Learn French

Learn French

Welcome to the web course on French. This course is meant to be an on-line reference to French grammar and common vocabulary. The scope of this tutorial is not very deep. One may use these pages for a one-semester course at the beginners' level.

No attempt has been made to provide pronunciation guidelines for the French alphabet. If you know English well and want to speak French in the English way, you will probably be the last person to be understood even by a French. French pronunciation is dramatically different from English.

These pages should better be used with the help of an instructor. Self-study might be possible. But that is expected to be a little difficult.

Contents

1. Introduction

In this section, you need not bother too much about exact grammatical constructions followed in French. We list in the following pages a set of common words and idiomatic expressions that one should learn by heart. We discuss about French grammar in the next section.

2. Grammar

2.1 Parts of speech

2.2 Sentence construction

3. Vocabulary

References

[1]
Class notes of a course offered by the `Foreign Languages Section', Indian Institute of Science.

[2]
P. Dominique, J. Girardet, M. Verdelhan and V. Verdelhan, Le nouveau sans frontières 1 (Méthode de français), CLE International, 1988. (This is a nice introduction to French. Audio cassettes available with the book make it a valuable resource to learn French pronunciations. The book contains many good exercises that clarify the grammatical rules. It also helps build a rich vocabulary on a variety of items. The problem with the book is that it is written in French and hence it is not ideal for self-study for the beginners.)

[3]
J. Bady, I. Greaves, A. Petetin, Grammaire, Hachette Livre, 1996. (This is basically an execrcise-book that deals with a (possibly more) in-depth study of French grammar. The examples provided are fairly illustrative and the coverage is extensive. This book is also written in French and is better to be studied with the help of an instructor.)

[4]
The ARTFL project, Divisions of the Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Chicago. (This is an on-line version of many utilities on French. In particular, look at the on-line French-English dictionary and the on-line verb conjugator. The data-base is reasonably large.)

[5]
Jacques Léon, French Language Course. (A nice on-line introduction to French in html. Ideal for beginners and for self-study.)

Note

I am a student of a French course offered by the Foreign Languages Section, Indian Institute of Science. Please do not expect much from these pages. I organized these pages from the class-notes for myself and the fellow-students. It's my pleasure if you enjoy them too. I cannot rule out the possibility of errors (though I hope otherwise). If you find errors, write to me. Your suggestions and comments are most welcome.

Download PostScript Version of the tutorial

1. Introduction


French alphabet

In addition to the 26 alphabetic letters a through z, French uses certain accented letters. We list these accents below. The first four are applicable to vowels and the fifth one to `c' only. The last one is really not an accent. This symbol is, however, quite frequently used in French.

Accent        Examples
L'accent aigu (acute or sharp accent)année (year), étudiant (student), école (school)
L'accent grave (grave accent)à (to, towards), père (father), où (where)
L'accent circonflexe (circumflex)âge (age), tête (head), connaître (to know), hôtel (hotel), août (August)
Le Tréma (diaeresis)Noël (Christmas), naïf (naive)
La Cédille (cedilla)français (French), garçon (boy)
Trait d'union (hyphen)Excusez-moi (Excuse me)

Go to table of contents

Introduce yourself in French

Q:
Comment vous vous appelez? [What's your name? (Lit. How do you call yourself?)]
A:
Je m'appelle Barda. [My name is Barda. (Lit. I call myself Barda.)]

Q:
Quel est votre nom? [What's your name?]
A:
Barda.

Q:
Quel est votre prénom? [What's your forename (first name)?]
A:
Barda.

Q:
Épelez votre nom. [Spell your name.]
A:
B-a-r-d-a.

Q:
Quel âge avez-vous? [What's your age? (Lit. What age do you have?)]
A:
J'ai 29 (vingt-neuf) ans. [I am 29 years old. (Lit. I have 29 years.)]

Q:
Quelle est votre profession? [What is your profession?]
A:
Je suis étudiant(e). [I am a student.]

Q:
Quelle est votre adresse? [What's your address?]
A:
N 97, IISc, Bangalore 560 012

Q:
Quelle est votre nationalité? [What's your nationality?]
A:
Je suis indien(-ne). [I am an Indian.]

Q:
Où habitez-vous? [Where do you live?]
A:
J'habite à Bangalore. [I live in Bangalore.]

Q:
Où habitent vos parents? [Where do your parents live?]
A:
Mes parents habitent à Calcutta. [My parents live in Calcutta.]

Q:
Quelle est votre langue maternelle? [What is your mother tongue?]
A:
Bangla.

Go to table of contents

Some common expressions

French     English
AllôHallo
bonjourGood day
bonne journéeHave a good day
bon après-midiHave a good afternoon
bonsoirGood evening
bonne soiréeHave a good evening
bonne nuitGood night
bonne annéeHappy new year
tout le mondeeverybody (Lit. all the world)
Bonsoir tout le monde.Good evening everybody.
Comment allez-vous?How are you? (Lit. How are you going?)
Comment vas tu?How are you? (Informal)
- ça va / très bien / comme ci, comme ça / très mal - good / very good / okay / bad
Et vous? / Et toi?And you?
Vous allez bien?Are you doing (lit. going) fine?
- Oui, ça va / Non, ça va pas - Yes / No
Merci.Thank you.
Merci beaucoup.Thanks a lot.
- Service. / Je vous en prie. / Je t'en prie. - I am at your service.
Pardon!Sorry!
Je suis désolé (-e).I am sorry.
Excusez-moi!Excuse me!
Excuse-moi!Excuse me! (Informal)
S'il vous plaît / S'il te plaîtPlease
Répondez s'il vous plaît.Please reply.
Au revoirSee you again.
Qu'est-ce que c'est?What is this?
- C'est un livre / une chaise / une table. - This is a book / chair / table.
Qui est-ce?Who is this?
- C'est M./Mme./Mlle. Dupont / un homme / une femme. - This is Mr./Mrs./Miss. Dupont / a man / a woman.
Comment fait-il aujourd'hui?How is it (the weather) today?
- Il fait chaud / bien / doux / frais / froid / nuageux. - It is hot / nice / gentle / fresh (or cool) / cold / cloudy.
- Il neige / pleut / gèle. - It is snowing / raining / freezing.
- Il y a du soleil / vent / brouillard. - It's a sunny / windy / foggy day.
Quelle heure est-il?What is the time?
Quelle heure avez-vous?What is the time? (Lit. What time do you have?)
- Il est sept heures. - It is seven o'clock.
[avoir + mal + à]
J'ai mal à la tête.
Elle a mal au dos.
Nous avons mal aux jambes.
[to have pain at]
I have a headache.
She has a back pain.
We have pain in the legs.
Mon dieu!My God!
Bonne chance!Good luck!
Bon appétit!Enjoy your meal! (Lit. Good appetite!)
À vos (nos) santésTo your (our) health
À bientôt!See you soon!
Bon voyage!Have a nice trip! (Lit. Good journey!)
Bonnes vacances!Happy vacation!

Go to table of contents

Numbers

Number    Ordinal (abbreviation)
0 - zéro
1 - un premier (1er)
2 - deuxdeuxième or second (2e)
3 - trois troisième (3e)
4 - quatre quatrième (4e)
5 - cinq cinquième (5e)
6 - six sixième (6e)
7 - sept septième (7e)
8 - huit huitième (8e)
9 - neuf neuvième (9e)
10 - dix dixième (10e)
11 - onze onzième (11e)
12 - douze douzième (12e)
13 - treize treizième (13e)
14 - quatorze quatorzième (14e)
15 - quinze quinzième (15e)
16 - seize seizième (16e)
17 - dix-sept dix-septième (17e)
18 - dix-huit dix-huitième (18e)
19 - dix-neuf dix-neuvième (19e)
20 - vingt vingtième (20e)
21 - vingt et un vingt-et-unième (21e)
22 - vingt-deux vingt-deuxième (22e)
23 - vingt-trois vingt-troisième (23e)
29 - vingt-neuf vingt-neuvième (29e)
30 - trente trentième (30e)
31 - trente et un trente-et-unième (31e)
32 - trente-deux trente-deuxième (32e)
33 - trente-trois trente-troisième (33e)
39 - trente-neuf trente-neuvième (39e)
40 - quarante quarantième (40e)
41 - quarante et un quarante-et-unième (41e)
42 - quarante-deux quarante-deuxième (42e)
43 - quarante-trois quarante-troisième (43e)
49 - quarante-neuf quarante-neuvième (49e)
50 - cinquante cinquantième (50e)
51 - cinquante et un cinquante-et-unième (51e)
52 - cinquante-deux cinquante-deuxième (52e)
53 - cinquante-trois cinquante-troisième (53e)
59 - cinquante-neuf cinquante-neuvième (59e)
60 - soixante soixantième (60e)
61 - soixante et un soixante-et-unième (61e)
62 - soixante-deux soixante-deuxième (62e)
63 - soixante-trois soixante-troisième (63e)
69 - soixante-neuf soixante-neuvième (69e)
70 - soixante-dix soixante-dixième (70e)
71 - soixante et onze soixante-et-onzième (71e)
72 - soixante-douze soixante-douzième (72e)
73 - soixante-treize soixante-treizième (73e)
79 - soixante-dix-neuf soixante-dix-neuvième (79e)
80 - quatre-vingts quatre-vingtième (80e)
81 - quatre-vingt-un quatre-vingt-unième (81e)
82 - quatre-vingt-deux quatre-vingt-deuxième (82e)
83 - quatre-vingt-trois quatre-vingt-troisième (83e)
89 - quatre-vingt-neuf quatre-vingt-neuvième (89e)
90 - quatre-vingt-dix quatre-vingt-dixième (90e)
91 - quatre-vingt-onze quatre-vingt-onzième (91e)
92 - quatre-vingt-douze quatre-vingt-douzième (92e)
93 - quatre-vingt-treize quatre-vingt-treizième (93e)
99 - quatre-vingt-dix-neuf quatre-vingt-dix-neuvième (99e)
100 - cent centième (100e)
101 - cent un cent-unième (101e)
199 - cent quatre-vingt-dix-neuf cent-quatre-vingt-dix-neuvième (199e)
200 - deux cents deux-centième (200e)
1.000 - mille millième (1.000e)
10.000 - dix milles dix-millième (10.000e)
100.000 - cent milles cent-millième (100.000e)
1.000.000 - million millionième (1.000.000e)

