Some French adjectives change their meaning depending on whether we put them before or after the noun they modify. For example, in Le Journal's video Les microcrédits, we learn about a fellow who realizes his dream of opening a business. This pauvre homme (poor, as in "pitiable," man) had spent years doing nothing every day. But, because he was also an homme pauvre (poor, as in "penniless," man), he qualified for a microcredit loan, and is now a proud restaurateur!
Il a réussi à monter sa propre pizzeria, il y a maintenant trois mois.
He succeeded in opening his own pizzeria, just three months ago.
Caption 3, Le Journal: Les microcrédits
Sa propre pizzeria means it's his alone, but if he wants customers to keep coming back, he'd better make sure it's also a pizzeria propre (a clean pizzeria)! As you can see, if placed in front of the noun, propre signals ownership; if placed after, it indicates cleanliness.
We hear another interesting example when rugby-player-turned-singer Cali sings the romantic ballad C'est quand le bonheur?
Car qui mieux que ces vieux amants, sait qu'on perd l'amour
Because who knows better than those old lovers that you lose lov
Caption 34, Cali: C'est quand le bonheur?
You may notice that Cali does not mention anyone's age; ces vieux amants, "those old lovers," refers to lovers who have experienced long-lasting love. They might be in their twenties or in their eighties—we don’t know. If Cali had placed the adjective vieux (old) after the noun amants (lovers), then we'd know that he meant elderly lovers (who, for all we know, met last week at bingo). So, amants vieux would indicate their age, while vieux amants indicates the duration of their love.
Dropping in on the Paris Poetry Fair, we hear:
Antonin Artaud, grand homme de théâtre, grand poète du vingtième siècle...
Antonin Artaud, famous playwright, famous poet from the twentieth century...
Notice that grand, placed before the noun, means "famous" or "great"—quite different from when it appears after the noun. Un homme grand means a tall man—a man of physically grand proportions. Can you spot any poètes grands (tall poets) among the aspiring grands poètes (great poets) at this Paris Poetry Fair?
Did you see Le Journal's piece about teen use of marijuana?
Selon lui, certains signes devraient alerter vite les parents.
According to him, certain signs should quickly alert parents.
Caption 24, Le Journal: Cannabis en hausse chez les jeunes
This specialist talks about certains signes (certain, as in "some specific," signs). But are these also signes certains (certain, as in "definite, unquestionable," signs)? Watch the video and decide for yourself!
Keep an eye out for these and other adjectives that change their meaning depending on where they sit!
Extra credit: Certain language sages have noted that, generally speaking, these types of adjectives take a more figurative meaning when placed before a noun, and a more literal one when placed after. Can you see what they mean?
We know you look to Yabla for language, not math, so apologies in advance to any arithmophobes out there. Yes, we're going to talk some numbers today, but you can count on us to go easy on you
Remember last time, when we talked about French adjectives that come before the noun they modify? Well, there's another category of adjectives that behave that way: numbers!
Parmi les expériences inoubliables des deux plongeurs...
Among the unforgettable experiences of the two divers...
Caption 20, Le Journal: Sillonner & photographier les océans
In this video about Pierre and Laurent's beautiful underwater photography, you see an example where the adjective deux (two) comes before the noun plongeurs (divers). It's just like in English: "two divers."
And staying on the numerical track, when an adjective indicates a place in a series, like premier (first), prochain (next), or dernier (last), it should also be placed in front of the noun it qualifies. For example, le premier président (the first president).
If you'd rather be on top of the water than underneath it, take a look at this lightning trip around the world in 50 days. Captain Bruno Peyron and his crew break Steve Fossett's record on their impressive catamaran.
Lorsque le jeune Bruno Peyron boucle le premier tour du monde en équipage et sans escale...
When the young Bruno Peyron completed the first trip around the world with a crew and without a stop...
Caption 13, Le Journal: Le record du Tour du Monde!
Notice the adjective premier (first) that precedes the noun tour (trip), because premier indicates a place in a series (the first place).
