Archive | March 2017

How to use ‘Chez’

If you’re new to learning French, you may have read sentences in your textbooks that use the word “chez”. It’s a very common word – a preposition – used in everyday speech, and it has two meanings.

Literal meaning: Chez is used to indicate a destination or a physical location. In this case it means:

  • At/To the house of:
    • Chez ma tante – At/To my aunt’s house
    • Charlotte est allée chez sa tante.
  • At/To the shop of:
    • Chez le coiffeur – At/To the hairdresser
    • Il est temps d’aller chez le coiffeur.
  • At/To the office of:
    • Chez le médecin – At/To the doctor’s (office)
    • Je vais chez le docteur.

Figurative meaning: Chez can also be used to indicate a particular group, a person’s character or style, or a period in time.

  • Among/For/In
    • Chez les jeunes – Among young people
    • Chez les romains – In Roman times
    • C’est une qualité chez lui – It’s a quality in him
  • In the work of
    • Chez Voltaire – In Voltaire’s work

Have a wonderful week, everyone!

A bientôt !

Courtney

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Conditional Mood

I’m jumping back a bit to further explain the Conditional at a more advanced level. There is a bit of debate on whether the conditional in French should be classed as a verb tense or a mood, and actually, the conditional verb forms can convey information about both time and the attitude of the speaker.

Present Conditional

The present conditional is formed from the future stem + imperfect endings.

Je donnerais, tu donnerais, etc.

I would/should give, you should/would give, etc.

Conditional Perfect

The conditional perfect is formed from the present conditional of the auxiliary verb (J’aurais / je serais) + past participle.

J’aurais donné. – I would have given.

Tu serais parti. – You should have left.


The main uses of the conditional are listed below.

To express a hypothesis, most commonly in the form: “If x happened, I would do… / If x had happened, I would have done…”

Si je gagnais 1.000.000 euros, je m’achèterais une nouvelle voiture.

If I won 1,000,000 Euros, I would/should buy a new car.


Si j’avais su ton adresse, je serais venu te voir.

If I had known your address, I would have come to see you.


In indirect speech or thought after si to ask/know whether something would happen/would have happened.

Il m’a demandé si je viendrais.

He asked me if/whether I would come.


Nous ne savons pas si elle aurait préférée passer l’année dernière à Nice.

We don’t know if/whether she would have preferred to spend last year in Nice.

It’s good to note that this is one of the only cases in which it is correct to use the conditional after si. An easy way to check whether an English sentence fits this category is to ask if “if” can be replaced by “whether”.

Il m’a demandé si  je changerais d’emploi.

He asked if I would change my job. / He asked whether I would change my job.


In a main clause, to imply that the information is as yet unconfirmed. This is seen mostly in the media such as newspapers and online journalism. There is also no direct equivalent form in English.

Le Président des Etats-Unis serait malade.

The President of the United States is said/rumoured to be ill.


Un avion aurait été manqué.

A plane is reported to have gone missing.


In questions, giving a tentative supposition.

La voiture n’est plus là. Ta sœur serait partie ?

The car’s gone. Might your sister have left? / Perhaps your sister has left?


Est-ce qu’ils auraient dépensé tout l’argent déjà ?

Is it possible they’ve already spent all the money?


In exclamations to convey that something is unlikely, and possibly to suggest some indignation.

Moi, je lui enverrais une invitation Facebook!

Can you imagine me sending him a Facebook [friend] request! / I’d never send him a Facebook [friend] request!


There are two cases where in English would/should may be used, but where French requires a different construction.

“Would” conveying the sense of “used to”, such as a repeated action in the past. This would actually be translated into French by the Imperfect.

When we were travelling in France, we would stay at youth hostels. (When we were travelling in France, we used to stay at youth hostels.)

Quand nous voyagions en France, nous restions dans des auberges de jeunesse.

“Should / should have” conveying the sense of “ought to / ought to have”, such as an obligation. This would be translated into French by using the Present Conditional, or the Conditional Perfect of devoir + infinitive.

I should call my mother tonight. (I ought to call my mother tonight.)

Je devrais téléphoner à ma mère ce soir.


We should have turned right at the traffic light. (We ought to have turned right at the traffic light.)

Nous aurions dû tourner à droite aux feux rouges.


Next week I will continue a bit more with the Conditional. But I will leave you with this for now.

Have a great week, everyone!

Merci à vous !

Courtney

The Passive Voice

What is the passive voice? It is the manner of constructing a sentence in such a way that the receiver of the action becomes the subject, instead of the one doing the action. The passive in French is usually formed with the auxiliary verb être + past participle. This construction occurs most frequently in the passé composé (use passé composé of être + past participle) and future (use future of être + past participle).