Go to table of contents

Expressions involving time

Time in the day

French   English
matin, mmorning
midi, mnoon
après-midi, mafternoon
soir, mevening
nuit, fnight
minuit, fmid-night

Days in the week

French   English
lundiMonday
mardiTuesday
mercrediWednesday
jeudiThusrday
vendrediFriday
samediSaturday
dimancheSunday

Months in the year

French   English
janvierJanuary
févrierFebruary
marsMarch
avrilApril
maiMay
juinJune
juilletJuly
aoûtAugust
septembreSeptember
octobreOctober
novembreNovember
décembreDecember

Units

French   English
seconde, fsecond
minute, fminute
heure, fhour
jour, mday
semaine, fweek
mois, mmonth
an, myear
année, fyear
décennie, fdecade
siècle, mcentury

Seasons

French   English
été, fsummer
automne, fautumn
hiver, mwinter
printemps, mspring

Today etc.

French   English
maintenantnow
aujourd'huitoday
demaintomorrow
après demainday after tomorrow
hieryesterday
avant hierday before yesterday

Clock time

French   English
Quelle heure est-il?What's the time? (Lit. What hour is it?)
Quelle heure avez-vous?What's the time (by your watch)? (Lit. What time do you have?)
Il est une heure.It is one o'clock.
Il est cinq heures.It is five o'clock.
Il est cinq heures quinze.It is 5:15.
Il est cinq heures et quart.It is quarter past five.
Il est cinq heures vingt-trois.It is 5:23.
Il est cinq heures et demie.It is half past five.
Il est six heures moins le quart.It is quarter to six.
Il est six heures moins dix.It is ten to six.
Il est dix-huit heures.It is eighteen hours.
Il est midi.It is 12:00 noon.
Il est midi et quart.It is 12:15 pm.
Il est minuit.It is 12:00 midnight.
à six heuresat six o'clock
à six heures et demieat half past six
de six heures à neuf heursfrom six o'clock to nine o'clock
Je commence mon travail à huit heures et demie.I start my work at half past eight.
Je finis mon travail à dix-sept heures.I finish my work at seventeen hours.
Je travaille de 8h30 à 17h.I work from 8:30 to 17:00.
neuf heures du matinnine o'clock in the morning
cinq heures de l'après-midifive o'clock in the afternoon
huit heures du soireight o'clock in the evening

Other expressions

French   English
être / arriver en avanceto be / arrive before time
être / arriver à l'heureto be / arrive on time
être / arriver en retardto be / arrive late
 
horaire, mtime-table (for train, plane etc.)
emploi du temps, mdiary for appointment
agenda, mappointment book
horloge, mclock
montre, fwrist watch
réveil, malarm clock
pendule, fpendulum

Go to table of contents

2. Grammer


2.1 Parts of Speech

Articles

Definite article

le
masculine, singular
Example: le garçon (the boy), le livre (the book)

la
feminine, singular
Example: la fille (the girl), la chaise (the chair)

l'
special form (masculine or feminine, singular) when followed by a vowel or vowel sound
Example: l'école (the school), l'hôpital (the hospital)

les
plural (masculine and feminine)
Example: les garçons (the boys), les filles (the girls)

Indefinite article

un
masculine, singular
Example: un homme (a man), un livre (a book)

une
feminine, singular
Example: une femme (a woman), une chaise (a chair)

des
plural (masculine and feminine)
Example: des hommes (men), des femmes (women)

Note: The concept of a plural form of the indefinite article might look alien (and surprising) to you. But this is quite often used in French. There is no equivalent of `des' in English (and in German, too). The difference between `les livres' and `des livres' is that `les livres' refer to a specific set of books, whereas `des livres' refer to `some books' or books in general. Well, this rule is rather over-simplified. But don't mind. We will see enough examples of both `les' and `des' throughout this tutorial.

Partitive article

The definite article before an abstract or uncountable noun often takes a special form called `l'article partitif'. These forms are given below:
du
masculine, singular
Example: du café (the coffee), du travail (the work)

de la
feminine, singular
Example: de la beauté (the beauty), de la bière (the beer)

de l'
special form (masculine or feminine, singular) when followed by a vowel or vowel sound
Example: de l'eau (the water)

des
plural (masculine and feminine)
Example: des fruits (the fruits)
These articles are used in sentences as illustrated in the following examples:
Nous avons du temps. - We have the time.
Voudriez-vous manger du boeuf? - Would you like to eat beef?
J'ai de la chance. - I have the chance (or luck).
Nous buvons de l'eau. - We drink water.

Go to table of contents

Nouns

Gender

Every French noun has a gender, which is either `masculine' or `feminine'. (There is NO `neuter' gender in French.)

Some masculine nouns: livre (book), hôpital (hospital), bras (arm), vélo (bicycle), magasin (shop), aéroport (airport), piano (piano), mot (word), matin (morning), chemin (street), village (village), soleil (sun), Pakistan (Pakistan).

Some feminine nouns: chaise (chair), pharmacie (drug store), jambe (leg), moto (motor-cycle), boutique (shop), gare (railway station), musique (music), phrase (sentence), nuit (night), rue (road), ville (city), lune (moon), Inde (India).

It is apparent from the above examples that no good rule decides the gender of a noun. One must remember it. In some specific cases, however, we can frame certain rules:

Human beings

masculine      feminine
homme (man)femme (woman)
garçon (boy)fille (girl)
père (father)mère (mother)
frère (brother)soeur (sister)
fiancé (boy friend)fiancée (girl friend)
roi (king)reine (queen)
prince (prince)princesse (princess)

Professions

masculine      feminine
acteur (actor)actrice (actress)
chanteur (male singer)chanteuse (female singer)
étudiant (male student)étudiante (female student)
médecin (male doctor)médecin (lady doctor)

Note that there is again no rule that tells how to generate the feminine form from the masculine form (and vice versa).

Regular suffixes

For certain nouns, the termination patterns (i.e. the suffixes) determine the genders of the nouns. For example, a noun that ends with `age' is usually masculine [Example: `village' (village) is masculine. Exception: `plage' (beach) is feminine]. We list here a set of regular suffixes and the corresponding genders. For some of these, there are exceptions. The rules are, nevertheless, useful in practice and should be remembered.

Suffix     Gender     Examples

agemasculinele visage (the face), le garage (the garage), l'étage (the floor, storey), le pourcentage (the percentage), le reportage (the report)
éefemininela journée (the day), la soirée (the evening), l'année (the year), la chaussée (road), la poupée (the doll, puppet)
ementmasculinel'appartement (the apartment), le gouvernement (the government), le vêtement (the cloth), l'amusement (the entertainment), l'avancement (the acceleration), le placement (the housing or accommodation)
essefemininel'addresse (the address), la vitesse (the speed), la jeunesse (the youth), la princesse (the princess), la tigresse (the tigress), la confesse (the confession)
iefemininela vie (the life), l'académie (the academy), la batterie (the battery), l'économie (economy), la librairie (the book shop), la boulangerie (the bakery), la roupie (the rupee)
iermasculinele cahier (the exercise-book or notebook), le calendrier (the calendar), l'escalier (the staircase), le cendrier (the ash-tray), l'entier (the integer), le papier (the paper)
ismemasculinel'hypnotisme (the hypnotism), le magnétisme (the magnetism), le mécanisme (the mechanism), l'optimisme (the optimism), le pessimisme (the pessimism), le tourisme (the tourism)
oirmasculinele couloir (the corridor, passage), le miroir (the mirror), le mouchoir (the handkerchief), le rasoir (the safety razor), le soir (the evening)
femininela capacité (the capacity), l'égalité (the equality), l'électricité (the electricity), la nationalité (the nationality), la possibilité (the possibility)
tionfemininel'éducation (the education), la négation (the negation), la ponction (the puncture), la souscription (the subscription)
urefemininel'aventure (the adventure), la confiture (the jam), l'heure (the hour), la mercure (the mercury), la température (the temperature), la voiture (the car)

Special nouns

Go to table of contents

Number

In general the plural form of a French noun is obtained by appending an `s' to the singular form. Some examples are given below:

Singular     Plural
la table (the table)les tables (the tables)
une main (a hand)deux mains (two hands)
mon livre (my book)mes livres (my books)
une bouteille de vin (a bottle of wine)des bouteilles de vin (bottles of wine)

There are many exceptions to this simple rule. For some specific suffixes of the singular form of the noun, the plural form can be derived following some specific rules. In the other cases, the plural form is completely irregular. Let's take examples.