However, be aware that prochain (next) and dernier (last) do not always precede the noun they modify. In fact, they follow the noun when they indicate a notion of time, as when they are used with a week, month, or year. For example: le mois prochain (next month).
We hear an example in the video about French youth up in arms against the loi Fillon designed to reform French education.
Trois mille à Lyon, ils étaient deux fois plus la semaine dernière.
Three thousand in Lyon, they were twice as many last week.
In this instance, the adjective dernière (last) is placed after the noun semaine (week) because it indicates an expression of time: the protest is simmering down a bit compared to the previous week.
Finally, one last number-related point: a tip on where to place an adjective if, after all you've learned from the Yabla lessons, you still aren't quite sure where the darn thing should go. It's easy math: count and compare the number of syllables in the two words, adjective and noun. Most often, the qualifying adjective is placed in front of the noun if the noun is composed of a greater number of syllables than the adjective. In other words, if the adjective is shorter, it goes in front.
Corrine, a young and charming French woman, shows us an example of this when talking about the merits of her hometown.
On a la chaleur, on a, euh... peut-être la pollution, mais en tout cas, on a de beaux paysages.
We've got warm weather, we have, uh... maybe pollution, but in any case, we have beautiful landscapes.
Caption 16-17, Fanny et Corrine: Leurs origines
Notice how Corrine mentions Marseilles' beaux paysages (beautiful landscapes). The adjective beaux (beautiful) has fewer syllables than the noun paysages (landscapes), so beaux is placed before paysages.
Conversely, the adjective is usually placed after the noun if it has more syllables than does the noun. For example, you would say une voix horrible (a horrible voice); the noun voix (voice) has fewer syllables than the adjective horrible, so the noun comes first.
Le Journal tells the story of Claudia Rusch, a young Francophile who was one of the first to scramble over the falling Berlin Wall to join a friend on that memorable day, November 9th, 1989.
...escalade ce grillage insupportable qui les sépare...
...scales this unbearable fence which separates them...
Caption 23, Le Journal: Le mur de Berlin s'écroule
Here, because the adjective insupportable (unbearable) has a greater number of syllables than the noun grillage (fence), the adjective goes last.
See? It's as easy as 1, 2, 3!
Do you remember from our last lesson Michel Garcia and his mysterious catch from Easter Island? Today we will reveal his secret: what made him famous worldwide was his discovery of a beautiful shell, extremely rare and previously unknown. And the name of this shellfish? The Garciai! Michel's pride in his namesake is second only to that for his son, Tokiroa.
Tokiroa est tout de même plus important que la belle Garciai.
Tokiroa is all the same more important than the beautiful Garciai.
Caption 41, Le Journal: L'île de Pâques
By now, you're probably used to adjectives in French following the nouns that they modify (as in le ciel bleu, "the blue sky"). But, as you can see above, the adjective belle precedes the noun Garciai. That's because Garciai is a proper noun, a nom propre, and in French, adjectives precede proper nouns.
In fact, there are a few other occasions when you'll see an adjective placed before the noun it modifies. It can also occur when an adjective is used very often in day-to-day language and is easily associated with the noun that it qualifies (generally these adjectives are short words). For example, notice that the common and monosyllabic adjective long (long), comes before frisson (shiver) in the lovely music video Les mots d'amour (The Words of Love) by Debout Sur Le Zinc.
Et ce long frisson qui n'en finit pas
And this long shiver that does not end
Caption 6, Debout Sur Le Zinc: Les mots d'amour
And, similarly, Ina-Ich places the short and common adjective beau (beautiful/handsome) before gosse (kid), giving us beau gosse, a common French expression that means "handsome" or "good-lookin'," as in, "Hey handsome!"
À quoi penses-tu beau gosse?
What are you thinking about, handsome?
