FANDOM


External Resources Edit

https://www.reddit.com/r/duolingo/wiki/index#wiki_french

Basics 1: Edit

Genders Edit

French has two grammatical genders: masculine and feminine. All nouns have a gender that you must memorize. Sometimes, the gender can be obvious: une femme ("a woman") is feminine. Other times, it's not obvious: une pomme ("an apple") is also feminine.

Personal Subject Pronouns Edit

In every complete sentence, the subject is the person or thing that performs an action or is being described. This is often a noun, but a personal subject pronoun (e.g. "I", "you", or "he") can replace that noun. In both English and French, pronouns have different forms based on what they replace.

English French Example
I je Je mange. — I eat.
You (singular) tu/vous Tu manges. — You eat.
He/It il Il mange. — He eats.
She/It elle Elle mange. — She eats.

Subject-Verb Agreement Edit

Notice above that the verb manger (as well as its English equivalent, "to eat") changes form to agree grammatically with the subject. These forms are called conjugations of that verb. Whenever you want to learn a verb's conjugation, hover your mouse over that word and press the "C" button.

Here are some conjugations for verbs you'll encounter in this unit:

Subject Manger (To Eat) Être (To Be) Avoir (To Have)
je je mange — I eat je suis — I am j'ai — I have
tu tu manges — you eat tu es — you are tu as — you have
il/elle/on il mange — he eats il est — he is il a — he has

Articles Edit

Articles (e.g. "the" or "a") provide context for a noun. In English, articles may be omitted, but French nouns almost always have an article. French has three types of articles:

  • Definite articles ("the") are used with specific nouns that are known to the speakers, as in English, but also to indicate the general sense of a noun, unlike in English.
  • Indefinite articles ("a"/"an"/"one") are used for countable nouns that are unspecified or unknown to the speakers.
  • Partitive articles ("some"/"any") indicate a quantity of something uncountable.

Articles have multiple forms, as provided in this table:

Article Masculine Feminine Plural Example
Definite le/l' la/l' les le chat — the cat
Indefinite un une des une femme — a woman
Partitive du/de l' de la/de l' de l'eau — (some) water

It is critical to understand that articles must agree with their nouns in both gender and number. For instance, le femme is incorrect. It must be la femme because la is feminine and singular, just like femme.

Elisions Edit

Le and la become just l' if they're followed by a vowel sound. This is an example of elision, which is the removal of a vowel sound in order to prevent consecutive vowel sounds and make pronunciation easier. Elisions are mandatory—for instance, je aime is incorrect. It must be j'aime.

These other one-syllable words can also elide: jemetesedene, and queTu can also be elided in casual speech, but not in writing (including on Duolingo).

Contractions Edit

In a contraction, two words combine to form one shortened word. For instance, the partitive article du is a contraction of the preposition de with le.

  • du pain — (some) bread

However, since du can create vowel conflicts, when it would appear in front of a vowel sound, it takes the elided de l' form instead. This is also the case for de la.

  • de l'ananas [masc.] — (some) pineapple
  • de l'eau [fem.] — (some) water

Words Beginning with H Edit

The letter H is always mute (silent) in French, but when H starts a word, it can act as a consonant (aspirate) or vowel (non-aspirate). For example, the H in homme acts as a vowel. This means that "the man" must be written as l'homme.

Conversely, an aspirate H doesn't participate in elisions or liaisons (which you'll learn about soon). It's usually found at the beginning of loanwords from German or other languages. For instance, "the hero" is le héros. Pay attention to this when learning new vocabulary.

Basics 2 Edit

Plurals Edit

Many French words have plural forms. Plural nouns and adjectives often end in -s, though the S is usually silent.

  • homme ("man") ⇒ hommes ("men")
  • femme ("woman") ⇒ femmes ("women")
  • chat noir ("black cat") ⇒ chats noirs ("black cats")

There are also plural forms for pronouns and verb conjugations. Consider parler ("to speak"):

Person French Example
I je Je parle. — I speak.
You (singular) tu Tu parles. — You speak.
You (formal) vous Vous parlez. — You speak.
He il Il parle. — He speaks.
She elle Elle parle. — She speaks.
We nous Nous parlons. — We speak.
You (plural) vous Vous parlez. — You speak.
They (any group including a male) ils Ils parlent. — They speak.
They (all women) elles Elles parlent. — They speak.

Tu or Vous? Edit

French has two words for the subject pronoun "you": tu and vous. For a singular "you", tu should only be used for friends, peers, relatives, children, or anyone else who's very familiar to you. In all other cases and also for plurals, the more polite vous should be used to show respect. When in doubt, use vous.

Agreement Edit

Pronouns, adjectives, and articles must agree with their nouns in both gender and number. Consider the examples below and note how the article and adjective change to agree with each noun.

  • Masculine singular: Le chat noir — The black cat
  • Masculine plural: Les chats noirs — The black cats
  • Feminine singular: La robe noire — The black dress
  • Feminine plural: Les robes noires — The black dresses

Not all adjectives change forms. For instance, riche is the same for both masculine and feminine singular nouns.

Continuous Tenses Edit

English has two present tenses: simple ("I write") and continuous ("I am writing"), but French has no specialized continuous verb tenses. This means that "I write", "I am writing", and "I do write" can translate to j'écris (not je suis écris) and vice versa.

However, the idiomatic phrase « être en train de » is often used to indicate that someone is in the process of doing something.

  • Je suis en train de manger. — I am [in the process of] eating.

When translating, remember that English stative verbs have no continuous forms. For instance, « j'aime un garçon » cannot be translated as "I am loving a boy".

Ah, L'Amour Edit

Love is tricky in France. For people and pets, aimer means "to love", but if you add an adverb, like in aimer bien, it means "to like". For everything else, aimer only means "to like". Adorer can always mean "to love", though it tends to be more coy than aimer.

Phrases Edit

Bonjour! Edit

Bonjour is a universal greeting that can be spoken to anyone at any time. In France, greeting people is very important, and some will even say bonjour aloud when entering a public room or bus. Bon après-midi is often used as a farewell in the afternoon, while bonsoir is an evening greeting.

  • Greetings: bonjourbonsoir (plus bon matin in Québec only)
  • Farewells: bonne journéebon après-midibonne soiréebonne nuit

Idioms Edit

Many words or phrases cannot be translated literally between English and French because their usages are idiomatic. For instance, consider « Ça va ? », which means "How are you?" The literal translation of the French is "That goes?", but this is nonsensical in English. It is very important to identify idioms in both languages and learn how to translate them properly.

Liaisons Edit

In a liaison, an otherwise silent ending consonant is pushed to the next word, where it's pronounced as part of the first syllable. Like elisions, this prevents consecutive vowel sounds. Liaisons are possible whenever a silent ending consonant is followed by a word beginning in a vowel sound, but some liaisons are mandatory and others are forbidden.

Here are some mandatory liaisons, along with approximate pronunciations:

  • Articles and adjectives with nouns. For example, un homme ("uh-nohm"), mon orange ("mohn-norahnge"), or deux hommes ("duh-zohm").
  • Pronouns and verbs. For example, nous allons ("noo-zalohn") or est-il ("ay-teel").
  • Single-syllable adverbs and prepositions. For instance, très utile ("tray-zuteel") or chez elle ("shay-zell").

Liaisons are forbidden:

  • Before and after et ("and").
  • After singular nouns (including proper nouns and names).
  • After inversions (which you'll learn in "Questions").
  • Before an aspirated H (e.g. héros - "hero").
  • After a nasal sound, except that unon, and en do liaise.

Note that some consonants take on a different sound in liaisons to reduce ambiguity.

Original Consonant Resulting Liaison Sound Example
-s, -x, -z Z des hommes ("day-zohm")
-d T un grand arbre ("uhn-grahn-tarbre")
-f V neuf ans ("nuh-vahn")

There are no ironclad liaison rules, especially across regions. Casual speech tends to have fewer than formal speech. Also, when speaking slowly, liaisons are often omitted. This is why liaisons disappear in the slow versions of listening exercises. Be careful of this.

Enchaînement Edit

In enchaînements, ending consonant sounds are pushed onto the next word if it begins in a vowel. This is essentially the same as a liaison, except that the consonant sound wasn't silent beforehand. For instance:

  • elle est is pronounced like "eh-lay".
  • mange une pomme is pronounced like "mahn-jun-pom".

The Impersonal Expression Il Y A Edit

Impersonal expressions are phrases where there isn't a real subject. For instance, in the phrase "It is snowing" (Il neige), "it" doesn't refer to anything. It's a dummy subject that exists just to maintain the sentence structure.

One of the most common impersonal expressions is il y a, which is an idiom for "there is" or "there are".

  • Il y a une fille ici. — There is a girl here.
  • Il y a un serpent dans ma botte ! — There's a snake in my boot!

You will learn more about impersonal expressions in "V. Pres 1".

Food Edit

The Partitive Article Edit

The partitive article is used for unspecified amounts of uncountable nouns. In English, it can translate to "some", but it's often just omitted. Remember that du is a contraction of de + le and that partitives can elide.

Gender Partitive Article Example
Masculine du Je mange du poisson. — I am eating fish.
Feminine de la Je mange de la viande. — I am eating meat.
Elided Masc. de l' Je mange de l'ananas. — I am eating pineapple.
Elided Fem. de l' Je bois de l'eau. — I am drinking water.

Nouns almost never appear without articles in French, so articles must be repeated in serial lists.

  • Il cuisine du poisson et de la viande — He cooks fish and meat.

Count Noun, Mass Noun, or Both? Edit

Count nouns are discrete and can be counted, like un livre ("a book"). They can be modified by definite and indefinite articles, but not partitive articles.

  • Je lis un livre. — I am reading a book.
  • Nous avons les livres. — We have the books.

Mass nouns like lait ("milk") are uncountable, and they can be modified by definite and partitive articles, but not indefinite articles.

  • Je bois du lait. — I am drinking [some] milk.
  • Je bois le lait. — I am drinking the milk.

However, many nouns can behave as both count nouns and mass nouns. This is true for most edible things. For instance, consider poisson ("fish") or vin ("wine"):

  • Count noun: Le poisson est rouge. — The fish is red.
  • Mass noun: Je mange du poisson. — I eat [some] fish.
  • Count noun: Le vin est blanc. — The wine is white.
  • Mass noun: Je bois du vin rouge ou blanc. — I drink red or white wine.

Note that some mass nouns can be pluralized in English when they refer to multiple types of the noun, but this usage isn't found in French. For instance, "the fishes" refers to multiple species of fish, while les poissons just refers to multiple fish.

Omitted Articles Edit

When an article is missing in an English sentence, it must be added to the French translation. The definite article can be used to fill this void in three situations:

  1. Almost anywhere one would use "the" in English (i.e. when referring to specific things).
  2. Before the subject of a sentence to state general truths about it.
  3. Before the direct object of a verb of appreciation (like aimer) to express like/dislike.

If any of the above is true, then use the definite article. Otherwise, use the indefinite or partitive, depending on whether or not the noun is countable.

  • I like wine, but I am drinking milk. — J'aime le vin, mais je bois du lait.

Both articles are missing in the English version of this example. Aimer expresses fondness for wine, so le vin should be used there. However, boire is not a verb of appreciation, so the partitive du should be used on the uncountable lait.

  • Cats are animals. — Les chats sont des animaux.

This is a general truth about cats, but #2 above can only apply to subjects, so only chatstakes a definite article here. Animaux are countable, so use the plural indefinite des.

  • He likes to eat meat. — Il aime manger de la viande.

This is a tricky example because the meat is the direct object of manger, not aimer. Thus, #3 does not apply and viande cannot take a definite article.

Also, the French definite article can be ambiguous when translating from French to English. It can often refer to both a specific noun and the general sense of a noun.

  • Les chats sont des animaux. — Cats are animals. / The cats are animals.

De + Definite Article Edit

De plus a definite article can also have other meanings. De means "of" or "from", so this can also indicate possession or association with a definite noun.

  • La copie du livre. — The copy of the book.
  • Les copies des livres. — The copies of the books.
  • L'enfant de la femme. — The woman's child.

Animals Edit

Noun Genders Edit

One of the most difficult aspects of learning French is memorizing noun genders. However, by spending some time now memorizing the following patterns, you may be able to guess most nouns' genders and save yourself a lot of trouble in the future.

Some nouns, like l'élève ("the student"), have the same spelling and meaning in both forms. Other nouns have the same spelling, but have different meanings. Un tour is a tour, while une tour is a tower. There are also nouns that only have one possible gender. Even a baby girl is un bébé, for instance. Many masculine nouns can be changed to a feminine form simply by adding an -e to the end. Your male friend is un ami and your female friend is une amie.

Some genders depend on a noun's classification. For instance, languages, days of the week, months, seasons, metals, colors, and measurements are mostly masculine.

Otherwise, memorizing word endings is the best way to guess genders. We'll learn these ending patterns in four steps:

First: Nouns ending in -e tend to be feminine. All others, especially nouns ending in consonants, tend to be masculine. This is true for over 70% of all nouns.

Second: Nouns that have the endings -ion and -son tend to be feminine, even though they end in consonants.

Third: Some nouns ending in -e are usually masculine, especially nouns with the following endings:

  • -tre-ble-cle (think "treble clef")
  • -one-ème-ège (think "OMG")
  • -age-isme

Fourth: Watch out for these complications:

  •  is masculine, but -té is feminine.
    • le résumé (masc) — the resumé
    • la liberté (fem) — the liberty
  • -de is masculine, but -ade-nde, and -ude are feminine.
    • le guide — the guide
    • la parade — the parade
  • -ste and -me tend to be masculine, but there are dozens of exceptions. Words for people ending in -ste are often gender-neutral, e.g. le/la cycliste.
  • -eur is masculine for most professions or technical terms, but it's feminine for some emotions and abstract things.
    • le chauffeur — the driver
    • la peur — the fear

That's it! Memorize these, and you'll be able to guess most noun genders.

Feminine Animals Edit

In French, female animal nouns are generally formed as follows by taking the last consonant, doubling it, and adding a mute -e to the end.

  • un chat ⇒ une chatte
  • un chien ⇒ une chienne

Of course, there are many exceptions. For example:

  • un ours ⇒ une ourse (not une oursse)
  • un cheval ⇒ une jument (not une chevalle)

Bonus: Flirting Edit

Tu Edit

Tu is not pronounced like the English "too". The French [u] (or German [ü]) is a sound that isn't found in English. A tip to learn this sound is to shape your mouth like you're about to say the "oo" (in "too"), but say "ee" (in "tee") instead. Practice this until it feels natural.

Bonus: Idioms and Proverbs Edit

Pronunciation Edit

ENDINGS Edit

French word endings tend to be particularly difficult for beginners, largely because ending consonants are usually silent, but they do affect preceding vowel sounds.

Ending Homophones Example English Approximation IPA
-er -é, -ée, -ées parler cliché [e]
-et -ets, -è, -ê poulet pou-LAY [ε]
-it -its, -i, -ie, -ies, -is, -iz lit LEE [i]
-at -ats, -as, -a chat SHAH [ɑ]

The consonants C, R, F, and L are usually pronounced (you can use the mnemonic "CaReFuL"), with these main exceptions:

  • An ending -r is silent in infinitives (e.g. parler - to speak).
  • An ending -fs is silent (e.g. œufs - eggs).
  • The L of an ending -il is usually silent (e.g. fusil - gun).

THE MUTE E Edit

When a consonant is followed by a mute -e, then the consonant should be pronounced. This is a way of distinguishing masculine and feminine forms verbally. Any unaccented -eat the end of a word is always mute except in a single-syllable word like le, which sounds somewhat like "luh".

The letter E often becomes mute in the middle of a word, especially if it would add a syllable. For instance, most Francophones pronounce appeler ("to call") as "app-LAY", not "app-pe-LAY".

Bonus: Christmas (no notes provided) Edit

Adjectives Edit

Agreement Edit

Unlike English adjectives, French adjectives must agree in number and gender with the nouns that they modify. A black dog is un chien noir, but a black dress is une robe noire. Also, remember that some adjectives have the same masculine and feminine form, especially those ending in a silent -e (e.g. riche).

When used with pronouns, adjectives agree with the noun that has been replaced. This is particularly tricky with the formal vous: to a singular man, you would say vous êtes beau, but to plural women, you would say vous êtes belles.

Adjective Placement Edit

In French, most adjectives appear after the nouns they modify. For instance, le chat noir. However, some adjectives precede the noun. You can remember these types of nouns using the mnemonic BANGS.

  • B is for beauty. Une belle femme — A beautiful woman
  • A is for age. Une jeune fille — A young girl
  • N is for number. Deux hommes — Two men
    • This can also be for rank: Le premier mot — The first word
  • G is for good or bad. Un bon garçon — A good boy
  • S is for size. Un gros chat — A fat cat

All determiner adjectives (e.g. possessives, interrogatives, and demonstratives) appear before the noun, e.g. mon livre ("my book") and ce cochon ("that pig"). You will learn these later.

Figurative Adjectives Edit

A few adjectives can come both before and after the noun depending on their meaning. The most common example is grand, which is a BANGS adjective for everything but people. For people, it comes before a noun when it means "important" and after the noun when it means "tall". For instance, Napoleon was un grand homme ("a great man"), but not un homme grand ("a tall man").

Usually, figurative meanings will precede the noun, while literal meanings will follow the noun.

  • un pauvre homme — a pitiful man
  • un homme pauvre — a poor man
  • un certain nombre — a certain (particular) number
  • une victoire certaine — a certain (guaranteed) victory
  • ma propre voiture — my own car
  • ma voiture propre — my clean car
  • un cher ami — a dear friend
  • une montre chère — an expensive watch

Euphony Edit

As you have already learned, elisions, contractions, liaisons, and enchaînements are all designed to prevent consecutive vowel sounds (which is called hiatus). This quest for harmonious sounds is called euphony and is an essential feature of French. It has, however, created some unexpected rules.

For instance, the masculine beau ("beautiful") changes to bel if its noun begins with a vowel sound. A beautiful man is un bel homme. The other two common changes are vieux to vieil ("old") and nouveau to nouvel ("new").

Note that this doesn't occur to feminine adjectives because they usually end in silent vowels.

Plurals Edit

Most plural forms of nouns and adjectives can be formed by appending an -s to the singular, but remember that this -s is usually silent.

  • Le chat noir — The black cat ⇒ Les chats noirs — The black cats
  • Un chat noir — A black cat ⇒ Des chats noirs — (Some) black cats

Note: If the noun is preceded by an adjective, des becomes de.

  • Un petit chat — A little cat ⇒ De petits chats

Articles must agree with the nouns they modify, so plural nouns require either les or des. This is a great way to tell if a noun is plural. If you hear les or des (which sound similar to "lay" and "day"), then the noun is plural. If not, it's probably singular.

Remember that verbs change conjugation to agree with their subjects in both grammatical person and number.

Subject Être ("to be") Parler ("to speak")
je suis parle
tu es parles
il/elle/on est parle
nous sommes parlons
vous êtes parlez
ils/elles sont parlent

Punctuation Edit

There are no quotation marks in French. Instead, the French use guillemets (« »). Exclamation marks (!), question marks (?), colons (:), semicolons (;) and guillemets need to have a space on either side.

  • Incorrect: "Ça va?"
  • Correct: « Ça va ? »

When writing numbers in French, commas are decimal points, while spaces mark thousands places.

  • Incorrect: 1,235.8
  • Correct: 1 235,8

Verbs 1: Être/Avoir Edit

To Be and To Have Edit

Être and avoir are the most common verbs in French. Like many common verbs, they have irregular conjugations.