Suffix `al' and `ail' change to the suffix `aux' in the plural form.

un cheval (a horse) - des chevaux (horses)
un animal (an animal) - des animaux (animals)
un journal (a magazine or newspaper) - des journaux (magazines or newspapers)
un travail (a work) - des travaux (works)

Nouns ending with `eu', `ou' or `eau' append an `x' in the plural form.

le cheveu (the hair, singular) - les cheveux (the hair, plural)
le jeu (the game) - les jeux (the games)
le bijou (the jewel) - les bijoux (the jewels)
l'oiseau (the bird) - les oiseaux (the birds)

Nouns ending with `s' and `x' do not change in the plural form.

un bras (an arm) - deux bras (two arms)
un mois (a month) - douze mois (twelve months)
un fils (a son) - trois fils (three sons)
un prix (a prize) - cent prix (hundred prizes)

Irregular plurals

un oeil (an eye) - deux yeux (two eyes)
monsieur (Mr.) - messieurs (Mr. - plural)
madame (Mrs.) - mesdames (Mrs. - plural)
mademoiselle (Miss.) - mesdemoiselles (Miss. - plural)

Go to table of contents

Pronouns

Singular Plural
French   English         French   English


JeINousWe
TuYou (Informal)
VousYou (Formal)VousYou
Il/ElleHe/SheIls/EllesThey

Possessive adjectives

English     French
masculine
singular
    feminine
singular
    plural

mymonmames
yourtontates
his/hersonsases
ournotrenotrenos
yourvotrevotrevos
theirleurleurleurs

Examples

J'habite à Bangalore. - I live at Bangalore.
Mon frère habite à Bombay. - My brother lives at Bombay.
Ma soeur habite à Madras. - My sister lives at Madras.
Mes parents habitent à Calcutta. - My parents live at Calcutta.
Où habitent vos grand-parents? - Where do your grand-parents live?

Alternative form of the pronouns

PronounJeTuIlElleNousVousIlsElles
Alternative formMoiToiLuiElleNousVousEuxElles

These pronouns are called `les pronoms personnels toniques'. These are used in certain specific circumstances.

After certain prepositions (like avec, sans, pour, devant, chez etc.)

Je mange avec toi. - I eat with you.
Elle vient chez moi. - She comes to my house.
As an emphasis at the beginning of a sentence
Moi, je suis étudiant. - I am a student.
Person 1 (to Person 2): J'ai faim. (I am hungry)
Person 2 (to Person 1): Moi aussi et (about Person 3) lui aussi. (I too and he too)

Go to table of contents

Adjectives

The problem with a French adjective is that it takes a form that depends heavily on the gender and number of the noun that the adjective qualifies. In general, there are four forms of an adjective - masculine/feminine singular/plural. Luckily enough these four forms normally follow specific termination patterns in most of the cases. Unfortunately there are many exceptions to this simple rule.

Regular adjectives

To start with we state the regular termination patterns for an adjective. In the following table `-' denotes the stem of an adjective. (In most of the cases, these stems are listed as head-words in dictionaries.)

     masculine     feminine
singular--e
plural-s-es

We need examples to illustrate. Consider the four forms of `grand' (which means great):

Example 1

  1. Masculine, singular: un grand homme (a great man)
  2. Feminine, singular: une grande femme (a great woman)
  3. Masculine, plural: de grands hommes (great men)
  4. Feminine, plural: de grandes femmes (great women)
Note that the indefinite article becomes `de' before a plural adjective.

The second example illustrates the fact that the adjective follows the same termination patterns when used in sentences like `He is pretty' or `She is pretty'.

Example 2

  1. Masculine, singular: Il est joli. (He is pretty.)
  2. Feminine, singular: Elle est jolie. (She is pretty.)
  3. Masculine, plural: Ils sont jolis. (They are pretty.)
  4. Feminine, plural: Elles sont jolies. (They are pretty.)

Note that the same termination patterns hold even in sentences `I am tired' or `We are tired'. In this case, the exact form of the adjective depends on the gender of the speaker(s).

Example 3

  1. Masculine, singular: Je suis fatigué. (I am tired.)
  2. Feminine, singular: Je suis fatiguée. (I am tired.)
  3. Masculine, plural: Nous sommes fatigués. (We are tired.)
  4. Feminine, plural: Nous sommes fatiguées. (We are tired.)

It is customary in French to put the adjective after the noun it qualifies, as in the following examples:

C'est un homme blond. (This is a blond man.)
C'est une femme blonde. (This is a blond woman.)
On ne mange pas de poisson cru. (One does not eat raw fish.)
In some cases, the adjective comes before the noun. In those cases, the meaning of the adjective changes. For example, we have seen that
Il est un grand homme.
means `He is a great man'. On the contrary, the usual construction
Il est un homme grand.
means that `He is a tall man'!!

Go to table of contents

Irregular adjectives

Adjectives ending with `e'

Adjectives that end with `e' do not change in the feminine form. An example is given below:
  1. Masculine, singular: Le livre est rouge. (The book is red.)
  2. Feminine, singular: La fleur est rouge. (The flower is red.)
  3. Masculine, plural: Les livres sont rouges. (The books are red.)
  4. Feminine, plural: Les fleurs sont rouges. (The flowers are red.)

Adjectives ending with `n'

Some adjectives ending with `n' adds `ne' (instead of a `e') to give its feminine form. Most of these adjectives denote the nationality of a country. Some examples are given below:
  1. Masculine, singular: Je suis indien. (I am an Indian.)
  2. Feminine, singular: Je suis indienne. (I am an Indian.)
  3. Masculine, plural: Nous sommes indiens. (We are Indian.)
  4. Feminine, plural: Nous sommes indiennes. (We are Indian.)
Other examples include `européen' (European), italien (Italian) etc. A different type of example is `bon' (good) or ancien (ancient, old). Recall the greetings:
Bon après-midi! (Good afternoon!)
Bonne nuit! (Good night!)
Some adjectives that end with `n' but are regular, include `plein' (full), `brun' (brown) etc.

Adjectives ending with `s'

Some adjectives ending with `s' adds 'se' to give the feminine form.
Le doigt est gros. (The finger is big.)
La tête est grosse. (The head is big.)
Regular adjectives ending with `s' include `mauvais' (bad), français (French) etc.

Adjectives ending with `el', `ul' and `eil'

These adjectives usually append `le' to form the feminine forms.
C'est le principe essentiel. (That is the essential principle.)
C'est l'idée essentielle. (That is the essential idea.)

Adjectives ending with `al'

The adjectives ending with `al' are regular in the feminine form. For example,
le sujet spécial (the special subject)
l'année spéciale (the special year)
However these adjectives are irregular in the masculine, plural form.
les sujets spécaux (the special subjects)
les années spéciales (the special years)

Adjectives ending with `f'

For such an adjective the feminine form is obtained by changing the `f' to `v' and then adding an `e'.
un étudiant attentif (an attentive male student)
une étudiante attentive (an attentive female student)

Adjectives ending with `er' or `et'

In these cases, the `er' changes to `ère' and the `et' changes to `ète' in the feminine form.
le dernier appartement (the last apartment)
la dernière maison (the last house)

un livre secret (a secret book)
une lettre secrète (a secret letter)

Adjectives ending with `eux' or `oux'

The forms of these adjectives are as follows:
  1. Masculine, singular: dangereux (dangerous)
  2. Feminine, singular: dangereuse
  3. Masculine, plural: dangereux
  4. Feminine, plural: dangereuses

Totally irregular adjectives

Some adjectives do not comply with any rule described so far. A good example is provided by `nouveau' (which means `new'). The forms are given below:
  1. Masculine, singular: le nouveau danseur (the new dancer), le nouvel acteur (the new actor)
  2. Feminine, singular: la nouvelle danseuse (the new (female) dancer)
  3. Masculine, plural: les nouveux danseurs (the new dancers)
  4. Feminine, plural: les nouvelles danseuses (the new (female) dancers)
Look at the two forms in the masculine singular. If the adjective is followed by a vowel (or vowel sound), one should use the second form. Another adjective which follows similar termination patterns as `nouveau' is `beau' (beautiful).

Some other irregular adjectives are listed below:
masculine, singular     feminine, singular     meaning
blancblanchewhite
brefbrèvebrief, short
douxdoucegentle
fauxfaussefalse
favorifavoritefavorite
fou (or `fol' before vowel)follemad
fraisfraîchefresh
gentilgentillenice
grecgrecqueGreek
longlonguelong
publicpubliquepublic
rouxroussethe rust color
secsèchedry
vieuxvieilleold

Go to table of contents

Antonyms

In this section, we list some adjectives and their antonyms.
Adjective  Meaning    Antonym  Meaning


agréablepleasantdésagréableunpleasant
ancienancient, oldmoderne ou nouveaumodern or new
assissittingdeboutstanding
beaubeautifullaid ou mocheugly
bongoodmauvaisbad
calmecalmbruyantnoisy
chaudhotfroidcold
cher, coûteuxexpensivebon marché, pas chercheap
clairclear, light (colored)sombredark, gloomy
content ou heureuxpleased, happy, gladmalcontent ou tristeunhappy, sad
directdirectindirectindirect
égalequalinégalunequal
étroitnarrowlargewide, broad
facileeasydifficiledifficult
futurfutureactuel ou passépresent or past
gentilnice, pleasant, kindméchantmalicious, wicked, evil
grandbigpetitsmall
hauthighbas (f. basse)low
honnêtehonestmalhonnêtedishonest
inférieurinferiorsupérieursuperior
intelligentintelligentbêtestupid
intéressantinterestingennuyeuxboring
intérieurinner, interiorextérieurouter, exterior
jeuneyoungvieuxold, aged
légerlightlourd, pesantheavy
longlongcourtshort
mariémarriedcélibataireunmarried
nationalnationalrégional ou provincialregional or provincial
normalnormalanormalabnormal
pleinfullvideempty
possiblepossibleimpossibleimpossible
premierfirstdernierlast
prudentcautious, carefulimprudentcareless, rash
publicpublicprivéprivate
richerichpauvrepoor
saledirtypropreclean
souriantsmilingtristesad
sympathiquenice, pleasantantipathiquedisagreeable
timidetimidcourageuxcourageous
vraitruefauxfalse

