Articles are small words that you use only with nouns. They both present a noun and indicate the gender and number of a noun. French has definite, indefinite,
articles. The following sections describe these three types of articles and identifies when and how you should use them in your French writing and speech.
Definite articles indicate that the noun they’re presenting is specific. In English, the definite article is the
. French has three different definite articles, which tell you that the noun is masculine, feminine, or plural. If the noun is singular, the article is le
(for masculine nouns) or la
(for feminine nouns). If the noun is plural, the article is les
no matter what gender the noun is.
If a singular noun begins with a vowel or mute h
, the definite article le
contracts to l’
, as in l’ami
(the friend) and l’homme
refer to an unspecific noun. The English indefinite articles are a
. French has three indefinite articles — un
(for masculine nouns),une
(for feminine nouns), and des
(for masculine or feminine plural nouns). Which one you use depends on the noun’s gender and number.
You use the indefinite article in basically the same way in French and English — to refer to an unspecific noun, as in J’ai acheté une voiture
(I bought a car) or Je veux voir un film
(I want to see a movie). Note that un
can also mean one: J’ai un frère
(I have one brother).
is the plural indefinite article, which you use for two or more masculine and/or feminine nouns: J’ai des idées
(I have some ideas). When you make a sentence with an indefinite article negative, the article changes to de
, meaning (not) any.
- J’ai des questions. (I have some questions.)
- Je n’ai pas de questions. (I don’t have any questions.)
Partitive articles are used with things that you take only part of. They don’t exist in English, so the best translation is the word some
. There are, once again, three partitive articles, depending on whether the noun is masculine (du
), feminine (de la
), or plural (des
You use the partitive article with food, drink, and other uncountable things that you take or use only a part of, like air and money, as well as abstract things, such as intelligence and patience. If you do eat or use all of something, and if it is countable, then you need the definite or indefinite article
. Compare the following:
- Je veux du gâteau. (I want some cake — just a piece or two.)
- Je veux le gâteau. (I want the cake — the whole one.)
- Je veux un gâteau. (I want a cake — for my birthday party.)
When a singular noun begins with a vowel or mute h
, the partitive article du
or de la
contracts to de l’
, as in de l’eau
(some water) and de l’hélium
Use the partitive article to expresses that you want part of a whole (some or any), to ask for an indefinite quantity (something that is not being counted). Before a noun, the partitive is generally expressed by de + the definite article. Note that de + le contract to become du and de + les contract to become des, as shown in Table 1.
Note the following about the use of the partitive article:
Although the partitive some or any
may be omitted in English, it may not be omitted in French and must be repeated before each noun.
Il prend des cèrèales et du lait. (He’s having cereal and milk.)
In a negative sentence, the partitive some or any is expressed by de or d’ without the article.
Je ne mange jamais de fruits. (I never eat any fruits.)
Je n’ai pas d’amis. (I don’t have any friends.)
Before a singular adjective preceding a singular noun, the partitive is expressed with or without the article.
C’est de (du) bon gâteau. (That’s good cake.)
Before a plural adjective preceding a plural noun, the partitive is expressed by de alone.
Ce sont de bons èlèves. (They are good students.)
Certain nouns and adverbs of quantity are followed by the partitive article de ( d’ before a vowel).
The following nouns and adverbs of quantity are followed by de + definite article:
la plupart (most)
bien (a good many)
la majoritè (the majority)
la plus grande partie (the majority)
La plupart des gens aiment ce film. (Most people like this movie.)
The adjectives plusieurs (several) and quelques (some) modify the noun directly.
J’adore plusieurs lègumes. (I like several vegetables.)
Il achète quelques livres. (He is buying some books.)
The partitive is not used with sans (without) and ne … ni … ni (neither … nor).
Elle prendra du thè sans citron. (She’ll take tea without lemon.)
Il ne boit ni cafè ni thè. (He doesn’t drink coffee or tea.)
is a word that is used to replace a noun (a person, place, thing, idea, or quality). Pronouns allow for fluidity by eliminating the need to constantly repeat the same noun in a sentence.
A subject pronoun
replaces a subject noun
(the noun performing the action of the verb).
Unlike the English pronoun “I,” the pronoun je
is capitalized only when it begins a sentence. Je
before a vowel or vowel sound ( y
— meaning that no puff of air is emitted when producing the h sound):
- J’adore le français. (I love French.)
- Voilà où j’habite. (There’s where I live.)
is used to address one friend, relative, child, or pet and is referred to as the familiar form of “you.” The u
is never dropped for purposes of elision: Tu es mon meilleur ami
. (You are my best friend.)
is used in the singular to show respect to an older person or when speaking to a stranger or someone you do not know very well.Vous
is the polite or formal form of “you:” Vous êtes un patron très respecté
. (You are a very respected boss.)
