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Don't Forget About "Dont"!

In our last lesson, we introduced the word dont, a relative pronoun with a wide variety of uses. Let's start with the two most straightforward meanings of dont: "whose" and "including": 

...un riche marchand dont la fille préférée s'appelait Belle.
...a rich merchant whose favorite daughter was called Belle.
Cap. 2, Bande-annonce: La Belle et la Bête

 

Et grâce à lui, j'ai rencontré beaucoup de gens très intéressants, dont Gilles Proulx.
And thanks to him, I met lots of very interesting people, including Gilles Proulx.
Cap. 29, Le Québec parle aux Français - Part 2 

 

 

It's usually pretty easy to distinguish these two uses of dont from context, but punctuation also provides a clue: dont is usually preceded by a comma when it means "including," but not when it means "whose."  

 

 

Now let's get into the grammar behind dont. Like all relative pronounsdont refers back to an element in the main clause (un riche marchand and gens très intéressants in the examples above). But in many cases, dont more specifically refers to the preposition de + a noun. To see how this plays out, let's look at how dont can be used to combine two sentences into one:

J'ai un chat. Le poil de mon chat est très doux.   
I have a cat. My cat's fur is very soft.
J'ai un chat dont le poil est très doux. 
I have a cat whose fur is very soft. 

 

As you can see, dont stands in for de and refers back to chat. It also prevents the redundancy of saying chat twice.

 

Dont often replaces the de used in fixed expressionssuch as être fier/fière de (to be proud of), parler de (to talk about), and avoir besoin de (to need):

Et puis il y a une chose dont Michel est particulièrement fier.
And then there is one thing that Michel is particularly proud of.
Cap. 35, Le Journal: L'île de Pâques 

...dans la ville de Dongtan en Chine, dont nous avons déjà parlé.
...in the city of Dongtan in China, about which we've already spoken.
Cap. 17, Il était une fois... Notre Terre: 25. Technologies - Part 8 

Voici le livre dont j'ai besoin.
Here is the book that I need. 

We could rewrite all of these examples using de:

Et puis Michel est particulièrement fier d'une chose. 
And then Michel is particularly proud of one thing.

Nous avons déjà parlé de la ville de Dongtan en Chine. 
We've already spoken about the city of Dongtan in China.

J'ai besoin de ce livre-ci. 
I need this book. 

That about covers it for dont! Though the scope of its applications can be a little daunting, it's a very useful and succinct word that will make your French sound very sophisticated. Don't neglect to use dont whenever you can! 

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This and That - Part 2

This and That - Part 1

In our last lesson, we introduced the French demonstrative pronouns (celui, celle, ceux, celles), which combine with the suffixes ci (here) and  (there) to form expressions such as "this one," "that one," "these," and "those." In this lesson, we'll explore two other useful constructions featuring these pronouns.

 

The first is celui/celle/ceux/celles + de + noun, which is used to indicate ownership or possession. Here's a straightforward example from the Beauty and the Beast trailer: 

Je suis venue échanger ma vie contre celle de mon père.
I've come to exchange my life for that of my father.
Cap. 23, Bande-annonce: La Belle et La Bête

"That of my father" is the literal translation of celle de mon père, but the sentence could also have been translated as, "I've come to exchange my life for my father's." As we mentioned in the last lesson, the demonstrative pronoun has to agree in gender and number with the word it's referring to. In this case, the feminine singular celle refers to the feminine singular noun vie

 

 

The second construction is celui/celle/ceux/celles + qui, que, or dontQui (that, who) and que (that, whom) are relative pronouns, or words that introduce a dependent clause. While qui acts as the subject of the clause (usually followed by a verb), que acts as the object (usually followed by a noun or pronoun). With a demonstrative pronoun in front of them, they create expressions like "the one(s) that/who" (demonstrative pronoun + qui) and "the one(s) that/whom" (demonstrative pronoun + que): 

Vous savez... celui qui se trouve derrière la maison voisine.
You know... the one that's behind the house next door.
Cap. 20, Il était une fois: Notre Terre - 9. Les écosystèmes - Part 4

...dans des situations un peu meilleures que celles qu'ils avaient en arrivant.
...in situations that are a little bit better than the ones that they had when they arrived.
Cap. 24, Le Journal: Les Restos du Cœur 

Cet homme n'est pas celui que j'ai vu hier. 
That man is not the one whom I saw yesterday. 

