Conjugation – Indicatif Présent

When conjugating a French verb, the root of the verb takes several endings (suffixes) in the various personal forms. However, English verbs do not usually take endings except for the -s ending in the third person singular of the Present tense (e.g. he goes, he reads, she writes, it makes). In French all the personal forms take a specific ending (e.g. je travaille – I work, tu travailles – you work, nous travaillons – we work).

The infinitive form usually ends in -er, -re or -ir in French, which is generally identical to the English “to” preposition: to make – faire; to sleep – dormir; to go – aller; to give – donner.
When conjugating a French verb the endings are added to the root of the verb. The root can be obtained by leaving the -er, -re or -ir ending off of the infinitive. E.g.:  donn-erje donne, tu donnes, il donne.

The personal pronouns (je, tu, il, elle; nous, vous, ils, elles – like English I, you, he, she, it; we, you, they) are always put next to the verb.

 

Present Tense (Présent)

Verbs with the infinitive -er take the following endings:

singular:
   -e
   -es
   -e

plural:
   -ons
   -ez
   -ent

examples:

 

As can be seen the 1st and the 3rd person singular forms are the same in the case of the regular verbs (je travaille, il travaille).

 

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Usage of the present tense (Présent):

It can describe both repeated actions around the present and actions that are in progress in the time of speaking. It doesn’t matter if the action takes a lot of time or happens just in a moment. It doesn’t matter either if the action began in the past, nor how long or since when it has been in progress, Präsens is used to describe all of these:

Je me lève à 7 heures chaque jour.
(I get up at 7 o’clock every day.)

Je travaille maintenant.
(I am working at the moment.)

Je travaille 5 heures chaque jour.
(I work 5 hours every day.)

Je travaille depuis deux heures.
(I have been working for two hours.)

J’habite ici depuis trois mois.
(I have lived here for three months.)

Présent can express future, too, if there is an adverb in the sentence that refers to the future (e.g. demain- tomorrow,  la semaine prochaine – next week):

Je pars pour Paris la semaine prochaine.
(I will go to Paris next week.)

So, the French Présent can express the English Present simple, Present continuous, Present perfect and Present perfect continuous as well as the Future tense. However, if these tenses refer to a past event, they cannot be translated into French using Présent, e.g.: “Somebody has been smoking here. Everything smells of smoke.” “Has been smoking” refers to a past event (which, by the way, has an effect in the present) so it cannot be expressed in French by the Présent.

Conjugation – Indicatif – Compound Past (Passé composé)

Avoir or être is conjugated in the present tense, and the past participle (participe passé) of the main verb comes after:

  avoir / être            +          participe passé
    conjugated in the present tense

Avoir is used with the verbs that can have a direct object (e.g. acheter (quelque chose) – buy (something); voir (quelque chose) – see (something)). Verbs that cannot have a direct object are accompanied either by avoir or by être, it has to be learnt for each verb. At any rate, verbs without a direct object that express movement (e.g. aller - go, venir - come) or change of state are used with être.

 acheter (to buy)              dormir (to sleep)

j’ai acheté                  j’ai dormi
tu as acheté                 tu as dormi
il a acheté                  il a dormi
nous avons acheté            nous avons dormi
vous avez acheté             vous avez dormi
ils ont acheté               ils ont dormi

Using être the past participle agrees with the subject in number and person – though it cannot usually be heard, it usually  applies only the written language:

 aller (to go)                 venir (to come)

je suis allé(e)              je suis venu(e)
tu es allé(e)                tu es venu(e)
il est allé                  il est venu
elle est allée               elle est venue
nous sommes allé(e)s         nous sommes venu(e)s

vous êtes allé(e)s           vous êtes venu(e)s
ils sont allés               ils sont venus
elles sont allées            elles sont venues

The reflexive verbs are always conjugated with être:

   se laver (to wash [oneself])

je me suis lavé(e)
tu t’es lavé(e)
il s’est lavé
elle s’est lavée

nous nous sommes lavé(e)s
vous vous êtes lavé(e)s
ils se sont lavés
elles se sont lavées

If there is a direct object in the sentence and it precedes the participe passé, then the participe passé has to agree with the direct object:

Marie est ici. Je l’ai vue.
Tu as beaucoup de livres. Je les ai vus.
Marie et Nicole sont ici. Je les ai vues.

