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Negation in French: How to Say No and Deny Everything

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Have you ever paid attention to all those books about The Gentle Art of Saying No, The Power of a Positive No, How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty, and many more? 

Based on these titles, it would seem that there’s something inherently difficult about saying no. In fact, it could even be considered rude, insensitive, or socially disruptive…

…unless you happen to be in France! Here, you can safely say no to most questions without the need to carefully sugarcoat it. 

Negation in French is rather similar to that in English, and once you’ve mastered the most basic structures, it shouldn’t give you any trouble.

In this guide, you’ll learn how to do negation in French. We’ll cover everything from the fundamentals to the more advanced rules, providing you with a list of the most useful negative words in French and examples of how to use them in sentences.

A Woman Holding Her Palms Out in Front of Her to Say No or Stop

Non, pas du tout. (“No, not at all.”)

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. The Basics of Negation
  2. More Negative Words
  3. Important Negation Rules
  4. Negative Questions
  5. Negative Phrasebook
  6. Le mot de la fin

1. The Basics of Negation

There are four basic French negation words and phrase patterns you should become familiar with before moving forward. Here they are: 

A- Non (“No”)

Let’s kick off with something straightforward: Non is the French equivalent of “No,” and that’s pretty much all you need to know about it.

Tu aimes les films d’horreur ? (“Do you like horror movies?”)
Non. (“No.”)

The main difference between non and its English equivalent is that non is mainly used as a negative answer to a question.

For structures such as “I have no time,” we use: Ne… pas. (Je n’ai pas le temps.)

B- Ne… pas (“Don’t”)

There you have it: The bread and butter of negation in French. Ne… pas is a structure you’ll see and hear a lot as you learn French. 

The basic rule is to place ne and pas around the verb.

  • Je sais. (“I know.”)
    Je ne sais pas.
    (“I don’t know.”)

  • Je bois du vin. (“I drink this wine.”)
    Je ne bois pas de vin.
    (“I don’t drink this wine.”)

If you’ve ever used French verbs starting with a vowel sound, do you remember how the pronoun can adapt to make the sentence smoother?

Let’s take the verb aimer (“to love,” “to like”) with the pronoun je (“I”) for example:

Je + aime =
Je aime
J’aime (“I like”)

The same thing happens with Ne… pas, but this time, the Ne becomes N’:

  • J’aime la pluie. (“I like the rain.”)
    Je n’aime pas la pluie.
    (“I don’t like the rain.”)

  • J’écoute la radio. (“I listen to the radio.”)
    Je n’écoute pas la radio.
    (“I don’t listen to the radio.”)

C- Ne… plus (“Don’t… anymore”)

This structure is very similar to Ne… pas and shortens the pronoun in the same way.

  • Je sais. (“I know.”)
    Je ne sais plus. (“I don’t know anymore.” / “I don’t remember.”)

  • J’écoute la radio. (“I listen to the radio.”)
    Je n’écoute plus la radio. (“I don’t listen to the radio anymore.”)

D- Ne… que (“Only”)

Even though this is not a negative sentence per se, this structure uses Ne which might confuse you the first time you bump into it.

Ne… que follows the same structure as Ne… pas:

  • Je ne bois que du vin. (“I only drink wine.”)
  • Je n’invite que mes amis. (“I only invite my friends.”)

What we’re really saying is: 

  • “I don’t drink anything but wine.”
  • “I don’t invite anyone but my friends.”

Practice the basics of French negation with this free lesson on FrenchPod101.com.

A Woman Holding a Plate and Refusing a Sausage

Je ne mange pas de viande. (“I don’t eat meat.”)

2. More Negative Words

Of course, depending on how specific you want to be or the message you want to get across, there are a few more French words for negation you should have handy: 

A- Ni… ni (“Neither… nor”)

At first glance, Ni… ni is pretty easy to use.

  • Ni oui ni non (“Neither yes, nor no”)

Then, you can combine it with Ne or N’ to make a sentence. It forms kind of a double negation.

  • Je n’aime ni la pluie ni le soleil. (“I like neither the rain nor the sun.”)

You can add more ni if needed. In that case, you’d usually separate them with commas.

  • Je n’aime ni la pluie, ni le soleil, ni le brouillard. (“I like neither the rain, nor the sun, nor the fog.”)

Partitive articles (du, de la, des: “some”) and indefinite articles (un, une: “a”) are omitted when using Ni… ni.

  • J’ai un chat et un chien. (“I have a cat and a dog.”)
    Je n’ai ni chat ni chien. (“I have neither a cat nor a dog.”)

