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Sentence Building – Indirect Objects

The idea or action expressed by the verb may affect or be directed at a person or thing – the object of the verb. If the object follows the verb directly without a preposition, it is called a direct object. In French, direct objects may be either persons or things.

In the following sentences, the direct object is highlighted in bold.

  • Je vois mon amie Aurélie. | I see my friend Aurélie.
  • Tu connais notre collègue ? | Do you know our coworker?
  • Où achetez-vous vos vêtements ? | Where do you buy your clothing?
  • Elle finit le compte-rendu. | She finishes the report.

Indirect objects in French are usually animate nouns – nouns referring to living beings. Indirect objects are joined to the verb by the preposition à. In the following sentences, the indirect object is highlighted in bold. Note that the meaning in English often includes the notion of the English word to.

  • Il téléphone à sa petite amie. | He phones his girlfriend.
  • Vous écrivez à vos cousins. | You write to your cousins.
  • Le vendeur répond au client. | The clerk answers the customer.

Indirect objects most often occur with an inanimate direct object. In the following sentences, the direct object is highlighted in bold, and the indirect object is underlined and bold.

  • Il donne un cadeau à son frère. | He gives his brother a gift.
  • Je montre les photos à mes amis. | I show my friends the pictures.

Enjoy your week, everyone!

Merci à vous !

Courtney

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Sentence Building – Questions

There are many ways to form questions in French. The different patterns convey differences in registers – formal language, everyday language, informal language, slang. Thus the type of question pattern that speakers select depends on the situation they are in and the relationship they have with the person to whom they are asking the question.

There are two types of questions: yes/no questions and information questions. Yes/No questions expect the answer yes or no. They do not begin with an interrogative word.

In colloquial French, statements are turned into yes/no questions most frequently by changing the intonation of the sentence from falling to rising, with no change in the word order of the original statement.

  • Claire sait programmer ? | Does Claire know how to program?
  • Cet enfant suit bien à l’école ? | Is this child a good student?
  • Tu connais ce type-là ? | Do you know that guy?

The addition of est-ce que at the beginning of each of the questions above makes them appropriate in all registers.

  • Est-ce que Claire sait programmer ? | Does Claire know how to program?
  • Est-ce que cet enfant suit bien à l’école ? | Is this child a good student?
  • Est-ce que tu connais ce type-là ? | Do you know that guy?

In formal French, a yes/no question may be formed by inverting the subject and verb if the subject is a subject pronoun. In this type of question, the subject pronoun is connected to the verb by a hyphen.

  • Vous êtes en retard. | You’re late.
    • Êtes-vous en retard ? | Are you late?
  • Elle connaît Paris. | She knows Paris.
    • Connaît-elle Paris ? | Does she know Paris?
  • Nous pouvons entrer. | We can enter.
    • Pouvons-nous entrer ? | Can we enter?
  • Ils font une promenade. | They’re taking a walk.
    • Font-ils une promenade ? | Are they taking a walk?

Inversion also requires a hyphen for third-person singular forms of -er verbs, including aller, where a -t- is added between the verb and the inverted pronoun. The -t- is also added between the third-person singular of avoir and the inverted pronoun.

  • Arrive-t-il en voiture ? | Is he arriving by car?
  • Parle-t-elle au téléphone mobile ? | Is she speaking on the mobile phone?
  • Trouve-t-on une solution ? | Are people finding a solution?
  • Va-t-il en avion ? | Is he going by plane?
  • A-t-elle soif ? | Is she thirsty?
  • A-t-on des difficultés ? | Are people having trouble?

There are some restrictions on inversion, however. In French, only a pronoun can be inverted.

If the sentence has a noun subject and inversion is selected to convey formal register, then the pronoun corresponding to the noun subject is added after the verb and connected to it by a hyphen or -t-.

  • Cette fille parle français. | That girl speaks French.
    • Cette fille parle-t-elle français ? | Does that girl speak French?
  • Cette ville a des industries. | That city has industry.
    • Cette ville a-t-elle des industries ? | Does that city have industry?
  • Maurice va en Italie. | Maurice is going to Italy.
    • Maurice va-t-il en Italie ? | Is Maurice going to Italy?

The pronoun je is rarely inverted in modern French. Est-ce que can be used to make a question with the subject je suis for formal speech or writing. However, inversion of je with monosyllabic verb forms je suisj’aije puis (literary variant of je peux) is still occasionally found in very formal speech and formal writing.

  • Suis-je l’homme que vous cherchez ? | Am I the man you are looking for?
  • Ai-je le droit de dire cela ? | Do I have the right to say that?
  • Puis-je vous demander un service ? | May I ask a favour of you?