Subject Être ("to be") Avoir ("to have")
je/j' (je) suis (j')ai
tu es as
il/elle/on est a
nous sommes avons
vous êtes avez
ils/elles sont ont

There should be a liaison between ils or elles and ont ("il-zon" or "elle-zon"). The "z" sound is essential here to differentiate between "they are" and "they have", so be sure to emphasize it.

These two verbs are very important because they can act as auxiliary verbs in French, but they differ from their English equivalents. In "Basics 2", you learned that "I write" and "I am writing" both translate to j'écris, not je suis écris. This is because être cannot be used as an auxiliary in a simple tense. It can only be used in compound tenses, which you will learn in the "Passé Composé" unit.

Another important distinction is that avoir means "to have" in the sense of "to possess", but not "to consume" or "to experience". Other verbs must be used for these meanings.

C'est or Il Est? Edit

When describing people and things with être in French, you usually can't use a personal subject pronoun like elle. Instead, you must use the impersonal pronoun ce, which can also mean "this" or "that". Note that ce is invariable, so it can never be ces sont.

Impersonal Subject Pronoun Personal Subject Pronoun
Singular c'est il/elle est
Plural ce sont ils/elles sont

These pronouns aren't interchangeable. The basic rule is that you must use ce when êtreis followed by any determiner—for instance, an article or a possessive adjective. Note that c'est should be used for singulars and ce sont should be used for plurals.

  • C'est un homme. — He's a man. / This is a man. / That is a man.
  • Ce sont des chats. — They're cats. / These are cats. / Those are cats.
  • C'est mon chien. — It's my dog. / This is my dog. / That's my dog.

If an adjective, adverb, or both appear after être, then use the personal pronoun.

  • Elle est belle. — She is beautiful. (Or "It is beautiful.")
  • Il est très fort. — He is very strong. (Or "It is very strong.")

As you know, nouns generally need determiners, but one important exception is that professions, nationalities, and religions can act as adjectives after être. This is optional; you can also choose to treat them as nouns.

  • He is a doctor. — Il est médecin. / C'est un médecin.

However, c'est should be used when using an adjective to make a general comment about (but not describe) a thing or situation. In this case, use the masculine singular form of the adjective.

  • C'est normal ? — Is this normal?
  • Non, c'est étrange. — No, this is strange.

Idioms with Avoir Edit

One of the most common idioms in French is the use of the verb avoir in certain places where English would use the verb "to be". This is especially common for states or conditions that a person may experience.

  • Elle a chaud. — She is hot. (Or "She feels hot.")
  • Il a froid. — He is cold.
  • Elle a deux ans. — She is two years old.
  • J'ai peur ! — I am afraid!

French tends to use the verb faire ("to do") idiomatically for general conditions like weather. Note that il fait is an impersonal expression with no real subject, just like il y afrom "Common Phrases".

  • Il fait chaud. — It is hot (outside).
  • Il fait froid. — It is cold.
  • Il fait nuit. — It is nighttime.

Clothing Edit

Idiomatic Plurals Edit

English has a number of idiomatic plural-only nouns that have to be translated carefully. These are not just nouns that are invariable with number (like "deer"), but rather nouns that cannot refer to a singular thing at all.

For instance, "the pants" can only be plural in English, but the corresponding le pantalonis singular in French. A single pair of pants is not les pantalons, which refers to multiple pairs of pants. Similarly, when translating le pantalon back to English, you can say "the pants" or "a pair of pants", but "a pant" is not correct. This also applies to un jean ("a pair of jeans").

Un vêtement refers to a single article of clothing, and it's incorrect to translate it as "clothes", which is plural and refers to a collection of clothing. This would have to be des vêtements.

Diacritics Edit

The acute accent (é) only appears on E and produces a pure [e] that isn't found in English. To make this sound, say the word "cliché", but hold your tongue perfectly still on the last vowel to avoid making a diphthong sound.

The grave accent (è) can appear on A/E/U, though it only changes the sound for E (to [ɛ], which is the E in "lemon"). Otherwise, it distinguishes homophones like a (a conjugated form of avoir) and à (a preposition).

The cedilla (ç) softens a normally hard C sound to the soft C in "cent". Otherwise, a C followed by an A, O, or U has a hard sound like the C in "car".

The circumflex (ê) usually means that an S used to follow the vowel in Old French or Latin. (The same is true of the acute accent.) For instance, île was once "isle".

The trema (ë) indicates that two adjacent vowels must be pronounced separately, like in Noël ("Christmas") and maïs ("corn").

Nasal Vowels Edit

There are four nasal vowels in French. Try to learn these sounds by listening to native speakers.

IPA Letter Sequence Examples
/œ̃/ un/um un/parfum
/ɛ̃/ in/im/yn/ym vin/pain/syndicat/sympa
/ɑ̃/ an/am/en/em dans/chambre/en/emploi
/ɔ̃/ on/om mon/ombre

These aren't always nasalized. If there's a double M or N, or if they are followed by any vowel, then the vowel should have an oral sound instead. For instance, un is nasal, but une is not. Also, vin is nasal, but vinaigre is not.

Colors Edit

Colors can be both nouns and adjectives. As nouns, colors are usually masculine.

  • Le rose. — The pink.

As adjectives, they agree with the nouns they modify except in two cases. First, colors derived from nouns (e.g. fruits, flowers, or gems) tend to be invariable with gender and number. Orange ("orange") and marron ("brown") are the most common examples.

  • La jupe orange — The orange skirt
  • Les jupes orange — The orange skirts
  • Les chiens marron. — The brown dogs.

Second, in compound adjectives (les adjectifs composés) made up of two adjectives, both adjectives remain in their masculine singular forms.

  • Sa couleur est vert pomme. — Its color is apple-green.
  • J'aime les robes rose clair. — I like light-pink dresses.

Most colors that end in -e in their masculine forms are invariable with gender.

  • Un chien rouge — A red dog
  • Une jupe rouge — A red skirt

Possesives Edit

Possessives Match What is Owned Edit

In English, possessive adjectives (e.g. "his") match the owner. However, in French, they match the thing being owned.

Consider the example of "her lion". The French translation is son lion, because lion is masculine and both the lion and the woman are singular. Note that if we hear just son lion, we can't tell if the lion is owned by a man or woman. It's ambiguous without more context. If two people own a lion, then it is leur lion.

Possessives have different forms that agree with four things: the number of owners, the number of things owned, the gender of the thing owned, and the grammatical person of the owner (e.g. "his" versus "my").

For one owner, the possessive adjectives are:

Person English Masculine Singular Feminine Singular Plural
1st my mon ma mes
2nd your (singular) ton ta tes
3rd his/her/its son sa ses

For multiple owners, genders don't matter:

Person English Singular Owned Plural Owned
1st our notre nos
2nd your (plural) votre vos
3rd their leur leurs

The plural second-person possessive adjectives, votre and vos, should be used when addressing someone formally with vous.

Examples:

Owner Singular Owned Plural Owned
My Mon ami — My friend Mes tigres — My tigers
Your Ton abeille — Your bee Tes lions — Your lions
His/Her Son oiseau — His/her bird Ses chiens — His/her dogs
Our Notre bière — Our beer Nos pommes — Our apples
Your Votre sel — Your salt Vos citrons — Your lemons
Their Leur fromage — Their cheese Leurs fromages — Their cheeses

Euphony in Possessives Edit

For the sake of euphony, all singular feminine possessives switch to their masculine forms when followed by a vowel sound.

Person Masculine Feminine Feminine + Vowel Sound
1st mon chat ma robe mon eau
2nd ton chat ta robe ton eau
3rd son chat sa robe son eau

Femme and Fille Edit

Femme can mean "woman" or "wife" and fille can mean "girl" or "daughter" depending on the context. For example, when femme and fille are preceded by a possessive adjective, then they translate to "wife" and "daughter", respectively.

  • Une fille et une femme sont dans le restaurant — A girl and a woman are in the restaurant. (Not: "A daughter and a wife are in the restaurant.")
  • Ma fille — My daughter. (Not: "My girl".)
  • Ta femme — Your wife. (Not: "Your woman".)

Verbs: Present 1 Edit

Conjugations and Infinitives Edit

As you learned in "Basics 1", verbs like parler conjugate to agree with their subjects. Parler itself is an infinitive, which is a verb's base form. It consists of a root (parl-) and an ending (-er). The ending can dictate how the verb should be conjugated. In this case, almost all verbs ending in -er are regular verbs in the 1st Group that share the same conjugation pattern. To conjugate another 1st Group verb, affix the ending to that verb's root.

  • Aimer ("to love"): j'aime, tu aimes, nous aimons, etc.
  • Marcher ("to walk"): je marche, tu marches, nous marchons, etc.

Every verb belongs to one of three groups:

  • The 1st Group includes regular -er verbs and includes 80% of all verbs.
  • The 2nd Group includes regular -ir verbs like finir ('to finish").
  • The 3rd Group includes all irregular verbs. This includes many common verbs like être and avoir as well as a handful of less common conjugation patterns.
Subject G1: parler G2: finir G3: dormir
je parle finis dors
tu parles finis dors
il/elle/on parle finit dort
nous parlons finissons dormons
vous parlez finissez dormez
ils/elles parlent finissent dorment

Aller ("to go") is the only fully irregular verb in Group 1, but a handful of others are slightly irregular.

Spelling-changing verbs end in -ger (e.g. manger) or -cer (e.g. lancer, "to throw") and change slightly in the nous form, as well as any other form whose ending begins with an A or O. These verbs take a form like nous mangeons or nous lançons.

Stem-changing verbs have different roots in their nous and vous forms. For instance, most forms of appeler ("to call") have two L's (e.g. j'appelle), but the N/V forms are nous appelons and vous appelez.

Semi-Auxiliary Verbs Edit

The only true auxiliary verbs in French are être and avoir, but there are a number of semi-auxiliary verbs in French that can be used with other verbs to express ability, necessity, desire, and so on. They are used in double-verb constructions where the first verb (the semi-auxiliary) is conjugated and the second is not.

  • Je veux lire. — I want to read.
  • Il aime manger. — He likes to eat.

Modal verbs are the English equivalents of semi-auxiliaries—for instance, "can", which translates to either savoir or pouvoir. When "can" indicates knowledge, use savoir.

  • Je sais lire et écrire. — I know how to read and write.
  • Il sait parler allemand. — He knows how to speak German.

When "can" indicates permission or ability (apart from knowledge), use pouvoir.

  • Il peut manger. — He can (or "may") eat.
  • Il peut parler allemand. — He is allowed to speak German.

One of the most important semi-auxiliary verbs is aller, which is used to express the near future (futur proche), just like the English verb "going to".

  • Je vais manger. — I am going to eat.
  • Vous allez lire le livre. — You are going to read the book.

Note that in verb constructions beginning with non-auxiliary verbs, the verbs must be separated by a preposition.

  • Nous vivons pour manger. — We live to eat.

Impersonal Expressions Edit

A few defective impersonal verbs can only be used in impersonal statements and must be conjugated as third-person singular with il. Remember that il is a dummy subject and does not refer to a person.

Falloir means "to be necessary", and it often takes the form il faut + infinitive.

  • Il faut manger. — It is necessary to eat. / One must eat.
  • Il faut choisir. — It is necessary to choose. / One must choose.

Il faut can also be used transitively with a noun to indicate that it is needed.

  • Il faut du pain. — (Some) bread is needed.

Confusing Verbs Edit

Used transitively, savoir and connaître both mean "to know", but in different ways. Savoirimplies understanding of subjects, things, or skills, while connaître indicates familiarity with people, animals, places, things, or situations.

  • Je sais les mots. — I know the words.
  • Je connais le garçon. — I know the boy.

Attendre means "to await", which is why it does not need a preposition.

  • Il attend son ami. — He is awaiting (or "waiting for") his friend.

One Each Edit

The indefinite article doesn't always refer to just one thing. Sometimes, it can mean one thing each. Consider these examples:

  • Ils ont un manteau — They have one coat / They each have one coat
  • Ils ont des manteaux — They have some coats / They each have some coats

Demonstratives 1 Edit

Demonstrative Adjectives Edit

Demonstrative adjectives ("this", "that", "these", and "those") modify nouns so they refer to something or someone specific. They can be used in place of articles. Like other adjectives, they must agree with the nouns they modify.

Gender Singular Plural
Masc ce/cet ces
Fem cette ces

The singular masculine ce becomes cet in front of a vowel sound for euphony.

  • Ce livre est rouge. — That book is red.
  • Cet arbre est grand. — That tree is big.
  • Cette pomme est rouge. — That apple is red.
  • Ces livres et ces pommes sont rouges. — Those books and those apples are red.

Ce can mean either "this" or "that". It's ambiguous between the two. To specify, use the suffix -ci ("here") or -là ("there") on the modified noun.

  • Ce livre-ci est rouge. — This book is red.
  • Ces chats-là sont noirs. — Those cats are black.

French learners often confuse the demonstrative adjective ce with the pronoun ce (from "Être-Avoir"). Discerning between them is easy, however: an adjective must modify a noun, while a pronoun can stand alone as a subject or object. Compare:

  • Adjective: Ces hommes sont mes amis. — These men are my friends.
  • Pronoun: Ce sont mes amis. — They are my friends.

In the first example, ces is an adjective that modifies hommes, but in the second, ce is a subject pronoun.

Ça Edit

The indefinite demonstrative pronoun ça refers to an unnamed concept or thing. When it's used as an object, it usually translates to "this" or "that".

  • Tu manges ça. — You are eating this.
  • Je veux ça. — I want that.

Ça can also be used as a subject, in which case it can also mean "it".

  • Ça sent bon. — It smells good.
  • Ça semble simple. — This seems simple.

ÇA OR CE? Edit

A simple rule of thumb to follow is that ce should be used with être, including in the double-verb constructions pouvoir être and devoir être.

  • C’est un très bon vin ! — This is a really good wine!
  • Ce sont des garçons. — They are boys.
  • Ce peut être triste en hiver. — It can be sad in winter.
  • Ce doit être ton fils. — It must be your son.

Ça should be used with all other verbs.

  • Ça va bien. — It's going well.
  • Ça dure un jour. — That lasts a day.
  • Ça m'intéresse beaucoup. — That interests me a lot.

However, when an object pronoun comes before être, then you must use ça, not ce. This is relatively rare.

  • Ça m'est égal. — It's all the same to me.

Also, note that ça is informal and is usually replaced by cela ("that") or ceci ("this") in writing.

Conjunctions 1 Edit

Conjunctions function by hooking up words, phrases, and clauses. This unit focuses on coordinating conjunctions, which link two or more similar elements in a sentence. For instance, et may be used to link two nouns together.

  • Je mange une pomme et une orange. — I am eating an apple and an orange.
  • Elle a un chien et un chat. — She has a dog and a cat.

It may also link two adjectives or even two clauses.

  • La robe est grande et jolie. — The dress is big and pretty.
  • Le chat est noir et le chien est blanc. — The cat is black and the dog is white.

For the most part, French coordinating conjunctions behave very similarly to their English counterparts.

Conj. English Example
et and Elle a un chien et un chat. — She has a dog and a cat.
mais but Mais pas maintenant. — But not now.
ou or Oui ou non ? — Yes or no?
comme as/like Je suis comme ça. — I am like that.
donc so/thus Il est jeune, donc il est petit. — He is young, so he is small.
car because Je lis, car j'aime ce livre. — I read because I like this book.

The conjunction car means "because", and it's usually reserved for writing. The subordinating conjunction parce que is preferred in speech; you'll learn this in "Conjunctions 2".

Questions Edit

Inversions Edit

The most formal way of asking a question is to use an inversion, where the verb appears before its pronoun and the two are connected by a hyphen.

  • Boit-il ? — Does he drink? / Is he drinking? / He drinks?
  • Boivent-ils du lait ? — Do they drink milk? / Are they drinking milk? / They drink milk?

However, if the subject of the sentence is a noun, then the noun should appear before the verb, although a pronoun still needs to appear afterwards.

  • Le lait est-il froid ? — Is the milk cold?
  • Les chats sont-ils noirs ? — Are the cats black?

If the verb ends in a vowel, the letter T must be inserted after the verb for euphony. This T is chaîned onto the pronoun and is meaningless.

  • A-t-il un chien ? — Does he have a dog?
  • Parle-t-elle anglais ? — Does she speak English?

Inverted forms still obey other grammar rules, like those for il est vs. c'est. However, the pronoun in an inversion cannot elide.

  • Est-ce un problème ? — Is it a problem?
  • Est-elle médecin ? — Is she a doctor?
  • Puis-je aider les enfants ? — Can I help the children?

Est-ce Que Edit

Est-ce que (pronounced like "essk") can be added in front of a statement to turn it into a question. Remember that que elides in front of vowel sounds.

  • Est-ce qu'il boit ? — Does he drink? / Is he drinking?
  • Est-ce que c'est un problème ? — Is it a problem?
  • Est-ce qu'il a un chien ? — Does he have a dog?

Intonation Edit

In informal speech, one of the most common ways to ask a question is simply to raise your intonation at the end of a statement, like you'd do in English.

  • Il boit ? — Is he drinking?
  • Il pleut ? — Is it raining?

Interrogatives Edit

An interrogative word introduces a question. French has interrogative adjectives, pronouns, and adverbs.

INTERROGATIVE ADJECTIVES Edit

French has one interrogative adjective with four forms. It translates to "which" or "what" depending on the context.

Singular Plural
Masculine quel quels
Feminine quelle quelles

An interrogative adjective cannot stand alone. It must modify (and agree with) a noun, and that noun must either be adjacent to it or separated by a form of être.

  • Quelle fille ? — Which girl?
  • Quel est le problème ? — What is the problem?

Quel is also an exclamatory adjective in statements.

  • Quelle chance ! — What luck!
  • Quel grand garçon il est ! — What a tall boy he is!

INTERROGATIVE PRONOUNS Edit

Unlike an adjective, an interrogative pronoun can stand alone. For instance, the interrogative pronoun lequel can replace quel + noun. Note that it agrees with the noun it replaces.

Quel Form Lequel Form
Quel cheval ? — Which horse? Lequel ? — Which one?
Quels hommes mangent ? — Which men eat? Lesquels mangent ? — Which ones eat?
Quelle robe est rose? — Which dress is pink? Laquelle est rose ? — Which one is pink?
Quelles lettres ? — Which letters? Lesquelles ? — Which ones?

The most common interrogative pronouns are qui (for people) and que (for everything else). However, the construction changes based on a number of factors. Qui is the only pronoun that can start a question by itself, but both qui and que can be used with inversion.

  • Qui parle ? — Who is speaking?
  • Qui es-tu ? — Who are you?
  • Que fait-il ? — What is he making?

Both can also use est-ce, but est-ce que (which you learned above) can only be used in a question with être or when the pronoun is the object ("what" or "whom"). When it's the subject, est-ce qui must be used.

  • Qui est-ce qui parle ? — Who's speaking? (subj.)
  • Qu'est-ce qui se passe ? — What is going on? (subj.)
  • Qui est-ce que tu appelles ? — Whom are you calling? (obj.)
  • Qu'est-ce que c'est ? — What is it? (question with être)

After prepositions and at the end of questions, que becomes quoi.

  • Le problème est quoi ? — What's the problem?
  • À quoi pensez-vous ? — What are you thinking about?

Qui and que can be very confusing because they can also be relative pronouns. Que can also be a subordinating conjunction. You will learn these uses later.