  • Je mange du pain et du fromage. (“I eat bread and cheese.”)
    Je ne mange ni pain ni fromage. (“I eat neither bread nor cheese.”)

B- Common Negative Words

Here are some more useful negative words and how to use them.

Jamais (“Never”)Je ne bois jamais de vin. (“I never drink wine.”)
Personne (“Nobody”)Personne n’écoute la radio. (“Nobody listens to the radio.”)
Je n’écoute personne. (“I don’t listen to anybody.”)
Rien (“Nothing”)Rien ne change. (“Nothing changes.”)
Je ne mange rien. (“I’m not eating anything.”)
Aucun(e) (“No,” “None”)Aucun problème. (“No problem.”) – With a masculine noun.
Tu n’as aucune preuve. (“You have no proof.”) – With a feminine noun.
Nulle part (“Nowhere”)Nulle part ailleurs. (“Nowhere else.”)
Je ne vais nulle part. (“I’m not going anywhere.”)

As you probably noticed, these words create lots of double negation, but this is perfectly fine in French.

  • Je ne mange rien. (Literally: “I don’t eat nothing.”)
  • Tu n’as aucune preuve. (Literally: “You don’t have no proof.”)

And of course, you can combine these negative words together for even more negation power!

  • Tu ne crois jamais personne. (“You never believe anyone.”)
  • Je ne fais jamais rien. (“I never do anything.”)
  • Il ne voit plus personne. (“He doesn’t see anybody anymore.”)
A Woman Scolding Her Coworker

Je n’aime ni le café ni les cravates ! (“I like neither coffee nor ties!”)

C- Old-fashioned Negation Words

Ne… point and Ne… guère are two literary words that you might find in classic books or academic writing, but never in a conversation (unless used in a quote, or humoristically).

In a sentence, they behave exactly like Ne… pas.

Point is the equivalent of “not at all.”

  • Je ne travaille point. (“I’m not working at all.”)

Guère is the equivalent of “not much,” “very rarely,” or “very few.”

  • Je ne travaille guère. (“I’m not working much.”)

Get more practice with these common negative words by learning to say what you will never do in French.

3. Important Negation Rules

Now that you know the basics and have a collection of negative words at your disposal, it’s time to go deeper and learn the most important French negation rules. 

A- Compound Tenses

Compound tenses, like the passé composé, combine two verbs: Auxiliary verb + Verb.

  • Elle a mangé. (“She has eaten.”) – Auxiliary avoir + manger
  • Elle est partie. (“She has left.”) – Auxiliary être + partir

You know that the basic rule is to place ne and pas around the verb, right? With compound tenses, we place them around the first verb: the auxiliary.

  • Elle n’a pas mangé. (“She has not eaten.”)
  • Elle n’est pas partie. (“She has not left.”)

Is it still confusing? Let’s see more examples:

Présent (Present)Passé composé (Present perfect)
Je mange. (“I eat.”)
Je ne mange pas.
(“I don’t eat.”)
J’ai mangé. (“I have eaten.”)
Je n’ai pas mangé. (“I haven’t eaten.”)
J’écoute la radio. (“I listen to the radio.”)
Je n’écoute pas la radio.
(“I don’t listen to the radio.”)
J’ai écouté la radio. (“I have listened to the radio.”)
Je n’ai pas écouté la radio. (“I haven’t listened to the radio.”)
Je ne mange rien. (“I don’t eat anything.”)Je n’ai rien mangé. (“I haven’t eaten anything.”)
Je ne bois jamais de vin. (“I never drink wine.”)Je n’ai jamais bu de vin. (“I’ve never drunk wine.”)
Elle ne mange ni pain ni fromage. (“She eats neither bread nor cheese.”)Elle n’a mangé ni pain ni fromage. (“She has eaten neither bread nor cheese.”)

B- Undefined Articles

Partitive articles (du, de la, des: “some”) and indefinite articles (un, une: “a”) are usually replaced with de in negative sentences.

  • Je bois de la bière. (“I drink beer.”)
    Je ne bois pas de bière. (“I don’t drink beer.”)

  • Nous avons des gâteaux. (“We have cakes.”)
    Nous n’avons pas de gâteaux. (“We don’t have cakes.”)

  • Elle a un chat. (“She has a cat.”)
    Elle n’a pas de chat. (“She doesn’t have a cat.”)

  • Elle porte une robe. (“She’s wearing a dress.”)
    Elle ne porte pas de robe. (“She’s not wearing a dress.”)

