: elle se amuse (= she is having fun).
SAY: tu l'aimes ?, and NOT: tu le aimes ? (= do you love him?)
SAY: elle l'a oubliée, and NOT: elle la a oubliée (= she has forgotten her)

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:

SAY: elle n'aime personne, and NOT: elle ne aime personne (= she loves nobody).
SAY: nous n'oublions rien ?, and NOT: nous ne oublions rien ? (= are we not forgetting something?)

5) The conjunction que and the relative pronoun que:

SAY: il faut qu'il comprenne, and NOT: il faut que il comprenne (= he has to understand)
SAY: il est temps qu'on parte, and NOT: il est temps que on parte (= it is time that we leave)
SAY: la voiture qu'il a achetée, and NOT: la voiture que il a achetée (= the car that he bought)

NOTE that the same applies to other conjunctions ending in que, such as: jusque, parce que, puisque, est-ce que, etc.
Ex .: Je travaille jusqu'à dimanche (= I work until Sunday); puisqu'il est en vacances, je le rejoins (= as he is on holiday, I'll join him).

6) The conjunction si (= if), when followed by the pronouns il and ils:

SAY: s'il vient vite, on peut partir, and NOT: si il vient vite , on peut partir.
SAY: s'ils attendent plus longtemps, ce sera trop tard, and NOT: si ils attendent plus longtemps, ce sera trop tard (= if they wait longer, it will be too late). NOTE that we don't use elision with the pronoun elle in this case.
Ex .: Si elle arrive en retard, tant pis pour elle (= If she arrives late, too bad for her).

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.

Examples
:
T'es content ? = Are you happy?
T'as vu mon nouveau sac ? = Did you see my new bag?

 

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Le langage de la politesse

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”.

As explained before, you need the main verb conjugated in the conditionnel to create a polite form and if you wish add a second verb, then you'll need to leave this one in the infinitive or unconjugated form.

Example:
Je voudrais/J'aimerais essayer cette robe = I would like to try on this dress.

Notice how the second verb essayer is not conjugated.

You can also use Je voudrais with a noun:
Je voudrais / J'aimerais cette robe = I would like this dress.

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:

Pourriez-vous… ?
= Could you...?

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”.

This is how the construction works when you're asking someone to do something:
Pouvoir in the conditionnel tense + second verb in the infinitive form.

Examples:
- Avec mon café, pourriez-vous me donner un verre d'eau ? = With my coffee, could you give me a glass of water?
- Pourriez-vous me donner des détails sur cet ordinateur? = Could you give me details on this computer?

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.

Examples:
- Est-ce que je pourrais avoir un verre d'eau , s'il vous plaît ? = Could I have a glass of water please ?
OR :
You can also say Puis-je ..? = May I/Could I…?
Puis-je avoir une brochure supplémentaire ? = May I/could I have an additional brochure?

In other words, if you wish to say:
1. Could you give me your phone number? Then you would say: Pourriez-vous me donner votre numéro de téléphone ?
2. Could I ask you for your phone number? Then you would say: Est-ce que je pourrais vous demander votre numéro de téléphone ?
OR:
Puis-je vous demander votre numéro de téléphone ?

 More examples:
- Est-ce que je pourrais prendre une carte de visite ? = Could I take a business card ?
- Pourriez-vous me conduire à l'hôtel ? = Could you drive me to the hotel?

Serait-il possible de… ?
= Would it be possible to…?

The equivalent in English is “Would it be possible to…?” . In this case, the verb être is conjugated in the conditionnel : Il serait (it would be)…

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.

Examples:
- Serait-il possible d'échanger ce manteau avec une taille plus petite ? = Would it be possible to exchange this coat with a smaller size?
- Serait-il possible de vous voir demain soir ? = W ould it be possible to see you tomorrow night?

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.
With this request form, you would add a noun after Auriez-vous … ?

Example:
Auriez-vous un peu de papier cadeau ? = Would you have some gift wrapping paper?

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.

Example:
Est-ce que ça vous dérangerait de m'appeler une fois que la commande est prête ? = Would you mind calling me once the order is ready?

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Le passé composé et l'accord du participe passé

As its name implies, the passé composé is a compound tense, composed of two elements: the present tense of the auxiliary verb avoir or être followed by the past participle of the main verb:
passé composé = present tense of auxiliary + past participle. The question of whether to make that past participle agree with the subject, whether to add an ‘s' if the subject is plural, or an ‘e' if it's feminine, remains a difficult one.

Note that in most instances the auxiliary verb is avoir.

Example :
J' ai acheté du pain ce matin = I bought some bread this morning.
In this sentence, note that the auxiliary verb is avoir and is conjugated in the present tense with the subject je , and the past participle of the main verb/action of the sentence acheter is simply acheté.

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.

Examples :
J'ai grandi en France = I grew up in France.
Nous avons fini le repas = We finished the meal.

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.

Examples :

J'ai vendu la voiture = I sold the car.
J'ai perdu les clés = I lost the keys.
Il a répondu à ma question = He answered my question.
Nous avons pris un taxi ce matin = We took a taxi this morning.
Où as-tu mis mes clés ? = Where did you put my keys?

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) = ; être (to be) = été; dire (to say) = dit.

As for the irregular verbs être, avoir, faire, aller, here are the past participles:
J'ai été = I was
J'ai eu = I had
J'ai fait = I did
As for the verb aller, it is formed just like any er verb but it takes the auxiliary verb être!
Je suis allé = I went.

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 :
Les filles ont regardé des films = The girls watched some movies.

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 :
Le chien a perdu son maître = The dog lost its master.
Nous avons eu beaucoup de neige cet hiver = We had a lot of snow this winter.

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 :
Les films que les filles ont regardés étaient intéressants = The films the girls watched were interesting.

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.

Examples :
Les lettres que vous avez écrites = The letters that you wrote.
Note that the verb écrire is in the 3 rd group of verbs and the direct object is les lettres which is a feminine and plural noun.
Les fenêtres qu'elle a ouvertes = The windows that she opened.
Again, les fenêtres is a feminine and plural direct object.

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 :
Je (a girl) suis allée à la pharmacie = I went to the pharmacy.

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.

Examples :
Nous sommes venues ce matin = We came this morning.
Vous êtes partis à quelle heure ? = At what time did you leave?

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).

Examples :
Nous avons passé trois jours à Bruxelles en avril = We spent three days in Brussells in April - there is no past participle agreement because passer is used to mean to spend time.
Elle est passée te voir ce matin = She came by to see you this morning - a verb of motion conjugated with être and thus the past participle agrees with the subject Elle.
Elle a passé ses examens à Paris = She took her exams in Paris - here passer is not used as a verb of motion and it takes a direct object ( ses examens) , and thus there is no agreement.

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:
Aline est née en 1962 = Aline was born in 1962.
Valentine est morte en 1970 = Valentine died in 1970 (as you can hear, the pronunciation of mort changes when you add the ‘e').

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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.
In French grammar, pronominal verbs use a reflexive pronoun (me, te, se, nous, vous) which is placed in front of the verb. The most common pronominal verbs are the reflexive verbs , which indicate that the subject of the verb is performing the action upon himself, herself, or itself.
These reflexive verbs are used to express the little, everyday actions we all do related to the body, or daily routine tasks.

Here are some common reflexive verbs:
se brosser = to brush oneself
s'habiller = to get dressed
se coucher = to go to bed
se lever = to get up
se réveiller = to wake up
s'endormir = to fall asleep
s'asseoir = to sit down
se laver = to wash oneself
se doucher = to take a shower
se maquiller = to put on make-up
se raser = to shave
se promener = to take a walk
se saouler = to get drunk
se préparer = to get ready
s'occuper de = to take care of

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.
In other words, the reflexive verbs can become non-reflexive if you leave out the reflexive pronoun; that depends on where the action is taking place – on oneself or on/to someone else? The opposite is also true: many non-reflexive verbs can also be used as reflexive verbs. Ex.: demander = to ask; se demander = to wonder (to ask oneself).

Examples:
Le matin, je me lave avant de prendre le petit déjeuner = In the morning, I wash (myself) before having breakfast.
(In this case, the action is being clearly done to the subject of the sentence, therefore the reflexive pronoun me is placed in front of the verb).

Here is an example without the reflexive pronoun:
Le matin, je lave mon bébé avant de prendre le petit déjeuner = in the morning, I wash my baby before having breakfast.
(In this case, the action is being done to someone else - mon bébé - not to oneself, therefore, there is no reflexive pronoun - me - in front of the verb).

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:
s'aimer = to love one another
se quitter = to leave one another
se regarder = to look at one another
se comprendre = to understand one another
se connaître = to know one another
se rencontrer = to meet each other
se téléphoner = to call one another
se disputer = to argue with one another
se plaire = to like each other

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:
-Yes if the direct object comes before the verb. In other words, if the verb is not followed with a direct object. In most cases, the reflexive pronoun itself (me, te, se, nous, vous) is the direct object, and it is most of the time placed before the verb.
- No if there is an obvious direct object that comes after the verb.

How can we identify a direct object?

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.
Again, if there is no direct object after the verb, then yes in most cases you will need to make the past participle agree with the reflexive pronoun, which is the direct object and it comes in front of the verb.

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:
Subject + reflexive pronoun + être + past participle.

Examples with the direct object placed before the verb - This is the most common usage of reflexive verbs:
Elle s'est lavée = She washed (herself).
Ils se sont couché s = They went to bed (put themselves to bed).
Elles se sont réveillé es à 5h du matin = They woke up at 5:00 am.
Je (masc.) me suis rasé avant le petit déj euner = I shaved before breakfast.

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:
Elle s'est brossé les dents = She brushed her teeth.
Elles se sont lavé la tête = They washed their hair.
Marie s'est rasé les jambes = Marie shaved her legs.

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.
Since the direct object ( les dents ) is placed after the verb, then we cannot apply the past participle agreement rule. So notice how brossé in this example is left unchanged, we didn't add an e even though the subject pronoun is elle and the auxiliary verb is être.

Other examples:
Elle s'est maquillée = She put make-up on.
The direct object s ' comes before the verb so the agreement rule is applied.

Elle s'est maquillé les yeux = She made her eyes up.
The direct object les yeux is placed after the verb so the agreement rule is not applied.

Ils se sont lavés = They washed.
The direct object se is placed before the verb so the agreement rule is applied.

Elles se sont lavé les dents = They washed (brushed) their teeth.
The direct object les dents comes after the verb so the agreement is rule is not applied.

Les enfants se sont disputé s fortement = The children argued loudly.
The direct object se is placed before the verb so the agreement rule is applied.

Elles se sont connu es en Allemagne = They met each other in Germany (a reciprocal use of the verb).
Same situation: the direct object se is placed before the verb so the agreement rule is applied.

Les lettres qu'elles se sont écrites = The letters they wrote to each other.
In this example, les lettres is the direct object (What did they write?) and is placed before the verb so the agreement rule is applied.

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):
parler à = to speak to (someone)
communiquer à = to communicate to (someone)
répondre à = to answer to (someone)
demander à = to ask to (someone)
envoyer à = to send to (someone)
dire à = to say to someone
écrire à = to write to (someone)
s'associer à = to associate oneself with (someone)
faire confiance à  = to trust (someone)
sourire à = to smile at (someone)

Example:
Carole et Cécile, elles se sont téléphoné = Carole and Cécile, they called each other.
In this example, we need to ask the question téléphoner à qui ?  (to whom?). The answer being “to each other” and thus the reflexive pronoun se is an indirect object. There is no agreement of the past participle.

Other examples:
Ils se sont écrit = They wrote to each other.
Elles se sont parlé = They spoke to each other.
Elles se sont associé = They associated (with) each other.

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.
Actually, many of these verbs are very useful in everyday communication; this would be a very good list to learn:
s'en aller = to leave, take off
se caser = to leave, go away
s'absenter = to be absent/ to be away
se demander = to wonder
s'appeler = to be named
s'endormir = to fall asleep
s'ennuyer = to be bored
s'emmerder (vulgar) = to be bored
se démerder (vulgar) = to make the best out of a situation, to get by, to figure out...
se débrouiller = a non-vulgar version of se démerder
se perdre = to get lost
se fâcher = to be angry
s'attendre à = to expect
se plaindre = to complain
s'habituer à = to get used to
se servir de = to use
s'installer = to settle in
s'amuser = to have fun
s'en foutre (vulgar) = not to give a damn (je m'en fous…)
se réjouir = to look forward to something
se rendre à = to go to
se tromper = to make a mistake

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.