 

Dont is another relative pronoun that means "whose" or "of which": 

J'habite une maison dont les volets sont bleus.
I live in a house whose shutters are blue. 

 

The demonstrative pronoun + dont combination means "the one(s) whose" or "the one(s) of/about which." In this combination, dont often replaces an object preceded by de:
 

Tu parles de ma chemise rouge? -Non, celle dont je parle est bleue. 
Are you talking about my red shirt? -No, the one that I'm talking about is blue. 

 

So, to review, the three major constructions featuring demonstrative pronouns are:

-demonstrative pronoun + -ci or - (celui-cicelle-là, etc.)
-demonstrative pronoun + de + noun (celle de mon père)
-demonstrative pronoun + qui, que, or dont (celui que j'ai vu hier)

 

The two big takeaways here are that demonstrative pronouns always replace a previously mentioned noun (and must agree with it in gender and number) and are always accompanied by another word, whether the suffixes ci and , the preposition de, or the relative pronouns qui, que, and dont

 

That about covers it for demonstrative pronouns! If you have any suggestions for future lesson topics, feel free to tweet us @yabla or email us at newsletter@yabla.com.

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This and That - Part 1

This and That - Part 2

The expressions "this one" and "that one" are probably the most basic way of distinguishing between two things, such as two different types of saxophone: 

Le saxophone alto, celui-ci, et le saxophone ténor. C'est celui-là.
The alto saxophone, this one, and the tenor saxophone. That's that one
Cap. 5, Alex Terrier: Le saxophone - Part 1

 

As you can see, the French equivalents of these terms have two different components: the word before the hyphen and the word after the hyphen. In this example, celui is the masculine singular demonstrative pronoun referring to le saxophoneCi and là mean "here" and "there," respectively, but when added as a suffix to celui, they mean "this" and "that." An easy way to remember this distinction is to remember that there is an i in both ci and "this," and an a in both  (note the accent) and "that." 

 

The demonstrative pronoun changes depending on the number and gender of the word it refers to. Its other forms are celle (feminine singular), ceux (masculine plural), and celles (feminine plural): 

Elle prendra place dans une collection comme celle-ci à l'Assemblée Nationale.
She will take her place in a collection like this one at the National Assembly. 
Cap. 26, Le Journal: Marianne

Donc, tous ceux-là, ce sont des thés verts. 
So all those are green teas. 
Cap. 16, Joanna: Torréfaction du faubourg

Et dans chacune des batteries, on a cent deux cellules comme celles-ci
And in each of the batteries, we have one hundred and two cells like these
Cap. 54, Bateau sport 100% électrique: Le Nautique 196 E

 

As you can see from the last two examples, the plural forms of these expressions are best translated as simply "these" and "those." 

In more formal language, celui-là/celle-là means "the former," while celui-ci/celle-ci means "the latter":

J'ai un frère et une sœur. Celui-là est professeur et celle-ci est avocate. 
I have one brother and one sister. The former is a teacher and the latter is a lawyer. 

 

Ci and  can also be attached to nouns as a more demonstrative way of saying "this" and "that," but only when the noun is already preceded by a demonstrative adjective (ce/cet/cette/ces):

Le courant apparemment remonte un petit peu par ce côté-là.
The current apparently goes up a little bit on that side
Cap. 9, À la plage avec Lionel: La plage

 

Je préfère ces photographies-ci. 
I prefer these photographs. 

 

If someone were asking your opinion on a collection of photographs, you could also just point to the ones you like and say, Je préfère celles-ci (I prefer these) or, Je préfère celles-là (I prefer those). 
 