In addition, vous
is always used when speaking to more than one person, regardless of the degree of familiarity.
Il and elle
(he) and elle
(she) may refer to a person or to a thing (it):
- L’homme arrive. (The man arrives.) Il arrive. (He arrives.)
- Le colis arrive. (The package arrives.) Il arrive. (It arrives.)
- La dame arrive. (The lady arrives.) Elle arrive. (She arrives.)
- La lettre arrive. (The letter arrives.) Elle arrive. (It arrives.)
refers to an indefinite person: you, we, they, or people in general.On
is often used in place of nous
, such as in the following: on part
Ils and elles
refers to more than one male or to a combined group of males and females, despite the number of each gender present. Elles
refers only to a group of females.
- Anne et Luc partent. (Ann and Luke leave.) Ils partent. (They leave.)
- Anne et Marie partent. (Ann and Marie leave.) Elles partent. (They leave.)
The pronoun ce
(it, he, she, this, that, these, those), spelled c’
before a vowel, is most frequently used with the verb être
(to be): c’est
(it is) orce sont
(they are). Ce
, and elles
as the subject of the sentence in the following constructions:
- Before a modified noun:C’est un bon avocat. (He’s a good lawyer.)
But, when unmodified, the following is correct: Il est avocat
. (He’s a lawyer.)
- Before a name:C’est Jean. (It’s John.)
- Before a pronoun:C’est moi. (It is me.)
- Before a superlative:C’est le plus grand. (It’s the biggest.)
- In dates:C’est le dix mars.(It’s March 10th.)
- Before a masculine singular adjective that refers to a previously mentioned idea or action:Il est important. (He is important.) C’est évident. (That’s obvious).
- Before an adjective + à + infinitive (the form of any verb before it is conjugated): C’est bon à savoir. (That’s good to know.)
in the following constructions:
- To express the hour of the day:Il est deux heures. (It’s 2 o’clock.)
- With an adjective + de + infinitive:Il est bon de manger. (It’s good to eat.)
- With an adjective before que: Il est important que je travaille. (It is important that I work.)
Using Object Pronouns
are used so that an object noun doesn’t have to be continuously repeated. This allows for a more free‐flowing conversational tone. When using object pronouns, make sure your conjugated verb agrees with the subject and not the object pronoun. Table 1 lists direct and indirect object pronouns.
The forms me, te, se, nous
, and vous
are both direct, indirect object, and reflexive pronouns.
Direct object pronouns
(which can be nouns or pronouns) answer the question as to whom or what the subject is acting upon. It may refer to people, places, things, or ideas. A direct object pronoun replaces a direct object noun and, unlike in English, is usually placed before the conjugated verb.
- Tu regardes le film. (You watch the movie.): Tu le regardes. (You watch it.)
- Je t’aime. (I love you.)
- Tu m’aimes. (You love me.)
Indirect object pronouns
(which can be nouns or pronouns) answer the question of to or for whom the subject is doing something. They refer only to people. An indirect object pronoun replaces an indirect object noun, and, unlike in English, is usually placed before the conjugated verb. As a clue, look for the preposition à
(to, for), which may be in the form of au
(the contraction of à
) , à l’, à la
, or aux
(the contraction of à
), followed by the name or reference to a person.
- Elle écrit à Jean. (She writes to John.): Elle lui écrit. (She writes to him.)
- Tu m’offres un sac à main. (You offer me a purse.)
- Je t’offre un sac à main. (I offer you a purse.)
Verbs that take an indirect object in English do not necessarily take an indirect object in French. The following verbs take a direct object in French:
- attendre (to wait for)
- chercher (to look for)
- écouter (to listen to)
- espérer (to hope for/to)
- faire venir (to call for)
- payer (to pay)
Verbs that take a direct object in English do not necessarily take a direct object in French. The following verbs take an indirect object in French because they are followed by à:
- convenir à (to suit)
- désobéir à (to disobey)
- faire honte à (to shame)
- faire mal à (to hurt)
- faire peur à (to frighten)
- obéir à (to obey)
- plaire à (to please)
- répondre à (to answer)
- ressembler à (to resemble)
- téléphoner à (to call)
The expression penser à
(to think about) is followed by a stress pronoun; for example, Je pense à lui/elle
. (I think about him/her).
The following verbs require an indirect object because they are followed by à. Note the correct preposition to use before the infinitive of the verb.
- apprendre (teach) à quelqu’un à + infinitive
- enseigner (teach) à quelqu’un à + infinitive
- conseiller (advise) à quelqu’un de + infinitive
- défendre (forbid) à quelqu’un de + infinitive
- demander (ask) à quelqu’un de + infinitive
- ordonner (order) à quelqu’un de + infinitive
- pardonner (forgive) à quelqu’un de + infinitive
- permettre (permit) à quelqu’un de + infinitive
- promettre (promise) à quelqu’un de + infinitive
- rappeler (remind) à quelqu’un de + infinitive
- reprocher (reproach) à quelqu’un de + infinitive
With the French verbs plaire
(to please), falloir
(to be necessary), and manquer
(to miss), the French indirect object is the subject in the English sentence:
The adverbial pronoun (y)
- Ce cadeau me plaît. (I like this gift. This gift is pleasing to me.)