Have a wonderful week, everyone!

A bientôt !

Courtney

Idioms

grignoter – to nibble

  • Le bonheur est une petite chose qu’on grignote, assis par terre, au soleil.
  • Happiness is a small thing that we nibble, sitting on the ground, in the sun.

drolatique – humorous

  • Cette histoire présente un personnage drolatique.
  • This story presents a humorous character.

panser – to heal

  • Le temps panse les blessures du cœur.
  • Time heals the wounds of the heart.

la téloche – television

  • Il y a un bon film à la téloche ce soir ?
  • Is there a good movie on TV tonight?

le muguet – lily of the valley

  • Le 1er mai la tradition en France est de s’offrir des brins de muguet.
  • On May 1st, the tradition in France is to offer strands of lily of the valley.

chelou – weird, suspicious, fishy

  • Elle est chelou ton histoire, j’ai du mal à te croire !
  • She is suspicious of your story, I don’t believe you!

les pompes – shoes

  • J’ai sali mes pompes en faisant du sport.
  • I dirtied my shoes while playing sports.

avoir un coup de barre – feel tired all of a sudden

  • Je me suis levé à 5h00, j’ai un coup de barre maintenant.
  • I woke up at 5:00AM. I feel tired all of a sudden.

quitte à – even if

  • Nous allons vous préparer un bon gâteau, quitte à passer la journée dans la cuisine !
  • We will prepare a good cake, even if spending the entire day in the kitchen!

se grouiller – to hurry up

  • Grouille-toi, tu es vraiment en retard !
  • Hurry up, you’re very late!

Have a great week, everyone!

A bientôt !

Courtney

Highlighting the Direct Object of the Sentence

The tense  of the introductory c’est construction of a cleft sentence varies according to meaning.

  • C’était lui qui le lui a dit. | He was the one who called her.
  • Ce sera moi qui le ferai. | I’ll be the one who will do that.

The present tense form c’est can be used in the following cases:

  • C’est lui qui le leur a dit. | He told them.
  • C’est moi qui le ferai. | I will do that.

The direct object (as well as the subject) of the verb may be highlighted in a cleft sentence construction by means of c’est X que. The direct object is placed after c’est, and the rest of the sentence is converted into a relative clause. In formal style, c’est is replaced by ce sont before a plural noun or a third-person plural pronoun.

  • C’est le CD qu’il cherche, pas la cassette. | He’s looking for the CD, not the cassette.
  • C’est cette boutique que tu dois visiter. | You ought to visit this store.
  • C’est (Ce sontnos placements qu’il faut protéger. | It’s necessary to protect our investments.

When the clause following c’est X que is in the passé composé or another compound tense, the past participle agrees with the direct object noun preceding que, because the direct object now precedes the past participle.

  • Nous avons acheté les billets.
  • C’est les billets que nous avons achetés.
    • We bought the tickets.
  • Vous l’aviez appelée.
  • C’est elle que vous aviez appelée.
    • You had called her.
  • Le prof a grondé ces filles.
  • C’est (Ce sont) ces filles que le prof a grondées.
    • The teacher scolded these girls.
  • Le chef a licencié ces trois employés.
  • C’est (Ce sont) ces trois employés que le chef a licenciés.
    • The boss fired these three employees.
  • Je les aurais aidés.
  • C’est (Ce sont) eux que j’aurais aidés.
    • I would have helped them.

A bientôt !

Courtney

Colloquialisms

Continuing with colloquialisms this week.

  • il n’y a pas le feu ! – there’s no rush!
    • Vite, on est en retard ! | Hurry, we’re late!
    • Pourquoi se presser, il n’y a pas le feu ! | Why hurry up, there’s no rush!
  • bof – meh
    • Tu as envie de sortir ? | Do you want to go out?
    • Bof… | Meh…
  • être le chouchou – to be the favourite
    • Ce joueur est le chouchou du public. Les gens l’adorent !
    • This player is the fans favourite. The fans love him!
  • poser une colle – to ask a trick question
    • Ma série préférée ? Là tu me poses une colle, j’aime toutes les séries
    • My favourite series? There’s a trick question, I like every series!
  • capter – to get, to understand
    • Tu a compris sa théorie ? Moi je n’ai rien capté !
    • You understood his/her theory? I don’t understand anything!
  • rocambolesque – over-the-top, far-fetched
    • Ton histoire est vraiment rocambolesque. Je n’y crois pas du tout !
    • Your story is very far-fetched. I don’t believe it at all!
  • faire la tête – to sulk
    • Nos voisins font la tête car on ne les a pas invités à l’anniversaire de notre chat.
    • Our neighbours are sulking because we didn’t invite them to our cat’s birthday.
  • craquer pour quelqu’un – to find someone irresistible
    • Roméo a craqué pour Juliette.
    • Romeo found Juliette irresistible.
  • preux – brave
    • Un preux chevalier triompha de l’ennemi.
    • A brave knight triumphed over the enemy.
  • être fleur bleue – to be sentimental
    • Alice est fleur bleue. Elle aime les filmes romantiques.
    • Alice is sentimental. She loves romantic movies.

