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Kings and Queens and Kingdoms

Yabla features many videos that give you an opportunity to learn about French history and expand your history-related vocabulary. In this lesson, we will focus on some of France's most illustrious rulers, starting from Clovis, the first monarch, to Louis XVI and Louis Philippe, the last French kings. 


As Patricia explains in her video, France was once divided into several royaumes francs (Frankish kingdoms). The Franks were a Germanic tribe that gave the country its name. In the Middle Ages, un roi franc (a Frankish king) named Clovis came into power and managed to unite all the Frankish tribes to form a kingdom roughly the shape of France: 


Ce roi franc a unifié plusieurs royaumes francs et a ainsi agrandi considérablement son royaume.

This Frankish king unified several Frankish kingdoms and thus considerably expanded his kingdom.

Caption 9, Le saviez-vous? D'où vient le nom de la France?

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Clovis, who ruled from 481 to 511, is considered the first French king:


Clovis est le premier roi de France.

Clovis is the first king of France.

Caption 10, Le saviez-vous? D'où vient le nom de la France?

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Two centuries later, another Frankish king, Charlemagne, or Charles the Great, expanded his kingdom by conquering much of what would become Europe today. Charlemagne is perhaps best known in France for his contribution to education, as described in France Gall’s popular 1964 song "Sacré Charlemagne" ("Sacred Charlemagne" or "Bloody Charlemagne"): "[le roi] qui a eu cette idée folle d’avoir inventé l’école" ([the king] who had this crazy idea of inventing school). In the video below, a passerby hums part of the refrain: 


Sacré Charlemagne...

Sacred Charlemagne...

Caption 39, Micro-Trottoirs Sacrée France Gall

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Much later, during the Renaissance period, another powerful king, Louis XIV (Louis Quatorze) came into power and ruled France for 72 years! In his video, Daniel Benchimol shows us the king’s birthplace, the town of Saint-Germain-en-Laye in the outskirts of Paris:


À cet endroit tout simplement naquit Louis Quatorze en mille six cent trente-huit.

On this very spot, Louis the Fourteenth was born in sixteen hundred thirty-eight.

Caption 36, Voyage en France Saint-Germain-en-Laye

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Louis XIV became known as le roi Soleil (the Sun King) because he adopted the sun as his emblem:


Louis Quatorze, donc, le roi Soleil a décidé de prendre la ville ici en mille six cent soixante-trois.

Louis the Fourteenth, so, the Sun King decided to seize the town here in sixteen sixty-three.

Captions 38-39, Lionel Marsal - Part 2

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Louis XIV’s main residence was, of course, the Château de Versailles (Palace of Versailles), known for its amazing architecture:


Puisque l'art, c'est plutôt, euh... l'architecture, euh... comme le château de Versailles.

Since art, it's rather, uh... architecture, uh... like the Palace of Versailles.

Caption 15, Micro-Trottoirs Art ou science?

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Although in English we refer to the Château de Versailles as “a palace," strictly speaking, “a palace” is un palais and un château is “a castle.” And you are never far away from one of those in France, as there are over 40,000 castles throughout the country:


Autour de nous, des moulins, des châteaux, une cité médiévale.

Around us, windmills, castles, a medieval town.

Caption 43, Voyage en France Saint-Mammès

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The magnificent Château de Versailles was also the main residence of Louis XVI (Louis Seize) and la reine Marie-Antoinette (Queen Marie-Antoinette). Louis XVI also enjoyed staying at another royal castle outside of Paris, the Château de Rambouillet, where he could hunt in the nearby forest. Unfortunately, the queen hated the place, so the king, ever eager to please her, had le pavillon (the pavilion) called la Laiterie de la Reine (the Queen’s Dairy) built for his wife in 1785. In the video below, Daniel Benchimol shows us this magnificent building:


Derrière moi, ce magnifique pavillon qu'on appelle la Laiterie de la Reine. Il fut construit à la demande de Louis Seize pour la reine Marie Antoinette.

Behind me, this beautiful pavilion called the Queen's Dairy. It was built at the request of Louis the Sixteenth for Queen Marie Antoinette.

Captions 7-8, Voyage en France Rambouillet - Part 2

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Four years after the pavilion was built, the monarchy was formerly abolished during the 1789 French Revolution:


La France a été une royauté jusqu'en dix-sept cent quatre-vingt-neuf

France was a monarchy until seventeen eighty-nine

Caption 11, Le saviez-vous? D'où vient le nom de la France?

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La monarchie returned in 1815 for a brief time, as Patricia explains in her video:


En dix-huit cent quinze, avec le retour de la monarchie

In eighteen fifteen, with the return of the monarchy

Caption 26, Le saviez-vous? Histoire du drapeau français

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Indeed, there were a few more kings after the French Revolution, Louis Philippe being the last to rule from 1830 until 1848. In his video, Daniel Benchimol mentions how Louis Philippe came into power:


C'est ici que se prépara la révolution de dix-huit cent trente qui conduisit Laffitte à la présidence du Conseil de Louis Philippe.

It's here that the eighteen thirty revolution was fomented, which led Laffitte to the presidency of the Louis Philippe Council.

Captions 23-24, Voyage en France Maisons-Laffitte - Part 3

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There are many more rois (kings) and reines (queens) featured in our videos for you to explore. Daniel Benchimol's Voyage en France series is a great place to start. Thank you for taking this little trip back in time with Yabla!


A Rendezvous with Rendez-Vous

The word rendez-vous is the second-person plural imperative form of the verb se rendre ("to go" or "to present oneself"). It literally means "go!" or "present yourself!" But rather than a command, you'll hear it most often used as a noun—un rendez-vous. In English, "a rendezvous" is another word for "a meeting." Un rendez-vous means that and much more, as you'll see in this lesson.