Caption 3, Ina-Ich: Âme armée
The most common adjectives that you will find placed before a noun are: beau (beautiful), bon (good), grand (tall), gros (big), jeune (young), joli (pretty), mauvais (bad/mean), nouveau (new), petit (small), vieux (old) and their feminine forms. Some examples: un bon livre (a good book), une jolie fleur (a pretty flower), un gentil chien (a nice dog).
However, we should point out that when an adjective of this type is accentuated or highlighted, the tendency is to place it after the noun. You would normally say, C'est une gentille fille (She's a nice girl), but you'd say C’est une fille gentille! (She's a really nice girl!) if you wanted to emphasize gentille.
We expect hot sunny days in the summer, but in Un automne bien chaud, a bright, warm November day throws some people off.
Quinze centimètres sous les pas, un soleil gros comme ça, et pourtant pas un chat!
Fifteen centimeters under your feet, a big sun like this, and yet nothing stirring!
Caption 1, Le Journal: Un automne bien chaud
Notice that the short and common adjective gros (big) this time follows the noun soleil (sun) to emphasize how exceptionally large the sun seems to be on an unusually warm autumn day.
The sun, the sea, and the words of love: three magical elements right there at your fingertips, waiting to teach you more about the placement of French adjectives. What are you waiting for? Check out the videos!
Laurence Boccolini, the beloved rich and famous French host of TV Channel 2, should be a happy woman. Quite the contrary, malheureusement. In Le Journal’s video on age and fertility, she describes her sorrow at being unable to conceive
Mais c'est une femme profondément meurtrie, parce qu'elle n'a pas réussi à donner la vie.
But she's a deeply wounded woman, because she hasn't been able to create a life.
Caption 2, Le Journal: L'âge et la fertilité
Notice that the adverb profondément (deeply) is modifying the adjective meurtrie (wounded), and that both words together describe this femme (woman). It's important to note that, like in English, the adverb precedes the adjective, so it's profondément meurtrie, not meurtrie profondément, but unlike the English translation, this phrase meaning "deeply wounded" follows the noun it modifies, femme. Indeed, that is the typical pattern; in most cases, when an adverb modifies an adjective that is qualifying a noun, the adverb-adjective pair will appear after the noun.
Let's take another look, this time at an, ahem, somewhat happier example. Someone who was not concerned with fertility problems was the famous poet Victor Hugo. He conceived five children. For those interested in learning about more than just the literary side of Victor Hugo, the singer Bertrand Pierre clues us in to some of the poet's other "talents" in this Yabla exclusive interview:
Il avait une activité sentimentale et sexuelle assez débordante.
He had a rather overactive romantic and sex life.
Caption 30, Bertrand Pierre: Victor Hugo
Here we see a noun, activité (activity), which we translated as "life" to fit this context (you wouldn't really say "a romantic activity" in English), being modified by two adjectives: sentimentale (romantic) and sexuelle (sexual). Then that whole chunk, his "romantic and sex life," is being modified by the adjective-adverb combo assez débordante (rather overactive).
Take a look at the order of the words. It might help to think of the words like building blocks. First you have activité. Now, what kind of activité do you mean? Since you are talking about his romantic and sexual life, you add the building blocks sentimentale and sexuelle. In English, these blocks go before the noun; in French, they go after. Now, what kind of romantic, sexual life did he have? Well, a rather overactive one! So you add the building blocks assez débordante to what you've already built to finish up the block tower. And again, in English we see that "rather overactive" appears before the phrase it modifies, while in French, assez débordante follows it.
So is it always the case that an adverb+adjective modifier will follow the noun? If only it were so simple. In fact, the Bertrand Pierre example above is an interesting case. Bertrand could actually also have said: il avait une assez débordante activité sexuelle (he had a rather overactive sex life) and placed the adjective débordante (overactive) before the noun activité (activity). Why? Because the adverb assez (rather) modifying the adjective débordante (overactive) is a short adverb.