Go to table of contents

Demonstrative adjectives (This / That)

masculine, singularce   ce garçon (this/that boy)
masculine, singular (before a vowel sound)cet   cet homme (this/that man), cet animal (this/that animal)
feminine, singularcettecette femme (this/that woman)
masculine or singular, pluralcesces arbres (these/those trees), ces lampes (these/those lamps)

Go to table of contents

Adjectives denoting quantity

Adjective    Meaning
beaucoupa lot
assezenough
tropexcessive, too many
peulittle
un peua little
un morceau / une tranchea piece / a slice
deux morceaux / deux tranchestwo pieces / two slices
une bouteille / un pota bottle / a jar
dix bouteilles / dix potsten bottles / ten jars
un kilo / un litrea kilo / a liter
trois kilos / trois litresthree kilos / three liters

These adjectives are used in the following way:

adjective + de (or d') + noun (singular or plural)
Note that one should not insert an article (definite, indefinite or partitive) between `de' and the noun.

Examples:

  1. Elle a gagné beaucoup de prix. - She has won many prizes.
  2. J'ai trop de travail. - I have too much work.
  3. Il y a assez de livres. - There are enough books.
  4. Nous avons un litre / cinq litres d'huile. - We have one liter / five liters of oil.
  5. Voici huit bouteilles de bière et deux tranches de pain. - Here are eight bottles of beer and two slices of bread.

Go to table of contents

Verb conjugation - Present tense

General conjugation patterns

French verbs fall in three groups depending on whether the infinitive form of the verb ends with -er, -ir or -re. Verbs ending with -er are said to constitute `the first group' of verbs, whereas those ending with -ir and -re constitute the second and the third groups respectively.

-er
Most of the verbs in the first group follow a specific conjugation pattern. This is:
Je + stem + -e       Nous + stem + -ons
Tu + stem + -esVous + stem + -ez
Il/Elle + stem + -eIls/Elles + stem + -ent

Examples

Regular conjugation pattern: parler (to talk), habiter (to live), s'appeler (to call oneself), chanter (to sing), écouter (to listen), manger (to eat), commencer (to begin), rester (to stay).

Irregular conjugation pattern: aller (to go), acheter (to go).

-ir
Verbs in the second group are less regular in terms of a fixed conjugation pattern. However, in many cases the pattern shown below is followed.
Je + stem + -s       Nous + stem + -ons
Tu + stem + -sVous + stem + -ez
Il/Elle + stem + -tIls/Elles + stem + -ent

In some other cases, the following pattern is used.

Je + stem + -s       Nous + stem + -ssons
Tu + stem + -sVous + stem + -ssez
Il/Elle + stem + -tIls/Elles + stem + -ssent

Examples

Regular conjugation pattern of the first type: partir (to leave), sortir (to go out).

Regular conjugation pattern of the second type: finir (to finish), choisir (to choose), rougir (to turn red, to blush).

Irregular conjugation pattern: avoir (to have), vouloir (to want), vouloir (would like), pouvoir (to be able), savoir (to know), venir (to come).

-re
There is practically no good general rule to describe the conjugation pattern of the verbs in the third group. Most of these verbs are irregular.

Examples

être (to be), faire (to do), connaître (to know), comprendre (to understand), lire (to read), écrire (to write), boire (to drink), prendre (to take (food etc.)), vendre (to sell).

Go to table of contents

Some common verbs

Go to table of contents

être (to be)

Je suis       Nous sommes
Tu esVous êtes
Il/Elle estIls/Elles sont

Examples:

  1. Paris est une ville française. - Paris is a French city.
  2. Nous sommes dans un magasin de musique. - We are in a music shop.
  3. Ils sont à l'école. - They are in the school.
  4. Je suis étudiant. - I am a student.
  5. Vous êtes prêts? - Are you ready?

avoir (to have)

J'ai       Nous avons
Tu asVous avez
Il/Elle aIls/Elles ont

Examples:

  1. Nous avons faim/soif. - We are hungry/thirsty. (Lit. We have hunger/thirst.)
  2. Le garçon a 12 (douze) ans. - The boy is 12 years old. (Lit. The boy has 12 years.)
  3. Tu as un dîplome. - You have a diploma.
  4. J'ai deux mains. - I have two hands.
  5. Vous avez raison / tort. - You are right / wrong. (In French, you cannot be right or wrong. You must have reason or otherwise!)

faire (to do, to make)

Je fais       Nous faisons
Tu faisVous faites
Il/Elle faitIls/Elles font

Examples:

  1. Qu'est-ce qu'ils font? - What are they doing?
  2. Faites un projet de week-end. - Make a plan for the weekend.
  3. Je fais du tennis / du ski. - I play tennis / ski.

habiter (to live)

J'habite       Nous habitons
Tu habitesVous habitez
Il/Elle habiteIls/Elles habitent

Examples:

  1. J'habite à Bangalore. - I live in Bangalore.
  2. Où habitent vos parents? - Where do your parents live?
  3. Vous habitez au Japon / en Espagne / aux États-Unis. - You live in Japan / Spain / the USA.
  4. Nous habitons boulevard St. Michel / Rue Pascal / avenue de la gare. - We live on St. Michel boulevard / Pascal street / station road.

Note: habiter + Preposition

  1. habiter + au / en / aux + pays (country), depending on whether the name of the country is masculine / faminine / plural respectively.
  2. habiter + à + ville (city)
  3. habiter + rue / chemin / boulevard / avenue ( road / street etc) [No preposition is needed].

parler (to speak)

Je parle       Nous parlons
Tu parlesVous parlez
Il/Elle parleIls/Elles parlent

Examples:

  1. Nous parlons l'anglais et le français. - We speak English and French.
  2. Elle ne parle pas l'allemand. - She does not speak German.
Note: All languages are masculine. However, the word `langue', which means language, is feminine.

dire (to say, to tell)

Je dis       Nous disons
Tu disVous dites
Il/Elle ditIls/Elles disent

Examples:

  1. Nous ne disons pas de vérité. - We do not tell the truth.
  2. Elle dit trop de mots. - She says too many words.

s'appeler (to call oneself)

Je m'appelle       Nous nous appelons
Tu t'appellesVous vous appelez
Il/Elle s'appelleIls/Elles s'appellent

Examples:

  1. Comment tu t'appelles? - What's your name? (Lit. How do you call yourself?)
  2. Je m'appelle Barda. - My name is Barda. (Lit. I call myself Barda.)

vouloir (to want)

Je veux       Nous voulons
Tu veuxVous voulez
Il/Elle veutIls/Elles veulent

Examples:

  1. [vouloir + infinitive] Je veux aller à Paris. - I want to go to Paris.
  2. [vouloir + article] Je veux un café. - I want (a) coffee.

vouloir (would like)

Je voudrais       Nous voudrions
Tu voudraisVous voudriez
Il/Elle voudraitIls/Elles voudraient

Examples:

  1. [vouloir + nom (noun)]
    Je voudrais un café. - I would like (a) coffee.
  2. [vouloir + infinitif (infinitive)]
    Nous voudrions aller à Mysore. - We would like to go to Mysore.
    Ils voudraient rencontrer M. Das. - They would like to meet Mr. Das.

connaître (to know)

Je connais       Nous connaissons
Tu connaisVous connaissez
Il/Elle connaîtIls/Elles connaissent

Examples:

  1. Je connais Monsieur et Madame Brun. - I know Mr. and Mrs. Brun.
  2. Il connaît boulevard St. Michel. - He knows St. Michel boulevard.

savoir (to know)

Je sais       Nous savons
Tu saisVous savez
Il/Elle saitIls/Elles savent

Examples:

  1. [savoir + infinitif]
    Nous savons parler français. - We know how to speak French.
    Il sait bien nager. - He knows swimming well.
    Mon ami sait conduire une voiture. - My friend knows how to drive a car.
  2. [savoir + comment / quel / ...]
    Je sais comment elle s'appelle. - I know her name. (Lit. I know how she calls herself.)
    Je sais quel est son nom. - I know what his/her name is.
    Je ne sais pas quel âge il a. - I don't know his age. (Lit. I don't know what age he has.)

Note: The difference between `connaître' and `savoir' is that the former is used to denote the familiarity of a person (or some persons) with another person (or persons) or with a place etc. `savoir', on the other hand, is employed to denote the knowledge of a person (or persons) to do some thing or the knowledge of some information. Grammatically, `connaître' is always followed by a noun indicating a person or place etc, whereas `savoir' is followed either by the infinitive form of a verb or by a WH question (what, how etc.).