Examples:
Elle s'est installée à Paris  = She settled in Paris.
Nous nous sommes servis de l'ordinateur  = We used the computer.
Je (fem.) me suis rendu e chez Catherine = I went to Catherine's.
Avec les filles, nous nous sommes bien amusées = with the girls, we had fun.
BUT :
Elle s'est demandé où se trouvait la Gare du Nord = She wondered where the Gare du Nord was.

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Phonétique

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. 
Ex.: 
- là = there; la = the;
- où = where; ou = or.

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.
Ex.:
- Anne (common first name); âne = donkey;
- il = he;  île = island;
- cote = popularity; côte = coast;
- sur = above; sûr = certain.

It is also used to distinguish  du (the contraction of de + le ) from , 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.: nveNl.

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.
Note that the nasal un is gradually being replaced by the nasal in sound in France.

III) How to pronounce the vowels?

A, a

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:

1.
- ai (which is pronounced like è). Ex.: faire = to do; aide = help; aile = wing; chaise = chair; mais = but.
- ay (which is pronounced like ê). Ex.: payer = to pay; pays = country.
Attention: ay can also be pronounced a-i (mayonnaise), or é-i (abbaye).

2. a-i , which can be written in 2 ways (there is a slight nuance between the two - listen carefully to the audio):
- . Ex.: ms = maize;
- aille. Ex.: paille = straw; taille = size.

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

E, e

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.

2. es, at the end of some short one-syllable words in the plural. Ex.: les = the; mes = my.

3. ez. Ex.: nez = nose; rez-de-chaussée = ground floor. And we find it in many conjugations, of the 2nd person plural, in several tenses. Ex.: vous marchez (marcher) = you walk; vous vendez (vendre) = you sell; vous disiez (dire) = you said; lisez ! (lire) = read!

4. Exceptionally, a very few words ending in ed are also pronounced é. Ex. : pied = foot.

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.

I, i

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.
However, in the three words: mille (thousand) ville (city) and tranquille (quiet), and their derivatives, the letters l are pronounced.

O, o

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 :

1. ou. Ex.: oublier = to forget; ouvrir = to open; poulet = chicken.
2. oi. sounds like the wa in the English word water. Ex.: noir = black; boire = to drink; oiseau = bird.

5) When o or oi are attached to the consonants m or n, other pronunciations are possible, such as :

1. on, om - the nasal o sound. Ex.: pardon = sorry; salon = living room; ombre = shade.
But when the n or m is followed by another vowel or by another n or m, it is pronounced simply o. Ex.: tome = volume (of a book); donner = to give.

2. oin - the nasal i sound. Ex.: coin = corner; loin = far.


U, u

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.
But, when the n is followed by the vowel e, it is pronounced u and is no longer nasal. Ex. : une = one (fem.); brune = brown (fem.); fortune = fortune.

4) In some cases, mostly for technical words, a final um is pronounced eum. Ex.: sérum = serum, forum.

Y, y

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?
(Seulement les consonnes qui posent des difficultés particulières sont examinées)

C, c

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.
Or by a “hard” vowel: a, o, u. Ex.: carré = square; col = collar; cuisine = kitchen.
With a major exception: with the cedilla, ç, it is pronounced s. Ex. : français = French; garçon = boy; çu = disappointed.

- 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.
- k, for some specialized terms. Ex.: chiropracteur = chiroprator; technique = technical. 


D, d

It is almost always pronounced d.
Ex.: dame = lady; demain = tomorrow; dire = to say; donner = to give; durer = to last.

But it can be pronounced t
, when one has, very exceptionally, to mark the liaison with a word starting with a vowel. Ex.: un grand appartement = a large flat; pied-à-terre


G, g

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.
- g , when it is followed by a “hard ” vowel: a, o, or by a consonant. Ex.: galerie = gallery; cargo = cargo; glace = ice; gras = fat.
Note: when g is followed by u, in most cases the u is not pronounced. Ex.: guérir = to cure; guider = to guide.

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.
- gn. Very few words are pronounced this way.
Ex.: stagner = to stagnate; diagnostic = diagnosis; magnum = magnum.


H, h

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.
Ex. of aspirated h words: la hache = the axe; le héros = the hero; le hibou = the awl; la honte = the shame; la hutte = the hut.
Ex. of silent h words: l'harmonie = the harmony; l'hiver = the winter; l'horloge = the clock; l'humour = the humour/humor.

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.

P, p

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.

Q, q

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).

S, s

It can be pronounced either:

1) s, when:
- it starts a word. Ex.: sale = dirty; secouer = to shake; silence = silence; sofa = sofa bed.
- it is followed by a consonant. Ex.: cascade = waterfall; espoir = hope. mystère = mystery.
- it is doubled. Ex.: casser = to break; aussi = also; saucisson = dry sausage; blessure = injury.

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.
But attention, not all liaisons are possible! Again, only practice can help knowing them.


T, t

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.
Ex.: initiative = initiative; confidentiel = confidential.
But the exceptions to this exception are numerous, and very complex. Just as an example, in the word adoptions, the letter t can be pronounced either t or s depending if it is a conjugated verb or a noun: nous adoptions ("t") = we adopted; les adoptions ("s") = the adoptions.

W, w

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; nophobe = 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:
- d. Ex.: froid = cold; chaud = hot; sourd = deaf. Ex. of exception: sud = south.
- g. Ex.: sang = blood; long = long. Ex. of exception: grog = grog.
- m. Ex.: parfum = perfume. Ex. of exception: forum = forum.
- n. Ex.: un = one; balcon = balcony.
- p. Ex.: drap = bed sheet; champ = field. Ex. of exceptions: slip = brief (underwear), cap = cape.
- s. Ex.: trois = three; vous = you. Ex. of exceptions: fils = son; bus = bus; tennis = tennis.
- t. Ex.: salut = hello; abricot = apricot. Ex. of exceptions: est = east; ouest = west; huit = eight; direct = direct.
- x. Ex.: taux = rate; deux = two; prix = price. Ex. of exception: index = index.
- z. Ex.: chez = at (someone's place); riz = rice. Ex. of exception: gaz = gas.

2) But we usually pronounce the last consonant in the words ending in:
- b. Ex.: snob = snob; club = club; baobab = baobab. Ex. of exception: plomb = lead.
- c. Ex. : truc = thing; avec = with; donc = then; flic = cop; trac = nerves. Ex. of exceptions: estomac = stomach; porc = pork; blanc = white.
- f. Ex.: chef = chef; œuf = egg. Ex. of exceptions: clef (other spelling: clé) = key; nerf = nerve.
- k. Ex.: anorak = anorak; bifteck = steak.
- l. Ex.: avril = April; hôtel = hotel; bol = bowl. Ex. of exceptions: outil = tool; gentil = kind.
- q. Ex.: coq = rooster; cinq = five.
- r. Ex.: four = oven; pour = for; tour = tower; mer = sea; hiver = winter; fleur = flower. See other endings in er above.

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.

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"Plus"

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.

  
1st Part: Cases when plus is pronounced "plus"

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:
Examples:
- J'ai plus de chance que toi au loto. = I have more luck than you in the lotto.
- Il a plus d'amis que quand il ne travaillait pas. = He has more friends than when he didn't work.
- Louis a plus de plaisir à parler français qu'espagnol. = Louis has more pleasure speaking French than Spanish.

2) After a verb and directly followed by the pronoun que:
Examples:
- Mon fils mange plus que ma fille. = My son eats more than my daughter.
- La fourmi travaille plus que la cigale. = The ant works more than the cicada.
- Le tennis nous plaît plus que le foot. = We like tennis more than soccer.

3) When it is accompanied by en - en plus - (meaning "more", "moreover", etc.): 
Examples:
- J'ai des heures en plus à faire. = I have overtime work to do.
- Je n'ai pas le temps de déjeuner ; en plus, je dois partir plus tôt. = I don't have time for lunch; moreover, I have to leave early.
- Je suis fatigué, et en plus, j'ai faim. = I am tired, and moreover, I am hungry.

  
2nd Part: Cases when plus is pronounced differently

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": 
Examples:
- Marie est plus gentille que sa sœur. = Marie is kinder than her sister.
- Le dimanche paraît toujours plus court que les autres jours. = Sunday always seems shorter than the other days.
- Le jardin est plus beau au printemps qu'en hiver. = The garden is more beautiful in spring than in winter.

Before an adjective that starts with a vowel or with a silent h:  it should be pronounced "pluz": 
Examples:
- Le nouveau présentateur de l'émission de télé est plus élégant que l'ancien. = The new presenter of the TV show is more elegant than the previous one.
- Lucie est toujours plus inquiète que son mari. = Lucie is always more worried than her husband.
- Ma fille est plus heureuse à la maison qu'à l'école. = My daughter is happier at home than at school.

2) Before an adverb: it should also be pronounced either:

- "plu", when the adverb starts with a consonant:
Examples:
- Sa fille vient plus souvent la voir que son fils. = Her daughter visits her more frequently than her son.
- À Paris, on se déplace plus lentement en bus qu'en métro. = In Paris, we move more slowly in a bus than in the subway.
- Le professeur parle plus doucement à un étudiant étranger  qu'à un Français. = The teacher speaks more slowly to a foreign student than to a French person.

- or "pluz", when the  adverb starts with a vowel or with a silent h:
Examples:
- Le vendeur se comporte plus aimablement quand les clients sont sympa que quand ils sont agressifs. = The salesman acts in a more kindly way when the clients are nice than when they are aggressive.
- Juliette parle plus ouvertement avec ses copines qu'avec sa famille. = Juliette speaks more openly with her friends than with her family.
- Il agit plus honnêtement que quand il a créé sa société. = He acts more honestly than when he started his company.

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": 
Examples:
- Plus nous voyageons, plus nous avons envie de voyager. = The more we travel, the more we feel like traveling.
- Plus la tempête est forte, plus les vagues sont hautes. = The stronger the storm, the higher the waves.
- Plus le vin est bon, plus nous en buvons. = The better the wine, the more of it we drink.

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: 
Examples:
- Plus il connaît sa femme, plus il l'aime. = The more he gets to know his wife, the more he loves her.
- Plus elle prend de l'âge, plus elle est relax. = The older she becomes, the more relaxed she is.
- Plus on est de fous, plus on rit. = The more the merrier.

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": 
Examples:
- Les ouvriers ne veulent plus travailler le soir. = The workers don't want to work in the evening anymore.
- Nous n'allons plus jamais au cinéma. = We don't go to the movies anymore.
- Tu ne veux plus de chien ?= You don't want anymore dogs?

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: 
Examples:
- Il n'a plus assez de temps pour lui. = He no longer has enough time for himself anymore.
- Elle n'est plus intéressée par ce travail.  = She is no longer interested by this work.
- Ce village n'est plus habité. = This village is no longer inhabited.

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"Il faut" (et non "C'est nécessaire")

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.

Examples :
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 every day at 09:00am.
For making strong suggestions : Il faut prendre son temps dans la vie… = It's necessary to take one's time in life…
Note: you can see that the second verbs aller, arriver and prendre are not conjugated.

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:
Il faut que + subject + verb in the subjonctive form.

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:
Je parle
Tu parles
Il/elle/on parle
Nous parlions
Vous parliez
Ils parlent

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:
Je sois
Tu sois
Il/elle/on soit
Nous soyons
Vous soyez
Ils soient

Personal - using the above examples:
For giving directions: Il faut que vous alliez (subjonctif) à gauche = You must/have to go left.
For giving orders: Il faut que vous arriviez (subjonctif) au bureau tous les jours à 9 heures = You must/have to get to the office everyday at 09:00am.
For making strong suggestions: Il faut que tu soies plus concentré en général… = You have to be more concentrated in general… 
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.