- Il me faut un stylo. (I need a pen. A pen is necessary for me.)
- Tu me manques. (I miss you. I am missing to you.)
The adverbial pronoun y
(pronounced ee) means “there” when the place has already been mentioned. Y
can also mean “it,” “them,” “in it/them,” “to it/them,” or “on it/them.” Y
usually replaces the preposition à
+ the noun object of the preposition, but it may also replace other prepositions of location or position, such as chez
(at the house/business of) , dans
(in) , en
(under), or sur
(on) + noun:
- Je vais à Paris. (I’m going to Paris.) J’y vais. (I’m going there.)
- Il répond à la note. (He answers the note.) Il y répond. (He answers it.)
- Tu restes dans ton lit. (You stay in the hotel.) Tu y restes. (You stay in it.)
is used to replace de + noun
only when de
is part of a prepositional phrase showing location: L’hôtel est près de l’aéroport
. (The hotel is near the airport.) L’hôtel y est
. (The hotel is there.)
Never use y
to replace à + a person. Indirect object pronouns are used for this purpose: Je parle à Luc
. (I speak to Luke.) Je lui parle
. (I speak to him.)
is used in French but is not translated into English: Il va au cinéma?
(Is he going to the movies?) Oui, il y va
. (Yes, he is.)
The adverbial pronoun (en)
The pronoun en
refers to previously mentioned things or places. En
usually replaces de + noun and may mean some or any, of it/them, about it/them, from it/them, or from there:
- Je veux de la glace. (I want some ice cream.) J’en veux. (I want some [of it]).
- Tu ne bois pas de lait. (You don’t drink any milk.) Tu n’en bois pas. (You don’t drink any.)
- Il parle de l’examen. (He speaks about the test.) Il en parle. (He speaks about it.)
- Vous sortez du café. (You leave the cafe.) Vous en sortez. (You leave [from] it.)
is always expressed in French even though it may have no Engish equivalent or is not expressed in English: As‐tu du temps?
(Do you have any time?) Oui, j’en ai
. (Yes, I do.)
Note the following rules governing the use of en
The position of object pronouns
- En is used with idiomatic expressions requiringde.
- J’ai besoin de film. (I need film.) J’en ai besoin. (I need some.)
- Enis used to replace a noun (de + noun) after a number or a noun or adverb of quantity.
- Je prépare six gâteaux. (I’m preparing six cakes.) J’en prépare six. (I’m preparing six [of them].)
- Tu bois une tasse de thé. (You drink a cup of tea.) Tu en bois. (You drink a cup [of it].)
- Enonly refers to people when de means some. In all other cases (when de + a noun mean “of” or “about” a person), a stress pronoun is used.
- I have a lot of sons. (J’ai beaucoup de fils.) I have a lot of them. (J’en ai beaucoup.)
An object pronoun is placed before the verb to which its meaning is tied, usually before the conjugated verb. When a sentence contains two verbs, the object pronoun is placed before the infinitive:
- Je le demande. (I ask for it.) Je ne le demande pas. (I don’t ask for it.)
- Il va en boire. (He is going to drink some of it.) Il ne va pas en boire. (He isn’t going to drink some of it.)
In an affirmative command, an object pronoun is placed immediately after the verb and is joined to it by a hyphen. The familiar command forms of ‐ er
verbs (regular and irregular — retain their final s
to prevent the clash of two vowel sounds together. Put a liaison (linking) between the final consonant and y
(Stay there!) But: N’y reste pas!
(Don’t stay there!)
In compound tenses, the object pronoun is placed before the conjugated helping verb: J’ai parlé à Nancy
. (I spoke to Nancy.) Je lui ai parlé
. (I spoke to her.)
Double object pronouns
The term double object pronouns
refers to using more than one pronoun in a sentence at a time, as follows:
The following examples show how double object pronouns are used before the conjugated verb, before the infinitive when there are two verbs, in the past tense, and in a negative command. Note the different order of the pronouns in the affirmative command:
- Before the conjugated verb:Elle me la donne. (She gives it to me.)
- Before the infinitive with two verbs:Vas‐tu m’en offrir? (Are you going to offer me any?)
- In the past tense:Tu le lui as écrit. (You wrote it to her.)
- In a negative command:Ne me le montrez pas. (Don’t show it to me.)
But note the difference in an affirmative command: Montrez‐le‐moi, s’il vous plaît
. (Please show it to me.)