If you're a regular Yabla French user, you'll recognize this word from the final caption of nearly every video in our Voyage en France series:


Je vous donne rendez-vous très bientôt pour de nouvelles découvertes.

I will meet you very soon for some new discoveries.

Caption 50, Voyage en France - Mont-Valérien

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Donner rendez-vous à (literally, "to give meeting to") is to arrange to meet someone, to set up a date or an appointment with someone. Indeed, besides "a meeting," un rendez-vous can also be "a date" or "an appointment": 


C'est au premier rendez-vous qu'ils franchissent le pas

It's on the first date that they take that step

Caption 5, Grand Corps Malade - Roméo kiffe Juliette

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J'ai rendez-vous chez le dentiste et je suis en retard!

I have an appointment at the dentist and I'm late!

Caption 10, Micro-Trottoirs - Art ou science?

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Note the discrepancy between the French and the English in that last example: when talking about having an appointment with someone, you don't have to say j'ai un rendez-vousJ'ai rendez-vous will suffice.


In French, you don't "make" an appointment with someone—you "take" (prendre) one:


Aujourd'hui, on va apprendre à prendre rendez-vous chez le médecin.

Today we're going to learn how to make an appointment at the doctor's.

Caption 1, Manon et Clémentine - Rendez-vous chez le médecin

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And if something is by appointment only, it's sur rendez-vous ("on appointment"):


au trente-neuf rue Saint-Pavin des Champs sur rendez-vous

at thirty-nine Saint-Pavin des Champs Street by appointment

Caption 38, Le Mans TV - Le Mans: Ouverture d'un nouvel atelier d'artistes

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Un rendez-vous can refer both to a meeting and a meeting place:


Ce château était un rendez-vous de chasse.

This castle was a rendezvous point for hunting.

Caption 26, Le Mans TV - Mon Village - Malicorne

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Here's an interesting example that uses rendez-vous in more of a metaphoric sense: 


Le soleil est au rendez-vous pour ce nouveau numéro de la découverte de la ville de Provins.

The sun is present for this new episode of the discovery of the city of Provins.

Caption 2, Voyage en France - La ville de Provins

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The sun is "at the meeting" for this new episode—in other words, the sun is out. Être au rendez-vous means "to be present." The expression is used in the negative in Part 1 of Le Jour où tout a basculé - J'ai piégé mon fan to describe an actress's lack of success in recent years:


Sophie est une comédienne célèbre, mais depuis quelques années le succès n'est plus au rendez-vous.

Sophie is a famous actress, but success has been hard to come by for several years.

Captions 1-2, Le Jour où tout a basculé - J'ai piégé mon fan

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Mais depuis deux ans, le succès n'est plus vraiment au rendez-vous.

But for the last two years, success has been somewhat elusive.

Caption 41, Le Jour où tout a basculé - J'ai piégé mon fan - Part 1

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That about does it for this lesson. Nous vous donnons rendez-vous très bientôt pour une nouvelle leçon (We'll meet you very soon for a new lesson)!


Chez moi, c'est chez toi!

Chez is one of those few French words with no exact English equivalent. It’s a preposition that can be literally translated as "at the home of" or "at the establishment of," as Alex Terrier uses it when describing his early music influences.


Ensuite j'ai découvert chez mes parents

Then I discovered at my parents' place

des disques trente-trois tours...

some thirty-three rpm records...

Caption 11, Alex Terrier - Le musicien et son jazz

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It can also be used in front of a surname to indicate a family household:


Chez les Marchal, le bac c'est une affaire de famille.

At the Marchals', the bac is a family affair.

Caption 23, Le Journal - Le baccalauréat

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(Note that French surnames don’t take an extra s when pluralized: les Marchal.)


Or it can be used with disjunctive pronouns (moi, toi, soi, etc.) to mean "at my house," "at your house," or even just "at home":


L'hiver, les gens préfèrent rester chez eux...

In the winter, people prefer to stay at home...

Caption 1, Fanny parle des saisons - La Bouffe

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You can also use chez for businesses, offices, restaurants, and other commercial locations: 


Je suis pizzaman chez F&F Pizza, un shift par semaine.

I'm a pizza man at F&F Pizza, one shift per week.

Caption 2, F&F Pizza - Chez F&F

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J'ai rendez-vous chez le dentiste et je suis en retard!

I have an appointment at the dentist and I'm late!

Caption 10, Micro-Trottoirs - Art ou science?

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But chez doesn’t only refer to buildings! Quite often, you will also see it used more figuratively. For example, just as "at home" can mean "in one’s house," "in one's country/native land," and just "familiar" in general, chez soi (or chez nous, chez moi, etc.) carries all those meanings as well: 


On se sentait absolument chez nous.

We felt right at home.

Caption 23, Les Nubians - Le multiculturalisme

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Finally, when describing something "about" or "in" a person, "among" a group of people, or "in the work of" an author or artist, chez is the word to use: 


Je l'ai retrouvée, je l'ai vue chez toutes les femmes, toutes les filles.

I recognized it, I saw it in all the women, all the girls.

Caption 53, Alphabétisation - des filles au Sénégal

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Les pâtes sont très populaires chez les Italiens.

Pasta is very popular among Italians


Il y a beaucoup de figures bizarres chez Salvador Dalí.

There are many bizarre figures in the work of Salvador Dalí.



We chez Yabla encourage you to speak French as much as you can chez vous



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 11, Il était une fois... l’Homme - 6. Le siècle de Périclès - Part 5

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"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,

How many years, how many centuries will be needed

avant que ne se retrouvent pareilles constellations?

before such constellations can be found again?

Captions 3-4, Il était une fois... l’Homme - 6. Le siècle de Périclès - Part 6

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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?

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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