There are even more uses of celui/celle/ceux/celles that we'll save for another lesson. C'est tout pour cette leçon-ci (That's all for this lesson)!

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Légendes dites urbaines

Our latest Grand Lille TV video focuses on the end of an urban legend: a house in Villeneuve D'Ascq that was said to be haunted is now being torn down. Urban legends are dubious by nature, so speaking about them usually involves expressing some degree of doubt, suspicion, or uncertainty. In fact, the news report on the ex-haunted house in Villeneuve D'Ascq demonstrates a few different ways to express doubt, suspicion, or uncertainty, or simply relay something that may or may not have actually happened. 

 

The first expression comes in the video title itself, Clap de fin pour la maison dite hantée (End of the so-called haunted house). Un clap de fin is a filmmaking term referring to the clapperboard used to mark the end of a scene. More importantly, the word dite (the feminine singular past participle of dire, "to say") is used here as an adjective meaning "so-called." Think of it as a sort of disclaimer indicating that Grand Lille TV doesn't officially believe the house was haunted. 

 

But dit as an adjective doesn't always have to be a disclaimer—like "so-called," it can also just refer to a commonly used name for something. Since it's an adjective, it always agrees in gender and number with the noun it modifies:

C'est un petit peu le cœur du quartier dit de la nouvelle Athènes.
It's kind of the heart of the so-called "Nouvelle Athènes" (New Athens) neighborhood.
Cap. 16, Voyage dans Paris: Le 10ème Arrondissement - Part 2

 

The next expression tells us the source of the alleged haunting using a tricky verb conjugation:

La présence d'un fantôme d'un enfant qui aurait été tué par ses parents à l'époque
The presence of the ghost of a child who had supposedly been killed by his parents at the time
Cap. 5, Grand Lille TV: Clap de fin pour la maison dite hantée

 

What we're dealing with here (besides a heartbreaking story) is the past conditional tense (also called the "conditional perfect"). It's formed by combining the conditional form of the auxiliary verb (avoir or être) with the past participle of the main verb. In this example, we actually have two past participles (été and tué) because the sentence is in the passive voice ("been killed"). 

 

The French conditional usually corresponds to the word "would": un enfant qui aurait été tué literally means "a child who would have been killed." But, as we discussed in a previous lesson, the conditional is also used to relate an uncertain fact or event, in which case it's often translated using words like "supposedly," "reportedly," or "apparently" without the conditional "would." We can tell that this is the best translation of the past conditional here because "a child who would have been killed" doesn't make sense in the context of the video. In general, context is key for determining whether the French conditional is a "true conditional" ("would be") or an expression of doubt or uncertainty ("is supposedly"). 

 

Our last two expressions are packed into one caption: 

C'était soi-disant... une maison qui... devait être hantée. 
It was a so-called... a house that... was supposed to be haunted.
Cap. 13, Grand Lille TV: Clap de fin pour la maison dite hantée

 

First we have another word for "so-called," soi-disant, which is also used in English (as in "a soi-disant artist," or a self-proclaimed artist). Unlike the adjective dit, which goes after the noun, soi-disant goes before the noun (une soi-disant maison hantée, "a so-called haunted house") and doesn't change in gender or number. 

 

The speaker hesitated a bit here and chose not to use soi-disant in the end. Instead, he used the verb devoir, which usually means "to have to" or "must," but can also mean "to be supposed to," both in the sense of having a duty and of supposedly being or doing something. Incidentally, soi-disant can also be used as an adverb meaning "supposedly," so the speaker also could have said, une maison qui était soi-disant hantée (a house that was supposedly haunted).

 

For practice, try finding some straightforward sentences expressing a fact and turn them into expressions of doubt, suspicion, or uncertainty using the examples above. Beginners can play around with dit and soi-disant, while more advanced learners can tackle the past conditional. As an alternative, try writing about your favorite urban legend in French! 