In an affirmative command, m oi + en
and toi + en
- Donne‐m’en, s’il te plaît. (Please give me some.)
- Va t’en. (Go away.)
Independent (Stress) Pronouns
, listed in Table 1, may stand alone or follow a verb or a preposition. They are used to emphasize a fact and to highlight or replace nouns or pronouns.
Independent pronouns are used as follows:
To stress the subject: Moi, je suis vraiment indépendant
. (Me, I’m really independent.)
When the pronoun has no verb:Qui veut partir?
(Who wants to leave?) Moi
After prepositions to refer to a person or persons: Allons chez elle
. (Let’s go to her house.)
After c’est: C’est moi qui pars
. (I’m leaving.)
After the following verbs:
In compound subjects:
- avoir affaire à (to have dealings with)
- être à (to belong to)
- faire attention à (to pay attention to)
- penser à (to think about [of)])
- se fier à (to trust)
- s’intéresser à (to be interested in)
- Ceci est à moi. (This belongs to me.)
- Lui et moi allons au restaurant. (He and I are going to the restaurant.)
- Sylvie et toi dînez chez Marie. (Sylvia and you are dining at Marie’s.)
is one of the stress pronouns in a compound subject, the subject pronoun nous
is used in summary (someone + me = we) and the conjugated verb must agree with nous
. If toi
is one of the stress pronouns in a compound subject, the subject prounoun vous
is used in summary (someone + you [singular] = you [plural]) and the conjugated verb must agree with the vous
. Neither nous
has to appear in the sentence.
With ‐ même(s) to reinforce the subject: Je suis allé au concert moi‐même
. (I went to the concert by myself.)
A relative pronoun
(“who,” “which,” or “that”) joins a main clause to a dependent clause. This pronoun introduces the dependent clause that describes someone or something mentioned in the main clause. The person or thing the pronoun refers to is called the antecedent
. A relative clause may serve as a subject, a direct object, or an object of a preposition.
Qui (subject) and que (direct object)
(“who,” “which,” “that”) is the subject of a relative clause (which means that it will be followed by a verb in the dependent clause). Qui
may refer to people, things, or places and follows the format antecedent
: C’estla femmequia gagné
. (She’s the woman who won.)
The verb of a relative clause introduced by qui
is conjugated to agree with its antecedent: C’est moi qui choisis les bons cafés
. (I am the one who chooses the good cafés.)
(“whom,” “which,” or “that”) is the direct object of a relative clause (which means that it will be followed by a noun or pronoun). Although frequently omitted in English, the relative pronoun is always expressed in French. Que
may refer to people or things and follows the format antecedent
+ direct object
: C’est l’homme que
. (He’s the man [that] I love.)
Qui and lequel (objects of a preposition)
(meaning “whom”) is used as the object of a preposition referring to a person.
Lequel, laquelle, lesquels, lesquelles
- Anne est la femme avec qui je travaille. (Anne is the woman with whom I am working.)
(“which” or “whom”) are used as the object of a preposition referring primarily to things. The form of lequel
must agree with the antecedent. Select the proper form of lequel
after consulting Table 1, for example, Voilà la piscine dans laquelle je nage
. (There is the pool in which I swim.)
Lequel and its forms contract with the prepositions à
, as shown in Table 2:
Some examples include the following:
Ce qui and ce que
- Ce sont les hommes auxquels elle pense. (Those are the men she is thinking about.)
- C’est la classe de laquelle je parlais. (That’s the class I was talking about.)
The relative pronouns ce qui
and ce que
are used when no antecedent noun or pronoun is present:
- Ce quimeans “what” or “that which” and is the subject of a verb: Je me demande ce qui se passe. (I wonder what is happening.)
- Ce que means “what” (that which) and is the object of a verb: Tu sais ce que ça veut dire. (You know what that means.)
How to Conjugate ER Verbs in French
One thing English speakers who are learning French struggle with is learning how to conjugate all the different verbs. Most French verbs typically end in -er, -re, or -ir. The biggest group is verbs that end in -er. Verbs that fall into this group that follow the same conjugation pattern are called regular -er verbs. Once you know how to conjugate one regular -er verb, you know how to conjugate all regular -er verbs! Let’s take a look at the process.
Steps to Follow Conjugating Regular ER Verbs in the Present Tense
To conjugate any regular -er verb in the present tense, you will follow the steps outlined below.
1.) Take the infinitive form of the verb, and drop the -er
off the end of the verb to get the verb stem. (For example, take the infinitive form of the verb parler
, and remove the -er
. You are left with the verb stemparl-
2.) Determine the subject pronoun you are conjugating the verb with, and add the appropriate ending from the chart below.
