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Understanding French

Grammar Part II

Words & pharases

Reviewing Numbers
The French cardinal numbers, those used for counting, require you to use math skills once you
get past 69. The number 70 is formed by adding 60 + 10, 71 is 60 + 11, and so on until 80 is
reached. The number 80 is 4 × 20, while 81 is 4 × 20 + 1, and so on through the number 99.

Consult Table 1 for a list of French cardinal numbers that you should know.

TABLE 1 Cardinal Numbers

Number French
0 zéro
1 un
2 deux
3 trois
4 quatre
5 cinq
6 six
7 sept
8 huit
9 neuf
10 dix
11 onze
12 douze
13 treize
14 quatorze
15 quinze
16 seize
17 dix-sept
18 dix-huit
19 dix-neuf

20 vingt
21 vingt et un
22 vingt-deux
30 trente
40 quarante
50 cinquante
60 soixante
70 soixante-dix
71 soixante et onze
72 soixante-douze
80 quatre-vingts
81 quatre-vingt-un
90 quatre-vingt-dix
91 quatre-vingt-onze
100 cent
101 cent un
200 deux cents
201 deux cent un
1,000 mille
2,000 deux mille
1,000,000 un million
2,000,000 deux millions
1,000,000,000 un milliard
2,000,000,000 deux milliards

Note the following about cardinal numbers:

• The conjunction et (and) is used only for the numbers 21, 31, 41, 51, 61, and 71. In
all other compound numbers through 99, et is dropped and a hyphen is used.
• Before a feminine noun, un becomes une.
o vingt et un garçons(21 boys)
o vingt et une filles (21 girls)
• For quatre-vingts (80) and the plural of cent (100) for any number above 199, drop
the -s before another number, but not before a noun. The -s is also dropped when
these numbers are used in an ordinal sense (for example, to express page or
address numbers and dates).
o quatre cent vingt dollars (420 dollars)

o quatre cents dollars (400 dollars)
o quatre-vingt-dix-neuf euros (99 euros)
o quatre-vingts euros(80 euros)
o à la page deux cent (on page 200)
o dans la rue quatre-vingt (on 80th Street)
o pendant l'année neuf cent (during the year 900)
• Un is not used before cent (100) and mille (1,000).
o cent ans (100 years)
o mille personnes (1,000 people)
• Mille doesn't take -s in the plural.
o cinq mille dollars (5,000 dollars)
• Mille is generally written mil in dates until 1999:
o Je suis né en mil neuf cent quarante-sept. (I was born in 1947.)
o Starting with the year 2000, the date is written as follows:
o Ma fille est née en (l'an) deux mille. (My daughter was born in 2000.) When
another number is added after 2000, mil is generally preferred to mille.
o Mon fils est né en (l'an) deux mil( le) deux. (My son was born in 2002.)
• To express numbers between 1,000 and 9,999, you can avoid using mille and simply
use cent where it is more convenient.
o mille neuf centsor dix-neuf cents (1,900)
• In numerals and decimals, the French use commas where Americans use periods,
and vice versa:

English French
50,000 50.000
025 ,25
$25.99 $25,99

Numbers and Nouns of Quantity

Nouns that are used to express a quantity or a measure are followed by de + noun. The cardinal
numbers million and milliard, as well as other nouns of number, follow this rule.

• un million de touristes (a million tourists)

• onze milliards de gens (11 billion people)
• deux boîtes de céréales (2 boxes of cereal)
• un tas de papiers (a pile of papers)

Refer to Table 2 for common nouns of number and quantity.

TABLE 2 Numbers and Nouns of Quantity

Noun of Quantity English
une boîte de a box of, a can of
une bouteille de a bottle of
une centaine de about 100
une dizaine de about 10
une douzaine de a dozen
un kilo de a kilogram of
un litre de a liter of
une livre de a pound of
un milliard de a billion
un millier de about a thousand
un million de a million
un morceau de a piece of
une paire de a pair of
un paquet de a package of
une quinzaine de about 15
un sac de a bag of
un tas de a pile of
une tasse de a cup of
une tranche de a slice of
un verre de a glass of
une vingtaine de about 20

To calculate simple arithmetic problems in French, use the following:

To add: Dix et (plus) cinq font (égale) quinze. 10 + 5 = 15

To subtract: Quinze moins cinq font (égale) dix. 15 − 5 = 10
To multiply: Cinq fois cinq font (égale) vingt-cinq. 5 × 5 = 25
To divide: Vingt-cinq divisé par cinq font (égale) cinq. 25 ÷ 5 = 5

Ordinal Numbers
In French, most ordinal numbers (those used to show rank or placement) are formed by adding
-i`me to the cardinal number. When the cardinal number ends in a silent e, that vowel is
dropped before adding the ordinal ending ( quatri`me is “fourth,” onzi`me is “eleventh,” and so
on). Consult Table 3 for exceptions to the rule.

TABLE 3 Exception Ordinal Numbers

Ordinal French
1st premier or premi`re
2nd deuxi`me or second( e)
5th cinqui`me
9th neuvi`me
21st vingt et uni`me

Note the following about ordinal numbers:

• Premier and premi`re are abbreviated as follows:

o premier: 1er
o premi`re: 1re
• All others ordinals get a superscript e.
o quinzi`me: 15
• Ordinal numbers agree in number and gender with the nouns they describe.
Premier (premi`re)and second (seconde) are the only ordinal numbers that have a
feminine form.
o le premier acte (the first act)
o la premi`re pi`ce (the first play)
o les premi`res années (the first years)
o la Seconde Guerre mondiale (the second World War)
o les vingt et uni`mes anniversaires (21st birthdays)
• Premier is used only for the first in a series. For 21 to 71, uni`me is added after the
conjunction et to express first, and it must agree in number with the noun it modifies.
o la cinquante et uni`me année (the 51st year)
• Second(e) is generally used in a series that goes no higher than two.
• Use le or la before huit/huiti`me and onze/onzi`me. There is no elision.
o le huiti`me anniversaire(the 11th birthday)
o le onze juillet (July 11th)
• In French, cardinal numbers precede ordinal numbers.
o les deux premi`res personnes (the first two people)

Just as in English, French fractions are formed by combining a cardinal and an ordinal number:

un cinqui`me 1/5
deux septi`mes 2/7
trois huiti`mes 3/8
quatre centi`mes 4/100

The most common fractions are irregular:

un demi (une moitié) ½
un tiers 1/3
trois quarts 3/4

Note the following:

• Demi is generally used as an adjective. When it is used before the noun with a hyphen,
it does not agree with the noun it describes. When used after the noun, however, it must
agree with the noun it modifies.
o une demi-heure (a half hour)
o une heure et demie (an hour and a half)
• Moitié is a feminine noun and must be used with the article la.
o la moitié de la classe (half the class)

Multiple numbers are used in French in the same way they are used in English:

une fois one time

vingt fois 20 times
mille fois 1,000 times
simple a single, simple
double a double
triple a triple

Here are some examples of multiples used in a sentence:

• Je l'ai fait une fois. (I did it one time.)

• Le prix est triple de ce qu'il était. (The price is triple what it was.)

Titles of Rulers

In numerical titles of rulers, cardinal numbers are used (except for premier).

François premier (François Ier) François the First

Henri Huit (Henri VIII) Henry the Eighth
Louis Quinze (Louis XV) Louis the Fifteenth

Time and Using Advanced Time Expressions

Use the following questions and answers to speak about the time of day:

• Quelle heure est-il? (What time is it?) Il est … (It is …)
• À quelle heure … ? (At what time … ?) À … (At …)

Table 1 gives you a quick refresher course on how to tell time in French.

TABLE 1 Telling Time

Time French
1:00 une heure
2:05 deux heures cinq
3:10 trois heures dix
4:15 quatre heures et quart
5:20 cinq heures vingt
6:25 six heures vingt-cinq
7:30 sept heures et demie
7:35 huit heures moins vingt-cinq
8:40 neuf heures moins vingt
9:45 dix heures moins le quart
10:50 onze heures moins dix
11:55 midi (minuit) moins cinq
midnight minuit
noon midi

Here are some more basics on time:

• To express time after the hour, the number of minutes is added. Et (and) is used only
with quart (quarter) and demi( e) (half).
• Moins (less, minus) is used to express time before the hour.
• Moins le is used before quart.
• Because midi (noon) and minuit (midnight) are masculine, to say “half past,” use et
demi, as in the following: Je mange à midi et demi. (I eat at half past noon.)
• In public announcements, such as timetables, the official 24-hour system is commonly
used, with midnight as the zero hour:
o 0 h 30 (12:30 a.m.)
o 18 heures (6:00 p.m.)
o 20 h 45 (8:45 p.m.)

Table 2 provides you with common expressions that will help you express time and anything
related to it.

TABLE 2 Common Time-Related Expressions

French English
une seconde a second
une minute a minute
un quart d'heure a quarter of an hour
une demi-heure a half hour
une heure an hour
il y a une heure an hour ago
du matin in the morning
de l'apr`s-midi in the afternoon
du soir in the evening
à minuit précis at exactly midnight
à une heure précise at exactly 1 o'clock
à trois heures précises at exactly 3 o'clock
vers … at about …
dans une heure in an hour
jusqu'à … until …
avant … before …
apr`s after
depuis … since …
par heure per hour
au bout d'une heure at the end of an hour
tôt, de bonne heure early
tard late (in time)
en retard late (in arriving)
à l'heure, à temps on time
en même temps at the same time
tout à l'heure in a while

Using Advanced Cognates

Cognates help you improve your command of a foreign language because they help you relate
words with which you are familiar to the new words that you come across in your studies.
Although there are differences in pronunciation and spelling, easily recognizable words help
you build a working vocabulary rather quickly. The cognates listed in Table 1 should be easy to
TABLE 1 Advanced Cognates
Adjectives Le La L'
actif balcon banane acteur
aimable bébé bicyclette adresse
ambitieux coton carotte affaire
amusant dîner cathédrale âge
ancien directeur chambre agence
courageux jardin classe anniversaire
délicieux juge couleur appartement
dynamique mécanicien danse artiste
élégant moteur fontaine éléphant
enchanté papier guitare employé
exquis parfum lampe enveloppe
fatigué parc liste exemple
grillé porc maladie hôtel
insignifiant président marchandise océan
intéressant professeur musique oncle
juste serveur nationalité opéra
naïf théâtre paire opticien
sérieux vendeur région orchestre

The meanings of the following regular verbs should be apparent. Just follow the rules for the
conjugation of the appropriate verb families to use these words.

- er verbs
accompagner modifier
adorer observer
aider pardonner
blâmer passer
changer payer
chanter persuader
commander porter
commencer préférer

danser préparer
décider présenter
déclarer prouver
demander recommander
désirer refuser
dîner regarder
échanger regretter
embrasser remarquer
entrer réparer
envelopper réserver
hésiter signer
ignorer surveiller
inviter tourner
marcher vérifier
accomplir finir
applaudir punir
défendre répondre
dépendre vendre

Words Borrowed from French

There are many French words and expressions that are used daily by speakers of English. These
terms have been borrowed and incorporated into our language. Check the list below and see
how many of these words are, indeed, quite familiar to you.

• à la carte
• à la mode
• aide-de-camp
• blasé
• bon vivant
• bon voyage
• c'est la vie
• camouflage
• carte blanche
• chaise longue
• chef d'oeuvre
• chic
• coup de grâce
• coup d'état
• cr`me de la cr`me
• cri de coeur
• de rigueur
• débutante
• déjà vu
• élite
• esprit de corps
• fait accompli
• faux pas
• fiancé(e)
• gourmet
• idée fixe
• joie de vivre
• matinée
• naïve
• objet d'art
• par excellence
• pi`ce de résistance
• R.S.V.P.
• raison d'être
• rendez-vous
• tête à tête
• tour de force
• trompe-l'oeil
• vis-à-vis

False Friends: French Words in Disguise

Faux amis, or false friends, can trick you into making mistakes because they look like certain
English words, but have an entirely different meaning in French. In many instances, despite
having the same or similar spellings, the words in English and French can even be different
parts of speech. Beware of the tricky faux amis in Table 1 .

TABLE 1 Advanced False Friends

English French Meaning
bless (v) blesser (v) to wound
bra (n) le bras(n) arm
bride (n) la bride (n) bridle
car (n) car (conj) because
chair (n) la chair(n) skin
chose (v) la chose(n) thing
cry (v) crier(v) to shout
fond (a) le fond (n) back, bottom
four (a) le four(n) oven

laid (v) laid(a) ugly
large (a) large (a) wide
lime (n) la lime (n) file
lit (v) le lit(n) bed
liver (n) le livre(n) book
main (a) la main (n) hand
manger (n) manger (v) to eat
ours (a) l'ours (n) bear
pour (v) pour(prep) for, in order to
prune (n) la prune (n) plum
raisin (n) le raisin(n) grape
ranger (n) ranger(v) to tidy
Roman (a) le roman (n) novel
sang (v) le sang(n) blood
sensible (a) sensible (a) sensitive
sent (v) sentir(v) to smell, to feel
sold (v) le solde (n) sale
son (n) son (pron) OR (n) his, her OR sound
stage (n) le stage(n) training course
store (n) le store(n) shade
ton (n) ton (pron) your
tot (n) tôt(adv) early

Circumflex and Acute Accents

A circumflex accent (ˆ) or the acute accent on é generally take the place of an -s that appeared
in the word in old French. This clue will make it easier for you to determine the meaning of
many words and perhaps avoid the use of a dictionary. Fill in the definitions of the words that
are left.

Circumflex Accent (ˆ) Accent Aigu é

French English French English
arrêter to arrest écarlate scarlet
bête beast échapper to escape
conquête conquest école school
coûter to cost épars sparse
croûte crust épellation spelling
fête feast épice spice
forêt forest épier to spy
hîpital hospital éponge sponge
hôte host épouser to espouse
hôtel hostel établir
hôtesse étal
île état
intérêt étrange
pâte étranger
plâtre étude
quête étudiant
rôti étudier
vêtements répondre

Basic Articles
It's easy to overlook the importance of little articles—but don't make that mistake! Take some
time to review the basics.

The French articles

Articles—small words typically classified as adjectives—generally (but not always) indicate
the gender and number of the noun or pronoun that follows. For this reason, articles are often
referred to as “noun markers.” The table below shows the articles that are used in French.

TABLE 1 French Articles

Fem. Sing. Masc. Fem. English Translation
Article Masc. Sing. Pl. Pl.
Definite le ( l' before la ( l' before les les the
vowel) vowel)
Indefinite un une des des a or an or one or some
Partitive du de la des des some or any

Demonstrative ce ( cet before cette ces ces this or that or these or
vowel) those

Using articles
The definite article ( le, la, l', les) is used with nouns in a general sense while the partitive is
used to express some or part of something:

• Nous aimons le pain. (We love bread.)

• Donnez-nous du gâteau. (Give us some cake.)

Use un or une when speaking about one portion or serving and use an adverb or noun of
quantity or the partitive ( de, du, de la, de l', des) to express amounts:

• Un pain, s'il vous plaît. (A bread, please.)

• Une tranche de pain, s'il vous plaît. (A slice of bread, please.)
• Du pain, s'il vous plaît. (Some bread, please.)

Use ce ( cet) or cette to express “this” or “that” item and use ces to express “these” or “those.”
Use the tags -ci (here) or -là (there) to be even more specific:

• Je préfère ce pain-ci. (I prefer this bread.)

• Donnez-moi ces pains-là. (Give me those breads.)

Contractions with articles

The following prepositions contract with articles in French:

Preposition + Article = Contraction (Meaning)

à + le = au (to the)
à + les = aux (to the)
de + le = du (some; of, about, from it)
de + les = des (some; of, about, from them)

Basic Nouns and Nouns of Quantity

All French nouns have a number (singular or plural) and a gender (masculine or feminine).
Singular articles help you to identify the gender of nouns and should be learned with the nouns
they modify. Although the gender of some nouns is quite obvious (those that refer to males are
masculine, while those that refer to females are feminine), the gender of other nouns can be
tricky and must be memorized

The following list goes into more detail about the number and gender of nouns:

• Some noun endings give you a hint as to gender:

o Masculine endings include -acle, -age, -al, -eau, -et, -ier, -isme, and -ment.
o Feminine endings include -ade, -ale, -ance, -ence, -ette, -ie, -ique, -oire, -sion,
and -tion.
• Some nouns can be either masculine or feminine:
o artiste
o camarade
o collègue
o concierge
o élève
o enfant
o malade
o secrétaire
o touriste
• Some nouns can be changed to the feminine by simply adding an -e:
o un cousin → une cousine
o un ami → une amie
• Some masculine nouns (usually referring to professions) have a corresponding
feminine ending:

Masculine Feminine
- an - anne
- el - elle
- er - ère
- eur - euse
- ien - ienne
- on - onne
- teur - trice

• Some words are always masculine or feminine no matter to whom they are

un agent de police un mannequin (model)

un bébé un médecin (doctor)
un chef un professeur
un dentiste une connaissance (acquaintance)
un écrivain (writer) une star
un ingénieur (engineer) une victime

• Most French nouns are made plural by adding an unpronounced -s to the singular
• The letters s, x, and z are all used to make plurals in French. If a singular noun
ends in any of these letters, its plural form remains unchanged:

o le fils → les fils
o la voix → les voix
o le nez → les nez
• Nouns ending in -eau add -x to form the plural:
o le château → les châteaux
• Nouns ending in -eu add -x to form the plural, except that le pneu (tire) becomes
les pneus (tires):
o le cheveu → les cheveux
• Nouns ending in -al change -al to -aux, except for le bal (which becomes les bals), le
festival (which becomes les festivals), and le récital (which becomes les récitals):
o l'animal → les animaux
• Some nouns ending in -ou add -x to form the plural:
o le bijou → les bijoux
• Most compound nouns (nouns made up of two nouns that are usually joined by a
hyphen) do not change in the plural. Remember, however, to change their respective
o les hors-d'oeuvre

Note the following irregularities:

o les grands-mères
o les grands-pères
o les grands-parents
• Some French words are always plural:
o les ciseaux (scissors)
o les gens (people)
o les lunettes (glasses)
o les vacances (vacation)
o les mathématiques
• French last names do not add an -s in the plural:
o Les Dupont

Nouns that express quantity are followed by the preposition de ( d' before a vowel) before the
noun that follows. For example:

• Je vais acheter une douzaine d'oeufs. (I'm going to buy a dozen eggs.)
• Donnez-moi un verre de lait. (Give me a glass of milk.)

High-frequency nouns of quantity include:

• une boûte (a box, a can)

• une bouteille (a bottle)
• une douzaine
• une livre (a pound)
• un morceau (a piece)
• une paire
• un panier (a basket)
• un paquet (a package)
• un sac (a bag)
• une tasse (a cup)
• une tranche (a slice)
• un verre (a glass)

Possession, Possessive Pronouns

In English we may use an apostrophe and an - s to show that something belongs to someone. In
French, however, because an apostrophe is only used to replace a letter that is omitted due to
elision, 's is not used to show possession. French uses a different word order than the one we
are accustomed to, and possessive adjectives and pronouns also follow a different set of rules.

• The preposition de (of) is used to express relationship and possession. If the

sentence requires de and has two or more nouns, de (or d' before a vowel) is repeated
before each noun. De contracts with the definite article le to become du or with les to
become des in order to express “of the”:
o C'est la voiture du père de Jean. (It's John's father's car.)
o C'est la maison de Lucien et de Sylvie. (It's Lucien and Sylvie's house.)
o Ce sont les enfants des Renaud. (They are the Renauds' children.)
• Although de can be used to demonstrate possession of a person or a thing, the
idiom être à (to belong to) is usually used to show possession of a thing (not a
person). Conjugate être to agree with the subject, and if the sentence contains two or
more nouns, repeat the preposition à before each noun:
o À qui est ce livre? Ce livre est à Roger. (Whose book is this? This is Roger's
o À qui sont ces CDs? Ces CDs sont à Anne et à Luc. (Whose CDs are these?
These CDs are Anne's and Luke's.)
• Like all French adjectives, possessive adjectives agree in gender and number with
the nouns they modify (the person or item that is possessed) and not with the
subject (the person possessing them).
o Claude est mon frère et Anne est mon amie. (Claude is my brother, and Anne is
my friend.)
o Il travaille avec sa mère et son père. (He works with his mother and father.)
o Elle aide sa tante et son oncle. (She helps her aunt and uncle.)
o Les Leduc aiment leurs enfants et leur chien. (The Leducs love their children
and their dog.)
• Possessive pronouns are used to replace a possessive adjective + a noun. The
pronoun must agree in number and gender with the noun it replaces. Definite articles
contract with the prepositions à and de when used before a possessive pronoun. Use
Tables 1 and 2 to select the appropriate possessive pronoun.

TABLE 1 Possessive Adjectives

Used before all masculine singular Used only before singular Used before
nouns and any feminine singular feminine nouns beginning all plural
nouns beginning with a vowel with a consonant nouns English
mon ma mes my
ton ta tes your
son sa ses his, her,
notre notre nos our
votre votre vos your
leur leur leurs their

TABLE 2 Possessive Pronouns

Masc. Sing. Fem. Sing. Masc. Pl. Fem. Pl. English
le mien la mienne les miens les miennes mine
le tien la tienne les tiens les tiennes yours (familiar)
le sien la sienne les siens les siennes his, hers, its
le nôtre la nôtre les nôtres les nôtres ours
le vôtre la vôtre les vôtres les vôtres yours
le leur la leur les leurs les leurs theirs

o Mes cheveux sont plus longs que les tiens. (My hair is longer than yours.)
o Ses idées et les miennes sont vraiment différentes. (His [or her] ideas and mine
are really different.)
o Voilà ma voiture. Où est la vÛtre? (There's my car. Where's yours?)
o Tu ressembles à tes parents et je ressemble aux miens. (You resemble your
parents, and I resemble mine.)

Learning to use pronouns well and naturally is key to become a fluent speaker of French.

Subject pronouns
A subject pronoun replaces a subject noun (the noun performing the action of the verb) and is
given a person and a number (singular or plural), as shown in Table 1 .

TABLE 1 Subject Pronouns

Person Singular Plural
First je (I) nous (we)
Second tu (you) vous (you)
il (he, it) ils (they)
Third elle (she, it) elles (they)
on (one, you, we, they)

Object pronouns
Object pronouns replace object nouns to allow for more free-flowing expression. There are
direct object pronouns and indirect object pronouns.

• Direct object nouns or pronouns refer to “whom” or “what” the subject is acting
upon: people, places, things, or ideas:
o Cette chemise? Je la prends! (That shirt? I'll take it!)
o Ils vont m' aider. (They are going to help me.)
o Attends- nous. (Wait for us.)
• Indirect object nouns or pronouns refer to “to” or “for” whom the subject is doing
something and refer only to people. As a clue, look for a form of the preposition à (to,
for) followed by the name or reference to a person:
o J'écris à Luc. Je lui écris. (I write to Luke. I write to him.)
o Il va te donner un paquet. (He's going to give you a package.)
o Lis- moi. (Read to me.)