The negative form of Il faut is quite straightforward, you just need to place ne + pas around fau: Il ne faut pas.
However, the translation of Il ne faut pas is NOT: "You don't have to"; it actually means: "One mustn't".

Examples:
Il ne faut pas faire de bruit après 22h. = One must not make any noise after 10pm.
Il ne faut pas que tu t'inquiètes pour lui. = You mustn't worry about him.

Now, if you wish to say "You don't have to", then you'll want to use ne pas obliger de.

Example:
Tu n'es pas obligé d'aller à la fête ce soir. = You don't have to go to the party tonight.

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".

Examples:
Vous devez finir votre travail ce soir. = You must/have to finish your work tonight (no choice).
Elle doit partir. = She must leave.

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:
Je devrais, tu devrais, il/elle/on devrait, nous devrions, vous devriez, ils/elles devraient = I should, you should. etc.

Examples:
Je devrais aller chez le coiffeur, mes cheveux sont vraiment trop longs ! = I should go to the hairdresser, my hair is really too long!
Vous devriez acheter une nouvelle bagnole, car celle-ci est vraiment vieille ! = You ought to buy a new car, since this one is really old!

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:
Il faut un CV pour trouver un travail = one needs a résumé when looking for a job.

- When you wish to give a suggestion, use devoir in the conditional form:
C'est un petit restaurant, vous devriez réserver une table. = it's a small restaurant, you should reserve a table.

- When you wish to give a strong order, use devoir in the present form:
Vous devez finir le ménage ce soir ! = you have to finish the cleaning this evening!

- When you are giving specific directions or orders to a person, use il faut que + subjonctif:
Il faut que tu sois à l'heure pour ton rendez-vous demain matin ! = You must be on time for your appointment tomorrow morning!

- When you want to tell someone that they mustn't do something in particular, then use Il ne faut pas:
Il ne faut pas pleurer = one mustn't cry.

- When you wish to tell someone that they don't have to do something, then use pas obliger de:
Vous n'êtes pas tous obligés de travailler demain. = You don't all have to work tomorrow.

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Le temps (météo)

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.
Le climat = the climate.
La météo, les prévisions météo = the weather forecast. La météorologie is used mainly in scientific articles.
Un bulletin météo = a weather report.
Les conditions météo = weather conditions.

2) La température = temperature.
Une baisse des températures = a drop in temperature.
Le thermomètre = thermometer.
Le baromètre = barometer.
Un anticyclone = a high pressure ridge.
Une dépression, une dépression atmosphérique = an atmospheric depression, a low.
L'instabilité = changeability, volatility.

3) Les précipitations = rain/snowfall.
Un nuage = a cloud.
Un ciel nuageux, un ciel couvert = a cloudy sky.
La pluie = rain.
Une averse = a shower.
Les embruns (marins) = sprays (from the sea, close from the coast).
Une accalmie = a lull.
Un temps calme = calm weather.
Un arc-en-ciel = a rainbow.
La brume = mist.
Le brouillard = fog.

4) Le vent = wind.
La force du vent = the strength of the wind.
Une brise = a breeze.
La bise = a cold wind from the north-east / north (a typical wind in the northern Alps region and in Switzerland).
Le mistral = a cold and often very strong wind from the nord-west/north (typical wind of the southern Rhone Valley and of Provence).
La tramontane = a cold and violent wind from the north-west (observed mainly between the south of the Massif central and the Pyrenees).
Une bourrasque = a blow, gust of wind.
Une rafale de vent = a gust of wind.

5) Le soleil = the sun.
Les rayons du soleil = sunrays.
La chaleur = heat.
Une canicule, une vague de chaleur = a heat wave.

6) La neige = snow.
Une couche de neige = a blanket or layer of snow.
Un flocon de neige = a snowflake.
Le gel = freezing.
Le givre = frost (the ice on trees, cars, etc.)
Un brouillard givrant = a freezing fog.
La glace = ice.
La grêle = hail.

7) L'orage = a storm.
Le tonnerre = thunder.
La foudre = lightning.
Une tempête = a windstorm.
Un avis de tempête = a storm warning.
Une tornade = a tornado.
Un ouragan = a hurricane.
Un cyclone = a cyclone.
Un typhon = a typhon.

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?
Quel temps il fait ? Il fait quel temps ? = Idem, but more usual in the daily language.
Tu as vu le temps qu'il fait ? = Have you seen what the weather is like?
Quelle température fait-il aujourd'hui ? Il fait quelle température aujourd'hui ? = What temperature is it today?
Il fait combien ? = Idem, very much used in the daily language.
Il fait beau, il fait beau temps = It's nice.
Il fait frais = It's cool.
Il fait doux = It's warm.
Il fait chaud = It's hot.
Il fait lourd = It's sultry (one can also say: c'est lourd, see below).
Il fait humide = It's humid (one can also say: c'est humide, see below ).
Il fait (du) soleil = It's sunny.
Il fait un soleil de plomb = It's heavily sunny (plomb = lead). Said when the sun is really beating down.
Il fait 35 degrés = It's 35 degrees.
Il fait presque zéro = It's almost zero.
Il fait froid = It's cold.
Il fait du vent = It's windy.
Il souffle, il souffle fort = It's blowing, it's blowing a lot.
Il fait mauvais, il fait mauvais temps = It's bad weather.
Il fait un temps pourri = It's awful weather (lit.: it's rotten weather)
Il fait un sale temps = It's bad weather (sale = dirty, is also used with the meaning of “ bad ” when talking about the weather).
Quel sale temps ! = What bad/rotten/awful weather!
Il fait un sacré* vent ! = It's terribly windy!
Il fait sacrément* mauvais aujourd'hui ! = It's especially bad today!

* 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:
Il pleut = It's raining.
Il va pleuvoir demain = It's going to rain tomorrow.
Il neige = It's snowing.
Il a neigé toute la nuit = It snowed the whole night.

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:
Il gèle aujourd'hui ! = it is freezing today!
Je gèle ! = I am freezing.
Je suis gelé(e) = I am frozen.
Ne reste pas dehors, tu vas geler ! = Don't stay outside, you're going to free-ze!

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).
When venter is used, it is sometimes in this type of expressions : Qu'il pleuve, qu'il neige ou qu'il vente, je serai là = Whether it rains, snows, or is windy, I'll be there…

3) C'est is also widely used, in the following weather contexts:

C'est nuageux = It's cloudy.
C'est orageux = It's stormy.
C'est humide = It's humid (one can also say: Il fait humide).
C'est lourd = It's sultry (one can also say: Il fait lourd).
C'est menaçant = It's threatening (in the sense that there is a chance of rain).
C'est quoi, ce temps ? = What's this weather? (used when someone is angry or upset about the weather).

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).
Il y a du brouillard = There is some fog/It's foggy (idem).
Il y a une tempête = There is a storm.Il y a une tempête de neige = There is a snowstorm.
Il y a des nuages = It's cloudy (you can either say il y a des nuages or c'est nuageux ).

 

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Coordonnées personnelles : comment les donner (How to communicate contact details)

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)

When someone asks Quel est votre nom ? (What's your name?), you can assume that the person is asking for your last name: Nom de famille.
Mon nom de famille est Johnson. = My last name is Johnson.
Quel est votre prénom ? = What's your first name?
Mon prénom est Julie. = My first name is Julie.
Mon nom de jeune fille est Wilson. = My maiden name is Wilson.

You might hear French persons asking you to spell your full name (nom). They might ask:
Comment épelez-vous votre nom ? = How do you spell your name?
OR: Comment écrivez-vous votre nom ? = How do you write your name?

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:
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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 ?

You'll probably need to know the following phrases:
J'habite aux Etats-Unis, au 32 Oakpark Avenue... = I live in the USA, at 32 Oakpark Avenue...
La ville est Ventura. = The city is Ventura.
Le code postal est 93001. = The area code is 93001.

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?
11 to 20 = onze; douze; treize; quatorze; quinze; seize; dix-sept; dix-huit; dix-neuf; vingt; vingt et un.
30; 40; 50 = trente; quarante; cinquante.

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! 

Examples:
31 = trente et un; 41 = quarante et un.
32 = trente-deux; 42 = quarante-deux.

3) Your cell phone number ( votre numéro de mobile/portable )

Now that you've reviewed the numbers, you should be able to communicate your cell phone number. You might hear Quel est votre numéro de portable ? Or Quel est votre numéro de mobile ? The French have the tendency to say the numbers 2 digits at a time. However, if you're more comfortable with 1 digit, that's fine.

Example:
Mon numéro de portable est le 04-50-40-61-23.

Note: To give the country code, this is how you say it:
L'indicatif du pays est… = The country code is…

4) Your email address (votre adresse email, or mail)

Expressing with ease and accuracy your email address has become crucial in today's connected world. The French will either say:
Quelle est votre adresse email ?
Or
Quel est votre mail ?
(Note how the e is dropped in front of 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.

Examples:
T comme Tom = T as in Tom.
A comme Amsterdam...
B comme Brigitte
...
N comme New York
...

Important translations:
The @ symbol = arobase
A dot = un point
A hyhen = un tiret
A capital letter = une lettre majuscule
A lower case = une lettre minuscule 

Example of expressing a email address:
juli54@att.com
"j" comme "Jack"
"u" comme "Ursula"
"l" comme "Lucie"
"i" comme "Italie"
5
4
arobase
a
t
t
point
com

If you're in France and you wish to connect to the wifi of your hotel or at a restaurant, this is how you would ask for the code: Quel est le code wifi ?

A few useful words and expressions:
Mon ordinateur portable. = My portable computer.
La connexion internet ne marche pas. = The internet connection doesn't work.
L'adaptateur pour une prise américaine. = The adaptor for an American plug.

5) Your credit card information (votre carte bancaire or carte bleue)

Over the phone, you might need to give your credit card information and perhaps the French person will ask for your carte bleue or carte bancaire. What does this mean? They're asking for an Visa or MC debit/credit card.

The type of questions you could hear:
- Quel est le numéro de votre VISA ? = What's the number of your VISA?
- Quelle est la date d'expiration ? = What's the expiration date?
- Quel est le code sécuritaire au dos de votre carte ? OR : Quels sont les trois chiffres au dos de votre carte ? = What is the security code on the back of your card?

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Le pluriel

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.

1. Articles

Definite articles

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:

Examples:
le livre, les livres = the book, the books
la maison, les maisons = the house, the houses
l'arbre (masc. word), les arbres = the tree, the trees
l'activité, les activités (fem. word) = the activity, the activities
l'heure, les heures = the hour, the hours.

Indefinite articles

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.

Examples:
un livre, des livres = a book, some books
une maison, des maisons = a house, some houses
un arbre, des arbres = a tree, some trees
une activité, des activités = an activity, some activities
une heure, des heures = an hour, some hours.

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:

Je = I; nous = we       
Tu = you (when you speak to a friend, a family member or a person you know very well); vous = you (when you speak to either several persons, or a clerk, salesperson, or anyone you have a formal relation with)
Il = he; ils = they (masc.)
Elle = she; elles = they (fem.)
On = one, we, some people...; this pronoun doesn't have a specific plural form; either ils or nous could be used, depending on the context. See below:

Examples with "on":
On entend toujours des histoires très déprimantes à la télé. = One always hears very depressing stories on TV.
On dit que le vin rouge est bon pour la santé. = One says/some people say that red wine is good for your health.
Amélie et moi, on adore le cinéma. = Amélie and I, we love movies (in such a case "on" can be two or more family members, friends, colleagues, etc.).
On va au restaurant ce soir ? = Are we going to the restaurant tonight? (idem).

3. Adjectives

In most cases, an "s" is added to the adjective in the plural form.

Examples:
Marc est intelligent, Marc et Jean sont intelligents. = Marc is intelligent, Marc and Jean are intelligent.
La forêt est immense, les forêts sont immenses. = The forest is huge, the forests are huge.

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).

Examples:
un garçon heureux, des garçons heureux= a happy boy, happy boys
une fille heureuse, des filles heureuses= a happy girl, happy girls
un chat gris, des chats gris = a grey cat (masc.)
une chatte grise, des chattes grises= grey cats (fem.).