Let’s now practice this conjugation pattern with some common regular -er verbs in French.
|Parler (to speak)
||Donner (to give)
||Aimer (to like)
|Je parle (pahrle)
||Je donne (done)
|Tu parles (pahrle)
||Tu donnes (done)
||Tu aimes (ehm)
|Il/Elle/On parle (pahrle)
||Il/Elle/On donne (done)
||Il/Elle/On aime (ehm)
|Nous parlons (pahrl-ohn)
||Nous donnons (done-ohn)
||Nous aimons (ehm-ohn)
|Vous parlez (pahrl-ay)
||Vous donnez (done-ay)
||Vous aimez (ehm-ay)
|Ils/Elles parlent (pahrle)
||Ils/Elles donnent (done)
||Ils/Elles aiment (ehm)
How to Conjugate IR Verbs in French
Verbs and Conjugation
In French, verbs have a set of endings. We call this a conjugation
. A verb like choisir
(pronounced: shwah-zeer), meaning ‘to choose,’ is called an -IR verb. To conjugate the verb, we chop off the -IR at the end of the word and put on the correct ending.
The ending for the verb corresponds to who is doing the verb. The person (or thing) doing the verb is called thesubject
. In French, subjects are:
- je (pronounced: zhuh), meaning ‘I’
- tu (pronounced: tooh), meaning ‘you’ (singular, informal)
- il, elle (pronounced: eel, el), meaning ‘he’ or ‘she’
- nous (pronounced: nooh), meaning ‘we’
- vous (pronounced: vooh), meaning ‘you’ (plural, formal)
- ils, elles (pronounced: eel, el), meaning ‘they’
-IR Verb Endings
This chart shows the endings for -IR verbs in French:
|je _____ -is
|tu _____ -is
|il / elle _____ -it
||ils / elles _____-issent
To say ‘I choose,’ we use the verb chosir
(meaning ‘to choose’) but take off the -ir
. This leaves us with chois-
. This first part of the verb, without an ending, is called the stem
. We add an ending to the stem. For je
(meaning ‘I’), the ending is -is
. So ‘I choose’ is je choisis
(pronounced: zhuh shwah-zee).
The endings for je
all sound like ‘ee.’
|il / elle choisit
||eel / el shwah-zee
Notice that the il
forms end with -it
, while the je
forms end with -is
. The written forms are different, but the pronunciation is exactly the same!
The plural forms–we, you (all), they–sound slightly different. The ending -issons
sounds like ‘ee-ssahn,’ -issez
sounds like ‘ee-say’, and -issent
sounds like ‘eess.’
|ils / elles choisissent
||eel / el shwah-zeess
Common -IR Verbs
||to grow up
||to think about; to reflect
||to lose weight
||to gain weight
Let’s take the verb finir
as an example. Imagine that Pierre wants to play video games. His mom says OK, but first ‘you finish the homework’–tu finis les devoirs
(pronounced: tooh fee-nee lay dehv-wahr).
Pierre’s a good student. He reminds his mom, ‘I always finish homework’–je finis toujours les devoirs
(pronounced: zhuh fee-nee tooh-zhor lay dehv-war). Pierre’s brother Richard pipes up, ‘We always finish homework!’–nous finissons toujours les devoirs
(pronounced: nooh fee-nee-sahn tooh-zhor lay dehv-wahr). Mom thinks, ‘That’s true, they always finish homework,’–ils finissent toujours les devoirs
(pronounced: eel fee-neess tooh-zhor lay dehv-wahr).
How to Conjugate RE Verbs in French
In French, verbs have sets of endings. This lesson introduces you to the endings for verbs that end in -RE. You will learn several -RE verbs, such as ‘vendre’ (to sell), ‘perdre’ (to lose), and ‘attendre’ (to wait.)
Subjects And Verbs
In French, verbs have different endings for each subject (like ‘I’, ‘you,’ ‘we,’ etc). Let’s review some subject pronouns:
- je (pronounced: zhuh), meaning ‘I’
- tu (pronounced: tooh), meaning ‘you’ (singular)
- il / elle (pronounced: eel / el), meaning ‘he / she’
- nous (pronounced: nooh), meaning ‘we’
- vous (pronounced: vooh), meaning ‘you’ (plural or formal)
- ils / elles (pronounced: eel / el), meaning ‘they’
The pattern of endings for a verb is called a conjugation
. A verb like vendre
(pronounced: vahn-druh), meaning ‘to sell,’ is called an -RE verb. To conjugate the verb, we chop off the -RE at the end of the word. This leaves us with the stem
(the beginning part of the word). We then put on the correct ending. For vendre
, the stem isvend-
Let’s take a look at the for -RE endings for conjugation patterns:
|je _____ -s
||nous _____ -ons
|tu _____ -s
||vous _____ -ez
|il, elle _____
||ils, elles _____ -ent
You’ll notice that the je
forms are exactly the same. They both end with s
–however, the s
is silent. The il
form is unusual, because there is no extra ending.