Have a great week, everyone!

A bientôt !

Courtney

Idioms & Colloquialisms

It’s been a while since I’ve done an idioms or colloquialisms post!

  • nase – lame
    • “Ce film est nase, ne le regarde pas !”
    • “This movie is lame, don’t see it!”
  • être mimi – to be cute
    • “Ton chat est vraiment mimi !”
    • “Your cat is very cute!”
  • paumer – to lose
    • “J’ai encore paumé mes clés !”
    • “I lost my keys again!”
  • papoter – to chat, to gossip
    • “En été, j’aime papoter avec mes amis.”
    • “In the summer, I like to chat/gossip with my friends.”
  • chiant – annoying
    • “Mon portable s’éteint tout seul, c’est vraiment chiant !”
    • “My phone is going off by itself, it’s really annoying!”
  • pépère – cushy, comfortable
    • “Elle a trouvé un travail pépère, sans stress.”
    • “She found a comfortable job, without stress.”
  • se pieuter – to hit the sack (go to bed)
    • “Je suis trop crevé, je rentre chez moi et je vais me pieuter !”
    • “I’m dead tired, I’ll go home and hit the sack!”
  • un rencard – a date
    • “Michel a acheté des roses, il a un rencard ce soir avec Sandrine.”
    • “Michel bought roses, he has a date with Sandrine tonight.”
  • raconte des salades – to tell stories/lies
    • “Je ne te crois pas, tu  me racontes encore des salades !”
    • “I don’t believe you, you’re telling me lies!”
  • désormais – from now on
    • “Désormais, j’essayerai de t’aider avec les maths.”
    • “From now on, I’ll try to help you with maths.”
  • filer – to dash off
    • “Je dois filer, j’ai un rendez-vous dans 5 minutes !”
    • “I should dash off, I have a meeting in 5 minutes!”
  • soit…, soit… – either… or…
    • “Soit tu viens avec nous à la plage, soit tu restes ici regarder le match à la télé.”
    • “Either you come with us to the beach, or you stay here to watch the game on tv.”

Have a great week, everyone! Did anyone see the first practice set for the last two posts? If you haven’t, go check it out!

A la prochaine…

Courtney

Idioms & Expressions with Negative & Indefinite Words

It’s been awhile since I did an idioms post. Here’s one that is specific with negative and indefinite words.

Expressions with jamais:

  • jamais deux sans trois | Misfortunes always come in threes
  • à jamais | forever
  • à tout jamais | forever and ever
  • jamais de la vie ! | Not on your life!
  • il n’en manque jamais une ! | He’s always blundering/He always puts his foot in it

Expressions with quelque(s):

  • Il est trois heures et quelques | It’s a little past three
  • Je suis quelque peu déçu | I’m a little disappointed

Expressions with ni … ni:

  • Cette histoire n’a ni queue ni tête | This story doesn’t make any sense at all
  • Cela ne me fait ni chaud ni froid | It’s all the same to me/I don’t feel strongly

Expressions with rien:

  • de rien | you’re welcome
  • ça ne fait rien | it doesn’t matter/that’s ok (A response to “Pardon”.)
  • comme si de rien n’était | as if nothing had happened
  • si cela ne vous fait rien | if you don’t mind
  • Rien qu’à le voir, on sait qu’il est gentil | Just by looking at him you know he’s nice
  • Je veux te parler, rien que cinq minutes | I want to talk to you, just five minutes
  • rien ne sert de pleurer | it’s no use crying

Expressions with chacun:

  • chacun son goût/chacun ses goûts | everyone to his own taste/to each their own
  • chacun pour soi | every man for himself
  • chacun à son tour | each one in his turn

Expressions with certain:

  • d’un certain âge | middle-aged
  • elle a un certain charme | she has a certain charm

Expressions with ailleurs:

  • il est ailleurs/il a l’esprit ailleurs | he’s miles away (not paying attention)
  • d’ailleurs | moreover, besides
  • partout ailleurs | everywhere else

I’m hoping to post at least one idioms post every month. Have a wonderful week, everyone!

A la prochaine…

Courtney