In English both these verbs are translated as `to know'. If you know German, it is easier for you to understand the distinction between these verbs. The German equivalent of `connaître' is `kennen', whereas that of `savoir' is `wissen'.

comprendre (to understand)

Je comprends       Nous comprenons
Tu comprendsVous comprenez
Il/Elle comprendIls/Elles comprennent

Examples:

  1. Je ne comprends pas. - I do not understand.

aller (to go)

Je vais       Nous allons
Tu vasVous allez
Il/Elle vaIls/Elles vont

Examples:

  1. Je vais au cours de français. - I go to the French class.
  2. Il va au foyer d'étudiants. - He goes to the students' hostel.
  3. Vous allez à la ville / montagne / mer. - You go to the city / mountain / sea.
  4. Nous allons à l'hôpital / l'ecole. - We go to the hospital / school.
  5. Tu vas aux États-Unis. - You go to the USA.

Note: aller + preposition + definite article (to go to)

  1. aller + à + le = aller au
  2. aller + à + la = aller à la
  3. aller + à + l' = aller à l'
  4. aller + à + les = aller aux

venir (to come)

Je viens       Nous venons
Tu viensVous venez
Il/Elle vientIls/Elles viennent

Examples:

  1. Je viens d'Inde. - I come from India.
  2. D'où viens-tu? - Where do you come from?
  3. Elle vient de la ville. - She comes from the city.
  4. Nous venons du théâtre. - We come from the theater.
  5. Vous venez des États-Unis. - You come from the USA.
  6. Tu viens de l'Autriche. - You come from Austria.

Note: venir + preposition + definite article (to come from)

  1. venir + de + le = venir du
  2. venir + de + la = venir de la
  3. venir + de + l' = venir de l'
  4. venir + de + les = venir des

arriver (to arrive)

J'arrive       Nous arrivons
Tu arrivesVous arrivez
Il/Elle arriveIls/Elles arrivent

Examples:

  1. Le train arrive de Madras à Bangalore. - The train comes (lit. arrives) from Madras to Bangalore.
  2. J'arrive au / du cinéma. - I come to / from the cinema.
  3. Ils arrivent à / de l'hôpital. - They come to / from the hospital.

entrer (to enter)

J'entre       Nous entrons
Tu entresVous entrez
Il/Elle entreIls/Elles entrent

Examples:

  1. Nous entrons dans la Salle. - We enter into the classroom.
  2. Amit entre dans le théâtre. - Amit enters into the theater.

rentrer (to return)

Je rentre       Nous rentrons
Tu rentresVous rentrez
Il/Elle rentreIls/Elles rentrent

Examples:

  1. Il rentre chez lui. - He returns to his house.

partir (to leave)

Je pars       Nous partons
Tu parsVous partez
Il/Elle partIls/Elles partent

Examples:

  1. Nous partons de chez moi. - We leave from my house.
  2. Je pars du bureau de poste. - I leave from the post office.
  3. Soumen et Abhi partent à / pour Paris. - Soumen and Abhi leave for Paris.

sortir (to go out)

Je sors       Nous sortons
Tu sorsVous sortez
Il/Elle sortIls/Elles sortent

Examples:

  1. Sanjukta sort de la maison. - Sanjukta goes out of the house.

lire (to read)

Je lis       Nous lisons
Tu lisVous lisez
Il/Elle litIls/Elles lisent

Examples:

  1. Il lit le journal. - He reads the newspaper.
  2. Nous lisons des livres. - We read books.

écrire (to write)

J'écris       Nous écrivons
Tu écrisVous écrivez
Il/Elle écritIls/Elles écrivent

Examples:

  1. [écrire + à - to write to (somebody)] Vous écrivez à l'enfant / aux enfants. - You write to the child / the children.

commencer (to start)

Je commence       Nous commençons
Tu commencesVous commencez
Il/Elle commenceIls/Elles commencent

Examples:

  1. La pièce commence à cinq heures moins le quart. - The play (theater) starts at quarter to five.
  2. Nous commençons notre travail à neuf heures du matin. - We start our work at 9 O'clock in the morning.
  3. Nous commençons à travailler à 9 heures du matin. - We start working at 9 O'clock in the morning.

finir (to finish, to end)

Je finis       Nous finissons
Tu finisVous finissez
Il/Elle finitIls/Elles finissent

Examples:

  1. Le cours de français finit à six heures et demie du soir. - The French class finishes at half past six in the evening.
  2. Je finis mon travail à dix-huit heures. - I finish my work at 18 hours.
  3. Je finis de travailler à dix-huit heures. - I finish working at 18 hours.

pouvoir (can, to be able)

Je peux       Nous pouvons
Tu peuxVous pouvez
Il/Elle peutIls/Elles peuvent

Examples: [pouvoir + infinitive]

  1. Je peux chanter. - I can sing.
  2. Tu ne peux pas bien nager. - You can not swim well.

manger (to eat)

Je mange       Nous mangeons
Tu mangesVous mangez
Il/Elle mangeIls/Elles mangent

Examples:

  1. Abhi ne mange pas de viande, mais il mange du poisson. - Abhi does not eat meat, but he eats fish.

boire (to drink)

Je bois       Nous buvons
Tu boisVous buvez
Il/Elle boitIls/Elles boivent

Examples:

  1. Je bois de la bière / du vin. - I drink beer / wine.
  2. Buvez-vous du café / du thé / de l'eau? - Do you drink coffee / tea / water?

prendre (to take (food))

Je prends       Nous prenons
Tu prendsVous prenez
Il/Elle prendIls/Elles prennent

Examples:

  1. Je prends le déjeuner. - I take the lunch.
  2. Tu prends une tasse de café. - You take a cup of coffee.
  3. Prenez-vous du café? - Do you take coffee?

choisir (to choose, select)

Je choisis       Nous choisissons
Tu choisisVous choisissez
Il/Elle choisitIls/Elles choisissent

Examples:

  1. Nous choisissons un dessert. - We choose a dessert.
  2. Pratip choisit une salade. - Pratip chooses a salad.

acheter (to buy)

J'achète       Nous achetons
Tu achètesVous achetez
Il/Elle achèteIls/Elles achètent

Examples:

  1. J'achète l'appartement à M. Sengupta. - I buy the flat from Mr. Sengupta.
  2. Elle achète le pain dans la boulangerie. - She buys the bread from the bakery.

vendre (to sell)

Je vends       Nous vendons
Tu vendsVous vendez
Il/Elle vendIls/Elles vendent

Examples:

  1. Je vends un appartement à M. Sengupta. - I sell a flat to Mr. Sengupta.
  2. Elle vend le pain dans la boulangerie. - She sells bread in the bakery.

louer (to hire, to rent)

Je loue       Nous louons
Tu louesVous louez
Il/Elle loueIls/Elles louent

Examples:

  1. Il loue l'appartement 4000 roupies par mois. - He rents the apartment for 4000 rupees per month.
  2. L'apppartement loue 4000 roupies par mois. - The apartment is on rent for 4000 rupees per month.

écouter (to listen)

J'écoute       Nous écoutons
Tu écoutesVous écoutez
Il/Elle écouteIls/Elles écoutent

Examples:

  1. J'écoute de la musique. - I am listening (to) the music.

regarder (to watch, to look at)

Je regarde       Nous regardons
Tu regardesVous regardez
Il/Elle regardeIls/Elles regardent

Examples:

  1. Ne regarde pas le programme mauvais. - Don't watch the bad program.

voir (to see)

Je vois       Nous voyons
Tu voisVous voyez
Il/Elle voitIls/Elles voient

Examples:

  1. Sudipto voit le film «Titanic» au cinéma «Galaxy». - Sudipto sees the film `Titanic' in the cinema (hall) `Galaxy'.

donner (to give)

Je donne       Nous donnons
Tu donnesVous donnez
Il/Elle donneIls/Elles donnent

Examples:

  1. [donner + à (to give to (somebody))]
    Je donne le livre à mon ami. - I give the book to my friend.

falloir (should, have to)

Il faut

Examples:

  1. Il faut y aller. - One/I/We/You should go there.

Note: The verb `falloir' is used only with `il'.

Go to table of contents

Some other verbs

Here we list some other common verbs. Most of these verbs are regular. It should be easy to write the conjugation patterns for these verbs. (We have seen enough examples so far.) Look at the section on general conjugation patterns. If you still have doubts, you may consult the on-line verb conjugator. For the non-regular verbs we mention the conjugation pattern in brief.