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).

Examples:
le beau chien, les beaux chiens = the beautiful dog, the beautiful dogs (masc.)
la belle chienne, les belles chiennes = the beautiful dog, the beautiful dogs (fem.).

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).

NOTE: Before a vowel, the final "x" on an adjective is pronouned like a "z" sound, like for the "s".

Examples:
un patron amical, des patrons amicaux= a friendly boss, friendly bosses
une serveuse amicale, des serveuses amicales= a friendly waitress, friendly waitresses
un professeur génial, des professeurs géniaux= a genious teacher, genious teachers
une école géniale, des écoles géniales= a genious school, genious schools.  

4. Nouns

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".

Examples with "s":
une voiture blanche, des voitures blanches = a white car, white cars
la jolie fille, les jolies filles = the pretty girl, the pretty girls.

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).

Example:
Il a fait un bon choix, il a fait des choix difficiles. = He has made a good choice, he has made difficult choices.

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

Examples:
J'ai acheté un journal, j'ai acheté des journaux. = I have bought a newspaper, I have bought some newspapers.
Il aime le Festival de Cannes, elle préfère les festivals étrangers. = He likes the Cannes Festival, she prefers foreign festivals.

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".

Examples:
Ma mère aime bien le jeu de scrabble et les jeux de cartes. = My mother likes Scrabble and card games.
J'ai encore crevé un pneu hier, en tout j'ai déjà crevé trois pneus cette année ! = I had one more flat tyre yesterday, in all I have already had three flat tyres this year!

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".

Examples:
Ce bijou est le plus beau de tous les bijoux. = This jewel is the most beautiful of all the jewels.
Mon chien devient fou quand il est dans la neige, mais tous les chiens sont fous dans la neige. = My dog becomes crazy when he is in the snow, but all dogs are crazy in the snow.

5. A few irregular plurals

The more common words with an irregular plural are (listen carefully to the audio and repeat it):
un œil (eye), des yeux
un œuf (egg), des œufs
le ciel (sky), les cieux
Madame (Mrs.), Mesdames
Monsieur (Mr.),  Messieurs.

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:
la belle-mère (the mother-in-law, or the stepmother),  les belles-mères
un coffre-fort (a safe), des coffres-forts
un oiseau-mouche (a hummingbird), des oiseaux-mouches.

2. Two adjectives: both add an "s":
sourd-muet (deaf and dumb), des sourds-muets

3. Noun + preposition + noun: only the 1st noun takes an "s" or an "x":
un arc-en-ciel (a rainbow), des arcs-en-ciel
une eau-de-vie, des eaux-de-vie.

4. Noun preceded by a preposition: the plural is the same as the singular:
le hors-d'œuvre, les hors-d'œuvre.

5. Verb + verb: the plural is the same as the singular:
le savoir-vivre (manners), les savoir-vivre.

6. Verb + its object noun: an "s" is added to the noun in some cases (even if there are many exceptions):
un tire-bouchon (a corkscrew), des tire-bouchons.

7. Verb + adverb: only the noun takes an "s":
une arrière-pensée (an ulterior motive), des arrière-pensées.

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Etre en train de... Venir de... Etre sur le point de...

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.
 
The construction of the sentence is simple:
subject + être en train de + verb in the infinitive form.

For example, if someone is calling you and you wish to tell him that you're eating and you cannot speak to him right now, you would say:
Je suis désolée, je ne peux pas parler, je suis en train de manger. = I'm sorry, I cannot speak, I'm eating.

Other examples:
Chut! Je suis en train de regarder une émission à la télé. = shush, I'm in the middle of watching a movie.
Attends, j'appelle la mairie. = wait, I'm in the process of calling the city hall.
Je suis en train de cuisiner. = I'm in the middle of cooking.

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:
Subject + venir de in the present tense + verb in the infinitive form.

For example, if you wish to tell your French teacher that you've just finished your homework, you would say:
Je viens de finir mes devoirs.= I've just finished my homework.

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:
Je viens juste de finir mes devoirs.

Other examples:
Je viens juste de rentrer chez moi. = I just got home.
Mon patron vient juste de m'appeler. = My boss just called me.
Je viens juste d'atterrir en France. = I've just landed in France.

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:
Subject + être sur le point de conjugated in the present tense + verb in the infinitive form.

For example, you're about to go out for the day and you don't have time to speak to someone:
Je n'ai pas le temps de te parler, je suis sur le point de sortir. = I don't have the time to talk to you, I am about to leave.

Other Examples:
On est sur le point de commencer le dîner, viens vite ! = We're about to start dinner, hurry up!
Nous sommes sur le point de laisser tomber le projet. = We're about to drop  the project (note that "sur le point de"is also used in situations when we're about to give up on something)
Je suis sur le point de prendre un nouveau travail si les choses ne changent pas. = I'm about to take another job if things don't change.

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Pronoms indéfinis (quelqu'un, quelque part, quelque chose, quelquefois)

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:
Est-ce que quelqu'un a appelé ce matin ? = Did someone call this morning?

And if the answer is negative:
Non, personne n'a appel
é. = No, no one has called.
NOTE: The French might drop the "n" when they speak: Non, personne a appelé.

As mentioned above, the opposite of quelqu'un is personne.

Here is another example:
Est-ce que quelqu'un a vu le chat ? = Has anyone seen the cat?
Non, personne. = No, no one.

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:
Est-ce que vous avez entendu quelque chose ce matin à propos du nouveau projet ? = Have you heard something about the new project?

If the answer is negative:
Non, je n'ai rien entendu
. = No, I haven't heard anything.

The opposite of quelque chose is rien meaning "nothing" or "not... anything."

Here is an example with quelqu'un and quelque chose:
Est-ce que quelqu'un a vu quelque chose bouger dans cet arbre ? = Has anyone seen something move in that tree?

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:
Tu vas quelque part ce matin ? = Are you going somewhere this morning?

If the answer is negative:
Non, je ne vais nulle part
. =No, I'm not going anywhere/I'm going nowhere.

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' ":
C'est quelqu'un d'intense. = This is an intense person.
C'est quelque chose de beau. = It's something beautiful.
C'est quelque part de sauvage. = It's somewhere wild.

It works the same way with the opposites:
C'est personne d'intéressant
. = It's no one interesting.
C'est rien de spécial. = It's nothing unique.
C'est nulle part de beau. = It's nowhere beautiful.

4. When talking about time repetition = Quelquefois

It is translated as "sometimes/occasionally." For example, if you want to tell someone that you sometimes go to the gym, you would say:
Je vais quelquefois à la gym. = I sometimes go to the gym.

The French will also say de temps en temps and parfois instead of quelquefois.

If you wish to express the opposite:
Je ne vais jamais à la gym
. = I never go the gym.
The opposite of quelquefois is jamais meaning "never."

NOTE: You might have heard n'importe quand, which means "anytime."
For example: Je peux aller à la gym n'importe quand, j'ai un abonnement à l'année.= I can go to the gym anytime, I have a pass for the year.

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Verbes en "ir"

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:
Je+is
Tu+is
Il/elle/on+it
Nous+issons
vous+issez
Ils+issent

Example: finir (to finish).
Je fin+is
Tu fin+is
Il/elle/on fin+it
Nous fin+issons
Vous fin+issez
Ils/elles fin+issent

Here is a list of some common verbs that follow the same conjugation pattern:
Grandir (to grow) ; grossir (to gain weight) ; maigrir (to loose weight) ; guérir (to cure/get better) ; fleurir (to bloom) ; réfléchir (to think) ; agir (to act) ; applaudir (to applaud) ; atterrir (to land) ; avertir (to warn) ; bâtir (to construct/to build) ; choisir (to choose) ; démolir (to demolish) ; définir (to define) ; obéir (to obey) ; fournir (to provide) ; nourrir (to feed) ; rafraîchir (to cool off) ; pourrir (to rotten) ; remplir (to fill up) ; réunir (to gather) ; ralentir (to slow down) ; réussir (to succeed) ; vieillir (to get old) ; investir (to invest) ; salir (to dirty).

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:
Je+s
Tu+s
Il+t
Nous+ons
Vous+ez
Ils+ent

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)
Stem = par stem = part
Je par+s Nous part+ons
Tu par+s Vous part+ez
Il/elle/on par+t Ils/elles part+ent
There are six very common verbs that are conjugated this way. In addition to partir there are the verbs mentir (to lie), dormir (to sleep), servir (to serve), sentir (to feel/to smell) and sortir (to leave/exit).

Some other ir verbs are conjugated just like er verbs:
Ouvrir (to open); offrir (to offer); découvrir (to discover/to find out); souffrir (to suffer); couvrir (to cover).

Example: ouvrir (to open)
J’ouvr+e
Tu ouvr+es
Il ouvr+e
Nous ouvr+ons
Vous ouvr+ez
Ils/elles ouvr+ent

Finally, the verbs tenir (to hold) and venir (to come) and their derivatives have totally radical conjugations:
Je + iens
Tu + iens
Il/elle/on + ient
Nous + ons
Vous + ez
Ils/elles + iennent

Examples: venir tenir
Je viens Je tiens
Tu viens Tu tiens
Il/elle/ont vient Il/elle/on tient
Nous venons Nous tenons
Vous venez Vous tenez
Ils/elles viennent Ils/elles tiennent

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:
revenir (to come back) ; obtenir (to obtain/to get) ; tenir (to hold) ; devenir (to become) ; prévenir (to warn) ; appartenir (to belong) ; maintenir (to maintain) ; soutenir (to support).

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Verbes en "re" et "oir"

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)
J’écri+s
Tu écri+s
Il/elle écri+t
Nous écri+vons
Vous écri+vez
Ils/elles écri+vent

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)
Je li+s
Tu li+s
Il/elle/on li+t
Nous li+sons
Vous li+sez
Ils/elles li+sent

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)
Je met+s
Tu met+s
Il/elle/on met
Nous met+tons
Vous met+tez
Ils/elles met+tent

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).
Je vend+s
Tu vend+s
Il/elle/on vend
Nous vend+ons
Vous vend+ez
Ils/elles vend+ent

Other verbs conjugated like vendre are: répondre (to reply); entendre (to hear); perdre (to lose); attendre (to wait).

Second example: Prendre (to take)
Je pren+ds
Tu pren+ds
Il/elle/on pren+d
Nous pren+ons
Vous pren+ez
Ils/elles pren+nent

Other verbs conjugated like prendre are: apprendre (to learn); comprendre (to understand).

Finally, the verbs ending in ‘oir’ are conjugated in the following way:
Je+ois
Tu+ois
Il/elle/on+oit
Nous+ons
Vous+ez
Ils/elles/+ent

Example 1: boire (to drink)
Je bois
Tu bois
Il/elle/on boit
Nous buvons
Vous buvez
Ils/elles boivent

Example 2: recevoir (to receive)
Je reçois
Tu reçois
Il/elle/on reçoit
Nous recevons
Vous recevez
Ils/elles reçoivent

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Mots de quantité

Un peu d'eau, s'il vous plaît ? Expressing Quantities

‒I would like some water please!
‒Right away! Do you wish a bottle or a glass of water? And more wine?
‒No, no more wine, just a few glasses of water for everyone! And bring a slice of that beautiful looking apple pie...

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".
Examples:
Combien d’eau voulez-vous ? = How much water do you want?
Vous voulez une table pour combien de personnes ? = You want a table for how many people?

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):
J’ai assez d’argent. = I have enough money.

Beaucoup de (lots of):
Il y a beaucoup de bruit. = There is lot of noise.

Plus de(more of):
Je voudrais plus de café. =  I would like more coffee.
Ne… plus de (no more):
Je ne veux  plus  de café. = I don’t want anymore coffee.
IMPORTANT NOTE: the pronunciation in "more" is plussss (we need to hear the "s") whereas the pronunciation in "no more" is plu (as the "s" is silent ).

Moins de (less of):
Tu as moins de travail que moi. = You have less work than I do.

Un peu de (a bit of):
J’ai un peu de crème solaire. = I have a bit of sun lotion.