Keep the following in mind about object pronouns:

• Make the conjugated verb agree with the subject rather than with the object pronoun.
• Place the object pronoun before the verb to which its meaning is tied, usually before the
conjugated verb.
• When a sentence contains two verbs, place the object pronoun before the infinitive.
• In an affirmative command, place an object pronoun immediately after the verb and join
it to the verb with a hyphen. In an affirmative command only, me changes to moi and te
changes to toi.

The minitable below shows direct and indirect object pronouns:

Direct Indirect
me [m'] (me) me [m'] (to me)
te [t'] (you) te [t'] (to you)
le [l'] (he, it) lui (to him)
la [l'] (her, it) lui (to her)
se [s'] (himself, herself, itself) se [s'] (to himself, to herself)
nous (us) nous (to us)
vous (you) vous (to you)
les (them) leur (to them)
se [s'] (themselves) se [s'] (to themselves)

The adverbial pronoun y

The adverbial pronoun y means “there” when the place has already been mentioned. Y can also
mean “it,” “them,” “in it/them,” “to it/them,” or “on it/them.”

Y usually replaces the preposition à + the noun object of the preposition, but it may also replace
other prepositions of location or position, such as chez (at the house [business] of), dans ( in),
en ( in), sous (under), or sur (on) + noun. In familiar affirmative commands (the tu form), -er
verbs retain their final -s:

Ils vont au musée. Ils y vont.

They are going to the museum. They are going there.
Réponds-tu à la lettre? Y réponds-tu?
Are you answering the letter? Are you answering it?
Reste chez moi. Restes-y.
Stay at my house. Stay there.

The adverbial pronoun en

The pronoun en refers to previously mentioned things or places. En usually replaces de + noun
and may mean “some,” “any,” “of it/them,” “about it/them,” “from it/them,” or “from there.” In
familiar affirmative commands (the tu form), -er verbs retain their final - s:

Je ne bois pas de café. Je n'en bois pas.

I don't drink coffee. I don't drink any [of it].
Tu veux parler du futur. Tu veux en parler.
You want to speak about the future. You want to speak about it.
Il sort du restaurant. Il en sort.
He leaves the restaurant. He leaves [from] it.
Mange de la glace. Manges-en.
Eat some ice cream. Eat some.

Double object pronouns

Two pronouns may be used in a sentence at the same time. The following examples show how
double object pronouns are used before the conjugated verb, before the infinitive when there
are two verbs, in the past tense, and in a negative command. In the past tense, past participles
agree in number and gender with the preceding direct object pronoun. See Table 2 .

TABLE 2 Double Object Pronouns

Order Before the Verb

se le ( l') lui y en + verb
nous la (l') leur
vous les

Order After the Verb (Affirmative Commands)

- moi
- toi
-le -lui -y - en
verb + -la - nous
-les - vous
- leur

Note the different order of the pronouns in the affirmative command:

• Il te l' offre. (He offers it to you.)

• Va-t-elle m'en donner? (Is she going to give me any?)
• Je la leur ai achetée. (I bought it for them.)
• Ne nous les montrez pas. (Don't show them to us.)

But note the difference in an affirmative command, where moi + en and toi + en become m'en
and t'en, respectively:

• Dites-le-nous, s'il vous plaût. (Please tell it to us.)

• Donne-m'en. (Give me some.)
• Va t'en. (Go away.)

The invariable le
The pronouns le, la, and les are variable, meaning that they change according to gender and
number when used to replace a previously mentioned modified noun:

• Es-tu la petite amie de Raymond? Oui, je la suis. (Are you Raymond's girlfriend? Yes, I

BUT: The invariable le replaces a previously mentioned infinitive, clause, adjective, or

unmodified noun, as the four examples below show:

• J'espère gagner le prix. Je l'espère aussi. (I hope to win the prize. I hope so, too.)
• Je pars tout de suite si tu le veux. (I'll leave immediately if you like.)
• Est-il occupé? Non, il ne l'est pas. (Is he busy? No, he isn't.)
• Êtes-vous actrices? Oui, nous le sommes. (Are you actresses? Yes, we are.)

Independent pronouns
Independent pronouns (see Table 3 ) may stand alone or follow a verb or a preposition. They
are used to emphasize a fact and to highlight or replace nouns or pronouns.

TABLE 3 Independent Pronouns

Singular Plural
moi (I, me) nous (we, us)
toi (you) vous (you)
lui (he, him) eux (masc. they, them)
elle (she, her) elles (fem. they, them)
soi (oneself)

Independent pronouns are used as follows:

• To stress the subject:

o Lui, il est vraiment sérieux. (Him, he's really serious.)
• When the pronoun has no verb:
o Qui parle? Elle. (Who is speaking? She is.)
• After prepositions to refer to a person or persons:
o Dinons chez eux. (Let's eat at their house.)
• After c'est:
o C'est moi qui paie. (I'm paying.)
• After the following verbs: avoir affaire à (to have dealings with), être à (to belong
to), faire attention à (to pay attention to), penser à (to think about [of]), se fier à (to
trust), and s'intéresser à (to be interested in).
o Je pense à lui. (I think about him.)
• In compound subjects:
o Elle et moi (nous) allons au café. (She and I [we] are going to the café.)
o Marie et toi (vous) partez? (Are you and Marie [you plural] leaving?)
• With -même(s) to reinforce the subject:
o Je suis allé au concert moi-même. (I went to the concert by myself.)

Relative pronouns
A relative pronoun (“who,” “which,” or “that”) joins a main clause to a dependent clause.
This pronoun introduces the dependent clause that describes someone or something mentioned
in the main clause. The person or thing the pronoun refers to is called the antecedent. A
relative clause may serve as a subject, a direct object, or an object of a preposition.

Tables 4 , 5 , 6 , and 7 summarize the use of relative pronouns.

TABLE 4 When the Relative Pronoun Is the Subject

Antecedent Pronoun Example Translation
Person qui Voilà la fille qui parlait. There's the girl who was
Thing qui Je lis un livre qui me I'm reading a book that I like.
Place/time qui C'est un pays qui intrigue. That's a country that's intriguing.
Clause ce qui Sais-tu ce qui arrive? Do you know what's happening?

TABLE 5 When the Relative Pronoun Is the Direct Object

Antecedent Pronoun Example Translation
Person que (qu') C'est l'homme que je That's the man who I was
cherchais. looking for.
Thing que (qu') J'ai trouvé l'argent qu'il a I found the money that he lost.
Place/Time que (qu') C'est un état que j'aime That's a state I like a lot.
Clause ce que (ce qu') Je ne sais pas ce que tu I don't know what you want.

TABLE 6 When the Relative Pronoun Is the Object of de

Antecedent RelativePronoun Example Translation
Person dont Anne est la fille dont il Anne is the girl he was talking
parlait. about.
Thing dont C'est le livre dont j'ai That's the book I need.
Place/time dont Voici le café dont elle Here is the café she was talking
parlait. about.
Clause ce dont Voilà ce dont j'ai besoin. Here's what I need.

TABLE 7 When the Relative Pronoun Is the Object of All Other Prepositions
Antecedent Relative Pronoun Example Translation
Person qui (lequel) C'est le garçon avec qui elle That's the boy she's
sort. going out with.
Thing lequel, laquelle, C'est la porte par laquelle il est That's the door from

Place/time où or lequel C'est la boutique où (dans That's the shop where I

The form of lequel must agree with the antecedent (the preceding noun to which it refers). For
example, you are in a store and speaking about a feminine singular article: La chemise bleue est
très chic (The blue shirt is very stylish). If I wanted to know to which blue shirt you were
referring, I would have to use the feminine, singular form: Laquelle? Select the proper form of
lequel after consulting Table 8 .

TABLE 8 Forms of Lequel

Singular Plural
Masculine lequel lesquels
Feminine laquelle lesquelles

Lequel and its forms contract with the prepositions à and de, as shown in Table 9 :

TABLE 9 Lequel with Prepositions

Singular Plural
Masculine Feminine Masculine Feminine
auquel à laquelle auxquels auxquelles
duquel de laquelle desquels desquelles

Some examples of lequel + preposition are:

• Ce sont les problèmes auxquels je pense. (Those are the problems I'm thinking about.)
• C'est la voiture de laquelle (dont) il rêvait. (That's the car he was dreaming about.)

Interrogative pronouns
An interrogative pronoun is used to form a question. These pronouns may be invariable (their
forms never change) or variable (their forms change to agree in gender and number with a noun
or pronoun).

Interrogative pronouns may be used as the subject or object of a verb, or the object of a
preposition, as shown in Table 10 and 11 .

TABLE 10 Invariable Interrogative Pronouns

Person Thing
Subject of a verb qui, qui est-ce qui qu'est-ce qui
Qui (Qui est-ce qui) vient? Qu'est-ce qui se passe?
Who is coming? What's happening?

Direct object of a verb qui, qui est-ce que que, qu'est-ce que
Qui ( Qui est-ce que) tu cherches? Que ( Qu'est-ce que) tu cherches?
Whom are you looking for? What are you looking for?
Object of a preposition qui, qui est-ce que quoi, quoi est-ce que
À qui penses-tu? À quoi penses-tu?
About whom are you thinking? About what are you thinking?

TABLE 11 Variable Interrogative Pronouns

Masculine Feminine
Singular lequel laquelle
Lequel de ces livres achètes-tu? Laquelle de ces robes préfères-tu?
Which one of these books are you Which one of these dresses do you
buying? prefer?
Plural lesquels lesquelles
Lesquels de ces livres achètes-tu? Lesquelles de ces robes préfères-tu?

The variable interrogative pronouns shown in Table 11 express “which one?” in the singular
and “which ones?” in the plural:

Contractions occur when à and de are used before the interrogative forms of lequel:

• Auquel de ces musées es-tu allé? (To which one of these museums did you go?)
• De laquelle de ses filles parle-t-il? (About which of his daughters is he talking?)

Demonstrative pronouns
Demonstrative pronouns agree with the nouns to which they refer. They express “this/that/the
one” in the singular and “these/those/the ones” in the plural, as shown in Table 12 :

TABLE 12 Demonstrative Pronouns

Masculine Feminine
Singular celui celle
Plural ceux celles

Demonstrative pronouns cannot stand alone and are generally followed by the tags -ci (this/the
latter) or -là (that/the former); by de or où; or by the relative pronouns qui, que, or dont (which
may be the object of a preposition):

• Donnez-moi ces fruits-ci and ces légumes-là. (Give me these fruits and those
• Jean et Paul sont frères. Celui-ci est docteur et celui-là est dentiste. (John and Paul are
brothers. The latter is a doctor and the former is a dentist.)
• Ma voiture est sportive. Celle de mon ami est plus sportive. (My car is sporty. My
friend's car [that of my friend] is sportier.)
• À quel magasin vas-tu? À celui où il y a de bons soldes. (Which store do you go to? To
the one where there are good sales.)
• Ceux qui étudient réussissent. (Those [the ones] who study succeed.)
• Ces cravates sont celles que je préfère. (These ties are those [the ones] that I prefer.)
• Cet outil? C'est celui dont j'ai besoin. (This tool? It's the one I need.)
• Cette femme est celle pour qui je travaille. (This woman is the one for whom I work.)

The demonstrative pronouns ceci (this) and cela (that) (abbreviated as ça, which is often used
conversationally) refer to objects, facts, or ideas that have been indicated but not named. Ceci
generally introduces an idea, while cela refers to something already mentioned:

• Ceci m'intéresse. (This interests me.)

• Qu'est-ce que c'est que cela? (What's that?)
• Ceci est important: nos invités arriveront demain. (This is important: Our guests will
arrive tomorrow.)
• Nos invités arriveront demain; cela est important. (Our guests will arrive tomorrow;
that is important.)

Verbs in the Present Tense

The present tense of a verb explains what is happening, what does happen, or what happens at
the current time. The present is also sometimes used to express an action that will occur in the
near future.

A verb expresses an action or a state of being and is generally shown in its “to” form, called the
infinitive. Verbs are used in the present tense as follows:

• To express what is or does happen now:

o Je travaille. (I work. I'm working. I do work.)
• To imply the immediate future:
o Il arrive ce matin. (He's arriving this morning.)
• To show that an action began in the past and is continuing in the present, using
one of the following two formulas:
o present + depuis + an expression of time
o il y a (or voilà or ça fait) + expression of time + que + present

Both of the expressions below mean “We've been living here for two years.”

o Nous habitons ici depuis deux ans.

o Il y a (or Voilà) (or Ça fait) deux ans que nous habitons ici.

Regular Verbs

In French, there are three main infinitive families: -er, -ir, and -re. Once you memorize the
pattern of endings for the specific infinitive family, you can conjugate any regular verb within
that family. Simply drop the infinitive ending and add the appropriate ending for each subject.
Table 1 shows the conjugations for regular verbs in the present tense.

TABLE 1 Regular Verb Conjugation

Danser (to dance) Choisir (to choose) Rendre (to return)
je dans e je chois is je rend s
tu dans es tu chois is tu rend s
il/elle/on dans e il/elle/on chois it il/elle/on rend
nous dans ons nous choisiss ons nous rend ons
vous dans ez vous choisiss ez vous rend ez
ils/elles dans ent ils/elles choisiss ent ils/elles rend ent

The verb rompre (to break) and other verbs that include rompre in their stems, such as
corrompre (to corrupt) and interrompre (to interrupt), add t to the third person singular
form: il rompt, il corrompt, il interrompt.

Verbs with Spelling Changes

Regular verbs with spelling changes are often referred to as “shoe” verbs because their changes
often occur in the je, tu, il, and ils forms, creating the effect of a shoe:

There are five categories of verbs that require spelling changes:

• Verbs ending in -cer: Change c to ç before a or o to maintain a soft sound. In the

present, this occurs only in the nous form:

placer (to place): je place, tu places, il place, nous plaçons, vous placez, ils placent

Other -cer verbs include annoncer, avancer, commencer, effacer (to erase), lancer (to
throw), menacer, prononcer, remplacer (to replace), and renoncer à (to give up).
• Verbs ending in -ger: Insert a silent e between g and a and g and o to maintain a soft
sound. In the present, this occurs only in the nous form:

nager (to swim): je nage, tu nages, il nage, nous nageons, vous nagez, ils nagent

Other -ger verbs include arranger, changer, corriger (to correct), déménager (to move),
déranger (to disturb), diriger (to direct), manger (to eat), obliger, partager (to divide),
plonger (to dive), ranger (to tidy), songer à (to think about), and voyager.

• Verbs ending in -yer: Change y to i before silent e in all “shoe” forms:

envoyer (to send): j'envo ie, tu envo ies, il envo ie, nous envoyons, vous envoyez, ils
envo ient

Other -yer verbs include employer, ennuyer (to bother), essuyer (to wipe), nettoyer (to
clean), and renvoyer (to fire).

Verbs that end in -ayer may or may not change the y to i before a silent e. These verbs
include essayer (to try) and payer.

• Verbs ending in -e + consonant + er: Change the silent e before the infinitive ending
to è for all forms within the “shoe”:

peser (to weigh): je p èse, tu p èses, il p èse, nous pesons, vous pesez, ils p èsent

Other e + consonant + er verbs include acheter (to buy), achever (to finish), amener (to
bring), élever (to bring up, to raise), emmener (to lead away), enlever (to remove), geler
(to freeze), lever (to raise), and promener (to walk).

Two common verbs, appeler (to call) and jeter (to throw), along with any related verbs,
such as rappeler (to recall), rejeter (to reject), projeter (to project), double the
consonant before the infinitive ending in all forms within the “shoe”:

appeler: j'appe lle, tu appe lles, il appe lle, nous appelons, vous appelez, ils appe llent

jeter: je je tte, tu je ttes, il je tte, nous jetons, vous jetez, ils je ttent

• Verbs ending in é + consonant + er: Change é to è within the “shoe”:

préférer (to prefer): je préf ère, tu préf ères, il préf ère, nous préférons, vous préférez,
ils préf èrent

Other é + consonant + er verbs include célébrer, espérer (to hope), posséder (to
possess), protéger (to protect), and répéter (to repeat).

Irregular Verbs
Irregular verbs follow no rules and, therefore, must be memorized. The most commonly used
irregular verbs include:

• aller (to go): je vais, tu vas, il va, nous allons, vous allez, ils vont
• asseoir (to seat, to sit): j'assieds, tu assieds, il assied, nous asseyons, vous asseyez, ils
o asseoir can also be conjugated: j'assois, tu assois, il assoit, nous assoyons, vous
assoyez, ils assoient
• avoir (to have): j'ai, tu as, il a, nous avons, vous avez, ils ont
• battre (to beat): je bats, tu bats, il bat, nous battons, vous battez, ils battent
• boire (to drink): je bois, tu bois, il boit, nous buvons, vous buvez, ils boivent
• conduire (to drive): je conduis, tu conduis, il conduit, nous conduisons, vous conduisez,
ils conduisent
o Verbs like conduire include construire (to construct), inscrire (to register),
produire (to produce), and traduire (to translate).
• connaître (to know, to be acquainted with): je connais, tu connais, il connaît, nous
connaissons, vous connaissez, ils connaissent
o Verbs like connaître include paraître (to appear), disparaître (to disappear), and
reconnaître (to recognize).
• courir (to run): je cours, tu cours, il court, nous courons, vous courez, ils courent
• craindre (to fear): je crains, tu crains, il craint, nous craignons, vous craignez, ils
o Verbs like craindre include atteindre (to reach), éteindre (to extinguish), joindre
(to join), peindre (to paint), and plaindre (to pity).
• croire (to believe): je crois, tu crois, il croit, nous croyons, vous croyez, ils croient
• devoir (to have to, to owe): je dois, tu dois, il doit, nous devons, vous devez, ils doivent
• dire (to say, to tell): je dis, tu dis, il dit, nous disons, vous dites, ils disent
• dormir (to sleep): je dors, tu dors, il dort, nous dormons, vous dormez, ils dorment
o Verbs like dormir keep the consonant before the -ir ending in all plural forms:
endor mir (to put to sleep), men tir (to lie), par tir (to go away), sen tir (to feel,
to smell), ser vir , sor tir (to go out).
• écrire (to write): j'ecris, tu écris, il écrit, nous écrivons, vous écrivez, ils écrivent
• être (to be): je suis, tu es, il est, nous sommes, vous êtes, ils sont
• faire (to make, to do): je fais, tu fais, il fait, nous faisons, vous faites, ils font
• falloir (to be necessary): il faut
• lire (to read): je lis, tu lis, il lit, nous lisons, vous lisez, ils lisent
• mettre (to put [on]): je mets, tu mets, il met, nous mettons, vous mettez, ils mettent
o Verbs like mettre include commettre (to commit), permettre (to permit),
promettre (to promise), and remettre (to put back).
• offrir (to offer): j'offre, tu offres, il offre, nous offrons, vous offrez, ils offrent
• ouvrir (to open): j'ouvre, tu ouvres, il ouvre, nous ouvrons, vous ouvrez, ils ouvrent
• plaire (to please): je plais, tu plais, il plaît, nous plaisons, vous plaisez, ils plaisent
• pleuvoir (to rain): il pleut
• pouvoir (to be able to): je peux, tu peux, il peut, nous pouvons, vous pouvez, ils peuvent
• prendre (to take): je prends, tu prends, il prend, nous prenons, vous prenez, ils prennent
o Verbs like prendre include apprendre (to learn), comprendre (to understand),
reprendre (to take back), and surprendre (to surprise).
• recevoir (to receive): je reçois, tu reçois, il reçoit, nous recevons, vous recevez, ils
o Verbs like recevoir include apercevoir (to notice) and concevoir (to conceive).
• rire (to laugh): je ris, tu ris, il rit, nous rions, vous riez, ils rient
o A verb like rire is sourire (to smile).
• savoir (to know [a fact]): je sais, tu sais, il sait, nous savons, vous savez, ils savent
• suivre (to follow): je suis, tu suis, il suit, nous suivons, vous suivez, ils suivent
o A verb like suivre is poursuivre (to pursue).
• tenir (to hold): je tiens, tu tiens, il tient, nous tenons, vous tenez, ils tiennent
o Verbs like tenir include appartenir à (to belong to), obtenir (to obtain), and
retenir (to retain).
• valoir (to be worth): je vaux, tu vaux, il vaut, nous valons, vous valez, ils valent. Note: il
vaut is by far the most common form.
• venir (to come): je viens, tu viens, il vient, nous venons, vous venez, ils viennent
o Verbs like venir include devenir (to become) and revenir (to come back).
• vivre (to live): je vis, tu vis, il vit, nous vivons, vous vivez, ils vivent
o A verb like vivre is survivre (to survive).
• voir (to see): je vois, tu vois, il voit, nous voyons, vous voyez, ils voient
• vouloir (to wish, to want): je veux, tu veux, il veut, nous voulons, vous voulez, ils veulent

Reflexive Verbs
A reflexive verb shows that the subject is performing the action upon itself and, therefore, the
subject and the reflexive pronoun refer to the same person or thing. A reflexive verb infinitive
is identified by the reflexive pronoun se, which is placed before the infinitive. This pronoun
may serve as a direct or indirect object pronoun, as in je me lave (I wash myself).

Here are a couple examples of reflexive verbs in sentences:

• La cliente se demande si elle peut regarder la carte du jour. (The client wonders if she
can see today's menu.)
• Ne vous y trompez pas, il ne trompe personne. (Make no mistake, he doesn't fool

Use the pronoun that corresponds to the subject and follow the rules for conjugating regular
verbs, verbs with spelling changes, and irregular verbs, as shown in Table 1 .

TABLE 1 Present Tense Reflexive Verb Conjugation

Subject Pronoun Example
je me ( m') [myself] je me dépêche
tu te ( t') [yourself] tu te lèves
il/elle/on se ( s') [him/her/itself] il s'appelle
nous nous [ourselves] nous nous couchons
vous vous [yourself/yourselves] vous vous asseyez
ils/elles se ( s') [themselves] ils s'endorment

Common reflexive verbs include:

• s'amuser (have fun, to have a good time)

• s'appeler (to be named)
• s'approcher de (to approach)
• s'arrêter de (to stop)
• s'asseoir (to sit)
• se baigner (to bathe, to swim)
• se blesser (to hurt)
• se bronzer (to tan)
• se brosser (to brush)
• se brûler (to burn)
• se cacher (to hide)
• se casser (to break)
• se coiffer (to do one's hair)
• se conduire (to behave)
• se coucher (to go to bed)
• se couper (to cut)
• se décider à (to decide)
• se demander (to wonder)
• se douter de (to suspect)
• se dépêcher (to hurry)
• se déshabiller (to undress)
• se détendre (to relax)
• s'échapper (to escape)
• s'éloigner de (to move away from)
• s'endormir (to go to sleep)
• s'entendre (to get along with)
• s'exprimer (to express)
• se fâcher (to get angry)
• s'habiller (to dress)
• s'habituer à (to get used to)
• s'impatienter (to become impatient)
• s'inquiéter de* (to worry about)
• se laver (to wash)
• se lever* (to get up)
• se maquiller (to apply makeup)
• se mettre à (to begin)
• s'occuper de (to take care of)
• se passer (to happen)
• se peigner (to comb)
• se plaindre de (to complain about)
• se préparer (to prepare)
• se présenter (to introduce oneself)
• se promener* (to take a walk)
• se rappeler* (to recall)
• se raser (to shave)
• se rencontrer (to meet)
• se reposer (to rest)
• se retrouver (to meet again)
• se réunir (to meet)
• se réveiller (to wake up)
• se sauver (to run away)
• se sentir (to feel)
• se servir de (to use)
• se tromper (to make a mistake)
• se trouver (to be)
• se vanter de (to boast)

* denotes a “shoe verb” spelling change within the infinitive

Some verbs may or may not be reflexive, depending on whether the pronoun used refers to the
subject or to another person:

• Je me parle. (I speak to myself.)

