Archive | January 2018

French Registers

I can sometimes see what guests to my blog have searched for, and I was surprised that I didn’t have this topic covered yet.

There are five language registers, or styles, for all languages. Each level has an appropriate use that is determined by differing situations. It would be inappropriate to use language and vocabulary informally when speaking in a formal setting. Thus the appropriate language register depends upon the audience, who, the topic, what, purpose, why, and location, where.

Literary/Refined – Littéraire/Soutenu

Literary French is extremely formal and is nearly always written. When spoken, it tends to be for effect and can come off as sounding snobbish or old fashioned.

Formal – Formel

Formal French is polite, both in written and in spoken language. It is used to show respect, or used when the speaker isn’t familiar with a person. This register can sometimes be used to demonstrate coldness towards another person. For example, using vous instead of tu to a close friend.

Normal – Normal

This register is the most common of every day language. The normal French register has no particular distinction of formal or informal, and is the language used between everyone.

Informal – Familier

Informal register expresses closeness and is used between friends and family.

Familiar – Populaire

Familiar French is used between friends, and can range from normal register to slang.

Slang – Argot

Slang is vulgar, offensive, and usually insulting language. It may be used between friends or enemies. This register is considered to be non-standard French.


Have a wonderful week, everyone!

A la prochaine…

Courtney

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The Infinitive

The French infinitive parallels many of the uses of the English present participle, which ends in -ing.

In French, the infinitive can be a verbal noun that functions as the subject of a sentence.

  • Trouver un bon travail n’est pas facile. | Finding a good job is not easy.
  • Mon but, c’est de travailler à Paris. | Working in paris is my goal.
  • Voir, c’est croire. | Seeing is believing.

The infinitive in French is used after prepositions.

  • avant de sortir | before going out

The French infinitive is often used for impersonal instructions.

  • Ralentir | Slow (on road signs)
  • Agiter avant emploi | Shake before using

The impersonal expressions il faut (one must, you have to), and il vaut mieux (it’s better to) are followed directly by an infinitive. These expressions are not conjugated for person, because impersonal il is the only possible subject. However, they are conjugated for tense.

Imparfait il fallait, il valait mieux
Passé Composé il a fallu, il a mieux valu
Futur il faudra, il vaudra mieux
Conditionnelle il faudrait, il vaudrait mieux
  • Quand est-ce que tu veux partir en vacances ? | When do you want to go on vacation?
  • J’aime prendre mes vacances en hiver. Toi ? | I like to take my vacation in the winter. How about you?
  • Moi, je préfère les prendre au printemps. | I like to take it in the spring.
  • Je déteste voyager quand il fait froid. | I hate to travel when it’s cold.
  • Tu comptes avertir Paul ? | Do you intend to alert Paul?
  • Oui, mais j’ai beau l’appeler. Il ne fait pas attention. | Yes, but it’s no use calling him. He pays no attention.
  • Il affirme pouvoir nous aider. | He affirms that he can help.
  • Nous devons accepter son offre. | We must accept his offer.
  • Il faut lui téléphoner, alors. | Then we must phone him.
  • Il vaut mieux lui envoyer un courriel. | It’s better to send him an email.

Have a great week, everyone!

Merci à vous !

Courtney

Uses of the Indefinite Article

As in English, in French the indefinite article refers to a noun which has not been specifically identified. Note that the plural form “some” is frequently omitted in English, but must always be included in French.

  • J’ai acheté des pêches et des poires.
  • I bought peaches and pears.

The indefinite article must also be included before a noun followed by de + a singular abstract noun which is qualified.

  • Elle a une mère d’une tolérance exceptionnelle.
  • Her mother is exceptionally tolerant. (Literally: She has a mother of exceptional tolerance.)

  • Il est d’une patience admirable.
  • He has admirable patience. (Literally: He is of an admirable patience.)

So sorry for the very short post this week. I’ve been very sick with the flu this week and forgot all about planning, but I am doing much better now. 🙂

As always, have a great week, everyone, and stay healthy!

Merci à vous !

Courtney

Agreement of Verbs with Collective Subject

A collective subject is a noun occurring in the singular which refers to a plural group of people or objects – e.g. the police (all those employed by the police force).

Usually in French a singular collective noun requires the third person singular of the verb, whereas English may use a plural verb.

  • La foule s’est dispersée. | The crowd has/have scattered.
  • Tout le monde a applaudi. | Everyone applauded.

When a singular collective noun is followed by de/des + plural noun, the verb may occur in either the singular or plural. There is a greater tendency to use the plural when the plural noun is qualified.

  • Un groupe de manifestants a été arrêté. | A group of protesters has/have been arrested.
  • La sélection des fromages français qui sont proposés dans ce magasin viennent surtout de Normandie. | The selection of French cheeses which are sold in this shop come mainly from Normandy.

The plural form of the verb must be used after the following collective subjects:

  • force + plural noun = many a (literary)
  • une infinité de + plural noun = a good many
  • nombre de + plural noun = many (formal)
  • un assez grand nombre de + plural noun = a substantial number of
  • le plus grand nombre/le plus grand nombre de + plural noun = the majority
  • la plupart/la plupart de + plural noun = the majority
  • quantité de + plural noun = many (formal)

La plupart des conférenciers viennent de l’étranger.| Most of the speakers/lecturers are from abroad.


Happy New Year, everyone et Bonne Année ! Have a great week, everyone!

A bientôt !

Courtney