Tag Archive | French Grammar

Adverbial Phrases of Manner Used to Replace Adverbs

When an adverb is three or more syllables in length, it can be cumbersome in a sentence. There is a tendency to avoid excessive use of long adverbs, replacing them by adverbial phrases.

To express the manner in which an action is performed, for example, you can use d’une façon + adjective or d’une manière + adjective.

  • Elle réussit d’une façon inévitable. | She inevitably succeeded.
  • Il le refusa d’une manière peu polie. | He rudely refused.

With verbs of speech, adverbs may be replaced by d’un ton + adjective or d’une voix + adjective.

  • Le capitaine lui parla d’un ton irrité. | The captain spoke to him irritably.
  • D’une voix douce, elle lui expliqua la vérité. | She gently explained the truth to him.

With reference to people’s facial expressions, adverbs may be replaced by d’un air + adjective.

  • Ils le regardèrent d’un air furieux. | They looked at him furiously.

Have a great week, everyone!

A bientôt !



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 !


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 !


Verbs – Mettre

It’s been a few months since I’ve done a verbs post. This verb mettre is quite important in French!

mettre – to put, to set, to place, to put on (clothing), to wear

mettre quelque chose (à) – to put something (at/to)

  • Où est-ce que tu as mis les clés de la voiture ? | Where did you put the car keys?
  • Attention de ne pas mettre ta main dans la machine. | Be careful not to put your hand in the machine.
  • Elle a mis sa plus belle robe. | She put on her most beautiful dress.
  • J’ai mis une bouteille de champagne au frais. | I put a bottle of champagne on ice.
  • Je crois qu’il est temps de les mettre au travail. | I think that it’s time to put them to work.
  • Avez-vous l’intention de mettre Christophe à la tête de l’entreprise ? | Do you plan to put Christophe at the head of the company?
  • Peux-tu mettre le nouveau au courant ? | Can you fill in the new person on what he has to do?

mettre à + infinitif – to put, take + infinitive

  • Il a mis des mois à répondre à notre lettre. | He took months to answer our letter.
  • J’ai mis du temps à admettre que j’avais tort. | I took my time to admit that I was wrong.
  • Mettre la viande à rôtir à petit feu. | Put the meat in the oven on low heat.

mettre quelque chose en quelque chose – to put something in something

  • Pourriez-vous mettre ce texte en espagnol ? | Could you put this text into Spanish?
  • Debussy a mis en musique des poèmes de Mallarmé. | Debussy wrote music for some of Mallarmé’s poems.

se mettre à quelque chose + infinitif – to get started on something/to start + infinitive

  • Vous avez cinq minutes pour vous mettre à la tâche. | You have five minutes to get to work.
  • Brigitte s’est mise à la guitare. | Brigitte has taken up the guitar.
  • L’oiseau s’est mise à chanter sans raison apparente. | The bird started singing for no obvious reason.
  • Quand ils se sont mis à se disputer, j’ai quitté la salle. | When they started arguing, I left the room.

Have a great week, everyone!

Merci à vous !


Simple Prepositions – Literal & Idiomatic Uses Part 8

Part 8 in this series.

sans – without

“Il est parti sans parapluie.” | “He left without his umbrella.”

Note that when “without” is followed by “a/any” in English, no article is required after sans in French.

  • “Vous ne pouvez pas voir le médecin sans rendez-vous.” | “You cannot see the doctor without an appointment.”
  • “C’est une ville sans divertissements.” | “It’s a town without any leisure activities.”

Sans can also be used to translate “but for”.

  • “Je me serais perdu sans la carte.” | “I would have got lost but for the map.”

sauf – except

“Tout le monde est présent sauf Sophie.” | “Everyone is here except Sophie.”

Sauf is used in a few formal phrases to mean “save”.

  • “Les comptes sont bons, sauf erreur de ma part.” | “The accounts are in order, save for any error on my part.”

selon – according to

Selon le porte-parole du gouvernement, la décision sera annoncée demain.” | “According to the government spokesperson, the decision will be announced tomorrow.”

“C’est un produit bien adapté au marché européen selon lui.” | “It’s a product which is well suited to the European market according to him/in his opinion.”

sous – under

“Les enfants se sont arrêtés sous mon balcon.” | “The children stopped under my balcony.”

Sous is used in formal French to express “within” + time.

  • “Nous espérons obtenir son accord sous peu.” | “We hope to obtain his/her agreement within a short time.”

Sous is used to translate “in/from” with reference to perspective or viewpoint.

  • “Il faut envisager le problème sous un autre angle.” | “We need to look at the problem from another angle.”
  • “L’avocat a représenté leur demande sous un jour favorable.” | “The lawyer presented their request in a favorable light.”

Sous is also used in the following common idioms where English uses a different preposition.

  • sous forme de | in the form/shape of
  • sous main | at hand
  • sous prétexte de | under the pretext of
  • sous le règne de | in the reign of

sur – on/upon

“Les clés sont sur la table.” | “The keys are on the table.”

“Votre jugement est basé sur quels critères ?” | “What criteria is your judgement based upon?”

Sur is used to translate “in/out of” for fractions or statistics.