BUT: J’ai vu les livres. J’ai vu Marie et Nicole.

Note that passé composé can express not only the same meaning as the English present perfect (though the formation is very similar) but also the meaning of the simple past and several English tenses. Thus, j’ai appris can mean not only that “I have learnt” but also “I learnt”, “I had been learning” and so on.

Gender of the French Noun

In English we say:

the boy, the girl.

However in French we say:

le garçon, la fille.

As can be seen the definite article (“the”) is expressed here by two different words: le and la. This means that French nouns belong to two groups. Which group a noun belongs to is shown by the article.

The names of the two groups are called masculine (le) and feminine (la). These denominations refer to the natural gender (le garçon – masculine, la fille – feminine) but nouns that do not have a natural gender also belong to one of the groups. E.g.:

le livre (the book), la maison (the house).

So, which noun belongs to which group? What is the rule? Well, it is hard to define a perfect rule that helps to categorise all French nouns. In part the natural gender of the noun (if it has one) can help. But what about nouns that do not have a natural gender? The situation is that the gender of a noun has to be learnt together with the noun itself. It is not enough to learn that “book” in French is livre but you rather have to learn le livre.
However, nouns with a vowel in the beginning have the article l’ independent from the gender (e.g.: l’arbre – the tree – masculine; l’image – the picture – feminine). Thus, dictionaries usually represent the gender by showing not the definite article but only a letter m for masculine or a letter f form feminine, e.g.:

livre (m)
maison (f)
arbre (m)
image (f)

It is important to know the article (gender) of a noun as it can sometimes make a difference in the meaning. E.g. if you say le poste, it means “job”. But, if you say la poste, it means “post office”. Le tour means “turn”, la tour means “tower”. Le mode is “way”, “manner”, la mode is “fashion”.

Most determiners and article-like words refer to the gender of the nouns, having different forms for masculine and feminine, e.g. un, une (a, an), mon, ma (my); ce, cette (this). So you say:

un livre (a book)
une maison (a house)

ce livre  (this book)
cette maison (this house)

mon livre (my book)
ma maison (my house)

In summary it is very important to know the gender (the definite article) of nouns, as their gender can appear in many ways in a French sentence.

There are some rules that help us to classify French nouns. Either their meaning or their ending can often determine the gender.

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Classification by meaning

Masculine:

1. all the names of seasons, days of the week and months:

le printemps, l’été (m), l’automne (m), l’hiver (m)

le lundi, le mardi, le mercredi, le jeudi, le vendredi, le samedi, le dimanche; le jour (day)

le janvier, le février, le mars l’avril (m), le mai, le juin, le juillet, l’août (m) le septembre, l’octobre (m), le novembre, le décembre; le mois (month)

2. Points of the compass:

le nord, le sud, l’est (m), l’ouest (m)

3. Lakes and mountains: le lac Balaton (le Balaton), le lac de Constance (Bodensee, Lake Constance), le Harz / le Hartz, le (lac) Baïkal, l’Etna (m), l’Himalaya (m)

Feminine:

1. The names of planets

Mercure, Vénus, la Terre, Mars, Jupiter, Saturne, Uranus, Neptune, Pluton; la Lune; la planète

2. names of countries and territories and other geographical names with the ending -e: la France, la Hongrie

exceptions: le Mexique, le Combodge, le Rhône, Zimbabwe

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Classification by ending

It is hard to classify nouns precisely. However, some rules can be defined in general, though there are almost always one or more exceptions. One reason for the exceptions can be traced back to the origin of the word. E.g., most nouns with the ending -eau are masculine but the word eau (water) is feminine as it goes back to the Latin aqua.