This rule doesn’t apply to Ne… que, as it’s not strictly a negative expression.

  • Je mange du fromage. (“I eat cheese.”)
    Je ne mange pas de fromage. (“I don’t eat cheese.”)
    Je ne mange que du fromage. (“I only eat cheese.”)

Someone Refusing a Mug of Beer

Je ne bois pas de bière. (“I don’t drink beer.”)

C- Negation of the Infinitive

In a negative sentence with an infinitive verb, Ne and pas are placed together before the verb.

  • Elle m’a dit de ne pas faire ça. (“She told me not to do that.”)
  • Merci de ne pas utiliser l’ascenseur. (“Thank you for not using the elevator.”)

D- Oral Shortcuts

In spoken French, it’s very common to skip the Ne entirely. Only the Pas remains to express the negation.

Unless you’re in a formal setting such as a job interview or a business meeting, you should drop it or it will sound either foreign or uptight.

  • Written: Je ne sais pas. (“I don’t know.”) [Formal]
    Spoken: Je sais pas. (“I don’t know.”) [Casual]

  • Written: Je n’aime pas la pluie. (“I don’t like the rain.”)
    Spoken: J’aime pas la pluie. (“I don’t like the rain.”)

4. Negative Questions

Conveniently, negative questions follow the same rules as declarative sentences. They use the same words, structure, order, and so on.

In French, there are two ways you can form a given question. With that in mind, the French negation structures for questions are as follows:

Normal / Casual:

  • Ils ont un chat ? or Est-ce qu’ils ont un chat ? (“Do they have a cat?”)
  • Ils n’ont pas de chat ? (“Don’t they have a cat?”)

Written / Formal: [with inversion of subject and verb]

  • Ont-ils un chat ? (“Do they have a cat?”)
  • N’ont-ils pas un chat ? (“Don’t they have a cat?”)

In the following table, I will focus on the casual style which is much more common. The inversion of subject and verb is barely ever used in spoken French, even in formal professional settings.

StatementQuestion
Vous écoutez la radio. (“You are listening to the radio.”)
Vous n’écoutez pas la radio.
(“You are not listening to the radio.”)
Vous écoutez la radio ? (“Are you listening to the radio?”)
Vous n’écoutez pas la radio ? (“Aren’t you listening to the radio?”)
Vous avez écouté la radio. (“You have listened to the radio.”)
Vous n’avez pas écouté la radio. (“You haven’t listened to the radio.”)
Vous avez écouté la radio ? (“Have you listened to the radio?”)
Vous n’avez pas écouté la radio ? (“Haven’t you listened to the radio?”)
Elle ne boit jamais de vin. (“She never drinks wine.”)Elle ne boit jamais de vin ? (“Does she never drink wine?”)
    → Do you need some French negation practice? Why not have a look at this intermediate lesson on negative phrases?
A Boy Listening to the Radio and Pretending to Drum

Il n’écoute pas la radio ? (“Doesn’t he listen to the radio?”)

5. Negative Phrasebook

Now that you’ve become quite knowledgeable about negation in French, let’s be more practical and look at the most common negative expressions you might want to remember.

  • De rien (“You’re welcome”)

    This is what you can answer when someone says Merci (“Thank you”).

    It uses the word rien (“nothing”), which we saw earlier. It literally means: “For nothing.”

  • Pas du tout (“Not at all”)

    You can use this expression as an answer to a question, or make sentences with it, such as:

    Je n’ai pas faim du tout. / Je n’ai pas du tout faim. (“I’m not hungry at all.”)
    Ce n’est pas du tout certain. (“This is not certain at all.”)

  • Pas encore (“Not yet”)

    Elle n’est pas encore partie. (“She hasn’t left yet.”)

  • Pas trop or Pas vraiment (“Not too,” “Not so,” “Not really”)

    Je n’ai pas trop faim. (“I’m not so hungry.”)
    Elle n’aime pas vraiment le fromage. (“She doesn’t really like cheese.”)

  • Ça ne fait rien. (“It doesn’t matter.”)

A bit more practice on the fundamentals of French negation? Stop by our free lesson to review the use of Ne… pas, indefinite articles, and more.

6. Le mot de la fin

In this guide, you’ve learned everything about negation in French, from basic negative expressions to more advanced rules and how to form negative questions. You’re also well-equipped now with a list of the most useful negative words in French.

Did I forget any important negative words that you know? Feel free to share it with your fellow students in the comments below!

