French Lessons


Free French lessons covering the essential aspects of French grammar and verbs. Use the navigation menu below to choose a topic. If you would like to practice some of the grammar concepts taught below, be sure to visit our printable worksheets section!



Table of Contents:





Definite Articles



Here are the French definite articles. Notice that there are different forms for masculine and feminine (in the singular).

Note: L' is used before words that begin with either a vowel or a mute "h".

  Singular Plural
Masculine le; l' les
Feminine la; l' les

When certain prepositions precede the definite artcle, contractions must be used. This is not applicable to la or l'.

de le = du
de les = des
a le = au
a les = aux

Use the definite article in the following cases:

When to use the definite article
1. When a noun is used in a general sense.
2. Before the names of countries, states, provinces, oceans, rivers, and continents.
3. Before the names of school subjects and languages.
4. When an infinitive verb is used as a noun.
5. With dates.



Indefinite Articles


Here are the French indefinite articles. Notice that there are different forms for masculine and feminine (in the singular).

  Singular Plural
Masculine un  des
Feminine une des



Gender of Nouns



In French, nouns are either masculine or feminine. Make sure when you learn new nouns you are also learning the gender as well. Here are some rules to help you recognize the gender of a noun.

In general, nouns that refer to males are masculine, and nouns that refer to females are feminine.

Sometimes you can identify the gender of a noun by the ending. However, as usual, there are some exceptions to these rules:

Masculine
Endings
Examples
-isme le journalisme
-eau le bureau
-ment le gouvernement

Feminine
Endings
Examples
-ion la nation
-aison la maison
-ance l'enfance
-ence la différence
-ure la chaussure
-ie la philosophie
-té l'université
-ole la parole




Making Nouns Plural


The general rule for making nouns plural in French is to just add an "s", however this doesn't work in every instance. There are different rules used for certain word endings.

Word Ending Rule
-au
-eau
-eu
Add an "x" to form the plural.

Example:
le bureau becomes les bureaux

Word Ending Rule
-al
-ail
Change the "al"/"ail" ending to "aux" to form the plural.
Example:
un cheval becomes des chevaux


Word Ending Rule
-s
-x
-z
The plural form is the same as the singular.

Example:

le bras becomes les bras
un choix becomes des choix



Making Sentences Negative



In order to make a sentence negative in French, place "ne" before a conjugated verb and "pas" after the verb. If an infinitive is used after a conjugated verb, "ne" and "pas" will always be used around the conjugated verb.


Je parle français.   I speak French.
Je ne parle pas français.   I do not speak French.



If the verb begins with a vowel or a mute h, ne becomes n'.


Nous aimons danser becomes Nous n'aimons pas danser




Subject Pronouns



Pronouns are words that are used in place of nouns. A subject pronoun indicates who or what performs the action of the sentence. French is different from Spanish because it does not omit the subject pronouns.


  Singular Plural
1st person je (I) nous (we)
2nd person tu (you, familiar) vous (you, formal & you, plural)
3rd person il, elle, on (he/she/one, we) ils, elles (them)


Note: The subject pronoun je changes to j' before verbs that begin with a vowel or vowel sound.

The subject pronoun tu is used as the "familiar you" when talking to friends, family, peers, or pets. Vous is the "formal you" and is used with people you do not know well, elders, and people in positions of authority.




The Present Tense


Regular verbs in the present tense fall into three groups depending on the ending of the verb. There are "er", "ir", and "re" verbs.

The present tense is formed by adding the appropriate ending to the stem of the verb. It has 3 English equivalents:

1. I go, I sing, I read, etc.
2. I do go, I do sing, I do read, etc.
3. I am going, I am singing, I am reading, etc.

 

Group 1: -er verbs

  Singular Plural
1st-person e ons
2nd-person es ez
3rd-person e ent

je parle
tu parles
il parle; elle parle; on parle
nous parlons
vous parlez
ils parlent; elles parlent


Group 2: -ir verbs

  Singular Plural
1st-person is issons
2nd-person is issez
3rd-person it issent

je finis
tu finis
il finit; elle finit; on finit
nous finissons
vous finissez
ils finissent; elles finissent


Group 3: -re verbs

  Singular Plural
1st-person s ons
2nd-person s ez
3rd-person ent

je perds
tu perds
il perd; elle perd; on perd
nous perdons
vous perdez
ils perdent; elles perdent



Irregular Verbs in the Present Tense


There are many commonly used verbs that are either partially or completely irregular in the present tense. These verbs must be memorized. The good news is that some of these irregular verbs have similar patterns and therefore it's slightly easier to remember how to conjugate them.

