Tag Archive | French Phrases

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 !

Courtney

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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

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

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 !

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

Comparisons of Adjectives and Adverbs

How to Form the Comparative of Adjectives and Adverbs

In English, we have two ways of changing adjectives and adverbs from positive to comparative degree. Many of our most common adjectives and adverbs are changed by adding -er to them; i.e.: rich → richer; soon → sooner. Other adjectives and adverbs are made comparative by placing the words “more” (or “less”) in front of them, i.e.: beautiful → more beautiful; slowly → more/less slowly.

In French, comparatives are formed by placing plus (or moins) in front of the adjective or adverb, i.e.: riche → plus riche; vite → plus/moins vite.

How to Use the Comparative in French

  • Elle est plus jolie que sa sœur. | She is prettier than her sister.
  • Vous parlez plus vite que lui. | You speak faster than he does.
  • Ce village est moins intéressant que celui que nous avons visité la semaine dernière. | This village is less interesting than the one we visited last week.
  • Jean est aussi intelligent que son frère. | Jean is as intelligent as his brother.
  • Parlez aussi lentement que moi. | Speak as slowly as I do.

Observations on the uses of the comparative:

  1. In comparatives, “than” is translated by que
  2. In French, a comparison of equality (as…as) is expressed by aussi… que.

Have a great week, everyone!

Merci à vous !

Courtney

Uses of the Imperfect

The French imperfect corresponds to the English form “was/were doing”. It is used, like the English form, to describe a continuous state in the past.

  • Le soleil brillait et la mer était très calme.
  • The sun was shining and the sea was very calm.

It is also used to record an action which “was happening” at the same time as another action, or when another action intervened.

  • Nous prenions un café alors qu’on a frappé à la port.
  • We were having a coffee when someone knocked on the door.

Since the imperfect conveys this idea of simultaneity, it is used after conjunctions such as comme, or pendant que (even where English uses the simple past).

  • Comme il fermait le robinet il remarqua une fuite d’eau.
  • As he turned off/was turning off the tap, he noticed water dripping.

A second use of the imperfect is to record repeated or habitual actions in the past. This corresponds to the English form “used to” (or “would”).

  • Quand je faisais mes études, je me couchais assez tard.
  • When I was studying, I used to/would go to bed quite late.

I hope you all have a great week!

A bientôt !

Courtney