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Don't Take it Personally!

For most people, learning to conjugate verbs probably isn’t the most exciting part of studying a language (unless they have friends like our very own Margaux and Manon, that is). But luckily, in French as in other languages, there are a few verbs that cut you a break. These are the "impersonal verbs," and the beauty of them is that you only have to worry about conjugating them with the pronoun il (he/it). They’re called "impersonal" because they don’t refer to any specific person—il in this case just means "it."

A good number of these verbs have to do with that most impersonal of dinner party topics, the weather. Imagine this conversation between two partygoers who don’t have much to talk about:

Est-ce qu’il pleut dehors? -Non, il neige!

Is it raining outside? -No, it’s snowing!

The two forms that you see above, il pleut and il neige, are the only conjugations of pleuvoir (to rain) and neiger (to snow) that exist in the present tense. This is obviously because people can’t "rain" or "snow": you can’t say je pleux (I rain) or tu neiges (you snow). Unless you have superpowers, that is!

Some other impersonal weather expressions: il gèle (it’s freezing), il bruine (it’s drizzling), il tonne (it’s thundering), il grêle (it’s sleeting).

Next we’ll take a look at one of the most common impersonal verbs, falloir (to have to, to be necessary). In the present tense, you’ll see this as il faut:

Il faut protéger la terre.

We have to protect the earth.

Cap. 2, Nouveaux Talents? - Adonis chante

Il faut deux ans pour former les pilotes d’hélicoptère de l’armée française.

It takes two years to train French Army helicopter pilots.

Cap. 28, Le Journal: École de pilotage

As you can see, you can have "il faut + infinitive" (to have to do something) and "il faut + noun" (to need something). A bit more complicated is the phrase il faut que..., which requires the subjunctive:

Il faut que je fasse la pâte.

I have to make the batter.

Cap. 16, LCM: Recette - Crêpes

Another impersonal verb you’ll see quite frequently is s’agir (to be about), in the expression il s’agit de...:

Il s’agit de voir où sont les abus.

It’s a question of seeing where the abuses are.

Cap. 12, Le Journal: Contrôle des prix alimentaires - Part 1

La seule prison qui se trouve dans Paris intra-muros, il s’agit de la prison de la Santé

The only prison located within Paris itself, namely, the Santé [Health] Prison

Cap. 19, Voyage dans Paris: Le Treizième arrondissement de Paris - Part 1

Note that s’agir is just the reflexive form of agir (to act), which is not an impersonal verb.

Sometimes regular old verbs can become impersonal too. Basic verbs like avoir, être, and faire can be conjugated left and right, but they can also be impersonal:

Il est minuit à Tokyo, il est cinq heures au Mali

It’s midnight in Tokyo, it’s five o’clock in Mali

Cap. 12, Amadou et Mariam: Sénégal Fast Food

Il est intéressant de vivre dans un pays étranger.  

It is interesting to live in a foreign country.

Il y a beaucoup de choses à faire aujourd’hui.

There are many things to do today.

Il fait froid en hiver

It is cold in the winter.

As you can see, impersonal verbs come in handy when you’re talking about the time, the weather, and the general state of things. You can learn more about them on this page

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Euphony in French: On or L'on?

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.

Cap. 17, Grand Lille TV: Des photos contre l’abandon des animaux

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), (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.

Cap. 3, Angers 7: Un lama en plein appartement

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!

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"Faire" + Infinitive: Causing Something to Happen

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

Cap. 10, Le Journal: Les relations franco-gabonaises

Il faut se faire entendre, hein.

You have to be heard, you know.

Cap. 57, Manif du mois: Fukushima plus jamais ça

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! 

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Une poignée de dollars: French Collective Nouns

A collective noun (nom collectif) is a singular noun that represents a group of objects or people. Some French examples include une série (a series), une poignée (a handful or fistful), un tas (a pile), une foule (a crowd), and, of course, un groupe (a group). Although collective nouns can stand alone in a sentence, they are often followed by a complement (a group of something). The tricky part about using collective nouns is determining whether the verb should agree with the collective noun (and be singular) or with its complement (and be plural).

