Uses of the Expletive “ne”

There are a number of occasions in French when what is apparently a positive declarative statement requires the inclusion of ne before the verb, at least in formal written style. In such cases, where ne is used without pas or any other negative particle, and without making the meaning of the clause negative, this is called the expletive ne – terms which imply that the ne is superfluous in that it does not contribute to the sense. It is therefore not surprising that the expletive ne is often omitted in informal and especially spoken French. However, in correct written French, it should be included. Note that if any of these constructions is used to express a true negative, ne…pas is required in the standard way.

An expletive ne is commonly required in the following circumstances.

After the following subordinating conjunctions:

  • avant que | before
  • à moins que | unless
    • Pourriez-vous contacter Marc, à moins qu’il ne soit en vacances ? | Could you contact Marc, unless he’s on vacation?
  • de peur que/de crainte que | lest/for fear that

After verbs and expressions of fearing. For example, avoir peur que, craindre que:

  • Je crains que vous ne soyez déçu. | I’m afraid that you may be disappointed.

After several other expressions, particularly:

  • empêcher que | to prevent
  • éviter que | to avoid
    • Nous avons évité que la situation ne se reproduise. | We have avoided a recurrence of the situation.
  • peu s’en falloir que | very nearly (to do)
  • prendre garde que | the take care of
    • Prenez garde que vous ne tombiez dans l’escalier ! | Take care that you don’t fall down the stairs!

After douter used in the negative or interrogative, and after ne pas nier que + subjunctive:

  • Il ne doutait pas qu’elle ne préférât son rival. | He did not doubt that she preferred his rival.
  • Vous ne niez pas que ce ne soit en échec ? | You don’t deny that it’s a failure?

After depuis que/il y a … que/voici … que/voilà … que + que perfect or pluperfect, referring to the period of time, or point in time, when something last happened:

  • Beaucoup de choses ont changé depuis que je ne l’ai vu. | Many things have changed since I last saw him.
  • Voici six semaines qu’on ne s’est pas parlé en fait. | It’s been six weeks since we last talked.

In the second half of a comparison – i.e. after que – which is implicitly negative:

  • Cette actrice danse mieux qu’elle ne chante. | This actress is better at dancing than singing.
  • Nous avons plus de candidats que je ne l’aurais cru. | We have more candidates than I would have thought.

Have a wonderful week, everyone!

A bientôt !


Prepositions ‘Dessus’ and ‘Dessous’

Continuing along with prepositions from last post, we will be going over ‘dessus’, ‘dessous’, and related prepositions as requested by a reader.

Sur and Sous have corresponding adverbs: dessus (over it, on top of it, upstairs, over), and dessous (beneath it, underneath).

  • La chaise boîte. Ne mets pas ta valise dessus.
  • The chair is uneven. Don’t put your suitcase on top of it.
  • Tu vois tous ces papiers? La lettre est dessous.
  • Do you see all those papers? The letter is underneath them.

These adverbs have the compound forms au-dessus and  au-dessous.

  • habiter au-dessus/au-dessous
  • to live upstairs/downstairs

Au-dessus de and au-dessous de are compound prepositions:

  • les enfants au-dessus de dix ans – children over ten years old
  • il fait dix  degrés au-dessus de zéro – it’s ten degrees above zero
  • rien au dessus de 100 euros – nothing over 100 Euros
  • c’est au-dessus de mes forces – it’s too much for me
  • les jeunes au-dessous de dix-huit ans – young people under eighteen years old
  • être au-dessous de sa tâche – to be not up to one’s task
  • il croit que c’est au-dessous de lui de faire le ménage – he thinks that it’s beneath him to do housework

I hope this post will help clarify any confusion with these prepositions. 🙂 As always, you may leave any requests in the comments. Have a great week! And to those celebrating Thanksgiving, I hope you have a wonderful holiday!

A la prochaine !


Parts of a Sentence

Parts of a Sentence

In this grammar lesson, I will breakdown the basic elements of what makes up a sentence in French. In French grammar, words are classified into eight parts: the noun, the determiner, the adjective, the pronoun, the verb, the adverb, the preposition and the conjunction.