 

Here are four very commonly used verbs that you should memorize:

Être (to be) Avoir (to have) Faire (to do/make) Aller (to go)
suis ai fais vais
es as fais vas
est a fait va
sommes avons faisons allons
êtes avez faites allez
sont ont font vont


Irregular -ir verbs

dormir (to sleep) partir (to leave) servir (to serve) sortir (to go out)
dors
dors
dort
dormons
dormez
dorment
pars
pars
part
partons
partez
partent
sers
sers
sert
servons
servez
servent
sors
sors
sort
sortons
sortez
sortent
       
offrir (to offer) ouvrir (to open)   venir (to come)
offre
offres
offre
offrons
offrez
offrent
ouvre
ouvres
ouvre
ouvrons
ouvrez
ouvrent
viens
viens
vient
venons
venez
viennent



Irregular -oir verbs

pouvoir vouloir devoir voir
peux
peux
peut
pouvons
pouvez
peuvent
veux
veux
veut
voulons
voulez
veulent
dois
dois
doit
devons
devez
doivent
vois
vois
voit
voyons
voyez
voient



Verbs that drop the last letter of the stem

Verbs in this group drop the final letter of the stem [in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-person singular forms only] before adding the ending.

je sens nous sentons
tu sens vous sentez
il/elle sent ils/elles sentent


Verbs conjugated in this manner are:


dormir
mentir
partir
sentir
servir
sortir



Stem-changing Verbs

There is a small group of commonly used verbs that have stem-changes for pronunciation purposes.


é changes to è

je célèbre nous célébrons
tu célèbres vous célébrez
il/elle célèbre ils/elles célèbrent


Verbs conjugated in this manner are:


célébrer
considérer
espérer
préférer
répéter

 

e changes to è

j'achète nous achetons
tu achètes vous achetez
il/elle achète ils/elles achètent


Verbs conjugated in this manner are:

acheter

 

y changes to i

je paie nous payons
tu paies vous payez
il/elle paie ils/elles paient


Verbs conjugated in this manner are:


emplyer
envoyer
essuyer
payer

 

l changes to ll

je rappelle nous rappelons
tu rappelles vous rappelez
il/elle rappelle ils/elles rappellent


Verbs conjugated in this manner are:


appeler
épeler
rappeler

 

t changes to tt

je jette nous jetons
tu jettes vous jetez
il/elle jette ils/elles jettent


Verbs conjugated in this manner are:


hoqueter
jeter
projeter
rejeter



Le Passé Composé


The Passé Composé is formed by conjugating either "avoir" or "etre" in the present tense (to use as the auxilary verb), and then adding the past participle for the verb you want to use. Most verbs will use "avoir" as the auxilary verb.

Note that when être is used as the auxilary verb, the past participle must agree in gender and number with the subject.

For example:

J'ai parlé, tu as parlé, il a parlé, etc.
Il est allé, elle est allée, ils sont allés, elles sont allées, etc.

The Passé Composé is used for completed actions in the past tense. The imperfect is used for ongoing/habitual actions.

Avoir

  singular plural    
1st-person ai avons    
2nd-person as avez + past participle
3rd-person a ont


Être

  singular plural    
1st-person suis sommes    
2nd-person es êtes + past participle
3rd-person est sont

These are the verbs that use être as the auxilary:  aller, arriver, descendre, devenir, entre, monter, mourir, naître, partir, passer, rentre, rester, retourner, revenir, sortir, tomber, venir

When a direct object follows descendre, monter, passer, and sortir, they will use "avoir" as the auxilary.




The Imperfect Tense


The imperfect is used for habitual or ongoing actions in the past tense, whereas the Passé Composé (which is covered in a separate section) is used for completed past actions. The imperfect will also be used to describe both physical and mental states in the past. For example, "She was sad" = Elle était triste

 

The imperfect tense is formed by taking the 1st person plural ("nous" form) of the present tense, dropping the "ons" ending, and then adding the appropriate ending from the list below.

  Singular Plural
1st-person ais ions
2nd-person ais iez
3rd-person ait aient

je parlais
tu parlais
il parlait; elle parlait; on parlait
nous parlions
vous parliez
ils parlaient; elles parlaient




Forming Regular Adjectives



Adjectives are used to give information about nouns. In French, they agree in gender and number with the nouns they modify. In general, they will follow the noun they modify, but there are some nouns that usually precede the noun.

Regular adjectives are formed in the following way:

  Singular Plural
Masculine   add "s" to masculine singular
Feminine Add "e" to masculine singular add "es" to masculine singular

Example:
  singular plural
masculine grand grands
feminine grande grandes



Irregular Forms of Adjectives


Certain adjectives double the final consonant before adding an "e" for the feminine.

Adjectives ending in "el" become "elle" in the feminine.
Adjectives ending in "il" become "ille" in the feminine.
Adjectives ending in "en" become "enne" in the feminine.
Adjectives ending in "on" become "onne" in the feminine.

 

Example:

  singular plural
masculine gentil gentils
feminine gentille gentilles


 

 

Adjectives ending in "er" are formed the following way:

 

  Singular Plural
Masculine er ers
Feminine ère ères


Example:

  singular plural
masculine cher chers
feminine chère chères




Common One-Word Prepositions



Below is a listing of commonly used prepositions. It is by no means exhuastive.


à
après
avant
avec
chez
contre
dans
de
derrière
devant
durant
en
entre
envers
hors
par
pendant
pour
sans
sauf
selon
sous
suivant
sur
vers
at, in
after
before
with
at, with
against
in
of, from
behind
in front of
during
in
between
toward
except
by, through
during
for
without
except
according to
under
according to
on
toward

 


French Adverbs



An adverb is a word used to modify the meaning of a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. Sometimes, adjectives are used as adverbs.

