Negation of Adjectives

For adjectives occurring after the noun they qualify, there may exist an antonym, or a negative form.

  • les cheveux courts/longs – short/long hair
  • une réponse admissible/inadmissible – an acceptable/unacceptable reply
  • une personne contente/mécontente – a happy/unhappy person

If such a form doesn’t exist, the adjective can be negated by peu, especially in formal usage:

  • une proposition peu rentable (formal) – an unprofitable proposal
  • un employé peu disposé à s’adapter (formal) – an employee unwilling to adapt

In a less formal usage, it would be more common to negate the verb:

  • Cette proposition n’est pas rentable. – This proposal isn’t profitable.

I hope everyone is doing well this week. As always, feel free to ask questions or request a lesson. Have a great week!

A la prochaine…

Courtney

Devoir vs. Falloir

It’s a brand new round of versus! This week we’ll be discussing the differences between verbs devoir and falloir. Both verbs share “obligation” in their meaning, but they are each different in their own right.

Devoir expresses obligation when followed by an infinitive:

  • Je dois travailler si je veux avoir de bonnes notes.
  • I have to work hard if I want good grades.
  • Je dois chercher ma fille à l’école.
  • I have to collect my daughter from school.
  • Nous devons gagner plus cette année.
  • We should earn more this year.

Falloir means “to need”, “to be necessary”. Since falloir is an impersonal verb, it only has one conjugation for each tense and mood – third person singular, and may be followed by an infinitive, the subjunctive, or a noun. It is more formal than devoir.

  • Il faut que tu arrives avant 18h00.
  • You have to arrive before 6:00PM.
  • Il faut se dire au revoir; le train va partir.
  • We have to say goodbye; the train is about to leave.

Preceding a noun, falloir means “to need”.

  • Qu’est-ce qu’il te faut ?
  • What do you need?
  • Il me faut un stylo.
  • I need a pen.

If you’d like a little practice, here is a short exercise on Devoir. I will try to find more related exercises for each weekly post from now on. 🙂

Have a great week!

A bientôt !

Courtney

Reflexive Verbs with Reciprocal Meaning

In the plural, reflexive verbs may convey a reciprocal meaning equivalent to “each other” in English.

  • Vous vous contactez souvent ?
  • Do you contact each other often?
  • Oui, nous nous téléphonons toutes les semaines.
  • Yes, we phone each other every week.
  • Le chef et les employés vont se parler aujourd’hui ?
  • Are the boss and the employees going to talk to each other today?
  • Oui, ils se sont donné rendez-vous à 14h00.
  • Yes, they have made an appointment (to see each other) at 2 o’clock.

In my last example, ils se sont donné rendez-vous there is no agreement of the past participle because the reflexive pronoun se is an indirect object. To determine whether or not the past participle agrees with passé composé, determine if the non-reflexive verb takes a direct or an indirect object. In this case, donner takes an indirect object of the person (donner quelque chose à quelqu’un), so se is an indirect object.

More examples:

  • voir quelqu’un – ils se sont vus.
    • Quelqu’un is a direct object; the past participle agrees with the preceding direct object se.
  • écrire à quelqu’un – ils se sont écrit.
    • Quelqu’un is an indirect object; there is no agreement of the past participle because se is an indirect object.

In the colloquial style where on replaces nouson se may have a reciprocal (“each other”) meaning:

  • On s’aime beaucoup.
  • We love each other very much.
  • On ne se ment pas.
  • We don’t lie to each other.

Below is a list of some reciprocal verbs. Note that anything marked with an asterisk * indicates that the reflexive pronoun is an indirect object.

  • *s’acheter des cadeaux – to buy gifts for each other
  • s’aider – to help each other
  • s’aimer – to love each other
  • se comprendre – to understand each other
  • se connaître – to know each other
  • se détester – to hate each other
  • *se donner rendez-vous – to make an appointment to see each other
  • *s’écrire – to write to each other
  • s’entraider – to help each other
  • *s’envoyer des courriels – to send each other emails
  • *se faire mal – to hurt each other
  • *se mentir – to lie to each other
  • *se parler – to speak to each other
  • *se poser des questions – to ask each other questions
  • se pousser – to push each other
  • se regarder – to look at each other
  • se rencontrer – to meet/run into each other
  • *se ressembler – to look alike
  • se retrouver – to meet (by appointment)
  • *se téléphoner – to phone each other
  • se voir – to see each other

Merci à vous ! A la prochaine…

Courtney

All About ‘Jouer’

Today we’ll be learning about the verb jouer. This verb means “to play” both transitively and intransitively. Read more below on this verb.

