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Table of Contents
                            Understanding French
Grammar I
Introduction to French
Liaison and Elision
Nasal Sounds
Getting Ready for the Basics
Cognates are words that are the same or similar in both Fren
Greetings and Salutations
Cardinal numbers
Nouns of number
Ordinal numbers
Days and Dates
Days and months
False Friends
Understanding Articles
Four French definite articles express the English word “the;
Definite Articles
Indefinite Articles
Partitive Articles
Definite versus Partitive
Demonstrative Adjectives
The Gender of Nouns
Obvious masculine and feminine nouns
Nouns that give you a hint
Nouns that change gender
Nouns with gender that must be memorized
The Plural of Nouns
Regular Verbs
- er verbs
- ir verbs
- re verbs
- er verbs with spelling changes and - cer verbs
- ger verbs
- yer verbs
- e + consonant + - er verbs
- er verbs with double consonants
- é + consonant + - er verbs
Irregular Verbs
Questions, Asking Yes or No
N'est-ce pas
Est-ce que
Asking for Information
Interrogative adjectives
Interrogative adverbs
Invariable interrogative pronouns
Variable interrogative pronouns
Il y a
French Possession
Using de
Using être à
Possessive Adjectives
Subject Pronouns
Il and elle
Ils and elles
Using Object Pronouns
Direct object pronouns
Indirect object pronouns
The adverbial pronoun (y)
The adverbial pronoun (en)
The position of object pronouns
Double object pronouns
Independent (Stress) Pronouns
Relative Pronouns
Qui (subject) and que (direct object)
Qui and lequel (objects of a preposition)
Ce qui and ce que
The Infinitive Form
Regular Verbs
Regular Verbs with Spelling Changes
Irregular Verbs
Idiomatic Expressions
Common Negative Words and Phrases
Forming the Negative
Changing Masculine to Singular Feminine
Masculine adjectives that end in a silent e
Masculine adjectives that end in é
Masculine adjectives that end in eux
Masculine adjectives that end in f
Masculine adjectives that end in er
Masculine adjectives that end in consonants
Masculine irregular adjectives
Forming Plural from Singular Adjectives
Masculine singular adjectives that end in s or x
Masculine singular adjectives that end in al
Masculine irregular singular adjectives
Adjective Placement within Sentences
Forming Adverbs
Adverbial Expressions
Placing Adverbs within Sentences
Expressing Comparisons of Inequality
Using adjectives
Using adverbs
Using nouns
Comparisons of Equality
Comparative and Superlative Expressions
Using Prepositions
Expressing “In”
Contractions of Two Prepositions
Prepositions with Geographical Locations
Prepositional Modifiers
Verbs Requiring Indirect Objects
Prepositions Before Infinitives
Verbs requiring à
Verbs requiring de
Verbs requiring other prepositions
Verbs requiring à quelqu'un de
Nouns and adjectives followed by de before an infinitive
Verbs requiring no preposition
The Passé Composé
Introduction to the Passé Composé
The Passé Composé with Avoir
Forming the negative in the passé composé with avoir
Questions in the passé composé with avoir
Past Participles of Regular Verbs
Past Participles of Irregular Verbs
The Passé Composé with Être
Forming the negative in the passé composé with être
Questions in the passé composé with être
Special Verbs that Use Être and Avoir
Introduction to the Imperfect
Imperfect Tense and Regular Verbs
Imperfect Verbs with Spelling Changes
Imperfect Tense and Irregular Verbs
Future Tense
Future tense of regular verbs
Future tense and verbs with spelling changes
Future tense of irregular verbs
Negating in the future tense
Questions in the future tense
The Conditional
Negating in the conditional
Questions in the conditional
Reflexive Verbs
Reflexive or Non‐Reflexive?
Idiomatic Reflexive Verbs
Reflexive Verbs and Commands
Reflexive Verbs and Compound Tenses
Uses of the Subjunctive
Forms of the Subjunctive
After impersonal expressions
After verbs and expressions of doubt, denial, and disbelief
After a wish or a command
After verbs and expressions of emotion and feeling
After certain conjunctions
Subjunctive versus Infinitive
Document Text Contents
Page 1


Understanding French

Grammar I

Introduction to French
French is a musical, romantic language, and its sounds need practice and a fair amount of
attention. Although you can make yourself understood in French despite your own regional
accent, use this chapter to help you sound as much like a native as possible.