Trop de (too much of):
Tu rajoutes trop de sucre !  =you’re adding too much sugar!

Several expressions are not followed by de:
Plusieurs (several):
J’ai plusieurs amis à New York. = I have a few friends in New York.
Quelques (a few):
J’ai quelques pommes dans le panier. = I have a few apples in the basket.
Aucun(e) (none at all):
Je n’ai aucune pomme dans le panier (that’s quite precise). = I have not a single apple in the basket.

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.
‒Right away! Do you wish a bottle or a glass of water? = Tout de suite ! Voulez-vous une bouteille ou un verre d’eau ?
And more wine? = Et plus de vin ?
‒No, no more wine, just a few glasses of water for everyone! = Non, plus de vin ! Juste quelques verres d’eau pour tout le monde.
NOTE: The two different ways to say "I would like (some) water". When you’re adding a quantity word such as un peu de, then de contracts with the word eau (d’eau). However, when you don’t use an expression of quantity, then you need to add the partitive article (le, la, les contracted with de become du, de la, des) before eau: je veux de l’eau (and not je veux d’eau).

Other examples:
Je voudrais une carafe de vin vs Je voudrais du vin = I would like a carafe of wine vs I would like some wine.
Je voudrais une assiette de soupe vs Je voudrais de la soupe. = I would like a bowl of soup vs I would like some soup.
Je voudrais beaucoup de clients vs Je voudrais des clients. = I would like many clients vs I would like some clients.

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
Un verre de lait = a glass of milk
Un litre de jus de pomme = a liter of apple juice
Une carafe de vin = a carafe of wine
Une tasse de thé = a cup of tea
Un bol de lait = a bowl of milk
Une douzaine d’œufs = a dozen of eggs
Une boîte de chocolats = a box of chocolates
Un pot de confiture = a jar of jam
Un morceau de tarte = a piece of pie
Une tranche de saumon = a slice of salmon
Une cannette de bière = a can of beer
Un kilo de champignons = a kilo of mushrooms
Une assiette de fromage = a plate of cheese
Une planche de charcuterie = a board of charcuterie
Un plat de saumon fumé = a dish/platter of smoked salmon.

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 ?
The first one with à, gives information about what kind of glass is it, what is the use or purpose of this glass. So, when you hear it’s un verre à cognac, that means this glass is meant to be used for drinking cognac in it. Whereas, un verre de cognacmeans that the glass is filled with cognac.

Other examples:
Une planche à fromage. = it is a cheese board used to serve cheese .
Une planche de fromage. = A board full of cheese.
If you’re in a shop looking to buy a cheese board, you’ll be asking the clerk:
Est-ce que vous vendez des planches à fromage ? = Do you sell cheese boards?
If you’re in a restaurant wanting to order a cheese plate, you’ll be asking the waiter:
J’aimerais voir une planche de fromages. = I would like to see a selection of cheeses (a board full of cheese).

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Les connecteurs logiques

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
D’abord = first
Puis = then
Ensuite = next
Enfin = finally.

Example:
As-tu pris l’avion pour aller à Berlin ? Oui, mais c’était un long voyage. D’abord, j’ai pris un Uber pour aller à l’arrêt de bus qui est à 2 km de la gare, puis j’ai pris le train jusqu’à Paris, ensuite j’ai pris un taxi pour aller à l’aéroport et enfin j’ai pris un vol pour Berlin. = Did you take a plane to go to Berlin? Yes, but it was a long trip. First of all, I took an Uber to go to the bus stop which is 2km from the train station, then I took the train to Paris, then I took a taxi to go the airport, and finally I had a flight to Berlin.

2. Connectors that communicate a cause:

Parce que/car = because
En effet = that’s right, actually
Puisque = since
Comme = as/since
Grâce à = thanks to
À cause de = due to (in a negative sense).

Examples:
Puisqu’il/comme il fait beau, on va sortir. = Since it’s beautiful, we’re going out.
À cause du mauvais temps, on est restés à la maison. =  Due to the bad weather, we stayed at home.
Grâce à tes conseils, j’ai trouvé un travail. = Thanks to your advice, I found a job.
Tu es perdu ? Montre-moi l’adresse de ton hôtel. En effet, tu es dans le mauvais quartier. = You’re lost? Show me the address of your hotel. Oh yes/that’s right, you are in the wrong district.

3. Connectors that communicate a consequence:

Donc = so/therefore
Alors = so/then
Ainsi = therefore/so
C’est pourquoi = that's why
Par conséquent/en conséquence/du coup = in consequence/as a result.
Note that du coup is familiar but it is used a lot by the French in everyday situations, much more than par conséquent.

Example:
Tu es surpris de voir la maison si bien rangée ? Je suis allée à l’école mais le cours était annulé, donc je suis rentrée pour faire le ménage. Ainsi on est prêt pour la fête d’anniversaire ce weekend. Du coup, on peut se relaxer ce soir ! C’est pourquoi tu me vois de bonne humeur. = Are you surprised to see the how so straightened up? I went to school but the class was cancelled, therefore I came back home to do the cleaning. So, we are all ready for the birthday party this weekend. As a result, we can relax tonight! This is why you see me in such a good mood.

3. Connectors that communicate an example:

Par exemple = for example
D’ailleurs = as a matter of fact
Notamment = as a matter of fact.

Example:
J’aime découvrir et apprendre ! Par exemple, je prends des cours de français. D’ailleurs, je vais aller en immersion en France pendant quelques semaines. Notamment, il y a plusieurs écoles à Nice qui propose des semaines intensives de cours de français. Je pense que je vais m’inscrire. = I love to learn and discover! For example, I'm taking French lessons. As a matter of fact, I’m going on an immersion in France for a few weeks. Actually, there are a few schools in Nice which offer intensive weeks of French lessons. I think that I’m going to sign up.

4. Connectors that express a reformulation of an idea:

En fait = in fact, actually
À la réflexion = on second thought
De toute façon = anyway/at any rate
Dans la plupart des cas = in most cases
En ce qui concerne/concernant = as far
En un mot = briefly.

Example:
Je pense que je vais changer mon abonnement téléphonique. En fait, j’ai trouvé un fournisseur avec de meilleurs prix. De toute façon, je peux me désinscrire de mon abonnement actuel quand je veux, je n’ai pas de contrat strict. Dans la plupart des cas avec les autres fournisseurs, les contrats obligent les gens à s’inscrire pour 1 an. En un mot, je n’aime pas les conditions strictes. En ce qui concerne mon abonnement actuel, il est souple. À la réflexion, je ne vais peut-être pas changer de fournisseur ! = I think that I’m going to change my phone plan. Actually, I found a plan with better prices. Anyway, I can cancel my current plan whenever I want, I don’t have a strict contract. In most cases with the providers, the contracts force people to subscribe for 1 year. In other words, I don’t like restrictive conditions. Regarding my current plan, it is flexible. On second thought, maybe I shouldn’t change plans!

5. Connectors that communicate an opposition:

Apart from the obvious "mais" (but), here are a few others to choose from:
Or= yet/but
Cependant, pourtant, néanmoins = nevertheless, however (I’m grouping these 3 as they are interchangeable)
En revanche/d’un autre côté = on the other hand
Par contre = however (very widely use)
Au contraire = on the contrary
Malgré = despite, even though.

Examples :
Ce film a de bons acteurs, or je ne l’ai pas trouvé intéressant.= This movie has good actors, yet I didn’t find it interesting.
C’est une bonne idée d’investir dans la bourse, cependant tu peux aussi perdre tout ton argent. = It’s a good idea to invest in stocks, however, you can also lose all of your money.
Au Portugal, le temps est superbe, par contre il sera plus difficile de trouver un travail si tu ne parles par portugais. = In Portugal, the weather is beautiful, however, it’ll be more difficult to find a job if you don’t speak Portuguese.
J’aime l’idée d’ouvrir un restaurant mais d’un autre côté j’ai peur de l’investissement que ça demande.=I like the idea of opening a restaurant, but on the other hand I’m afraid of the investment it requires.
Ce couple s’aime beaucoup malgré leurs différences. = This couple loves each other very much, despite their differences.

6. Connectors that communicate additions:

Apart from the obvious "et" (and), here are a few others to choose from:
Aussi =also
En plus = in addition
De plus = moreover
Puis = then
Par ailleurs = also, additionally
Non seulementmais encore = not only… but also.

Examples:
En plus d’un bon massage, je vais aussi me faire une pédicure. = In addition to a good massage, I’m also going to get a pedicure.
Je ne vais pas accepter ce nouveau contrat ! De plus, je n’apprécie pas leurs façons de communiquer. = I’m not going to accept this new contract. Moreover, I don’t appreciate their way of communicating.
On va à Paris, puis à Londres. Par ailleurs, on ira voir tes amis à Londres. = We’re going to Paris, then to London. In addition, we will go see your friends in London.
Non seulement tu es belle, mais encore tu es intelligente ! =Not only are you beautiful, but also, you’re intelligent!

7. Connectors that express a condition:

Si = if
Au cas où/dans le cas où = in case
Pourvu que
/à condition que = as long as
A moins que = unless
Apparemment= apparently
Sans doute = probably.

Example:
Vous aussi, vous venez de déménager dans le quartier ? Si vous avez le temps de venir me voir ce week-end, je voudrais vous présenter mes enfants. Au cas où votre fille peut aussi venir, ce serait chouette qu’ils se rencontrent. À moins que vous préfériez que l’on se voie au parc d’enfants ? Apparemment, nous pourrons rencontrer d’autres parents de la même école là-bas. Sans doute que nous ferons de belles connaissances !
Translation:
You too, you just moved into the area? If you have time to come and see me this weekend, I would like to introduce you to my children. In case, your daughter can also come, it would be great that they meet. Unless you prefer that we see each other at the playground? Apparently, we can meet other parents from the same school over there. Probably, we will make some new friends.

8. Connectors that communicate a goal:

Afin de = in order to
Pour que  = so that
Dans le but de = in/with the objective of
En vue de = with the goal of
De façon à ce que = so that
Ainsi = this way/thus.

Example:
Afin de réussir ce projet, nous devons avoir de l’aide extérieure pour que nous puissions appeler un consultant si besoin. Dans le but de terminer avant la fin, nous devrons travailler beaucoup d’heures. De façon à ce que tout le monde reste motivé, nous avons prévu un très bon bonus pour tous pour la fin de l’année. Ainsi, tout le monde sera content.
Translation:

In order to succeed with this project, we must have outside help so that we can call a consultant if needed. In the objective of finishing before the end of the year, we will have to work many hours. So that everyone stays motivated, we have planned to give everyone a very good bonus at the end of the year. This way, everyone will be happy.

 

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Verbes mal compris - et qui se ressemblent

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)".
Examples:
Je pense que tu as raison.= I think you're right.
Il pense avoir compris l'origine du problème. = He thinks he has understood the origin of the problem.
Mon fils m'a dit qu'il pense souvent à moi. = My son told me that he was often thinking of me.
Parfois je pense à changer totalement de travail. = Sometimes, I consider totally changing my job.
Il faut que je pense à changer mes dates de congé. = I have to remember to change my holiday dates.

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?"

Examples:
Je crois en Dieu. = I believe in God.
Je crois qu'il dit la vérité. = I believe he says the truth.
Il croit qu'il n'arrivera jamais à me faire changer d'avis. = He believes he'll never get me to change my mind.
Tu crois qu'il va réussir ? = Do you think he'll succeed?
On croirait qu'il va neiger. = It would seem it's going to snow.

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.
Examples:
Regarde derrière toi avant de reculer ! = Look behind you before backing up!
Nous avons regardé tous les matches à la télé ! = We watched all the games on the TV!
Je vais regarder s'il reste du fromage dans le frigo. = I'll check if there is some cheese left in the fridge.

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".
Examples:
J'ai vu passer une voiture rouge, ce n'était pas la tienne ? = I saw a red car passing by, is wasn't yours?
Il faut que tu changes de lunettes, tu n'y vois rien ! = You should change your glasses, you don't see anything!
Chaque fois que je vais à Paris, je vais voir ma tante. = Each time I go to Paris, I go visit my aunt.