• Je leur parle. (I speak to them.)

Some verbs are always reflexive:

• s'écrier (to exclaim, to cry out)

• s'écrouler (to collapse)
• s'efforcer de (to strive to)
• s'en aller (to leave, to go away)
• s'enfuir (to flee)
• s'évanouir (to faint)
• se fier à (to trust)
• se méfier de (to distrust)
• se moquer de (to make fun of)
• se soucier de (to care about)
• se souvenir de (to remember)

The meanings of some verbs may change depending on whether or not the verb is used
reflexively, as shown in Table 2 .

TABLE 2 Different Meanings for Reflexive Verbs

Non-Reflexive Meaning Reflexive Meaning
agir (to act) s'agir de (to be a question of)
apercevoir (to notice) s'apercevoir de (to realize)
attendre (to wait for) s'attendre à (to expect)
battre (to beat) se battre (to fight)
changer (to change) se changer en (to change into)
demander (to ask) se demander (to wonder)
douter de (to doubt) se douter de (to suspect)
occuper (to occupy) s'occuper de (to take care of)
passer (to spend time) se passer de (to do without)
servir (to serve) se servir de (to use)
tromper (to deceive) se tromper (to make a mistake)

In French, a negative is generally made up of two parts. The negative may or may not include
the word non (no).

Consider the following examples:

• Je ne danse pas bien. (I don't dance well.)

• Il ne chante jamais. (He never sings.)

The list below shows the most common French negatives:

Negative English Translation

ne … aucun(e) no, none
ne … jamais never
ne … guère hardly
ne … ni … ni neither … nor
ne … nulle part nowhere
ne … pas not
ne … pas du tout not at all
ne … personne no one, nobody, anyone, anybody
ne … plus no more, no longer
ne … point not, not at all
ne … que only
ne … rien nothing

Note the following about negatives:

• Ne … pas is the most frequently used.

• Rien and personne may be used as subjects of a verb. In such cases, ne retains its
place before the conjugated verb:
o Rien ne m'énerve. (Nothing bothers me.)
o Personne n'est en retard. (Nobody is late.)
• Double negatives are generally not used in French. Multiple negatives, however, are
used (although infrequently) only with plus or jamais + another negative:
o Il ne voit plus personne. (He no longer sees anybody.)
o Elle ne dit plus rien. (She says nothing more.)
o Je ne le verrai plus jamais. (I'll never see him anymore.)
o Tu ne crois jamais personne. (You never believe anyone.)
o Il n'accomplit jamais rien. (He never accomplishes anything.)
o Je ne le verrai jamais plus. (I'll never see him anymore.)

• Some words used in questions produce a logical negative response, as shown

Words in the Question Negative Response

quelqu'un (someone, somebody) ne … personne
quelquefois (sometimes) ne … jamais
quelque chose (something) ne … rien
quelque part (somewhere) ne … nulle part
quelques (some) ne … aucun(e)
toujours (always) ne … jamais
toujours (still) ne … plus

• Jamais, when used completely alone or with ne and a verb, means “never”; when
used with a verb but without ne, jamais means “ever”:
o Tu fumes? (Do you smoke?)
o Jamais. (Never.)
o Je ne chante jamais. (I never sing.)
o As-tu jamais voyagé en France? (Have you ever traveled to France?)

Forming the Negative

In simple tenses, ne precedes the conjugated verb and any object pronouns, and the second part
of the negative follows the conjugated verb:

• Tu lui téléphones quelquefois? (Do you call him/her sometimes?)

• Je ne lui téléphone jamais. (I never call him/her.)
• Tu veux manger quelque chose? (Do you want to eat something?)
• Je ne veux rien manger. (I don't want to eat anything.)
• Je ne mange ni fruits ni légumes. (I eat neither fruits nor vegetables.)

In compound tenses, ne precedes the conjugated helping verb and any object pronouns, and the
second part of the negative follows the conjugated helping verb (except for personne, nulle
part, and aucun [always used in the singular], which follow the past participle when they are
used as objects):

• Tu l'as vu? (Did you see him?)

• Non, je ne l'ai pas vu. (No, I didn't see him.)
• Je n'ai vu personne. (I didn't see anyone.)
• Il n'est allé nulle part. (He didn't go anywhere.)
• Elle n'a fait aucune faute. (She didn't make any mistakes.)

Que and ni … ni precede the word(s) stressed:

• Je ne vais le faire qu'une fois. (I'm only going to do it once.)

• Il n'a ni bu ni mangé. (He neither drank nor ate.)
• Il n'a bu ni le jus ni l'eau. (He drank neither the juice nor the water.)

Ne or the second part of the negative may be omitted as follows:

• Ne is often used without pas with pouvoir, savoir, cesser, and oser before an infinitive:
o Il ne pouvait le faire. (He couldn't do it.)
o Elle ne cesse de travailler. (She doesn't stop working.)
• Ne is used without pas when il y a (or voici or voilà) … que is followed by a compound
o Il y a un an que je ne t'ai vu. (I haven't seen you for a year.)
• The second part of the negative may stand alone:
o Qu'est-ce que tu fais? (What are you doing?)
o Rien. (Nothing.)
o Qui va travailler? (Who is going to work?)
o Ni lui ni moi. (Neither he nor I.)

Some common negative expressions include:

• ça ne fait rien (it doesn't matter)

• de rien (you're welcome)
• jamais de la vie (not on your life)
• il n'y a pas de quoi (you're welcome)
• ni … non plus (not … either)
• ni l'un ni l'autre (neither one or the other)
• n'en pouvoir plus (to be exhausted)
• n'importe (it doesn't matter)
• n'importe où (no matter where)
• n'importe quand (no matter when)
• n'importe qui (no matter who)
• pas du tout (not at all)
• pas encore (not yet)
• pas maintenant (not now)

Asking Questions
Ways to ask questions

Yes or no questions can be posed in one of four ways:

• Simply raise your voice at the end of the sentence and you have the most colloquial
way of asking this type of question. This is called intonation:
o Tu viens? (Are you coming?)
• Use the tag n'est-ce pas (isn't that so? right?) at the end of the sentence:
o Tu viens, n'est-ce pas? (You're coming, right?)
• Use est-ce que (which has no literal translation) at the beginning of the thought.
This is the common conversational way to ask a question:
o Est-ce que tu viens? (Are you coming?)
• Change the word order of the subject pronoun and the conjugated verb and join
them with a hyphen. This is called inversion. Inversion is generally used more
formally, in writing rather than in conversation:
o Viens-tu? (Are you coming?)

Using inversion
Inversion is the most complicated way to ask a question. The rules for inversion are as follows:

• Avoid inverting with je, which is awkward and rarely used except:
o ai-je …? (do I have …?)
o suis-je …? (am I …?)
o dois-je …? (must I …?)
o puis-je …? (may I …? [permission])
• Inversion occurs in all tenses, but only with subject pronouns and conjugated
o Ont-ils préparé le repas? (Did they prepare the meal?)
o Travaillez-vous? (Do you work?)
o Ont-ils préparé le repas?(Did they prepare the meal?)
o L'as-tu fini? (Did you finish it?)
• Inverted questions can be made negative by putting the first part of the negative
phrase before conjugated verb, and the second part of the negative after the
subject pronoun:
o Ne travaillez-vous jamais? (Don't you ever work?)
• When the third person singular of the verb ( il, elle, on) ends in a vowel, a - t- is
inserted between the verb and the subject pronoun to prevent having two vowels
sounds together:
o Travaille-t-il? (Is he working?)
o A-t-elle fini? (Did she finish?)
• With a noun subject, a double-subject construction is used: noun + verb + third
person pronoun (with the verb and pronoun joined by a hyphen). The third person
pronoun agrees in number and gender with the corresponding subject noun:
o Jeanne est-elle brune? (Is Jeanne a brunette?)
o Les livres ne sont-ils pas bons? (Aren't the books good?)

Interrogative adjectives, adverbs, and pronouns

Use interrogative adjectives, adverbs, and pronouns to ask for information.

The interrogative adjective quel (which? what?), shown in Table 1 , agrees in number and
gender with the noun it modifies.

TABLE 1 Interrogative Adjectives

Number Masculine Feminine
Singular quel quelle
Plural quels quelles

Quel may be followed by est-ce que or inversion:

• Quel genre de film est-ce qu'il préfère? (Which type of film does he prefer?)
• Quel genre de film préfère-t-il? (Which type of film does he prefer?)

In colloquial French, quel + a noun may be placed at the end of the phrase to form the question:
Tu préfères quel genre de film? (Which type of film do you prefer?)

Quel may also be preceded by a preposition:

• De quel film est-ce qu'il parle? (Which film is he talking about?)

Être is the only verb that may separate quel from its noun:

• Quel est ton nom? (What's your name?)

• Quelles sont tes coordonnées? (What's your name and address?)

The interrogative adverbs comment (how?), combien (how much/how many?), quand (when?),
où (where?), d'où (from where?), and pourquoi (why?) can be used before est-ce que or
inversion to ask questions. In colloquial spoken French, however, they are often placed after
the verb:

• Combien est-ce que cette jupe coûte?

• Combien cette jupe coûte-t-elle?
• Cette jupe coûte combien?
• The three examples above all ask, “How much does this skirt cost?”

With combien, comment, où, d'où, and quand (but not with pourquoi), a question may be
formed by inverting a noun subject with a verb that has no object:

• Combien coûte cette jupe?

Qui is used for people, while qu'est-ce qui (the subject of the sentence), and que/quoi (the
object of the sentence) are used for things. The i from qui is never dropped, whereas que
becomes qu' before a vowel or vowel sound:

• Qui est tombé? (Who fell?)

• Qu'est-ce qui est tombé? (What fell?)
• Qui aimes-tu? (Whom do you love?)
• Qu'aimes-tu? (What do you love?)
• Tu aimes quoi? (What do you love?)

The variable interrogative pronoun lequel ( laquelle, lesquels, lesquelles) must agree in number
and gender with the noun to which it is referring:

• Laquelle de ces jupes achète-t-elle? (Which of these skirts is she buying?)

Contractions are used with the prepositions à (to) and de (of, from):

• Auxquelles de ces pièces es-tu allé? (To which of these plays have you gone?)
• Duquel de ces hommes parle-t-elle? (About which of those men is she speaking?)

The command form is also known as the imperative. “You” is the understood subject of a
command and is, therefore, omitted as it is in English. ( Tu and vous are the two ways to say
“you” in French.) Use tu, the familiar command, when speaking to one friend or family
member. Use vous, the polite command, when speaking formally or when directing the
command to more than one person, no matter what their relationship to you.

Forming commands
To form a command, simply drop the subject pronoun and use the proper verb form that would
match the pronoun you are dropping, as shown in Table 1 .

TABLE 1 Regular Verb Commands

Familiar(Tu) Formal (Vous) Suggestion (Nous)
danse (dance) dansez (dance) dansons (let's dance)
finis (finish) finissez (finish) finissons (let's finish)
attends (wait) attendez (wait) attendons (let's wait)

• Regarde cette vue! (Look at that view!)

• Choisis ton dessert! (Choose your dessert!)
• Descendez du bus! (Get off the bus!)

The nous form of the verb (without the subject) may be used to suggest “let's”:

• Allons à la plage! (Let's go to the beach!).

Note that the tu command of -er verbs (and verbs conjugated like -er verbs) drops the final - s
from the conjugated verb in both regular and irregular verbs, except when followed by the
adverbial pronouns y (there) and en (some, of, about, from, it, or them).

• Mange du pain. Manges-en. (Eat some bread. Eat some.)

• Va à l'école. Vas-y. (Go to school. Go there.)
• Offre-lui une boisson. (Offer him/her a drink.)
• Ouvre la porte. (Open the door.)

Three common irregular verb commands are shown in Table 2 .

TABLE 2 Irregular Verb Commands

Avoir Être Savoir
tu aie sois sache
vous ayez soyez sachez
nous ayons soyons sachons

Here are examples of the irregular commands in sentences:

• Aie confiance! (Have confidence!)

• N'ayez pas peur! (Don't be afraid!)
• Sois gentil! (Be nice!)
• Ne soyez pas méchant! (Don't be nasty!)
• Sache la vérité! (Know the truth!)

Negating commands
To negate a command, put ne and the negative word around the verb and any pronouns that
may precede it:

• Ne parle pas. (Don't speak.)

• Ne lui parle pas. (Don't speak to him/her.)
• N'y va pas. (Don't go there.)

Adjectives, Adverbs, Prepositions

Adjectives and adverbs are the colorful words that make sentences in any language interesting
and informative. Without them, our conversations would be limited indeed, and all we would
learn about are the actions of people. Adjectives are used to describe nouns: people, places,
things, or ideas. Adverbs tell us how an action is performed, and they are used to modify verbs,
adjectives, or other adverbs. Adjectives, adverbs, and nouns can be used to make comparisons.

Prepositions are words that relate elements in a sentence: nouns to nouns and verbs to verbs.
They may be modifiers and are often used before and after certain nouns and verbs.
Prepositions may be used to indicate location and are quite useful when traveling or looking for

Adjectives and Exclamations

Unlike English, French adjectives agree in number and gender with the nouns they modify. It
is, therefore, important to know whether a French noun is masculine or feminine and singular
or plural.

Forming singular adjectives

The rules for the formation of singular adjectives in French are:

• The feminine singular form of most adjectives is formed by adding an -e to the

masculine singular form. If the masculine singular form ends in an unpronounced
consonant, that consonant is pronounced in the feminine form:

Il est intelligent. Elle est intelligente.

• Masculine singular adjectives that end in a silent -e do not change in the feminine.
Both forms are spelled and pronounced in the same manner:

Il est sincère. Elle est sincère.

• If the masculine singular adjective ends in an -é, the feminine singular adjective
adds another - e:

Il est occupé. Elle est occupée.

• Masculine singular adjectives ending in -x form the feminine by changing - x to -


Il est curieux. Elle est curieuse.

• Masculine singular adjectives ending in -f form the feminine by changing -f to -ve:

Il est actif. Elle est active.

• Masculine singular adjectives ending in -er form the feminine by changing -er to -

Il est fier (proud). Elle est fière.

• Some masculine singular adjectives form the feminine by doubling the final
consonant before the -e ending:

ancien (ancient, old) ancienne

bas (low) basse
bon (good) bonne
cruel (cruel) cruelle
européen (European) européenne
gentil (nice, kind) gentille
gros (fat, big) grosse
sot (silly) sotte

• Some adjectives are irregular and follow no rules. They must be memorized:

beau (beautiful) belle

blanc (white) blanche
complet (complete) complète
doux (sweet, gentle) douce
faux (false) fausse
favori (favorite) favorite
fou (crazy) folle
frais (fresh) fraîche
franc (frank) franche
inquiet (worried) inquiète
long (long) longue
mou (soft) molle
nouveau (new) nouvelle
public (public) publique
sec (dry) sèche
secret (secret) secrète
travailleur (hardworking) travailleuse
vieux (old) vieille

The French use special forms of beau ( bel), fou ( fol), mou ( mol), nouveau ( nouvel), and vieux
( vieil) before masculine nouns beginning with a vowel or vowel sound. If, however, the
adjective comes after the noun, the regular masculine form is used:

• un bel appartement (a beautiful apartment):

• L'appartement est beau. (The apartment is beautiful.)

Forming plural adjectives

The rules for the formation of plural adjectives in French are as follows:

• Adding -s to the singular of the masculine or feminine adjective forms the plural of
most adjectives:

Ils sont intelligents. Elles sont intelligentes.

• An adjective modifying two or more nouns of different genders uses the masculine
o Le garçon et la fille sont contents. (The boy and the girl are happy.)
• If a masculine singular adjective ends in -s or -x, the singular and plural are

Il est sérieux. Ils sont sérieux.

• Most masculine adjectives ending in -al change the -al to -aux in the plural:

Il est loyal. Ils sont loyaux.

• Both masculine singular forms of beau ( bel), fou ( fol), mou ( mol), nouveau (
nouvel), and vieux ( vieil) have one and the same plural form:

un beau monument de beaux monuments

un bel hôtel de beaux hôtels

• The adjective tout (all) is irregular in the masculine plural:

tout le sandwich tous les sandwiches

Placement of adjectives
Unlike in English, most adjectives in French follow the nouns they modify:

• une fille heureuse (a happy girl)

• un ciel bleu (a blue sky)

A few short, descriptive adjectives, usually expressing beauty, age, goodness, and size (you can
remember this with the acronym BAGS), generally precede the nouns they modify:

• Beauty: beau (beautiful, handsome), joli (pretty)

• Age: nouveau (new), vieux (old), jeune (young)
• Goodness (or lack of it): bon (good), gentil (nice), mauvais (bad)
• Size: grand (large, big), petit (small, little), court (short), long (long), gros (fat , thick),
large (wide)

Other common adjectives that precede the noun (but do not fall into the BAGS categories)
include the following:

• autre (other)
• chaque (each, every)
• dernier (last)
• plusieurs (several)
• premier(first)
• quelques (a few)
• tel (such)
• tout (all, whole, every)

In addition, tout precedes both the noun and the definite article ( le, la, l', les):

• tous les hommes (all the men)

• toutes les femmes(all the women)

To use more than one adjective in a description, place each adjective according to its normal
position before or after the noun. Two adjectives in the same position are joined by et (and):

• une longue et mauvaise histoire (a long, bad story)

• une grande maison blanche (a big, white house)

Past participles may be used as adjectives and, therefore, must agree with the nouns they

• C'était une surprise inattendue. (It was an unexpected surprise.)

• Ces places sont prises. (These seats are taken.)

The meaning of some adjectives changes depending on the placement of the adjective before or
after the noun it modifies. Before a noun, the adjective has a figurative sense; after a noun, the
adjective is used literally:

une tradition ancienne une ancienne tradition

(an old tradition) (a former tradition)
un homme brave un brave homme
(a brave man) (a good man)
une voiture chère une chère voiture
(an expensive car) (a valued car)
le mois dernier le dernier mois
(last month) (the last month)
une femme honnête une honnête femme
(an honest woman) (a virtuous woman)
un patron méchant un méchant patron
(a mean boss) (a bad boss)
la chose même la même chose
(the very thing) (the same thing)
un homme pauvre un pauvre homme
(a poor man) (an unfortunate man)
ma maison propre ma propre maison
(my clean house) (my own house)
un chien sale un sale chien
(a dirty dog) (a nasty dog)
une femme seule une seule femme
(a woman alone) (one single woman)

un garçon triste un triste garçon
(a sad boy) (a sorry boy)

Irregular adjectives
Be careful to use the following irregular adjectives correctly:

• bon( ne)( s) (good)

• meilleur( e)( s) (better)
• le ( la/les) meilleur ( e)( s) (the best)


• mauvais( e)( s) (bad)

• mauvais( e)( s) (worse)
• le ( la/les) plus mauvais( e)( s) (the worst)

Use the adjective quel when exclaiming:

• Quelle belle maison!(What a beautiful house!)

• Quelles histoires intéressantes! (What interesting stories!)

Quel must agree with the noun it modifies, as shown in Table 1 .

TABLE 1 Exclamations
Number Masculine Feminine
Singular quel quelle
Plural quels quelles

In French, many adverbs are formed by adding - ment, the equivalent of -ly in English, to the
masculine or feminine form of the related adjective. Other adverbs are totally distinct in nature
and must be memorized. Because adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs (and not
nouns or pronouns), they do not agree with any other words in the sentence.

Forming adverbs
To form an adverb:

• Add -ment to the masculine singular form of an adjective that ends with a vowel:

rapide rapidement

• If the masculine singular form ends in a consonant, add -ment to the feminine
singular form of the adjective:
o sérieux (masc.) becomes sérieuse (fem.) = sérieusement

Two exceptions include gentil (nice), which is gentille in its feminine adjective form but
gentiment (nicely) as an adverb, and bref (brief), which is brève in its feminine adjective form
but brièvement (briefly) as an adverb.

• For a few adjectives with a silent -e ending, add -é before -ment:

aveugle (blind) aveuglément (blindly)

énorme (enormous) énormément (enormously)
intense (intense) intensément (intensely)
précis (precise) précisément (precisely)
profond (profound) profondément (profoundly)

• Adjectives with -ant and -ent endings have adverbs ending in -amment and -
emment, respectively. An exception is lent (slow), which becomes lentement (slowly)
in its adverbial form:

constant (constant) constamment (constantly)

courant (everyday) couramment (fluently)
différent (different) différemment (differently)
évident (evident) évidemment (evidently)
récent (recent) récemment (recently)

• Some adverbs have forms that are distinct from adjectives and must be

Adjective Adverb
bon (good) bien (well)
mauvais (bad) mal (badly)
meilleur (better) mieux (better)
petit (little, small) peu (little)

• Some adverbs are not formed from adjectives:

o ainsi (thus, so)
o alors (then)
o après (afterward)
o assez (enough)
o aujourd'hui (today)
o auparavant (before)
o aussi (also, too)
o beaucoup (much)
o bientôt (soon)
o cependant (however)
o comme (as)
o davantage (more)
o dedans (inside)
o dehors (outside)
o déjà (already)
o demain (tomorrow)
o encore (still, yet, again)
o enfin (finally, at last)
o ensemble (together)
o ensuite (then, afterward)
o environ (about)
o exprès (on purpose)
o hier (yesterday)
o ici (here)
o là (there)
o loin (far)
o longtemps (a long time)
o maintenant (now)
o même (even)
o parfois (sometimes)
o partout (everywhere)
o peut-être (perhaps, maybe)
o plus (more)
o plutôt (rather)
o près de (near)
o presque (almost)
o puis (then)
o quelquefois (sometimes)
o si (so)
o souvent (often)
o surtout (especially)
o tant (so much)
o tard (late)
o tôt (soon, early)
o toujours (always, still)
o tout (quite, entirely)
o très (very)
o trop (too much)
o vite (quickly)

Use and placement of adverbs

Adverbs are generally placed after the verbs they modify:
• Elle parle rapidement. (She speaks quickly.)
• Il a conduit lentement. (He drove slowly.)

In the passé composé, small, common adverbs ( bien, mal, souvent, toujours, déjà, and encore)
precede the past participle:

• Il a bien parlé. (He spoke well.)

• J'ai déjà lu ce livre. (I already read that book.)

Longer adverbs may be placed at the beginning of the sentence:

• D'habitude nous mangeons tard. (Generally, we eat late.)