FrenchPod101 also has tons of vocabulary lists with audio recordings and free resources to boost your studies and keep your French learning fresh and entertaining!

Remember that you can also use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal 1-on-1 coaching with a private teacher. He or she will help you practice negation (and much more!) through assignments, personalized exercises, and recorded audio samples to help you improve your pronunciation. 

Happy learning on FrenchPod101.com!

About the Author: Born and bred in the rainy north of France, Cyril Danon has been bouncing off various jobs before he left everything behind to wander around the wonders of the World. Now, after quenching his wanderlust for the last few years, he’s eager to share his passion for languages.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French

French Tenses Made Simple

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Do you get tense when looking at French conjugation tables? Handling verbs in French can seem quite overwhelming at first: There are distinct endings for each pronoun, six different moods, and soooo many tenses!

But of course, there’s a trick. Once you take a closer look, it’s not nearly as complicated as you might think. These verb endings follow rules, only a fraction of French tenses are used in real life, and even fewer are useful in spoken French.

In this article, you’ll find a quick overview of the general rules concerning French verb conjugation. Then, we’ll dive right into the list of French tenses: present, past, and future. Oh, and there will be lots of cats involved because they generally make grammar more interesting.

A Woman Kissing a Gray Kitten

Elle embrasse un chaton. (“She’s kissing a kitten.”)

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. French Conjugation in a Nutshell
  2. Present Tenses
  3. Future Tenses
  4. Common Past Tenses
  5. Literary Past Tenses
  6. Le mot de la fin

1. French Conjugation in a Nutshell

Before we get too far into the details, here’s some basic information about French tenses and conjugations you should know.

How Many Tenses Do You Really Need to Speak French?

Did you know that French has 17 tenses, 6 moods, and 2 voices? Wait, don’t run away!

You only need a fraction of that list to get by on a daily basis, and you’d be surprised how far you can get with only two tenses:

  • Présent (Present)
  • Passé composé (Compound past)

With the présent, you can describe anything happening right now as well as things that happen regularly—you can even use it to describe future events!

J’apprends le français.“I’m learning French.”
J’apprends le français tous les jours.“I learn French every day.”
J’apprends le français à partir de demain.“I will learn French, starting tomorrow.”
J’apprends le français l’année prochaine.“I will learn French next year.”

And with the passé composé, you can refer to any past event, unless you have a really complex chain of events to describe.

J’ai appris le français à l’université.“I have learned French at university.”
J’ai appris le français l’année dernière.“I learned French last year.”

As you get more comfortable with the language, you’ll slowly add more tenses to the mix. However, for daily conversations, we rarely use more than five or six tenses. Many of the others are not used anymore, not even in literature. So, you can relax!

How to Set the Mood

When we talk about le mode (the mood) in French conjugation, it refers to the attitude of the speaker toward the action of the verb. Are they stating a fact? Is it hypothetical? Are they giving orders?

  • L’indicatif (Indicative) is used to express facts and truth. This is the most common mood.
  • Le subjonctif (Subjunctive) describes something possible or uncertain.
  • Le conditionnel (Conditional) is used for conditions or possibilities.
  • L’impératif (Imperative) is the tense we use for giving orders or instructions.

Simple Tenses vs. Compound Tenses

Most French tenses are “simple tenses.” This means the verb is conjugated according to the person, mood, and tense and its ending changes accordingly.

For example, the verb parler (to speak; to talk) could be conjugated as follows:

  • Nous parlons (We speak)
  • Je parlerai (I will talk)
  • Ils parlaient (They were speaking)

Compound tenses, on the other hand, are formed using an auxiliary verb. It can be either être (to be) or avoir (to have). In the case of a compound tense, you need to conjugate the auxiliary:

  • Nous avons parlé (“We have talked”)
  • Je suis tombé / tombée (“I have fallen”) [Masculine / Feminine]
A Man Having a Panic Attack

Relax, you don’t need more than two tenses to get started!

2. Present Tenses

The most important French tenses for beginners to learn are those that deal with the present. Here are the four present tenses you need to know:

[Indicatif] Présent (Present)

Le présent is the equivalent of the English present tense. In French, it can be used to talk about recurring actions, events in progress, and even the future in some cases. 

Here are a few examples of its various forms:

Je caresse un chat.“I’m petting a cat.”
Je caresse des chats tous les jours.“I pet cats every day.”
Je t’appelle dans quelques jours.“I’ll call you in a few days.”
Je finis mon verre.“I’m finishing my drink.”

