Free French Lessons
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Lesson 53. Vocabulary
In any language, it’s good to know how to explain the reasons for things. It’s great to say j’aime la langue française (I love the French language), but it’s even better to be able to say why (pourquoi) you love it. This lesson will show you some words that all answer the question, Pourquoi?
The most basic response to "why" is "because," and the most basic translation of "because" in French is parce que. This Frenchman in New York City uses parce que to explain why the Big Apple’s Bastille Day celebration makes him feel at home:
Je pense que c’est bien parce que ça crée une atmosphère française.
I think it’s a good thing because it creates a French atmosphere.
In English, "because" can refer either to the reason behind something or the cause of something. The difference is subtle, but the French might help clear it up. Whenever you want to say "because of" something, use à cause de instead of parce que:
J’ai pourtant passé une nuit horrible et triste à cause de toi!
Yet I spent a horrible and sad night because of you!
It helps that "because" and à cause de both include the word "cause"! Note that à cause de is most often used in negative or neutral situations—its more positive counterpart is grâce à (thanks to):
J'ai passé une nuit merveilleuse grâce à toi!
I spent a marvelous night thanks to you!
"Because" is not the only word that answers "why," nor is parce que (or à cause de) the only phrase that answers pourquoi. There’s also "since," or puisque:
C’est peut-être le temps de se préparer justement, puisque tout arrive très vite.
It may indeed be time to get ready, since everything happens very quickly.
Note that puisque is one word, while parce que is two. Why is that, you may ask? Unfortunately that’s a question that has no real answer!
Another way to give a reason for something is with the word "as," which in this case translates to car:
Je vais au marché, car j’ai repéré une petite robe
I’m going to the market, as I noticed a little dress
You can also translate car more formally as "for" ("I’m going to the market, for I noticed a little dress"). Incidentally, the French word for a car that you drive is une voiture, but attention: un car (or un autocar) is also a vehicle in French—it means "coach," as in the kind of bus you might take on a long journey (a city bus is called un autobus).
The final French expression for giving a reason conveniently includes the word "reason" (raison) within it. The expression is en raison de, usually translated as "due to":
Cette race de géants va disparaître en raison d’une gravité terrestre devenue trop forte
This race of giants was to disappear due to a terrestrial gravity which had grown too powerful
Cap. 40-41, La Conspiration d’Orion: Conspiration 1/4
If you think the idea of a "race of giants" is totally unreasonable, watch the Conspiration d’Orion series and see if its conspiracy theories might convince you otherwise....
We hope that the reason you give when someone asks why your French is so amazing is: parce que j’utilise Yabla tous les jours (because I use Yabla every day)!
Lesson 52. Vocabulary
In keeping with the Yabla French tradition of presenting three words that look or sound the same but mean different things (see our lessons on des, dés, and dès and si, si, and si), here are three more: quand, quant, and qu’en.
Of the three words, quand is the one you might be the most familiar with. It means “when,” both as an interrogative adverb (e.g. When are you going?) and as a conjunction (e.g. I’m going when I get off work).
In their discussion on multiculturalism, the R&B sister duo Les Nubians use quand as an adverb to speculate on a sort of global passport that would allow us all to become “universal citizens”:
Quand est-ce qu’on invente le passeport?
When will they invent the passport?
Cap. 25, Les Nubians: Le multiculturalisme
As an interrogative adverb, quand can sometimes be replaced with à quel moment... or à quelle heure... (at what time…?).
While Les Nubians are looking to the future, Axel reflects on the past in his tour of Paris’s Luxembourg Gardens, using quand as a conjunction:
Je me rappelle quand j’étais petit, quand j’étais avec mes copains.
I remember when I was little, when I was with my friends.
The other adverbial form of “when” is lorsque:
Lorsque je vous vois, je tressaille
When I see you, I quiver
Quand is also used fairly often in the expression quand même, which means “still,” “even though,” or “all the same”:
Pas mal de nuages mais quand même des éclaircies
Quite a few clouds but still some sunny spells
Cap. 9, Alsace 20: Météo des Maquilleurs
The words quand and quant are only off by one letter, so make sure not to confuse them in writing. Quant is always followed by à or one of its variants (à la, au, aux) and means “as for” or “regarding”:
Quant à l’adresse du destinataire, il s’agit du Père Noël.
As for the recipient’s address, it’s Santa Claus.
An expression to replace quant à is en ce qui concerne (concerning): En ce qui concerne l'adresse du destinataire, il s'agit du Père Noël.