Most adverbs in French are formed by adding the suffix -ment (as in profondément above), and the general rule is to place the adjective qualified by an adverb after a noun (as in une femme profondément meurtrie). However, if the adverb is short (generally, these are adverbs not ending in -ment), like très (very), plus (more), assez (rather), etc., then the adjective can be placed in either location: before or after the noun that it describes.
You can see an example of this "before" placement in the beautiful Le Journal video about Easter Island—a video that may be as beautiful as the native French Riviera that Michel Garcia left twenty-eight years ago:
On se rend compte que la France, c'est un très beau pays et qu'on y vit très bien.
You realize that France is a very beautiful country and that life is very good there.
Caption 33, Le Journal: L'île de Pâques
Notice the very short adverb très (very) that modifies the adjective beau (beautiful) placed here before the noun that it qualifies: pays (country). This diver who appreciates the beauty of both countries could have easily said, and would have been equally correct to say: La France, c’est un pays très beau, placing the adjective after the noun. Remember, this is because très (very) is a short adverb that qualifies the adjective beau (beautiful).
Whichever way Michel says it, we have to agree with his statement!
Adjectives derived from verbs
Cet astronaute expérimenté a passé des heures à observer la Terre.
This experienced astronaut spent hours observing Earth.
Caption 10, Le Journal: La Grande Muraille vue de l'espace?
If you have watched our video "The Great Wall Visible from Space?" you may have noticed that French astronaut Jean-François Clervoy is described as expérimenté (experienced). This adjective is formed by the past participle of the verb expérimenter (to experience). Adjectives derived from verbs are almost always placed after the noun, as we see here: astronaute expérimenté.
Native English speakers might be tempted to say that Jean-François is expériencé, but this word does not exist, nor does any such verb expériencer. Of course the noun expérience does mean "experience" and one could say, l'astronaute a de l'expérience, which would translate as "the astronaut is experienced." Note also that expérimenter can also mean "to experiment," as an English speaker might surmise.
Heading back into space, in Part 3 of our thriller La Conspiration d'Orion, we hear another type of verb-derived adjective:
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 verb embarrasser means "to embarrass," just as an English speaker might guess, and from its present participle is formed the adjective embarrassant (embarrassing). In this case we are modifying preuves ("evidence," or more literally, "proofs"), which is feminine (so we add an e) and which is also plural (so we add an s), giving us the feminine plural form: embarrassantes.
As you continue to dive into authentic French with Yabla and other sources, keep your eyes open for more verb-derived adjectives. Verify that in most cases they are found after the noun they modify. You will want to keep this in mind when you set out to speak or write du français correct (correct French) yourself!
Adjectives derived from proper names
Have you had a look at the fascinating Le Journal piece about World War I we recently added, "Life in the Trenches"? Listening in, we hear:
Ces soldats ressemblent plus aux combattants du Premier Empire, des guerres napoléoniennes...
These soldiers are more like the fighters of the First French Empire, of the Napoleonic wars...
Captions 5-6, Le Journal: La vie dans les tranchées
The adjective napoléonien (Napoleonic) is derived from the proper noun Napoléon, the famous Emperor of early 19th-century France. Guerre (war) is a feminine noun, so we must use the feminine version, napoléonienne, and guerres (wars) is plural, so it requires the feminine plural form, napoléoniennes. As is typical with adjectives derived from proper nouns, and like most adjectives, it is placed after the noun being modified.
Other examples are la théorie cartésienne (Cartesian theory) or la France chiraquienne (the France of Chirac/Chirac's France). Adjectives derived from proper names of places, such as regions, cities, and countries, behave similarly, as we already discussed in our lesson Adjectives of Color, Shape, and Origin.
You may have heard that most of the time, an adjective in French is placed after the noun. But not always. How are we supposed to know? We find plenty of clues and start to gain an intuitive understanding when we watch authentic French videos. Let's have a look at a few instances when the adjective almost always follows the noun it modifies: color or shape, and origin/nationality, ethnicity, or religion.