Ces lettres ont été écrites* par mon frère.

These letters were written by my brother.


Un grand édifice sera construit ici par le gouvernement.

A tall building will be constructed here by the government.

*The past participle of verbs conjugated with the auxiliary verb être agrees in gender and number with the subject of the sentence.


The English passive voice sometimes expresses an indefinite idea, such as “it is said”, meaning “people say”; “one says” meaning, “they say”. In such cases, French does not use the passive construction, but rather the pronoun on (one) and the active form of the verb.

On dit qu’il est riche.

One says that he is rich. / It is said that he is rich.


On parle anglais ici.

One speaks English here. / English is spoken here.

Occasionally the English passive is translated by a reflexive in French:

Cela ne se fais pas.

That does not do itself. / That is not  done.


As you guy can see, I’m trying something different with the posts. I’ve eliminated the bullet points and opted for something else. Let me know which you prefer. Also, would anyone be interested in me adding pages to the menu at the top of the blog? If so, what would you like to see there?

I hope everyone is having a good week!

A la prochaine…

Courtney

Voir vs. Regarder

New round of versus! This round we will be comparing two verbs that essentially both mean to see or to look, but with some obvious differences.

So what exactly is the difference between the two? It’s simple actually, voir is passive (to see), while regarder (to look at) is active.


Voir – to see, view, witness, understand

Voir quelque chose/quelqu’un + infinitive – to see, understand something/someone, to see something/someone +infinitive

  • Tu vois ce mec là-bas ? C’est notre nouveau collègue.
  • Do you see that guy over there? He’s our new colleague.
  • Nous espérons la voir quand elle viendra en France.
  • We hope to see her when she comes to France.
  • Vous devriez aller voir un médecin.
  • You should go see a doctor.
  • Christelle et moi, nous ne voyons pas les choses de la même façon.
  • Christelle and I do not see eye to eye.

Voir à ce que + subj./à + infinitive – to make sure, to see to it that

  • Il faudrait voir à respecter la limite de vitesse.
  • You should obey the speed limit.
  • Voyez à ne pas arriver en retard.
  • See to it that you are not late.

Regarder – to look at, to watch, to gaze, to observe

Regarder quelque chose/quelqu’un – to look at something/someone, look up something

  • Regardez où vous mettez les pieds.
  • Watch where you are walking.
  • Est-ce que tu as regardé le film hier soir ?
  • Did you see the movie last night?
  • Regarde son numéro dans le mobile.
  • Look up his number in your phone.
  • Cela ne nous regarde pas.
  • It is none of our business.

Regarder + infinitive – to watch + infinitive

  • Il a passé une heure à regarder tomber la neige.
  • He spent an hour watching snow fall.

Regarder à quelque chose/à + infinitive – to hesitate to + infinitive

  • Mes parents ne regardent pas à la dépense.
  • My parents spend freely.
  • Ils ne regardent pas à dépenser mille euros en une soirée.
  • They do not hesitate to spend a thousand Euros in an evening.

Regarder quelque chose/quelqu’um comme – to consider something/someone as

  • Ses collègues le regardaient comme un génie.
  • His colleagues considered him a genius.
  • On regarde généralement sa politique comme un échec.
  • His politics are generally considered to have failed.

Two similar verbs that can have very different meanings when the context has changed. I hope this clears up any confusion between these two verbs!

Have a wonderful week, everyone!

Merci à vous !

Courtney

The Superlative Form of Adjectives

The superlative form of adjectives is made by introducing the definite article (le/la/les) – or if appropriate, the possessive adjective – before the comparative form of the adjective.

  • C’est ma plus belle peinture.
  • It’s my finest painting.
  • Ce sont les garçons les plus travailleurs de la classe.
  • They are the most hardworking boys in the class.

The adjective bon has as its superlative form le meilleur.

  • C’est le meilleur choix.
  • It’s the best choice.

The adjectives mauvais and petit each have two superlative forms:

Le plus mauvais is used more frequently than le pire.

  • C’est le plus mauvais acteur que j’aie vu.
  • He’s the worst actor I’ve seen.

Le plus petit is used to refer to physical size, while le moindre is common with abstract nouns:

  • C’est la plus petite salle.
  • It’s the smallest room.
  • Vous pouvez me consulter si vous avez la moindre difficulté.
  • You can consult me if you have the least difficulty.

It’s a new month! What do we want to see next on the blog?

Have a great week, everyone!

A bientôt !

Courtney