Masculine

-er: le janvier, le février

-eau, -ou: le manteau (coat), le château (castle); le cou (neck), le genou (knee)

exceptions: l’eau (f) (water), la peau (skin)

-il, -ail, -eil, -ueil: le Soleil

-ment: le pigment, le document, le parlement, le moment, l’instrument

 

Personal pronouns – nominative, accusative, dative, reflexive

Nominative

je - I
tu – you (friendly, informal form)
il- he

elle - she

nous -we
vous - you (plural, e.g.: you all; polite, formal form, both in the singular and the plural)
ils - they (masculine, or masculine and feminine at the same time)
elles - they (feminine)

Nominative forms are used before the verb as in English (e.g.: je vais, tu lis, nous prenons). These forms are not used alone!
Je loses the e before a word beginning with a vowel, and takes the form j’: je + aime = j’aime.
The stressed  forms of nominative personal pronouns are used alone:

moi - I
toi - you (friendly, informal form)
lui - he
elle - she

nous -we
vous - you (plural, e.g.: you all; polite, formal form, both in the singular and the plural)
eux - they (masculine, or masculine and feminine at the same time)
elles - they (feminine)

Ee.g. Qui habite ici? – Moi. – Who lives here? – Me.

These stressed forms can come before the whole structure if the pronoun is stressed: Moi, je travaille (It is me who am working).

Accusative

me - me
te - you (friendly, informal form)
le - him

la - her

nous -us
vous - you (plural, e.g.: you all; polite, formal form, both in the singular and the plural)
les - them

Me, te, le, la lose the last letter (e or a) before a word beginning with a vowel, and they take the forms m’, t’, l’.

Examples:

Je t’aime (I love you).
Il les déteste (He hates them).
Ils nous visitent (They visit us).

Dative

me - (to) me
te - (to) you (friendly, informal form)
lui - (to) him
, (to) her

nous- (to) us
vous- (to) you (plural, e.g.: you all; polite, formal form, both in the singular and the plural)
leur- (to) them

Examples: Il me donne le journal (He gives the newspaper to me ). Nous leur écrivons (We write to them).

 Reflexive

me - myself
te - yourself (friendly, informal form)
se - himself, herself, itself

nous - ourselves
vous - yourselves; yourself/yourselves (polite, formal form, both in the singular and the plural)
se - themselves

These pronouns are mostly used with reflexive verbs. The subject of reflexive verbs is the same as their (direct) object. These verbs are used together with reflexive pronouns. In English these verbs are usually used without a reflexive pronoun.

Example: Je me lave (I wash [implying “myself”, not something or someone else)

There are reflexive verbs that use the reflexive pronouns although they do not really have a reflexive meaning, e.g. s’occuper (to deal with):

Je m’occupe de mon chien (I deal with my dog).

These forms of reflexive pronouns are used with a reflexive verb even if the verb has another argument as a direct object. E.g.: I wash my hands – “my hands” is a direct object, and the action has an effect on the subject itself (the possessive adjective “my” refers to this fact). So, in this case we could say “Je me lave” (I wash – myself) or “Je lave les mains” (I wash my hands). But more likely we would use a reflexive pronoun instead of the possessive adjective:

Example: Je me lave les mains (I wash my hands). ( = Je me lave + Je lave mes mains.)

Accusative and dative forms with the imperative

The forms me and te are not used with a verb in the imperative. Moi and toi are used instead. In the imperative the personal pronouns are connected to the verb with a hyphen:

Regarde-moi (look at me). Regarde-le (look at him). Regarde-la (look at her). Regarde-nous (look at us). Lavez-vous (wash [yourselves]). Regarde-les (look at them).

Donne-moi le livre (give the book to me). Donne-lui le livre (give the book to him). Donne-nous le livre (give the book to us). Donnons-vous le livre (let’s give the book to you). Donne-leur le livre (give the book to them).

Possessive Pronouns and Possessive Adjectives

Possessive Adjectives

mon, ma, mes - my
ton, ta, tes - your
son, sa, ses – his
, her, its

notre, nos - our
votre, vos - your (including more than one owner)
leur, leurs- their

In the singular (only one owner) they have three forms, one for the masculine, one for the feminine and one for the plural nouns. In the plural forms (more owners) they have two forms: one for the singular both masculine and feminine, and one for the plural nouns.
The gender of the following noun (and not the gender of the owner!) defines its form. Practically, possessive adjectives behave in the same way as the definite article (le, la, l’, les), possessive adjectives are used instead of the article so using the definite article next to the possessive adjective would be incorrect.