Verb    Meaning    Note on conjugation
adorerto love (a thing or to do something)regular
aimerto like (a thing or to do something)regular
préférerto prefer (a thing or to do something)regular, but the second é changes to è in all cases except with `nous' and `vous'
détesterto hate, detest (a thing or to do something)regular
conduireto drivesimilar to lire
jouerto play (a game or a musical instrument)regular
étudierto studyregular
enseignerto teachregular
envoyerto sendJ'envoie / Tu envoies / Il/Elle envoie / Nous envoyons / Vous envoyez / Ils/Elles envoient
porterto wear, to put on (cloth etc.)regular
attendreto waitJ'attends / Tu attends / Il/Elle attend / Nous attendons / Vous attendez / Ils/Elles attendent
voyagerto travelSimilar to manger
chanterto singregular
danserto danceregular
resterto stayregular
se promenerto take a walkreflexive: Je me promène / Tu te promènes / Il/Elle se promène / Nous nous promenons / Vous vous promenez / Ils/Elles se promènent
se reposerto take rest, to relaxregular, reflexive
rencontrerto meet (somebody)regular
gagnerto win, to earnregular
travaillerto workregular
inviterto inviteregular
dormirto sleepJe dors / Tu dors / Il/Elle dort / Nous dormons / Vous dormez / Ils/Elles dorment
demanderto ask forregular
poserto ask (a question)regular
répondreto answer, replyJe réponds / Tu réponds / Il/Elle répond / Nous répondons / Vous répondez / Ils/Elles répondent
décrireto describesimilar to écrire
déjeunerto take lunchregular
dînerto take dinner, to dineregular

Examples

jouer + à + definite article + game (to play a game)
jouer au tennis / aux cartes (to play tennis / cards)

jouer + de + definite article + musical instrument (to play a musical instrument)
jouer du piano / du violon / de la guitare (to play piano / violin / guitar)

adorer / aimer / préférer / detester + definite article + noun
J'aime la montagne / le ski (I like mountain / ski)

adorer / aimer / préférer / detester + infinitive
J'aime aller à la montagne / faire du ski (I like to go to the mountain / to do skiing)

Go to table of contents

Reflexive verbs

Reflexive verbs (more generally, pronominal verbs) are not used in English. A reflexive verb takes an object which is a pronoun and which stands for the subject of the sentence. We have seen several examples of reflexive verbs in French. The first one is s'appeler (to call oneself). In a sentence like `Je m'appelle Barda', the pronominal object is `me' which means `myself'. [Note that m'appelle = me + appelle] The literal translation of this sentence in English is: `I call myself Barda'. One cannot use the pronominal object to stand for a person different from the subject, that is, one cannot use this verb in sentences like `You call me Barda'. The only allowed usages are `You call yourself Chhorda', `He calls himself Mejda' etc.

Some other reflexive verbs that we have seen so far include `se promener' (to take a walk), `se reposer' (to relax). That is, `Je me promène' literally means `I take a walk myself'. Clearly the `myself' is completely redundant in the English translation. But the French sentence must have the pronominal object `me'.

Another language that makes frequent use of reflexive verbs is German. If you already know German, the concept of reflexive verbs would not be alien to you. We note in passing that the German equivalents of s'appeler (heißen) and se promener (spazierengehen) are not reflexive, whereas that of se reposer (sich entspannen) is reflexive. Two other verbs that are reflexive in both French and German are:

French: se souvenir (de + ...)
German: sich (an + ...) erinnern
English: to remember, to recall (Lit. to remind oneself)

French: se raser
German: sich rasieren
English: to (have a) shave

Pronominal verbs are used in other contexts too, where the use of the object alters the meaning of the sentence. A full description of all these is beyond the scope of this introductory tutorial.

Go to table of contents

Prepositions

Use of prepositions

à (to, at, in)

This is one of the most common prepositions used in French. Before we look at the usage of this preposition, we list the forms of `à' when (immediately) followed by the definite article.
à + le = au
à + la = à la
à + l' = à l'
à + les = aux
`à' is used in many cases:
Movement to a place
Je vais au restaurant. - I am going to the restaurant.
Tu pars aux États-Unis. - You leave for the USA.
Position
à is used to denote position of an object or action at a city and some other places.
Mon frère habite à Mumbai. - My brother lives at Mumbai.
Il reste à la maison. - He stays at the house.
Les enfants sont à l'école. - The children are in the school.
au rez-de-chaussée / premier étage / dernier étage - at the ground / first / top floor
Time
Je commence mon travail à 8h. - I start my work at 8 o'clock.
À mercredi! - See you on Wednesday!
To (somebody)
Soumen écrit à ses parents. - Soumen writes to his parents.
Je donne le crayon à Debu. - I give the pencil to Debu.
Before an infinitive
Je commence à travailler. - I start working.
Il y a l'appartement à vendre / louer. - There is the apartment for sale / rent.
With some modes of transportation
à bicyclette / vélo - by bicycle
à pied - on foot
à cheval - on horseback

en (in)

The preposition `en' is used in the following cases:
With countries
Its form is `au', `en' or `aux' depending on whether the name of the country is masculine, feminine or plural.
Il habite au Maroc. - He lives in Morocco.
Je suis en Inde. - I am in India.
Elle va aux États-unis. - She goes to the USA.
With seasons and months
En été il fait chaud. - In summer it is hot.
En janvier il neige. - In January it snows.
With vehicles
Nous allons en bus. - We go by bus.
en avion / train / métro / bateau - by airplane / train / metro / boat
With languages
Il chante des chansons en beaucoup de langues. - He sings songs in many languages.
J'écris une lettre en anglais. - I am writing a letter in English.

de (from, of)

The conjugation of `de' with the articles is as follows:
de + le = du
de + la = de la
de + l' = de l'
de + les = des
de + un = d'un
de + une = d'une
Examples of the usage of `de' are given below:
From a place or time
Ils sortent de la maison. - They come out of the house.
Je pars de la bibliothèque. - I leave (from) the library.
Le train de Madras arrive à 21h15. - The train from Madras arrives at 21:15 hours.
The preposition `de' is often used in conjunction with `à' to denote `from ... to ...'.
J'arrive de Paris à Bangalore. - I arrive (go) from Paris to Bangalore.
Nous travaillons de 8h à 18h. - We work from 8 hours to 18 hours.
of (to denote possession)
C'est la rue du cinéma. - This is the road of the cinema.
C'est un cahier d'un étudiant. - This is a notebook of a student.
C'est le livre de mon ami. - This is the book of my friend.
Il est dans un magasin de musique. - He is in a music shop (lit. shop of music).
As a complement
Je parle de mon ami. - I am talking about my friend.
Cette chaise est pleine de poussière. - This chair is full of dust.
Before an infinitive
Nous finissons de travailler. - We finish working.

dans (on, in, at)

`dans' is used to denote the location of an action. (Note that `à' is often used to denote movement towards a place (or time), whereas `de' is used to denote movement from a place (or time).)
Je rencontre mon amie dans la rue. - I meet my friend on the road.
Le garçon achète le pain dans la boulangerie. - The boy buys bread from (or at) the bakery.
L'étudiante entre dans la Salle. - The (female) student enters into the classroom.

chez (in/at the house of)

This is used to denote the location of some action at somebody's house.
Nous déjeunons chez moi. - We take lunch at my house.
Il va chez le médecin. - He is going to the doctor's house.
Vous partez de chez lui. - You leave from his house.

avec (with), sans (without), pour (for), par (by, per)

Ils vont avec / sans moi. - They are going with / without me.
Nous partons pour Mysore. - We leave for Mysore.
C'est un portrait d'un grand musicien par le journaliste. - This is a report about a great musician by the journalist.
Je loue l'appatement 4000 roupies par mois. - I rent the apartment for 4000 rupees per month.

Prepositions denoting positions of an object or action with respect to another

Some of these prepositions are:
Les garçons jouent devant (/ derrière / à côté de) la maison. - The boys are playing in front of (/ behind / beside) the house.
avant de commencer le repas - before starting the meal

Go to table of contents

Appropriate prepositions after verbs

être + à     to be at some place
habiter + au / en / auxto live in a country (resp. masculine, feminine or plural)
habiter + àto live in a city
habiter + no prepositionto live on a street / road etc.
rester + àto stay at (some place)
aller + àto go to (a place)
venir + deto come from (a place)
arriver + àto arrive at (a place)
arriver + deto arrive from (a place)
entrer + dansto enter into (a place)
partir + deto leave from (a place)
partir + à / pourto leave for (a place)
sortir + deto come out of (a place)
écrire + àto write to (a person)
commencer + àto start at (a time)
commencer + à + infinitifto start a work
finir + àto finish at (a time)
finir + de + infinitifto finish a work
travailler + de + temps + à + tempsto work from a time to a time
travailler + jusqu'àto work till (a time)
acheter + àto buy from (somebody)
vendre + àto sell to (somebody)
donner + àto give to (somebody)
faire + de + definite articleto play (a game)
jouer + à + definite articleto play (a game)
jouer + de + definite articleto play (a musical instrument)

Go to table of contents

Adverbs and adverbial phrases

Some common adverbs

Go to table of contents

Construction of adverbs from adjectives

The general rule

In general, an adverb corresponding to an adjective can be obtained by appending `ment' to the feminine, singular form of the adjective. For example, `malheureux' means unfortunate. The feminine singular form of it is `malheureuse'. Therefore `unfortunately' is `malheureusement' in French. Some other examples are given below:

    
adjective    feminine, singularAdverb
certain (certain)certainecertainement (certainly)
normal (normal)normalenormalement (normally)
actuel (present)actuelleactuellement (presently)
dernier (last, latest)dernièredernièrement (recently)
collectif (collective)collectivecollectivement (collectively)
agréable (nice, pleasant)agréableagréablement (nicely, pleasantly)

Exceptions

Adjectives that end with a vowel usually append `ment' to the masculine (not feminine), singular form

vrai (true, real) - vraiment (truely, really)
absolu (absolute) - absolument (absolutely)

Exceptions: assidu (diligent) - assidûment (diligently)

Adjectives that end with `ant' or `ent' change the `nt' to `mment'

brillant (brilliant) - brillamment (brilliantly)
constant (constant) - constamment (constantly)
évident (obvious) - évidemment (obviously)

Some adverbs are the same as the corresponding adjectives (masculine, singular form)

haut (loud) - haut (aloud, loudly)
dur (hard) - dur (hard)

Go to table of contents

Position of an adverb in a sentence

In a sentence an adverb usually comes immediately after the (main) verb. For example,
Je vais rapidement à l'école. - I am going to the school fast.
Il sait bien nager. - He knows swimming well.
À Calcutta les chemins sont malheureusement très étroits. - In Calcutta, the streets are unfortunately very narrow.