  • “Un mariage sur trois va aboutir au divorce.” | “One marriage in three will end in divorce.”
  • “Le professeur lui a donné treize sur vingt pour sa dissertation.” | “The professor gave him/her thirteen out of twenty for his/her essay.”

Sur is used in the construction noun + sur + same noun, to mean “after/upon”.

  • “Ce pays a reçu coup sur coup.” | “This country has received blow after/upon blow.”

Sur is used in the following common idioms where English uses a different preposition.

  • sur le champ | at the time/on the spot
  • sur les (deux) heures | towards (two) o’clock
  • sur le moment | at the time
  • sur un ton (+ adjective) | in a (adjective) voice

vers – towards

“L’agent se dirigea vers les Champs Elysées.” | “The policeman headed towards the Champs Elysées.”

Vers la fin de sa vie, il se rapprocha de l’église.” | “Towards the end of his life, he grew close to the church again.”

Vers is used to translate “at about” with references to times.

  • “Le concert va commencer vers huit heures.” | “The concert will start at about eight o’clock.”

The last post in this really long series! Have a great week, everyone, and I’ll get back to posting normal things next week!

A la prochaine…


Simple Prepositions – Literal & Idiomatic Uses Part 7

Part 7 in this series.

par – by/through

“L’enfant a été retrouvé par la police.” | “The child was found by the police.”

“Le budget sera voté par le Conseil Municipal.” | “The budget will be approved by the Town Council.”

“Pour venir chez toi, est-ce qu’il faut passer par Paris ?” | “Do we have to go through Paris to get to you?”

Par is used to translate “out of” before an abstract noun.

  • “Il a joué le rôle du grand mécène par vanité.” | “He played the part of the big patron out of vanity.”
  • Par pitié, il leur a payé le prix du voyage.” | “Out of pity, he paid for their trip.”

Pars used to translate the English “a” when expressing the frequency of something.

  • “Je travaille trois jours par semaine.” | “I work three days a week.”
  • “Il y a une réunion officielle deux fois par an.” | “There is an official meeting twice a year.”

Among the most common idiomatic uses of par are:

  • par conséquent | as a result
  • par contre | but on the other hand
  • par écrit | in writing
  • par exemple | for example
  • par la fenêtre | out of the window
  • par hasard | by chance
  • par ici | this way
  • par intervalles | at arrivals/intermittently
  • par terre | on the ground

parmi – among

“Le château était caché parmi les arbres.” | “The castle was hidden among the trees.”

Parmi can be used to translate “of” when you are speaking of “some of a group”.

  • Parmi mes amis, la plupart s’intéressent à l’art contemporain.” | “The majority of my friends are interested in modern art.”

Parmi can be used + plural disjunctive pronoun to translate “of us/you/them”.

  • “Il y en avait beaucoup parmi eux qui avaient travaillé aux Etats-Unis.” | “There were many of them who had worked in the United States.”

pendant – during

Pendant les vacances nous avons repeint la maison.” | “During the holidays we decorated the house.”

Pendant is used to translate “for”, especially with reference to duration of past time.

  • “Il était hospitalisé pendant quinze jours.” | “He was kept in the hospital for fifteen days.”

pour – for

“Il y a une lettre pour vous.” | “There’s a letter for you.”

“Les frites sont pour l’apéritif ce soir.” | “The fries are for the drinks party tonight.”

Pour can mean “for the sake of”.

  • “Il y a tout sacrifié pour ses principes politiques.” | “He sacrificed everything for his political principles.”

Pour can mean “in favour of”.

  • “Vous êtes pour l’union monétaire ?” | “Are you in favour of monetary union?”

Pour can be used to translate “as” in the sense “to use as”.

  • Pour toute lumière il ne nous restait que deux bougies.” | “We had only two candles left as our sole source of light.”

In expressions of time, pour can normally only be used to translate “for” with reference to the future.

  • “Je vais prendre un appartement à Rome pour trois mois.” | “I’m going to rent an apartment/flat in Rome for three months.”

Have a great week, everyone!

A bientôt !


Simple Prepositions – Literal & Idiomatic Uses Part 6

Part 6 in this series.

hormis – except (archaic literary usage)

“Il les accusa tous hormis ses avocats.” | “He accused everyone except his lawyers.”

hors – outside/except

Hors is normally only used as a simple preposition in the following phrases:

  • hors commerce | not for sale to the public
  • hors jeu | offside
  • hors la loi | outlawed
  • hors série | out of production

malgré – despite/in spite of

Malgré la grève, l’usine a produit une centaine de voitures cette semaine.” | “Despite the strike, the factory has produced about a hundred cars this week.”

outre – besides/beyond (literary)

Outre deux tomes des Essais de Montaigne, il possédait les Confessions de Rousseau.” (literary) | “Besides two volumes of Montaigne’s Essays, he owned Rousseau’s Confessions.”

Outre also occurs in less literary registers in the following phrases:

  • outre-Atlantique | across the Atlantic (i.e. in America)
  • outre-cela | besides that
  • outre-Manche | across the Channel (i.e. in Britain)
  • outre-mer | overseas
  • outre-Rhin | on the other side of the Rhine (i.e. in Germany)
  • outre-tombe | beyond the grave

Have a great week, everyone!

Merci à vous !