Let's have a look at shapes and colors first. In English we say "square meter," but in French, the adjective carré (square) follows the noun mètre (meter). This is evident in our video about "green tides" in Brittany:
Mètre carré par mètre carré.
Square meter by square meter.
Caption 3, Le Journal: Marée verte en Bretagne
Colors follow the same pattern. Listen to master chef Daniel Boulud describing what goes into his extremely high-end hamburgers:
Un pavé de bœuf braisé au vin rouge, avec du foie gras dedans...
A, a chunk of, of beef braised in red wine, with some foie gras inside...
Caption 9, Le Journal: Un hamburger très cher!
Like most Frenchmen, M. Boulud loves his vin rouge (red wine). Note that he puts the color "red," rouge, after the noun "wine," vin, not the other way around.
Similarly, Ina-Ich, the lovely chanteuse parisienne (Parisian singer) d'origine vietnamienne (of Vietnamese origin) places the color kaki (khaki) after the noun habits (dress/clothes), in her song Âme armée (Armed Soul).
En habits kakis, plus rien n’a de prix
In khaki dress, nothing more has any value
Caption 14, Ina-Ich: Âme armée
Notice that when we describe Ina-Ich, we say that she is a chanteuse parisienne and not a parisienne chanteuse; we say that she is d'origine vietnamienne and not de vietnamienne origine; and French web sites proclaim that she sings rock français (French rock) and not français rock. Why? Because another instance when adjectives pretty much always come after the noun in French is when the adjective is indicating origin, nationality, or ethnicity. That is why we find parisienne (Parisian) following chanteuse (singer), vietnamienne (Vietnamese) following origine (origin), and français (French) following rock.
We hear this in our "Farm Stand" video from Montreal, Quebec, when François, the proud farmer, describes for us his finest organic vegetables:
Ici, c'est le choux chinois.
Here, this is Chinese cabbage.
Caption 15, Farmer François: Le stand de légumes
Here again we find an adjective that describes origin/nationality, chinois (Chinese) coming after, not before, the noun it modifies, choux (cabbage).
In Le Journal's segment about last year's hotly contested Parisian Book Fair, the Salon du Livre, we hear an adjective describing ethnicity (arabe/Arab) and one describing religion (musulman/Muslim):
L'Egypte, pays arabe et musulman, pourrait bien être à son tour l'invitée d'honneur du Salon du Livre.
Egypt, an Arab and Muslim country, could well be the next guest of honor of the Book Fair.
Captions 19-20, Le Journal: Salon du Livre
(In a similar vein, you'll see the same placement, after the noun, for an adjective describing an official function: for example, une rencontre ministérielle, "a cabinet meeting.")
So there we have it: color, shape, origin, nationality, ethnicity, religion, and official function—a few of the types of adjectives that almost always come after the noun in French. Keep your ears open while watching Daniel Boulud making his infamous burger, farmer François talking up his organic vegetables, Ina-Ich singing Âme armée, and all the other videos on Yabla French and you'll notice the rule is nearly universal!
In Le Journal's video on chalets, we're treated to a fascinating description of a modern cabin entirely built of ancient wood. And speaking of modernity, the speaker's story includes quite a few instances of neuf and nouveau. Both adjectives mean "new," but each corresponds to a different meaning of the word "new."
Before we talk about the trick to distinguishing between neuf and nouveau, we should point out the feminine forms, which are irregular, of each adjective: the feminine of neuf is neuve, and the feminine of nouveau is nouvelle (though nouvel is used as the masculine form before words beginning with vowels or the silent letter h. For example: un nouvel album).
We see an instance of nouvelle right at the beginning of the chalet video.
Ce tronc d'arbre a été coupé il y a plus de deux cents ans. Aujourd'hui Michel Ferrari lui redonne une nouvelle vie.
This log was cut more than two hundred years ago. Today, MichelFerrari gives it back a new life.
Captions 1-2, Le Journal: Le chalet
Here, nouvelle vie denotes a life different from before. Notice that the qualifying adjective nouvelle precedes the noun vie.