Go to table of contents

2.2 Sentence construction

Negative sentences

In French, a negative sentence can be formed from an affirmative one by adding ne before the (main) verb and adding pas after the (main) verb. This can be illustrated through examples:

Affirmative     Negative


Elle va chez le médecin. (She goes to the doctor.) Elle ne va pas chez le médecin. (She doesn't go to the doctor.)
J'aime la musique classique. (I like classical music.) Je n'aime pas la musique classique. (I don't like classical music.)
Ils peuvent travailler jusqu'à minuit. (They want to work till midnight.) Ils ne peuvent pas travailler jusqu'à minuit. (They don't want to work till midnight.)
A Bangalore il y a bons restaurants. (In Bangalore, there are good restaurants.) A bangalore il n'y a pas bons restaurants. (In Bangalore, there are not good restaurants.)
C'est mon ami. (This is my friend.) Ce n'est pas mon ami. (This is not my friend.)

Under certain special circumstances, one has to make more or other changes than just adding `ne' and `pas' as discussed earlier. Some examples are given below. First we consider the case where the indefinite article (un, une, des) changes to `de'.

Affirmative     Negative


Il veut un dictionnaire. (He wants a dictionary.) Il ne veut pas de dictionnaire. (He does not want a dictionary.)
J'ai une soeur. (I have a sister.) Je n'ai pas de soeur. (I don't have a sister.)
Il y a des restaurants dans la rue. (There are restaurants on the road.) Il n'y a pas de restaurants dans la rue. (There are not restaurants on the road.)

Note that the definite article (le, la, les) does not change under such circumstances. For example,

Affirmative     Negative


Il veut le dictionnaire. (He wants the dictionary.) Il ne veut pas le dictionnaire. (He does not want the dictionary.)
J'aime beaucoup la chanson. (I like the song very much.) Je n'aime pas beaucoup la chanson. (I don't like the song very much.)

Finally, the partitive articles change like the indefinite articles, that is, `du', `de la' `des' etc. change to `de' in the negative sentence:
Affirmative     Negative


Je mange du chocolat. (I eat chocolate.) Je ne mange pas de chocolat. (I do not eat chocolate.)
Tu as de la chance. (You have chance.) Tu n'as pas de chance. (You do not have chance.)

Next we consider examples where some other changes are necessary.

Affirmative     Negative


J'ai déjà le livre. (I already have the book.) Je n'ai pas encore le livre. (I do not have the book yet.)
Elle préfère toujours aller à la montagne. (She always prefers to go to the mountain.) Elle ne préfère pas toujours aller à la montagne. (she does not prefer to go to the mountain always.) or Elle ne préfère jamais aller à la montagne. (She never prefers to go to the mountain.)
Nous mangeons souvent du poisson. (We often eat fish.) Nous ne mangeons pas souvent de poisson. (We do not eat fish often.) or Nous ne mangons jamais de poisson. (We never eat fish.)
Ils mangent parfois du poisson. (They sometimes eat fish.) Ils ne mangent jamais de poisson. (They never eat fish.)
Vous avez beaucoup de travail. (You have a lot of work.) Vous n'avez pas beaucoup de travail. (You do not have a lot of work.) or Vous n'avez pas du tout de travail. (You do not have any work at all.)
Tu détestes le thé et le café. (You dislike tea and coffee.) Tu ne détestes ni le thé ni le café. (You dislike neither tea nor coffee.)
J'aime aller à la mer. (I like to go to the sea.) Je n'aime pas aller à la mer. (I do not like to go to the sea.) or J'aime ne pas aller à la mer. (I like not to go to the sea.)

Go to table of contents

Interrogative sentences

Three forms of interrogative sentences

There are three ways in which one can frame interrogative sentences in French. Sentences in each of these three forms are translated the same way in English. These three forms are called the following in French.
  1. La langue familière
  2. La langue courante or la langue standarde
  3. La langue soignée
Let us illustrate the difference between these forms by means of examples.

Example 1

Declarative form: Vous aimez la mer. - You like the sea.

Interrogative forms:

  1. La langue familière: Vous aimez la mer?
  2. La langue courante / standarde: Est-ce que vous aimez la mer?
  3. La langue soignée: Aimez-vous la mer?
Each of these three sentences means: `Do you like the sea?'

Note that in the third type of construction, the subject comes after the verb. In such cases, one must use the hyphen (trait d'union).

Example 2

Declarative form: Nous allons au cours de français. - We go to the French class.

Interrogative forms:

  1. La langue familière: Nous allons au cours de français?
  2. La langue courante / standarde: Est-ce que nous allons au cours de français?
  3. La langue soignée: Allons-nous au cours de français?
Each of these three sentences means: `Do we go to the French class?'

Example 3

Declarative form: Il habite à Paris. - He lives in Paris.

Interrogative forms:

  1. La langue familière: Il habite à Paris?
  2. La langue courante / standarde: Est-ce qu'il habite à Paris?
  3. La langue soignée: Habite-t-il à Paris?
Each of these three sentences means: `Does he live at Paris?' Note how `que + il' becomes `qu'il'. Also note the introduction of a `t' between `Habite' and `il' in the third sentence. This happens because two vowels `e' and `i' would otherwise come next to each other. The next example illustrates the same with `elle' (she).

Example 4

Declarative form: Elle parle français. - She speaks French.

Interrogative forms:

  1. La langue familière: Elle parle français?
  2. La langue courante / standarde: Est-ce qu'elle parle français?
  3. La langue soignée: Parle-t-elle français?
Each of these three sentences means: `Does she speak French?'

Example 5

Declarative form: Soumen va avec toi. - Soumen goes with you.

Interrogative forms:

  1. La langue familière: Soumen va avec toi?
  2. La langue courante / standarde: Est-ce que Soumen va avec toi?
  3. La langue soignée: Soumen va-t-il avec toi?
Each of these three sentences means: Does Soumen go with you?

Example 6

Declarative form: Ananya dîne chez Anirban. - Ananya dines at Anirban's house.

Interrogative forms:

  1. La langue familière: Ananya dîne chez Anirban?
  2. La langue courante / standarde: Est-ce qu'Ananya dîne chez Anirban?
  3. La langue soignée: Ananya dîne-t-elle chez Anirban?
Each of these three sentences means: Does Ananya dine at Anirban's house?

Go to table of contents

WH questions (What, Who, How etc.)

French     English
combien (+ de)how many, how much
combien de tempshow long
commenthow
where
pourquoiwhy, what for
quandwhen
quel (quelle, quels, quelles)what, which
quiwho

Examples

Combien (How many, how much)

Comment (How)

Où (Where)

Pourquoi (Why)

Quand (When)

Quel, quelle, quels, quelles (What, which)

Qui (Who)

Go to table of contents

Imperative sentences

Verbs in the first group

Let us recall the conjugation pattern of the verb `parler' (to speak) in the present tense.
Nous parlons. (We speak.)
Vous parlez. (You speak.)
Tu parles. (You speak.)
The imperative forms corresponding to these sentences are as follows:
Parlons! (Let us speak!)
Parlez! (Speak!)
Parle! (Speak!)
Note that the `s' in `parles' does not appear in the imperative form. In general, it is true of most of the verbs in the first group (that is, the verbs whose infinitive forms end with `er'). Let us take another example: `aller' (to go). The conjugation patterns in the present tense are:
Nous allons. (We go.)
Vous allez. (You go.)
Tu vas. (You go.)
The corresponding imperative forms are
Allons! (Let us go!)
Allez! (Go!)
Va! (Go!)

Verbs in other groups

Now let us consider verbs in the second group (i.e. verbs ending with `ir'). The conjugation patterns for `venir' (to come) are as follows:
Nous venons. (We come.)
Vous venez. (You come.)
Tu viens. (You come.)
And the imperative forms are:
Venons! (Let us come!)
Venez! (Come!)
Viens! (Come!)
This is simpler than the previous examples. Here the verb remains exactly the same in all the three cases of imperative sentences as compared with the forms in the present tense. This is generally true for all verbs in the second and third groups (i.e. those ending with `ir' and 're').

Negative forms

The negative form of the imperative sentences can be obtained by adding ne before the verb and pas after the verb. For example, consider the imperative forms for `parler'. The negative of these sentences are:
Ne parlons pas! (Let's not speak!)
Ne parlez pas! (Don't speak!)
Ne parle pas! (Don't speak!)
For `aller' the negative forms are:
N'allons pas! (Let's not go!)
N'allez pas! (Don't go!)
Ne va pas! (Don't go!)

Other examples

Declarative     Imperative
Nous buvons du vin. (We drink wine.) Buvons du vin! (Let us drink wine!)
Vous faites un projet de week-end. (You make a plan for the week-end.) Faites un projet de week-end! (Make a plan for the week-end!)
Tu ne sors pas de la salle. (You do not go out of the classroom.) Ne sors pas de la salle! (Do not go out of the classroom!)
Vous ne criez pas. (You do not shout.) Ne criez pas! (Don't shout!)
- Répondez s'il vous plaît. (Please reply.)
- Allons-y! (Let's go there!)
Allez-y! (Go there!)
Vas-y! (Go there!)
Note: In the last example, the imperative form corresponding to `tu' is Vas-y! and NOT Va-y!. `y', in this example, means `there'.