jouer – to play, gamble

  • Tu joues les durs, mais tu ne trompes personne.
  • You act tough, but you aren’t fooling anyone.
  • Emma a joué deux mille euros à la roulette.
  • Emma bet two thousand euros at roulette.
  • Clément a joué le rôle d’Hamlet des dizaines de fois.
  • Clément played the role of Hamlet dozens of times.

jouer à/avec quelque chose/quelqu’un – to play something/with something/someone

  • Elle joue au tennis tous les mardis matin.
  • She plays tennis every Tuesday morning.
  • Est-ce que vous jouez au poker ?
  • Do you play poker?
  • Pourquoi est-ce que tu ne vas pas jouer avec Caroline ?
  • Why don’t you go play with Caroline?
  • Olivier joue avec sa santé.
  • Olivier is gambling with his health.

jouer à + infinitif – to play at + infinitive

  • Patricia joue à impressionner ses amis.
  • Patricia plays at impressing her friends.

jouer de quelque chose – to play something, to make use of, use something

  • Il paraît qu’elle joue admirablement du violon.
  • Apparently she plays the violin beautifully.
  • Catherine joue de sa réputation pour arriver à ses fins.
  • Catherine is making use of her reputation to achieve her goals.

se jouer quelque chose – to make light of, to deceive somebody

  • Le bateau semblait se jouer de la tempête.
  • The boat seemed to be playing in the storm.
  • Tu crois que Michel s’est joué de nous ?
  • Do you think that Michel tricked us?

Have a great week, everyone!

Merci à vous !

Courtney

Frequent Errors

It’s fairly common to make mistakes in French where phrases in English could be seen as acceptable word for word translations. Have a look at the following:

Incorrect: Je suis bien.

Correct: Je vais bien.

  • This is a response to “How are you?” (“Comment vas-tu ?”) which typically gets a response “I am well.” The correct response “Je vais bien” indicates how you feel overall – health, life, etc.

Incorrect: Le lundi prochain.

Correct: Lundi prochain.

  • The article “le” is not needed.

Incorrect: Dans le matin.

Correct: Le matin

  • The English phrase “In the morning” doesn’t translate literally in French, so therefore “dans” is not needed.

Incorrect: Beaucoup des fleurs.

Correct: Beaucoup de fleurs.

  • There’s a rule in French with certain words that precede “de” will always stay singular following the word even if the succeeding noun is plural.  The only acceptable change would be “d’” in front of a vowel.
    • J’ai trop de livres. – I have too many books.
    • Il y a beaucoup de gens. – There are a lot of people.
    • J’ai besoin de vêtements. – I need clothes.
    • J’ai besoin d’une voiture. – I need a car.

Incorrect: Je visite mes amis.

Correct: Je rends visite à mes amis.

  • The French verb “visiter” is a faux amis in this instance. “Visiter” means to take a tour/guided tour. “Rendre” is used in this case to pay someone a visit.

Incorrect: Demander/Faire une question.

Correct: Poser une question.

  • “Demander” is used to ask something, whereas “poser” is always used to ask a question.
    • Il m’a demandé de ma voiture. – He asked me about my car.
    • Il m’a posé une question de ma voiture. – He asked me a question about my car.

Incorrect: Je suis tard.

Correct: Je suis en retard.

  • To say that you, or anyone are/is late, “retarder” is used. “Tard” is an adverb that expresses lateness: Je viendrai plus tard. I will come later. “Retard” is an adjective that expresses being behind schedule or overdue: Tu es en retard. You are late. Paiement en retard. Late/overdue payment.

Remember, we all make mistakes, that’s how we learn. Have a great week, everyone!

Merci à vous !

Courtney

Demonstrative Pronouns

Demonstrative pronouns are pronouns that mean “this (one)”, “that (one)”, “these (ones)”, “those (ones)”. These pronouns can act as the subject or object of verbs, or stand after prepositions in place of a noun.

There are three groups of French demonstrative pronouns:

  1. ce
  2. ceci/cela/ça
  3. celui/celle/ceux/celles

Uses of “ce”

The pronouns ce can act as the subject of être, or of devoir/pouvoirêtre.

  • C’est mon frère.
  • It’s my brother.
  • Ce doit être lui qui arrive.
  • It must be him arriving.
  • Ce pouvait être le bruit d’une moto.
  • It could have been the noise of a motorcycle.

Ce can be inserted before être to emphasize the subject of a sentence, even though English does not include “it” in such cases. This use of ce to refer to a noun or pronoun, or to an infinitive use as a noun is optional:

  • Sa défaite, c’était inévitable.
  • His defeat was inevitable.
  • Quitter un bon ami, c’est toujours pénible.
  • Leaving a good friend is always painful.