Examples:

ma maison = my house (maison is feminine: la maison)
ta soeur= your sister (soeur is feminine: la soeur)
son frère = his/her brother (frère is masculine: le frère)
notre frère = our brother
leur livre = their book (livre is masculine: le livre)

mes maisons = my houses
tes soeurs = your sisters
ses frères = his/her brothers
nos frères = our brothers
leurs livres = their books

If a feminine noun begins with a vowel, the forms mon, ton, son are used (and not ma, ta, sa):

mon amie = my (girl)friend

NB: 3rd person singular and plural pronouns and adjectives can be used referring to not only people but things too, e.g.:

J’ai une table. J’aime beaucoup sa couleur  = I have a table. I like its colour very much.

Possessive Pronouns

They stand alone, without a noun after them:

le mien, la mienne;  les miens, les miennes – mine
le tien, la tienne;  les tiens, les tiennes – yours
le sien, la sienne; les siens, les siennes – his, hers, its

le nôtre, la nôtre; les nôtres – ours
le vôtre, la nôtre; les vôtres – yours (more than one owner)
le leur, la leur;   les leurs – theirs

Examples:

La table est la mienne – The table is mine.
Voici une montre. C’est la nôtre – Here is a watch. It is ours.
Ce livre est le sien – This book is his.

 

Prepositions

Prepositions and Articles

Some prepositions are contracted with some forms of the definite article. For example, instead of de le sucre you say du sucre.

à, de

Please be patient! Under construction!

Cardinal and Ordinal Numbers

Cardinal numbers

1 un, une
11 onze 30 trente
2 deux 12 douze 40 quarante
3 trois 13 treize 50 cinquante
4 quatre 14 quatorze 60 soixante
5 cinq 15 quinze 70 soixante-dix
6 six 16 seize 80 quatre-vingts
7 sept 17 dix-sept 90 quatre-vingt-dix
8 huit 18 dix-huit 100 cent
9 neuf 19 dix-neuf 600 six cents
10 dix 20 vingt 700 sept cents
1000 mille 4000 quatre mille
10 000 dix mille
100 000 cent mille
1 000 000 un million 3 000 000 trois millions 1 00 000 000 cent millions

 From 21 to 69 the units come after the tens. If the unit is 1 it is joined by the conjunction et (in English: “and”), e. g.:

21 = vingt et un
31 = trente et un
41 = quarante et un
51 = cinquante et un
61 = soixante et un

If the unit is not 1 it is joined by a hyphen:

22 = vingt-deux      23 = vingt-trois
32 = trente-deux     34 = trente-quatre
42 = quarante-deux   55 = cinquante-cinq

Between 70 and 80 the starting point is 60. We can express these numbers adding the necessary sum to 60, so the second part of the number is between 10 and 19. Furthermore, 71 is expressed using the conjunction et similarly to 21, 31 and so on:

71 = 60 + 11 = soixante et onze
72 = 60 + 12 = soixante-douze
73 = 60 + 13 = soixante-treize
74 = 60 + 14 = soixante-quatorze
75 = 60 + 15 = soixante-quinze
76 = 60 + 16 = soixante-seize
77 = 60 + 17 = soixante-dix-sept
78 = 60 + 18 = soixante-dix-huit
79 = 60 + 19 = soixante-dix-neuf

80 is interpreted as 60 + 20:

80 = 4 * 20 = quatre-vingts (with an “s” in the end!)
81 = 4 * 20 + 1 = quatre-vingt-un (without an “s”!)
82 = 4 * 20 + 2 = quatre-vingt-deux
83 = 4 * 20 + 3 = quatre-vingt-trois
84 = 4 * 20 + 4 = quatre-vingt-quatre
85 = 4 * 20 + 5 = quatre-vingt-cinq
86 = 4 * 20 + 6 = quatre-vingt-six
87 = 4 * 20 + 7 = quatre-vingt-sept
88 = 4 * 20 + 8 = quatre-vingt-huit
89 = 4 * 20 + 9 = quatre-vingt-neuf