Less confusable in writing is qu’en, which nevertheless sounds the same as quand and quant. Qu’en is a contraction of the relative pronoun que and the indefinite pronoun en and is used in phrases like:
What do you think about that?
As you may know, en replaces phrases beginning with de (or de la, du, des), so the above sentence could also be written as: Que penses-tu de cela?
So what do you think about these three homonyms? (Quant à vous, qu'en pensez-vous?) We hope this lesson helped clear up any confusion you may have had!
Lesson 51. Vocabulary
The French words encore and toujours have a few different meanings, but they share one in common: "still." Because of this shared meaning, it’s easy to confuse these two very common words. Let’s take an in-depth look at both of them to see where they merge and diverge.
In general, when you're using "still" in the sense of continuity (i.e. "to still be doing something"), encore and toujours are interchangeable. For example, "he is still on the phone" could be both il est encore au téléphone and il est toujours au téléphone.
Besides "still," the basic meanings of encore and toujours are:
encore: more/another, again, yet
toujours: always, anyway/anyhow
Let’s start with encore. In their video for "La place des anges" (The Angels’ Place), the Belgian band Yaaz manages to fit two of encore’s meanings into one sad little line:
Elle a encore peur, elle a encore pleuré
She is still afraid, she has cried again
Cap. 13, Yaaz: La place des anges
Hopefully she’ll be feeling better soon! On a different note, encore can also mean "another" or "more" (as in "one more," "two more," etc.), as the band Dahlia uses it in this song lyric:
Encore une fois, encore une autre, et encore une voix, encore un manque
One more time, another one, and one more voice, another lack
Cap. 25, Dahlia: Contre courant
So now do you see why a band’s return to the stage is called an "encore"? It’s because the audience wants to see them once again!
Along these same lines, encore + a noun usually means "more of something," like food at the dinner table:
Vous voulez encore du pain?
Do you want some more bread?
Encore can also mean "yet," usually in the sense of "not yet" (pas encore):
Donc elle est pas encore prête pour la ferme.
So it’s not ready for the farm yet.
Now let’s explore toujours. Daniel Benchimol uses it as "still" when orienting us on his tour of the Normandy town of Honfleur:
Toujours à Honfleur, nous sommes maintenant sur la place Sainte-Catherine.
Still in Honfleur, we are now in Sainte-Catherine Square.
And Fred uses it as "always" to describe the perpetually perfect weather in Miami:
Il fait toujours chaud, toujours beau, toujours agréable.
It’s always warm, always nice, always pleasant.
You can remember this meaning by breaking the word down: toujours is a combination of the words tous (all) and jours (days), so it literally means "all days."
The final meaning of toujours is "anyway":
Je ne vais probablement pas gagner à la loterie, mais je vais toujours essayer.
I probably won’t win the lottery, but I’m going to try anyway.
Since both of these words have quite a few meanings, context is key when determining which one they’re referring to. So if you receive a text message after a first date that reads, Tu as toujours envie de me voir?, don't freak out! Your potential love interest isn't asking you if you always feel like seeing him or her, but rather if you still feel like seeing him or her. You're just being asked out on a second date! Context is also important when the two words are used in the same sentence:
Il y a encore autre chose que nous t'avons toujours caché!
There is still another thing that we've always hidden from you!
We could rehash this subject encore et toujours (again and again), but maybe it’s best for you to explore these words on your own by looking out for them in the Yabla French videos. They should pop up quite often!
Lesson 50. Vocabulary
The verbs "to bring" and "to take" are often interchangeable in English, but their French equivalents are much more specific, and knowing when to use them can be a bit tricky. French actually has four different translations of these two simple verbs: amener, emmener, apporter, and emporter.
You can see that each of these verbs begins with a- or em- and ends with mener or porter. Keeping that in mind will help you determine when to use which verb. You can break it down like this:
1. The verbs ending in mener are only used for things that can move (namely people, animals, or vehicles). The verbs ending in porter are only used for inanimate objects. Mener means "to lead" and porter means "to carry"—you’re more likely to "lead" people and animals and "carry" inanimate objects.
2. The verbs beginning with a- refer to bringing something or someone to another place or another person (emphasis on the arrival or destination; remember that à means "to" in French). The verbs beginning with em- refer to taking something or someone with you, away from the original location (emphasis on the departure or the journey).