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?)
Note that both verbs are transitive: Il entend sa mère, il écoute sa mère. = He hears his mother, he listens to his mother.
As for all verbs, they can have other meanings. For example, s'entendre (reflexive) means "to get along well".
Examples:
Peux-tu monter le son de la radio ? Je n'entends rien ! = Could you turn up the radio? I can't hear anything!
Tu m'écoutes quand je te parle ? = Do you listen to me when I'm talking to you?
J'ai essayé d'écouter ce qu'ils ont dit mais j'entendais très mal. = I tried to listen to what they said, but I couldn't hear very well.
Mes enfants s'entendent très bien ! = My kids get along very well (with each other)!

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.
To be specific, ressentirexpresses a deeper emotion, and a longer lasting one, while sentirexpresses a more physical feeling or sensation; we also use it when we have a feeling that something will happen. We feel (ressentir) emotions, but we have the feeling (sentir) of a presence close by... And when you wish to explain to someone how you feel, you use se sentir. It can also mean "to feel up to (doing something)."
Note also that the more common meaning of sentir is "to smell."
Examples:
Vous sentez le froid qui arrive ? C'est déjà l'hiver. = Do you feel the cold that is coming? It's winter already.
Je me sens bien aujourd'hui ! = I feel good today!
Tu te sens de venir courir avec moi ? = Do you feel up to going running with me?
Anne a ressenti beaucoup de chagrin quand son père est parti. =Ann felt a lot of sorrow when her dad left.
Ces roses sentent si bon ! = These roses smell so good!

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...
Examples:
Je te prête ma valise pour le voyage si tu veux ! = I can lend you my suitcase for the trip if you want!
Ah merci, j'allais te demander si je pouvais te l'emprunter ! = Oh thanks, I was going to ask you if I could borrow it from you!
Je peux emprunter votre perceuse pour quelques minutes ? = Can I borrow your drill for a few minutes?
Bien sûr, je vous la prête pour la journée si vous voulez ! = Of course, I can lend it to you for the day if you want!
Tu as emprunté combien pour ta voiture ? = How much did you borrow for (the purchase of) your car?
La banque ne m'a prêté que 8000 euros. = The bank only lent me 8000 euros.

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An vs année, jour vs journée, soir vs soirée

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:

‒Age

J’ai 30 ans
. = I am 30 years old.
Ce bébé a 8 jours. = This baby is 8 days old.

‒Time spent
Il est parti pendant 15 jours. =  He left for 15 days.
Nous avons terminé notre projet en 5 jours. = We finished our project in 5 days.
J'ai mangé le même gâteau 3 soirs de suite. = I ate the same cake 3 evenings in a row.

‒A number of days and years ago
Ils se sont mariés il y a 30 ans. = They got married 30 years ago.
Je suis parti des Etats-Unis il y a 10 jours. = I left the USA 10 days ago.
EXCEPTION: When using ordinals numerals such as first, second, third, etc., you need to add the suffix "née":
C’est ma deuxième année dans mon nouveau poste. = It’s my second year in my new job.

2. Using descriptive words, adjectives, prepositions:
 
First let’s clarify a few terms:
demonstrative adjectives = words such as ce, cette, ces (this, these);
Interrogative adjectives = words such as quel, quelle (what), combien (how many);
Prepositions: words such as pour (for), dans (in), avant (before), après (after), etc.

Again, in short, with adjectives in general, you will most of the time use the longer version.

‒Descriptive adjectives

Examples:
Aujourd’hui, c’est une belle journée. = Today, it’s a beautiful day.
La veille de mon anniversaire a été une mauvaise soirée.= The evening before my birthday was a bad evening.
In these cases, belle and mauvaise are adjectives and they trigger jour to become journée, and soir to become soirée.
NOTE: You’ve also probably heard Bonne journéeet Bonne soirée to say "Have a nice day" and "Have a nice evening"? This is another example of how the adjective bonne calls for the use of "ée" or "née".

Other examples:
L’année prochaine sera une année intéressante. = Next year will be an interesting year.
Je l’ai vu au bar pendant plusieurs soirées. = I saw him at the bar during several evenings.

‒Demonstrative adjectives

Examples:
Je vais en Allemagne cette année. = I’m going to Germany this year.
L'année 2015 ? J’ai beaucoup travaillé cette année-là. = The year 2015?  I worked a lot that year.

NOTE: At times it is possible to say ce-jour là and quel jour. It really depends on the situation.
Examples
J'étais vraiment fatigué ce jour-là. = I was really tired that day.
Quel jour pars-tu pour Los Angeles ? = Which day are you leaving for Los Angeles?

‒Interrogative adjectives

Examples:
Tu pars pour combien d’années en Afrique ? = You’re leaving for how many years in Africa?
Quelle journée as-tu préféré pendant l’atelier ? = Which day did you prefer during the workshop?

NOTE: When quelle is an exclamation, is it also followed by the long form.
Examples
Quelle belle soirée ! = What a beautiful evening!
Quelle année ! = What a year!

3. Exceptions to remember

A few exceptions are worth remembering because we say and hear them very frequently:

‒Frequency

Even though we’re not working with a number, when speaking about frequency, we have tendency of also using the shorter version with a masculine word but the longer version with the suffix "ée" or "née" for a feminine word.
Examples:
J’ai travaillé tous les soirs la semaine dernière. = I worked every evening last week.
Je lis un journal français tous les jours.= I read a French newspaper everyday.
Depuis qu'il est arrivé en France, il a changé de travail tous les ans. = Since he arrived in France, he has changed jobs every year.

HOWEVER, we say:
J’ai étudié toute la journée.= I studied all day.

Another example with the masculine/feminine situation in a rather frequency situation:
Une fois par an, je vais à Paris. = One time per year, I go to Paris.

HOWEVER, we say:
Chaque année, je vais à Paris. = Each year, I go to  Paris.

‒Tonight and last night

Examples:
We say ce soir when referring to "tonight" and hier soir for "last night":
Ce soir je sors ! = tonight I’m going out!
Je voulais aller au cinéma hier soir, mais il pleuvait.= I wanted to go to the movies last night, but it was raining.

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Les exclamations

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:
Oh !... Ah !... Oh là là !...
They all, with a few nuances, express various feelings of pleasure, joy, surprise (positive or negative), indignation, desire, and much more. The French use them frequently.

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.
Silence ! When you want to be more specific and get other people to just shut up or stop making noise.

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.
Examples:
Quoi ! Tu m'as menti ? = What! You lied to me?
Comment ! Il est parti sans dire au revoir ? = What! He left without saying goodbye?
Note than in everyday speech, quoi can also appear at the end of a sentence as a kind of affirmation or insistence. Example: C'est super, quoi ! = It's really great!

Many other words used alone can also serve as interjections. Some are used to insult people, but not always...
Examples:
Attention ! = Be careful!
Mince ! Zut ! Flûte ! = Damn! (all are polite versions of merde, that you will hear the French say quite often, but that you may feel less comfortable using yourself...)
Voilà ! = Here it is/Here we are!
Allez ! = Come on! OR: Let's go!
Dommage ! = Too bad!
Bravo ! Félicitations ! = Bravo! Congratulations!

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.
Examples:
Entrez, n'hésitez pas ! = Come in, don't hesitate!
Servez-vous ! = Help yourself!
Venez prendre un verre avec nous ! = Come have a drink with us!
Faites comme chez vous ! = Make yourself at home!
Attendez-moi ! = Wait for me!
Aide-moi, s'il te plaît ! = Help me, please!

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.
Examples:
Comme il est mignon, ce chien ! = How cute this dog is!
Comme il fait froid ce soir ! = How cold it is tonight!
Que je suis bête, j'ai oublié de te rappeler ! = How stupid I am, I forgot to call you back!
Que de temps tu as perdu ! = Such a time you wasted!
Qu'elle est belle, ta fille, avec sa nouvelle coiffure ! = How beautiful your daughter is with her new haircut!
Quel idiot, ce mec, il fait toujours les mêmes erreurs ! = What an idiot that guy is, he always makes the same mistakes!
Quel beau gâteau ! = What a beautiful cake!
Quelle chance, tu vas bientôt partir à Paris ! = How lucky you are, you're leaving soon for Paris!
Quelles drôles de filles, elles n'en font qu'à leur tête ! = What strange girls, they never listen to anyone else!
Qu'est-ce que tu es impatiente ! = How impatient you are!

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!
Examples:
Qu'il vienne me voir s'il a quelque chose à me dire ! = Why doesn't he comes see me if he has something to say to me!
Qu'elle n'hésite pas à passer, je suis là ! = She shouldn't hesitate to pass by, I'm here!
Vivement que le printemps revienne ! = Can't wait for the spring to come back!
Qu'ils partent, s'ils veulent partir ! = Let them go, if they want to leave!

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.
Examples:
Mais non, il ne faut pas avoir peur ! = No, you shouldn't be afraid!
Mais oui, je suis sûre de ce que je dis ! = Definitely, I'm sure of what I say!
Mais bien sûr, je viens ! Je t'ai promis. = Of course, I'm coming! I promised you.
Mais je ne suis pas encore prête ! = But I'm not ready yet!
Tu vas voyager en train dans toute l'Europe ? Mais c'est génial ! = You're going to travel by train all over Europe? That's so great!

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Manquer

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!
Examples:
Mes grands-parents me manquent. = I miss my grandparents.
Mes cours de chant ne me manquent pas trop. = I don't miss my singing lessons too much.
La France me manque, je ne peux plus y aller en ce moment. = I miss France, I can't go there at the moment.

b. Someone misses me

In this sentence format, it is necessary to add the preposition à after manquer.
Examples:
Je sais que je manque à mes parents depuis que je suis partie. = I know that my parents miss me since I left.
Il manque à sa fille depuis le confinement. = His daughter misses him since the lockout.

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).
Example:
J'ai manqué le train. = I missed the train.

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.
Examples:
On manque de tout, les étagères du supermarché sont presque vides depuis le début de l'épidémie ! = We're running out of everything, the shelves at the supermarket are almost empty since the beginning of the epidemic!
Roger a manqué de farine, il n'a plus pu faire de pain. =  Roger lacked flour, he couldn't bake bread anymore.
Ce jeune homme manque d'experience. = This young man lacks experience.

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).
Examples:
J'ai manqué mon examen de français. = I failed my French exam.
Il a manqué à ses devoirs. = He failed in his duties.
Les politiciens manquent souvent à leurs engagements. = Politicians often fail in/break their commitments.

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.
Example:
Tu pourras penser à demander à Marc de m'envoyer son CV ? = Could you think of asking Marc to send me his resume?
Oh oui, compte sur moi, je n'y manquerai pas ! = Oh sure, count on me, I'll be sure to/I'll do so.

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".
Examples:
Angela a encore manqué à l'appel ce matin. Je vais être obligé d'en parler à ses parents. = Angela was missing again this morning. I'll be obliged to talk to her parents about it.
C'est vraiment dommage que tu ne puisses pas venir pour le mariage ! Tu vas manquer à l'appel ! = It's really too bad that you cannot come for the wedding! You'll be missed!
 
Le temps me manque = I'm short of time

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!
Examples:
Je n'arriverai jamais à finir ce projet, le temps me manque ! = I'll never be able to finish this project, I'm short of time!
Maintenant qu'on est confinés, on ne peut plus dire que le temps nous manque pour faire tout ce qu'on veut ! = Now that we're locked in, we cannot say anymore that we're short of time to do all that we wanted to do!

Il ne manque plus que ça ! = That's all I/we need!

An idiomatic expression expressing a strong disagreement or disappointment.
Example:
Le moteur de la voiture est tombé en panne juste quand il s'est mis à pleuvoir très fort ! Il ne manquait plus que ça ! = The car engine broke down just when it started to rain a lot! That's all I needed!

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.

Examples:
J'ai raté le dernier avion pour Paris ! = I missed the last plane to Paris!
Ma fille a raté son examen de sciences. = My daughter failed her sciences exam.
J'ai complètement loupé ma mayonnaise. = I completely missed/messed up my mayonnaise.

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On dirait que, il semble que, il paraît que, ça a l'air...