Go to table of contents

3. Vocabulary


Common places

  • aéroport, m - airport
  • ambassade, f - embassy
  • autoroute, f - highway, motorway
  • avenue, f - avenue
  • banque, f - bank
  • bar, m - bar, buffet
  • bord, m - bank (of a river)
  • boulevard, m - boulevard
  • boutique, f - shop, store
  • bureau de poste, m - post office
  • café, m - cafeteria
  • campagne, f - countryside
  • cathédrale, f - cathedral
  • chemin, m - street
  • cinéma, m - cinema
  • consulat, m - consulate
  • discothèque, f - discotheque
  • école, f - school
  • église, f - church
  • endroit, m - place
  • foyer d'étudiants, m - students' hostel
  • gare, f - (railway) station
  • hôpital, m - hospital
  • hôtel, m - hotel
  • île, f - island
  • jardin, m - garden
  • lac, m - lake
  • lieu, m - place, scene (of an accident etc.)
  • magasin, m - shop, store
  • mairie, f - town hall
  • maison, f - house
  • marché, m - market
  • mer, f - sea
  • montagne, f - mountain
  • office de tourisme, m - tourism office
  • pays, m - country
  • pharmacie, f - drug store
  • plage, f - beach
  • port, m - port, harbor
  • restaurant, m - restaurant
  • rivière, f - river
  • rue, f - road
  • salle, f - room (class room, lecture hall)
  • salle de spectacle, f - theater
  • stade, m - stadium, stage
  • supermarché, m - supermarket
  • théâtre, m - theater
  • village, m - village
  • ville, f - city

  • est, m - east
  • nord, m - north
  • ouest, m - west
  • sud, m - south

Family

  • ami, m - friend
  • amie, f - girl friend
  • beau-fils, m - son-in-law
  • beau-frère, m - brother-in-law
  • beau-père, m - father-in-law
  • bébé, m - baby
  • belle-fille, f - daughter-in-law
  • belle-mère, f - mother-in-law
  • belle-soeur, f - sister-in-law
  • cousin, m - cousine
  • cousine, f - cousine
  • dame, f - lady
  • enfant, m - child
  • femme, f - woman, wife
  • fiancé, m - lover
  • fiancée, f - lover
  • fille, f - daughter, girl
  • fils, m - son
  • frère, m - brother
  • garçon, m - boy
  • grand-mère, f - grand mother
  • grands-parents, m,pl - grand parents
  • grand-père, m - grand father
  • homme, m - man
  • madame, f (abbr. Mme.) - Mrs.
  • mademoiselle, f (abbr. Mlle.) - Miss.
  • mari, m - husband
  • mère, f - mother
  • monsieur, m (abbr. M.) - Mr.
  • neveu, m - nephew
  • nièce, f - niece
  • oncle, m - uncle
  • parents, m,pl - parents
  • père, m - father
  • petit-enfant, m - grand child
  • petite-fille, f - grand daughter
  • petit-fils, m - grand son
  • soeur, f - sister
  • tante, f - aunt

Go to table of contents

Vehicles

Go to table of contents

Professions

Go to table of contents

Countries and nationality

Note: The name of a country is feminine, if either it starts with a vowel or it ends with e. In all other cases, the name is masculine.

Go to table of contents

Parts of body

  • barbe, f - beard
  • bouche, f - mouth
  • bras, m (also pl) - arm (also arms)
  • cheveux, m,pl - hair
  • corps, m - body
  • dent, f - tooth
  • doigt, m - finger
  • dos, m - back
  • droit, adj - right
  • estomac, m - stomach
  • gauche, adj - left
  • jambe, f - leg
  • joue, f - cheek
  • lunettes, f,pl - spectacles
  • main, f - hand
  • moustache, f - moustache
  • nez, m - nose
  • oeil, m (pl yeux) - eye
  • oreille, f - ear
  • pied, m - foot
  • santé, f - health
  • tête, f - head
  • ventre, m - stomach
  • visage, m - face

Colors

  • blanc - white
  • bleu - blue
  • blond - blond
  • brun - brown
  • gris - gray
  • jaune - yellow
  • marron - chestnut brown
  • noir - black
  • orange - orange
  • rose - pink
  • rosé - pinkish
  • rouge - red
  • roux - foxy red, of the rust color
  • vert - green
  • violet - magenta
  • violette - violet

Go to table of contents

House

Types of house

  • appartement, m - apartment, flat
  • bâtiment, m - building
  • immeuble, m - building, an apartment building
  • logement, m - accommodation, housing
  • maison, f - house
  • studio, m - studio
  • villa, f - villa

Floors

  • étage, m - floor
  • rez-de-chaussée, m - ground floor
  • premier étage, m - first floor
  • deuxième étage, m - second floor
  • dernier étage, m - top floor
  • toit, m - roof
  • sous-sol, m - basement

Parts of house

  • ascenseur, m - lift, elevator
  • chambre, f - room
  • chambre à coucher, f - bedroom
  • couloir, m - corridor, passage
  • cuisine, f - kitchen
  • entrée, f - entrance
  • escalier, m - staircase, stairs
  • fenêtre, f - window
  • garage, m - garage
  • moquette, f - fitted carpet
  • mur, m - wall
  • parquet, m - (wooden) floor
  • pièce, f - room
  • plafond, m - ceiling
  • plancher, m - floor
  • porte, f - door, gate
  • salle à manger, f - dining room
  • salle de bains, f - bathroom
  • salle de séjour, f - living room
  • salon, m - lounge, hall, sitting room
  • toilette, f - toilet
  • toit, m - roof
  • tuile, f - tile

Furnitures

  • armoire, f - cabinet, closet, cupboard
  • baignoire, f - buth tub
  • banc, m - bench
  • canapé, m - sofa
  • chaise, f - chair
  • douche, f - shower
  • fauteuil, m - arm-chair
  • fauteuil roulant, m - wheel-chair
  • glace, f - mirror
  • lampe, f - lamp
  • lit, m - bed
  • meubles, m,pl - furniture
  • miroir, m - mirror
  • table, f - table
  • tapis, m - carpet

Go to table of contents

Food

  • agneau, m - lamb
  • baguette, f - long French bread
  • banane, f - banana
  • beurre, m - butter
  • boeuf, m - beef
  • brioche, f - a kind of light sweet bun
  • canard, m - duck
  • carotte, f - carrot
  • champignon, m - mushroom
  • chocolat, m - chocolate
  • chou, m (pl choux) - cabbage
  • chou-fleur, m (pl choux-fleurs) - cauliflower
  • confiture, f - jam
  • crème, f - cream
  • croissant, m - a kind of crescent-shaped bread
  • dessert, m - dessert
  • farine, f - flour
  • fromage, m - cheese
  • fruit, m - fruit
  • gâteau, m - cake
  • glace, f - ice-cream
  • haricot, m - bean
  • huile, f - oil
  • lait, m - milk
  • lapin, m - rabbit
  • légume, m - vegetable
  • marmelade, f - marmalade, jam
  • moutarde, f - mustard
  • oeuf, m - egg
  • omelette, f - omelette
  • orange, f - orange
  • pain, m - bread
  • pois, m - pea
  • poisson, m - fish
  • poivre, m - pepper
  • pomme de terre, f - potato
  • potage, m - soup
  • poulet, m - chicken
  • riz, m - rice
  • salade, f - salad
  • sel, m - salt
  • soupe, f - soup
  • sucre, m - sugar
  • tomate, f - tomato
  • veau, m - veal
  • viande, f - meat
  • vinaigre, m - vinegar

Drinks

  • alcool, m - alcohol
  • bière, f - beer
  • café, m - coffee
  • champagne, m - champagne
  • cognac, m - cognac, brandy
  • eau, f - water
  • jus de fruit, m - fruit juice
  • rhum, m - rum
  • thé, m - tea
  • vin, m - wine
  • vin blanc, m - white wine
  • vin rouge, m - red wine
  • whisky, m - whiskey

Cutlery items

  • assiette, f - plate
  • bol, m - bowl
  • bouteille, f - bottle
  • carafe, f - jug
  • couteau, f - knife
  • cuillère, f - spoon
  • fourchette, f - fork
  • serviette, f - napkin
  • tasse, f - cup
  • verre, m - glass

At restaurant

  • garçon, m - waiter
  • serveuse, f - waitress
  • menu, m - menu
  • carte, f - card
  • plat, m - dish (of food)

Meals

  • petit déjeuner, m - breakfast
  • prendre le petit déjeuner, verb - to take breakfast
  • déjeuner, m - lunch
  • déjeuner, verb - to take lunch
  • dîner, m - diner
  • dîner, verb - to dine

Medicines

  • drogue, f - drug
  • médicament, m - medicine

Go to table of contents

Some instruments and objects

Books etc.

  • livre, m - book
  • cahier, m - notebook, exercise book
  • journal, m - newspaper
  • stylo, m - pen
  • crayon, m - pencil

Musical instruments

  • guitare, f - guitar
  • piano, m - piano
  • violon, m - violin
  • clavier, m - keyboard
  • harmonica, m - harmonica

Postal items

Go to table of contents

Copyright notice

© 1998 by Abhijit Das (abhij@csa.iisc.ernet.in). Permission is hereby granted to distribute and mirror it free of charge as long as the author gets credit and this copyright notice remains intact.

Download PostScript Version of the tutorial


Abhijit Das (Barda)
Department of Computer Science and Automation
Indian Institute of Science
Bangalore 560 012
INDIA
e-mail : abhij@csa.iisc.ernet.in
URL : http://www.oocities.org/SiliconValley/Lab/6024/


This page hosted by    Get your own Free Home Page