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French Lessons

One of the first things you need to understand in order to learn a language is grammar. ARGH! Did you say the "G" word? Yes, but it won't be all that bad. The very basic grammar you need is the same grammar that a child uses and understands even before he starts school. When a child has not quite mastered his native language, he may say "Me go there." He doesn't exactly have it right, but he does have a subject, verb and object. You will put sentences together in French the same way. We need a subject such as I (je), a verb such as want (veux) and an object such as a banana (une banane). "Je veux une banane" means "I want a banana". (We're not going to worry about pronunciation just yet; we just want to understand how to put the words together.) Easy, right? Well, there are a few other things you need to know about French in order to speak it.

In English, the verb in a sentence changes depending on the subject. For instance, we say "I want" but "He wants". In French, the verb changes as well, and so you have "Je veux" and "Il veut" for I want and he wants. However, in French, the verbs change a lot more. Compare the English and French table of verbs:

English French
I want We want Je veux Nous voulons
You want You want Tu veux Vous voulez
He/she/it wants They want Il/elle/il veut Ils/Elles/ils veulent

As you can see, the verb changes more often in French than it does in English. But the endings stay pretty much the same, so it is not that difficult to remember which ending to put on which verb.

In English the article "a" stays the same whether it is a banana, an apple or an orange. In French, the article changes too, depending on whether the noun (banana) is masculine, feminine or neuter. Banana is feminine, so it is "une banana", but if you wanted a sandwich, which is masculine, it would be "un sandwich". The other part of speech that changes in French but does not in English is the adjective. An adjective describes a noun, so feminine nouns have feminine adjectives and masculine nouns have masculine adjectives. A white flower is "une fleur blanche", but a white dog is "un chien blanc". There are no real rules about which nouns will be masculine or feminine, so it is best to learn any new nouns with their article. We're not going to worry too much about all of this now, we just want to understand the concept.

Finally, there are "tenses" in French just as there are in English. The most commonly used tenses in speech are the present tense, "I want", the future tense, "I will want", and the past tense, "I wanted". The same thing happens in French; we say "je veux" for the present tense, "je voudrai" for the future tense and "j'ai voulu" for the past tense.

Don't be overwhelmed by the differing genders and tenses. At this point, it is only important to know that these changes take place both in English and in French and you will become accustomed to the changes in French as you speak the language more and more.

What Did We Learn?

  1. A Sentence in French needs a subject, a verb and an ______.
  2. In English, an article such as "a" stays the same. In French, it ______.
  3. Articles change with the gender. We say une banana, but __ sandwich.
  4. Adjectives also change. A white flower is "une fleur blanche", but a white dog is un chien ____.
  5. Since there are no fixed rules about which nouns will be masculine or feminine, it is best to learn any new nouns with their_______.
  6. There are ______ in French just as there are in English.
  7. The past tense in French for I wanted is _________.
  8. Feminine nouns have ______ adjectives.
  9. Verb ending in French stay pretty much the ____.
  10. Changes in tense take place in both English and ______.


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