Note that a few adjectives (in the masculine singular form) are used adverbially in common

• aller droit (to go straight ahead)

• coûter cher (to cost a lot)
• parler bas (to speak in a low voice)
• parler fort/haut (to speak in a loud voice)
• payer cher (to cost a lot)
• s'arrêter net (to stop short)
• travailler dur (to work hard)

Adverbial expressions may be formed by combining the following:

• preposition + noun
o à la fin (finally)
o à la fois (at the same time)
o à merveille (marvelously)
o à peine (hardly, scarcely)
o à présent (now)
o à temps (in time)
o d'avance (in advance)
o de rigueur (required)
o par hasard (by chance)
• preposition + adjective (+ noun)
o de bon appétit (with a hearty appetite)
o de nouveau (again)
o par conséquent (consequently)
• preposition + adverb
o à jamais (forever)
o d'ailleurs (besides)
• preposition + several words
o et ainsi de suite (and so on and so forth)
o tant mieux (so much the better)
o tout à ( d'un) coup (suddenly)
o tout à fait (entirely)
o tout de même (just the same)
o tout de suite (immediately)

Adverbs expressing quantity are followed by the preposition de (without any other article):

• assez de (enough)
• autant de (as much, many)
• beaucoup de (a lot of)
• combien de (how much, how many)
• moins de (less, fewer)
• peu de (little, few)
• plus de (more)
• tant de (so much, so many)
• trop de (too much, too many)

Irregular adverbs
Note the following irregular adverbs:

• bien (well)
• mieux (better)
• le mieux (the best)


• mal (badly)
• plus mal (worse)
• le plus mal (the worst)

More than or less than

Follow these formulas to make comparisons:

• plus + adjective (or adverb or noun) + que = more … than

• moins + adjective (or adverb or noun) + que = less … than

Here are some examples:

• Louise est plus petite que sa soeur. (Louise is smaller than her sister.)
• Il court moins vite que moi. (He runs less fast than I do.)
• Il est plus sportif que nous croyions. (He is more athletic than we believed.)
• Je suis plus triste que féchée. (I'm more sad than angry.)
• Elle est moins contente qu'avant. (She less happy than before.)

The superlative expresses the quality of something or someone at the highest or lowest degree
in comparison with a set group.

Follow this formula to express the superlative:

• le (or la or les) plus (or moins) + adjective (or adverb or noun) + de

For example:

• Louise est la plus petite de la famille. (Louise is the smallest of the family.)
• Il court le moins vite de tous. (He runs the least fast of everybody.)

To express “as … as” use the French expression:

• aussi + adjective (or adverb) + que:

• Elle est aussi intelligente que moi. (She is as intelligent as I am.)
• Il parle aussi couramment que Luc. (He speaks as fluently as Luke.)

Use the following formulas to express “as much” or “as many”:

• autant de + noun + que + noun (or pronoun)

• autant que + noun (or pronoun)
• J'ai autant d'argent que lui. (I have as much money as he does.)
• Il travaille autant que son frère. (He works as much as his brother.)

Prepositions relate elements in a sentence: noun to noun, verb to verb, or verb to noun/pronoun.
Prepositions may contract when followed by an article: à + le = au, à + les + aux, de + le = du,
de + les = des.

• Noun to noun:
o C'est le livre de ma soeur. (That's my sister's book.)
• Verb to verb:
o Il apprend à danser. (He's learning to dance.)
• Verb to noun:
o Elle joue avec son chien. (She's playing with her dog.)
• Verb to pronoun:
o Il s'est assis à côté de moi. (He sat next to me.)

The most common prepositions (or groups of words used as prepositions) are:

• à(to)
• à cause de(because of)
• à côté de (next to)
• à demain (see you tomorrow)
• à droite (to the right)
• à gauche (to the left)
• à partir de (beginning with)
• à peu près (nearly)
• à propos de (about, concerning)
• à travers (across, through)
• à vrai dire (to tell the truth)
• afin de (in order to)
• après (after)
• au( en) bas de (at the bottom of)
• au bout de (at the end of)
• au-dessous de (below, beneath)
• au-dessus de (above, over)
• au fond de (at the bottom/back of)
• au lieu de (instead of)
• au milieu de (in the middle of)
• au sujet de (about, concerning)
• autour de (around)
• avant (before)
• avec (with)
• chez (at the house of)
• contre (against)
• d'abord (at first)
• d'accord (okay)
• d'ailleurs (besides)
• dans (in)
• de (about, from, of)
• de bonne heure (early)
• depuis (since)
• derrière (behind)
• devant (in front of)
• en (in)
• en bas (downstairs)
• en face de (opposite)
• en haut (upstairs)
• en ville (downtown)
• entre (between)
• loin de (far from)
• malgré (despite)
• par (by, through)
• parmi (among)
• pendant (during)
• pour (for)
• près de (near)
• sans (without)
• sauf (except)
• selon (according to)
• sous (under)
• sur (on)
• vers (toward)

Special use of certain verbs

The irregular verb devoir is a “shoe verb” in the present tense:

je dois nous devons

tu dois vous devez
il (elle, on) doit ils (elles) doivent

Devoir may express the following:

• Obligation
o Devoir shows that the subject “must,” “has to,” or “is supposed to” do
ƒ Il doit travailler. (He must work or He has to work or He is supposed to
ƒ Il devait travailler mais il était malade. (He had to work but he was sick
or He was supposed to work but he was sick.)
• When used in the conditional, devoir means “ought to” or “should (have).”
o Je devrais le faire. (I should do it or I ought to do it.)
o J'aurais dû le faire. (I should have done it or I ought to have done it.)
• Probability or supposition
o Elle doit être contente. (She must be happy or She is probably happy.)
o Elle a dû pleurer. (She must have cried.)
• Debt
o Devoir means “to owe” when it is followed by a noun:
ƒ Il me doit cent dollars. (He owes me $100.)

The verb faire can be used in a causative construction, which means that the subject causes an
action to be done by someone or something else. Faire is followed by the infinitive expressing
the action to be completed. Note that you have to pay particular attention when thinking of an
appropriate English translation, as the following examples show:

• Le prof fait rire ses élèves. (The teacher makes his students laugh.)
• Elle a fait laver sa voiture. (She had her car washed.)
• Je fais faire une robe. (I'm having a dress made.)

Note the following about the causative faire:

• Faire + infinitive forms a unit that is not separated by nouns or pronouns. When there is
one object, it is a direct object. Direct object nouns follow the infinitive and direct
object pronouns precede faire:
o Il fait venir le médecin. (He has the doctor come.)
o Il le fait venir. (He has him come.)

• When there are two nouns or pronouns, one is the direct object and the other is the
indirect object. The person or thing receiving the action is the indirect object:
o Les parents font envoyer le chèque à leur fils. (The parents have the check sent
to their son.)
o Les parents le font envoyer à leur fils. (The parents have it sent to their son.)
o Les parents lui font envoyer le chèque. (The parents have the check sent to him.)
o Les parents le lui font envoyer. (The parents have it sent to him.)
• The person or thing performing the action can be introduced by par instead of à to
avoid ambiguity. Note the two possible meanings of Il fait lire le poème à sa petite
o He has his girlfriend read the poem.
o He has the poem read to his girlfriend.
o Il fait lire le poème par sa petite amie. (He has his girlfriend read the poem.)
• In compound tenses, the past participle of faire + infinitive does not agree with the
preceding direct object:
o Il a fait danser la fille. (He made the girl dance.)
o Il l'a fait danser. (He made her dance.)
• A reflexive pronoun (used as an indirect object) can be used in a causative faire
o Elle se fait couper les cheveux. (She has her hair cut.)
o Elle s'est fait couper les cheveux. (She had her hair cut.)
o Elle se les est fait couper. (She had it cut.)

The verb falloir is used only in the third person singular ( il) form. It generally expresses
necessity. Although falloir and devoir often express the same idea, falloir is the stronger of the

“I have to go to the bank” or “I must go to the bank” can be expressed in any of the following

• Je dois aller à la banque.

• Il faut que j'aille à la banque.
• Il me faut aller à la banque.

Falloir is used:

• With the infinitive

o Il faut arriver à l'heure. (It is necessary to arrive on time or One has to arrive on
time or One must arrive on time.)
o Il ne faudrait pas faire cela. (One shouldn't do that.)
• With the infinitive and an indirect object
o Il me faut étudier. (I have to study.)
o Il lui fallait travailler. (He [she] had to work.)
• With que followed by the subjunctive
o Il faudra que je parte. (I will have to leave.)
• To express need
o Il me faudra beaucoup d'argent. (I'll need a lot of money.)
The irregular verb pouvoir (to be able to, can) is a shoe verb in the present tense and has two
forms for je. Puis-je is often used in questions:

je peux (puis) nous pouvons

tu peux vous pouvez
il peut ils peuvent

The use of the verb pouvoir:

• May express ability or success or the lack thereof

o Je peux cuisiner. (I can cook.)
o Il n'a pas pu réussir. (He couldn't succeed or He wasn't able to succeed.)
o Pourras-tu conduire? (Will you be able to drive?)
• May express possibility or permissibility
o Est-ce que je peux y aller? (May I go there? or Am I allowed to go there?)
o Puis-je aller au cinéma? (May I go to the movies?)
o Il peut le faire maintenant. (He may be able to do it now.)
• May express a suggestion
o Je pourrais venir te chercher. (I could come pick you up.)
• May express obligation when an infinitive is negated
o Tu peux ne pas venir. (You don't need to come or You aren't obligated to come.)
• Expresses “might” or “could” in the conditional
o Je pourrais l'aider. (I could help him [her] or I might help him [her].)
• Can be idiomatic
o n'en pouvoir plus (to be exhausted)
o Je n'en peux plus. (I'm exhausted.)
o n'y pouvoir rien (to be unable to do something about it)
o On n'y peut rien. (It can't be helped.)
o Je n'y peux rien. (I can't do anything about it.)

Savoir and Connaître

In French, two irregular verbs express “to know”: connaître and savoir. Connaître means “to
know” in the sense of being acquainted with someone or something. Use the verb connaître
when you can substitute the words “to be familiar with”:

• Je connais Luc. (I know Luke [meaning: I am acquainted with Luke].)

• Je connais cette chanson. (I know this song [meaning: I have heard this song before or I
am familiar with this song].)

Savoir means “to know” in the sense of knowing how to do something or knowing something
by heart, through mental ability or through a learning process. Savoir expresses the knowledge
of facts or reasons about certain things:

• Je sais danser. (I know how to dance.)

• Je sais cette chanson. (I know this song [meaning: I can sing the words].)
• Je sais ton adresse. (I know your address.)

Savoir is used:

• To express know-how or the lack thereof.

o Il sait lire mais il ne sait pas écrire. (He knows how to read, but he does not
know how to write.)
• In the passé composé to express “to find out” or “to learn about something.”
o Je l'ai su hier. (I found out about it yesterday.)
• Idiomatically in the conditional to express “could” or “would.”
o Il ne saurait pas cacher son bonheur. (He couldn't hide his happiness or He
wouldn't be able to hide his happiness.)

The irregular verb vouloir is a shoe verb in the present tense. Vouloir means “to wish,” “to
want,” or “will”:

je veux nous voulons

tu veux vous voulez
il veut ils veulent

Vouloir is used:

• In the present tense to express strong will

o Il veut le faire. (He wants to do it or He will do it.)
o Je ne veux pas te suivre. (I don't want to follow you or I won't follow you.)
• In the passé composé to express “trying” or “refusal” to do something
o Il a voulu le faire. (He tried to do it.)
o Il n'a pas voulu le faire. (He refused to do it.)
• In the conditional to express a wish or desire in a more courteous manner
o Je voudrais t'accompagner. (I would like to go with you.)
• In the imperative (command) form to express a polite command
o Veuillez fermer la fenêtre. (Please shut the window [meaning: Would you shut
the window?].)
• Idiomatically in the expression vouloir bien, which means “to be good enough to”
or “to be willing to”
o Voulez-vous bien m'aider? (Will you be good enough to help me? or Are you
willing to help me?)

Other Important Irregularities

Habiter, demeurer, and vivre all mean “to live.” Habiter and demeurer mean “to live” or “to
dwell” and are used with a place. Habiter may or may not be followed by the preposition à.
Vivre means “to live” or “to be alive.”

• J'habite (á) Nice.
• Je demeure à Nice.
• I live in Nice.
• Je vis à cent à l'heure.
• I live in the fast lane.

Jouer means “to play.” When followed by the preposition á or any of its forms, jouer refers to
playing a sport or game. When followed by the preposition de or any of its forms, jouer refers
to playing a musical instrument.

• Nous jouons aux cartes. (We're playing cards.)

• Il joue du piano. (He plays the piano.)

Penser á and penser de mean “to think about,” but penser de is used only in a question that
requests an opinion about something.

• Á qui penses-tu? (About whom are you thinking?)

• Je pense à mon fils. (I'm thinking about my son.)
• Je pense à lui. (I'm thinking about him.)
• Que penses-tu de lui? (What do you think of him? or What is your opinion of him?)

Passer means “to spend time.” Used reflexively, se passer means “to happen” or “to take
place.” And the reflexive expression se passer de means “to do without.”

• Je vais passer un mois en France. (I'm going to spend a month in France.)

• Qu'est-ce qui s'est passé? (What happened? [meaning: What took place?])
• On ne peut pas se passer d'eau. (One can't do without water.)

Servir means “to serve,” while se servir de means “to use.”

• On se sert d'une louche pour servir de la soupe. (One uses a ladle to serve soup.)

Venir + de + infinitive in the present tense means “to have just”; in the imperfect, venir + de +
infinitive means “had just.”

• Elle vient d'arriver. (She [has] just arrived.)

• Elle venait d'arriver. (She had just arrived.)

There are five ways to express “to leave”: partir, sortir, s'en aller, quitter, and laisser.

• Partir means “to go away.”

o Je pars. (I'm leaving or I'm going away.)
• Sortir means “to go (come) out of a place,” “to go out with someone,” or “to take
something out.”
o Il sort souvent. (He goes out often.)
o Il sort de la pièce. (He leaves the room.)
o Il sort avec moi. (He's going out with me.)
o Il sort son argent. (He takes out his money.)
• S'en aller means “to go away.”
o Je m'en vais. (I'm going away.)

• Quitter means “to leave a person (or place),” and the person or place must be
o Je te quitte. (I'm leaving you.)
o Je quitte la maison. (I'm leaving the house.)
• Laisser means “to leave a person (or thing) behind.”
o J'ai laissé mes clefs à la maison. (I left my keys at home.)

The Infinitives
Infinitive as a Subject
The infinitive of the verb is the unconjugated verb form whose English meaning expresses “to”
— to sing, to dance, to laugh, and so on. Although the infinitive is a verb form, it may be used
as a subject, as a command, and as part of interrogative and exclamatory phrases. Certain
French verbs are followed directly by the infinitive, while others require a preposition before
the infinitive. Almost all prepositions are followed by an infinitive. Adjectives and nouns that
are modified by an infinitive require a preposition before the infinitive.

The infinitive may be used as the subject noun of a verb and may be translated as an English
gerund (the -ing form of the verb) or an English infinitive (the to form of the verb):

• Cuisiner est un art. ( Cooking is an art.)

• Voir c'est croire. (Seeing is believing.)
• Dire la vérité est important. ( To tell the truth is important.)

Note that ce is used before être + infinitive. In the following example, the infinitive vouloir
follows c'est:

• Vouloir c'est pouvoir. (To want to is to be able to.)

Infinitive in a Command
The typical way to give a command in French is to use the tu or vous form of the verb without
using those subject pronouns (because the subject of a command is understood to be “you”),
but the infinitive can also be used. The infinitive command is usually seen on signs and in

• À louer. (For rent.)

• Ne pas toucher. (Don't touch.)
• Laisser cuire à petit feu. (Simmer.)
• Faites bouillir pendant cinq minutes. (Boil for five minutes.)

Infinitive in Interrogatives, Exclamations

The infinitive may be used in an interrogative phrase expressing deliberation:

• Quoi faire? (What are we going to do?)

• Quoi lui dire? (What are we going to tell him?)
• Où aller? (Where shall we go?)

The infinitive may be used in exclamations:

• Oh, être jeune encore! (Oh, to be young again!)

• Oh, être riche! (Oh, to be rich!)

Infinitive after Certain Verbs

The infinitive is most often used as the complement of another verb. Some verbs are followed
immediately by the infinitive and do not require a preposition. These may be categorized as

• Verbs of motion and perception. For example:

o Je le regarde travailler. (I watch him work.)
o Nous les entendons crier. (We hear them shouting.)
o Elle voit ses enfants jouer. (She sees her children playing.)

The verbs most often used this way are:

o apercevoir (to notice)

o écouter (to listen)
o entendre (to hear)
o paraître (to appear)
o regarder (to watch)
o voir (to see)
• Verbs indicating thought or most declarative verbs. For example:
o Il espère pouvoir venir. (He hopes to be able to come.)
o Elle nie connaître ce garçon. (She denies knowing that boy.)

The verbs most often used this way are:

o affirmer (to affirm)

o croire (to believe)
o espérer (to hope)
o nier (to deny)
• Other common verbs:
o Je préfère lire. (I prefer reading.)
o Il faut écouter attentivement. (It is necessary to listen attentively.)

The verbs most often used this way are:

o aimer mieux (to prefer)

o aller (to go)
o compter (to intend)
o désirer (to desire)
o devoir (to have to)
o envoyer (to send)
o faire (to make, to do)

o falloir (to be necessary)
o laisser (to allow, to let)
o oser (to dare)
o pouvoir (to be able to)
o préférer (to prefer)
o savoir (to know)
o sembler (to seem)
o souhaiter (to wish)
o valoir mieux (to be worth)
o vouloir (to wish, to want)

Infinitive after Certain Prepositions

The infinitive is used after all prepositions but en, which takes the present participle, and après,
which is followed by the past infinitive. Par expresses “by” when followed by the verbs
commencer or finir. Pour expresses “in order to” when followed by the infinitive:

• Il parle sans réfléchir. (He speaks without thinking.)

• Elle commence par danser. (She begins by dancing.)
• Ils finissent par rire. (They end up laughing.)
• Il faut souffrir pour réussir. (It is necessary to suffer to succeed.)

Many verbs require the preposition à before the infinitive. These include verbs showing
tendency, yearning, and aim. For example:

• Je m'attends à gagner. (I expect to win.)

• Elle tarde à arriver. (She is late in arriving.)

The verbs most often used this way are:

• s'accoutumer à (to become accustomed to)

• aider à (to help)
• s'amuser à (to have fun by)
• apprendre à (to teach)
• arriver à (to succeed in)
• s'attendre à (to expect)
• autoriser à (to authorize)
• avoir à (to have to)
• chercher à (to seek)
• commencer à (to begin)
• consentir à (to consent)
• continuer à (to continue)
• se décider à (to decide)
• se disposer à (to be disposed)
• encourager à (to encourage)
• enseigner à (to teach)
• s'habituer à (to become accustomed to)
• hésiter à (to hesitate)
• inciter à (to incite)
• s'intéresser à (to be interested in)
• inviter à (to invite)
• se mettre à (to begin)
• persister à (to persist)
• renoncer à (to renounce)
• réussir à (to succeed in)
• songer à (to think about)
• tarder à (to delay, to be late in)
• tenir à (to be anxious)

Most verbs require the preposition de before the infinitive. These include verbs of asking,
permitting, and forbidding. For example:

• Elle a oublié de me téléphoner. (She forgot to call me.)

• Ils refusent de travailler. (They refuse to work.)

Verbs most commonly used this way are:

• accuser de (to accuse)

• s'agir de (to be a question of)
• s'arrêter de (to stop)
• blâmer de (to blame)
• cesser de (to stop)
• complimenter de (to compliment)
• convenir de (to be fitting)
• craindre de (to fear)
• décider de (to decide)
• défendre de (to forbid)
• demander de (to ask)
• se dépêcher de (to hurry)
• dire de (to tell)
• écrire de (to write)
• s'efforcer de (to strive)
• empêcher de (to prevent)
• essayer de (to try to)
• éviter de (to avoid)
• féliciter de (to congratulate)
• finir de (to finish)
• menacer de (to threaten)
• mériter de (to deserve)
• négliger de (to neglect)
• s'occuper de (to take care of)
• offrir de (to offer)
• ordonner de (to order)
• oublier de (to forget to)
• parler de (to speak about)
• permettre de (to permit)
• persuader de (to persuade)
• promettre de (to promise)
• proposer de (to propose)
• rappeler de (to remind)
• recommander de (to recommend)
• refuser de (to refuse)
• regretter de (to regret)
• remercier de (to thank)
• reprocher de (to reproach)
• rêver de (to dream)
• se souvenir de (to remember)
• suggérer de (to suggest)
• venir de (to have just)

Some verbs require à ( quelqu'un) de before an infinitive where quelqu'un can be replaced by
the name of a person, a noun, or a pronoun which refers to a person. For example:

• Il demande à son fils de laver la voiture. (He asks his son to wash the car.)
• Je promets à mon amie de garder son secret. (I promise my friend to keep her secret.)

The most common verbs of this type are:

• commander (to order)

• conseiller (to advise)
• défendre (to forbid)
• demander (to ask)
• dire (to tell)
• écrire (to write)
• interdire (to forbid)
• ordonner (to order)
• permettre (to permit)
• promettre (to promise)
• suggérer (to suggest)

Infinitive Preceded by Adjectives and Nouns

In the majority of cases, adjectives and nouns that are modified by an infinitive are followed by
de before the infinitive:

• Je n'ai pas le temps de t'attendre. (I don't have the time to wait for you.)
• Je suis ravi de vous revoir. (I'm delighted to see you again.)
• Est-il capable de le faire? (Is he capable of doing it?)

De + infinitive is used after que in the second part of a comparison:

• Je préfère lire que de regarder la télévision. (I prefer to read rather than to watch

The preposition à is used in the following instances:

• If the infinitive conveys a passive meaning (the subject is acted upon):

o Donnez-moi quelque chose à manger. (Give me something to eat [to be eaten].)
o J'ai une lettre à écrire. (I have a letter to write [to be written].)

• After le dernier (the last), le seul (the only), le premier (the first), and other
numerals, and after a few adjectives showing tendency, fitness, and purpose, such
as habile (skillful), lent (slow), prêt (ready):
o Elle était la première à partir. (She was the first to leave.)
o Nous sommes prêts à commencer. (We are ready to begin.)
• With certain nouns to express purpose or function:
o un fer à friser (a curling iron)
o une chambre à coucher (a bedroom)

Note the following:

• Impersonal expressions beginning with il + être + adjective require de before the

infinitive, which is really the subject:
o Il est difficile de comprendre. (It is difficult to understand or To understand
[Understanding] is difficult.)
• In the construction ce + être + adjective + à + infinitive, ce ( ceci, cela) is the subject of
the infinitive and conveys a passive meaning:
o C'est difficile à comprendre. (It is difficult to understand.)

Negating an Infinitive
A present infinitive is negated by putting the entire negative expression before the infinitive:

• Je lui ai dit de ne pas fumer. (I told him not to smoke.)

• Il a décidé de ne rien manger. (He decided not to eat anything.)
• Ne pas marcher sur le gazon. (Don't walk on the grass.)