Let’s look at the verb rendre
, which means ‘to turn in’ (for example, to turn in homework).
- je rends (pronounced: zhuh rahn), meaning ‘I turn in’
- tu rends (pronounced: tooh rahn), meaning ‘you turn in’ (singular ‘you’)
- il / elle rend (pronounced: eel / el rahn), meaning ‘he / she turns in’
- nous rendons (pronounced: nooh rahn-dahn), meaning ‘we turn in’
- vous rendez (pronounced: vooh rahn-day), meaning ‘you turn in’ (plural or formal ‘you’)
- ils / elles rendent (pronounced: eel / el rahnd), meaning ‘they turn in’
Notes About Pronunciation
Let’s look at details regarding pronunciation for these conjugation patterns:
Singular: je, tu, il, elle
, and il
forms all have the exact same pronunciation. Notice that the il
form of the verb does not have an s
at the end.
Plural: nous, vous, ils, elles
Most final consonants in French are silent. For the nous
form, the ending is -ons
, with the s
being silent. For thevous
form, the -ez
ending is pronounced ay.
For the ils
form, the -ent
ending is silent.
Vendre (To Sell)
Imagine that your French friend, Sandra, needs money. She might tell you Je vends la voiture
(pronounced: zhuh vahn lah vwah-tuhr), meaning ‘I’m selling my car.’ Her kids, Pierre and Jacques, want to help by selling their toys, or les jouets
(pronounced: lay zhooh-ay). The tell you Nous vendons les jouets.
Later, you tell you neighbor what’s going on–elle vend la voiture
(pronounced: ell vahn lah vwah-tuhr) and ils vendent les jouets
(eel vahnd lay zhooh-ay).
Notice that when Sandra says je vends
or when you say elle vend
, we don’t hear the ‘d’ sound. (The s
in je vends
is also silent). But when we say ils vendent
or elles vendent
, we DO make a d
sound at the end of the word. The -ent’ is silent–but because it’s there, we pronounce that
Perdre (To Lose)
We saw that rendre
means ‘to turn in.’ This is what students do with homework, or les devoirs
(pronounced: lay dehv-wahr.) Unfortunately, students sometimes also lose their homework! Perdre
means ‘to lose.’ Imagine a group of friends who have different homework habits:
- Pierre: Je rends les devoirs. (pronounced: zhuh rahn lay dehv-wahr)
- Albert : Je perds les devoirs. (pronounced: zhuh pehr lay dehv-wahr)
- Pierre et Marie : Nous rendons les devoirs. (pronounced: nooh rahn-don lay dehv-wahr)
- Albert et Jacques : Nous perdons les devoirs. (pronounced: nooh pehr-don lay dehv-wahr)
In almost every conversation you will need the French verb être
(pronounced: ay-tr, with a soft ‘r’ at the end) is used to indicate how things are. Literally meaning ‘to be’ être
can be conjugated with the various French pronouns, paired with adjectives or used in numerous idiomatic expressions.
Each French pronoun requires a different conjugation of the verb être
. This table shows you a pronoun, the correct conjugation of être
, the English meaning of the conjugation, and the conjugation pronunciation.
||You are (formal) or You all are
||They are (feminine)
Imagine you are talking about the nationalities of your friends and yourself. Study the above chart and following sentences and note how the verb être
is conjugated and used with adjectives. In this case the adjective is the nationality American.
Je suis Américain.
I am American.
And you? Tu es américain?
Are you American?
Paul est Américain.
Paul is American.
Nous sommes Américains.
We are Americans.
Vous êtes Américains?
Are you all Americans?
Ils sont Américains.
They are Americans.
Julie et Diane, elles sont Américains aussi.
Julie and Diane, they are Americans too.
Why is faire an important verb?
The verb faire
(pronounced like the English word fair
but with the French /r/ sound) is a great verb to have in your back pocket because it’s definitely a multi-tasker. Some interesting facts about this verb are:
1) most weather expressions in French use faire
, for example to talk about what the weather is doing
2) many individual sports and activities use this verb, for example to express that you do a certain sport
3) used in math equations to mean equals
4) used in causative constructions where you have had something done to a person or thing, for example having your dog groomed
5) Numbers 1 and 2 on this list are the most important usages for beginners. It’s also used in many, many other expressions in French. Trust us, this is a high-frequency verb!
How to use it in sentences: the conjugations
The verb faire
is considered to be an irregular verb, meaning that the conjugations used in order to create a subject-verb agreement do not follow typical patterns. So, break out the flash cards and commit this one to memory. The following examples of conjugations express how to use the verb to talk about activities and sports.
(fay) du sport = I do sports
-tu du yoga? = Do you do yoga?
(fay) du ski nautique = He/She does/goes skiing
(fuh zahn) de la danse = We do dance
(fet)-vous du camping? = Do you do/go camping?
