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French Subject Pronouns

Most likely, the most important information you will want to get when you are traveling in a French speaking country is who you are talking to, what you are or want to be doing, where you want to go, and why!!! To best understand all of the information that is to follow, you should read the previous five chapters; reinforce your vocabulary and the bit of grammar and pronunciation we have touched upon so far. You will notice that we like to use everyday examples of pronunciation rather than the phonetic type. If you have a very strong accent from any particular area, you may need to adjust it to a standard. The standard used here is Standard American English, although it is recognized that SAE is highly variable.

Who are you?

Bonjour, je m'appelle Marie. (Hello, my name is Mary.) The French way of saying "my name is" is to say " I call myself". If you have studied other languages, you will notice that many other languages have the same construction. It is important to understand this kind of "reflexive" verb, since it is used many other ways. Je ("I") me ("myself") appelle ("call"). Notice that the object "me" falls before the verb "call". This is usual, although there are exceptions. To be able to talk to other people about their names, we need to understand a little more grammar. (Oh, no!) You have seen that "je" means "I". And now you see that "me" means "me" (spelled the same, but not pronounced the same.)
Let's get that pronunciation out of the way because there are many small French words that are pronounced the same. The word "de" which means "of" is a good example. Just pretend you are saying the slang word "duh" (which so many of us use now to mean "no kidding" or "obviously". ALL words spelled _e will rhyme with this. Here is a list of them: de-duh (of), je-juh, soft "j" (I), le-luh (the), me-muh (me), que-kuh (which).

However, since the "je" in our sentence is right before an "a", we have to learn one more pronunciation rule. (Promise, only a few rules at a time!) If a vowel (you remember them, a, e, i, o, u, sometimes y and w; in French, h is also considered a vowel) falls before another vowel, it is not pronounced and an apostrophe will take its place. Since "me" falls before "appelle" in our sentence, it becomes "m'appelle" (NOT me appelle), pronounced "mah pell". Saying everyone's name will work the same way:

Whose Name? French Pronounced
My name is Mary Je m'appelle Marie Juh ma pel mare ee
Your name is Mary Tu t'appelles Marie Too tap el mare ee
Her name is Mary Elle s'appelle Marie El sap el mare ee
His name is Frank Il s'appelle Francois Il s'appelle Francois
Our name is Dubois Nous nous appellons Dubois New news ap el own doo boi
Your name is Mrs. Dubois Vous vous appellez Mme. Dubois Voo vooz ap el ay Mah dam doo boi
Their name is Dubois Ils s'appellent Dubois Eel sap el doo boi

Note that "il" (he) is pronounced "eel" and "elle" (she) is pronounced "el".

Learn to say your name and also to ask new acquaintances their names. Remember that "My name is" is actually "I call myself", so that "What is your name?" is really "How do you call yourself?" We already know how to say "Comment (how) ca va (does it go)?". Now we can say "Comment vous appellez vous?" Try to plug in "tu" and "il" and "elle", using the same chart as above.

What is it?

Now that we know everyone's name, let's find out about some things. A quick, easy way to learn new words as well as to get to know people and make friends is to ask them how to say things. "What is this?" is a little difficult for us English speakers to learn because it has so many vowels before vowels (see rule above), but luckily it doesn't change: you can use it for everything. "Qu'est ce que c'est?", pronounced "kess kuh say" will introduce you to worlds of vocabulary. The response will be "C'est un(e) _____" ( It's a ____). Since French nouns are masculine, feminine or neuter, the pronoun will change. "It's a knife" will be "C'est un couteau", (say tun coo toe), and "it's a spoon" will be c'est une cuillere" (say toon coo yeah- a double l is usually pronounced as a "y"). Listen carefully each time someone tells you how to say something, and perhaps take notes in your own "phonetic" alphabet.

Where in the world am I?

It is very important to be able to ask where thing are. As a tourist, you should know the name of your hotel. Then you can say "Ou est l'hotel Angleterre?" pronounced oo eh low tel ahng le tear. (Where is the Angleterre Hotel?") This is an easy one! Try it out with different things and people.

Ou est le restaurant Etoile?
(oo ay luh restaurant (with French "r"s) ay twal)
Where is the Star Restaurant?
Ou sont les toilettes?
(oo son lay twal ette)
Where are the restrooms?
Ou est mon frere?
(oo ay mown fraer)
Where is my brother?

Now, try to find all of your relatives. Remember to change the article from masculine (mon=mown) to feminine (ma=mah) depending on whether it is a male or female relative.

Soeur (soor) Sister Fils (feess) Son
Mere (mare) Mother Fille (fee) Daughter
Femme (fum) Wife Oncle (onk luh) Uncle
Mari (marry) Husband Pere (pair) Father

And When

There are two common ways to ask "when". The word "quand" (cahn) translates most closely to when. "Nous allons au cinema. Quand?" (nooz alon oh see nay mah. Cahn) "We are going to the movies. When?" But when we are referring to more specific times, we should use the equivalent of "at which time?", "A quelle heure?" (ah kell uhr):
"A quelle heure part le train?" (ah kell uhr par luh tran) "What time does the train leave?
What time are we eating? "A quelle heure mangeons-nous?" (ah kell uhr mahng ohn noo)

Looking back at some regular verbs, try to formulate your own questions about what time things are happening.

What Did We Learn?

  1. You tell people you name by saying "Je m'_______ John.
  2. Je=_.
  3. Tu=___.
  4. Il = __.
  5. Je, te de, que are all pronounced to rhyme with ___.
  6. Je m'appelle, tu t'appelles, il ________.
  7. "What is this?" in French is _________________?
  8. At what time?_________________?
  9. What time does the train leave? __________________________?
  10. Say the following in French: sister, mother, brother, husband.___________________________________________.


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