The Past Infinitive

The past infinitive is formed by using the correct helping verb ( avoir or être) in its infinitive
form and the past participle of the verb showing the action. The past infinitive is used:

• To express a previous action regardless of the English translation:

o Il est parti sans avoir dit “au revoir.” (He left without saying goodbye.)
o Elle a été renvoyée pour avoir menti. (She was fired for lying [having lied].)
• After the preposition après:
o Après être rentrée, je me reposerai. (After returning [having returned] home, I'll
o Je te téléphonerai après avoir mangé. (I'll call you after eating [having eaten].)

Present Participles
In French, the present participle of a verb (the -ing form) may be used with the preposition en
(while, on, upon, by, in, when) to form a gerund (a noun that, in English, ends in -ing). When
used without en, the present participle may act as an adjective and is also used to express the -
ing form of the verb in English.
The present participle of all French verbs ends in -ant, the English equivalent of -ing.

Forming the Present Participle

The present participle of most French verbs (regular and irregular) is formed by dropping the -
ons ending from the nous form of the present tense and simply adding -ant, as shown in Table 1
. The line through the -ons part of the nous form indicates that it is removed to form the present

TABLE 1 Forming the Present Participle

Infinitive Nous Form of Present Present Participle
(to speak) nous parl ons parlant (speaking)
obéir (to obey) nous obéiss ons obéissant (obeying)
perdre (to lose) nous perd ons perdant (losing)
aller (to go) nous all ons allant (going)
boire (to drink) nous buv ons buvant (drinking)
dire (to say, to tell) nous dis ons disant (saying)
faire (to do) nous fais ons faisant (doing)
sortir (to go out) nous sort ons sortant (going out)
venir (to come) nous ven ons venant (coming)
voir (to see) nous voy ons voyant (seeing)

Note how this affects spelling-change and shoe verbs:

c→ç placer (to place) nous plaçons plaçant (placing)

g → ge manger (to eat) nous mangeons mangeant (eating)
y remains payer (to pay) nous payons payant (paying)
no accent acheter (to buy) nous achetons achetant (buying)
single letter appeler (to call) nous appelons appelant (calling)
single letter jeter (to throw) nous jetons jetant (throwing)
double é préférer (to prefer) nous préférons préférant (prefering)

There are only three irregular present participles in French:

Verb Nous Form Present Participle

avoir (to have) nous avons ayant (having)
être (to be) nous sommes étant (being)

savoir (to know) nous savons sachant (knowing)

English uses many more gerunds than French; therefore, the present participle is used much
less in French and is often replaced with an infinitive:

• J'adore le cyclisme. (I love cycling.)

• Danser me plaît beaucoup. (Dancing gives me great pleasure.)

Using the Present Participle

The present participle is primarily used:

• With the preposition en to imply simultaneous actions:

o Il parle en mangeant. (He speaks while eating.)
o Elle est arrivée en courant. (She arrived running.)
o Il est tombé en dansant. (He fell [while, when, upon, on, as he was] dancing.)

Tout may be used before en to add emphasis:

o Elle pleure tout en souriant. (She cries even while smiling.)

En + present participle may mean “by.” With the verbs commencer and finir, par +
infinitive is used, provided there is no direct object:

o Il gagne beaucoup en travaillant. (He earns a lot by working.)

o Il commence par chanter. (He begins by singing.)
o Il finit par danser. (He ends by dancing.)


o Il finit l'histoire en riant. (He finishes the story by laughing.)

• Without the preposition en to show a cause, a reason, a motive, a condition, a
result, an incidental circumstance, or an action that took place at the same
moment as or immediately before the action of the main verb. When used as a verb,
the present participle is invariable—meaning that there is no agreement of the present
participle with the subject:
o Étant occupé, je l'ai ignoré. (Being busy, I ignored him.)
o Elle est partie, oubliant ses clefs. (She left, forgetting her keys.)
o Regardant la télé, je me suis endormi. (Watching TV, I fell asleep.)
o Il étudie en écoutant la radio. (He studies while listening to the radio.)
o Il est entré criant. (He arrived screaming.)

In addition, the present participle can be used as follows:

• Some present participles may be used as adjectives and must, therefore, agree in
number and gender with the nouns or pronouns they modify. They generally follow
the noun or pronoun:
o Je trouve ces filles charmantes. (I find those girls charming.)
o Ce sont des films amusants. (They are amusing films.)
• The present participle can, but rarely does, replace a relative clause ( qui + verb):
o Je vois des gens qui portent des sacs. (I see some people who are carrying bags.)
o Je vois des gens portant des sacs. (I see some people carrying bags.)

The present participle CANNOT be used:

• To express “to be” + present participle (the English progressive form). To express
that an action is in progress, use the present tense or être en train de + infinitive:
o Il dort. (He is sleeping.)
o Il est en train de dormir. (He is sleeping.)
• To replace an English gerund (a noun ending in -ing). A French present participle
can only be used as a verb and not as a noun. The following examples show you some
correct ways to replace an English gerund:
o Je préfère la natation. (I prefer swimming.)
o La pâtisserie est un art. (Pastry making is an art.)
o Je le ferai sans qu'il le sache. (I'll do it without his knowing it.)

Past Participles
The past participle serves to form compound verb tenses, but it may also serve as an adjective.
If the past participle is used as an epithet or attribute, it follows the noun it describes.

Forming the Past Participle

The past participle of regular verbs is formed as follows:

Verb Family Infinitive Past Participle

-er parler parlé (spoke or spoken)
- ir finir fin i (finished)
- re vendre vend u (sold)

Some verbs that are irregular in the present form have regular past participles:

Infinitive Past Participle

accueillir (to welcome) accueilli
aller (to go) allé
battre (to beat) battu
convaincre (to convince) convaincu
cueillir (to pick) cueilli
dormir (to sleep) dormi
interrompre (to interrupt) interrompu
mentir (to lie) menti
partir (to leave) parti
rompre (to break) rompu
sentir (to feel, to smell) senti
servir (to serve) servi
sortir (to go out) sorti
vaincre (to vanquish) vaincu

Irregular past participles may be placed in the following groups:

• Those ending in -i:

o rire (to laugh) → ri
o suffire (to suffice) → suffi
o suivre (to follow) → suivi
• Those ending in -is:
o acquérir (to acquire) → acquis
o asseoir (to seat) → assis
o conquérir (to conquer) → conquis
o mettre (to put) → mis
o prendre (to take) → pris
• Those ending in -it:
o conduire (to drive) → conduit
o construire (to construct) → construit
o cuire (to cook) → cuit
o détruire (to destroy) → détruit
o dire (to say, to tell) → dit
o écrire (to write) → écrit
o produire (to produce) → produit
o traduire (to translate) → traduit
• Those ending in -u:
o apercevoir (to notice) → aperçu
o avoir (to have) → eu
o boire (to drink) → bu
o connaître (to know) → connu
o courir (to run) → couru
o croire (to believe) → cru
o devoir (to have to) → dû
o lire (to read) → lu
o paraître (to appear) → paru
o plaire (to please) → plu
o pouvoir (to be able to) → pu
o recevoir (to receive) → reçu
o savoir (to know) → su
o se taire (to be quiet) → tu
o tenir (to hold) → tenu
o valoir (to be worth) → valu
o venir (to come) → venu
o vivre (to live) → vécu
o vouloir (to want) → voulu
• Those ending in -ert:
o ouvrir (to open) → ouvert
o offrir (to offer) → offert
o souffrir (to suffer) → souffrir
• Those ending in -int:
o atteindre (to attain) → atteint
o craindre (to fear) → craint
o éteindre (to extinguish) → éteint
o joindre (to join) → joint
o peindre (to paint) → peint
o plaindre (to pity) → plaint
• Those totally irregular:
o être (to be) → été
o faire (to make, to do) → fait
o mourir (to die) → mort
o naître (to be born) → né

Any related infinitive forms its past participle according to the list above, for example:

sourire (to smile) souri

promettre (to promise) promis
apprendre (to learn) appris
reconstruire (reconstruct) reconstruit
reconnaître (to recognize) reconnu
retenir (to retain) retenu
découvrir (to discover) découvert

Using the Past Participle

The past participle is used:

• With a preceding helping (auxiliary) verb ( avoir or être) to form compound tenses:
o J'ai fait de mon mieux. (I did my best.)
o Je suis allée en ville. (I went downtown.)
o Il avait fini son travail. (He had finished his work.)
o Il était rentré tard. (He had arrived home late.)
o Nous aurions gagné. (We would have won.)
o Nous serions sortis. (We would have gone out.)
o Elle aura attendu longtemps. (She will have waited a long time.)
o Elle sera partie avant lui. (She will have left before him.)
• As an adjective, which, therefore, must agree in number and gender with the noun or
pronoun it modifies:
o Elle est épuisée. (She is exhausted.)
o Ils sont des hommes distingués. (They are distinguished men.)

In the passé composé, past participles that use avoir as their helping verb agree in number and
gender with a preceding direct object noun or pronoun:

• Voici la lettre qu'elle a écrite. (Here is the letter that she wrote.)
• Les filles? Je les ai vues lundi. (The girls? I saw them on Monday.)

Perfect Participles
The perfect participle is formed by using the present participle of the appropriate helping verb (
avoir = ayant, être = étant) and then adding the past participle. The perfect participle shows
that one action was completed before another action took place:

• Ayant fini mon travail, je me suis détendue.

Having finished my work, I relaxed.

• Étant parti de bonne heure, il est arrivé à l'heure.

Having left early, he arrived on time.

Past Tenses
Introduction to Past Tenses
The passé composé (compound past tense) is used to refer to an action or event that began and
was completed at a particular moment of time in the past. Two elements are required to form
the passé composé: a helping verb (either avoir or être) and a past participle (usually the -ed
form of an English verb).

The passé simple is a literary past tense, most often used in writing, and also refers to an action
or event that was completed in the past. The passé anterieur, which is very limited in use, is the
compound form of the passé simple. (The passé simple of the correct helping verb is followed
by the past participle of the verb indicating the action.)

The imperfect ( l'imparfait) is a simple tense used to refer to an ongoing or habitual action in
the past and describes incomplete actions, situations, or events in the past. The plus-que-parfait
is the compound form of the imperfect (the imperfect of the correct helping verb is followed by
the past participle of the verb indicating the action) and indicates what had been going on in the

The Passé Composé

The passé composé (compound past tense), also referred to as the past indefinite, is made up of
two parts, a helping verb and a past participle.

It is formed by using the present tense of the helping verb avoir ( j'ai, tu as, il/elle a, nous
avons, vous avez, ils/elles ont) or être ( je suis, tu es, il/elle est, nous sommes, vous êtes, ils/elles
sont) and adding a past participle.
The passé composé with avoir
The past participle of regular verbs is formed by dropping the infinitive ending and adding -é
for -er verbs, i for -ir verbs, and u for -re verbs. The past participles of irregular verbs must be

• J'ai travaillé hier. (I worked yesterday.)

• Il a choisi un bon livre. (He chose a good book.)
• Ils ont vendu leur maison. (They sold their house.)

Past participles of verbs that use avoir as their helping verb agree in number and gender with a
preceding direct-object noun or pronoun. This is done by adding an -e to indicate a feminine
noun or pronoun and an -s to indicate a plural noun or pronoun. No -s is added to a participle
that already ends in -s:

• La mousse Je l'ai préparée hier. (The mousse? I prepared it yesterday.)

• Voici les trophées que mon fils a reçus. (Here are the trophies that my son received.)
• Je ne me rappelle pas les bus que nous avons pris. (I don't remember the buses we

The passé composé with être

Only 17 verbs use être as their helping verb. These verbs generally, but not always, express
motion or a change of place, state, or condition, such as going up, going down, going in, going
out, or remaining. The verbs are:

• descendre (to go down)

• rester (to remain)
• mourir (to die)
• retourner (to return)
• sortir (to go out)
• venir (to come)
• arriver (to arrive)
• naître (to be born)
• devenir (to become)
• entrer (to enter)
• rentrer (to return)
• tomber (to fall)
• revenir (to come back)
• aller (to go)
• monter (to go up)
• partir (to leave)
• passer (to pass by)

When être is the helping verb, the past participle must agree in number and gender with the
subject; this is done by adding -e for a feminine subject and -s for a plural subject:

• Il est rentré. (He returned home.)

• Elle est née en juin. (She was born in June.)
• Nous sommes revenus hier. (We came back yesterday.)
• Elles sont tombées. (They fell.)

Verbs that use être or avoir

The verbs descendre (to go down), monter (to go up), passer (to pass by), rentrer (to return
home), retourner (to return), and sortir (to go out) generally use être as their helping verb.
They may use avoir when the sentence contains a direct object. In these cases, their meaning
changes: descendre (to take down), monter (to take up), passer (to spend time), rentrer (to
bring in), retourner (to turn over), and sortir (to take out):

• Je suis descendu. (I went downstairs.)

• Je suis descendu du train. (I got off the train.)
• J'ai descendu le livre. (I took the book down.)
• Il est monté. (He went upstairs.)
• Il a monté ses bagages. (He took his luggage upstairs.)
• Il est passé par l'école. (He passed by the school.)
• Il a passé une heure là-bas. (He spent an hour there.)
• Ils sont rentrés tard. (They came home late.)
• Ils ont rentré le chien. (They brought in the dog.)
• Elle est retournée ` Nice. (She returned to Nice.)
• Elle a retourné la lettre. (She turned over the letter.)
• Je suis sortie. (I went out.)
• J'ai sorti mon argent. (I took out my money.)

The passé composé with reflexive verbs

Reflexive verbs use être as their helping verb. When the reflexive pronoun is also the direct
object, the past participle agrees with the reflexive pronoun. When the reflexive pronoun is the
indirect object (and, thus, the direct object comes after the verb), there is no agreement of the
past participle with the reflexive pronoun.

• Il s'est levé à six heures. (He got up at six o'clock.)

• Elle s'est lavée. (She washed herself.)
• Elle s'est lavé la figure. (She washed her face.)

Negating in the passé composé

To negate a sentence in the passé composé, put the negative expression around the conjugated
helping verb and any pronouns that precede it:

• Je n'ai pas fini mon dîner. (I haven't finished my dinner.)

• Il n'a rien découvert. (He discovered nothing.)
• Elle n'y est pas restée longtemps. (She didn't stay there a long time.)
• Elles ne se sont jamais maquillées. (They never put on makeup.)

Questions in the passé composé

To form a question in the passé composé, invert the conjugated helping verb (with any
pronouns related to it preceding it) with the subject pronoun, and add a hyphen. In general,
avoid inverting with je; instead, use est-ce que to form the question. With avoir, a -t- must be
added when the subject is il or elle. Negatives surround the hyphenated inverted forms:

• As-tu oublié? (Did you forget?)

• Lui a-t-elle parlé? (Did she speak to him?)
• Y est-elle arrivée? (Did she arrive there?)
• Est-ce que j'ai tort? (Am I wrong?)
• N'a-t-il pas vu ce film? (Hasn't he seen this movie?)
• Vous êtes-vous préparé( e)( s) ? (Did you prepare yourself [yourselves]?)
• Ne s'est-elle pas levée? (Didn't she get up?)

The Passé Simple

The passé simple (past definite) is used primarily in formal, literary, and historical writings to
express a completed past action, event, or situation. In conversation and informal writing, the
passé composé is used instead of the passé simple to express the past.

Here are two examples of the passé simple.

• Il aida les pauvres. (He helped the poor.)

• Les soldats perdirent la bataille. (The soldiers lost the battle.)

The passé simple of regular verbs

The passé simple of regular verbs is formed by dropping the infinitive endings ( -er, -ir, -re)
and adding the endings illustrated in Table 1 .

TABLE 1 The Passé Simple of Regular Verbs

-er Verbs -ir Verbs -re Verbs
aid er fin ir défend re
je ( j') aid ai fin is défend is
tu aid as fin is défend is
il aid a fin it défend it
nous aid âmes fin îmes défend îmes
vous aid âtes fin îtes défend îtes
ils aid èrent fin irent défend irent

The following spelling changes occur in the passé simple:

• Verbs ending in -cer change c to ç before a to maintain the sound of soft c:

o avancer: j'avançai, tu avanças, il avança, nous avançâmes, vous avançâtes, ils
• Verbs ending in -ger change -g to -ge before -a to maintain the sound of soft g:
o voyager: je voyageai, tu voyageas, il voyagea, nous voyageâmes, vous
voyageâtes, ils voyagèrent

The passé simple of irregular verbs

Verbs with irregular stems in the passé simple generally end in -i or -u and have the following

je: -s nous: -ˆmes

tu: -s vous: -ˆtes
il: -t ils: -rent

For example:

• Jeanne d'Arc naquit en 1412 à Domrémy. (Joan of Arc was born in 1412 in Domrémy.)
• En 1066 Guillaume le Conquérant devint roi de l'Angleterre. (In 1066, William the
Conqueror became the king of England.)

Table 2 lists the most common irregular verbs in the passé simple and their stems. Note that
many of these stems are the same as, or closely resemble, the past participle of the verb.

TABLE 2 Passé Simple Irregular Verb Stems

Verb Infinitive Passé Simple Stem
avoir (to have) eu-
boire (to drink) bu-
connaître (to know) connu-
construire (to build) construis-
courir (to run) couru-
craindre (to fear) craigni-
croire (to believe) cru-
devoir (to have to) du-
dire (to say, to tell) di-
écrire (to write) écrivi-
être (to be) fu-
faire (to do) fi-
joindre (to join) joigni-
lire (to read) lu-
mettre (to put) mi-
mourir (to die) mouru-
naître (to be born) naqui-
ouvrir (to open) ouvri-
peindre (to paint) peigni-
plaire (to please) plu-
pouvoir (to be able to) pu
prendre (to take) pri-
recevoir (to receive) reçu-
rompre (to break) rompu-
savoir (to know) su-
tenir (to hold) tin-
traduire (to translate) traduisi-
vaincre (to vanquish) vainqui-
venir (to come) vin-
vivre (to live) vécu-
voir (to see) vi-
vouloir (to wish, to want) voulu-

The Passé Antérieur

The passé antérieur is used after conjunctions of time — aussitôt que and dès que (as soon as),
quand and lorsque (when), and après que (after) — to show that an action was completed
before another action (expressed by the passé simple) took place.

The passé antérieur is the compound form of the passé simple and is formed by using the passé
simple of the appropriate helping verb ( avoir or être) + the past participle of the verb. Just like
the passé simple, the passé antérieur is primarily used in formal and literary writings. Its
English equivalent is “had” + past participle:

• Aussitôt que le président eut signé le document, sa secrétaire l'emporta. (As soon as the
president had signed the document, his secretary took it away.)
• Dès que ses ennemis eurent envahi la France, Napoléon se retira à Elbe. (As soon as
his enemies had invaded France, Napoleon retired to Elba.)

The Imparfait
The imperfect ( l'imparfait) expresses or describes continued, repeated, habitual actions or
incomplete actions, situations, or events in the past. The imperfect describes what was going on
at an indefinite time in the past or what used to happen. The imperfect can be translated by

“would” when it implies “used to.” The imperfect is a simple tense that does not require a
helping verb.

The imperfect is formed by dropping the -ons ending from the present tense nous form of the
verb and adding the following endings:

je: -ais nous: -ions

tu: -ais vous: -iez
il: -ait ils: -aient

The imparfait of regular verbs

Table 1 shows how the imparfait is formed with regular verbs.

TABLE 1 Forming the Imparfait

Jouer Finir Vendre
nous jou ons nous finiss ons nous vend ons
je jouais je finissais je vendais
tu jouais tu finissais tu vendais
il jouait il finissait il vendait
nous jouions nous finissions nous vendions
vous jouiez vous finissiez vous vendiez
ils jouaient ils finissaient ils vendaient

Here are two examples:

• Pendant mon enfance, je lisais beaucoup. (During my childhood I read [used to read,
would read] a lot.)
• Je regardais la télé quand le téléphone a sonné. (I was watching TV when the phone

Verbs such as étudier (to study), rire (to laugh), sourire (to smile), and vérifier (to check)
already end in -ions in the present. In the imperfect, an extra i is necessary in the nous and vous

• Nous étudiions pendant des heures. (We were studying for hours.)
• Vous riiez trop. (You were laughing too much.)

The following verbs have spelling changes in the imperfect:

• Verbs ending in -cer change -c to -ç before -a to maintain the soft c sound in the je,
tu, il, and ils forms:
o La voiture avançait lentement. (The car was advancing slowly.)
o Commenciez-vous à vous inquiéter? (Were you beginning to get worried?)
• Verbs ending in -ger insert a silent -e between -g and -a to maintain the soft g
sound in the je, tu, il, and ils forms:
o Il mangeait si vite. (He was eating so quickly.)
o Nous mangions toujours dans ce restaurant. (We always ate at that restaurant.)

The imparfait of irregular verbs

Irregular verbs follow the same rules for the formation of the imperfect as do regular verbs. The
following is a list of the nous form of the most common irregular verbs. To form the imperfect,
simply drop the -ons and add the imperfect endings given earlier:

• aller (to go): nous allons

• avoir (to have): nous avons
• boire (to drink): nous buvons
• conduire (to drive): nous conduisons
• connaître (to know): nous connaissons
• courir (to run): nous courons
• craindre (to fear): nous craignons
• croire (to believe): nous croyons
• devoir (to have to): nous devons
• dire (to say, to tell): nous disons
• dormir (to sleep): nous dormons
• écrire (to write): nous écrivons
• faire (to make, to do): nous faisons
• lire (to read): nous lisons
• mettre (to put): nous mettons
• offrir (to offer): nous offrons
• ouvrir (to open): nous ouvrons
• plaire (to please): nous plaisons
• pouvoir (to be able to): nous pouvons
• prendre (to take): nous prenons
• recevoir (to receive): nous recevons
• savoir (to know): nous savons
• suivre (to follow): nous suivons
• tenir (to hold): nous tenons
• valoir (to be worth): nous valons
• venir (to come): nous venons
• vivre (to live): nous vivons
• voir (to see): nous voyons
• vouloir (to wish, to want): nous voulons

Note: Falloir (to be necessary) and pleuvoir (to rain) are used only in the il form: il fallait (it
was necessary) and il pleuvait (it was raining).

Note: The only verb that does not follow the rule for the formation of the imperfect is être (to
be), whose imperfect stem is ét-: j'étais, tu étais, il était, nous étions, vous étiez, ils étaient.

The Plus Que Parfait

The plus-que-parfait (the pluperfect) indicates that an action had taken place and had been
completed before another past action took place. The plus-que-parfait is the compound form of
the imperfect and is formed by using the imperfect of the appropriate helping verb ( avoir or
être) + the past participle of the verb. Its English equivalent is “had” + past participle:

• J'avais mal à l'estomac parce que j'avais trop mangé. (I had a stomachache because I
had eaten too much.)
• Il marchait avec peine parce qu'il était tombé. (He walked with difficulty because he
had fallen.)
• Elle s'était préparée avant de donner sa présentation. (She had prepared herself before
giving her presentation.)

