French Lessons

Topics

French Words with the Letter Z... Or, How to Improve Your Scrabble Score

This lesson is brought to you by the letter Z. Why the letter Z? Because few French nouns contain the letter Z. On the other hand, most verbs do, which is a handy thing to know when playing French Scrabble, as the letter Z is a high-scoring letter. 

 

Almost all verbs in the second-person plural vous (you) end in -ez, as in vous savez (you know). What’s more, this is the case in pretty much all moods and tenses.

 

In the present tense:

 

Et toujours, vous savez, la langue est toujours liée à la culture.

And always, you know, a language is always tied to its culture.

Caption 42, Allons en France Pourquoi apprendre le français?

 Play Caption

 

In the imperfect tense: 

 

Le saviez-vous?

Did you know?

Caption 1, Le saviez-vous? L'art culinaire français

 Play Caption

 

In the future tense:

 

Maintenant vous saurez que à chaque fois que vous entendez un verbe qui se termine par le son "é", c'est un verbe du premier groupe

Now you will know that each time you hear a verb that ends with the sound "é," it's a first-group verb

Captions 42-45, Le saviez-vous? Les verbes du 1er groupe

 Play Caption

 

In the conditional mood:

 

Sauriez-vous jouer au Scrabble en français?

Could you play French Scrabble?

 

While most verbs conjugated with vous (you) end in -ez, there are not as many nouns ending in Z. But a few of them are very commonly used, such as chez (at/to the home of), le riz (rice), le nez (nose), le raz-de-marée (tidal wave), and le rez-de-chaussée (ground floor):

 

Bienvenue chez moi

Welcome to my home

Caption 7, Stromae Bienvenue chez moi

 Play Caption

 

Elles mangent du riz.

They  are eating rice.

Caption 28, Farid et Hiziya Boire et manger

 Play Caption

 

ce Milanais qui vous peignait une courgette en guise de nez

this Milanese man who painted you a zucchini as a nose

Captions 23-24, d'Art d'Art "Les quatre saisons" - Arcimboldo

 Play Caption

 

Mieux encore, les racines des palétuviers amortissent les effets des raz-de-marée et des fameux tsunamis.

Better still, the mangrove roots absorb the impact of tidal waves and notorious tsunamis.

Captions 19-20, Il était une fois: Notre Terre 9. Les écosystèmes - Part 7

 Play Caption

 

J'habite au rez-de-chaussée, donc je n'ai pas besoin de monter les escaliers.

I live on the ground floor, so I don't need to go up the stairs.

Caption 6, Joanna Son appartement

 Play Caption

 

As you can hear in the examples above, Z at the end of a word is almost always silent in French. So then why do we pronounce the Z in gaz (gas), for example? That’s because it's usually pronounced in words of foreign origin:

 

Factures: téléphone, gaz, électricité.

Bills: telephone, gas, electricity.

Caption 30, Extr@ Ep. 1 - L'arrivée de Sam - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

Le français a une bande passante qui fait mille, deux mille hertz

French has a bandwidth that measures one thousand, two thousand hertz

Caption 34, Lionel Langue sous hypnose

 Play Caption

 

When Z comes at the beginning or in the middle of a word, it is always sounded just as it is in English. Here are a couple of interjections starting with Z:

 

Allez, zou!

Come on, let's go!

Caption 111, Claire et Philippe La campagne

 Play Caption

 

Je pourrais dire "zut" aussi.

I could also say "zut" [darn].

Caption 8, Le saviez-vous? Les expressions inspirées de la musique - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

You'll also find the letter Z in certain numerals, such as quinze (fifteen), seize (sixteen), and zéro (zero): 

 

Et voilà, me voilà parée pour,  sortir par, moins zéro, moins quinze degrés.

And there we have it, here I am dressed to go out in below zero, negative fifteen degrees.

Caption 14, Fanny parle des saisons S'habiller en hiver

 Play Caption

 

Now that you’ve zipped through this lesson, we trust that you will apply this newfound knowledge with le zeste (zest) and le zèle (zeal)!

Vocabulary

Unchanging Colors

In this lesson, we're going to discuss a somewhat tricky aspect of French color words. Like the vast majority of adjectives, most French color words agree in gender (masculine or feminine) and number (singular or plural) with the noun they modify. Let's take the adjective noir (black) as an example:

 

Ils peuvent être noirs.

It can be black.

Caption 11, Le saviez-vous? - Le vocabulaire de la tête

 Play Caption

 

Ensuite vous avez mon écharpe noire, une simple étole.

Then you have my black scarf, a simple wrap.

Caption 9, Fanny parle des saisons - S'habiller en hiver

 Play Caption

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

In the first sentence, noir modifies the masculine plural noun cheveux ("hair" is always plural in French), so it takes the masculine plural ending -s (noirs). In the second sentence, noir modifies the feminine singular noun écharpe, so it takes the feminine singular ending -e (noire).

 

However, certain color adjectives are invariable—that is, they never change regardless of the gender and number of the noun. All of these adjectives are derived from nouns. Take orange for example. As in English, in French orange refers to both the color and the fruit (une orange). Though you can certainly have de multiples oranges (multiple oranges), the adjective form of the word never changes, even in the plural:

 

J'ai acheté des chaussures orange
I bought orange shoes. 

 

On the other hand, rouge (red) isn't invariable (since it's not derived from a noun), so it does change in the plural: 

 

Tu as acheté des chaussures rouges
You bought red shoes. 

 

Another common color adjective that never changes is marron. Un marron is a chestnut, but when used as an adjective, it just means "brown": 

 

Regardez ces chiens. Ils sont marron?

Look at these dogs. Are they brown?

Caption 52, Leçons avec Lionel - Couleurs

 Play Caption

 

The other word for brown, brun, is variable. In this example, it modifies the feminine plural noun feuilles (leaves): 

 

De tas de feuilles à moitié mortes...

Lots of half-dead leaves...

Un jour vertes, un jour brunes

One day green, one day brown

Captions 9-11, Stromae - Bienvenue chez moi

 Play Caption

 

There's another word for "chestnut" too! It's une châtaigne. The related adjective châtain is variable and is often used to describe hair color:

 

Ils peuvent être châtains.

It can be chestnut-colored.

Châtain, c'est marron.

"Chestnut" is brown.

Captions 12-13, Le saviez-vous? - Le vocabulaire de la tête

 Play Caption

 

Some other invariable color adjectives are: abricot (apricot), ardoise (slate), argent (silver), azur (azure), brique (brick), bronze (bronze), café (coffee), caramel (caramel), champagne (champagne), chocolat (chocolate).

 

There's one more instance of invariability you should be aware of when dealing with color words. When you use more than one adjective to designate a single color (like "light blue," "dark green," etc.), neither of the adjectives changes according to the noun it modifies. For example:

 

Il a les yeux bleu clair et les cheveux brun foncé
He has light blue eyes and dark brown hair

 

But: 

 

Il a les yeux bleus et les cheveux bruns.
He has blue eyes and brown hair

 

As you may have noticed, like many other adjectives, color adjectives always follow the noun in French. See our previous lesson for more information on that. And for a good introduction to colors in French, check out Lionel's video on the subject.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned and tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com.

Grammar

You May Also Like