(fohn) une promenade = They go for a walk
Remember, many individual sports – ones that don’t require a team to play – as well as activities take this verb, and it can also translate into English as go
instead of make or do.
Knowing how to say you know something or telling a friend, ‘I don’t know’ is pretty important in conversation, even French conversations. But to do that, first you have to learn how to conjugate the verb savior
(pronounced: sah-vwahr), to know
||you know (singular)
||you know (plural)
Now that we’ve got that down, let’s look at the different ways that savior is used in conversations.
To Know How
To express that someone knows how to do something, we use a form of the verb savoir
plus a second verb. Let’s look at some examples using savoir
plus the verb nager
(pronounced: nah-zhay) to swim
Imagine that your French friend, Ariane, has come to visit. You want to go swimming, so you ask her, ‘Tu sais nager?’
meaning, ‘Do you know how to swim?’. She would answer ‘Je sais nager’
meaning ‘I know how to swim.’ Then, your friends Frank and Elizabeth arrive. You ask them ‘Vous savez nager?’
meaning ‘Do you (guys) know how to swim?’ They answer, ‘Nous savons nager’
meaning ‘We know how to swim.’
Notice how the sentences use different forms of the verb savoir
, but the word nager
Let’s look at some more examples:
- Je sais conduire (pronounced: zhuh say kon-dweer), meaning ‘I know how to drive.’
- Elle sait conduire (pronounced: el say kon-dweer), meaning ‘She knows how to drive.’
- Il sait danser (pronounced: eel say dahn-say), meaning ‘He knows how to dance.’
- Ils savent danser (pronounced: eel sahv dahn-say), meaning ‘They know how to dance.’
Vouloir: To Want
Imagine that you get to spend a few weeks visiting France. What do you want to do? What do you want to eat? To express what you want, say je veux
(pronounced: zhuh veuh), which means ‘I want.’ Whether you stay in a hotel or with French hosts, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to discuss what you want. For example, you might say: je veux visiter le Louvre
(pronounced: zhuh veuh vee-see-tay luh loov-ruh). Perhaps your main goal is to learn French. You can explain that: je veux apprendre le français
(pronounced: zhuh veuh ah-prahn-druh luh frahn-say).
In English, we say ‘I want’ and ‘he wants.’ The verb is ‘want,’ but its form changes slightly depending on who is speaking. In French, verbs have different endings. Putting the right endings on a verb is called conjugating
the verb. Notice the endings for the verb vouloir
||(pronounced: vooh-lwahr) to want
|je veux (zhuh veuh)
||nous voulons (nooh vooh-lahn)
|tu veux (tyooh veuh)
||vous voulez (vooh vooh-lay)
|you want (singular)
||you want (plural)
|il / elle veut (eel / el veuh)
||ils / elles veulent (eel / el vuhl)
|he / she wants
Notice that the verb endings for je, tu, il
are all pronounced the same. The verb ending is the same for the je
forms. For il / elle
, the ending changes. When you’re speaking, you can’t hear a difference.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the je, tu, il / elle,
and ils / elles
forms all start with veu
. This letter blend sounds like ‘euh.’ To pronounce it correctly, think about making the sound down in your throat, at the spot where you swallow.
On the other hand, vouloir
as well as voulons
all begin with the sound vou
. This letter blend rhymes with ‘ooh’ — as in Ooh là là!
This sound is formed with your lips. Pucker up like you’re going to give someone a big kiss to make the ooh
sound for French words like vouloir, voulons, voulez
as well as vous
Examples With Vouloir
Imagine that two friends, Paul and Robert, are traveling together in France. As they discuss traveling from Paris to the city of Avignon, they might debate whether to prendre le train
(pronounced: prahn-druh luh trahn) orlouer une voiture
(pronounced: looh-ay oohn vwah-tyuhr). Paul might ask Robert: Tu veux louer une voiture
? Robert might reply, Non, je veux prendre le train.
Paul and Robert are staying with their friend Nathalie in Paris. They tell her about their plan: Nous voulons prendre le train.
Nathalie might ask them, ‘Do you want to leave tomorrow?’ She would say Voulez-vous partir demain?
(pronounced: vooh-lay vooh pahr-teer duh-mahn).
Feminine Adjectives in French
Let’s get personal. Do you have a girlfriend? How would you describe her to someone? Is she pretty? Is she short or tall? Or we could talk about your grandmother. Would you say she is funny? Is she strong or frail? In French, since these people are feminine, when you describe them, the adjectives must also be feminine!
Did you know that in French, objects
can also be feminine? For example, in French, cars are feminine! The word for car, la voiture,
is a feminine word! So, now how would you describe your car? Is it fancy? Expensive? What color is it? All of these adjectives must be feminine when you are describing your car.