Remember that the past participle must agree in number and gender with a preceding direct-
object noun or pronoun:

• Voici les livres que j'avais écrits il y a longtemps. (Here are the books I had written a
long time ago.)
• Cette robe? Elle l'avait achetée quand elle était à Paris. (That dress? She had bought it
when she was in Paris.)

Using the Correct Form of the Past Tense

You can discover when to use the various past tenses by taking a look at the following

Passé composé
Use the passé composé:

• To express specific actions or events that were started and completed at a definite
time in the past (even if the time isn't mentioned):
o Je suis allé au centre commercial. (I went to the mall.)
• To express a specific action or event that occurred at a specific point in past time:
o Je suis allé au centre commercial hier. (I went to the mall yesterday.)
• To express a specific action or event that was repeated for a stated number of
o Je suis allé au centre commercial deux fois. (I went to the mall twice.)

The following words and expressions often require the use of the passé composé because they
specify a definite past time:

• l'année passée (last year)

• avant-hier (the day before yesterday)
• d'abord (at first)
• enfin (finally)
• ensuite (then, next)
• l'été passé/l'hiver passé (last summer/last winter)
• finalement (finally)
• une fois (one time)
• hier (yesterday)
• hier soir (last night)
• l'autre jour (the other day)
• ce jour-là (that day)
• un jour (one day)
• le mois passé ( dernier) (last month)
• la semaine passée ( dernière) (last week)
• soudain (suddenly)
• tout à coup (suddenly)

Passé simple
The passé simple is used in the same manner as the passé composé; however, it is not used
conversationally or in informal writing.

Use the imparfait:

• To describe continuous, ongoing, habitual, or repeated actions or events in the past

(which may or may not have been completed):
o J'allais au centre commercial tous les jours. (I used to [would] go to the mall
every day.)
• To describe what was going on when something else happened:
o J'allais au centre commercial quand Marie m'a téléphoné. (I was going to the
mall when Marie called me.)
• To describe a person, place, thing, or state of mind:
o Le centre commercial était magnifique. (The mall was magnificent.)
• To express the day, the month, or the time of day:
o C'était vendredi. (It was Friday.)
o C'était le mois de juin. (It was June.)
o Il était midi. (It was noon.)
• With depuis + an expression of time to describe an action or event that began in
the past and continued for some time in the past:
o Depuis combien de temps habitait-il à Paris avant son mariage? (How long had
he been living in Paris before his marriage?)
o Il y habitait depuis deux ans. (He had been living there for two years.)
• With il y avait (or cela [ça] faisait … que) + expression of time + que to describe an
action or event that began in the past and continued for some time in the past:
o Combien de temps y avait-il qu'il habitait à Paris avant son mariage?
o Ça faisait combien de temps qu'il habitait à Paris avant son mariage?
o How long had he been living in Paris before his marriage?
o Il y avait deux ans qu'il y habitait.
o Ça faisait deux ans qu'il y habitait.
o He had been living there for two years.

The following words and expressions often require the use of the imperfect because they
usually imply repetitious or habitual past actions:

• autrefois (formerly)
• chaque jour ( semaine, mois, année) (each [every] day [week, month, year])
• de temps à autre (from time to time)
• de temps en temps (from time to time)
• d'habitude (usually)
• d'ordinaire (usually, generally)
• en ce temps-là (at that time)
• en général (generally)
• fréquemment (frequently)
• généralement (generally)
• habituellement (habitually)
• parfois (sometimes)
• quelquefois (sometimes)
• souvent (often)
• toujours (always)
• tous les jours (mois) (every day [month])
• tout le temps (all the time)

Verbs that indicate a state of mind in the past are generally used in the imperfect. When the
state of mind occurred at a specific time in the past, however, the passé composé is used:

• aimer (to like, to love)

• croire (to believe)
• désirer (to desire)
• espérer (to hope)
• être (to be)
• penser (to think)
• pouvoir (to be able to)
• préférer (to prefer)
• regretter (to regret, to be sorry)
• savoir (to know [how])
• vouloir (to want)

Here are two examples of the imparfait used correctly:

• Je ne voulais pas aller au gymnase. (I didn't want to go to the gym.)

• Je n'ai pas voulu aller au gymnase hier soir. (I didn't want to go to the gym last night.)

Passé antérieur and plus-que-parfait

The passé antérieur and the plus-que-parfait both express “had” + past participle. Remember
that the passé antérieur is seen only in formal writing and is never used conversationally.
Normally, it may not be used with any tense other than the passé simple. The passé antérieur
indicates that an action has taken place and was completed once or a specific number of times.
The plus-que-parfait is used when an action has recurred an unspecified number of times or
may be considered habitual:

One particular occurrence:

• Aussitôt que le président eut signé le document, sa secrétaire l'emporta. (As soon as the
president had signed the document, his secretary took it away.)

A customary occurrence:

• Aussitôt que le président avait signé un document, sa secrétaire l'emportait. (As soon as
the president had signed a document, his secretary would take it away.)

Future Tenses
Introduction to Future Tenses
The near future expresses what is going to take place or what the subject is going to do in the
not-too-distant future. In some instances, the present tense is used to imply a near future event
or action. In other instances, the verb aller (to go) is used to speak about something that will
happen soon.

The future tense expresses what will happen or what the subject will do at some time in the
future. The future tense is also used after conjunctions of time to refer to future actions.

The futur antérieur is the compound form of the future tense and expresses what shall or will
have been entirely completed at a given time or what will have been completed before another
future action takes place.

The Near Future

Events or actions that will take place in the immediate future may be expressed in the following

• By using the present:

o Je te rappelle dans cinq minutes. (I'll call you back in five minutes.)
• By using the conjugated form of the verb aller (je vais, tu vas, il va, nous allons,
vous allez, ils vont) + an infinitive to express what the subject is going to do:
o Je vais te téléphoner à huit heures. (I am going to call you at eight o'clock.)

Negating the near future

In a negative sentence, put the negative expression around the conjugated form of aller:

• Ils ne vont pas nous attendre. (They aren't going to wait for us.)
• Je ne vais jamais fumer. (I'm never going to smoke.)

Questions in the near future

In an inverted question, invert the conjugated form of aller and the subject pronoun and join
them with a hyphen:

• Vas-tu sortir ce soir? (Are you going out tonight?)

• Vont-ils aller au musée? (Are they going to go to the museum?)

To negate an inverted question, put the negative expression around the entire inverted form:

• Ne vas-tu jamais visiter la France? (Aren't you ever going to visit France?)

The Future Tense

The future tense is used to express a future action or state, that is, what will happen in a future

Future tense of regular verbs

The future tense of regular verbs is formed by adding the endings shown in Table 1 .

TABLE 1 The Future of Regular Verbs

Subject Ending -er Verbs -ir Verbs -re Verbs
je -ai jouerai finirai rendrai
tu -as joueras finiras rendras
il/elle/on -a jouera finira rendra
nous -ons jouerons finirons rendrons
vous -ez jouerez finirez rendrez
ils/elles/on -ont joueront finiront rendront
Note that the ending for the je, tu, il, and ils form is the present tense of avoir. The nous form is
formed by adding -ons; the vous form is formed by adding -ez.

Note the following about forming the future tense of regular verbs:

• Endings are added to the complete infinitive of -er and -ir verbs.
• For -re verbs, drop the final e before adding the appropriate future ending:
o rendre: ils rendront
• For -er verbs, if the stem has two consecutive pronounced consonants before -er,
the e of the -er infinitive ending is pronounced:
o parler: il parlera
• If the stem has one pronounced consonant before -er, the e of the -er infinitive is
o diner: nous dînerons

Spelling changes in the future tense

All verbs that require spelling changes form the future in the same way as regular verbs:
infinitive + future ending. The following are exceptions to this rule:

• For verbs ending in -yer (except envoyer, which is irregular and has enverr- as its
stem), change y to i in all forms of the future tense. Verbs ending in -ayer may or
may not make this change:
o je netto ierai, nous netto ierons (I will clean, we will clean)
o j'essa ierai or j'essa yerai (I will try)
• For verbs ending in e + consonant + - er (but not é + consonant + -er), change the
silent e before the infinitive ending to é in all forms of the future tense:
o tu am éneras, vous am énerez (you will bring)
• With appeler and jeter, double the consonant in the future tense:
o vous appellerez (you will call)
o vous jetterez (you will throw)

Future Tense of Irregular Verbs

Verbs that are irregular in the future (and the derivatives of these verbs) have future stems (verb
forms to which endings are added) ending in -r or -rr. Add the future endings to these stems to
get the correct future form, as shown in the following list.

Infinitive Future Stem

aller (to go) ir-
apercevoir (to notice) apercevr-
asseoir (to seat) assiér- or assoir-
avoir (to have) aur-
courir (to run) courr-
cueillir (to pick) cueiller-
devoir (to have to) devr-
envoyer (to send) enverr-
ětre (to be) ser-
faire (to make, to do) fer-
falloir (to be necessary) faudr-
mourir (to die) mourr-
pleuvoir (to rain) pleuvr-
pouvoir (to be able to) pourr-
recevoir (to receive) recevr-
savoir (to know) saur-
tenir (to hold) tiendr-
valoir (to be worth) vaudr-
venir (to come) viendr-

voir (to see) verr-
vouloir (to wish, to want) voudr-

For example:

• J'irai en ville cet après-midi. (I'll go downtown this afternoon.)

• Tu recevras une surprise. (You'll receive a surprise.)

Irregularities in the future also occur in related verbs:

• Je te reverrai demain. (I'll see you tomorrow.)

Negating in the future tense

To negate a sentence in the future, simply put ne and the negative word around the conjugated

• Nous ne saurons pas tout de suite les résultats. (We won't know the results
• Il ne fera rien demain. (He won't do anything tomorrow.)

Remember that pronouns remain before the conjugated verb:

• Elle ne t'enverra pas le paquet avant mercredi. (She won't send you the package before

Questions in the future

To form a question using inversion, reverse the order of the subject pronoun and the verb and
join them with a hyphen:

• Fera-t-il une partie de tennis ce matin? (Will he play a game of tennis this morning?)
• Travaillerez-vous pendant le week-end? (Will you work on the weekend?)

To negate an inverted question, put ne and the negative expression around the inverted form.
Remember that all object and adverbial pronouns must remain before the conjugated form of
the verb:

• Ne lui direz-vous pas la vérité? (Won't you tell him [her] the truth?)
• N'y iront-elles pas? (Won't they go there?)

Uses of the future

Note the following about when and when not to use the future in French:

• Be careful to distinguish “will” as used to form the future and the verb vouloir (to
wish, to want), which translates as “will” when it expresses “willingness”:
o Je t'aiderai. (I will help you.)
o Veux-tu m'aider? (Will you [do you wish, are you willing to] help me?)
• The future tense is NOT used in French in a subordinate clause requiring the
o Je doute qu'il réussisse. (I doubt he will succeed.)
• When the main clause is in the present tense, the future or the present may be used
after croire que (to believe that), penser que (to think that), savoir que (to know
that), espérer que (to hope that), and ne pas savoir si (to not know if) to express a
future action:
o Je pense qu'il vient.
o Je pense qu'il viendra.
o I think he is coming (is going to come, will come).
• The future may be used conversationally to express probability or supposition,
especially with avoir and ětre:
o Elle ne mange rien. Elle sera malade. (She isn't eating anything. She must be
o Il crie de toutes ses forces. Il aura peur. (He's screaming at the top of his lungs.
He must be afraid.)
• The future tense is used after the following conjunctions of time when the verb in
the main clause is in the future tense, even if the present tense is used in English:

quand, lorsque, au moment où (when)

o Je lui parlerai quand ( lorsque, au moment où) il arrivera. (I will speak to him
when he arrives.)

dès que, aussitôt que (as soon as)

o Dès que ( Aussitôt que) tu me téléphoneras, je viendrai te chercher. (As soon as

you call me, I'll come get you.)

pendant que, tandis que (while)

o Je lirai pendant que ( tandis que) mon mari jouera au golf. (I'll read while my
husband is playing golf.)

The Futur Antérieur

The futur antérieur (future perfect) is used to express a future action or event that will be
completed before another future action or to describe a future action or event that will have
been completed in the future.

Forming the futur antérieur

The futur antérieur is formed by using the future tense of the helping verb ( avoir or ětre) + the
past participle of the action being performed. The futur antérieur tells what the subject will or
shall have done:

• Ils auront fini avant mon départ. (They will have finished before my departure.)
• Nous serons déjà partis quand vous arriverez. (We will have already left when you
• Les enfants se seront déjà couchés quand leurs parents reviendront. (The children will
have already gone to bed when their parents return.)
• Demain à cette heure, il sera revenu de son voyage. (Tomorrow at this time, he will
have come back from his trip.)

Negating the futur antérieur

To negate a sentence in the futur antérieur, simply put ne and the negative word around the
conjugated helping verb:

• Je n'aurai pas fini mon travail avant minuit. (I will not have finished my work before
• Il n'aura rien accompli. (He will have accomplished nothing.)

Remember that pronouns remain before the conjugated verb:

• Je n'y serai pas allé avant lundi. (I will not have gone there before Monday.)

Questions in the futur antérieur

To form a question using inversion, reverse the order of the subject pronoun and the verb and
join them with a hyphen. Use -t- to link two vowels:

• Sera-t-elle revenue avant la fin de mai? (Will she have returned before the end of

To negate an inverted question, put ne and the negative expression around the inverted form.
Remember that all object and adverbial pronouns must remain before the conjugated form of
the verb:

• N'aura-t-il pas fini le travail? (Won't he have finished the work?)

• Ne l'aura-t-il pas fini? (Won't he have finished it?)

Uses of the futur antérieur

The futur antérieur is used after the conjunctions quand (when), lorsque (when), aussitôt que
(as soon as), dès que (as soon as), and après que (after) when the future is used in the main

• Après que nos invités seront partis, nous nous coucherons. (As soon as our guests have
left, we will go to bed.)

The futur antérieur is also used to express probability or supposition in the past:

• Il n'est pas venu. Il aura oublié notre rendez-vous. (He didn't come. He must have
forgotten our appointment.)

• Elle est en retard. Il sera arrivé quelque chose. (She's late. Something must have

The Conditional
The conditional is used to express what would happen given certain events or actions.

Forming the conditional of regular verbs

The conditional of regular verbs is formed using the same stem (the infinitive) that is used for
the future tense and by adding the imperfect endings shown in Table 1 . Note that for - re
regular verbs, the final -e from the infinitive ending is dropped before adding the conditional

TABLE 1 The Conditional of Regular Verbs

Subject Ending -er Verbs -ir Verbs -re Verbs
je -ais jouerais finirais rendrais
tu -ais jouerais finirais rendrais
il/elle/on -ait jouerait finirait rendrait
nous -ions jouerions finirions rendrions
vous -iez joueriez finiriez rendriez
ils/elles/on -aient joueraient finiraient rendraient

Forming the conditional of irregular verbs

For irregular verbs and verbs with spelling changes, you simply add conditional endings to the
stems used for the future, as shown in the following list.

Infinitive Future Stem

acheter (to buy) achèter-
aller (to go) ir-
apercevoir (to notice) apercevr-
appeler (to call) appeller-
asseoir (to seat) assiér- or assoir-
avoir (to have) aur-
courir (to run) courr-
cueillir (to pick) cueiller-
devoir (to have to) devr-

ennuyer (to bother) ennuier-
envoyer (to send) enverr-
être (to be) ser-
faire (to make, to do) fer-
falloir (to be necessary) faudr-
jeter (to throw) jetter-
mourir (to die) mourr-
payer (to pay) paier- or payer-
pleuvoir (to rain) pleuvr-
pouvoir (to be able to) pourr-
recevoir (to receive) recevr-
savoir (to know) saur-
tenir (to hold) tiendr-
valoir (to be worth) vaudr-
venir (to come) viendr-
voir (to see) verr-
vouloir (to wish, to want) voudr-

Irregularities in the conditional also occur in verbs derived from the ones listed above:

• Je le rappellerais. I would call him back.

Negating in the conditional

To negate a sentence in the conditional, simply put ne and the negative word around the
conjugated verb:

• Je ne défendrais pas cet homme. (I wouldn't defend that man.)

• Il ne ferait jamais ce travail. (He would never do that work.)

Remember that pronouns remain before the conjugated verb:

• Elle ne le verrait plus. (She would never see him again.)

Questions in the conditional

To form a question using inversion, reverse the order of the subject pronoun and the verb, and
join them with a hyphen:

• Visiterais-tu la Chine? (Would you visit China?)

To negate an inverted question, put ne and the negative expression around the inverted form.
Remember that all object and adverbial pronouns must remain before the conjugated form of
the verb:

• N'y travailleriez-vous pas? (Wouldn't you work there?)

• Ne la consulterait-il pas? (Wouldn't he consult her?)

Uses of the conditional

Note the following about when and when not to use the conditional in French:

• Be careful to distinguish between “would” as used in the conditional and “would” as

used in the imperfect to express “used to”:
o J'irais à Paris. (I would go to Paris.)
o J'allais fréquemment à Paris. (I would [used to] go to Paris frequently.)
• Be careful to distinguish between “would” as used to form the conditional and the verb
vouloir in the imperfect or in the passé composé to express “would” in the sense of “to
be willing”:
o Sous ces conditions, il signerait le contrat. (Under those conditions, he would
sign the contract.)
o Il ne voulait pas signer le contrat or Il n'a pas voulu signer le contrat. (He
wouldn't [wasn't willing to] sign the contract.)
• The conditional of the verb pouvoir (to be able to) is used when “could” means “should
be able to”:
o Il pourrait gagner. (He could [should be able to] win.)
ƒ Il ne pouvait pas gagner or Il n'a pas pu gagner. (He couldn't [wasn't
able] to win.)
• The conditional is used after the following conjunctions of time when the verb in the
main clause is in the conditional, even if English uses the past tense:
o quand, lorsque, au moment où (when)
o dès que, aussitôt que (as soon as)
o pendant que, tandis que (while)
o Elle lirait l'article lorsqu' ( quand, au moment où) elle aurait le temps. (She
would read the article when she had the time.)
o Dès que ( Aussitôt que) vous le lui expliqueriez, elle le comprendrait. (As soon
as you explained it to her, she would understand it.)
• The conditional is used after au cas où (in case) even if English uses the present:
o Je ne sortirai pas au cas où il téléphonerait. (I won't go out in case he calls.)
• The conditional is used to soften a request, a desire, or a demand:
o Pourrais-tu m'aider? (Could you help me?)
o J'aimerais voyager. (I would like to travel.)
o Je voudrais vous parler. (I would like to speak to you.)
• The conditional is used to express a possible action or condition in the present:
o Quel temps ferait-il? Il ferait froid. (What could the weather be like? It could be
• The conditional may be used by reporters and journalists to describe an action that is
unsure or not known to be true:
o Le président voyagerait en Afrique. (It is rumored [alleged, said] that the
president will travel to Africa.)

The Conditionnel Passé
The conditionnel passé (past conditional) is used to express what would have taken place in the
past had some other action, event, or situation occurred.

Forming the conditionnel passé

The conditionnel passé is formed by using the conditional of the helping verb ( avoir or être) +
the past participle of the action being performed. Conditionnel passé observes the same rules of
agreement as the passé composé. The past conditional tells what the subject would have done:

• Je l'aurais salué, mais je ne l'ai pas vu. (I would have greeted him, but I didn't see him.)
• Elles seraient arrivées à l'heure, mais leur voiture était en panne. (They would have
arrived on time, but their car broke down.)
• Anne se serait déjà réveillée, mais son réveil n'a pas marché. (Anne would have already
awakened, but her alarm clock didn't work.)

Negating the conditionnel passé

To negate a sentence in the conditionnel passé, simply put ne and the negative word around the
conjugated helping verb:

• Même avec plus de temps, il n'aurait jamais fini cet examen. (Even with more time, he
would never have finished that test.)
• Je n'aurais plus dansé parce que j'avais mal aux pieds. (I wouldn't have danced any
more because my feet hurt.)

Remember that pronouns remain before the conjugated verb:

• Ces chaussures? Il ne les aurait jamais achetées. (Those shoes? He never would have
bought them.)

Questions in the conditionnel passé

To form a question using inversion, reverse the order of the subject pronoun and the verb, and
join them with a hyphen:

• Serait-elle venue sans son mari? (Would she have come without her husband?)

To negate an inverted question, put ne and the negative expression around the inverted form.
Remember that all object and adverbial pronouns must remain before the conjugated form of
the verb:

• N'auriez-vous pas aidé ces gens? (Wouldn't you have helped those people?)

Uses of the conditionnel passé

Like the conditional, the conditionnel passé is used to express a possible action in the past:

• Serait-il arrivé pendant mon absence? (Could he have arrived during my absence?)

Also like the conditional, the conditionnel passé is used by reporters and journalists to describe
an action that is unsure:

• Deux accidents de voiture auraient eu lieu hier. (It is reported [alleged, rumored, said]
that two car accidents took place yesterday.)

Conditional Sentences
A conditional sentence is made up of a si clause (also known as a condition clause) and a result,
or main, clause. Only four tenses of the indicative mood (the mood that states a fact) may
normally be used in French in the si clause: the present, the passé composé, the imperfect, and
the plus-que-parfait. The tense used in the main clause is the same in both French and English.
In a conditional sentence, si generally means “if.”

Real conditions
A condition that describes what is possible or likely in the present or past is called a “real”

• Si tu me téléphones, je te parlerai. (If you call me, I will speak to you.)

The sequence of tenses for a real condition is shown in Table 1 .

TABLE 1 Sequence of Tenses for Real Conditions

The Tense in the Si The Tense/Mood in the Main
The Condition Clause Clause
A real possibility in the present Present Future (perfect) Imperative
or future Present (command)
The same tense as one would use in
A real possibility in the past Passé composé English

In the examples below, note that either clause may begin the sentence, but in the si clause, the
subject must be followed by the present or the passé composé. Note that si elides with il or ils
to become s'il and s'ils, respectively, but does not elide with elle ( si elle) or elles ( si elles). Si
followed by the present:

• Si j'ai soif, je bois de l'eau. (If I'm thirsty, I drink water.)

• Tu réussiras, si tu étudies beaucoup. (You will succeed, if you study a lot.)
• S'il ne commence pas immédiatement, il n'aura pas fini avant midi. (If he doesn't start
immediately, he will not have finished before noon.)
• Si je suis en retard, attends-moi. (If I'm late, wait for me.)

Si followed by the passé composé:

• Le vol n'est pas encore arrivé, si j'ai bien entendu. (The flight hasn't arrived yet, if I
heard correctly.)
• Si j'ai bien compris, elle a changé d'avis. (If I understood correctly, she changed her
• S'il s'est trompé, il perdra beaucoup d'argent. (If he made a mistake, he will lose a lot
of money.)
• Elle ne savait pas les détails, si elle vous a dit cela. (She didn't know the details, if she
told you that.)
• Si tu l'as appris, n'en dis rien. (If you heard about it, don't say anything.)

Contrary-to-fact conditions
A conditional sentence that describes a situation or event that is unlikely is called “contrary-to-
fact” or “unreal”:

You might say the following if you're not expecting snow:

• S'il neigeait, je ne sortirais pas. (If it snowed, I wouldn't go out.)