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:
On dirait que
Ça/il/elle a l’air (de)
Il paraît que
Il me semble que

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.
Therefore, this is how you would translate "It looks like it’s raining":
On dirait qu’il pleut.
Il a l’air de pleuvoir.

Again, this statement came from observing the rain coming down.

Other examples:
—You’re looking at Patricia and she is crying, it looks like she's sad:
On dirait que Patricia est triste.
Patricia a l’air triste.
—You saw Jack with Claire, they look like they’re dating:
On dirait que Jack sort avec Claire.
Jack a l’air de sortir avec Claire.
—You see a friend using a software that you find great:
On dirait qu'il est super, ce logiciel !
Ça a l'air super, ce logiciel !
—You look at two kids who are laughing together:
On dirait qu'ils sont contents !
Ils ont l'air contents !

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":
Il paraît qu’il va faire plus chaud à la fin de la semaine.
Again, this statement came from reading the weather forecast on a smartphone, not from observing the weather outside your window.
 
Other examples:
—You heard from someone else that your boss is leaving the company:
Il paraît que le patron va partir de la société.
—You heard or read in the news that a new Italian restaurant is going to open downtown:
Il paraît qu’un nouveau restaurant italien va ouvrir en plein centre.

3. When you have an opinion or a feeling that you get from observing people and things. You can say:
Il me semble que (qu')= It seems to me that..

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.

Example:
Il me semble que tu en as marre de ton travail. = It seems to me that you’re fed up with your work.
This comment can be the result of a combination of observation and feeling. Perhaps you’ve seen the person complain, or lacking enthusiasm, and you get a feeling that the person is fed up.

Other examples:
Il me semble que les gens sont plus stressés en ce moment. = It seems that people are more stressed right now.

Again, this comes probably from a combination of observation and feelings.
Ta fille travaille beaucoup ! Il me semble qu'elle est plus motivée maintenant. = Your daughter works a lot! It seems that she is more motivated now.

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L'incroyable verbe "passer"

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.

Examples:
Je passe du temps avec mon père tous les dimanches. =  I spend time with my father every Sunday.
Je passe du temps sur mes devoirs de français. = I spend time on my French homework.
In this context, the auxiliary verb avoiris used with the passé composé:
Hier, j’ai passé du temps sur mes devoirs de français.

 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.

Examples:
Tu passes une bonne soirée ? = Are you having a nice evening?
Vous passez de bonnes vacances ?= Are you having a nice vacation?
In this context, the auxiliary verb avoiris used with the passé composé:
Vous avez passé de bonnes vacances à la plage ?

Note that you’ll also hear the French use passer to wish a good day/evening or week-end:
Passez une bonne journée / Passez une bonne soirée !
Passez un bon 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.

Examples:
Je passe voir mon amie Julie ce soir. = I’m stopping to see my friend Julie this evening.
Tous les matins, je passe dire bonjour à ma voisine. = Every morning, I stop by to say hello to my neighbor.
In this context, the auxiliary verb êtreis used with the passé composé because it involves a motion:
Ce matin, je suis passé(e) dire bonjour à ma voisine.

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.

Examples:
Je passe toujours devant chez toi pour aller au travail. = I always go pass your place to go to work
Je passe par Dijon pour aller à Lyon. = I go by Dijon to go to Lyon
In this context (motion), the auxiliary verb êtreis used with the passé composé:
Je suis passé(e) par Dijon pour aller à Lyon.

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.

Examples :
Qu’est-ce qui se passe chez toi ?Il y a une fête ? = What’s going at your place? Is there a party?
Qu’est-ce qui se passe ici ?Toutes les routes sont bloquées.= What’s going on here ? All the roads are bloqued.
In this context, the auxiliary verb êtreis used with the passé composé because that is the case for all reflexive verbs:
Qu’est-ce qui s’est passé ici ?

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.

Examples:
Comment ça se passe l’inscription à université ?= How does the registration work at the University?
A waiter who wants to ask if you like your meal might ask:
Tout se passe bien ?= Everything is going well?
In this context, the auxiliary verb êtreis used with the passé composé (reflexive verb):
Tout s’est bien passé ?

7. Ça se passe en France = It takes places in France

When speaking about location, where something took place, se passer will be used.

Examples:
Le film se passe à Montmartre. = The movie is taking place in Montmartre.
Les leçons de français se passent sur Zoom. = the French lessons take place on Zoom.
In this context, the auxiliary verb êtreis used with the passé composé:
Les leçons de français se sont passées sur Zoom.

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.

Examples:
Je me passe d’une voiture, je prends le train. = I can do without a car, I take the train.
Laurent se passe de ses parents, il se débrouille tout seul. = Laurent can do without his parents, he manages on his own.
In this context, the auxiliary verb êtreis used with the passé composé:
Laurent s’est passé de ses parents.

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.

Examples:
Je vais passer l’examen DELF demain, j’espère que je vais réussir. = I’m going to take the DELF exam tomorrow, I hope that I’m going to succeed.
J’ai passé mon examen de permis de conduire et je l’ai réussi. = I took my driver’s license exam and I passed.
In this context, the auxiliary verb avoir is used with the passé composé (see the example above).

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.

Examples:
Pouvez-vous me passer le journal s’il vous plaît ? = Can you pass me the newspaper please ?
Je vous passe ce document, il faut le lire. = I’m handing this document over to you, it’s necessary to read it.
In this context, the auxiliary verb avoir is used with the passé composé:
Je vous ai passé ce document.

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Le conditionnel passé

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:
Avoir: j’aurais, tu aurais, il/elle/on aurait, vous auriez, nous aurions, ils/elles auraient.
Être: je serais, tu serais, il/elle/on serait, nous serions, vous seriez, ils/elles seraient.
Again, the choice of the auxiliary avoir or être is exactly  the same as for the passé composé.

Examples of passé composé and conditionnel passé
so that you see the similar construction: 

Passé composé: J'ai regardé le film. = I watched the movie.
–Conditionnel passé: J'aurais regardé le film.= I would have watched the movie.
Passé composé: Je suis parti(e). = I left.
–Conditionnel passé: Je serais parti(e). = I would have left.

As mentioned above, we use the conditionnel passé to express "I could have" or "I should have." Therefore, you just need to know the past participle of "could" and "should:"
J’aurais dû. = I should have.
J’aurais pu. = I could have.

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.
Examples: :
Je n’aurais pas regardé le film. = I would have not watched the movie.
Je ne serais pas parti(e). = I would not have left.

When do we use the conditionnel passé?

There are several  situations when you need to use it:

1. For regrets or reproaches.
All the things or actions that you wish you had done (or didn’t), as well as reprimanding someone.

Examples for regrets:
Quand j’étais jeune, j’aurais aimé faire des études en médecine.= When I was young, I would have liked to  study medicine.
J’aurais dû accepter l’offre de travail chez Air France. = I shoud have accepted the job offer with Air France.

Examples for reprimands:
Tu aurais dû finir tes devoirs.= You should have finished your homework.
Vous auriez pu m’appeler avant de venir. = You could have called me before coming.

2. For unverified facts, an alleged piece of information.
You can often read this in the media.

Example:
Selon le témoignage de 2 voisins, la famille aurait caché des immigrants illégaux. = According to the witness of 2 neighbors, the family is thought to have hidden illegal immigrants.

3. For politeness.
Even though you’ll mainly hear the conditionnel présent for asking questions or making requests in a polite form, the conditionnel passé is also used at times for that same purpose. However, it is not as common and it has tendency to sound a bit over the top polite or affected.

Example:
J’aurais aimé faire une réservation pour 3 nuits. = I would have liked to make a reservation for 3 nights.
Again you’ll hear these type of requests a lot more often in the conditionnel présent:
J’aimerais faire une réservation pour 3 nuits. = I'd like to make a reservation for 3 nights.

4. For hypotheses with si (if) clauses.
This might be the most important use for the conditional passé. Have you heard the French say "Si j’avais su, je n’aurais pas fait"? (If I had known, I wouldn’t have done it.) There are things in our past we wish that we had done differently.
Note that the clause starting with si has the verb in the plus-que-parfait. The verb in the other clause will be in the conditionnel passé.

Have a look at this following sentence; you will see how these 2 tenses work together:
Si j'avais regardé(plus-que-parfait) le film, j'aurais reconnu(conditionnel passé) les acteurs.  =  If I had watched the movie, I would have recognized the actors.

Other examples:
Si j’avais pu t’aider, je l’aurais fait (plus-que-parfait de pouvoir + conditionnel passé de faire). = If I could have helped you, I would have done it.
Je serais arrivée à l'heure si j'étais partie plus tôt (conditionnel passé d'arriver + plus-que-parfait de partir). = I would have arrived on time if I had left earlier.
Nous aurions fini le rapport à temps si nous avions su que c'était urgent (conditionnel passé de finir + plus-que-parfait de savoir). = We would have finished the report on time if we had known that it was urgent.

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Penser, trouver, croire, imaginer, supposer : the various ways to say "I think that"

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.

1. Penser

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.

Examples:
Cette marque d’ordinateur, qu’est-ce que vous en pensez ? = This brand of computer, what do you think of it?
Or you’ll hear : Que pensez-vous de cette marque d’ordinateur ?

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.
Examples:
Je pense que tu vas réussir ton examen. = I think that you can pass your exam.
There is a chance that you will succeed but it’s quite uncertain.
Je pense que le chat est dans le salon. = I think that the cat's in the living room.
He might be there but you don’t know for sure.
Again, when the sentence is negative, penser will trigger the subjonctive: Je ne pense pas que le chat soit dans le salon.

2. Trouver VS penser

Je trouve que = I find/think/I feel that

Je trouve que can be translated as "I find" but the French use it very frequently as ‘I think that’. The difference between je pense que and je trouve que is the amount of experience, feelings and observation and confidence. Je trouve que expresses a stronger position than je pense que. It can even mean that you like or don’t like  something and is often used that way.
Important note: You cannot use je trouve que to express an action in the future.

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 tu es une bonne joueuse de tennis.
In this case, you’ve seen the person play tennis.
VS
Je pense que tu es une bonne joueuse de tennis.
There is uncertainty about this statement. Did you actually see the person play?

Je trouve que ce vin est bon.  = I think that this wine is good.
You’re saying that you like this wine because you tasted it.
VS
Je pense que ce vin est bon.
Perhaps this wine is good but we don’t know if you’ve tasted it.
Je trouve que tu es belle ! = I find you pretty/I think that you’re pretty!
This is from pure observation and the French use it this way quite often to express an enthusiastic opinion.

Again, expressing an opinion about an action in the future with je trouve que doesn’t work.
For example, we can say:
Je pense que tu seras heureuse en France. = I think that you’ll be happy in France.
You can’t say:
Je trouve que tu seras heureuse en France.

3. Croire

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.

Examples:
Je crois que je suis enceinte. = I think that I’m a pregnant.
In this case, you believe that you might be pregnant because of the way you’ve been feeling.
Je crois que tu vas aimer ce film.= I think that you’re going to like this movie.
In this case, you think and hope that this person will like the movie.

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?
Je crois qu’elle est bien. (The person has probably never set foot in the place. It’s just an assumption).
VS
Je pense qu’elle est bien. (same idea as je crois bien but the person has perhaps been there, it’s unsure).
VS
Je trouve qu’elle est bien. (The person has been there and likes it).

4. Imaginer

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.

Examples:
J’imagine que tu dois être content de finir tes études cette année. = I imagine/I assume that you must be happy to finish your studies this year.
J’imagine que tu préfères sortir ce soir ? = I’m assuming/I think that you would rather go out tonight?
J’imagine qu’il est riche. = I think/guess that he is rich.

5. Supposer

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.

Examples:
Après une semaine intense au travail, je suppose que tu veux aller au bord de la mer ce week-end ? = After an intense week of work, I’m assuming that you wish to go to the seaside this weekend?
Tu es fatigué aujourd’hui, j’imagine que tu préfères rester à la maison. = You're tired today, I'm guessing guess that you want to stay home.

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Opinion (comment donner son avis, son opinion, dire qu'on est d'accord ou non, etc.)