[Subjonctif] Présent (Present Subjunctive)

Le subjonctif présent is used to express something that’s possible or uncertain in the present.

Il est important que je caresse un chat.“It’s important that I pet a cat.”
It’s important for me to do that, but it’s not a fact that I’ve actually done so. It’s something possible that might happen.

Elle veut que je finisse mon verre.“She wants me to finish my drink.”
Similarly here, we’re not stating that we have finished our drink or that we’re going to. We have only stated that this is what she wants. Is it going to happen? At this point, we don’t know.

[Impératif] Présent (Present Imperative)

L’impératif présent is used to give orders, advice, or instructions that are effective immediately.

This is by far the most common tense for the imperative mood.

Caresse ce chat !“Pet this cat.”
Finis ton verre !“Finish your drink.”

[Conditionnel] Présent (Present Conditional)

Le conditionnel présent refers to a condition or a possibility set in the present.

Si je pouvais, je caresserais un chat.“If I could, I would pet a cat.”
Si j’avais le temps, je finirais mon verre.“If I had time, I would finish my drink.”

    → Do you need some practice with the present tenses? You’ll find 50 common verbs in this free vocabulary list, with recorded pronunciation examples.
A Woman Petting Her Dog in a Grassy Field

Elle caresse son chien. (“She’s petting her dog.”)

3. Future Tenses

Need to talk about your future plans or coordinate a schedule with a native French speaker? No worries! Next on our French tenses list is the future tense and its different moods. 

[Indicatif] Futur Simple (Future)

Le futur simple is the French equivalent of the classic “will”-based future in English. We use it to make predictions and talk about what will happen later.

Je caresserai un chat.“I will pet a cat.”
Je finirai mon verre.“I will finish my drink.”

[Indicatif] Futur Proche (Near Future)

Le futur proche is used for something set in the near future. We’re about to do it, it’s coming soon. It’s very close to the English [“going to” + verb] and even has a similar structure.

Just like in English, we use the conjugated verb aller (to go) + infinitive.

Je vais caresser un chat.“I’m going to pet a cat.”
Je vais finir mon verre.“I’m going to finish my drink.”

[Indicatif] Futur Antérieur (Anterior Future)

Le futur antérieur is used to talk about two different moments in the past, one after the other. The first one, chronologically, will be in the futur antérieur.

It’s built around the auxiliary être or avoir, followed by the past participle of the verb. The participle agrees in gender and number, as you’ll see in these examples:

Je serai parti avant la fin de la semaine.I will be gone before the end of the week.” [Masc]
D’ici la fin de la semaine, je serai partie.“By the end of the week, I will be gone.” [Fem]

You should keep in mind that what matters is not the order of the events in the sentence, but their order in time.

  • What happens first? My departure.
  • What happens next? The end of the week.

If there is another verb describing the second event, it will be in futur simple.

Quand tu rentreras, j’aurai caressé un chat.When you come back, I will have petted a cat.”
J’aurai fini mon verre quand tu arriveras.I will have finished my drink when you arrive.”
Five Glasses of Champagne being Clinked Together

Je vais finir mon verre. (“I will finish my drink.”)

4. Common Past Tenses

There are numerous past tenses in French, but luckily, very few of them are actually useful on a daily basis. In fact, many of them are either for literature or are downright outdated.

Let’s start with the most useful French past tenses:

[Indicatif] Passé Composé (Compound Past)

Le passé composé is the most common past tense in French. It’s the equivalent of the English simple past and it’s used to talk about a past event with a limited duration, that is now over.

J’ai caressé un chat.“I have petted a cat.”
J’ai fini mon verre.“I have finished my drink.”

[Indicatif] Imparfait (Imperfect)

L’imparfait is similar to the English past progressive. We use it to describe facts and actions from the past while focusing on their duration or repetition. 

This is what you’d use to talk about an action that was taking place (for a certain duration, or regularly) at some point in the past.

Je caressais un chat.“I was petting a cat.”
Je finissais mon verre.“I was finishing my drink.”

You can combine this tense with le passé composé when describing an action that was taking place in the past until another brief action happened (also in the past).

Je caressais mon chat tous les jours.“I was petting my cat every day.”
Je finissais mon verre quand elle est arrivée.“I was finishing my drink when she arrived.”

[Indicatif] Plus-que-parfait (Pluperfect)

This equivalent of the English past perfect is used to describe actions that were taking place before a certain moment in the past.

J’avais caressé un chat.“I had petted a cat.”
J’avais fini mon verre quand elle est arrivée.“I had finished my drink when she arrived.”