The sequence of tenses for a contrary-to-fact condition is shown in Table 2 .

TABLE 2 Sequence of Tenses for Contrary-to-Fact Conditions

The Tense in
The Condition the Si Clause The Tense/Mood in the Main Clause
Unrealized, unreal, contrary-to-
fact, or unlikely in the present or Generally the conditional, but may be
future Imperfect the same as in English
Generally the past conditional, but
Unrealized, unreal, contrary-to- may be the same as the tense used in
fact, or unlikely in the past Plus-que-parfait English

Once again, either clause may begin the sentence, but in the si clause, the subject must be
followed by the imperfect or the plus-que-parfait.

Si followed by the imperfect:

• Si j'étais riche, je m'achèterais un château. (If I were rich, I'd buy myself a castle.)
• Je t'enverrais de l'argent, si tu en avais besoin. (I would send you money, if you needed
• S'il avait eu le temps, il t'aurait aidé. (If he had had the time, he would have helped
• J'aurais fait un gâteau, si j'avais su que tu venais. (I would have baked a cake, if I had
known you were coming.)

In conditional sentences, si always means “if.” When si means “whether,” it may be followed
by any tense, just as in English:

• Savez-vous si elle travaillera demain? (Do you know if she will work tomorrow?)
• Je ne savais pas s'il le ferait. (I didn't know whether he would do it.)

The Subjunctive
Introduction to the Subjunctive

The subjunctive is an indispensable means of expression in French. Its use is much more
prevalent in French than in English, where an infinitive is often used instead. The subjunctive is
a mood used to express an action that is dependent on a subjective idea, opinion, or condition.

The subjunctive is used after verbs and impersonal expressions showing opinion, doubt, need,
want, emotion, denial, disbelief, preference, desire, permission, prohibition; after a request or a
command; after certain conjunctions; after superlative expressions; after certain indefinites; in
relative clauses; and in third-person commands.

The present subjunctive is used to express both present and future time, while the past or
perfect subjunctive is used to express an action that has already taken place. Although the
imperfect and pluperfect subjunctive do exist, they have disappeared from the spoken language
and are used and seen only in very formal writing.

The Present Subjunctive

The present subjunctive is used much more frequently in French than in English (where it has
been largely replaced by the indicative) and, therefore, needs special attention.

Note: Here are a few examples of the subjunctive in English:

• I demand that he see a doctor.

• If the apple were ripe, it would be delicious.
• She looks as if she were sick.

Forming the present subjunctive

The present subjunctive of regular verbs and of many irregular verbs is formed by dropping the
- ent from the third person plural ( ils/ elles) form of the present tense and adding the endings
shown in Table 1 .

TABLE 1 The Present Subjunctive of Regular Verbs

Subject Ending -er Verbs -ir Verbs -re Verbs
parl ent finiss ent vend ent
je -e parl e finiss e vend e
tu -es parl es finiss es vend es
il/elle/on -e parl e finiss e vend e
nous -ions parl ions finiss ions vend ions
vous -iez parl iez finiss iez vend iez
ils/elles -ent parl ent finiss ent vend ent

Some irregular verbs and some verbs with spelling changes use two different stems (the verb
form to which endings are added) to form the present subjunctive:

• The ils stem of the present tense for je, tu, il/elle/on, ils/elles.
• The nous form of the present tense for nous and vous.

The following list gives examples of verbs that use two different stems:

Verb Ils Stem Nous Stem

apercevoir aperçoiv- apercev-
appeler appell- appel-
acheter achèt- achet-
boire boiv- buv-
croire croi- croy-
devoir doiv- dev-
ennuyer ennui- ennuy-
jeter jett- jet-
manger mange- mang-
mourir meur- mour-
préférer préfèr- préfér-
prendre prenn- pren-
recevoir reçoiv- recev-
tenir tienn- ten-
venir vienn- ven-
voir voi- voy-

The following verbs are completely irregular and must be memorized:

• Verbs with one stem:

o faire: je fasse, tu fasses, il fasse, nous fassions, vous fassiez, ils fassent
o falloir: il faille
o pleuvoir: il pleuve
o pouvoir: je puisse, tu puisses, il puisse, nous puissions, vous puissiez, ils
o savoir: je sache, tu saches, il sache, nous sachions, vous sachiez, ils sachent
• Verbs with two stems:
o aller: j'aille, tu ailles, il aille, nous allions, vous alliez, il aillent
o avoir: j'aie, tu aies, il ait, nous ayons, vous ayez, ils aient
o être: je sois, tu sois, il soit, nous soyons, vous soyez, ils soient
o valoir: je vaille, tu vailles, il vaille, nous valions, vous valiez, ils vaillent
o vouloir: je veuille, tu veuilles, il veuille, nous voulions, vous vouliez, ils veuillent

Using the present subjunctive

The present subjunctive refers to actions in the present or the future. For example:

• Il est nécessaire que je finisse mon travail. (It's necessary that I finish my work.)

The subjunctive is needed when all of the following conditions are met:

• The sentence contains two different clauses (a dependent and a main clause) with two
different subjects.
• The clauses are joined by que (that) or, in special instances, by qui (who).
• One of the clauses shows a wish, want, need, necessity, emotion, doubt, or denial, or
one of the clauses requires the subjunctive in some other respect (see the corresponding
sections below).

After impersonal expressions

The subjunctive is used after impersonal expressions that show doubt, emotion, need, or

• Il faut que tu ailles chez le docteur. (It is necessary that you go to the doctor.)

The expressions below are all followed by que and require the subjunctive in the clause that

• il est absurde (it is absurd)

• il est amusant (it is amusing)
• il est bon (it is good)
• il est curieux (it is curious)
• il est dommage (it is a pity)
• il est douteux (it is doubtful)
• il est essentiel (it is essential)
• il est étonnant (it is amazing)
• il est étrange (it is strange)
• il est gentil (it is nice)
• il est impératif (it is imperative)
• il est important (it is important)
• il est impossible (it is impossible)
• il est indispensable (it is indispensable)
• il est injuste (it is unfair)
• il est intéressant (it is interesting)
• il est ironique (it is ironic)
• il est juste (it is fair)
• il est naturel (it is natural)
• il est nécessaire (it is necessary)
• il est normal (it is normal)
• il est possible (it is possible)
• il est préférable (it is preferable)
• il est rare (it is rare)
• il est regrettable (it is regrettable)
• il est surprenant (it is surprising)
• il est temps (it is time)
• il est urgent (it is urgent)
• il est utile (it is useful)
• il convient (it is fitting)
• il faut (it is necessary)
• il semble (it seems)
• il suffit (it is enough)
• il vaut mieux (it is better)

For many impersonal expressions, c'est may be used in place of il est: C'est étrange qu'il ne
vienne pas. (It's strange that he isn't coming.)

After verbs and expressions of doubt, denial, and disbelief

The subjunctive is used after verbs and expressions of doubt, denial, and disbelief. When doubt
is negated, certainty or probability exists and the indicative tenses (present, passé composé,
imperfect, future) are used. Many verbs and expressions show certainty and probability. When
these verbs and expressions, shown in Table 2 , are used in the negative or the interrogative,
they imply uncertainty or doubt and require the subjunctive.

TABLE 2 The Subjunctive and the Indicative after Impersonal Expressions

Expressions of Certainty: Use the Expressions of Uncertainty: Use the
Subjunctive after Them Indicative after Them
je sais (I know) je doute (I doubt)
je ne sais pas (I do not know)
je suis sûr( e) (I am sure) je ne suis pas sûr( e) (I am not sure)
je suis certain( e) (I am certain) je ne suis pas certain( e) (I am not certain)
il est certain (it is certain) il n'est pas certain (it is not certain)
il est douteux (it is doubtful)
il est clair (it is clear) il n'est pas clair (it is not clear)
il est évident (it is evident) il n'est pas évident (it is not evident)
il est exact (it is exact) il n'est pas exact (it is not exact)
il paraît (it appears) il semble (it seems)
il est vrai (it is true) il n'est pas vrai (it is not true)
il est sûr (it is sure) il n'est pas sûr (it is not sure)

il est probable (it is probable) il est improbable (it is improbable)
il est possible (it is possible)
il est impossible (it is impossible) il se peut (it is possible)

• Subjunctive is used: Je ne suis pas sûre qu'elle parte en vacances. (I'm not sure that
she will be going away on vacation.)
• Future tense is used: Je suis sûre qu'elle partira en vacances. (I'm sure that she will be
going away on vacation.)

The subjunctive expresses a potential action whose realization is in doubt or is uncertain. The
desired purpose or end may never be met. There is a distinct difference in mental outlook
between the indicative il est probable (it is probable) and the subjunctive il est possible (it is

• Il est probable qu'il vendra sa voiture. (It is probable that he will sell his car.)
• Il est possible qu'il vende sa voiture. (It is possible that he will sell his car.)

That same difference exists between the indicative il paraît (it appears) and the subjunctive il
semble (it seems):

• Il paraît que tu sais la réponse. (It appears that you know the answer.)
• Il semble que tu saches la réponse. (It seems that you know the answer.)

After declarative verbs or verbs of opinion or knowledge—such as penser (to think), croire (to
believe), espérer (to hope), affirmer (to affirm), assurer (to assure), remarquer (to notice), and
estimer (to esteem)—the indicative or the subjunctive is selected depending on the degree of
certainty or uncertainty that the speaker wishes to convey or on the speaker's attitude toward
the statement contained in the clause: If the action is viewed as potentially happening, use the
subjunctive, and if it is an accomplished fact, use the indicative.

Used affirmatively, these verbs of opinion or knowledge usually require the indicative because
they show belief, conviction, or knowledge on the part of the speaker: Je crois qu'elle recevra
le prix (I believe she'll receive the prize). Used negatively or interrogatively, these verbs
usually (but not always) take the subjunctive because they convey doubt or uncertainty:

• The speaker has no doubt, so the indicative is used: Pensez-vous qu'elle peut
réussir? (Do you think she can succeed?)
• The speaker has doubts, so the subjunctive is used: Pensez-vous qu'elle puisse
réussir? (Do you think she can succeed?)

After a wish or a command

The subjunctive is used in the clause following verbs that express a wish, request, command,
permission, prohibition, preference, or desire. For example:

• Mon père défend que nous allions voir ce film. (My father forbids us to see that film.)
• Il préfère que nous fassions nos devoirs. (He prefers that we do our homework.)

Here is a list of such verbs:

• aimer mieux (to prefer)

• commander (to order)
• conseiller (to advise)
• consentir (to consent)
• demander (to ask)
• défendre (to forbid)
• désirer (to desire)
• empêcher (to prevent)
• exiger (to demand)
• insister (to insist)
• interdire (to forbid)
• ordonner (to order)
• permettre (to permit)
• préférer (to prefer)
• souhaiter (to wish)
• suggérer (to suggest)
• vouloir (to want)

After adjectives, nouns, verbs, and expressions of emotion and feeling

The subjunctive is used after adjectives, nouns, verbs, and expressions of emotion and feeling.

To express emotions using adjectives, use the subject pronoun + être (conjugated) + adjective +
que + the subjunctive:

• Il est ravi que vous veniez le voir. (He is delighted that you are coming to see him.)

The following adjectives follow the verb être (to be):

• content ( e) (content)
• désolé ( e) (sorry)
• embarrassé (embarrassed)
• enchanté ( e) , ravi( e) (delighted)
• ennuyé ( e) (annoyed)
• étonné ( e) (astonished)
• fâché ( e) (angry)
• fier ( fière) (proud)
• flatté ( e) (flattered)
• furieux ( euse) (furious)
• gêné ( e) (bothered)
• heureux ( euse) (happy)
• irrité ( e) , énervé( e) (irritated)
• malheureux ( euse) (unhappy)
• mécontent ( e) (displeased)
• surpris ( e) (surprised)
• triste (sad)

The following nouns follow the verb avoir (to have):

• honte (shame)
• peur (afraid)

For example:

• Il a peur qu'elle le laisse. (He is afraid she will leave him.)

The following verbs require the subjunctive:

• craindre (to fear)

• regretter (to be sorry)
• s'étonner (to be astonished, to be surprised)
• se fâcher (to become angry)
• se réjouir (to rejoice, to be happy)

For example:

• Elle s'étonne qu'il soit si intelligent. (She is astonished that he is so intelligent.)

After certain conjunctions

Conjunctions are words that connect and relate words, phrases, and clauses within a sentence.
Conjunctions are invariable—their spelling never changes. The subjunctive is used after
conjunctions that express the following:

• Time: jusqu'à ce que (until), avant que (before), en attendant que (until), aussi loin que
(far from)
o Tu partiras avant que je puisse te dire “au revoir.” (You're going to leave
before I can say goodbye to you.)
• Purpose or result: pour que (in order that), afin que (in order that), de manière que (so
that), de sorte que (so that), de façon que (so that)
o Il crie pour que tu l'entendes. (He screams so that you can hear him.)
• Concession: bien que (although), quoique (although), encore que (although), malgré
que (although)
o Quoiqu'elle soit à la maison, elle ne répond pas au téléphone. (Although she's at
home, she doesn't answer the phone.)
• Condition: à condition que (provided that), pourvu que (provided that), à moins que
o Je t'aiderai à condition que tu fasses attention. (I'll help you provided that you
pay attention.)
• Fear: de crainte que (for fear that), de peur que (for fear that)
o Le bébé pleure de crainte que le docteur ne lui fasse mal. (The baby cries for
fear that the doctor will hurt him.)
• Negation: sans que (without)
o Il est arrivé sans qu'elle le sache. (He arrived without her knowing it.)

The conjunctions à moins que, avant que, de peur que, de crainte que, de manière que, and de
sorte que may be followed by ne before the verb in an affirmative sentence. Ne + another
negative word are used in the negative:

• Il court vite de peur que l' homme ne le batte. (He runs quickly for fear that the man will
beat him.)

The following conjunctions take the indicative:

• après que (after)

• aussitôt que (as soon as)
• dès que (as soon as)
• parce que (because)
• pendant que (while)
• peut-être que (perhaps)
• puisque (since)
• tandis que (while, whereas)

For example:

• Je l'aime parce qu'il est très gentil. (I like him because he is very nice.)

After superlative expressions

The subjunctive is used after superlative expressions and l'unique (the only), le seul (the only),
le premier (the first), le dernier (the last), and ne … que (only) when these expressions show
opinion, emotion, or exaggeration:

• C'est la meilleure pièce qu'on puisse voir. (That's the best play you can see.)
• Il n'y a qu'une personne qui sache jouer de la clarinette. (There is only one person who
knows how to play the clarinet.)

After certain indefinites

The subjunctive is used after certain indefinite words:

• de quelque manière que (however)

• où que (wherever)
• quel ( le)( s) que (whatever)
• quelque … que (however)
• qui que (whoever)
• quoi que (whatever)
• si … que (however)
• soit que … soit que (whether … or)

For example:

• Soit que tu viennes, soit que tu ne viennes pas, j'irai. (Whether or not you come, I'll go.)
• Quelles que soient vos intentions, il les ignorera. (Whatever your intentions may be, he
will ignore them.)

In relative clauses
The subjunctive is used in relative clauses if the person or thing mentioned in the main clause is
indefinite, nonexistent, or desired but not yet found. Compare the following sentences:

• Je cherche un mari qui soit patient. (I'm looking for a patient husband). [I may never
find one.]
• J'ai un mari qui est patient. (I have a husband who is patient.) [He exists.]
• Connaissez-vous quelqu'un qui sache parler grec? (Do you know someone who speaks
Greek?) [There may not be anyone.]
• Elle connaît quelqu'un qui sait parler grec. (She knows someone who knows how to
speak Greek.) [There is such a person.]

In third-person commands
The subjunctive is used in third-person ( il, elle, ils, elles) commands or wishes:

• Vive le président! (Long live the president!)

• Qu'elle entre! (Let her come in!)
• Qu'ils aient de la chance! (May they be lucky!)

The Past Subjunctive

The past subjunctive is formed by using the subjunctive of the helping verb ( avoir or être) +
the past participle of the action being performed. The past subjunctive is used like the passé
composé to express an action that has already taken place in the past:

• Il est regrettable qu'il n'ait pas réussi. (It is a shame that he didn't succeed.)
• Il est douteux qu'ils soient partis. (It is doubtful that they left.)
• Il est important qu'elles se soient bien amusées. (It is important that they had a very
good time.)

Imperfect and Pluperfect Subjunctive

Although these tenses are not used in speaking, it is possible that they will appear in literature.

The imperfect subjunctive is formed by dropping the final letter of the je form of the passé
simple and adding the endings shown in Table 1 .

TABLE 1 The Imperfect Subjunctive

Subject Ending -er Verbs -ir Verbs -re Verbs
parl ai fin is vend is
je -sse parl asse fin isse vend isse
tu -sses parla sses fin isses vend isses
il -ˆ t parl ât fin ît vend ît
nous -ssions parl assions fin issions vend issions

vous -ssiez parl assiez fin issiez vend issiez
ils -ssent parl assent fin issent vend issent

The pluperfect subjunctive is formed by combining the imperfect subjunctive of the helping
verb ( avoir [ eusse, eusses, eût, eussions, eussiez, eussent]) or être [ fusse, fusses, fût, fussions,
fussiez, fussent]) + the past participle of the verb denoting the action. The pluperfect
subjunctive is used in literature only when the main clause is in any other time but the present:

• Je ne croyais pas qu'il fût revenu. (I didn't think he had come back.)

Avoiding the Subjunctive

The subjunctive may be avoided in the following ways:

• If the subjects of both clauses in the sentence are exactly the same in meaning, que
is omitted and the subjunctive is replaced by the infinitive:
o J'aimerais faire du shopping. (I would like to go shopping.)


o J'aimerais que nous fassions du shopping. (I would like for us to go shopping.)

Note that the same subject pronoun can indicate different subjects and il can be

o Il faut qu'il vienne. (He must come.)

o Il doute qu'il vienne. (He [Pierre] doubts that he [Marc] will come.)


o Il doute qu'il viendra. (He [Marc] doubts that he [Marc] will come.)
• When conjunctions are used, if the subjects of the two clauses are the same, an
infinitive construction is used:
o Je lui téléphonerai avant de partir. (I'll call him before leaving.)


o Je lui téléphonerai avant que tu partes. (I'll call him before you leave.)
• A clause can be replaced with a noun:
o Tu me verras avant que je ne parte. (You will see me before I leave.)
o Tu me verras avant mon départ. (You will see me before my departure.)
• Que + clause can be replaced with à + person + de + infinitive with verbs indicating
a command, permission, or refusal of permission:
o Il permet que le garçon sorte. (He permits the boy to leave.)
o Il permet au garçon de sortir. (He permits the boy to leave.)

Indefinite Adjectives
The most commonly used indefinite adjectives are shown in the following list.

Adjective Meaning
aucun(e) any, no
autre(s) other
certain(e)(s) certain, some
chaque each, every
différent(e)(s) several, various
divers(e)(es) several, various
maint(e)(s) several, various
le (la/les) même(s) the same
n'importe no matter
plusieurs several
quelconque(s) just any
quelque(s) a little, some, a few
tel(le)(s) such, such a, like, as
tout(e)(s), tous all, every

Aucun(e) is used only in the singular and has a masculine and feminine singular form. It is used
with a noun to emphasize a negative:

• Il a travaillé sans aucun effort. (He worked without any effort.)

• Elle a accepté l'invitation sans aucune hésitation. (She accepted the invitation without
any hesitation.)
• Il n'y a aucun problème. (There is no problem.)

Unlike most French adjectives, autre comes before the noun it describes, and may or may not
be used with a definite or indefinite article:

• Donnez-moi une autre tranche de gâteau, s'il vous plaît. (Give me another piece of
cake, please.)
• Ça c'est autre chose. (That's another story.)

The plural of un autre is always d'autres:

• Il a un problème. Moi, j'ai d'autres problèmes. (He has a problem. Me, I have other
In spoken French, autre may be used to reinforce the subject pronouns nous and vous:

• Nous autres, nous partirons. (As for us, we'll leave.)

Note: The word encore may be used before un(e) to express “an additional”:

• Apportez-moi encore une tasse de café, s'il vous plaît. (Please bring me another cup of

The indefinite article un(e) is used when certain is singular. No article is required in the plural:

• Elle a un certain sourire. (She has a certain smile.)

• Une certaine Mme. Dupont vous attend. (A certain Mrs. Dupont is waiting for you.)
• Certains tableaux dans ce musée sont très beaux. (Certain pictures in that museum are
very pretty.)
• Certaines choses sont difficiles à comprendre. (Certain things are difficult to

The invariable adjective chaque is used only in the singular:

• Chaque région française a sa propre spécialité. (Each French region has its own

Différent(e)(s), divers(e)(es), and maint(e)(s)

Divers(e)(s) and maint(e)(s) generally stand alone, while différent(e)(s) may be preceded by a
preposition. The indefinite adjectives différent(e)(s) and divers(e)(es) are only used in the
plural. Maint(e)(s), which is generally used in literary works and not in everyday conversation,
may be used in the singular but is usually used in the plural.

• Diverses personnes m'ont parlé du problème. (Various people told me about the
• Il s'est trompé à différentes reprises. (He made a mistake on several different
• Je vous en ai déjà parlé maintes fois. (I have already spoken to you about it many
• Il m'a donné maints exemples. (He gave me many examples.)

Le (la)(les) même(s)
Before a noun, le (la) (les) même(s) means “the same.” After a noun, le (la) (les) même(s)
means “itself,” “very,” or “even” and can also refer to a quality that is innate. After a pronoun,
même is used without a definite article (le, la, les) and is used to identity the person.

• Nous portons les mêmes chaussures. (We're wearing the same shoes.)
• C'est toujours la même chose. (It's always the same thing.)
• Il est la générosité même. (He is generosity itself.)
• Ses parents mêmes ne la croient pas. (Even her parents don't believe her.)
• J'ai fait le travail moi-même. (I did the work myself.)

N'importe can be followed by quel(le)(s) (no matter which) to show that something doesn't

• Téléphone-moi à n'importe quelle heure. (Call me at any time.)

• N'importe quel docteur te dira la même chose. (Any doctor will tell you the same

Plusieurs is invariable and is always plural:

• Il a plusieurs amis. (He has several friends.)

Quelconque(s) is an adjective that usually follows the noun. Quelconque has more or less the
same meaning as n'importe quel(le)(s) but with some emphasis on the idea of “any sort” or
“any kind”: When quelconque precedes the noun, it has a negative connotation.

• Choisis un stylo quelconque. (Choose any pen.)

• Avez-vous une idée quelconque de l'endroit où ça se trouve? (Do you have any idea
where it may be?)

In the singular, quelque means “some” or “a little” and is mainly found in literary texts. In the
plural, it may have any of the meanings attributed to the singular and may also mean “a small
number of.”

• J'habite à quelque distance d'ici. (I live some distance from here.)

• Elle ne peut rester que quelques instants. (She can only stay a few minutes.)

Quelque can be used as an invariable adverb before a number, and means “about”:

• Il est âgé de quelque vingt ans. (He is about 20 years old.)