90 is interpreted as 60 + 20 + 10:

90 = 4 * 20 + 10 = quatre-vingt-dix
91 = 4 * 20 + 11 = quatre-vingt-onze
92 = 4 * 20 + 12 = quatre-vingt-douze
93 = 4 * 20 + 13 = quatre-vingt-treize
94 = 4 * 20 + 14 = quatre-vingt-quatorze
95 = 4 * 20 + 15 = quatre-vingt-quinze
96 = 4 * 20 + 16 = quatre-vingt-seize
97 = 4 * 20 + 17 = quatre-vingt-dix-sept
98 = 4 * 20 + 18 = quatre-vingt-dix-huit
99 = 4 * 20 + 19 = quatre-vingt-dix-neuf

Normally cent (hunderd) is used in plural if speaking about more than one:

200 deux cents            300 trois cents

If further numbers follow them, cent is used in singular:

211 deux cent onze        340 trois cent quarante.

Un million and un milliard are nouns. They are always used in the plural if speaking about more than one:

5 000 000 cinq millions
4 400 000 cinq millions quatre cent mille

This also means that further nouns are connected to million/milliard by the preposition de if they stand right after them:

un million d’habitants
BUT: un million quatre cent mille habitants.

Zero is called zéro.

 

Ordinal numbers

1. premier, première
11. onzième 30. trentième
2. deuxième 12. douzième 40. quarantième
3. troisième 13. treizième 50. cinquantième
4. quatrième 14. quatorzième 60. soixantième
5. cinqième 15. quinzième 70. soixante-dixième
6. sixième 16. seizième 80. quatre-vingtième
7. septième 17. dix-septième 90. quatre-vingt-dixième
8. huitième 18. dix-huitième 100. centième
9. neuvième 19. dix-neuvième 1000. millième
10. dixième 20. vingtième 1 000 000. millionième

Attention:

21st = vingt et unième (not: premier)
31st = trente et unième
41st = quarante et unième
51st = cinquante et unième
61st = soixante et unième

Only the premier / première differs in the masculine and in the feminine.

The numbers lose their eventual -s or -e ending before the ending -ième:

quatre → quatrième (quatre loses the ending -e)
trois cents → trois centième (cents loses the ending -s)

.

Very large numbers – just as a curiosity

Adding further three zeros to a very large number, we get another number with its own name. So after one million (un million) we get one billion (un milliard), then one trillion (un billion), then one quadrillion (un billiard). As can be seen the names of large numbers differ significantly between French and English, as in French the -illion and -illiard endings follow each other alternately.

Similarly to million, the names of very large numbers are treated as nouns and are used in the plural when speaking about more than one of them:

1 000 000 000 un milliard
2 000 000 000 deux milliards
1 000 000 000 000 un billion
3 000 000 000 000 trois billions

Very large numbers are expressed as powers of ten. These numbers are not used in everyday life: 

106 million Million
109 billion Milliard
1012 trillion Billion
1015 quadrillion Billiard
1018 quintillion Trillion
1021 sextillion Trilliard
1024 septillion Quadrillion
1027 octillion Quadrilliard
1030 nonillion Quintilion
1033 decillion Quintilliard
1036 undecillion Sextillion
1039 duodecillion Sextilliard
1042 tredecillion Septillion
1045 quattuordecillion Septilliard
1048 quindecillion Octillion
1051 sexdecillion Octilliard
1054 septendecillion Nonillion
1057 octodecillion Nonilliard
1060 novemdecillion Décillion
1063 vigintillion Décilliard
1066 unvigintillion Undécillon
1069 duovigintillion Undécillard
1072 tresvigintillion Duodécillon
1075 quattuorvigintillion Duodécillard
1078 quinvigintillion Trédécillon
1081 sesvigintillion Trédécillard
1084 septemvigintillion Quattordezillon
1087 octovigintillion Quattordécillard
1090 novemvigintillion Quindécillon
1093 trigintillion Quindécillard
1096 untrigintillion Sexdécillon
1099 duotrigintillion Sexdécillard