Four areas need your undivided attention: accents, vowels, nasal sounds, and consonants,
combined with the techniques of liaison and elision. The sounds of French vowels and nasals
are quite different from the sounds you may be accustomed to in English; for that reason,
vowels and nasals require some practice to obtain good results. Unlike English, French has
accent marks that may or may not effect a change in pronunciation. In addition, many French
consonants have the same pronunciation as those in English — only a few require additional

Keep in mind that each syllable in a French word has about equal stress, so by putting about the
same emphasis on each syllable, you get the best results possible. Slightly stronger emphasis is
placed on the last syllable of a group of words.

In addition, consider the following tips for better pronunciation:

Speak slowly and clearly.
Combine sounds and words for a more natural flow.
Practice reading aloud authentic French materials.
Listen to tapes and records to get a better feel for the sounds of the language.
Don't be afraid to ham it up; that is, trying your best to sound like a native French

Pay attention to accents and nasal sounds.

Liaison and Elision

Liaison refers to the linking of the final consonant of one word with the beginning vowel (a, e,
i, o, u) or vowel sound (generally, h and y) to the following word, as in the following example:
vous imitez (voo zee-mee-tay).

Note how pronunciation of the final “s” of vous takes on the sound of “z” and combines with
the pronunciation of the beginning “i” of imitez.

Elision usually occurs when two vowel sounds are pronounced: one at the end of a word and
the other at the beginning of the next word. Drop the final vowel of the first word and replace it
with an apostrophe. The two words then simply slide together: je + imite = j'imite (zhee-meet).

Note how the final “e” (uh) sound of je (zhuh) is dropped.


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An accent mark may change the sound of a letter, the meaning of a word, replace a letter that
existed in old French, or have no perceivable effect at all. Accents are used only on vowels and
under the letter c.

An accent aigu ( ) is only used on an e (é) and produces the sound ay, as in “day.” It
may also replace an s from old French. When you see this letter, replace the é with an
imaginary s to see if its meaning becomes more evident.

é tranger = stranger

An accent grave (`) may be used on an à or ù where it causes no sound change, or on
an è, producing the sound of eh as in the e in “get.”

An accent circonflexe (�) may be placed on any vowel but causes no perceptible
sound change. It, too, often replaces a “s” from old French, which may give a clue to
the meaning of the word.

forêt = forest

A cédille ( ) is placed under a “c” (ç), to create a soft (s) sound before the letters a, o,
or u.

ç a (sah)

A tréma ( ) is placed on the second of two consecutive vowels to indicate that each
vowel is pronounced independently.

Noël (noh- ehl)


Some vowels in French have multiple pronunciations determined by specific linguistic rules,
letter combinations, and/or accent marks, as shown in Table 1 . You can always find
exceptions, however, so when in doubt, consult a dictionary. In addition, expect sounds that are
unfamiliar when vowels appear in combinations.

TABLE 1 Vowels and their Sounds

Vowel Sound

a, à, â ah as in m a

e, final er and ez, es in some one-syllable words,
some ai and et combinations

ay as in d ay

e in one syllable words or in the middle of a word
followed by one consonant

uh as in th e

è, ê, and e (plus two consonants or a final
pronounced consonant), et, ei, ai

eh as in g et

i, î, y, ui i as in magaz ine


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o s'intéresser à (to be interested in)
o Ceci est à moi. (This belongs to me.)

In compound subjects:
o Lui et moi allons au restaurant. (He and I are going to the restaurant.)
o Sylvie et toi dînez chez Marie. (Sylvia and you are dining at Marie's.)

If moi 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 nor vous 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.)

Relative Pronouns

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)

Qui (“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 + subject + verb: C'est la femme qui a 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.)