Le nom, en français, identifies a person, place, animal, thing, or an idea. Nouns can be proper (names of people, names of countries and cities, company names, etc.), or common nouns (things such as a book, a car, food, etc.). All French nouns have a gender, either masculine or feminine, and learning the gender for each noun is important in speaking French as all nouns have to have agreement with articles and adjectives.


The determiner is an important noun modifier which introduces and provides context to a noun, often in terms of quantity and possession. In English, the determiner would be “the”, “a”, or “an”; in French, the determiner are articles – le, la, les, un, une, de, de la, du, and des.


L’adjectif, en français, modifies a noun by describing it in size, color, and shape. In French, most adjectives follow the noun they modify. However, adjectives that describe beauty, age, number, goodness, and size all precede the noun. (C’est une belle journée, for example.)


Pronouns, or proper nouns, take the place of a noun. French pronouns are je, tu, il, elle, nous, vous, ils, elles, me, te, le, la, les, lui, leur.

I go into further detail on pronouns in Lesson 9.


In French, verbs are variable. They are affected by:

  • The person (the speaker, the addressee, or others: je, tu, il, nous
  • The number (singular or plural)
  • The gender
  • The tense (the present, past and future, etc.).
  • The aspect (how the time in which an event occurs is viewed: as complete, ongoing, consequential, planned, etc.
  • The mood (finite forms: indicative, imperative, subjunctive, and conditional
  • The voice (a verb in the active or passive voice


Adverbs provide information about the words they modify, such as when, where, how, how often, or to what degree something is done.

When a French adverb modifies a verb, it is placed after the conjugated verb.

Example: Je regarde souvent la télé le soir. – I often watch television in the evening.


When a French adverb modifies an adjective, it is placed in front of the word it is modifying.

Example: Nous avons très bien mangé. – We ate very well.


A preposition is a word that links nouns, pronouns, and phrases to other words in a sentence.

Here is a great list of French prepositions.


Conjunctions are invariable words that are used to join words or clauses that have equal value: mais, ou, et, donc, or, ni, car



As a general rule, if you have a noun in French, there is virtually always an article in front of it. I have two older posts on articles here (part 1), and here (part 2).


I hope this was helpful to everyone! As always, I welcome comments of any kind. Have a great week!

À bientôt !


C’est vs. Il Est

This week in versus, I give you C’est vs. Il Est.*

The distinction between c’est and il est (it is/it’s) has been known to cause problems more often since there is a discrepancy between what is seen as proper style writing and informal. Colloquially, French ops more toward using c’est rather than il est, whereas in written French maintains the distinction.

Il/Elle is used if “it” is the subject of the verb other than ȇtre, and refers to a noun previously mentioned.

  • Voici notre jardin. Il n’est pas très grand.
  • This is our garden. It’s not very big.
  • Voici la photo. Elle n’est pas très bonne.
  • Here’s the photo. It’s not very good.


C’est is used if “it” is the subject of ȇtre and is indefinite – meaning, it does not refer to a specific noun or pronoun previously mentioned.

“It is” + noun (preceded by article/numeral/possessive, demonstrative, indefinite, or interrogative adjective) = ce + être

  • Ce sont les nouveaux livres.
  • These are/They’re the new books.
  • C’est mon premier boulot.
  • It’s my first job.


“It is” + pronoun = ce + être

  • C’est toi !
  • It’s you!


“It is” + adverb (of time/place) = ce + être

  • C’est maintenant qu’il faut l’acheter.
  • It’s now that you need to buy it.


“It is” + preposition = ce + être

  • C’est avec regret que je vous écris.
  • It is with regret that I write you.


“It is” + conjunction = ce + être

  • C’est parce que vous travaillez à l’Hôtel de Ville que je vous demande service.
  • It’s because you work at City Hall that I’m asking you for a favour.


“It is” + adjective = ce + être if the adjective is the last word in the sentence, or is followed by à + infinitive (example: “it” refers back to an earlier item).

  • Il fait froid, c’est vrai.
  • It’s cold, it’s true.
  • Je ne sais pas ce qu’il décidera. C’est difficile à prévoir.
  • I don’t know what he will decide. It’s hard to predict.


ALTHOUGH, “it is” + adjective = il + être if the adjective is followed by a subordinate clause / de + infinitive (example: “it” refers forward to an item to follow.)