Tel(le)(s) means “like” or “such.” Tel(le)(s) is replaced by si in expressions containing an

• Tel père, tel fils. (Like father, like son.)

• Je n'ai jamais vu un tel film. (I never saw such a film.)
• Il faut parler français tel que les Français le parlent. (You have to speak French as the
French do.)
• As-tu jamais lu un si beau livre? (Have you ever read such a beautiful book?)

Tout (e)(s) and tous

In the singular, when tout is used without an article, it means “each,” “every,” or “any” and is
the equivalent of n'importe quel. When tout is followed by an article, it means “the whole” or
“the entire.” In certain expressions, tout means “only”:

• Nous cherchons tout indice qui pourrait nous être utile. (We are looking for any clue
that might be useful.)
• Il a mangé tout le gâteau! (He ate the whole cake!)
• Pour toute réponse, elle pleurait. (Her only answer was to cry.)

In the plural, tous and toutes mean “all” or “every”:

• Je vais en ville tous les jours. (I go to the city every day.)

• Toutes les places sont occupées. (All the seats are taken.)

Tout can be used as an adverb meaning “completely” or “entirely.” Tout (adverb) is invariable
in the following circumstances:

• When followed by a masculine adjective or past participle:

o Jean et Paul sont tout contents d'avoir terminé leurs études. (Jean and Paul are
very happy to have finished their studies.)
o Ils ont tout compris. (They understood everything.)
• Before a feminine adjective or past participle beginning with a vowel or silent
unaspirated h (no air escapes upon pronunciation):
o Elle est tout heureuse. (She is very [extremely] happy.)
o Elle a tout entendu. (She heard everything.)
• When followed by another adverb:
o Continuez tout droit. (Continue to go completely straight.)

Tout (adverb) must agree in gender and number with a feminine adjective beginning with a
consonant or an aspirate h (in which air escapes upon pronunciation):

• Toute petite, elle aimait la montagne. (As a small child, she loved the mountains.)

Indefinite Pronouns
The most commonly used indefinite pronouns are shown in the following list.

Pronoun Meaning
aucun(e) any, no one, none
autre(s) other(s), other one(s)
autrui others
certain(e)(s) certain one(s), some
chacun(e) each one, everyone
grand-chose much
le (la/les) même(s) the same one(s)
n'importe qui anyone
n'importe quoi anything
nul no one
on we, you, they, people, one
personne no one
plusieurs several
quelqu'un(e) someone, anyone
quelques-un(e)s some, a few
quelque chose (m.) something, anything
quiconque anyone
qui que ce soit who(m)ever
quoi que ce soit whatever
rien (ne) nothing
tel(le) designates an undetermined person
tout, tous all, everything, anything

As a pronoun, aucun(e) may stand alone or be followed by de + noun or pronoun + ne:

• Je n'ai lu aucun de ces romans. (I haven't read any of those novels.)

• Aucune de ses amies n'est arrivée. (None of her friends have arrived.)
• Quelle voiture as-tu choisie? Aucune. (Which car did you choose? None.)

An article precedes autre when it is used as a pronoun. The indefinite article used with autres is

• Luc est parti. Les autres sont restés. (Luke left. The others remained.)
• J'ai perdu mon parapluie, mais j'en ai d'autres. (I lost my umbrella, but I have others.)

The following expressions with autre are used to show reciprocal action, especially with
reflexive verbs:

• l'un(e) l'autre (each other)

• les un(e)s les autres (one another [of more than two])

Here they are in sentences:

• Ils s'aident l'un l'autre. (They help each other.)

• Elles s'aident les unes les autres. (They help one another.)

Autre is used in the following expressions:

les un(e)s … les autres some … others

l'un(e) et l'autre both, both of them
l'un(e) ou l'autre either one
ni l'un(e) ni l'autre neither one
l'un(e) à l'autre to each other
l'un(e) pour l'autre for each other

For example:

• Les uns chantent; les autres dansent. (Some sing; others dance.)
• Elles sont arrivées l'une et l'autre. (They both arrived.)
• Montrez-moi l'un ou l'autre. (Show me either one.)
• Je n'aime ni l'un ni l'autre. (I don't like either one.)
• Elles téléphonent l'une à l'autre. (They call each other.)
• Ils travaillent l'un pour l'autre. (The work for each other.)

Note the expression autre chose, which means “something else”:

• Donnez-moi autre chose, s'il vous plaît. (Please give me something else.)

Autrui is generally used in a literary context and is used most frequently after prepositions:

• Respectez le bien d'autrui. (Respect the property of others.)

As a pronoun, certain is used only in the plural. For clarification, d'entre nous, d'entre vous,
d'entre eux, or d'entre elles may be added:
• Certains n'ont pas encore commencé. (Some haven't started yet.)
• Certains d'entre vous termineront vos études cette année. (Some of you will finish your
studies this year.)
• Certains d'entre nous ont reçu de bonnes notes. (Some of us received good grades.)
• Certaines d'entre elles voulaient partir. (Some of them wanted to leave.)

Used only in the singular, this indefinite refers to individuals. The stressed pronoun soi is used
with chacun(e):

• Chacune fait de son mieux. (Everyone does her best.)

• Chacun pour soi. (Every man for himself.)

Note that there is no agreement of the adjective grand with the feminine word chose:

• Je n'ai pas grand-chose à te dire. (I don't have anything much to tell you.)

Le (la/les) même(s)
Le (la/les) mêmes is used as a pronoun in order to identify something or someone or to insist on
the permanence of something, as follows:

• C'est le même. (It's the same one.)

• Les mêmes coûtent cent dollars. (The same ones cost $100.)
• Ce sont toujours les mêmes qui préparent le repas. (It is always the same people who
prepare the meal.)
• Ma mère? Elle est toujours la même. (My mother? She is always the same.)

N'importe qui
N'importe qui requires de before an adjective:

• Je parlerai à n'importe qui. (I'll speak to anyone.)

• Je parlerai à n'importe qui d'intelligent. (I'll speak to anyone intelligent.)

N'importe quoi
N'importe quoi requires de before an adjective:

• Je peux faire n'importe quoi. (I can do anything.)

• Donnez-moi n'importe quoi de froid. (Give me anything cold.)

Nul is invariable as a pronoun and the negative is implied. Nul has the same sense as personne
(personne is favored in informal situations).

• Nul ne sait cette chanson. (Nobody knows that song.)

The subject on refers to an indefinite person or persons (no antecedent is mentioned) and is
always followed by a verb in the third person singular (the il form). On may have many
different translations depending on the meaning intended. When the passive is used in English,
French often uses on + an active construction. The possessive adjectives for on are son, sa, and
ses. On is frequently used in a question to ask for a suggestion. The stressed pronoun soi is used
with on. For the sake of pronunciation, l'on often replaces on before monosyllabic words
ending in a pronounced vowel sound: et (and), ou (or), où (where), and si (if):

• On ne doit en faire qu' à sa tête. (One should do as one pleases.)

• On va au cinéma? (Shall we go to the movies?)
• On ne doit pas toujours penser à soi. (You should not always think of yourself.)
• Si l'on veut, on peut tout faire. (If you want to, you can do anything.)

Personne (ne)
Personne is always singular and considered to be masculine even if it refers to a woman.
Depending upon the context of the sentence, personne may mean “no one” or “anyone.”

• Elle est plus gentille que personne. (She is nicer than anyone.)
• Il n'écoute personne. (He listens to no one.)
• Personne n'est arrivé. (Nobody has arrived.)
• Qui est arrivé? Personne. (Who has arrived? No one.)

Plusieurs is invariable and is always plural. Plusieurs may be followed by d'entre eux or
d'entre elles for clarification:

• Il en a plusieurs. (He has several of them.)

• Plusieurs d'entre elles sont très gentilles. (Many of them are very nice.)

Quelqu'un(e) and quelques-un(e)s

Quelqu'un(e) is used in the singular and quelques-un(e)s is used in the plural. The pronoun en is
used when quelques-un(e)s is used as a direct object:

• Quelqu'un a sonné à la porte. (Someone rang the bell.)

• Quelques-unes de ses amies travaillent en ville. (Some of his [her] friends work in the
• Il m'a donné quelques-uns de ses bonbons. (He gave me some of his candies.)
• Il m'en a donné quelques-uns. (He gave me some of them.)
Quelque chose (m.) and rien (ne)
These two pronouns are opposite in meaning. De precedes the adjective that refers to quelque
chose or rien. Rien can stand alone or be used with the negative ne:

• Tu cherches quelque chose? (Are you looking for something?)

• Tu cherches quelque chose de spécial? (Are you looking for something special?)
• Non, je ne cherche rien. (No, I'm not looking for anything.)
• Qu'est-ce que tu cherches? Rien (de spécial). (What are you looking for? Nothing

Quiconque is the equivalent of n'importe qui or personne:

• Elle ne veut recevoir d'ordres de quiconque. (She won't receive orders from anyone
• Je comprends mieux que quiconque. (I understand better than anyone [anybody].)

Qui que ce soit

Qui que ce soit refers only to people and is the equivalent of “whoever” or “anyone”:

• Il a interdit à qui que ce soit de parler. (He forbade anyone to talk.)

Quoi que ce soit

Quoi que ce soit refers only to things and is the equivalent of “whatever” or “anything”:

• Si tu révèles quoi que ce soit à qui que ce soit, tu le regretteras. (If you reveal anything
at all to anyone at all, you will regret it.)

Tel(le) is used in the masculine or feminine singular:

• Tel vous dira qu'il faut travailler dur pour réussir. (One will tell you that you have to
work hard to succeed.)
• Tel qui rit vendredi, dimanche pleurera. (You can be laughing on Friday but crying by
• Telle vous dira qu'il faut voter oui, telle autre vous dira qu'il faut voter non. (One
[woman] will tell you to vote yes, the other will tell you to vote no.)

Tout and tous

Tout, used in the singular, always takes the masculine form. Although in English we may refer
to “all of them,” de is never used with tout. In compound tenses, tout precedes the past

• Tout est bien qui finit bien. (All's well that ends well.)
• Tous étaient absents. (Everyone was absent.)
• Les cartes? Je les ai toutes. (The cards? I have all of them.)
• Ces films? Nous les avons tous vus. (Those films? We saw all of them.)

Note the use of tout with ce qui and ce que:

• J'ai besoin de tout ce qui est sur la table. (I need everything that is on the table.)
• J'ai besoin de tout ce que vous avez dans ce sac. (I need everything you have in that

Common expressions with tout include:

à moi tout seul all to myself

en tout cas in any case, at any rate
pas du tout not at all
tout à (d'un) coup suddenly, all of a sudden
tout à fait entirely, quite
tout à l'heure a little while ago, in a little while
tout de même all the same
tout de suite immediately
tous/toutes (les) deux both
tout le monde everybody
tout le temps all the time

For example:

• Je te verrai tout à l'heure. (I'll see you in a little while.)

• Il est tout à fait content. (He is completely happy.)
• Je fais de mon mieux tout le temps. (I always do my best.)

Note that tout le monde is a collective noun and, as such, uses the third person singular (il
form) of a verb:

• Tout le monde vient à ma soirée. (Everybody is coming to my party.)

The Passive Voice

The passive voice is used to show that the subject of the verb does not perform the action, but
rather undergoes the action or is acted upon. In French, unlike in English, a verb may be used
in the passive voice only if its subject could become a direct object of that verb when used in
the active voice. (An indirect object cannot be the subject of a passive verb.) Look at some

• Passive: I was congratulated by my friends. (“I” is the subject.)

• Active: My friends congratulated me. (“Me” is the direct object.)

The sentences above can be passive in both French and English.

• Active: My husband bought me a new car. (“Me” is the indirect object.)

The sentence above cannot be passive in French (although the passive English sentence “A new
car was bought for me by my husband” is acceptable) because it is impossible to convert the
indirect object to a passive subject.

If there is no direct object of the verb in French, the sentence may not be passive:

• Passive: The letters were answered.

Who answered the letters? This sentence cannot be passive in French because there is no direct

The passive with être

The passive is formed as follows:

• subject + form of être + past participle + par + agent (if the agent is mentioned)

Because the past participle is conjugated with être, it must agree in number and gender with the
subject. The agent is generally, but not always, preceded by par.

• Ce livre est écrit en français. (This book is written in French.)

• La maison sera bâtie bient(tm)t. (The house will be built soon.)
• Ce livre a été écrit par Gail Stein. (This book was written by Gail Stein.)
• La voiture avait été vendue par son père. (The car had been sold by his [her] father.)

With verbs expressing condition or emotion, par may be replaced by de:

• Elle est respectée de tous ses collègues. (She is respected by all her colleagues.)
• Nous serons accompagnés de nos parents. (We will be accompanied by our parents.)
• Ils sont aimés de tous. (They are loved by all.)
• La terre est couverte de neige. (The ground is covered with snow.)

The passive with se

Some passive constructions may be formed by using the reflexive pronoun se with the third
person singular form ( il) of the verb. This construction, although not always possible, is most
commonly used when an action is ongoing or when the person by whom the action is
performed (the agent) is not important:

• Il s'appelle Michel. (He is called Michael.)

• Cela ne se fait pas. (That is not done.)
• Ce livre se compose de 12 chapitres. (This book is composed of 12 chapters.)
• La glace se vend ici. (Ice cream is sold here.)
• Les bouquinistes se voient le long de la Seine. (The booksellers are seen along the

Avoiding the passive

The passive should be avoided if possible. This is easily done if the agent is expressed. Simply
rewrite the sentence in the active voice:

• Passive: Ce livre a été écrit par Gail Stein.

• Active: Gail Stein a écrit ce livre.

If the agent is not expressed, the passive voice can be replaced by on + the third person singular
( il) of the verb:

• Passive: Le français se parle ici. (French is spoken here.)

• Active: Ici on parle français. (French is spoken here.)

l'adresse f l'habileté f skill
l'affiche f l'enseigne f sign
l'angoisse f l'inquiétude f worry
l'aliment m la nourriture food
le brouillard la brume fog
le but l'intention f goal
le chagrin la douleur grief, pain
le début le commencement beginning
le dédain le mépris scorn
la faute l'erreur f mistake
l'haleine f le souffle breath
le métier la profession occupation
l'opinion f l'avis m opinion
l'orage m la tempête storm

le songe le rêve dream
la teinte la couleur color
la vague l'onde f wave
le voeu le souhait wish
bête stupide stupid
bizarre étrange strange
ennuyeux embêtant annoying
épouvantable affreux frightful
inattendu imprévu unexpected
net propre clean
obstiné têtu stubborn
pareil semblable similar
achever finir to finish
aquérir obtenir to obtain
briser casser to break
craindre redouter to fear
enchanter ravir to delight
établir fonder to set up
frémir trembler to tremble
inquiéter troubler to worry
interdire défendre to forbid
lancer jeter to throw
lutter combattre to fight
mêler mélanger to mix
mener diriger to lead
réduire diminuer to reduce
remuer bouger to move
répandre distribuer to spread
résonner retentir to resound
réussir à arriver à to succeed in
soulager calmer to soothe

tâcher tenter to try
vouloir dire signifier to mean
aussit(tm)t sur-le-champ immediately
autrefois jadis formerly
d'avantage plus more
pourtant cependant however

la honte shame l'orgeuil m pride
la joie joy la tristesse sadness
la veille eve le lendemain next day
la vente sale l'achat m purchase
la vitesse speed la lenteur slowness
aîné eldest cadet youngest
avare miserly dépensier extravagant
clair light foncé dark
courageux brave lâche cowardly
doux sweet amer bitter
ennuyeux boring amusant fun
humide moist sec dry
mince thin épais thick
acheter to buy vendre to sell
attirer to attract repousser to repel
augmenter to increase diminuer to decrease
avancer to advance reculer to retreat
économiser to save dépenser to spend
lever to raise baisser to lower
mépriser to scorn estimer to esteem
permettre to allow défendre to forbid

remplir to fill vider to empty

Regular Verb Charts

-er verbs

Danser (to dance)

Present participle: dansant; past participle: dans é
Subj. Present Imperfect Future Conditional Subjunctive
je dans e dans ais danser ai danser ais dans e
tu dans es dans ais danser as danser ais dans es
il dans e dans ait danser a danser ait dans e
nous dans ons dans ions danser ons danser ions dans ions
vous dans ez dans iez danser ez danser iez dans iez
ils dans ent dans aient danser ont danser aient dans ent

-ir verbs
Punir (to punish)
Present participle: punissant; past participle: pun i
Subj. Present Imperfect Future Conditional Subjunctive
je pun is puniss ais punir ai punir ais puniss e
tu pun is puniss ais punir as punir ais puniss es
il pun it puniss ait punir a punir ait puniss e
nous pun issons puniss ions punir ons punir ions puniss ions
vous pun issez puniss iez punir ez punir iez puniss iez
ils pun issent puniss aient punir ont punir aient puniss ent

-re verbs
Rendre (to return)
Present participle: rendant; past participle: rend u
Subj. Present Imperfect Future Conditional Subjunctive
je rend s rend ais rendr ai rendr ais rend e
tu rend s rend ais rendr as rendr ais rend es
il rend rend ait rendr a rendr ait rend e

nous rend ons rend ions rendr ons rendr ions rend ions
vous rend ez rend iez rendr ez rendr iez rend iez
ils rend ent rend aient rendr ont rendr aient rend ent

er Verbs with Spelling Changes

-cer verbs
Lancer (to throw)
Present participle: lançant; past participle: lanc é
Subj. Present Imperfect Future Conditional Subjunctive
je lanc e lanç ais lancer ai lancer ais lanc e
tu lanc es lanç ais lancer as lancer ais lanc es
il lanc e lanç ait lancer a lancer ait lanc e
nous lanç ons lanc ions lancer ons lancer ions lanc ions
vous lanc ez lanc iez lancer ez lancer iez lanc iez
ils lanc ent lanç aient lancer ont lancer aient lanc ent

-ger verbs
Nager (to swim)
Present participle: nageant; past participle: nag é
Subj. Present Imperfect Future Conditional Subjunctive
je nag e nag eais nager ai nager ais nag e
tu nag es nag eais nager as nager ais nag es
il nag e nag eait nager a nager ait nag e
nous nag eons nag ions nager ons nager ions nag ions
vous nag ez nag iez nager ez nager iez nag iez
ils nag ent nag eaient nager ont nager aient nag ent

-yer verbs
Nettoyer (to clean)
Present participle: nettoyant; past participle: nettoy é
Subj. Present Imperfect Future Conditional Subjunctive
je nettoi e nettoy ais nettoier ai nettoier ais nettoi e
tu nettoi es nettoy ais nettoier as nettoier ais nettoi es
il nettoi e nettoy ait nettoier a nettoier ait nettoi e
nous nettoy ons nettoy ions nettoier ons nettoier ions nettoy ions
vous nettoy ez nettoy iez nettoier ez nettoier iez nettoy iez
ils nettoi ent nettoy aient nettoier ont nettoier aient nettoi ent

e + Consonant + er Verbs
Lever (to raise, lift)
Present participle: levant; past participle: lev é
Subj. Present Imperfect Future Conditional Subjunctive
je lèv e lev ais lèver ai lèver ais lèv e
tu lèv es lev ais lèver as lèver ais lèv
il lèv e lev ait lèver a lèver ait lèv e
nous lev ons lev ions lèver ons lèver ions lev ions
vous lev ez lev iez lèver ez lèver iez lev iez
ils lèv ent lev aient lèver ont lèver aient lèv ent

er Verbs with Double Consonants

Appeler (to speak)
Present participle: appelant; past participle: appel é
Subj. Present Imperfect Future Conditional Subjunctive
j' appell e appel ais appeller ai appeller ais appell e
tu appell es appel ais appeller as appeller ais appell es
il appell e appel ait appeller a appeller ait appell e
nous appel ons appel ions appeller ons appeller ions appel ions
vous appel ez appel iez appeller ez appeller iez appel iez
ils appell ent appel aient appeller ont appeller aient appell ent
Jeter (to throw)
Present participle: jetant; past participle: jet é
Subj. Present Imperfect Future Conditional Subjunctive
je jett e jet ais jetter ai jetter ais jett e
tu jett es jet ais jetter as jetter ais jett es
il jett e jet ait jetter a jetter ait jett e
Present participle: jetant; past participle: jet é
Subj. Present Imperfect Future Conditional Subjunctive
nous jet ons jet ions jetter ons jetter ions jet ions
vous jet ez jet iez jetter ez jetter iez jet iez
ils jett ent jet aient jetter ont jetter aient jett ent

é + Consonant + er Verbs
Préférer (to prefer)
Present participle: préférant; past participle: préfér é
Subj. Present Imperfect Future Conditional Subjunctive
je préfèr e préfér ais préfèrer ai préfèrer ais préfèr e
tu préfèr es préfér ais préfèrer as préfèrer ais préfèr es
il préfèr e préfér ait préfèrer a préfèrer ait préfèr e
nous préfér ons préfér ions préfèrer ons préfèrer ions préfér ions
vous préfér ez préfér iez préfèrer ez préfèrer iez préfér iez
ils préfèr ent préfér aient préfèrer ont préfèrer aient préfèr ent

Irregular Verb Charts

Aller* (to go)
Present participle: allant; past participle: all é
Subj. Present Imperfect Future Conditional Subjunctive
je vais all ais ir ai ir ais aille
tu vas all ais ir as ir ais ailles
il va all ait ir a ir ait aille
nous allons all ions ir ons ir ions allions
vous allez all iez ir ez ir iez alliez
ils vont all aient ir ont ir aient aillent
* Conjugated with être in the past tense
Asseoir (to seat, sit)
Present participle: asseyant; past participle: assis
Subj. Present Imperfect Future Conditional Subjunctive
je assieds assey ais assiér ai assiér ais asseye
tu assieds assey ais assiér as assiér ais asseye
il assied assey ait assiér a assiér ait asseye
nous asseyons assey ions assiér ons assiér ions asseyions
vous asseyez assey iez assiér ez assiér iez asseyiez
ils asseyent assey aient assiér ont assiér aient asseyent
Avoir (to have)
Present participle: ayant; past participle: eu
Subj. Present Imperfect Future Conditional Subjunctive
j' ai av ais aur ai aur ais aie
tu as av ais aur as aur ais aies
il a av ait aur a aur ait ait
nous avons av ions aur ons aur ions allions
vous avez av iez aur ez aur iez alliez
ils ont av aient aur ont aur aient aient
Boire (to drink)
Present participle: buvant; past participle: bu
Subj. Present Imperfect Future Conditional Subjunctive
je bois buv ais boir ai boir ais boive
tu bois buv ais boir as boir ais boives
il boit buv ait boir a boir ait boive
nous buvons buv ions boir ons boir ions buvions
vous buvez buv iez boir ez boir iez buviez
ils boivent buv aient boir ont boir aient boivent
Conduire* (to drive)
Present participle: conduisant; past participle: conduit
Subj. Present Imperfect Future Conditional Subjunctive
je conduis conduis ais conduir ai conduir ais conduise
tu conduis conduis ais conduir as conduir ais conduises
il conduit conduis ait conduir a conduir ait conduise
nous conduisons conduis ions conduir ons conduir ions conduisions