A little further, we see nouveaux (the plural form of nouveau):
La Pologne fait par exemple partie des nouveaux fournisseurs.
Poland, for example, is among the new suppliers.
Caption 14, Le Journal: Le chalet
Again, the adjective here indicates a change; the list of suppliers is now different from the previous one. And, once again, the adjective nouveaux is placed before the substantive fournisseurs.
Now, the following captions give us some examples of an entirely different meaning of "new."
Le vieux bois, un matériau très recherché pour les constructions de montagne, même s'il coûte deux fois plus cher que le bois neuf.
Old timber, a much sought-after material for building in the mountains, even if it costs twice as much as new wood.
Captions 3-4, Le Journal: Le chalet
Here, bois neuf means wood that was recently produced. Notice that neuf is placed after the substantive bois.
We see the same primary meaning for neuf below:
Aujourd'hui pour construire, comme ici, du neuf avec du vieux
Nowadays, to build, like here, the new with the old
Caption 12, Le Journal: Le chalet
The speaker is talking about the recent construction of these houses. (And note that neuf is a substantive here: "the new.")
Want some more examples of objects with which you could use neuf? You could have un manteau neuf (a new coat) or un livre neuf (a new book). And don't forget about the ironically named Pont-Neuf, which is actually the oldest bridge in Paris!
And what other types of changes would you describe with the word nouveau? You could use it to talk about une nouvelle amie (a new friend) or un nouveau numéro de téléphone (a new phone number).
If you look at all the examples above, you'll see that neuf is used for recent creations: objects, like wood, constructions, etc., that were recently manufactured and are thus "new to the world." Nouveau, however, is used to indicate a change: either something different or the most recent example of something (a change from before).
Now that we've explored the linguistic subtleties of these two adjectives, let’s look at a few more ways to use the words neuf and nouveau.
La Nouvelle Vague is the name of the post-WWII cinematic trend in France of shooting movies in a different, more realistic way and using modern, spontaneous young actors rather than handsome, classical movie stars. In English, we call this type of cinema "French New Wave." Nouvelle vague also became a cultural term, applying to the youth of the time, who aspired to change their lives, to have freedom without convention.
There is also the term nouvelle cuisine, which refers to a French cooking approach that uses light ingredients and emphasizes presentation—a change from the previous heavy classical cuisine.
So what about other ways to use neuf?
You probably know that neuf also means the number nine.
Neuf is also used in some common expressions, like peau neuve, which we can also see in the chalet video.
Nous voici dans une ancienne ferme proche de Megève. C'est l'heure pour elle de faire peau neuve.
Here we are in an old farmhouse near Megève. It's time for it to get a face-lift.
Caption 5-6, Le Journal: Le chalet
This old farm is in need of a "new skin" to look better.
And speaking of old, our curious readers may be interested to know that the opposite of neuf/neuve is vieux/vieil/vieille; (vieil, like nouvel, is the masculine adjective for preceding vowel sounds), and the opposite of nouveau/nouvel/nouvelle is ancien/ancienne. Hard to believe there are five different options for such a simple word as "old"!
Stay tuned for a lesson that further discusses the placement of adjectives in French, which will help you solve that pesky "before or after?" dilemma.
Our last lesson was about four tricky, same-sounding conjugations of être (to be). Now we're going to look more closely at two of them, seraient and serait, as examples of a special use of the conditional mood of être
As you remember from last time, the conditional is often indicated in English by the use of "would." "That would be better with sugar" becomes, Ça serait mieux avec du sucre. However, the French conditional mood does not always correspond to an exact English equivalent using "would."
L'OMS publie un rapport inquiétant aujourd'hui: cinq pour cent des nouveaux cas de tuberculose seraient multirésistants, ce qui implique des traitements beaucoup plus lourds.
The WHO published a troublesome report today: five percent of new tuberculosis cases appear to be multi-resistant strains, which require much heavier treatments.