Que (“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 + pronoun: C'est l' homme que j' adore. (He's the man [that]
I love.)

Qui and lequel (objects of a preposition)

Qui (meaning “whom”) is used as the object

Anne est la fem j ( I am working.)

Lequel, laquelle, lesquels, lesquelles r ar object of a
preposition referring pr o th l must agree with the antecedent.
Select the proper form of after consulting T

of a preposition referring to a person.

me avec qui e travaille. Anne is the woman with whom

(“which” o “whom”) e used as the
imarily t ings. The form of leque

able lequel 1 , for example, Voilà la piscine dans
laquelle je nage. (There is the pool in which I swim.)

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TABLE 1 Forms of Lequel

Singular Plural

Masculine lequel lesquels

Feminine laquelle lesquelles

Lequel and its forms contract with the prepositions à and de, as shown in Table 2 :

TABLE 2 Lequel with Prepositions

Singular Plural

Masculine Feminine Masculine Feminine

auquel à laquelle auxquels auxquelles

duquel de laquelle desquels desquelles

Some examples include the following:

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.)

Ce qui and ce que

The relative pronouns ce qui and ce que are used when no antecedent noun or pronoun is

Ce quimeans “what” or Je me demande ce
qui se passe. (I wonder

Ce que means “what” ( ) the a verb: Tu sais ce que ça veut
dire. (You know what that means.)

French Present Tenses

“that which” and is the subject of a verb:
what is happening.)
that which and is object of

The Infinitive Form

A verb expresses an action or state of being and is generally shown in its infinitive, which is
the basic “to” form, as in to “to be.” An infinitive is the form of the verb before it has been

Table 1 shows an example of the irregular verb “to be” conjugated in English.

TABLE 1 Conjuctation of “To Be” in English

Singular Plural

1st person I am We are

2nd person You are You are

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After verbs and expressions of emotion and feeling

heureux(euse) (happy)
irrité(e), énervé(e) (irritated)
malheureux(euse) (unhappy)

surpris(e) (surprised)

noun + être (conjugated) + adjective + que + …: Je suis triste qu'il
e's sick.)

re with peur (fear) and honte (shame): Il a honte que vous
ed that you are crying.)


Con n and relate vocabulary words and pronouns and that
nvariable; that is, their spelling never changes. The
press the following:

J'attendrai jusqu'à ce qu'il vienne. (I'll wait until he comes.)

Purpose: pour que (in order that)

Je partirai afin qu'il puisse dormir. (I'll leave so that he can sleep.)

Concession: bien que (although)

Il ira bien qu'il soit malade. (He'll go, although he's sick.)

Negation: sans que (without)

The subjunctive is used after verbs and expressions of emotion and feeling, as in the following:

content(e) (content)
désolé(e) (sorry)
embarrassé (embarrassed)

ennuyé(e) (annoyed)
enchanté(e), ravi(e) (delighted)
étonné(e) (astonished)

fâché(e) (angry)
fier (fière) (proud)
flatté(e) (flattered)
furieux(euse) (furious)

gêné(e) (bothered)

mécontent(e) (displeased)

triste (sad)

Do the following to properly express emotions:

Use the subject pro
soit malade. (I'm sad that h

Use avoir instead of êt
pleuriez. (He is asham

er certain conjunctions

ju ctions are words that connect
connect two clauses in a sentence. They are i
subjunctive is used after conjunctions that ex

Time: jusqu'à ce que (until), avant que (before)

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Il est arrivé sans qu'elle le sache. (He arrived without her knowing it.)

The following conjunctions take the indicative:

après que (after)
aussitôt que (as soon as)
dès que (as soon as)
parce que (because)
pendant que (while)
peut-être que (perhaps)
puisque (since)
tandis que (while, whereas)

Subjunctive versus Infinitive
If the subjects are exactly the same in meaning in both clauses of a sentence, que is omitted and
the subjunctive is replaced by the infinitive: Je voudrais jouer au tennis. (I want to play tennis.)

However, you say the following: Je voudrais que nous jouions au tennis. (I want us to play

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