Examples of Adjectives
Add an ‘e’ at the end of most adjectives to create the feminine form. Some examples of masculine and feminine forms are:
- grand—grande (tall) – pronounced (grahn) and (grahnduh) with nasal ‘n’ sound
- joli—jolie (pretty) – pronounced (zhoh-lee)
- bleu—bleue (blue) – pronounced (bluh)
- fort —forte (strong) – pronounced (fohr) and (fohrtuh)
- marrant—marrante (funny) pronounced (marrahn) and (marrahn-tuh) with nasal ‘n’ sound
- fâché —fâchée (angry) pronounced (fah-shay)
When pronouncing these, we do not say the last consonant in the masculine form. When the feminine ‘e’ is added, we hear the last consonant. For example:fort
is pronounced like (for), but forte
is pronounced similar to (fort) in English.
Some adjectives have a slight change in the last consonant before adding the feminine ‘e.’ For example, some adjectives ending in f
go from f
- sportif—sportive (athletic) Pronounced- (sporteef) and (sporteev)
- créatif—créative (creative) Pronounced- (cray-ah-teef) and (cray-ah-teev)
Pronounce the’ ‘f or the ‘v’ as it is written.
Some adjectives double the last consonant before adding the feminine ‘e.’ For example:
- mignon—mignonne (cute) – pronounced (meenyohn) with nasal ‘n,’ and (meenyunn)
- bon—bonne (good) – pronounced (boh-n) with nasal ‘n,’ and (bun)
- gentil—gentille (kind) – pronounced (zhahn-tee) and (zhahn-teeyuh) with nasal ‘n’
The double consonants are pronounced in the feminine form, but usually the single consonants in the masculine form are pronounced nasally or not at all. For instance, pronounce ‘bon’ like the word (bone) but with a nasal ‘n’ sound and ‘bonne’ similar to (buhnn).
Describing Your Car in French
Let’s try some sentences to describe your car!
- Ma voiture est bleue. (My car is blue.) Pronounced- (mah vwa-teeoor ay bluh)
- Elle est petite. (It is small.) Pronounced- (el ay puhteetuh).
How about your grandmother? Let’s try describing her:
(My grandmother is funny, but my grandfather is also funny.)Ma grand-mère est marrante, mais mon grand-père est aussi marrant.
Pronounced-(mah gran-mayr ay marrantuh may mohn granpayr ay oh-see marran)
Notice that the grandfather has the masculine adjective form, and the grandmother has the feminine form of the adjective.
French Adjectives: Placement & Examples
Describing People and Things
Sam and Liz are Americans living abroad in Angers, France, and they really want to be able to talk to their neighbors, describe their new neighbors, and talk about what goes on around them without being confusing. There are certain things Sam and Liz will need to remember about words that describe a noun or pronoun, oradjectives
, to reach their goal. This includes understanding which adjectives do and don’t conform to normal placement principles.
The normal or most common placement of adjectives in a French sentence is right behind the word it describes. For example:
J’ai un vélo ‘bleu.
‘ (I have a blue bike).
Elles aiment la langue ‘anglaise.
‘ (They like the English language.)
Nous sommes vos voisins ‘américains.
‘ (We are your American neighbors.)
C’est un homme ‘sympa.
‘ (He’s a nice man.)
Nous avons des voisins ‘sincères.
‘ (We have sincere neighbors.)
This order is quite different from English as you can see in the translations, and Sam and Liz are going to have to make an extra effort to get this right if they want their French-speaking neighbors to understand them.
B – BeautyBANGS is an acronym that Sam and Liz can use to remember which adjectives don’t follow the rules. These are describing words that normally come before the noun (there are always exceptions). It stands for:
A – Age
N – Number
G – Goodness
S – Size
Examples of adjectives that fall in each category are as follows:
Knowing this information, Sam and Liz are able to tell and ask their new neighbor, Monsieur LeClerc, lots of important things:
Sam: Vous avez une ‘belle’ voiture!
(You have a nice car!)
Liz: Est-ce que c’est un ‘bon’ restaurant au coin?
(Is the restaurant on the corner good?)
M LeClerc: C’est un ‘petit’ restaurant, mais il est bon.
(It’s a small restaurant, but it is good.)
Sam: Nous avons ‘deux’ chiens. Et vous, vous avez des animaux?
(We have two dogs, and do you have any animals?)
There are also some special adjectives that don’t follow the normal positioning or BANGS. Sam and Liz have to be really careful with this group of adjectives because this group can be used before or after the nouns they describe, but the meaning changes depending on where they are placed.
Here are a few of these used to help out Sam and Liz in their new neighborhood:
- Before a noun: C’est mon ancien voisin. (This is my former neighbor.)
- After a noun: C’est mon voisin ancien. (This is my ancient neighbor.)
- Before a noun: Cher Sam, je t’aime. (Dear Sam, I love you.)
- After a noun: Cette voiture est chère. (This car is expensive.)