INTERROGATIVE ADVERBS Edit

A number of interrogative adverbs can be used to request information

  • Pourquoi ("why"): Pourquoi manges-tu du pain ? — Why are you eating bread?
  • Comment ("how"): Comment allez-vous ? — How are you?
  • Quand ("when"): Quand est-ce que tu vas manger ? — When are you going to eat?
  • Combien ("how many/much"): Combien d'eau ? — How much water?
  •  ("where"): Où suis-je ? — Where am I?

Note that when these adverbs are used with intonation-based questions, they can appear at the beginning or the end of the sentence (except pourquoi).

  • Tu vas comment ? — How are you?
  • Vous êtes d'où ? — Where are you from?

Verbs: Present 2 Edit

Group 3 Verbs Edit

As you learned in "Verbs Present 1", Group 3 verbs are considered irregular, but some sparse patterns do exist among the -ir and -er verbs in this group.

Subject G1 parler G2 finir G3 dormir G3 ouvrir G3 vendre
je parle finis dors ouvre vends
tu parles finis dors ouvres vends
il/elle/on parle finit dort ouvre vend
nous parlons finissons dormons ouvrons vendons
vous parlez finissez dormez ouvrez vendez
ils/elles parlent finissent dorment ouvrent vendent

Among the G3 -ir verbs, some conjugate like dormir, while verbs like ouvrir conjugate as though they're -er verbs. Note that singular conjugations of dormir drop the last letter of the root. Also, while some -re verbs (such as attendreentendre, and perdre) conjugate like vendre, dozens of other conjugation patterns exist, so it's best to memorize each verb's conjugation individually.

Transitive and Intransitive Verbs Edit

Sentences can have grammatical objects, which are nouns that are affected by a verb. There are two types of objects: direct objects, which are nouns acted upon, and indirect objects, which are nouns that are indirectly affected by the action.

  • Ben threw the ball at him.

In this example, "Ben" is the subject, "the ball" is the direct object, and "him" is the indirect object. You can usually recognize indirect objects in English by looking for a preposition after a verb. Identifying objects is important, especially in French.

Verbs can be transitive, intransitive, or both. Transitive verbs can have direct objects, while intransitive verbs cannot. However, both types of verbs can have indirect objects.

  • Transitive: Je lance une chaussure. — I throw a shoe.
  • Intransitive: Je parle à Jacques. — I am speaking to Jacques.

Parler is an interesting example because it's intransitive for everything but language names.

  • Transitive: Je parle anglais. — I speak English.

French verbs can be tricky for Anglophones because some transitive verbs in French have intransitive English translations and vice versa. Pay attention to this.

  • Transitive: Le chat regarde le chien.
  • Intransitive: The cat is looking at the dog.
  • Intransitive: Il téléphone à son ami.
  • Transitive: He is calling his friend.

Stative Verbs in English Edit

Unlike dynamic verbs, which describe actions and processes, stative verbs describe states of being—physical and mental states, possession, sensations, and so on. The most common stative verb is "to be". Here are some other common examples:

  • Possessing: belong, get, have, own, possess
  • Feeling: hate, like, love, need, want
  • Sensing: feel, hear, see, smell, taste
  • Thinking: believe, know, recognize, think, understand

The most important detail about stative verbs is that they can't be used in continuous tenses in English.

  • C'est mon fils. — He is my son. (Not "is being".)
  • Je veux une pomme. — I want an apple. (Not "am wanting".)
  • Elle aime son chien. — She loves her dog. (Not "is loving".)
  • On a deux amis. — We have two friends. (Only cannibals "are having" their friends.)

You may have noticed that some verbs can be both stative and dynamic based on context. For instance:

  • "To have" can be dynamic when it means "to consume".
  • "To feel" is stative, but "to feel sick" or "to feel better" are dynamic.
  • "To be" can be dynamic when it means "to act".

Pay attention to this nuance when translating into English. This problem rarely occurs when translating to French because it lacks continuous tenses.

Impersonal Expressions Edit

A number of other impersonal verbs have to do with weather.

  • Pleuvoir ("to rain"): Il pleut. — It is raining.
  • Neiger ("to snow"): Il neige. — It is snowing.
  • Faire chaud ("to be warm"): Il fait chaud aujourd'hui. — It is warm today.

Chaud can be replaced with a number of other adjectives, like froid ("cold") or humide("humid").

Confusing Verbs Edit

Like their English counterparts, voir ("to see") and regarder ("to watch") differ based on the subject's intention. If the subject is actively watching or looking for something, use regarder. Otherwise, use voir.

  • Le chat regarde le poisson. — The cat is watching the fish.
  • Elle peut voir la ville. — She can see the city.

Adjectives 2 Edit

Multiple Adjectives Edit

When multiple adjectives modify a noun, they should come before or after the noun based on the same rules as if they were the only adjective. This means that adjectives may straddle the noun if one is a BANGS adjective.

  • La grande robe rouge — The big red dress
  • Une jeune fille française — A young French girl

If two adjectives appear on the same side, you can separate them with et.

  • J'ai un chapeau blanc et bleu. — I have a white and blue hat.
  • L'homme fort et sérieux — The strong and serious man

On the other hand, when there are multiple nouns being described by one adjective, that adjective takes the masculine plural by default.

  • Un garçon et une fille italiens — An Italian boy and girl
  • J'ai une chemise et un manteau simples. — I have a simple shirt and coat.

However, if the nouns are all feminine, then they can take the feminine plural.

  • La robe et la jupe vertes — The green dress and skirt

Grand or Gros? Edit

Grand and gros can both mean "big", but they're only partly interchangeable.

Grand tends to be used for:

  • General size: La grande robe — The big dress
  • Height: L'enfant est grand. — The child is tall/big.
  • Area: La ville est grande. — The city is big.
  • Figurative size: La grande richesse — The great wealth
  • Importance: Un grand homme — A great man

Gros tends to be used for:

  • Thickness or volume: Une grosse boîte de petits-pois — A big can of peas
  • Fatness: Un gros chat — A fat cat
  • Things that are round: Une grosse pomme — A big apple
  • Seriousness: Un gros problème — A big (serious) problem

Faux Amis Edit

Many English and French words look alike and share meanings. This is because English is heavily influenced by French and Latin. However, there are faux amis ("false friends") that look similar but do not have the same meaning. For instance, gros looks like "gross", but their meanings are not the same. Be careful before assuming a French word's meaning based on its English lookalike.

Pronouns Edit

On Edit

On is a versatile and ubiquitous French indefinite subject pronoun. Francophones usually say on to refer to "us", "them", or one or more unidentified persons. On is always masculine and third-person singular, which is why conjugation charts often list il/elle/ontogether.

  • On mange. — We are eating.
  • On est seul. (Never On est seule/seuls/seules.) — We are alone.

On can also be used more formally in the passive voice or for general statements, much like the English "one".

  • On doit dormir assez. — One must sleep adequately.

Direct Object Pronouns Edit

As you learned in "Verbs: Present 2", direct objects are things that are directly acted upon by a verb. For instance, in the sentence "Ben threw the ball", the ball is the direct object. French has a set of pronouns that can be used to refer to a direct object.

English Direct Object
me me
you (sing.) te
him le
her la
us nous
you (plur. or formal sing.) vous
them les

Direct object pronouns usually come before their verbs.

  • L'enfant me voit. — The child sees me.
  • Le lion le mange. — The lion eats it (or "him"!).
  • Vous nous aimez. — You love us.
  • Je t'aime. — I love you.

Me/te/le/la elide, so make sure you notice them when they hide in the first syllable of a verb.

  • Elle m'attend. — She is waiting for me.
  • L'enfant l'appelle. — The child calls to him (or "her").

Le and les only contract when they're articles, not when they're object pronouns.

  • Je suis en train de le faire. (Not du faire) — I am in the process of doing it.

En Replaces De + Noun Edit

The adverbial pronoun en can be used to replace objects introduced by de. For instance, it can replace a partitive article + noun.

  • Avez-vous de l'argent ? — Do you have some money?
  • Oui, j'en ai. — Yes, I have some.

En may replace nouns or pronouns in verb constructions that use de, like parler de ("to talk about").

  • Marc parle de Peter ? — Is Marc talking about Peter?
  • Oui, il en parle. — Yep, he's talking about him.

Nouns in adverbs of quantity can also be replaced with en.

  • Achetez-vous beaucoup de livres ? — Are you buying a lot of books?
  • Oui, j'en achète beaucoup. — Yes, I am buying a lot [of them].

Notice that en always precedes the verb, but adverbs stay in place after the verb.

Y Can Refer to a Place Edit

The adverbial pronoun y can refer to a previously mentioned or implied place, in which case it's usually translated as "there".

  • Allez-vous au restaurant ? — Are you going to the restaurant?
  • Oui, j'y vais. — Yes, I'm going there.

In English, "there" may be omitted, but the same is not true of y in French. Je vais is not a complete sentence without y.

The Relative Pronouns Que and Qui Edit

Relative pronouns introduce relative clauses, which are subordinate clauses that elaborate upon a previously mentioned noun (the antecedent). Use que when the relative pronoun is the direct object ("whom" in English) and use qui when it's the subject ("who" in English).

  • C'est l'homme que je connais. — He's the man whom (or "that") I know.
  • La fille qui lit un menu. — The girl who (or "that") reads a menu.

If you have trouble figuring out whether to use qui or que, try rephrasing the sentence without the relative pronoun. Use qui if the antecedent is the subject; otherwise, use que.

  • Subject: La fille qui lit un menu. ⇒ La fille lit un menu.
  • Object: C'est l'homme que je connais. ⇒ Je connais l'homme.

The Reflexive Pronoun Se Edit

reflexive pronoun like se can be used to indicate that a verb acts upon the subject. Seis used with all third-person subjects, regardless of gender and number.

  • Il s'aime. — He loves himself.
  • Il s'appelle comment ? — What's his name? (Lit, "He calls himself what?")
  • Elle se demande pourquoi. — She wonders why. (Lit, "She asks herself why.")

When se refers to a plural subject, it can also be reciprocal or mutual ("each other").

  • Ils s'aiment. — They love each other.
  • Les filles se parlent. — The girls speak to each other.
  • On se parle quand ? — When do we speak to each other?
  • On se voit bientôt. — We will see each other soon.

Certain pronouns can be added to the end of the sentence to differentiate between reflexive and reciprocal uses if necessary.

  • Ils s'aiment eux-mêmes. — They love themselves.
  • Elles s'aiment elles-mêmes. — They love themselves.
  • Ils s'aiment l'un l'autre. — They love each other.
  • Elles s'aiment les unes les autres. — They love one another.

Prepositions 1 Edit

French prepositions can be difficult because their meanings and uses don't always line up to what you would expect in English.

DE AND À Edit

The most common French prepositions are de ("of"/"from") and à ("to"/"at"). These prepositions can be used in many ways. For instance, they may indicate movement or location.

  • Nous allons à Paris. — We are going to Paris.
  • Il vient de Bordeaux. — He is coming from Bordeaux.
  • Je suis au restaurant. — I am at the restaurant.

Notice au above. De and à must contract with definite articles whenever they are adjacent.

Definite Article De À
le du au
la de la à la
les des aux

If the contraction is followed by a vowel sound, du and de la both become de l' and auand à la both become à l'. This change occurs for euphony only; the nouns do not change genders because of it.

  • Tu parles à l'enfant. (Not au) — You are speaking to the child.
  • La Maison de l'Ours — The House of the Bear
  • Les copies des livres. — The copies of the books.
  • Le repas du chien. — The dog's meal. (The meal of the dog.)

De may be found in numerous fixed expressions, especially in adverbs of quantity like beaucoup de ("a lot of").

  • Nous avons beaucoup de pommes. — We have a lot of apples.
  • Rémy a beaucoup d'amis. — Remy has a lot of friends.

Adding de or à to the end of certain verbs can change their meanings.

  • Penser ("to think"): Je pense que c'est un homme. — I think that he is a man.
  • Penser à ("to think about"): Elle pense à son chien. — She's thinking about her dog.
  • Penser de ("to opine about"): Que pensez-vous de ce repas ? — What do you think of this meal?

USING ARTICLES AFTER DE Edit

Most articles can be used immediately after expressions and verbs ending in de, but they must follow contraction and elision rules.

  • Elle parle beaucoup des (de + les) pâtes. — She speaks a lot about the pasta.
  • Que pensez-vous de la voiture ? — What do you think of the car?
  • Il a besoin d'un chien. — He needs a dog.

However, no article that already contains de may follow an expression, negative term, or verb ending in de. This includes the partitives du and de la and the indefinite des. In this situation, the article is removed so that only the naked de remains.

  • Elle mange beaucoup de frites. (Not de des) — She eats a lot of fries.
  • Je n'ai pas de pain. (Not de du) — I do not have (any) bread.
  • Il a besoin d'argent (Not de de l'**) — He needs (some) money.

DES BEFORE ADJECTIVES Edit

When des appears immediately before an adjective, it changes to de. This only occurs with BANGS adjectives, which come before the noun.

  • Vous êtes de jeunes garçons. — You are young boys.
  • Elle a de petits chiens. — She has small dogs.

Numbers 1 Edit

Between 0 and 20, most French numbers are constructed similarly to English numbers. The main difference is that French starts using compound numbers at dix-sept (17), while English continues with single-word numbers until 21.

Number French
0 zéro
1 un
2 deux
3 trois
4 quatre
5 cinq
6 six
7 sept
8 huit
9 neuf
10 dix
11 onze
12 douze
13 treize
14 quatorze
15 quinze
16 seize
17 dix-sept
18 dix-huit
19 dix-neuf
20 vingt

Uses of Un Edit

The word un (or une in feminine) can be used in a number of ways:

  1. As an indefinite article ("a" or "an"), which is used to modify countable nouns that are unspecified or unknown to the speakers.
    • un livre — a book
    • un éléphant — an elephant
  2. As a numeral ("one"), which is a kind of adjective.
    • J'ai une seule question. — I have only one question.
  3. As a pronoun ("one"). Like in English, French numbers can be used as pronouns. In general, when you see a preposition like de after a number, that number acts as a pronoun.
    • C'est un de mes enfants. — He is one of my children.
    • Je connais un de ces hommes. — I know one of those men.

Also, keep in mind that liaisons are forbidden before and after et.

Family Edit

Adults should use père and mère when referring to parents. The juvenile forms, papa and maman, are generally used only by children, much like "papa" and "mama" or "daddy" and "mommy" in English.

Refresher: C'est or Il Est? Edit

You learned in "Être-Avoir" that you must often use the impersonal pronoun ce when describing people and things with être. In general, use ce whenever être is followed by any determiner—for instance, an article or a possessive adjective. Remember that ce is invariable, so use c'est for singulars and ce sont for plurals.

  • C'est un homme. — He's a man.
  • Ce sont des chats. — They're cats.
  • C'est mon chien. — It's my dog.

This rule applies everywhere, including in questions, inversions, and subordinate clauses.

  • C'est un animal ? — That's an animal?
  • Est-ce votre petit-fils ? — Is he your grandson?
  • Vous l'aimez parce que c'est votre fils. — You love him because he is your son.

The personal pronoun il should only be used with être when they're followed by an adjective and/or adverb.

  • Il est fort. — He is strong.
  • Est-elle forte ? — Is she strong?
  • Est-ce qu'il est content ? — Is he happy?

In the last example, note that est-ce still appears because est-ce que is a fixed impersonal phrase.

Possessives 2 Edit

Possessive pronouns replace a possessive adjective + a noun. Like most other pronouns, they agree in gender and number with the noun they replace.

  • Est-ce ton chapeau ? — Is that your hat?
  • Oui, c'est le mien. — Yes, it's mine.

For one owner, the forms of possessive pronouns follow a simple pattern:

Person English Masc. Sing. Fem. Sing.
1st mine le mien la mienne
2nd yours le tien la tienne
3rd his/hers le sien la sienne
  • J'ai mon livre. As-tu le tien ? — I have my book. Do you have yours?
  • Ma ceinture est rouge. La sienne est blanche. — My belt is red. His (or "hers") is white.

For multiple owners, the articles vary with gender, but the pronouns do not:

Person English Sing. Masc. Sing. Fem.
1st ours le nôtre la nôtre
2nd yours le vôtre la vôtre
3rd theirs le leur la leur
  • Vous mangez vos repas et nous mangeons les nôtres. — You eat your meals and we eat ours.
  • Vous aimez notre voiture et nous aimons la vôtre. — You like our car and we like yours.

The 2nd-person articles for multiple owners can be used for a single owner when speaking formally.

  • Informal, one owner: C'est le tien. 
  • Formal, one owner: C'est le vôtre.
  • Multiple owners: C'est le vôtre.

Notice that you must use c'est with possessive pronouns, not il estelle est, etc.

The definite article at the beginning of a possessive pronoun can contract with à or de.

  • Tu téléphones à ton père et je téléphone au mien. — You are calling your dad and I am calling mine.
  • J'aime mon repas. Qu'est-ce que vous pensez du vôtre ? — I like my meal. What do you think of yours?

Demonstratives 2 Edit

Ceci and Cela Edit

Ceci ("this") and cela ("that") are the formal versions of the indefinite demonstrative pronoun ça ("this" or "that"). These are used when pointing something out, referring to something indefinite (like an idea), or referring back to something already mentioned.

  • Je connais cela. — I know about that.
  • Je veux ceci. — I want this.

Ceci is usually only used when making a distinction between "this" and "that". Otherwise, cela is preferred in writing and ça is preferred in speech.

CE OR CELA? Edit

Remember that ce can only be used with être, including devoir être and pouvoir être.

  • C’est un très bon vin ! – This is a really good wine!
  • Ce doit être ton fils. — It must be your son.

However, cela and ceci can also be used with être for emphasis.

  • C'est le mien. — It's mine.
  • Non, ceci est le mien. Cela est le tien. — No, THIS is mine. THAT is yours.

Cela/ceci/ça should be used with all other verbs.

  • Cela arrive souvent. — It happens often. / That happens often.
  • Ceci contient un bonbon. — This contains a candy.

Demonstrative Pronouns Edit

Demonstrative pronouns (e.g. "this one", "that one", "these", "those") replace a demonstrative adjective + noun for the sake of avoiding repetition. Like most other pronouns, they agree in gender and number with the noun they replace.

Type Adj + Noun ⇒ Pronoun English
Masc. Sing. ce + noun ⇒ celui the one / this one / that one / this
Masc. Plur. ces + noun ⇒ ceux the ones / these ones / those ones / these
Fem. Sing. cette + noun ⇒ celle the one / this one / that one / this / that
Fem. Plur. ces + noun ⇒ celles the ones / these ones / those ones / these / those

Demonstrative pronouns refer to a very specific thing and cannot stand alone. They must be used in one of three constructions.

DEMONSTRATIVE PRONOUN + RELATIVE PRONOUN Edit

A relative pronoun and dependent clause can follow the demonstrative pronoun. For instance, you can use que when the relative pronoun is the direct object and use quiwhen it's the subject.

  • Celui qui est dans ma poche. — The one that is in my pocket.
  • Ceux que je connais. — The ones that I know. / The ones whom I know.

DEMONSTRATIVE PRONOUN + PREPOSITION Edit

The preposition de can appear after the demonstrative pronoun to indicate possession.

  • À qui est cette balle ? – Whose ball is this?
  • C'est celle du chien. — It's the dog's. (Literally: "It is the one of the dog.")

DEMONSTRATIVE PRONOUN + SUFFIX Edit

This construction appears in "Demonstratives 3".

USAGE EXAMPLES Edit

Demonstrative pronouns are often used in comparisons or choices between alternatives.

  • Ce tableau est moins beau que celui de Rembrandt. — This painting is less beautiful than that by Rembrandt.
  • Quelle robe préfères-tu ? Celle de Paris ou celle de Tokyo ? — Which dress do you prefer? The one from Paris or the one from Tokyo?