The first rule is pretty straightforward, but context is key for the second one. Let’s explore them both by looking at these two examples:
Ils avaient emmené avec eux quelques animaux d’élevage
They had brought with them a few farm animals
Ils avaient emporté des tonnes de conserves?
Did they bring tons of canned food?
Farm animals are living, breathing creatures, and canned food is just about as inanimate as you can get, so it makes sense that emmené was used in the first sentence and emporté was used in the second. But why the em-verbs instead of the a-verbs? The words avec eux help us to see where the emphasis lies—not on where they brought the animals and food, but on the fact that they brought things with them.
Now let’s take a look at amener and apporter:
Aujourd’hui notre rendez-vous nous amène dans l’est de Paris
Today our rendezvous brings us to the east of Paris
Cap. 1, Voyage dans Paris: Belleville
Vous voulez que je vous apporte une paire pour que vous puissiez comparer?
Do you want me to bring you a pair so that you can compare?
Our rendezvous with tour guide Daniel Benchimol is "bringing" us to the east of Paris, so amener is used here, since we’re all animate human beings. On the other hand, Manon brings Margaux a pair of inanimate shoes to try on, so she uses apporter. In both cases, the emphasis is on where we and the shoes are being brought—to the east of Paris and to Margaux.
As a final example, let's see how one situation can call for both types of verbs. We already saw that apporter was the right verb to use when Manon asked Margaux if she wanted her to bring her a pair of shoes to try on. But if the shoes don't fit, Margaux could say to Manon:
Emportez-les, elles sont trop petites.
Take them away, they're too small.
She wants Manon to bring the shoes back with her (not necessarily to any particular place), so emporter is the right fit here.
This is a lot to take in, so you might need some time to chew it over. In fact, why not go to a restaurant and review it all over a nice meal? If you decide to amener un ami (bring a friend) you'll want to have it sur place (to stay); if you're alone you might want to take it à emporter (to go)!
Lesson 49. Vocabulary
In his new travel video on the Parisian suburb of Saint-Mammès, Daniel Benchimol uses the word face quite frequently when giving directions on getting around town:
Face aux péniches de Saint-Mammès, arrêtez-vous quelques instants face au numéro quarante-et-un.
Facing the barges of Saint-Mammès, stop for a few minutes in front of number forty-one.
Cap. 7-8, Voyage en France: Saint-Mammès
Face à Saint-Mammès, nous sommes à Saint Moret-sur-Loing maintenant.
Opposite Saint-Mammès, we are in Saint Moret-sur-Loing now.
Cap. 39, Voyage en France: Saint-Mammès
Face à is a useful expression meaning "facing," "in front of," or "opposite." You can even put the verb faire in front of it to make the verbal expression for "to face," in the sense of both "to be in front of" and "to cope with":
La NASA a dû faire face à une avalanche de données et de preuves embarrassantes.
NASA had to face an avalanche of data and embarrassing evidence.
The word face is used in a number of other directional expressions, such as en face (across, opposite), as the lead singer of Babylon Circus uses it when lamenting the seating arrangement of him and his love interest:
Je suis assis en face, et pas à tes côtés
I’m sitting across from you and not by your side
Cap. 23, Babylon Circus: J’aurais bien voulu
They might not be sitting close, but at least they’re maintaining eye contact by sitting face à face (face-to-face)!
Unsurprisingly, the French face is related to the English "face," but it usually doesn’t refer to the front part of your head. French actually has two words for that: la figure and le visage. (To see some incredible French faces, check out our interview with artist and master visage-painter Niko de La Faye.)
Sometimes face can in fact mean "face," mainly in a figurative sense:
Ça change pas la face du monde, mais qui sait?
That doesn’t change the face of the world, but who knows?
Cap. 26, Le Journal: Laurent Voulzy
Il peut voir la face cachée des choses.
He is able to see the hidden face of things.
If you're particularly concerned about your reputation, you might make a lot of effort to sauver la face (save face) or worry that you might perdre la face (lose face).
By itself, la face generally just means "side" (synonymous with le côté). Chef Wodling Gwennaël uses face in this way when explaining his delicious recipe for fried scallops:
On va les saisir à peu près une minute sur chaque face.
We’re going to sear them for about one minute on each side.
Face also applies to the side of a coin, namely, the "heads" side (that is, the side that usually features someone's face). So whenever you want to settle something in French with a coin toss, you can say:
Pile ou face?
Heads or tails?
Voyons les choses en face (let’s face it): the word face has many faces! In other "face"-related news, make sure to check out our Facebook page for all the latest information from Yabla.