In French, an adverb used to qualify adjectives or other adverbs usually precede the word they qualify. When an adverb is qualifying a verb, it usually follows it. However, in le Passé Composé, a short adverb will precede the past participle, whereas an adverb with -ment will usually follow the past participle.

Many adverbs are formed by adding the suffix -ment to the feminine singular of an adjective.

Adjective Feminine Singular
Form of Adjective
Adverb
beau belle bellement
facile facile facilement
premier première premièrement

If the masculine singular form of the adjective ends in -ant or -ent, change the -nt to -m before adding -ment.

Adjective change -nt to -m Adverb
constant constam constamment



There are also several commonly used adverbs that aren't formed in the above ways. Below is a short list of some of these adverbs.


bien
encore
jamais
mieux
parfois
pire
toujours
très
vite
well
again
never
better
sometimes
worse
always
very
quickly


The Future Tense


The future tense is formed by adding the appropriate ending to the infinitive form of the verb. However, for "re" verbs, remove the final "e" before adding the ending.

Keep in mind that there is another way to express the near future in French, called the futur proche.

It is formed by using aller + infinitive. This is the equivalent of "___ going" in English.

Elle va visiter un musée. = She is going to visit a museum.

 

 

  Singular Plural
1st-person ai ons
2nd-person as ez
3rd-person a ont

je parlerai
tu parleras
il parlera; elle parlera; on parlera
nous parlerons
vous parlerez
ils parleront; elles parleront



The Conditional Tense


The conditional tense is formed by adding the appropriate ending to the infinitive of the verb. However, for "re" verbs, remove the final "e" before adding the ending.

The conditional will mainly be used as the equivalent of "would", or in other words, to express an action that would happen if it were not for a certain circumstance. It is also used to make polite requests.

 

  Singular Plural
1st-person ais ions
2nd-person ais iez
3rd-person ait aient

je parlerais
tu parlerais
il parlerait; elle parlerait; on parlerait
nous parlerions
vous parleriez
ils parleraient; elles parleraient



Possessive Adjectives



Possessive adjectives must agree in gender and number in French. Here is a list of all of the forms:

  Masculine
Singular
Feminine
Singular
Plural
1st-person singular mon ma mes
2nd-person singular ton ta tes
3rd-person singular son sa ses
1st-person plural notre notre nos
2nd-person plural votre votre vos
3rd-person plural leur leur leurs

Note: If the word after the possessive adjective begins with a vowel, then "mon", "ton", and "son" are used instead of the feminine singular.

It should also be mentioned that the possessive adjective is not used with parts of the body or clothing items in French if the context of the sentence already makes it clear who the owner is.

Examples:

mon frère
ma sœur
mes parents

leur frère
leurs frères
my brother
my sister
my parents

their brother
their brothers



Direct Object Pronouns



Direct objects receive the action of a verb and answer the questions "what?" or "whom?". The direct object pronoun will take the place of the direct object noun in a sentence. Direct object pronouns must agree in gender and number with the noun they replace.

Here are the forms of the direct object pronoun in French along with the English equivalents:

  Singular Plural     Singular Plural
1st-per. me, m' nous   1st-per. me us
2nd-per. te, t' vous   2nd-per. you you
3rd-per. le, l'
la, l'
les   3rd-per. him, it
her, it
them

 

Note: Me, te, le, and la change to m', t', and l' when used before words that begin with a vowel or mute "h".



Indirect Object Pronouns



Indirect object pronouns frequently answer the questions "to whom?"or "for whom?". The indirect object pronoun will take the place of the indirect object noun in a sentence. Indirect object pronouns, like direct object pronouns, usually precede the verb.

Here are the forms of the indirect object pronoun in French along with the English equivalents:

  Singular Plural     Singular Plural
1st-per. me, m' nous   1st-per. to/for me to/for us
2nd-per. te, t' vous   2nd-per. to/for you to/for you
3rd-per. lui  leur   3rd-per. to/for him
to/for her
to/for them




Demonstrative Adjectives



The demonstrative adjectives are the equivalents to "this, that, these, & those" in English.

Masculine Singular
Before Consonant
Masculine Singular
Before Vowel
Feminine
Singular
Plural
ce cet cette ces

To make clear whether you want to say "this" or "that", add either -ci [this] or -là [that].

Example:
Prenez-vous ce biscuit-ci?
Prenez-vous cette tarte-?




The Compound Tenses


In addition to the seven simple tenses, there are also seven compound tenses in French.  There is a simple way to learn how to form these compound tenses, which are all based on the simple tenses with which they correspond.

         
Conjugate avoir or être
(whichever is required)
in the simple tense
+ The past participle of the verb you are conjugating = The equivalent compound tense
         
Present
Imperfect
Simple Past
Future
Conditional
Present Subjunctive
Imperfect Subjunctive
  becomes   Passé Composé
Pluperfect
Past Anterior
Future Perfect
Conditional Perfect
Past Subjunctive
Pluperfect Subjunctive


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