They can also be used within prepositional phrases.

  • Je pense à celles qui sont en vacances. — I am thinking about the ones who are on vacation.
  • Ce repas est pour ceux qui aiment les oignons. — This meal is for those who like onions.

Dates and Time Edit

The Close Future Edit

In French, the present tense can often be used to describe something that will happen soon.

  • Je vous appelle demain. — I [will] call you tomorrow.
  • On se voit demain. — We [will] see each other tomorrow.

This also occurs in English, albeit less frequently.

  • Ça commence demain. — That begins tomorrow.

Describing Dates Edit

The most formal way to express a date in French is with c'est. (Never use il est.)

  • C'est dimanche. — It's Sunday.

However, the most common way is to use nous sommes or on est. This construction is idiomatic and does not directly translate to English.

  • Nous sommes vendredi. — It is Friday.
  • Aujourd'hui, on est mardi. — Today is Tuesday.

Note that while "today" is a noun and adverb in English, aujourd'hui cannot be used as a noun to give a date, so you cannot say Aujourd'hui est mardi. However, hieraujourd'hui, and demain can be used as nouns when qualified by an adjective or another noun.

  • Demain est un autre jour. — Tomorrow is another day.
  • Hier était férié. — Yesterday was a holiday.

This construction can be used to express the month, though you must add en. Months aren't capitalized in French.

  • Nous sommes en juillet. — It's July.

When denoting specific dates, put le and the date before the month. Also, French date abbreviations take the form DD/MM/YY.

  • 27/11/14 — C'est le 27 novembre 2014. — It's November 27, 2014.
  • 02/10 — Nous sommes le 2 octobre. — It's October 2nd.

However, for the first day of the month, you must use the word premier.

  • 01/04 — C'est le premier avril. — It's April 1st.

To express a relative time in the past, you can use il y a.

  • il y a huit jours — eight days ago
  • il y a deux ans — two years ago

Jour or Journée? Edit

A few words for dates and times have both masculine and feminine forms that are used in different contexts.

English Masculine Feminine
day jour journée
morning matin matinée
evening soir soirée
year an année

Consider the meaning of the whole sentence when deciding between the two. Some pairs are more flexible than others. Jour and journée can often be interchangeable, but matin and matinée are very strictly separate.

The masculine forms are used for countable units of time and specific dates or moments. For instance:

  • With numerals (except un in some cases).
    • deux ans — two years
    • trois jours — three days
  • With tous ("all"), chaque ("every"), and ce ("this"/"that").
    • chaque matin / tous les matins — every morning
  • With temporal adverbs (e.g. demain and hier).
    • demain matin — tomorrow morning
    • hier soir — yesterday evening / last night

The feminine forms are used to express or emphasize a duration or the passing of time. They're also used with most adjectives. For instance:

  • When emphasizing a duration.
    • Je vais lire toute la matinée. — I am going to read all morning.
    • la journée de 8 heures — the 8-hour day
  • With adjectives (except tous/chaque/ce).
    • une belle soirée — a beautiful evening
    • Cette année est mémorable. — This year is memorable.

Deciding between forms with un depends on whether un acts as a numeral or article. If you can translate un as "one" in English, then go with the masculine.

Notice that chaque matin doesn't require an article but tous les matins does. This is because chaquece, and articles are all examples of determiners, which are words that give context to nouns. You will learn more about determiners in "Adjectives 3".

Verbs: Infinitive Edit

Verb conjugations are classified in two ways: tense and mood. Tenses reflect a time frame (e.g. present tense), while moods reflect a speaker's attitude. So far, you've mainly used the indicative mood (for facts and certainties), but it is only one of seven moods.

The Infinitive Mood Edit

The infinitive mood is an impersonal mood that isn't conjugated nor associated with any subject pronoun. It can be used in a variety of constructions, either with or without prepositions.

WITHOUT PREPOSITIONS Edit

Infinitives are often the objects of conjugated semi-auxiliary verbs such as vouloirpouvoir, and aimer. You learned this in "Verbs: Present 1".

  • Ça va venir. — It is going to come.
  • Je veux danser. — I want to dance.
  • J'aime avoir un chat. — I like having a cat.

Infinitives can also act like nouns and can be used as subjects.

  • Faire du café est facile. — Making coffee is easy.
  • Cuisiner et nettoyer sont ses responsabilités. — Cooking and cleaning are his responsibilities.

Here, note that French infinitives can often be translated as English gerunds (with an -ing ending), especially when they're subjects.

AFTER VERBS + PREPOSITIONS Edit

As you learned previously, some verbs must be followed by a preposition to complete their meaning (e.g. penser à). An infinitive can be used as an object when it follows such prepositions.

  • Elle parle de cuisiner le poulet. – She is talking about cooking the chicken.
  • Je pense à changer de job. – I am thinking about changing jobs.
  • Je vous remercie de laver les verres. – I thank you for washing the glasses.

Since infinitives can act like nouns, they can follow être + de to describe or define a subject (as a subject complement).

  • Mon travail est de cuisiner. – My job is to cook.
  • L'objectif est d'apprendre le francais. – The goal is to learn French.

The preposition pour ("for" or "in order to") can come before an infinitive to express the purpose of an action.

  • Je lis pour apprendre. — I read [in order] to learn.
  • Je viens pour parler. — I am coming [in order] to talk.

Keep in mind that conjugated verbs should never come after prepositions.

AFTER NOUNS Edit

An infinitive can also modify a noun when used with de or à. It may take practice to decide which preposition should be used, but in general, use de whenever the infinitive has an object.

  • Merci de laver les verres. — Thanks for washing the glasses.
  • Il prend le temps de manger une pomme. — He takes the time to eat an apple.

Use à when the verb in the sentence is avoir (with the translation "to have").

  • J'ai une décision à prendre. — I have a decision to make.
  • Il a un examen à préparer — He has an exam to prepare.

À can also be used to indicate the purpose of a noun.

  • une maison à vendre — a house for sale
  • l'eau à boire — drinking water

AFTER ADJECTIVES Edit

Infinitives can be used with the construction il est + adjective + de to create impersonal expressions. Remember from "Common Phrases" that an impersonal statement is one with a dummy subject instead of a real one.

  • Il est possible de manger maintenant. — It is possible to eat now.
  • Il est nécessaire de boire de l’eau. — It is necessary to drink water.

However, if the subject il is a real thing instead of just a dummy subject, then you must use à instead of de.

  • Cette tâche est facile à faire. — This task is easy to do.
  • C'est bon à savoir. — That's good to know.

To further illustrate the difference, consider these two different translations of "It is fun to read." The first is a general statement, while the second is a statement about a real subject.

  • Il est amusant de lire. (Impersonal) — It is fun to read. / Reading is fun.
  • Il est amusant à lire. (Real) — It (e.g. a book) is fun to read.

Causative Faire Edit

Faire often appears before a verb to indicate that the subject causes something to happen instead of performing it. It's often used in relation to foods.

  • Il fait bouillir le thé. — He boils the tea.
  • J'aime faire griller du poulet. — I like grilling chicken.

It can also be used to indicate that the subject has directed someone else to perform an action.

  • Je le fais réparer. — I am having it fixed.
  • Je fais partir mon ami. — I am making my friend leave.

Adverbs 1 Edit

Adverbs are invariable words that can modify verbs, adjectives, other adverbs, and more.

Adverb Placement Edit

If an adverb modifies a verb, it usually follows right after it.

  • Il parle vite. — He speaks quickly.
  • Elle mange souvent de la soupe. — She often eats soup.
  • J'aime bien l'hiver. — I like the winter.

An adverb comes before an adjective or other adverb that it modifies.

  • Je suis très heureux. — I am very happy.
  • Ma cuillère est trop grande ! — My spoon is too big!

A long adverb that modifies a phrase can usually be relegated to the beginning or end of a sentence.

  • Ton fils est un homme maintenant. — Your son is a man now.
  • Généralementje sais quoi faire. — Generally, I know what to do.

Adverbs of Quantity Edit

Imprecise quantities are expressed using adverbs of quantity, which are usually followed by the preposition de.

  • Il a beaucoup de chiens. — He has a lot of dogs.
  • Il boit trop de bière. — He is drinking too much beer.

Recall that dude la, and des cannot be used after expressions ending in de, such as adverbs of quantity. Thus, des does not appear before chiens and de la does not appear before bière. However, other articles can follow adverbs of quantity when the noun is specific.

  • Beaucoup des (de + les) amis de mon frère sont là. — Many of my brother’s friends are here.
  • Je veux plus du (de + le) même. — I want more of the same.

Comparatives and Superlatives Edit

The adverbs plus ("more") and moins ("less") can be used with the conjunction que in comparisons.

  • Ta sœur est plus jolie qu'elle. — Your sister is prettier than her.
  • Ils mangent moins que nous. — They are eating less than us.

To express equivalence, use aussi...que ("as...as").

  • Je suis aussi timide que mon père. — I am as shy as my father.

Adding a definite article before plus or moins creates a superlative. The definite article agrees with the noun being modified.

  • C'est la plus jolie robe. — That's the prettiest dress.
  • Le plus grand arbre du monde est là. — The biggest tree in the world is there.

If the adjective should follow the noun, then the definite article must be repeated.

  • Je veux acheter le pain le moins cher. — I want to buy the least expensive bread.
  • C'est le livre le plus difficile à comprendre. — That's the most difficult book to understand.

BonBienMauvais, and Mal Edit

In French, we have to deal with the good (bon and bien), the bad (mauvais and mal), and the ugly (trying to decide which to use). Luckily, in most cases, bon and mauvais are adjectives while bien and mal are adverbs.

  • C'est un bon chanteur. — He is a good singer.
  • Il chante bien. — He sings well.
  • Elle est bonne étudiante. — She's a good student.
  • Elle étudie bien. — She studies well.
  • C'est un mauvais homme. — He's a bad man.
  • Mon frère lit très mal. — My brother reads very badly.
  • Tu bois le mauvais vin ! — You're drinking the wrong wine!
  • L'anglais, ce n'est jamais que du français mal prononcé. (Georges Clemenceau) — English is nothing but mispronounced French.

There are also a number of fixed expressions or special usages for bien. You are familiar with some of these from "Common Phrases".

  • Bien ! — Good!
  • C'est très bien ! — That's very good!
  • Bien sûr. — Of course.

Also, remember that aimer normally means "to love" when directed at people and animals, but adding bien reduces its meaning to "to like".

  • Elle l'aime. — She loves him.
  • J'aime bien mon ami. — I like my friend.

Occupations Edit

Remember that occupations (along with nationalities and religions) can act as adjectives when used with être or devenir, so unlike in English, the French often drop the indefinite article (unune, etc.) before an occupation.

  • Je suis juge. — I am a judge.
  • Elle va devenir avocate. — She is going to become a lawyer.

However, if any specification follows the occupation, then the indefinite article must be added.

  • Tu es un juge respecté par tous. — You are a judge respected by all.
  • Il veut devenir un professeur pour adultes. — He wants to become a teacher for adults.

Omitting the indefinite article is optional. However, if it's included in the third-person, then you must use c'est or ce sont.

  • C'est un juge. — He's a judge.
  • C’est une dentiste bien connue. — She is a well-known dentist.
  • Ce sont des journalistes. — They are journalists.

Genders in Occupations Edit

Some occupations have the same form in both masculine and feminine.

  • un/une docteur — a doctor
  • un/une juge — a judge
  • un/une journaliste — a journalist
  • un/une pédiatre — a pediatrician
  • un/une dentiste — a dentist
  • un/une auteur — an author
  • un/une secrétaire — a secretary
  • un/une ingénieur — an engineer

Other occupations have a feminine form that's derived from the masculine:

Masculine Feminine English
un policier une policière a police officer
un agriculteur une agricultrice a farmer
un avocat une avocate a lawyer
un enseignant une enseignante a teacher
un serveur une serveuse a server
un cuisinier une cuisinière a cook
un coiffeur une coiffeuse a hairdresser
un boulanger une boulangère a baker
un professeur un professeur or une professeure a teacher

Negatives Edit

A negation changes the meaning of a statement to its negative. Most French negations are constructed out of two words that surround a conjugated verb.

  • Je ne comprends pas. — I don't understand.
  • Il ne parle pas anglais. — He doesn't speak English.

Note that the particle ne elides before vowel sounds.

  • Vous n'avez pas de chien. — You don't have a dog.
  • Ils n'aiment pas le menu. — They don't like the menu.

Along with ne...pas, there are a number of other negations you can use.

  • Ne...plus: not any more/no more/not any longer/no longer
    • Elle n'a plus de lait. — She has no more milk.
    • Il ne peut plus marcher. — He can't walk any longer.
  • Ne...jamais: not ever/never
    • Je ne sais jamais. — I never know.
    • Je ne gagne jamais. — I don't ever win.
  • Ne...rien: not anything/nothing
    • Je n'ai rien. — I have nothing.
    • Elles ne voient rien. — They don't see anything.
  • Ne...personne: not anybody/nobody/not anyone/no one
    • Je ne vois personne. — I don't see anybody.
    • Il ne veut voir personne. — He doesn't want to see anyone.

Note that in negations, indefinite and partitive articles change to de.

  • Elle n'a pas de lait. — She doesn't have milk. (Not du lait.)
  • Je n'entends plus de bruit. — I don't hear a sound anymore. (Not un bruit.)
  • Je n’entends plus d’oiseaux. — I don’t hear birds anymore. (Not des oiseaux.)

Of course, there's an exception: when negating être, all articles may be used.

  • Ce liquide n'est pas du lait. — This liquid isn't milk.
  • Ce n'est pas un couteau. — That's not a knife.

Negative Pronouns and Conjunctions Edit

In addition to the negative adverbs above, you also have the option of starting a sentence with a negative adverb, which acts like a masculine subject. Both personne and rien can also be negative pronouns if you put ne after them.

Personne ne means "nobody".

  • Personne ne sait. — Nobody knows.
  • Personne n'aime cela. — Nobody likes that.

Rien ne ("nothing") is the pronoun version of ne...rien.

  • Rien n'est parfait. — Nothing is perfect.
  • Rien n'est si dangereux qu'un ignorant ami. (Jean de La Fontaine) — Nothing is so dangerous as an ignorant friend.

The negative conjunction ni can be used to add something to a negation and is similar to the English "nor". Think of it as a negative form of et ("and"). Ni can be used instead of negative adverbs or in addition to them.

  • Elle ne connaît ni toi ni moi. — She knows neither you nor me. (Or "She doesn't know you or me.")
  • Je ne veux ni ce repas ni cette boisson. — I want neither this meal nor this drink.
  • Il ne fait pas chaud ni froid. — It is neither hot nor cold.

When ni coordinates multiple conjugated verbs, each verb must be preceded by ne.

  • Je ne lis pas, ni n'écris. — I don't read or write.
  • Il ne veut ni ne peut manger de la colle. — He neither wants nor is able to eat glue.

Word Order Edit

When the negated verb has a pronoun object, it belongs right after ne.

  • Je ne l'aime pas. — I don't like it.
  • Je n'en ai pas. — I don't have any. (Lit: "I do not have some of it.)

When a negation is used with an inversion (to ask a question), the whole inversion must remain inside the negation.

  • Ne comprenez-vous pas ? — Don't you understand?
  • Pourquoi ne l'as-tu pas ? — Why don't you have it?

Unconjugated verbs like infinitives must come after the negation.

  • Ne pas toucher. — Do not touch.
  • Elle choisit de ne pas manger. — She chooses not to eat.

Extra adverbs that modify the verb usually come after the negation. Otherwise, they follow the rules from "Adverbs 1".

  • On ne marche pas vite. — We aren't walking quickly.
  • Elle ne vient jamais ici. — She never comes here.

Other Notes Edit

In English, two negatives may make a positive, but in French, they usually don't. For instance, consider ne...jamais rien, which is "never...anything", not "never...nothing".

  • Ils ne vont jamais rien perdre. — They will never lose anything.
  • Elle ne mange jamais rien. — She never eats anything.

The particle ne is often skipped or slurred in casual speech. It's also omitted for short phrases that lack a verb.

  • Pas si vite ! — Not so fast!
  • Pas de problème. — No problem.

Remember that verbs of appreciation (e.g. aimer) require the definite article in French. Negations are no different.

  • I don't like fish. — Je n'aime pas le poisson. (Not Je n'aime pas de poisson.)

Conjunctions 2 Edit

Subordinating Conjunctions Edit

In "Conjunctions 1", you learned about coordinating conjunctions, which link similar elements that have equal importance in a sentence. However, in complex sentences, one clause may be dependent on another.

  • Il mange parce qu'il a faim. — He eats because he is hungry.

In this example, parce qu'il a faim ("because he is hungry") is a dependent clause because it gives more information about the independent clause il mange ("he eats"). The dependent clause is introduced by parce que, which is a subordinating conjunction. Many subordinating conjunctions end in que.

Unlike coordinating conjunctions, subordinating conjunctions can begin sentences.

  • Lorsque le garçon mange, la fille mange. — When the boy eats, the girl eats.
  • Pendant que je lis, il écrit. — While I read, he is writing.

TEMPORAL CONJUNCTIONS Edit

Quand and lorsque both mean "when", but they aren't always interchangeable. Both can be used for temporal correlations, but lorsque refers to one particular instance, while quand can refer to one or multiple instances. Quand is also an adverb, so it can be used in questions. When in doubt, use quand.

  • Je sortais quand/lorsque tu arrivais. — I was leaving when you were arriving.
  • Je mange quand j'ai faim — I eat when (whenever) I am hungry.
  • Quand mangez-vous ? — When do you eat?

Alors quependant que, and tandis que can indicate simultaneity.

  • Je mange alors que tu manges. — I eat while you eat.
  • Pendant que tu bois, je bois. — While you drink, I drink.

Alors que and tandis que can also indicate a contrast or contradiction, though this is rare for tandis que.

  • Elle est grande, alors que je suis petit. — She is tall, whereas I am short.
  • Je mange alors que je n'ai pas faim. — I am eating even though I am not hungry.

CAUSAL CONJUNCTIONS Edit

Parce quecar, and puisque all mean "because" and describe some kind of cause-and-effect relationship, but they aren't completely interchangeable.

Parce que is a subordinating conjunction that provides an explanation, motive, or justification.

  • Elle lit parce qu'elle a un livre. — She is reading because she has a book.
  • Parce qu'elle est jeune, elle est jolie. — She is pretty because she is young.

Car is similar to parce que, but it's a coordinating conjunction and thus cannot begin a sentence or clause.

  • Je mange du poulet, car j'aime la viande. — I am eating chicken because I like meat.

Puisque is a subordinating conjunction that means "because" or "since" and gives an already-known or obvious reason or justification.

  • Puisque il pleut, j'ai un parapluie. — Since it's raining, I have an umbrella.

ELISIONS WITH SI AND QUE Edit

Usually, only one-syllable words ending in -e can be elided, but the main exceptions are ellesi, and words ending in que. However, si only elides before il and ils, so you must write s'il, but cannot write s'elle.

Adverbs 2 Edit

Constructing Adverbs Edit

In English, many adverbs are constructed from adjectives by adding "-ly" to the end. For instance, "quick" becomes "quickly". In French, add -ment to feminine adjectives to create adverbs.

  • facile (easy) ⇒ facilement (easily)
  • forte (strong) ⇒ fortement (strongly)
  • grande (great) ⇒ grandement (greatly)

However, if the masculine form ends in -nt, replace that ending with -mment instead.

