Free French Lessons
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Lesson 43. Grammar
We've dealt with the concept of euphony before, in our lessons on the French aspirated h and on liaisons. Euphony in French is the tendency to avoid having a word that ends in a vowel before a word that begins with a vowel. It's the reason why you have l'animal instead of le animal—it just "flows" better! In this lesson, we'll look at two specific instances of euphony, before the pronoun on and before the indefinite article un/une.
Take a look at the way on is used in this caption:
Ce que l'on demande, c'est d'avoir uniquement la photo de l'animal.
What we’re asking is to have only the photo of the animal.
You might be wondering what l’ is doing before on here. L’ is the contracted form of le and la (the), and on is a singular pronoun meaning "we," "they," or "one." But it doesn’t make any sense to say "the we." So what does the l’ mean here? Actually, it doesn’t really mean anything! In formal and written French, you’ll see l’on instead of on and l’un/l’une instead of un/une in certain situations for euphonic purposes.
There are two situations where l’on is preferred over on:
1. After que (see the example above) and words that end in que, such as lorsque (when), puisque (since), and quoique (although). This is to avoid the contraction qu'on, which sounds the same as a rude French word that we won't mention here.
2. After short words ending in a vowel sound, such as et (and), ou (or), où (where), and si (if):
Si l’on fait la queue, on a froid.
If we wait in line, we’re cold.
Cap. 11, Fanny parle des saisons: Activités
And there are two situations where l’un/l’une is preferred over un/une:
1. When un/une is followed by a preposition (usually de or des):
Voici Indira, sans doute l'un des animaux de compagnie les plus insolites qui puissent exister.
Here is Indira, undoubtedly one of the most unusual pets that could possibly exist.
2. At the beginning of a clause:
L’une des icônes principales de l’église est le martyr saint Mina.
One of the church’s principal icons is the martyr Saint Mina.
Cap. 15, LCM: Joyeux Noël... orthodoxe!
As we mentioned, l’on and l’un/l’une are mainly used in formal and written French. In casual spoken French, you’ll often just see the words without the l’:
Ça fait longtemps qu’on attend ça.
We’ve been waiting a long time for this.
Cap. 16, Alsace 20: Rammstein à Strasbourg
But since it’s always good to know the "proper" way of speaking, keep these rules in mind!
Lesson 42. Vocabulary
"Only" might seem like a pretty lonely word, but there are actually several different ways of saying it in French: the adjectives seul(e) and unique, the adverb seulement and uniquement, and the verb phrase ne... que.
First let’s take a look at the words seul(e) and seulement:
Parce que le mardi, c’est le seul jour où je ne travaille pas.
Because Tuesday is the only day when I don’t work.
Aussi je vais dire seulement trois choses.
Also I am only going to say three things.
Cap. 10, Le Journal: Joëlle Aubron libérée
Seulement is the adverbial form of the adjective seul(e), which has another similar (and sadder!) meaning as well:
Alors je me retrouve un petit peu seul en ce moment.
So I find myself a little alone right now.
Cap. 5, Hugo Bonneville: Gagner sa vie
Some other ways of saying "alone" or "lonely" are solitaire and isolé(e).
And seulement has some additional meanings of its own. It can be used to express a regret ("if only...") and to mean "however":
Si seulement je l'avais su avant.
If only I had known before.
Il veut venir, seulement il ne peut pas.
He wants to come, however he can't.
Although unique and uniquement are most directly translated as "unique" and "uniquely," they can also mean "only":
Je suis un enfant unique.
I am an only child.
Ce que l’on demande, c’est d’avoir uniquement la photo de l’animal.
What we’re asking is to have only the photo of the animal.
Now let’s look at a bit more complicated way of saying "only": the verb phrase ne... que. As you might have guessed, ne... que is a negative construction, as in ne... pas (not), ne... personne (no one), and ne... rien (nothing). In these constructions, the two components go on either side of the verb:
Il ne mesure que soixante-dix mètres carrés.