The agreement all depends on which of the two (the collective or its individual parts) is being emphasized. To illustrate this, let’s take a look at two different ways of using the word poignée:

Une poignée d'humains s'est emparée d'un pouvoir qui les dépasse eux-mêmes.
A handful of people has taken over a power beyond their control.
Cap. 89-90, Actus de Quartier: Manif anti-nucléaire à Bastille

Une poignée de nationalistes saluaient la naissance tant espérée.
A handful of nationalists were greeting the much hoped-for birth.
Cap. 9, Le Journal: Un petit prince japonais

In the first example, the singular verb agrees with the collective noun (poignée) because the group of people as a whole has taken over. In the second example, the plural verb agrees with the complement (nationalistes) because the emphasis is on the individual nationalists who are giving the greeting. So if you’re talking about what a group of things does as a single entity, you use a singular verb. But if you’re talking about what the things in the group do themselves, as individuals, you use a plural verb.

Sometimes, the word preceding the collective noun can indicate whether the verb is singular or plural. If the noun is preceded by a definite article (le, la) or a demonstrative (ce, cet, cette) or possessive (mon, ton, etc.) pronoun, the verb will often agree with the collective noun and be singular:

Cet ensemble d'obstacles sera difficile à surmonter.
This group of obstacles will be difficult to overcome.

If the noun is preceded by an indefinite article (un, une), the verb will often be plural and agree with the complement:

Un ensemble de personnes marchent dans la rue.
A group of people are walking in the street.

But many times, the decision to make the verb agree with the collective noun or its complement all boils down to personal preference or the speaker’s intention. This is true of number words like une douzaine (a dozen), une quinzaine (around fifteen), and une vingtaine (around twenty), which can take either a singular or a plural verb:

Une centaine d’exilés tibétains ont tenté d’occuper l’ambassade de Chine à New Delhi
About a hundred Tibetan exiles have tried to occupy the Chinese embassy in New Delhi
Cap. 2, Le Journal: Manifestations au Tibet

Une douzaine d'huîtres coûte dix euros.
A dozen oysters costs ten euros.

You can see our lesson on words like centaine and douzaine here.

There’s no room for personal preference when it comes to the words la plupart (most), la majorité (the majority), and une quantité (a lot). These always take a plural verb:

La plupart des gens à Miami parlent l’espagnol, pour vous dire
Most people speak Spanish in Miami, you know
Cap. 22, Fred et Miami Catamarans: Fred et sa Vie à Miami

Notre équipe de traducteurs chez Yabla vous souhaite une multitude de succès! (Our translating team at Yabla wishes you a multitude of success!)

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Inversion: When Subjects and Verbs Switch Places

The normal word order in both French and English is "subject + verb," as in il dit (he says). But in certain situations, such as asking questions and using quotations, it is very common in French to switch the order to "verb + subject": dit-il. This is common in English as well: "They are going to the concert" versus "Are they going to the concert?" This switch from "subject + verb" to "verb + subject" is known as inversion.

In French, most instances of inversion occur between pronouns and verbs. When a pronoun and its verb are inverted, the two must be joined with a hyphen:

Eh bien, mon garçon, dis-moi, que sais-tu?

Well, my boy, tell me, what do you know?

Caption 10, Il était une fois... L’Homme: 6. Le siècle de Périclès - Part 5

"Non, je ne veux pas sortir avec toi", répond-elle.

"No, I don’t want to go out with you," she responds.

When inverting a third-person pronoun (il, elle, on, ils, elles) and verb, you must pronounce the two with a liaison (see our lesson on liaison here). Thus we have "dit-Til," "répond-Telle," "est-Til," and so on.

When a third-person singular verb does not end in a t or d, you must insert a -t- between the inverted pronoun and verb. This inserted -t- does not have any meaning by itself; its sole purpose is to create the liaison:

A-t-il peur du noir?