  • constant (constant) ⇒ constamment (constantly)
  • prudent (prudent) ⇒ prudemment (prudently)

Adverbs with Negations Edit

In negative clauses, adverbs that would otherwise follow the verb usually appear after the negation.

  • Nous ne vivons pas ensemble. — We don't live together.
  • Ce n'est pas si mauvais. — That isn't so bad.

Objects Edit

Cognates Edit

As you may have noticed, a lot of English vocabulary (vocabulaire) comes from French. This has created many etymological patterns that you can use to your advantage when learning new words. Consider the following suffix patterns:

  • -aire ⇒ -ary
    • ordinaire — ordinary
    • dictionnaire — dictionary
  • -eur ⇒ -er
    • chargeur — charger
    • serveur — server (waiter)
  • -tion / -sion ⇒ -tion
    • invitation — invitation
    • condition — condition
  • -ment ⇒ -ment
    • le document — the document
    • le gouvernement — the government
  • -ment (adverb) ⇒ -ly
    • probablement — probably
    • evidemment — evidently
  • -ique ⇒ -ical
    • logique — logical
    • électrique — electrical
  • -able ⇒ -able / -ible
    • responsable — responsible
    • indispensable — indispensable

Noun Adjuncts Edit

Unlike English, French does not have noun adjuncts, which are nouns that modify other nouns. Instead, you must use de or another preposition to make one noun modify another.

  • l'album de photos — photo album
  • la soupe de poulet — chicken soup
  • le hockey sur gazon — field hockey

Adjectives 3 Edit

Determiners Edit

You learned in "Basics 1" that almost all nouns must be preceded by an article. This isn't entirely accurate. Rather, almost all nouns must be preceded by a determiner, which is a word that puts a noun in context. As of this unit, you will have encountered every type of determiner.

  • Articles, as in le pantalon ("the pants").
  • Possessive adjectives, as in ton cochon ("your pig").
  • Cardinal numbers, as in deux chevaux ("two horses").
  • Interrogative adjectives, as in quel chat ? ("which cat?").
  • Exclamation adjectives, as in quelle chance ! ("what luck!").
  • Negative adjectives, as in aucune chance ("no chance!").
  • Indefinite adjectives, as in plusieurs jouets ("several toys").

There are very few exceptions to the rule that nouns must have a determiner. A few are verb-based. For instance: names of professions, religions and a few nouns expressing a status with être; names of languages with parler; and most nouns with devenir.

  • Je suis médecin. — I am a doctor.
  • Il est bon élève. — He is a good student.
  • Elle est victime de son succès. — She is a victim of her own success.
  • Paul était témoin à mon mariage. — Paul was a witness at my wedding.
  • Je parle anglais. — I speak English.
  • Il devient roi du Nord. — He becomes King of the North.

Determiners are also omitted after some prepositions.

  • Je ne peux pas vivre sans eau. — I cannot live without water.
  • Nous le transportons par avion — We transport it by aircraft.
  • C'est une feuille de papier. — This is a sheet of paper.

Recall that French does not have noun adjuncts, which are nouns that qualify other nouns. Instead, use de between two nouns to qualify the first one.

  • C'est un album de photos. — That's a photo album. (Lit, "album of photos.")
  • Je vais à l’agence de voyage. – I am going to the travel agency.
  • Il a un couteau de cuisine. – He has a kitchen knife.

INDEFINITE ADJECTIVES Edit

Indefinite adjectives like plusieurscertainsquelques, and chaque references nouns in a non-specific sense, akin to the way indefinite articles reference nouns.

  • L'enfant a plusieurs jouets. — The child has several toys.
  • Certains hommes sont mauvais. — Some (or "certain") men are bad.
  • J'ai quelques livres. — I have a few (or "some") books.
  • L’automne est un deuxième printemps où chaque feuille est une fleur. (Albert Camus) — Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower.

Comparatives and Superlatives Edit

In "Adverbs 1", you learned that you can use plus as a comparative and le/la/les plus as a superlative.

  • C'est une plus jolie robe. — That's a prettier dress.
  • C'est la plus jolie robe. — That's the prettiest dress.

Bon ("good"), bien ("well"), and mauvais ("bad") also have comparative and superlative forms, but they're irregular, just like their English counterparts.

Bon Edit

To say "better" when referring to a noun, you can't just say plus bon. Instead, use meilleur, which is a BANGS adjective with four inflections.

masc fem
sing meilleur meilleure
plur meilleurs meilleures
  • Elle cherche un meilleur emploi. — She is looking for a better job.
  • Je veux de meilleures robes. — I want better dresses. (Remember that desbecomes de when immediately followed by an adjective.)

For the superlative, just add a definite article before the adjective that agrees with it.

  • Paul est le meilleur. — Paul is the best.
  • Ses filles sont les meilleures. — Her daughters are the best.

Bien Edit

When "better" modifies an action or state of being, you must use mieux.

  • Il parle mieux japonais. — He speaks better Japanese.
  • Ça va mieux. — It is going better.

Add a definite article to create a superlative.

  • C'est Paul qui cuisine le mieux. — It's Paul who cooks the best.
  • Il les connait le mieux. — He knows them the best.

Mauvais Edit

Unlike bon and bien, comparative and superlative forms of mauvais can either be regular (with plus) or irregular (with pire).

  • C'est une plus mauvaise situation. — That's a worse situation.
  • Ça peut être pire. — That might be worse.
  • Ce sont les pires choix. — Those are the worst choices.

Prepositions 2 Edit

Temporal Prepositions Edit

Choosing a preposition for time depends on the situation, but multiple choices may be appropriate.

DURATIONS Edit

Pendant and durant are interchangeable and mean "during" or "for". These are versatile and can be used for most expressions of duration.

  • Pendant l'été, il fait chaud. — During the summer, it is hot.
  • Je veux dormir pendant une semaine ! — I want to sleep for a week!
  • Elles peuvent rester durant un jour. — They can stay for a day.
  • Chaque matin, je cours pendant une heure. — Every morning, I run for an hour.

Depuis ("since" or "for") can be used for things that are still happening, and it's usually followed by a start date or a duration. It's tricky because a French present-tense verb with depuis often translates to an English present perfect verb.

  • Il pleut depuis hier. — It has been raining since yesterday.
  • Je te connais depuis deux ans. — I have known you for two years.

En ("in") indicates the length of time an action requires for completion and can be used with any tense.

  • Je peux le finir en deux heures. — I can finish it in two hours.
  • Elle va lire le livre en une heure. — She is going to read the book in an hour.

Pour ("for") is the most limited choice and is only used with aller or partir for future events.

  • Il est en vacances pour une semaine. – He is on vacation for a week.
  • Je vais chez moi pour la nuit. — I am going home for the night.

REFERENCES Edit

Use à to pinpoint exactly what time of day an event begins or to give the endpoint of a time range in conjunction with de.

  • Le repas commence à midi. — The meal begins at noon.
  • La boutique est ouverte de 8.00 à 17.00. — The boutique is open from 8 to 5.

En can also indicate that an action took place in a particular month, season, or year. The exception is spring, which requires au.

  • Je vais à Paris en avril. — I am going to Paris in April.
  • Je commence à bronzer en douceur en été. — I begin to gently sunbathe in summer.
  • Il va toujours chez lui au printemps. — He always goes home in spring.

Dans also means "in", but it gives the amount of time before an action will take place.

  • Elle va revenir dans 15 minutes. — She is going to return in 15 minutes.
  • Je vais t'appeler dans une demi-heure. — I'm going to call you in half an hour.

Puzzling Prepositions Edit

Chez can be combined with a pronoun or noun to refer to someone's home or workplace.

  • Je vais chez le dentiste. — I am going to the dentist's.
  • Elle est chez Kristy. — She's at Kristy's house.

Entre means "between", both literally and figuratively.

  • Il est entre deux fougères. — He is between two ferns.
  • Je te le dis, mais c'est entre nous. — I can tell you, but it's between us.

Parmi means "among" and indicates that something is part of a larger group of assorted people, animals, or things.

  • Des lions sont parmi les animaux du zoo. — Lions are among the zoo animals.
  • Le chat dort parmi les chiens. — The cat sleeps among the dogs.

However, if the larger group is uniform in some specific way, entre can also mean "among".

  • Ici, nous sommes entre femmes. — Here, we are among women.
  • Nous pouvons parler librement entre collègues. — We can speak freely among colleagues.

There are some situations where both entre and parmi are acceptable.

  • Il choisit entre/parmi les options. — He chooses between the options.

Devant and avant both mean "before", but devant is spatial while avant is temporal.

  • Je suis devant vous. — I stand before you.
  • Il mange avant nous. — He eats before us.

PEU Edit

Using the word peu ("few"/"little") can be surprisingly complicated. By itself, peu is usually an adverb that diminishes what it modifies and is generally translated using "not very/much/well".

  • Elle parle peu. — She doesn't talk much.
  • Il est peu probable. — It is not very likely.
  • Je vous connais peu. — I don't know you well.
  • Ce phénomène est peu fréquent. – This phenomenon is infrequent.
  • peu après — not long after

Appending de creates an adverb of quantity that modifies nouns.

  • Peu de femmes disent ça. — Few women say that.
  • Peu d'eau sur la Terre est potable. — Little of the water on Earth is drinkable.

However, peu can also be a noun, especially when preceded by an article.

  • Elle parle un peu de français. — She speaks a bit of French.
  • Tu veux manger un peu de fraises ? — Do you want to eat a few strawberries?
  • Oui, j'en veux un peu. — Yes, I want a few. (Or "a little".)

Places Edit

Spatial Prepositions Edit

Expressing locations in French can be tricky because many English prepositions don't have one-to-one French translations. This is especially true for "in", which can be dansen, or à depending on how specific the location is.

Dans means "in" for specific, known locations. It is especially appropriate when the location name has an article or possessive.

  • Il mange dans le restaurant. — He's eating in the restaurant.
  • Un chat est dans ma chambre. — A cat is in my room.

Use à and its contractions for unspecific or vague locations.

  • On vit à la campagne. — We live in the country.
  • C'est dangereux à la frontière. — It's dangerous at the frontier.

When describing a location that doesn't require a determiner (usually a type of place), use en.

  • Nous sommes en classe. — We are in class.
  • Elle est en prison. — She is in prison.

SPECIAL RULES Edit

For all cities (and islands), use à for "to" or "in" and de for "from".

  • Le roi vit à Versailles. — The king lives in Versailles.
  • Nous allons à Paris. — We are going to Paris.
  • Napoléon vient de Corse. — Napoleon comes from Corsica.
  • Je l'envoie d'Orléans. — I am sending it from Orleans.

Countries, provinces/states, and continents have gender-based rules. For feminine ones, en means "to" or "in" and de means "from". Luckily, all continents are feminine, as are most countries ending in -e.

  • Bordeaux est en France. — Bordeaux is in France.
  • Il reste en Europe. — He is staying in Europe.
  • On vient de Californie. — We come from California.
  • Elle part d'Asie. — She is departing from Asia.

For masculine countries, provinces, and states that start with a consonant sound, use auand du.

  • Je veux aller au Québec. — I want to go to Quebec.
  • Elles partent du Japon. — They are departing from Japan.

If they start with a vowel sound, switch back to en and de for euphony.

  • Il y a une guerre en Irak. — There is a war in Iraq.
  • J'arrive d'Ontario. — I am coming from Ontario.

For countries with pluralized names (mainly the USA), use aux and des.

  • On travaille aux États-Unis. — We work in the United States.

Using the Present for the Future Edit

In both French and English, the present tense can often be used to express the near future (le futur proché). In French, this usage is basically equivalent to aller + infinitive.

  • Je vais à Paris demain. — I am going to Paris tomorrow.
  • Demain c'est samedi. — It's Saturday tomorrow.
  • La fête commence demain. — The party begins tomorrow.

Irregular Plurals Edit

Most French nouns and adjectives can be pluralized by adding an ending -s, like in English. Those that can't be pluralized like this normally will have plural forms that end in -x. For instance, most nouns ending in -al or -ail change to -aux.

  • un animal ⇒ des animaux ("animals")
  • le travail ⇒ les travaux ("work")

Similarly, masculine singular adjectives ending in -al take on -aux endings in the plural. However, feminine singular adjectives ending in -ale simply add an ending -s.

  • général -> généraux ("general")
  • générale -> générales ("general")
  • idéal -> idéaux ("ideal")
  • idéale -> idéales ("ideal")

Add -x to the end of most nouns that end in -au-eau, and -eu to pluralize them.

  • un tuyau ⇒ des tuyaux ("pipes")
  • mon chapeau ⇒ mes chapeaux ("my hats")
  • le feu ⇒ les feux ("fires")

The plural forms of -au-eau, and -eu words are homophones of their singular forms. In general, the best way to tell if a noun is plural is to listen carefully to its article. If you hear les or des, it's plural. Otherwise, it's probably singular.

People Edit

French nouns for persons of a certain nationality are capitalized, but in French, national adjectives and language names are not capitalized.

  • C'est une Anglaise. — She's an Englishwoman.
  • C'est une voiture anglaise. — It's an English car.
  • Ce sont des Françaises. — They are Frenchwomen.
  • Elles parlent français. — They speak French.

Remember that nouns for nationalities (and also professions and religions) can appear after être without a determiner. In this usage, they act like adjectives and are not capitalized.

  • Je suis chinois. — I am Chinese. / I am a Chinese man.
  • Mon oncle est italien. — My uncle is Italian. / My uncle is an Italian man.

Refresher: Stative Verbs Edit

Because French lacks continuous tenses, most French verbs can translate to either simple or continuous tenses in English (and vice versa).

  • Mes amis dorment. — My friends sleep. / My friends are sleeping.
  • Il parle le russe. — He speaks Russian. / He is speaking Russian.

However, as you learned in "Verbs: Present 2", English stative verbs cannot be used in continuous tenses. You can only use them in simple tenses.

  • Mes amis aiment dormir. — My friends like to sleep. (Not "are liking".)
  • Il sait parler russe. — He knows how to speak Russian. (Not "is knowing".)

Generally, if a verb refers to a process, it's a dynamic verb; if it refers to a state or condition, it's a stative verb. The most common stative verb is "to be", but here are some other common examples:

  • Possessing: belong, get, have, own, possess
  • Feeling: hate, like, love, need, want
  • Sensing: feel, hear, see, smell, taste
  • Thinking: believe, know, recognize, think, understand

However, some verbs can be either stative or active depending on context. For instance:

  • "To have" can be dynamic when it means "to consume".
  • "To feel" is stative, but "to feel sick" or "to feel better" are dynamic.
  • "To be" can be dynamic when it means "to act".

This restriction on using stative verbs in English continuous tenses will be particularly important in the next few units.

Present 3 Edit

Pronominal Verbs Edit

pronominal verb requires a reflexive pronoun, which is a special kind of pronoun that agrees with and refers back to the subject. They're identical to direct object pronouns except for the third-person se.

Person Singular Plural
1st me nous
2nd te vous
3rd se se

One type of pronominal verb, the reflexive verb, describes an action being done by the subject to the subject.

  • Je me dis que ce n'est pas possible. — I tell myself that it isn't possible.
  • Vous vous levez. — You are getting up. (Lit, "You raise yourself".)
  • La femme se promène. — The woman goes for a walk. (Lit, "walks herself".)

Reflexive verbs include se in their infinitive forms (e.g. se promener). It isn't necessary to include the reflexive pronoun in the English translation. Also, the reflexive verb should come after ne in negations.

  • Ils se rasent. — They are shaving.
  • Elle ne se rase pas. — She doesn't shave.

The other kinds of pronominal verbs are reciprocal, passive, and subjective. You will learn these later.

Pronoun Order Edit

When two object pronouns modify the same verb, they always appear in a predefined order: me/te/nous/vous/se > le/la/les > lui/leur > y > en.

  • Je vous la laisse. — I am leaving it for you.
  • Nous nous la réservons. – We reserve it for ourselves.
  • Ils nous le donnent. — They are giving it to us.
  • Ils le lui donnent. — They are giving it to him.

Verbs with À and De Edit

As you learned previously, à or de can appear after a verb to introduce an infinitive or object. You should consider such a preposition to be an integral part of the verb that completes or changes its meaning.

  • Je commence à manger. — I am starting to eat.
  • Ma nièce essaie de dormir. — My niece is trying to sleep.
  • Je pense à des éléphants roses. — I am thinking about pink elephants.
  • Que pensez-vous de ce film ? — What do you think of that film?
  • Il pense qu'elle est belle. — He thinks that she is beautiful.

However, recall from "Verbs: Present 1" that semi-auxiliary verbs can introduce other verbs without needing a preposition.

  • Je veux lire. — I want to read.
  • Il aime manger. — He likes to eat.

Y REPLACES À + THING Edit

For verbs appended with à (like penser à), the adverbial pronoun y can replace à + a thing.

  • Tu penses à l'examen ? — Are you thinking about the test?
  • Oui, j'y pense encore. — Yeah, I'm thinking about it again.
  • Il croit aux fantômes ? — Does he believe in ghosts?
  • Oui, il y croit. — Yes, he believes in them.

To replace à + a person or animal, use an indirect object pronoun instead.

  • Je lui pense. — I am thinking about him/her.
  • Elle me téléphoné maintenant. — She is calling me right now.

Venir De Edit

In "Places", you learned that the present tense can be used to express the near future. Similarly, the present tense can also express the recent past in the construction venir de+ infinitive, but these should be translated to the simple past or present perfect in English.

  • Je viens de voir cela. — I just saw that.
  • Il vient de déjeuner. — He has just had lunch.

Confusing Verbs Edit

Demander à means "to ask to" when followed by an infinitive.

  • Elle demande à payer avec des dollars. — She asks to pay with dollars.

However, when used with nouns, demander is particularly confusing because its direct and indirect object are the opposite of its English counterpart, "to ask".

  • Je demande une baguette. — I ask for a baguette. (Not "I ask a baguette.")
  • Je demande une baguette à la boulangère. — I ask the baker for a baguette.
  • Je lui demande de me donner une baguette. — I ask her to give me a baguette.

Écouter means "to listen" in the literal sense of intentionally listening or paying attention to something.

  • J'écoute de la musique. — I am listening to music.
  • Elle écoute la voix de la sagesse. — She listens to the voice of reason.

Entendre can mean "hear", "listen", or (rarely) "understand".

  • J'entends du bruit. — I hear noise.
  • Elle ne veut rien entendre. — She won't listen.

Manquer means "to miss", but the pronouns are flipped from its English counterpart. If it helps, you can think of manquer as "to be missed by".

  • Vous me manquez. — I miss you.
  • Je vous manque. — You miss me.

Plaire à is commonly translated as "to like", but for grammatical purposes, think of it as "to please" or "to be pleasing to".

  • La jupe plaît aux filles. — The girls like the skirt. / The skirt is pleasing to the girls.
  • Ça me plaît. — I like it. / That is pleasing to me.

The pronominal verb se lever ("to get up") means to physically get up from a non-standing position, not to wake up.

Past Imperfect Edit

Conjugating the Imperfect Edit

French has a few past tenses, one of which is the imperfect (imparfait). You can construct it by taking the present indicative nous form of any verb and replacing the -ons with the imperfect ending. Notice that all the conjugated forms except the nous and vous forms have the same sound.

Subject Ending Être Parler Manger Aller
je (j') -ais étais parlais mangeais allais
tu -ais étais parlais mangeais allais
il/elle/on -ait était parlait mangeait allait
nous -ions étions parlions mangions allions
vous -iez étiez parliez mangiez alliez
ils/elles -aient étaient parlaient mangeaient allaient

The only irregular imperfect verb is être, which takes on an ét- root. However, for spelling-changing verbs that end in -ger or -cer (e.g. manger), add an "e" to the root so the consonant remains soft.