It only measures seventy square meters.
Moi, je ne parlais que français.
Me, I spoke only French.
Most of the time, ne... que can be replaced with seulement:
Il mesure seulement soixante-dix mètres carrés.
It only measures seventy square meters.
Moi, je parlais seulement français.
Me, I spoke only French.
Sometimes, que can mean "only" outside of the ne... que construction. For example, in an interview with Le Figaro, A-lister Ashton Kutcher laments being typecast as a jokester, declaring: "Je ne suis pas qu’un clown!" (I’m not only a clown!)
The ne in this sentence goes with pas (not), while the que stands on its own to mean "only." Ashton (or his translator) could just as well have said, Je ne suis pas seulement un clown!
Maybe the former "Punk’d" star can shed his clownish reputation by undertaking some serious French studies at Yabla French! Since he’s known to be an avid tweeter, he might want to start by following us on Twitter @Yabla. And you should follow us too!
Lesson 41. Vocabulary
Monter is a French verb that can come in handy in many situations. We find the most basic meaning of the verb in our interview with Joanna, whose apartment is so tiny that her entire kitchen fits inside a cupboard! And although living on the ground floor means she doesn’t have to climb any stairs, she does have to climb a ladder to get to her bed:
J’habite au rez-de-chaussée, donc je n’ai pas besoin de monter les escaliers.
I live on the ground floor, so I don’t need to go up the stairs.
Cap. 6, L’appartement: de Joanna
C’est pour dormir, avec mon lit, et je dois monter à cette échelle.
It’s for sleeping, with my bed, and I have to climb this ladder.
Cap. 14, L’appartement: de Joanna
Joanna uses the verb monter to describe going up the stairs and climbing the ladder. Although “to go up” is the verb's most basic meaning, there are quite a few others. For example, a price or a level of something can also monter:
Le prix de l’essence monte chaque année.
The price of gas rises every year.
Jean-Marc also uses the verb to talk about getting inside his dream car:
À chaque fois que je monte dedans, j’y prends beaucoup de plaisir.
Every time I get in, I enjoy it very much.
Cap. 12, Jean-Marc: Voiture de rêve
The opposite of monter is descendre (to go down), and just as monter can refer to getting into a car or onto a bus or train, descendre refers to getting out or off:
On va monter dans le train à Bastille et descendre à République.
We’ll get on the train at Bastille and get off at République.
Note that it’s monter dans le train (literally, “to go up into the train”) and descendre du train (to descend from the train).
When monter is used with a direct object, it can mean “to put up,” “set up,” “establish,” or “put together”:
C’était un peu une façon pour moi et de faire un film et de monter une pièce.
It was kind of a way for me to make not only a film but also to stage a play.
Il a réussi à monter sa propre pizzeria.
He succeeded in opening his own pizzeria.
Cap. 3, Le Journal: Les microcrédits
Donc, le crapaud, il va falloir beaucoup plus de temps pour le monter.
So for the squat armchair, it will take much longer to put it together.
Speaking of direct objects, it’s good to know what to do with monter in the past tense (passé composé). Monter is one of the few verbs that usually takes the auxiliary être in the passé composé instead of avoir:
Joanna est montée à l’échelle.
Joanna climbed the ladder.
But when monter takes a direct object and becomes transitive, it does take avoir:
Nous avons monté une pièce.
We staged a play.
The passé composé is a very tricky aspect of French grammar. You can find a detailed introduction to it here.
This lesson just dips its toe into the verb’s numerous possibilities: you can also monter un film (edit a film), monter à cheval (ride a horse), monter un complot (hatch a plot), monter au combat (go to battle), monter des blancs d’œufs (whisk egg whites), and much more!
You can find a comprehensive list of monter's meanings on this site.
Lesson 40. Vocabulary
In this lesson, we’ll focus on the verb arriver, which has four different but equally common meanings. As you might guess, arriver is cognate with the English word “arrive,” which is the first meaning of the word:
On arrive au square de l’Opéra Louis Jouvet, que je trouve très joli aussi.