  • Il est vrai que je n’ai pas terminé tout le travail.
  • It’s true I haven’t finished all the work.
  • Il est difficile d’oublier ses mots.
  • It is difficult to forget his/her words.


Have a great week, my dear readers! As always, your feedback is appreciated, so thank you!


Merci à vous !



*This is a requested lesson. All requested lessons are given priority no matter where I am in the teaching process.

Dans Vs. En

Dans vs. En*

There is a lot of confusion with these two French prepositions. Both mean “in” yet are not interchangeable with each other.

Uses of Dans

  • Places
    • Ma mère est dans la maison. – My mother is in the house.
  • Time (Future action)
    • Il vient dans deux jours. – He is coming in two days.
  • Inside of
    • Le pull est dans le tiroir. – The sweater is in the drawer.
  • Approximation/Estimate
    • Il est dans le 20 ans. – He is in his 20s.
  • Direction through/across
    • Nous avancions dans le niege. – We’re going forward in the snow. (Or even, what I’d prefer to say: We are moving through the snow.)

Uses of En

  • En + Noun
    • En hiver – In winter.
  • Time duration
    • J’ai un rendez-vous en 30 minutes. – I have an appointment in 30 minutes.
  • Material
    • Ce collier est en – This necklace is gold.
  • Country (Feminine or beginning with a vowel)
    • Je vis en – I live in France.
      • France here is feminine. If I were to say that I live in England, which is masculine, I would still say : Je vis en Angleterre.
    • Before a word ending in –ing
      • Elle est partie en – She left smiling.

As always, please feel free to request anything if you have questions. That is why I am here!

Happy learning, à bientôt !


*This is a requested lesson. All requested lessons are given priority no matter where I am in the teaching process.

Tu or Vous?

Tu or Vous?*

Figuring out when to use tu or vous can be a bit tricky. English speakers are used to the all-purpose “you”, so this is both an intriguing and baffling concept to grasp. Even for the French, the choice between calling someone tu, and calling someone vous can be delicate. There really aren’t always hard and fast rules; this practice varies according to generation, social context, individual background, and personality. While someone may address you by their title and surname will almost always be vous, it does not follow automatically that the use of first names implies tu.

So when should you always use tu, or always use vous?

  • Tu is always used to speak to young children (pre-adolescent) or animals.
  • In the vast majority of families, relatives call each other tu. However, this depends on each household; sometimes children may be expected to address parents or older relatives with vous.
  • Schoolchildren and students will always call their peers tu, even if they have never met them before.
  • Adult strangers should always be addressed as vous initially. If friendship develops, tu may be used.
  • Vous is of course, always used when addressing two or more people.

*This is a requested lesson. All requested lessons are given priority no matter where I am in the teaching process.

Aimer vs. Adorer

Aimer vs. Adorer*

Both virtually mean the same thing and are often used interchangeably, but the use of either verb can change the meaning of a sentence.

Aimer: to love; to like, when followed by an infinitive or a noun.

  • J’aime les chats. – I like cats.
  • J’aime Paris. – I love Paris.

Aimer is also used in expressing love. The most commonly used phrase by the French is Je t’aime, which means, “I love you.”

  • Elle aime Jean-Luc. – She’s in love with Jean Luc.
  • J’aime Brigitte (ma soeur). – I love Brigitte (my sister).

Aimer is also used in expressing one’s likes.

  • J’aime cette chanson. – I like this song.
  • Je t’aime bien. – I like you.
  • J’aime assez Eric. – I kind of like Eric.

Adorer: to love; to adore; to revere. This is the strongest way to express love, to regard with feelings of respect and reverence.

Adorer is the stronger of the two verbs, but there is no clear line between the two, just like there is no clear line between like and love.

There are some instances where aimer and adorer can be used interchangeably with each other.

Par example:

  • J’aime ta chemise. – “I like your shirt,” and: J’adore ta chemise. – Which also means, “I like your shirt.”

But then there are instances where you would not use the two in the same context. To express your love for someone, you would always say Je t’aime, and never would you say Je t’adore.

There are more ways to express likes with aimer, but I will dive further into that later on. 🙂

Merci à Katharine R. pour l’aide !

*This is a requested lesson. All requested lessons are given priority no matter where I am in the teaching process.