Captions 6-8, Le Journal: La tuberculose
Here we find a different use for the conditional in French, that of introducing a very slight element of uncertainty. It's often found in somewhat formal contexts, such as news reports. Notice that our translation doesn't say that the strains of TB "are" multi-resistant or that they "would be" multi-resistant, but rather that they "appear to be" so. We find something similar in a Le Journal story examining the trend toward "retro" baby names in France:
Et pourquoi pas? Après tout, Adèle, Victorine, Ernest ou Alphonse seraient sur le retour.
And why not? After all, Adèle, Victorine, Ernest or Alphonse seem to be coming back.
Caption 18, Le Journal: Choisir un nom d'enfant
In this usage, the speaker is indicating that she is not 100% sure of the facts at hand. It wouldn't do to say sont sur le retour (are coming back), perhaps because the evidence is anecdotal or otherwise unscientific. As you can see in the above translation, this use of the conditional, seraient, is analogous to the phrase "seem to be" in English. A closer, more literal translation might be "are supposed to be," but we wouldn't use that in English because "supposed to," idiomatically, connotes obligation (as in, "Aren't you supposed to be at school?"). But in a literal sense, the speaker is supposing that a given statement is true and scrupulously indicating so to the listener by using the conditional.
Similarly, "is apparently" might be the right fit:
Le rire serait aussi bénéfique que le sport.
Laughter is apparently as good for you as sports.
Caption 14, Le Journal: Les effets bénéfiques du rire!
In a slightly different context, it might make more sense to translate this usage with the phrase "are reportedly":
Près d'une centaine de domaines du Bordelais seraient aujourd'hui en vente.
Nearly a hundred properties in the Bordeaux region are reportedly for sale today.
Caption 26, Le Journal: Les vignobles
Mais attention! As with many things concerning the French language, the use of the conditional to express uncertainty can be quite subtle. In fact, it can express such a minute degree of doubt that we wouldn't bother to express it in English. So sometimes we don't translate it. There's an example of this in our video about climate change:
D'après les scientifiques, les bouleversements climatiques les plus profonds seraient à venir.
According to scientists, the most drastic climatic changes are yet to come.
Caption 31, Le Journal: Indices révélateurs des glaciers
The speaker here is using the conditional seraient to accentuate the subjective aspect of the assertion, already indicated by the phrase d'après les scientifiques (according to scientists). In English, we consider the introductory phrase to be sufficient—we wouldn't say "the most drastic climatic changes would be to come." It's no accident that "nuance" is a French word!
We hope there's no doubt whatsoever that this lesson was helpful!
For more discussion of this topic, visit this Word Reference Forum thread.
Serai, serais, serait, seraient... They all sound the same! Distinguishing these homonymous forms of être (to be) can seem daunting—but have no fear, we've got some examples to help you sort it all out
Serai is the first person singular (je) future tense form of the verb être—the equivalent of the English "will be." Yabla's friend Charles-Baptiste employs it when he sings:
Oui je serai sale toute ma vie
Yes I will be dirty all my life
Caption 14, Charles-Baptiste: Sale type
Serait is the third person singular (il/elle) present "conditional mood" (sometimes called conditional tense) of être. In English, the conditional mood is tipped off by "would," as you can see in our interview with the band Neimo:
Et dès qu'on a commencé à écrire des chansons, on s'est dit ça serait mieux en anglais...
And as soon as we started writing songs, we said to ourselves, it would be better in English...
Caption 22, Neimo: Interview de Neimo
Now let's look at an example of the first person (je) conditional mood, which is conjugated as serais (the second person, tu, also shares this spelling):
Si je savais compter, j'en serais éhonté
If I knew how to count, I would be shameless about it
Captions 32–33, Château Flight featuring Bertrand Burgalat: Les antipodes
Seraient is also conditional mood, but it is the third person plural (ils, elles). We found this example in an article about Germany and the euro:
Les Allemands pensent qu'ils seraient mieux sans l'euro.