Is he afraid of the dark?

Combien d’années, combien de siècles faudra-t-il, avant que ne se retrouvent pareilles constellations?

How many years, how many centuries will be needed before such constellations can be found again?

Captions 3-4, Il était une fois...: L’Homme - Part 6

For third-person plural verbs, the final t (which is usually silent) is pronounced in inversion:

ils donnent ("they give," pronounced like il donne)

donnent-ils (pronounced "donne-Tils")

In other words, all inverted third-person pronouns must be preceded by a t sound.

The first-person pronoun je is rarely inverted, except in interrogative constructions such as puis-je... (may I...), dois-je... (must I...), and suis-je... (am I...).

Although not as frequently as pronouns, nouns can also be inverted with their verbs, as the above example demonstrates (se retrouvent pareilles constellations). In this case, a hyphen is not required:

"Non, je ne veux pas sortir avec toi", répond Christine.

"No, I don’t want to go out with you," Christine responds.

A common way to ask questions in French is to use a "double subject," in which a noun is followed by an inverted verb and pronoun. This can be seen in the title of the video Alsace 20: Pourquoi le bio est-il plus cher? (Why is organic more expensive?) and in this caption:

L’art, est-il moins nécessaire que la science?

Is art less necessary than science?

Caption 3, Micro-Trottoirs: Art ou science?

Although the inversion method is a bit more concise, these two questions could easily be rephrased with est-ce que:

Pourquoi est-ce que le bio est plus cher?

Est-ce que l’art est moins nécessaire que la science?

To learn more about asking questions in French, including some notes on inversion, see this page

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Making Adverbs from Adjectives

Adverbs are words that describe how something is done. They can modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. In a previous lesson, we saw what happens when adverbs and adjectives get cozy with each other in the same sentence. Now we'll explore what happens when they get even cozier—when an adverb is formed from an adjective.

In English, adverbs often end in -ly: “comfortably,” “unfortunately,” “obviously,” etc. Likewise, many French adverbs end in -ment: confortablement (comfortably), malheureusement (unfortunately), évidemment (obviously).

Here’s an example of a French adverb in action, describing one of fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld’s collections: 

Une petite merveille de cohérence, de charme et de légèreté où la cliente perd facilement vingt ans.

A little treasure of coherency, charm, and lightness in which the wearer easily loses twenty years.

Caption 2, Le Journal: Défilé de mode - Part 3 

So what's the one thing that English -ly adverbs and French -ment adverbs have in common? You guessed it—they all come from adjectives! Just take away the -ly and the -ment to get “unfortunate” (malheureuse), “easy” (facile), and “obvious” (évident).

However, this formula is a bit more complicated in French than in English. Facilement and confortablement can be neatly broken down into their separate components: the adjectives facile and confortable plus the ending -ment. But why do we have malheureusement and not "malheureuxment"? (Malheureux is the masculine form of malheureuse.) And why évidemment instead of "évidentment"? 

The answer: French has a small set of rules for determining how to turn an adjective into an adverb. Once you learn them, you'll be able to spot the adverbs in any sentence effortlessly. 

First take the masculine form of the adjective:

1. If the adjective ends in a vowel, simply add -ment

We just saw some examples of this with facile + ment = facilement and confortable + ment = confortablement. Other common examples include:

vrai            → vraiment (true → truly)

probable  → probablement (probable → probably)

spontanéspontanément (spontaneous → spontaneously)

absolu      → absolument (absolute → absolutely)

2. If the adjective ends in a consonant, add -ment to the feminine form of the adjective. 

This is the case of malheureux/malheureusement. You’ll also see this rule at work in words such as:

religieuxreligieusement (religious → religiously) 

direct     → directement (direct → directly)

réel        → réellement (real → really) 

léger      → légèrement (light → lightly)

massif    → massivement (massive → massively)

3. If the adjective ends in -ant or -ent, replace the ending with -amment or -emment, respectively.

So even though évident ends in a consonant, its adverbial form is not "évidentement," but évidemment. Likewise, you have:

constant   → constamment (constant → constantly)

récent       → récemment (recent → recently)

apparent  → apparemment (apparent → apparently) 

brillant      → brillamment (brilliant → brilliantly)

A special note: the ending -emment has the same pronunciation as -amment. An easy way to remember this is to think of the word femme (woman), which is pronounced /fam/, not /fem/.