  • Kilroy était ici. — Kilroy was here.
  • Elle mangeait avec ses amis. — She was eating with her friends.

Translating the Imperfect Edit

Translating the past tense between English and French can be difficult because there is no simple mapping between the English past tenses and the two main French past tenses, the imparfait and the passé composé (taught in the next unit). When choosing a tense, pay close attention to what you're trying to express.

The imperfect describes situations, states of mind, and habits in the past. In a story, it sets the scene or background; thus, it often translates to and from the English past continuous tense.

  • Il allait chez lui. — He was going home.
  • Dis donc ! Je mangeais ça ! — Hey! I was eating that!

For repeated actions or habits, you can also use constructions with "used to" or "would".

  • Nous visitions chaque semaine. — We used to visit every week.
  • À l'époque, elle chantait souvent. — Back then, she would often sing.

A lot of confusion stems from the versatile English preterit (simple past), which overlaps both French tenses. For instance, the preterit can also be used for habits.

  • Nous visitions chaque semaine. — We visited every week.
  • À l'époque, elle chantait souvent. — Back then, she often sang.

As you learned in "Verbs: Present 2", stative verbs (e.g. "to be", "to think") usually can't be used in English continuous tenses. When used in past tenses, they should translate to the preterit.

  • Il croyait son père. — He believed his father. (Not "was believing".)
  • Nous avions trois cousins. — We had three cousins. (Using "were having" would make you a confessed cannibal.)

Using the Imperfect Edit

The Imperfect conveys three things from the past:

STATES OR SITUATIONS Edit

Use the preterit here to describe mental or physical conditions, scenes, dates or times, weather, etc. Remember that you should never use English continuous tenses for stative verbs. In the examples below, "looked", "smelled", and "understood" are stative verbs.

  • Il était malade. — He was sick.
  • Elle avait froid. — She was cold.
  • Nous avions vingt ans. — We were twenty.
  • Tu semblais heureux. — You looked happy. (Not "were looking".)
  • Il était trois heures. — It was 3:00.
  • Vos fleurs sentaient si bon ! — Your flowers smelled so nice! (Not "were smelling".)
  • Elle comprenait mes sentiments. — She understood my feelings. (Not "was understanding".)
  • Il y avait du vent. — It was windy.

Also, when using il y a in other tenses, conjugate avoir to match. For the Imperfect, it becomes avait.

ACTIONS OR PROCESSES Edit

The continuous past can be used here to set up a scene by describing an action or process.

  • Je marchais lentement. — I was walking slowly. 
  • Vous regardiez la mer. — You were watching the sea.
  • Elles pensaient à leurs enfants. — They were thinking of their children. ("Thinking" is a process here.)
  • Il pleuvait fort. — It was raining hard.

Note that "was" and "were" are the preterit forms of "to be", but they are also auxiliary verbs for the continuous past when used before another verb in gerund.

A HABIT OR REPEATED ACTION Edit

  • Nous nous entraînions chaque semaine. - We used to train every week.
  • Il récitait des poèmes. — He would (or) used to recite poems.
  • Je ressentais souvent de la douleur. — I frequently felt pain.

Note that you shouldn't use the past continuous here, but as mentioned before, you may use the preterit, "used to", or "would".

Compound Past Edit

Compound verbs contain at least two words: a conjugated auxiliary and a participle. In this unit, we will cover the passé composé (PC), which can translate to the English present perfect.

  • Elle a vu ce chien. — She has seen that dog.
  • Ils ont dit la verité. — They have told the truth.

In both languages, the compound verb begins with a conjugated auxiliary verb (avoirand "to have" here) that agrees with the subject. A past participle (e.g. vu or "seen") follows the auxiliary.

Auxiliaries Edit

In English, the active present perfect has only one auxiliary verb ("to have"), but the PChas two: avoir and être. Most verbs use avoir.

  • J'ai été malade. — I have been sick.
  • Il a appelé un docteur. — He has called a doctor.

A handful of verbs use être. The mnemonic "ADVENT" may help you remember these.

Initial Verb Opposite Verb Related Verbs
Arriver (arrive) partir (leave)
Descendre (descend) monter (ascend)
Venir (come) aller (go) devenir (become), revenir (return)
Entrer (enter) sortir (leave) rentrer (re-enter)
Naître (be born) mourir (die)
Tomber (fall)

The remaining verbs are passer (pass), rester (stay), retourner (return), and accourir (run up). Notice that être verbs involve movement or transformation.

  • Il est venu. — He has come.
  • Septembre est passé. — September has passed.
  • Je suis devenu roi. — I have become king.

Also, all pronominal verbs use être.

  • Il s'est souvenu de ses amis. — He has remembered his friends.
  • Il s'est rasé. — He has shaved.

Object pronouns, negations, and inversions appear around the auxiliary.

  • Je l'ai entendu. — I have heard him.
  • Il ne m'a pas trouvé. — He has not found me.
  • Avez-vous vu les robes ? — Have you seen the dresses?
  • Pourquoi l'avez- vous fait ? — Why have you done it?

Past Participles Edit

A participle is a special non-conjugated form of a verb. Most participles are formed by adding an ending to a verb's root.

Group Ending Example
-er verbs manger ⇒ mangé
-ir verbs -i choisir ⇒ choisi
-re verbs -u vendre ⇒ vendu

Unfortunately, most irregular verbs have irregular participles. For instance, the past participle of venir is venu.

  • Il est venu. — He has come.
  • Les filles sont venues. — The girls have come.

Note that participles vary with gender and number just like adjectives.

Gender Singular Plural
Masculine venu venus
Feminine venue venues

Adverbs appear right before the participle.

  • Je l’ai souvent entendu. — I often heard him/her/it.
  • Je vous en ai déjà parlé. — I already talked to you about it.

PARTICIPLE AGREEMENT Edit

A participle that follows avoir is usually invariable.

  • L'homme a mangé. — The man has eaten.
  • Les femmes ont mangé. — The women have eaten.

However, if a direct object appears before avoir, its participle agrees with the direct object. Below, vues agrees with the plural feminine robes because les precedes the verb.

  • Tu as vu les robes ? — Have you seen the dresses?
  • Oui, je les ai vues. — Yes, I have seen them.

A participle that follows être agrees with the subject.

  • L'homme est venu. — The man has come.
  • Les hommes sont venus. — The men have come.
  • La femme est venue. — The woman has come.
  • Les femmes sont venues. — The women have come.

However, if a pronominal verb is intransitive, then the participle is invariable. For instance, compare s'appeler (transitive) to se telephoner (intransitive).

  • Nous nous sommes appelés. — We called each other. (For a masculine nous.)
  • Nous nous sommes téléphoné. — We called each other. (For both genders of nous.)

Using the PC Edit

Translating the past tense can be difficult because the English simple past (preterit) overlaps the French passé composé and imparfait (taught in the previous unit). The PCcan translate to the preterit when it narrates events or states that began and ended in the past. In this usage, the PC often appears with expressions of time or frequency like il y a, which means "ago" when followed by a duration.

  • La fille a mangé il y a cinq minutes. — The girl ate five minutes ago. (A single specific event.)
  • Les enfants ont eu froid hier. — The children were cold yesterday. (A state on a specific date.)
  • Je suis tombé(e) plusieurs fois. — I fell several times. (Multiple specific actions.)
  • Je suis déjà tombé(e). — I already fell. (An event in an undetermined time frame.)

The PC can also translate to the present perfect for actions and states that started in the past and are still true.

  • Il n’a jamais mangé de pâtes. — He has never eaten pasta.
  • Tu as perdu tes clés. – You have lost your keys.

Directions (no notes provided) Edit

Compound Past 2 Edit

Combining Tenses Edit

The imparfait and passé composé can work together in the same sentence. A verb in the imparfait may be used as a background for an action given by a verb in the passé composé.

  • Elle chantait quand elle est arrivée. — She was singing when she arrived.
  • Vous m'avez téléphoné pendant que je dînais. — You called me while I was having dinner.
  • Il dormait quand il a entendu un bruit. — He was sleeping when he heard a noise.
  • Je marchais quand je suis tombé. — I was walking when I fell.

Remember that while you shouldn't use English continuous tenses for stative verbs (such as "to be"), any French verb can take the imparfait. Thus, you may often need to translate the imparfait into the English preterit when dealing with verbs that describe background feelings or states.

  • Je le savais mais je l’ai oublié. — I knew it but I forgot it. (Not "was knowing".)
  • Je connaissais l’histoire qu’elle a racontée hier. — I knew the story she told yesterday.
  • Je le comprenais, alors je l'ai accepté. — I understood it, so I accepted it.

Être Verbs + Direct Objects Edit

Six être verbs can be used transitively with a direct object: monterdescendresortirrentrerretourner, and passer. When used transitively, they switch from être to take avoiras an auxiliary.

  • Je suis monté(e). — I went up.
  • J'ai monté les valises. — I brought up the suitcases.
  • Il est sorti. — He left.
  • Il a sorti son portefeuille. — He took out his wallet.
  • Septembre est passé. — September has passed.
  • J'ai passé trois heures ici. — I spent three hours here.

Notice that the transitive versions of these verbs have a different meaning than the intransitive versions.

Past Participles as Adjectives Edit

Just like in English, past participles can be used as adjectives in French.

  • La baguette grillée — The toasted baguette
  • Des biens vendus — Sold goods
  • Elle est mariée. — She is married.
  • C'est du temps perdu. — It is lost time.

Advanced Participle Agreement Edit

You learned in the first compound verb lesson that participles that follow an avoirauxiliary are invariable unless a direct object (often a pronoun) precedes the verb.

  • Voici nos livres. Je les ai achetés hier. — Here are our books. I bought them yesterday.
  • Où est leur voiture ? Ils l'ont vendue ? — Where is their car? Did they sell it?
  • C’est la fille que j’ai vue. – She is the girl that I saw.

An avoir participle also agrees with any form of quel + a noun as long as the noun is the object of the compound verb.

  • Quelle femme avez-vous vue ? — Which woman did you see?
  • Quels bonbons a-t-il achetés ? — Which candies did he buy?

This is also true for lequel (plus its other forms) and combien.

  • Laquelle des filles as-tu vue ? — Which of the girls did you see?
  • Lesquelles de ces chemises a-t-il aimées ? — Which of those shirts did he like?
  • Combien de robes ta fille a-t-elle achetées? — How many dresses did your daughter buy?

Participles do not agree with indirect objects, y, nor en.

  • Je leur ai parlé. — I talked to them.
  • J'y ai pensé. — I thought about it.
  • Nous en avons vendu. — We have sold some.

C'est in the PC Edit

In the present indicative tense, c'est can be used to identify or describe nouns. In the passé composéêtre takes avoir as an auxiliary. One consequence of this is that ceactually becomes ç' because it must elide before the vowel beginnings of all forms of avoir while still retaining its original soft consonant sound.

  • Ç'a été un succès ! — This has been a success!
  • Ç'a été un désastre ! — This has been a disaster!

Since this form is somewhat awkward, many Francophones prefer to use the imparfaitinstead.

  • C'était très agréable. — That was very pleasant.
  • C'était très bon pour l'économie. — This was very good for the economy.

In informal writing, you may also see the ungrammatical form Ça a été. When spoken, both "A" sounds fuse into one long vowel. Erudite Francophones may also use ce fut as a subsitute. This alternative uses the passé simple tense, one of French's literary tenses.

  • Ce fut bref mais intense ! — That was short but intense!
  • Ce fut une année très intéressante. — This has been a very interesting year.

Numbers 2 Edit

In French, most numbers are structurally similar to their English counterparts. They start as single words.

Number French
0 zéro
1 un
2 deux
3 trois
4 quatre
5 cinq
6 six
7 sept
8 huit
9 neuf
10 dix
11 onze
12 douze
13 treize
14 quatorze
15 quinze
16 seize
17 dix-sept
18 dix-huit
19 dix-neuf

After seize (16), French starts combining a multiple of ten (e.g. dix) with a single digit (e.g. sept) to form a compound number (e.g. dix-sept). English also does this starting after 20. This pattern remains in French numbers up to 60, but notice the et in the middle of 21, 31, 41, and 51.

Number French
20 vingt
21 vingt-et-un
22 vingt-deux
23 vingt-trois
24 vingt-quatre
25 vingt-cinq
26 vingt-six
27 vingt-sept
28 vingt-huit
29 vingt-neuf
30 trente
31 trente-et-un
...
40 quarante
41 quarante-et-un
...
50 cinquante
51 cinquante-et-un

For 60 through 79, French combines soixante (60) with the numbers from 1 to 19. There is no separate word for 70.

Number French
60 soixante
61 soixante-et-un
62 soixante-deux
63 soixante-trois
64 soixante-quatre
65 soixante-cinq
66 soixante-six
67 soixante-sept
68 soixante-huit
69 soixante-neuf
70 soixante-dix
71 soixante-et-onze
72 soixante-douze
73 soixante-treize
74 soixante-quatorze
75 soixante-quinze
76 soixante-seize
77 soixante-dix-sept
78 soixante-dix-huit
79 soixante-dix-neuf

The same thing happens from 80-99, except notice that quatre-vingts (80) has an ending -s while the rest of the set does not. Also, notice that there is no et in 81.

Number French
80 quatre-vingts
81 quatre-vingt-un
82 quatre-vingt-deux
83 quatre-vingt-trois
84 quatre-vingt-quatre
85 quatre-vingt-cinq
86 quatre-vingt-six
87 quatre-vingt-sept
88 quatre-vingt-huit
89 quatre-vingt-neuf
90 quatre-vingt-dix
91 quatre-vingt-onze
92 quatre-vingt-douze
93 quatre-vingt-treize
94 quatre-vingt-quatorze
95 quatre-vingt-quinze
96 quatre-vingt-seize
97 quatre-vingt-dix-sept
98 quatre-vingt-dix-huit
99 quatre-vingt-dix-neuf

This pattern does not appear in Swiss French, which instead uses septante (70), huitanteor octante (80), and nonante (90) with the original pattern.

From 100 to 999, put the number of hundreds first, just like in English. Notice that multiples of 100 have an ending -s, but there is no ending -s if cent is followed by another number.

Number French
100 cent
108 cent huit
144 cent quarante-quatre
200 deux cents
233 deux cent trente-trois

Numbers in the thousands are also similar to English in structure. Note that French separates every three digits with a space or period instead of a comma and that mille is never pluralized.

Number French
1 000 mille
1 597 mille cinq cent quatre-vingt-dix-sept
4 181 quatre mille cent quatre-vingt-un
317 811 trois cent dix-sept mille huit cent onze

Million (million) and milliard (billion) do pluralize, and they keep their ending -s even when followed by other numbers. Also, unlike cent and millemillion and milliard must be preceded by a number.

Number French
1 000 000 un million
4 000 000 quatre millions
9 227 465 neuf millions deux cent vingt-sept mille quatre cent soixante-cinq
1 000 000 000 un milliard

A noun can usually directly follow a number, but de must appear before nouns for million and milliard.

  • Il est distant de milliards d'années-lumières. — It is billions of light-years away.
  • Il y a soixante-cinq millions d'années — Sixty-five million years ago

Feelings (no notes provided) Edit

Possessives 3 Edit

Possessive pronouns replace a possessive adjective + a noun. Like most other pronouns, they agree in gender and number with the noun they replace. You first encountered these in "Possessives 2".

  • Est-ce ton chapeau ? — Is that your hat?
  • Oui, c'est le mien. — Yes, it's mine.

Possessive pronouns take different forms depending on how many things are possessed. First, let's take another look at the forms used when a single thing is possessed.

Owners Person English Masc. Sing. Fem. Sing.
singular 1st mine le mien la mienne
singular 2nd yours le tien la tienne
singular 3rd his/hers le sien la sienne
plural 1st ours le nôtre la nôtre
plural 2nd yours le vôtre la vôtre
plural 3rd theirs le leur la leur

To change these to the forms used when multiple things are possessed, simply add an -sto the end of the pronoun and change the definite article to les.

Owners Person English Masc. Plur. Fem Plur.
singular 1st mine les miens les miennes
singular 2nd yours les tiens les tiennes
singular 3rd his/hers les siens les siennes
plural 1st ours les nôtres les nôtres
plural 2nd yours les vôtres les vôtres
plural 3rd theirs les leurs les leurs

Note that the plural forms here are invariable with gender.

  • Ces enfants sont les miens. — These (or "those") children are mine.
  • Ce sont les tiens. — Those are yours.
  • Ces photos sont les siennes. — These photos are his (or "hers").
  • Ces jupes sont les leurs. — Those skirts are theirs.

Possessive pronouns act like modified nouns, so you must use ce/c' when referring to them with être.

  • Est-ce ton fils ? — Is he your son?
  • Oui, c’est le mien. (Not il est) — Yes, he is mine.

Demonstratives 3 Edit

Demonstrative pronouns (e.g. "this one" or "those") replace and agree with a demonstrative adjective + noun. You learned four such pronouns in "Demonstratives 2".

Type Adj + Noun ⇒ Pronoun English
Masc. Sing. ce + noun ⇒ celui the one / this one / that one / this
Masc. Plur. ces + noun ⇒ ceux the ones / these ones / those ones / these
Fem. Sing. cette + noun ⇒ celle the one / this one / that one / this / that
Fem. Plur. ces + noun ⇒ celles the ones / these ones / those ones / these / those

Demonstratives like ce and celui are ambiguous and can mean either "this" or "that". To remove this ambiguity, you can add a suffix to the end of each pronoun. Add -ci for "this/these" and -là for "that/those".

  • Tu veux celui-ci. — You want this one.
  • Je préfère celle-là. — I prefer that one.
  • Celles-ci sont noires. — These are black.
  • Elle n'aime pas celles-là. — She doesn't like those.

These suffixes can also be used with demonstrative adjectives in many situations.

  • Je suis très occupé ces jours-ci. — I am too busy these days.
  • Ils vous ont vus ce jour-là — They saw you that day.
  • Le magasin est-il sur ce côté-ci de la rue ? — Is the store on this side of the street?
  • Elle connaît ce type-là. — She knows that guy.

In conversations, be aware that using demonstrative pronouns like celui-là to refer to people who aren't present can be considered condescending.

Adjectives 4 Edit

The Participle as an Adjective Edit

The French past participle, which you learned in "Verbs: Compound Past", can often be used as an adjective. Conveniently, this also occurs in English, though we may sometimes use the present participle instead of the past.

  • L'homme fatigué veut dormir. — The tired man wants to sleep.
  • L'examen est terminé. — The test is finished.
  • Je ne suis pas occupé. — I am not busy.
  • On va parler avec les parties intéressées. — We will speak with the interested parties.

Neuf Edit

The adjective neuf ("new") describes something that has just been created or manufactured. Don't confuse it with nouveau, which describes something that has just been acquired by a new owner but may already be quite old. Remember that nouveaubecomes nouvel in front of vowel sounds.

  • J'achète seulement des sous-vêtements neufs. — I only buy new underwear.
  • Cette voiture est flambant neuve. — This car is brand-new.
  • Voici ma nouvelle montre ancienne. — Here's my new antique watch.
  • J'aime ton nouvel appartement. — I like your new apartment.

While neuf (new) and neuf (9) are homonyms, you can often distinguish them based on context. For instance, neuf (9) comes before its noun, isn't accompanied by any articles, and is invariable.

  • J'ai neuf livres. — I have nine books.
  • J'ai des livres neufs. — I have new books.