We arrive at the Opéra Louis Jouvet Square, which I also find very pretty.
Cap. 33, Mon Lieu Préféré: Place Édouard VII
Just as “arrive” doesn’t only refer to reaching a specific location (you can “arrive at” a solution, for example), arriver can also mean “to manage” or “succeed”:
On arrive enfin à se mettre d’accord.
We manage finally to come to an agreement.
Cap. 18, Rémy de Bores: Auteur
The expression y arriver specifically means “to make it” or “do it”:
Pour sortir des toilettes, c’est vraiment extrêmement étroit et avec le fauteuil, on y arrive....
To come out of the restroom, it’s really extremely narrow and you can do it with the wheelchair....
And if someone is waiting for you and you’re on your way, you can use arriver to let them know that you’re coming (or arriving):
Dépêche-toi, Michel, je suis en retard! -Oui, j’arrive!
Hurry up, Michel, I’m late! -Yes, I’m coming!
Car Ivan arrive; le cyclone progresse à trente kilomètres / heure.
Because Ivan is coming; the cyclone is moving at thirty kilometers per hour.
Cap. 11, Le Journal: La Martinique
The final meaning of arriver is “to happen.” In this sense, it is synonymous with the verb se passer:
Ce qui ne m’était pas arrivé depuis six ans
Which had not happened to me for six years
Qu’est-ce qui se passe?
There is also the expression il arrive que... (it happens that...), which is usually translated as “sometimes”:
Il arrive que les rêves se réalisent.
Sometimes dreams come true.
Note that il arrive que... takes the subjunctive.
So whether someone or something is arriving, succeeding, coming, or happening, you can cover a lot of ground with the verb arriver. See if you can come up with sentences for each of its meanings!
Lesson 39. Grammar
There's a simple French construction you can use when you're talking about getting someone to do something: faire ("to make" or "to do") + infinitive. It may even be easier than actually getting them to do it!
The construction is known as the causative, and as its name suggests, it's used whenever the subject is causing something to happen. Just put faire in front of whatever action you want someone to do:
On essaie juste de se défouler et de faire rire l'autre.
They just try to unwind and to make each other laugh.
Cap. 5, Le Journal: Les effets bénéfiques du rire!
"Faire + infinitive" is especially useful when you're having someone perform a service:
Henri Quatre... décida de faire construire une place en l'honneur du Dauphin, la place Dauphine
Henry the Fourth... decided to have a square built in honor of the Dauphin, the Place Dauphine
Cap. 17-18, Voyage dans Paris: Ponts de Paris
Je vais faire réparer mon ordinateur.
I'm going to get my computer fixed.
Incidentally, if you're talking about making someone or something an adjective, the construction to use is rendre ("to make" or "to render") + adjective (never "faire + adjective"):
Ce cadeau va rendre mon ami heureux.
This gift will make my friend happy.
Like most verbal constructions, "faire + infinitive" can also become reflexive. In this case, the subject is being made to do something (not making someone else do it). Of course, being made to do something isn't always a good thing:
Je me suis fait voler mon sac.
I had my bag stolen.
Je me suis retrouvé en train de me faire réveiller
I found myself being awakened
Il faut se faire entendre, hein.
You have to be heard, you know.
Me faire réveiller and se faire entendre could be translated more literally as "having myself be awakened" and "make oneself be heard."
The reflexive form of "faire + infinitive" can also be used to describe something that you have someone do for you or to you:
Je me fais livrer mon dîner chaque nuit.
I have my dinner delivered to me every night.
On peut aller se faire faire des massages.
You can go have a massage.
Cap. 25, Le Journal: iDTGV - Part 1
There's no typo in that last example—the second faire is just the infinitive part of the "faire + infinitive" construction. Without it, you would have on peut aller se faire des massages, or "you can go give yourself a massage," which isn't nearly as luxurious.
Now that you know all this, you can sit back and have a French person build a square in your honor. You deserve it!