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).

Example:
Perso, je pense que c’est une bonne idée. = Personally, I think that it’s a good idea.

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:
toi with tu, vous with vous, luiwith il, elle with elle, eux with ils, elles with elles. You can interpret it as: "As for me" or "as for you."

Examples:
Moi, je pense que c’est une bonne idée.
Vous, vous pensez quoi ?
Lui, il pense que c’est une mauvaise idée.
Et eux, ils pensent que l’idée est bonne ?
Et elles, elles aiment bien aussi cette idée ?

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?
A more casual way to ask (if you know the person) = Qu’est-ce que t’en penses ?/T’en penses quoi ?

Quelle est votre opinion ?= What is your opinion?
A more casual way to ask (if you know the person) = C’est quoi ton opinion sur ça ? = What’s your opinion about that?

Quel est votre avis ? = What is your opinion? (another choice instead of the French word opinion, the French use both very frequently).
A more casual way to ask (if you know the person) = C’est quoi ton avis sur ça ? = What’s your opinion about that?

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.
Je trouve que c’est bien. = I agree that it’s good.

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.

Je pense que non. = I don’t think so.

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 côté, je suis pour un seul système éducatif dans le pays. = On one hand, I’m for only one education system in the country.

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.
You can also replace selon moi by D’après moi. It means exactly the same thing.

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.

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Plus-que-parfait

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):
J’avais demandé
Tu avais demandé
Il
/elle/on avait demandé
Nous avions demandé
Vous aviez demandé
Ils
/elles avaient demandé

Example of conjugating an "er" verb in the plus-que-parfait which takes the auxiliary verb être:

Aller (to go):
J’étais allé(e)
Tu étais allé(e)
Il
/on était allé
Elle était allée
Nous étions allé(e
)s
Vous étiez allé(
e)s
Ils étaient allés

Elles étaient allées

Some examples:

J’étais sortie de chez moi quand ils sont venus. = I had left home when they came.
J’avais terminé le grand projet avant de partir en vacances. =   I had finished the big project before going on vacation.
Quand je suis arrivée au restaurant, une autre personne avait pris la table que j’avais réservée. = When I arrived at the restaurant, another person had taken the table I had reserved.
À la fête d’anniversaire de Christine, j’étais surprise de voir qu’elle avait déjà ouvert ses cadeaux avant l’arrivée de tous les invités et du gâteau. = At Christine’s Birthday party, I was surprised to see that she had opened her presents before the arrival of all the guests and of the cake.

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.
For example: "If I had read the book, I would have understood the movie better." The first part "If I had read" needs to be conjugated in the plus-que-parfait tense. The second part is conjugated in the conditionnel passé:

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.
Si elle m’avait appelé, je serais allé la voir. = If she had called me, I would have gone see her.
Si tu m’avais écouté, tu ne serais pas dans cette situation. = If you had listened to me, you wouldn’t be in this situation.

Céline Van Loan

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Marcher

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.
Note how I added jusque before la gare? If you don’t add it, then we might understand that you’re walking in the train station, but not TO the train station.

Other examples:
On va marcher jusqu’à la plage. = We’re going to walk to the beach.
J’ai marché jusqu’au marché. = I walked to the farmer's market.
Note how the noun le marché has the same pronunciation as j’ai marché.
On a marché pendant des heures. = We walked for hours.

Also, you might have heard aller à piedto somewhere? That’s another way to express walking. For example:
J’allais à pied à l’école quand j’étais petite. = I used to walk/go to school by foot when I was young.

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.
Examples :
Vous pouvez me donner l’addition ? = Can you give me the check?
Ça marche != OK.
Est-ce que je viens te chercher à 14h ? = I’ll pick you up at 2:00 pm?
Ça marche ! = OK/that works!
BUT if 2:00 pm is not OK, you’ll hear:
Non ça ne marche pas à 14h, est-ce que tu peux venir à 16h ?= No, it doesn’t work at 2:00 pm, can you come at 4:00 pm?

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).

Examples:
Ta voiture marche bien ? = Does your car run well?
Est-ce que ton Air Fryer marche si bien que ça ? = Does your Air Fryer work that well?
Est-ce que ta télé marche bien ? = Does your TV work/function well?
Non, ma télé ne marche pas, je dois appeler le réparateur. = No, my TV doesn’t work, I must call the repairman.
Je vais te montrer comment la serrure de la porte marche. = I’m going to show you how the lock of the door works/functions.

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:
Ça marche bien ?= Is it going well?
When you want to find out how something is doing/going such as your work, your studies, a new project, etc.

Examples:
Vos études, ça marche bien ? = Your studies, how are they going?
Votre nouveau travail, ça marche bien ? = Your new work, how is it going?
And if it’s going well:
Ça marche fort ! = It’s doing great! It’s awesome!
You’ll hear it in a positive achievement context such as:
Ma société marche fort ! = My company is doing really well!
Le nouveau CD de Francis Cabrel marche fort != The new Francis Cabrel CD is doing great (selling really well)!

There are other expressions with marcher, but I will end it with this one as this is another popular one:
Je te fais marcher. = I’m teasing you.
It’s a cute saying when you’re teasing someone.

Example:
Sophie : Est-ce que tu peux m’amener chez Caroline ce soir ? = Can you take me to Caroline's tonight?
Her dad : Non, tu peux y aller à pied, c’est un bon exercice. = No, you can go by foot, it’s a good exercise.
Sophie : Quoi ? tu veux que je marche pendant 1 heure dans la nuit ? = What? You want me to walk for 1 hour in the night?
Her dad: Mais non, je te fais marcher ! Bien sûr que je vais t’y amener. = Non, I’m teasing you! Of course I’ll bring you.

Céline Van Loan

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Planter

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.

I. Planter

1. To plant (trees, vegetables, etc.), or to sow

Do you know the French nursery rhyme (la comptine): Savez-vous planter les choux ?*
            Savez-vous planter les choux
            À la mode, à la mode
            Savez-vous planter les choux
            À la mode de chez nous...
(Do you know how to plant cabbage
            In the way, in the way
            Do you know how to plant cabbage
            In the way we do it at home...)

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.

Examples:
Tu as vu les fleurs que j'ai plantées ? = Have you seen the flowers I've planted?
Je ne planterai pas de tomates cette année, je ne serai pas là pendant l'été. = I'm not going to plant tomatoes this year, I won't be here during the summer.
Il plante des arbres pour qu'il y ait un peu d'ombre. = He's planting trees so that there is some shade.
C'est la bonne saison pour planter/semer le blé. = It's the good season to plant/to sow wheat.

2. To hammer, to stick (nails on the wall, etc.)

Examples:
J'ai planté de gros clous pour fixer le miroir au mur. = I've hammered in big nails to hang the mirror on the wall.
Tu ne vas pas planter des clous si tard le soir ? = You're not going to hammer nails so late in the evening?

3. To crash (a computer, etc.), to freeze

Examples:
Mon ordi plante tout le temps ! Je dois vraiment en acheter un nouveau. = My computer crashes all the time, I really have to buy a new one.
Photoshop a encore planté ! Il faut que je redémarre. = Photoshop froze again! I need to reboot.

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.

Examples:
Qu'est-ce que tu fais là ? = What are you doing here?
─ J'attends Marc, il m'a plantée là pour faire je ne sais quoi, et il n'est toujours pas revenu ! = I'm waiting for Marc, he dumped me here to do I don't know what, and he hasn't come back yet!
Tu n'es plus avec Henri ? = You aren't with Henri anymore?
─ Non, je l'ai planté/plaqué/largué, il est trop égoïste. = No, I got rid of him, he's too selfish.

5. To set (the scene)

Planter le décor can be used to talk about the scenery of a play, or in the figurative.

Examples:
Les employés du théâtre ont très vite planté le décor. = The staff of the theatre have very quickly set the scene.
Le candidat aux élections législatives a planté le décor dès le début de sa campagne. = The candidate for the legislative elections has set the scene (made his intentions/objectives very clear) from the beginning of his campaign.

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.

Examples:
Il a planté un couteau dans le rosbif avant de le couper. = He's stuck a knife in the roast beef before cutting it.
Le patron est furieux, le concurrent lui a planté un couteau dans le dos. = The boss is mad, the competitor has stabbed him in the back.

7. To put up, to pitch  (a tent)

Example:
On a planté une tente dans le jardin. = We have pitched a tent in the yard.

 

II. Se planter

1. To get it wrong, to mess up, to screw up, to make a mistake

Examples:
Je me suis complètement plantée en faisant les comptes. = I totally screwed up while making the calculations.
On s'est plantés quand on a acheté la voiture, la couleur est affreuse. = We messed up when we bought the car, the color is awful.
Il faut que je me calme, si je stresse, je vais me planter.= I have to calm down, if I stress out, I'm going to mess up.

2. To stand in front of someone

Examples:
Ça m'agace, il se plante toujours devant moi pour qu'on ne voie que lui ! = It annoys me, he always stands right in front of me so that he's the only one to be seen!

Céline Van Loan

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Conseiller, recommander, suggérer...

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:
Recommander = To recommend
Conseiller= To advise
Suggérer = To suggest

Examples:
Pourriez-vous recommander un bon restaurant s’il vous plaît ? = Could you recommend a good restaurant please?
In this example above, the conditionnel conjugation is used, which translates pourriez-vous into "could you."
Pourriez-vous me conseiller le meilleur moyen pour acheter les billets du concert de ce soir ? = Could you advise me the best way to buy tickets for the concert tonight?
Est-ce que vous pouvez me suggérer un bon fromage de chèvre moelleux ? = Can you suggest a good soft goat cheese?
In the example above, I used the present conjugation. It is more casual but still polite.
In a restaurant setting, the French will often ask the waiters for advice on a pairing of wine to go with their meal:
Pourriez-vous/pouvez-vous me conseiller un vin pour mon plat ? = Could you/can you advise me a wine for my dish?

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.
─Il faudrait… = One should/ought to. It’s the same as vous devriez. It also expresses a strong suggestion and it comes from the verb "falloir." Same case as the situation above, you do not want to use the present tense. If you say il faut instead of il faudrait, then you’re stating that this task must be done, not should be done.
─Il vaudrait mieux… = It would be best. This is useful when there are choices to be made. It comes from the verb valoir (to be worth).

Examples :
Vous devriez prendre le train pour aller à Bordeaux depuis Paris. = You should take the train to go to Bordeaux from Paris.
Il faudrait acheter le billet de train 3 mois à l’avance pour avoir une bonne réduction. = The train ticket should be bought 3 months in advance to get a good discount.
Il vaudrait mieux prendre les petites routes que l’autoroute.= It would be best to take the small roads rather than the freeway.

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.
─Je vous recommanderais de…/Je vous recommande de… = I would recommend/ I recommend.
─Je vous suggérerais de…/Je vous suggère de… = I would suggest/I suggest.
Note how the 3 verbs above a followed by "de."
─Si j’étais vous, je… = If I were you, I would… In this situation, the second verb is conjugated in the conditionnel whereas "j’étais" is in imparfait. You get a sense that you are receiving a more personalized and caring suggestion.

Examples:
Pour aller au marché des Halles, je vous conseillerais de prendre le métro et je vous recommande de prendre un carnet de 10 tickets, c’est moins cher. Je vous suggère d’y aller tôt à l’ouverture, avant la ruée des gens. = To go to the Halles market, I would advise you to take the metro, and I recommend that you to buy a pack of 10 tickets, it’s cheaper. I suggest that you go there early before the rush of people,
Si j’étais vous, je resterais 2 semaines à Paris et 2 semaines à Marseille pour découvrir 2 endroits très différents. = If I were you, I would stay 2 weeks in Paris and 2 weeks in Marseille to discover 2 very different places.

Here is another useful word to learn: plutôt,meaning "rather." You’ll hear it quite often when giving suggestions.
Examples:
Si j’étais vous, je prendrais plutôt du vin blanc avec votre plat. = if I were you, I would have some white wine with your dish.
Je vous conseille de rester dans cet hôtel plutôt que dans cet appartement.= I’m advising you to stay in this hotel rather than in this appartement.

Céline Van Loan