The insertion of ce to refer back to the subject is almost always necessary when a relative or subordinate clause provides the subject of être:

  • Tout ce que je peux vous dire, c’est que la décision sera annoncée bientôt.
  • All I can tell you is that the decision will be announced soon.
  • Qu’il refuse (subject) de nous aider, ce n’est pas ce qui me choque.
  • That he should refuse to help us is not what shocks me.

Uses of ceci/cela and ça

Ceci and cela (or colloquially ça) mean “this” and “that”. They can be used to refer to a statement or idea, or to an object which has not been specifically named. Since ceci and cela/ça are non-specific, they only occur in the “one” (masculine singular) form, whatever the statement, object, or idea referred to:

  • Il a promis d’arriver avant midi, mais cela m’étonnerait.
  • Il a promis d’arriver avant midi, mais ça m’étonnerait.
  • (cela/ça = qu’il arrive avant midi)
  • He promised to arrive before noon, but that/it would surprise me.
  • Si tu veux porter ceci, je prendrai la valise.
  • If you can carry this, I’ll take the suitcase.
  • Ne fais pas cela, c’est dangereux.
  • Ne fais pas ça, c’est dangereux.
  • Don’t do that, it’s dangerous.

Cela/ça translates the indefinite use of “it” (not referring back to a specific noun) when “it” is the subject of a verb other than être:

  • Nous ne lui écrirons plus. Cela ne servira à rien.
  • We shouldn’t write to him/her anymore. It won’t achieve anything.
  • Quand tu essaies de danser, ça me fait rire.
  • When you try to dance, it makes me laugh.

Uses of celui/celle/ceux/celles

The demonstrative pronouns celui (masculine singular, celle (feminine singular), ceux (masculine plural), celles (feminine plural) are used to refer to a specific noun or nouns already mentioned. The form of this demonstrative pronoun corresponds to the number and gender of the noun referred to. Celuicelle, etc. are commonly followed by a relative pronoun (i.e.: celui qui/que/dont… meaning “the one who/whom/whose”).

  • J’ai vu tes deux voisines. Celle qui est la plus jeune travaille à l’hôpital.
  • I’ve seen your two neighbours. The one who is younger works at the hospital.
  • Parmi tous les projets, ceux que nous avons retenus sont les deux suivants.
  • Of all the projects, those which we have accepted are the following two.

Celui, celle, etc. are also commonly followed by de, meaning “that of”/”those of”.

  • C’est ton appareil ? -Non, c’est celui de mon frère.
  • Is this your camera? -No, it’s my brother’s.

The forms celui qui, celle qui, etc. can be used as indefinite pronouns meaning “he who”/”whoever”/”she who”, etc.

  • Celui qui vous a dit cela ne connaît pas les règles.
  • The person who/Whoever told you that does not know the rules.
  • Ceux qui n’ont pas reconfirmé leurs billets doivent se présenter au guichet.
  • Those who have not reconfirmed their tickets should go to the counter.

The endings -ci and -là can be added to celui, celle, etc. to mean “this one” and “that one”.

  • Voici les deux photos. Celle-ci est plus floue que celle-là.
  • here are the two photos. This one is less sharp than that one.

I hope this post wasn’t too long! Happy reading, everyone!

A bientôt !

Courtney

How to Ask a Question

How to ask a question in French? There are a few different ways to do so, and they’re quite easy!

Est-ce que is a fairly common way the French ask a question. In English this would roughly translate to “do you”. Est-ce que + subject:

  • Est-ce que tu jouer le piano ?
  • Do you play the piano?

Inversion is a popular way to ask a question. Inversion is when the verb and subject are in reverse order, separated by a hyphen.

  • Aimes-tu les chats ?
  • Do you like cats?

Simple and informal context, you can ask a question by simply adding a question mark or intonation to a sentence.

  • Tu as faim ?
  • Are you hungry?

Then there are the words we naturally use with intonation: who, what, where, when, why, etc.

  • Who – Qui
    • Qui est cet homme ? – Who is that man?
  • What – Que/Qu’
    • Que savons-nous ? – What do we know?
  • Where – Où
    • Où est la gare ? – Where is the train station?
  • Why – Pourquoi
    • Pourquoi vous avez fait ça ? – Why did you do that?
  • When – Quand
    • Quand tu pars pour les vacances ? – When do you leave for holiday/vacation?
  • How – Comment
    • Comment vas-tu ? – How are you?
  • How many/much – Combien
    • Combien pour ce chapeau ? – How much for this hat?

Bonne année, tout le monde ! First post of the new year, and I’m hoping to improve the content of this blog. I’ve had a couple of failed weekly supplements to the blog (word of the day, idioms), and I would like to know what extra things you’d like to see here, if anything. 🙂 Word of the week? Idioms every 2 weeks?

A bientôt !

Courtney