You can hear an example of this pronunciation in these two videos:

Ben la ville est petite et en même temps suffisamment grande pour qu’y ait à peu près tout.

Well the town is small and at the same time it’s big enough to have just about everything.

Cap. 19, Strasbourg: Les passants

Il était absolument impossible, évidemment, d’exprimer le moindre regret....

It was absolutely impossible, obviously, to express the slightest regret...

Cap. 33-34, Le Journal: Joëlle Aubron libérée

Although there are a few exceptions here and there, these are the basic rules for creating adverbs from adjectives in French. You can find a thorough list of these exceptions in this about.com article on the subject: http://french.about.com/library/weekly/aa060300m.htm

The one simple guideline underlying all three of these rules (which has no exceptions!) is that the adverbial ending -ment (or -mment) is always preceded by a vowel. So if you keep at least that in mind when constructing your adverbs, you should succeed brillamment!

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"Ne" without a "pas"

Do you notice anything strange about the use of ne in this sentence from our video on deep-sea creatures?  

Ils vont servir de sujets d’étude aux scientifiques...  avant que leurs enseignements ne soient exploités par l’industrie. 

They will serve as test subjects for scientists...  before their lessons are exploited by industry. 

Captions 20, Le Journal: 2000 mètres sous les mers

You might be thinking that the narrator made a mistake by leaving out the pas in the phrase ne soient exploités par l’industrie. But actually, adding a pas to this sentence would completely change its meaning (and make it nonsensical). What’s going on here? The ne in this sentence is called a ne explétif (also known as ne pléonastique). Instead of negating the clause (as it does when combined with pas, plus, personne, etc.), this ne emphasizes the general feeling that the clause expresses. So the phrase ne soient exploités par l’industrie doesn’t mean “are not exploited by industry,” but something like: “are exploited by industry (which would be bad).” The ne here does not negate the phrase, but rather highlights its negative connotations.   

We find a similar case in our video about avian flu:  

Exemple, avec une petite astuce pour éviter que votre chat ne rapporte des oiseaux indésirables. 

For instance, with a little trick to keep your cat from bringing home unwanted birds.

Caption 16, Le Journal: La grippe aviaire – Part 3

As French learners, upon first glance we might be fooled into thinking there is a trick that prevents your cat from “not bringing” unwanted birds home (thus forcing him to do so), but the fact that ne is not coupled with the usual pas (nor rien, personne, plus, jamais, etc.) clues us in that this is quite likely another example of ne explétif (which it is). The ne is emphasizing the idea that we want to prevent such creatures from being brought into our parlors. This emphasis is too subtle to find a place in the English translation.  We very often find the ne explétif used after “unequal” comparisons, those in which one thing is NOT like the other. 

Have a look at this example from our video about life in the trenches during World War I:  

Ces soldats... ressemblent plus aux combattants du Premier Empire, des guerres napoléoniennes... qu’ils ne nous ressemblent... à nous. 

These soldiers... are more like fighters of the First French Empire, of the Napoleonic wars... than they are like... like us. 

Captions 5-7, Le Journal: La vie dans les tranchées 

Do you see the untranslated ne before nous ressemblent? Once again, that’s ne explétif in action.  

To continue exploring this topic, here are two great resources:  

http://www.cce.umontreal.ca/observations/ne.htm 

http://french.about.com/od/grammar/a/negation_form_2.htm  

P.S. Thanks to viewer Allen B. for asking about what this mysterious ne was doing. Great question!