Pronouns 2 Edit

French has three sets of personal object pronouns: direct object pronouns (from "Pronouns 1"), indirect object pronouns, and disjunctive pronouns.

English Direct Object Indirect Object Disjunctive
me me me moi
you (sing.) te te toi
him le lui lui
her la lui elle
us nous nous nous
you (plur.) vous vous vous
them (masc.) les leur eux
them (fem.) les leur elles

Notice that only the third-person pronouns differ between direct and indirect objects.

Indirect Objects Edit

As you learned in "Verbs: Present 2", indirect objects are nouns that are indirectly affected by a verb; they are usually introduced by a preposition.

  • Il écrit une lettre à Mireille. — He is writing a letter to Mireille.
  • Vous pouvez parler aux juges. — You can talk to the judges.
  • Elle parle de son amie. — She is talking about her friend.

A personal indirect object pronoun can replace à + indirect object. For instance, the first two examples above could be changed to the following:

  • Il lui écrit une lettre. — He is writing a letter to her.
  • Vous pouvez leur parler. — You can talk to them.

Also, il faut can take an indirect object pronoun to specify where the burden falls.

  • Il lui faut manger. — He has to eat. / She has to eat.
  • Il nous faut le croire. — We have to believe it/him. / It is necessary for us to believe it/him.

Disjunctive Pronouns Edit

Disjunctive pronouns (a.k.a. stressed or tonic pronouns) must be used in certain situations. For instance, only disjunctive pronouns can follow prepositions.

  • Il parle avec toi. — He speaks with you.
  • Elle pèse moins que moi. — She weighs less than me.
  • Ils sont rentrés chez eux. — They returned home.
  • C'est pour lui. — This is for him.

Note that lui can be masculine or feminine when it's an indirect object, but it can only be masculine when it's disjunctive.

  • Je lui parle. (indirect object) — I am talking to him/her.
  • Je parle de lui. (disjunctive) — I am talking about him.
  • Je parle d'elle. (disjunctive) — I am talking about her.

The construction être + à + disjunctive pronoun indicates possession.

  • Le livre est à moi. — The book is mine.
  • Celui-là est à toi. — That one is yours.
  • Ceux-là sont à eux. — Those are theirs.

However, using à + pronoun is incorrect when a verb can accept a preceding pronoun.

  • Incorrect: Je parle à lui.
  • Correct: Je lui parle.

Disjunctive pronouns are also used for emphasis, for multiple subjects, or in sentence fragments without a verb.

  • Moi ? Je l'aime. — Me? I love him.
  • Lui et elle mangent. — He and she are eating.
  • Vous aussi. — You, too.

Indirect Objects and Y Edit

For most verbs, personal indirect object pronouns like lui can only refer to people or animals, but you can use the adverbial pronoun y for inanimate things.

  • Elle ressemble à sa mère. ⇒ Elle lui ressemble. — She resembles her.
  • Ça ressemble à un robot. ⇒ Ça y ressemble. — It resembles it.

Some verbs allow personal pronouns like lui to be used with anything you can personify. These verbs are dire àdemander àdonner àparler àtéléphoner à, and ressembler à.

  • L’enfant parle à son jouet. ⇒ L’enfant lui parle.
  • Je demande un renseignement à la banque. ⇒ Je lui demande un renseignement.

Some French expressions don't allow any preceding indirect objects, notably être àfaire attention às’habituer àpenser àrevenir à, and tenir à.

  • Tu fais attention à elle. (Not Tu lui fais...) – You are paying attention to her.
  • Il pense à elle. (Not Il lui pense...) – He thinks of her.

Remember that y can also refer to locations.

  • J'y vais. — I'm going there.
  • Il y était. — He was there.

Quelque Edit

The indefinite adjective quelque ("some") can be combined with pronouns or nouns to create indefinite pronouns. For instance, chose means "thing", so quelque chose means "something".

  • Nous écrivons quelque chose. — We are writing something.
  • Je veux manger quelque chose. — I want to eat something.

Quelque can combine and elide with un ("one") to give quelqu'un ("someone"), which is singular.

  • Quelqu'un est ici. — Someone is here.
  • Je connais quelqu'un au restaurant. — I know someone at the restaurant.

For multiple people or things, use the plural forms quelques-uns (masc) and quelques-unes (fem), which are normally translated as "a few", or perhaps "some".

  • Ce sont quelques-uns de nos meilleurs amis. — These are a few of our best friends.
  • Quelques-unes de ces questions sont difficiles. — Some of these questions are difficult.

While quelqu'un only refers to people, quelques-un(e)s can refer to anything.

Infinitives 2 Edit

As you learned in "Verbs: Infinitive 1", verbs in the infinitive mood are not conjugated and are not paired with a subject pronoun. The infinitive is more versatile in French than in English. For instance, an infinitive can act as a noun (where gerunds might be used in English).

  • Faire du café est facile. — Making coffee is easy.
  • Cuisiner et nettoyer sont ses responsabilités. — Cooking and cleaning are his responsibilities.

In French, the infinitive is also used for generalized instructions like those in product manuals, public notices, recipes, and proverbs.

  • Lire le mode d'emploi avant utilisation. — Read the instructions before using.
  • Garder hors de la portée des enfants. — Keep out of reach of children.
  • Battre les œufs. — Beat the eggs.
  • Vaut mieux prévenir que guérir. — It is worth more to prevent than to cure.

Conjugated verbs are the only verbs that can appear inside a negation, so when a negation is used with an infinitive, both parts of the negation come before the infinitive.

  • Ne pas entrer. — Do not enter.
  • Ne rien administrer par la bouche. — Do not administer by mouth.

An infinitive can also be used to pose a question. These sentences may not translate literally to English.

  • Comment obtenir ça ? — How does one obtain that?
  • Qui croire ? — Whom should I believe?
  • Quoi faire ? — What can we do?
  • Comment ne pas tomber amoureux d'elle ? — How can I not fall in love with her?

Impersonal Expressions Edit

Recall that the subject in the impersonal construction il est + adjective + de must be a dummy subject. If it's a real subject, you must use à instead of de.

  • Il est impossible de vivre sur cette île. — It is impossible to live on that island.
  • Il est facile de comprendre le livre. — It is easy to understand the book.
  • Il est amusant de cuisiner. — It is fun to cook. / Cooking is fun.
  • Je n'aime pas ce livre. Il est difficile à comprendre. — I don't like this book. It's difficult to understand.
  • Ce plat est bon parce qu'il est facile à cuisiner. — This dish is good because it is easy to cook.
  • Il est difficile à faire. — It is difficult to do.

Register Edit

Communication in French can occur at several different levels of formality, which are called registers. Different registers may vary in word choice, sentence structure, and even pronunciation. For instance, the use of liaisons is relatively formal. By comparison, English verbal formality is arguably less intricate.

The most obvious indication of register is pronoun choice. As you know by now, addressing someone with the pronoun vous is considered more formal. This is described by the French verb vouvoyer.

  • Il doit vouvoyer son professeur. — He must speak formally with his professor.
  • Je ne veux pas vouvoyer mes amis. — I don't want to address my friends formally.

The more familiar tu form should be used with friends, peers, relatives, or children. If you're not sure who's a vous and who's a tu, consider matching the register of your interlocutor. Alternatively, you can directly ask if you can speak informally by using the verb tutoyer.

  • On peut se tutoyer ? — Can we be on familiar terms?
  • Je peux tutoyer mes amis. — I can be on familiar terms with my friends.

Question structure is another key ingredient of register. Inversions are considered formal.

  • Pouvons-nous nous tutoyer ? — Can we be on familiar terms? (Very formally.)
  • Comment allez-vous ? — How are you?

Use the conditional forms of aimer and vouloir for polite requests. More on this in the "Verbs: Conditional" unit.

  • J'aimerais une tasse de café, s'il vous plaît. — I would like a cup of coffee, please.
  • Je voudrais vous remercier. — I would like to thank you.

Faire vs Rendre Edit

In "Verbs: Present 1", you learned about the causative faire, which can indicate that the subject has directed someone to perform an action. Notice that faire is followed by an infinitive here.

  • Je le fais réparer. — I am having it fixed.
  • Elle lui a fait perdre 5 kilos. — She made him/her/it lose 5 kilos.
  • Je leur ai fait faire de l’exercice. — I made them (get some) exercise.

The verb rendre ("to make") can also indicate that the subject has caused something to happen, but it's used with adjectives instead of verbs.

  • Elle le rend heureux. — She makes him happy.
  • Ça me rend fou ! — That drives me crazy!
  • L'erreur a rendu le texte incomprehensible. — The error rendered the text incomprehensible.

Abstract Objects Edit

There are many different ways to express need or obligation in French, but there is no single expression that works in all situations. In "Verbs: Present 1", you learned the essential semi-auxiliary verb devoir, which means "must", "have to", or "need to" when placed before another verb.

  • Je dois manger plus de légumes. — I must eat more vegetables.
  • Ils doivent acheter plus de livres. — They need to buy more books.

Remember that the impersonal expression il faut + infinitive can also express a need or obligation.

  • Il faut manger. — It is necessary to eat.
  • Il nous faut payer des taxes. — We have to pay taxes.

You can also use the impersonal construction from the last unit, il est + adj + de.

  • Il est nécessaire de reprendre le travail. — It is necessary to return to work.
  • Il est nécessaire de faire attention. — It is necessary to pay attention.

Another way to express obligation is avoir à, though this is rarely used by French speakers because it tends to create vowel conflicts.

  • Je sais ce que j'ai à faire. — I know what I have to do.
  • J'ai quelque chose à vous dire urgemment. — I have something to tell you urgently.

What about when you want to say that you need something (instead of having to do something)? One way you learned previously is to use il faut with a noun instead of a verb.

  • Il faut du lait. — Milk is needed.
  • Il faut un début à tout. — A beginning is needed for everything.

A more common expression for need is avoir besoin de quelque chose. While this literally translates as "to have need of something", a better translation is "to need something".

  • J'ai besoin d'un stylo. — I need a pen.
  • Il a besoin d'eux. — He needs them.
  • Elles ont besoin de magazines en anglais. — They need magazines in English.
  • Vous avez besoin de ce produit. — You need this product.

You can also use this expression with verbs.

  • Vous avez besoin de gagner plus d'argent. — You need to earn more money.
  • Mes amis ont besoin de manger. — My friends need to eat.

Notice that besoin is invariable in this expression, but the noun besoin ("need") is just a standard masculine noun that does have a plural form.

  • Il a des besoins importants. — He has important needs.
  • Il y a un besoin urgent d'agir. — There is a pressing need to act.

Consider the difference between "I don't have to" and "I must not". The former expresses a lack of obligation, while the latter expresses an obligation to avoid an action. In French, to express a lack of obligation, use a negation with avoir besoin de or avoir à.

  • Je n'ai pas besoin d'un stylo. — I don't need a pen.
  • Nous n'avons pas besoin de votre permission ! — We don't need your permission!
  • Elle n'a pas à parler. — She doesn't have to speak.
  • On n'a pas à manger maintenant. — We don't have to eat right now.

To express "must not" in French, use a negation with devoir or il faut.

  • Elle ne doit pas manger de poisson. — She must not eat fish.
  • Nous ne devons pas nous mentir. — We must not lie to each other.
  • Il ne faut pas réfrigérer les tomates. — One must not refrigerate tomatoes.
  • Il ne faut jamais oublier les leçons de l'histoire. — We must never forget the lessons of history.

Communication (no notes provided) Edit

Adverbs 3 Edit

In a compound tense like the passé composé, adverbs normally come between the auxiliary verb and its participle.

  • J'ai rapidement fini mon travail. — I finished my work quickly.
  • Ils ont trop mangé. — They ate too much.

Also, in expressions of quantity not all adverbs are paired with "de".

  • J'ai environ deux litres de lait. — I have around two liters of milk.
  • Ça dure seulement trois heures. — It only lasts three hours.

Confusing Words Edit

Be careful about the faux amis that appear in this unit. Many of them look like English adverbs with a different ending, but they may have an entirely different meaning.

Actuellement Edit

The French adverb actuellement means "currently" or "at the moment", not "actually".

  • Il est actuellement fermé. — It is currently closed.
  • Mon mari est sans emploi actuellement. — My husband is unemployed currently.

To translate "actually", use en fait ("in fact") or en réalité ("in reality"). This conveys the notion that the rest of the sentence should be surprising to the listener.

  • Nous lisons très rarement, en fait. — We read very rarely, actually.
  • En réalité, il va en Amérique. — Actually, he is going to America.

Alternatively, effectivement or réellement can translate as "actually", but these are more confirmatory than contradictory in tone.

  • Effectivement, ton gâteau est très bon. — Indeed, your cake is very good.
  • Cet animal existe réellement. — That animal does really exist.

Effectivement Edit

Effectivement is also misleading because it means "really" or "indeed". To say "effectively" or "efficiently", use efficacement.

  • On n'utilise pas cet outil efficacement. — We aren't using this tool effectively.
  • Vous pouvez apprendre plus efficacement avec Duolingo. — You can learn more efficiently with Duolingo.

Définitivement Edit

There is a difference between the adverbs "definitively" and "definitely". Most commonly, "definitively" describes a conclusive ending or final resolution. The French adverb définitivement also carries this meaning.

  • Elle part définitivement. — She is leaving for good.
  • Ils ont conclu définitivement la negotation. — They concluded the negotiation definitively.

"Definitively" and définitivement can also describe an authoritative action.

  • Le juge détermine définitivement le verdict. — The judge determined the verdict definitively.
  • Ce livre donne définitivement la réponse. — That book definitively gives the answer.

Conversely, "definitely" is used for conditions that are true beyond a doubt. For this, use certainement or a close synonym, like absolument or sûrement.

  • Elle est certainement française. — She is definitely French.
  • Oui, j'en suis sûr, absolument. — Yes, I am sure, definitely.

Abstract Objects 2 (no notes provided) Edit

Reflexive Verbs Edit

pronominal verb is always paired with a reflexive pronoun that agrees with the subject and (almost) always precedes its verb. In "Verbs: Present 3", you learned about reflexive verbs, which describe actions being done by the subject to the subject.

  • La femme se promène. — The woman goes for a walk. (Lit, "walks herself".)
  • Vous vous levez. — You are getting up. (Lit, "You raise yourself.")

Pronominal verbs always take être as an auxiliary in compound tenses like the passé composé.

  • Elle s'est levée tôt. — She got up early.
  • Ils se sont rasés hier. — They shaved yesterday.

When a pronominal verb is inverted in a formal question, its reflexive pronoun stays before the verb.

  • S'est-elle lavée ? — Did she wash?
  • Mon frère se rase-t-il encore ? — Is my brother still shaving?

RECIPROCAL VERBS Edit

Another type of pronominal verb, the reciprocal verb, is used with plural subject pronouns and describes when multiple people act upon each other.

  • Ils s'aiment. — They love each other.
  • Les filles se parlent. — The girls speak to each other.
  • Vous vous embrassez. — You are kissing each other.
  • Nous nous téléphonions souvent dans ce temps-là. — We used to call each other often back then.

Recall from "Pronouns 1" that you can distinguish between reflexive and reciprocal meanings by appending certain pronouns.

  • Ils s'aiment eux-mêmes. — They love themselves.
  • Elles s'aiment les unes les autres. — They love one another.
  • Nous nous parlions à nous-mêmes. — We were speaking to ourselves.

SUBJECTIVE PRONOMINAL VERBS Edit

Subjective (or idiomatic) pronominal verbs have a reflexive pronoun because they are idiomatic; they do not have a reflexive or reciprocal meaning. Examples include se souvenirse tairese marier, and s'enfuir.

  • Elle s'est souvenue. — She remembered.
  • Parfois, il faut se taire. — Sometimes, it is necessary to keep quiet.
  • Ils vont se marier le mois prochain. — They are going to get married next month.
  • Veut-il s'enfuir ? — Does he want to run away?

PASSIVE PRONOMINAL VERBS Edit

A pronominal verb can be used in a passive sense with an inanimate subject in the third-person, often the indefinite pronoun ça.

  • Ça se voit. — It shows. (Lit, "It sees itself.")
  • Ça se peut. — It is possible.
  • Le sol se nettoie facilement. — The floor can be cleaned easily.
  • La réunion s'est bien passée. — The meeting went well.

This construction may sound unusual to Anglophones, but it is a common alternative to using the passive voice when one wishes to avoid naming an agent.

  • Les vers se sont écrits ainsi. — The verses have been written this way.
  • Ce mot, comment se prononce-t-il ? — How is this word pronounced?

Objects and Agreement Edit

Pronominal verbs have the same transitivity as their non-pronominal forms. For instance, appeler is transitive, so s'appeler is also transitive. When a pronominal verb is transitive, the reflexive pronoun is its direct object.

  • Elles se sont appelées. — They called each other.
  • On se lève maintenant. — We are getting up now.

When a pronominal verb is intransitive, se is its indirect object.

  • Elles se sont téléphoné. — They called each other.
  • Ces trois rois se sont succédé. — These three kings succeeded each other.

Some verbs can have both direct and an indirect objects, in which case the reflexive pronoun is the indirect object.

  • La fille s'achète des jupes. — The girl is buying herself some skirts.
  • On se donnait des fleurs. — We gave each other flowers.

When describing actions on parts of the body, Francophones avoid using possessive pronouns; instead, they use reflexive verbs with definite articles whenever possible.

  • Elle s'est lavé les cheveux. — She washed her hair.
  • Nous nous sommes brossé les dents. — We brushed our teeth.

Notice that the past participles of the previous two examples do not agree with the reflexive pronoun. While pronominal verbs take être as an auxiliary, they behave like avoir verbs because their participles actually only agree with preceding direct objects. In those examples and the next two, the reflexive pronouns are indirect objects and the direct objects follow the verb, so the participles are still invariable.

  • La fille s'est acheté des jupes. — The girl bought herself some skirts.
  • Elles se sont lavé les cheveux. — They washed their hair.

In the next examples, the participles agree with preceding direct objects.

  • Il se les est acheté(e)s. — He bought them (for himself).
  • Ce sont les robes qu'elle s'est achetées. — Those are the dresses that she bought (herself).

Infinitives 3 Edit

As you learned before, an infinitive can act as a noun (where gerunds might be used in English).

  • Faire du café est facile. — Making coffee is easy.
  • Cuisiner et nettoyer sont ses responsabilités. — Cooking and cleaning are his responsibilities.

Impersonal Expressions Edit

When you use the impersonal construction il est + adjective + de, keep in mind that ilmust be a dummy subject. If it's a real subject, you must use à instead of de.

  • Il est impossible de vivre sur cette île. — It is impossible to live on that island.
  • Il est facile de comprendre le livre. — It is easy to understand the book.
  • Ce problème est difficile à résoudre. — That problem is difficult to solve.
  • Écrire un livre ? Il est difficile à faire. — Writing a book? It is difficult to do.

In informal usage, c'est can replace the impersonal il est.

  • C'est difficile de terminer ce travail en une journée. — It's hard to finish that work in one day.
  • C'est mieux d'éviter cette zone. — It's better to avoid that area.

Causative Faire Edit

Recall from "Verbs: Infinitive 1" that faire may precede a verb to indicate that the subject causes that action to happen. This is especially common when describing food preparation.

  • Il fait bouillir le thé. — He boils the tea.
  • J'aime faire griller du poulet. — I like grilling chicken.
  • Ils font pousser des fruits et des légumes. — They grow fruits and vegetables.

Faire can also be used to indicate that the subject has caused someone else to perform an action.

  • Je fais partir mon ami. — I am making my friend leave.
  • Désolé, je vous fais subir mon humeur. — Sorry, I am making you put up with my mood.