The Germans think they would be better off without the euro.
Now is a good time to log in and watch these and other videos, keeping an ear out for these various homophones of être in action!
You may have noticed the difference a little accent mark can make. Take the words côté, cote, and côte, for example. It’s the same four letters, but depending on the accents, both the meaning and the pronunciation can change.
Côté is a two-syllable word, while côte and cote are one-syllable words, each with its own unique pronunciation (though in some regions of France there may be little distinction in pronunciation).
In its most straightforward definition, côté means “side.”
Que je suis assis en face, et pas à tes côtés
Over the fact that I’m sitting across from you and not by your side
Caption 23, Babylon Circus: J'aurais bien voulu
It may seem a bit odd that "by your side" is à tes côtés (plural) and not à ton côté (singular), but this is just how it's done in French.
When getting directions, you will often hear du côté droit (on the right hand side) or du côté gauche (on the left hand side). “Next to” (which, if you think about it, could be said “on the side of”) is expressed as à côté:
C'est juste à côté de la voiture.
It's right next to the car.
Côté can also be used to describe an aspect, a quality, or a “side” of something:
Je dirais les ingrédients qu'on a dans cette farce va donner ce côté savoureux et moelleux à la volaille.
I would say the ingredients in this stuffing will give the bird a savory and juicy quality.
Captions 29-30, Le Journal: Gourmet en Bretagne
But the word côté is not only used literally. It also appears in expressions like:
D’un côté... D’un autre côté...
On one hand... On the other hand...
Côté can also be used to show someone’s opinion, their “side” on an issue, or their perspective.
De son côté, Nicolas Sarkozy annonce sa volonté de rupture avec la politique africaine de la France.
For his part, Nicolas Sarkozy announces his desire to break away from France's African policies.
Caption 14, Le Journal: Sarkozy en Afrique du Sud - Part 1
And we see the same sort of côté in the video on the marché in Rennes:
Bon, du côté de Cocotte, secret défense.
Okay, as for Cocotte, it's top secret.
Caption 12, Le Journal: Gourmet en Bretagne
But côté is not only used to express the perspective of a person. It can also be translated as “about” or “on the subject of” or “as for.” In the following example, it’s used to distinguish between the main and secondary railway lines:
Côté grandes lignes, la SNCF a depuis longtemps pensé aux voyageurs handicapés.
As for the main lines, the SNCF has long thought of handicapped travelers.
Caption 11, Le Journal: Manifestation de paralysés
Just in case that’s not enough to satisfy your curiosity, keep in mind the word côté’s similarly spelled (and hence easy to confuse) counterparts...
For starters, there's côte, one of the primary meanings of which is very similar-sounding to its English equivalent: “coast” (as in "the Pacific coast"). Actually, en français, the French Riviera is called the “Azure Coast.”
Venu de sa Côte d'Azur natale, il est tombé amoureux de l'île et de ses fonds marins.
Having come from his native French Riviera, he fell in love with the island and its sea depths.
Caption 7, Le Journal: L'île de Pâques
Côte can also mean “rib,” as in côte d’Adam or côte d’agneau (what we call a “lamb chop”).
And last but not least, the second video in the series on Sarkozy’s trip to South Africa gives us an example of an entirely different kind of cote, which means “stock.” This can be in the literal sense (stock market) or refer to the general worth/esteem of something or someone, as below.
Alors que sa cote continue de chuter, Nicolas Sarkozy tente un quitte ou double vis-à-vis de l'opinion
As his stock continues to tumble, Nicolas Sarkozy tries to double down on opinion
Captions 18-19, Le Journal: Sarkozy en Afrique du Sud - Part 2
There’s also a related verb, coter, which means to rate, quote, or list the price of something.
Cette voiture est cotée à 10.000$ dans le journal.
This car is listed at $10,000 in the newspaper.
Whether you’re talking economics, opinions, proximity, food, or geography, you’ll be better equipped knowing the nuances and differences of these similarly spelled words!