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Pas de Deux

To wrap up our series of lessons on adjectives, we want to show you a few examples of multiple adjectives qualifying the same noun.

Native speakers of a language know instinctively how to order multiple adjectives. For example, Anglophones know that we say a "big old black truck" rather than "black big old truck." The rules that govern this ordering process are somewhat cumbersome to explain, and are often a bit flexible. (It's not exactly "wrong" to say "black big old truck"; it just doesn't sound quite as good—don't you agree?)

We won't delve into too many nitty-gritty details governing multiple-adjective order today. We'll leave that to the linguistics PhDs. Since, to most of us, it's simply a matter of what sounds good, we thought we'd give you a sense of what sounds good in French by taking a look at some examples and offering you a few simple pieces of advice.

Let's start out where many lessons do: in a classroom. In French, the teacher at the front of the room will write on un grand tableau noir (a big blackboard)—ordered this way because we say: un "grand" tableau (a big board), and because we say: un tableau "noir" (a blackboard). (Adjectives like grand are explained in this lesson, and color adjectives are explained in this lesson.)

Ready for some more examples? Off we go to the land of fashion. Even if you aren’t a celebrity or your pockets aren’t lined with gold, you can still check out the Chanel collection in Le Journal's fashion show videos:

La fameuse petite robe noire

The famous little black dress

Caption 3, Le Journal: Défilé de mode - Part 3

Notice how each adjective takes its usual place in this phrase. The adjective petite (which, like grand, is discussed here) comes before the noun robe. It turns out that fameuse is also an adjective that tends to come before the noun in French. And color, as we established in our blackboard example, comes after the noun. So, we place each adjective in its proper place and we get fameuse petite robe noire

Of course, sometimes you'll see multiple adjectives on just one one side of a noun (either before or after). Take a look at the story of little Morgane, who was, at two pounds, a greatly premature baby who grew up to be a perfectly healthy and cheery child.

À quatre ans, Morgane est une enfant gaie et vive sans aucun problème de santé.

At four years old, Morgane is a happy and playful child without any health problem.

Caption 2, Le Journal: Grands prématurés

Here the two adjectives describe the same type of quality—the little girl's pleasant disposition—so the conjunction et (and) is appropriately positioned between them. And, of course, both adjectives come after the noun they qualify, as they would if they were used alone: We say une enfant gaie (happy) and we also say une enfant vive ("playful" or "vivacious").

Let's look at another example, this time love-related:

Comme deux jeunes mariés, nos destins sont liés.

Like two newlyweds, our destinies are linked.

Caption 5, Ina-Ich: Âme armée

Perhaps this is just common sense, but when you have a common expression in French that's made up of an adjective-noun combo, and is then modified by another adjective, keep that common expression together. In Ina-Ich's song lyrics above, we have the common adjective-noun combo jeunes mariés (newlyweds—literally "young marrieds"). And as newlyweds typically come in pairs, we see this expression quantified by the numerical adjective deux (two), which, because it is a number, appears in front of the noun phrase, as seen in this lesson.

Here's a final point to leave you with, and perhaps the most important thing to take away from our series of adjective lessons. As is wisely written in one of Pierre Larousse's famous language books:

C’est le goût et surtout l’oreille qui déterminent la place que doivent occuper les adjectifs!

"It’s taste and especially sound that determine the place that adjectives must occupy!"

Keep taking your daily dose of Yabla video vitamins and you'll get more and more of that native-speaker sense of how to season your phrases with multiple adjectives!

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C'est l'heure de ton Yabla, pauvre gosse!

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...

Caption 8, Marché de la Poésie: Des poètes en tout genre

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?

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Adjective Arithmetic

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.

Caption 7, Le Journal: Manifestation des lycéens - Part 1

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!

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Forward-Thinking Adjectives

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!

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When Adverbs Get Cozy with Adjectives

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!

 

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Adjectives from Names and Verbs

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.

Caption 7, La Conspiration d'Orion: Conspiration 3/4 – Part 3

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.

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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!

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