Past Participle Usage Edit

As you learned in "Verbs: Compound Past", the passé composé is formed with an auxiliary verb (e.g. avoir) and a past participle (e.g. terminé).

  • Il a terminé son travail. — He finished his work.
  • Nous avons aimé ce repas. — We liked that meal.

Normally, auxiliaries should be conjugated to agree with their subjects. However, if an auxiliary is part of a double-verb construction with a semi-auxiliary (e.g. sembler), the auxiliary verb will be an infinitive.

  • Il semble avoir terminé son travail. — He seems to have finished his work.
  • Ces lettres semblent avoir confirmé nos craintes. — Those letters seem to have confirmed our fears.

However, past participles can sometimes also act as adjectives in both French and English.

  • Elle est mariée. — She is married.
  • C'est du temps perdu. — It is lost time.
  • C'est ouvert au public. — It is open to the public.
  • Il est actuellement fermé. — It is currently closed.

Keep this in mind for the next unit, where you will learn the passive voice.

Confusing Verbs Edit

Remember from "Verbs: Present 3" that manquer means "to miss", but with flipped pronoun positions as compared to English. If it helps, you can think of manquer as "to be missed by".

  • Vous me manquez. — I miss you.
  • Je vous manque. — You miss me.

Passive Voice Edit

The most common grammatical voice is the active voice, which describes a clause whose subject is also the agent of the verb in the clause. For instance, when "Hugo throws a ball", Hugo is both the subject of the clause and the agent that performs the verb.

On the other hand, the passive voice describes any clause where the subject is not the agent of the verb in the clause. For instance, when "The ball is thrown by Hugo", the subject ("the ball") is actually the direct object of the verb. The passive voice in both English and French is constructed using the copula "to be" and the past participle of the action verb. The past participle must agree with the subject here.

  • L'ennemie est battue. — The enemy is beaten.
  • Le pain est mangé. — The bread is being eaten.
  • La balle est lancée par Hugo. — The ball is thrown by Hugo.
  • C'est fait par ordinateur. — It is done by computer.

Notice that the agent of a verb in the passive voice can be introduced by the preposition par ("by"). However, you can also use de with verbs expressing emotions or feelings, like aimer or respecter.

  • La princesse est aimée de ses amis. — The princess is loved by her friends.
  • Je suis respecté des citoyens. — I am respected by the citizens.
  • Le magicien est adoré des enfants. — The magician is loved by children.
  • La grand-mère est entourée de sa famille. — The grandmother is surrounded by her family.

The passive voice is useful for emphasizing a verb's object or avoiding naming a verb's agent.

  • Tout est fait par ordinateur ces jours-ci. — Everything is done by computer these days.
  • L'histoire était oubliée. — The tale was forgotten.
  • L'histoire n'est pas écrite à l'avance. — History is not written in advance.
  • Le travail est loin d'être terminé. — The work is far from being finished.

However, Francophones often avoid the passive voice by using the imprecise pronoun on in the active voice.

  • On fait tout avec des ordinateurs. — We/They do everything with computers.
  • On oublie souvent les règles. — We often forget the rules.
  • On va mener une étude. — We/They will conduct a study.
  • On est en train de perdre du temps. — We are wasting time.

The Passive Passé Composé Edit

Remember that when multiple verbs are combined in a single construct, only the first verb can be conjugated; any following verbs must be infinitives or participles. When using the passive voice in the passé composé (or another compound tense), être takes avoir as an auxiliary. Thus, avoir must be conjugated, followed by être and the action verb in past participle form.

  • Ce document a été lu par mon père. — That document has been read by my father.
  • Ce chat a été adopté par des gens gentils. — That cat was adopted by some nice people.
  • Un rapport a été demandé. — A report has been requested.
  • Tes sacs ont été mis devant. — Your bags were put in front.

Note that the past participle of the action verb still must agree with the subject (as usual for être verbs).

  • La recette a été écrite par le chef. — The recipe has been written by the chef.
  • Les robes ont été vendues. — The dresses have been sold.
  • La clé a été perdue. — The key was lost.
  • Les portes ont été ouvertes. — The doors were opened.

Note that être is intransitive and cannot have a direct object, so its past participle été is always invariable.

Prepositions 3 (no notes provided) Edit

Abstract Objects 3 (no notes provided) Edit

Pluperfect (no notes provided) Edit

Nature (no notes provided) Edit

Materials (no notes provided) Edit

Gerund Edit

Present Participle Edit

You have already seen the past participle, which is used in compound tenses, in the passé composé units. The other type of participle in French is the present participle (participe présent), which is formed by taking the present indicative nous form of a verb and switching the -ons ending to -ant.

Nous Form Translation Present Participle Translation faisons (we) do/make faisant doing/making
disons (we) say disant saying
agissons (we) act agissant acting
voyons (we) see voyant seeing

The verbs êtreavoir, and savoir have irregular present participles: étantayant, and sachant, respectively.

Although English also has present participles, they're used differently and more often than their French counterparts, so it would be wise to avoid trying to make comparisons between the two languages here. In particular, the French present participle cannot be used after another verb, including the auxiliary être.

The French present participle can be used as an adjective; a noun; a verb; or a gerund (when combined with the preposition en).

PRESENT PARTICIPLES AS ADJECTIVES OR NOUNS Edit

Present participles can be used as adjectives that agree with the noun they describe.

  • J’ai vu un film intéressant. — I saw an interesting film.
  • C’est une histoire amusante. — That's an amusing story.
  • Il y a des couleurs changeantes. — There are changing colors.

Many nouns are derived from the present participle of a verb.

  • étudier — to study ⇒ un étudiant/une étudiante — a student
  • enseigner — to teach ⇒ un enseignant/une enseignante — a teacher
  • gagner — to win ⇒ un gagnant/une gagnante — a winner

PRESENT PARTICIPLES AS VERBS Edit

Present participles are invariable when used as verbs. When used as a simple verb, the present participle expresses a state or action that is simultaneous with and performed by the same subject as the main verb.

  • Sachant la réponse, elle a levé la main. — Knowing the answer, she raised her hand.
  • Ne voyant personne à la porte, il est parti. — Seeing no one at the door, he left.
  • Mangeant des fruits, il est en bonne santé. — (By) eating fruits, he is healthy.

Past participles and present participles can be combined in two ways: the perfect participle and the passive voice.

Perfect Participle Edit

The perfect participle indicates that one action was completed before another. In this compound tense, a past participle follows the present participle of its usual auxiliary—étant for être verbs and ayant for avoir verbs. This is basically a present participle version of the passé composé.

  • Ayant accepté d'aider, ils ont commencé leur travail. — Having agreed to help, they began their work.
  • Ayant vendu sa maison, elle était presque riche. — Having sold her house, she was almost rich.
  • Étant arrivée tôt, elle a attendu les autres. — Having arrived early, she waited for the others.
  • Marc, s'étant souvenu de ton avis, a quitté ce lieu. — Marc, having remembered your advice, left that place.

Remember that all compound tenses (including the perfect participle and the passé composé) follow the same agreement rules. Refer to the "Compound Past" lessons for more information.

Passive Voice Edit

When used in the passive voice, the past participle always follows a form of the passive marker être. In the present tense, this form will be étant.

  • Étant respecté de tous, il reste confiant. — Being respected by all, he remains confident.
  • Cela étant dit, vous avez raison. — That being said, you are right.

In the past tense, être usually takes its perfect participle form, which is ayant été.

  • La boîte ayant été bien fermée, le produit est resté intact. — The box having been tightly closed, the product remained intact.
  • Le travail ayant été fini plus tôt, ils sont partis. — The work having been finished earlier, they all left.

GERUNDS Edit

Adding en before a present participle creates a gerund (gérondif) that can describe how one action is related to another. They might be related by time, condition, manner, or cause.

  • Time: Elle est tombée en faisant ses exercices. — She fell while doing her exercises.
  • Condition: Tu peux réussir en faisant un effort. — You can succeed by making an effort.
  • Manner: Elle parle en articulant les mots. — She speaks by articulating the words.
  • Cause: En partant seule, elle a pris des risques. — By leaving alone, she took risks.

Arts (no notes provided) Edit

Future (no notes provided) Edit

Weights and Measurements (no notes provided) Edit

Whenever an expression of measurement is used with the verb être, the preposition de must follow it.

  • La longueur est de 10 centimètres. — The length is 10 centimeters.
  • La contenance est de 2 litres. — The capacity is 2 liters.
  • La distance est de 4 kilomètres. — The distance is 4 kilometers.
  • La température est de 10 degrés. — The temperature is 10 degrees.

Medical (no notes provided) Edit

As you learned in "Verbs: Reflexive", Francophones avoid using possessive pronouns with parts of the body. Whenever a specific person who has the body part has already been mentioned, the definite article is used instead of a possessive adjective and the verb of the sentence becomes reflexive.

  • Je me lave les mains. (Not Je lave mes mains.) — I am washing my hands.
  • Il s'est casse la jambe. (Not Il a casse sa jambe.) — He broke his leg.

Subjunctive Present Edit

Unlike the English subjunctive, the French subjunctive mood is common and required, in writing and in speech, even in informal conversations.

Rules and trends : Edit

  • A subjunctive is required if the main clause has one of the following verbs : all verbs of likes and dislikes, and verbs expressing fear, wish, doubt, regret, order, obligation or necessity.

Je suis désolé qu'il soit ici. — I am sorry that he is here.

  • The verb's subject in the subordinate clause is different from that in the main clause.

Je regrette qu'il soit ici. — I regret that he is here. (Subject differs => Subjunctive)  Je déteste être ici. — I hate being here. (Subject is the same => Infinitive)

  • Usually, the subordinate clause is introduced by the conjunction que, or other conjunctions, like avant que, bien que, afin que, pour que, quoique.
  • Some impersonal expressions automatically prompt a subjunctive, the most common being il faut que. Others include : il est bon que, c’est bien que, il est nécessaire que, il est important que.
  • Some verbs that are usually constructed with the indicative switch to the subjunctive when they are in the negative, like penser and croire.
  • Some relative clauses can be found in subjunctive, when the main clause has such expressions as le seul qui/que, le premier qui/que, le dernier qui/que.

Conjugation: Edit

The French subjunctive has 4 tenses : present, imperfect, past and pluperfect. There is no future tense and among the 3 past tenses, only the subjunctive past is commonly used.

The subjunctive present endings are the same for all verbs:

Pronoun Ending
Je -e
Tu -es
Il/Elle -e
Nous -ions
Vous -iez
Ils/Elles -ent

In most cases, the subjunctive is formed by removing the –ent ending from the ils/ellesindicative present form, and then adding the subjunctive endings.

-er verbs:

For je, tu, il, elle, on, ils, elles, the subjunctive present form and pronunciation are identical to those of the indicative present :

manger — stem = mang-ent

Subject Verb
que je mange
que tu manges
qu’il/elle/on mange
qu’ils/elles mangent

For nous, vous, the subjunctive present form and pronunciation are similar to those of the indicative imperfect :

Subject Verb
que nous mangions
que vous mangiez

-ir and –re verbs:

For je, tu, il, elle, on, the subjunctive present is different from the indicative present, because the stem is different. Yet the pronunciation is the same as that of the ils/ellesindicative present.

finir — stem = finiss-ent

Subject Verb que je finisse
que tu finisses
qu’il/elle/on finisse
qu’ils/elles finissent

dormir — stem = dorm-ent

Subject Verb
que je dorme
que tu dormes
qu’il/elle/on dorme
qu’ils/elles dorment

comprendre — stem = comprenn-ent

Subject Verb
que je comprenne
que tu comprennes
qu’il/elle/on comprenne
qu’ils/elles comprennent

For nous, vous, the subjunctive present form and pronunciation are similar to those of the indicative imperfect :

finir — stem = finiss-ent

Subject Verb
que nous finissions
que vous finissiez

dormir — stem = dorm-ent

Subject Verb
que nous dormions
que vous dormiez

comprendre — stem = comprenn-ent

Subject Verb
que nous comprenions
que vous compreniez

Other common and irregular verbs:

Subject Être Avoir Aller
que je/j' sois aie aille
que tu sois aies ailles
qu’il/elle/on soit ait aille
que nous soyons ayons allions
que vous soyez ayez alliez
qu’ils/elles soient aient aillent
Subject Pouvoir Vouloir Savoir Faire
que je puisse veuille sache fasse
que tu puisses veuilles saches fasses
qu’il/elle/on puisse veuille sache fasse
que nous puissions voulions sachions fassions
que vous puissiez vouliez sachiez fassiez
qu’ils/elles puissent veuillent sachent fassent

Politics (no notes provided) Edit

Education (no notes provided) Edit

Imperative (no notes provided) Edit

The imperative (l'impératif) mood is used to give orders or to make a suggestion or a request.

Formation of the imperative Edit

To form the imperative, simply take the present tense forms of tunous, or vous. See the chart below. For -er verbs, the -sis dropped for the tu form.

Note that according to French typographic rules, an extra space is required before the exclamation mark at the end of a sentence in the imperative.

Regarder Choisir Attendre Boire (tu) Regarde ! Choisis ! Attends ! Bois !
(nous) Regardons ! Choisissons ! Attendons ! Buvons !
(vous) Regardez ! Choisissez ! Attendez ! Buvez !
  • Mange les fraises ! — Eat the strawberries!
  • Finissons notre repas ! — Let's finish our meal!
  • Buvez du vin rouge ! — Drink red wine!

Note that the nous form of the imperative corresponds to the command in English "let's" + verb.

Imperative with object pronouns Edit

In affirmative commands, object pronouns are placed after the verb and connected with a hyphen.

  • Donne-lui ton adresse ! — Give him your address!
  • Mettons-les sur la table ! — Let's put them on the table!
  • Excusez-le ! — Excuse him!

You will need back the -s in the tu form of -er verbs if the verb is followed by the pronoun en or y. The -s creates a Z-sound liaison and avoids the vowel sound conflict.

  • Achète des journaux ! Achètes-en !
  • Va au musée ! Vas-y !

Irregular forms Edit

There are some commonly used irregular forms of the imperative, namely the imperative forms for êtreavoirsavoir, and vouloir.

Être Avoir Savoir Vouloir (tu) Sois ! Aie ! Sache ! Veuille !
(nous) Soyons ! Ayons ! Sachons ! Veuillons !
(vous) Soyez ! Ayez ! Sachez ! Veuillez !

The imperative form veuillez, which comes from vouloir, is very polite and formal. This is translated in English with the word "please." Veuillez is common in official letters, public signage, and correspondence, for example.

  • Veuillez rappeler plus tard ! — Please call back later!
  • Veuillez patienter ! — Please wait!
  • Veuillez accepter mes excuses ! — Please accept my excuses!

Negative imperative Edit

In the negative form, the negation elements ne and pas are placed around the verb. Object pronouns are placed before the verb.

  • Ne sois pas trop triste ! — Don't be too sad!
  • N'ayons pas peur ! — Let's not get scared!
  • Ne lui donnez pas votre adresse ! — Don't give him your address!

Imperative with pronominal verbs Edit

For pronominal verbs, the pronouns are placed after the verb. The reflexive pronoun "te" takes the stressed pronoun form "toi" in this case. However, in the negative imperative, the reflexive pronoun is placed before the verb, and the "te" remains as "te." Observe how the imperative of se lever is formed below.

  • Statement: Tu te lèves. — You get up.
  • Imperative: Lève-toi ! — Get up!
  • Negative imperative: Ne te lève pas ! — Don't get up!

Note that for the formal singular or plural "vous", just like for "nous", the subject, object, reflexive and stressed pronoun forms are the same.

  • Statement: Vous vous asseyez. — You sit down.
  • Imperative: Asseyez-vous ! — Sit down!
  • Negative imperative: Ne vous asseyez pas ! — Don't sit down!

Here is another example: the nous form of s'arrêter.

  • Statement: Nous nous arrêtons. — We stop.
  • Imperative: Arrêtons-nous ! — Let's stop!
  • Negative imperative: Ne nous arrêtons pas ! — Let's not stop!

Conditional (no notes provided) Edit

Science (no notes provided) Edit

Past Conditional (no notes provided) Edit

Science (no notes provided) Edit

Past Conditional (no notes provided) Edit

Transportation (no notes provided) Edit

Past Subjunctive Edit

From the Tips and Notes in Subj. Pres, you have already learned that :

  • Unlike the English subjunctive, the French subjunctive is common and required, in writing and in speech, even in informal conversations. 
  • A subjunctive is required if the main clause has verbs of likes/dislikes, fear, wish, doubt, regret, order, obligation or necessity. 
  • In most cases, the subject in the subordinate clause is different from that in the main clause (otherwise you will use an infinitive). 
  • Usually, the subordinate clause is introduced by the conjunction que, or other conjunctions, like avant que, bien que, afin que, pour que, quoique. (Yet après queneeds an indicative.)
  • Some impersonal expressions automatically prompt a subjunctive, like: il faut que, il est bon que, c’est bien que, il est nécessaire que, il est important que
  • Some verbs that are usually constructed with the indicative switch to the subjunctive when they are in the negative, like penser and croire
  • Some relative clauses can be found in subjunctive, when the main clause has such expressions as le seul qui/que, le premier qui/que, le dernier qui/que
  • The French subjunctive has 4 tenses : Present, Imperfect, Past and Pluperfect. There is no future tense and of the 3 past tenses, only the Subjunctive Past is commonly used.

Conjugation Edit

The Subjunctive Past is a compound tense and as such, the verb uses the same auxiliary être or avoir as in the indicative mood, and the same rules of agreement are applied in the past participle (Re. Tips and Notes in V Compound Past & V Compound Past 2). 

To form a subjunctive past, the auxiliary is conjugated in subjunctive present, and the past participle of the verb is added.

Avoir verb:

Subject Verb
que j’ aie mangé
que tu aies mangé
qu’il/elle ait mangé
que nous ayons mangé
que vous ayez mangé
qu’ils aient mangé

Être verb:

Subject Verb
que je sois allé(e)
que tu sois allé(e)
qu’il soit allé
qu’elle soit allée
que nous soyons allé(e)s
que vous soyez allé(e)s
qu’ils soient allés
qu’elles soient allées

Sequence of events Edit

Since there is no Subjunctive Future and the Subjunctive Imperfect and Pluperfect are no longer used in contemporary French, you will have to use :

  • the present tense for future and present events; 
  • the present tense instead of the imperfect tense; 
  • the past tense instead of the pluperfect tense. 

To pick the suitable subjunctive tense in the subordinate clause, you will compare the subordinate clause’s time of event with that of the main clause.

Let's compare with the indicative:

Time in main to time in subordinate Indicative Subjunctive: [TENSE vs MEANING]
Present to future Je crois que tu viendras.- I think that you will come. J'attends que tu viennes. [PRESENT with a FUTURE meaning] - I am waiting for you to come.
Present to present J’espère que tu vas bien. - I hope that you are doing well. Je doute que tu ailles bien. [PRESENT with a PRESENT meaning] - I doubt that you are doing well.
Past to simultaneous past Je croyais qu'il faisait froid. - I believed that the weather was cold. Je ne croyais pas qu'il fasse froid .[PRESENT with a SIMULTANEOUS PASTmeaning] - I did not believe that the weather was cold.
Past to earlier past Je pensais que tu avais mangé assez. - I thought that you had eaten enough. Je doutais que tu aies mangé assez. [PASTwith an EARLIER PAST meaning] - I doubted that you had eaten enough.

Economics (no notes provided) Edit

Sports (no notes provided) Edit

Spiritual (no notes provided) Edit

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.