[Subjonctif] Passé (Past Subjunctive)

Le subjonctif passé is used to express something possible or uncertain in the past.

Il est important que j’aie caressé un chat avant demain.“It’s important that I have petted a cat before tomorrow.”
Elle veut que j’aie fini mon verre.“She wants me to have my drink finished.”

It sounds pretty awkward once translated, because, in English, we would normally use the present in cases like that:

  • “It’s important that I pet a cat before tomorrow.”

And the same goes for French. In most cases, and in any conversation, you would say: 

  • Il est important que je caresse un chat avant demain. (Present subjunctive)

[Conditionnel] Passé (Past Conditional)

Le conditionnel passé refers to a condition or a possibility set in the past.

J’aurais caressé un chat.“I would have petted a cat.”
J’aurais fini mon verre.“I would have finished my drink.”

    → Make sure to put all that knowledge into practice! FrenchPod101 has plenty of lessons on future, past, and present tense comparisons.
A Gray Tabby Kitten in a Grassy Field

Je caressais un chaton. (“I was petting a kitten.”)

5. Literary Past Tenses

Now, let’s have a look at these marginal or literary tenses. You’re not likely to hear them in many conversations, but if you’re at an advanced level of French, it might be a good time to learn about them.

Otherwise, feel free to skip this section. You can always revisit it later at your leisure.

[Indicatif] Passé Simple (Past Simple)

Le passé simple describes actions set in the past, but unlike l’imparfait, these are one-time, completed, unrepeated actions. 

While the passé composé is mostly a spoken tense, the passé simple is its literary equivalent and is almost never used orally.

Elle ouvrit la porte et caressa le chat.“She opened the door and petted the cat.”
Je finis mon verre et en commandai un autre.“I finished my drink and ordered another one.”

[Indicatif] Passé Antérieur (Anterior Past)

This is a purely written tense that is used to express what happened right before another event in the past.

Quand elle eut ouvert la porte, elle caressa le chat.“When she had opened the door, she petted the cat.”
Quand j’eus fini mon verre, j’en commandai un autre.“When I had finished my drink, I ordered another one.”

[Subjonctif] Imparfait (Imperfect Subjunctive)

This tense started disappearing in the middle of the nineteenth century and is almost completely gone from today’s French. You can still find it in classic literature if you dig deep enough.

It’s used pretty much like the present subjunctive, but follows some of the most complicated past tenses. It expresses something possible or uncertain. Nowadays, we could simply replace it with subjonctif présent.

Il avait été important que je caressasse un chat.“It had been important that I had petted a cat.”
Elle voulait que je finisse mon verre.“She wanted me to finish my drink.”

[Subjonctif] Plus-que-parfait (Pluperfect Subjunctive)

A couple of centuries ago, the subjonctif plus-que-parfait would replace the subjonctif passé in a subordinate clause, when the main clause was conjugated in the past and the action of the subordinate clause was set before the action of the main clause.

Nowadays, nobody’s using it, even in writing.

Il était important que j’eusse caressé un chat avant demain.“It was important that I had petted a cat before tomorrow.”
Elle voulait que j’eusse fini mon verre.“She wanted that I would have finished my drink.”

[Impératif] Passé (Past Imperative)

This is a weird tense that has almost disappeared. Take the imperative (Pet this cat. / Finish your drink.) and put it in the past. 

You’re instructed to have done something in the past, which is a bit difficult to translate. It would be the equivalent of: “Make sure you have done that at this point in the future.”

Aie caressé un chat avant demain !“Make sure you have petted a cat before tomorrow.”
Aie fini ton verre quand elle arrivera !“Make sure you’ve finished your drink when she arrives.”
A Woman Drinking a Large Mug of Beer

Elle finit son verre. (“She’s finishing her drink.”)


Le mot de la fin

In this guide, you’ve learned everything about French verb tenses: past, present, and future…simple vs. conditional…even the six different moods! Do you feel ready to impress your friends with your flawless pluperfect conditional?

If you’re a beginner, I really suggest that you first focus on the présent and passé composé. You’ll be amazed by how far they can take you! And if you have more good tricks to quickly learn tenses, make sure to share them in the comments below.

FrenchPod101 also has tons of vocabulary lists with audio recordings as well as free resources to boost your studies and keep your French learning fresh and entertaining!

Remember that you can also use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal 1-on-1 coaching. Your private teacher can help you with tenses, conjugation, and more. In addition to giving you assignments, providing you with personalized exercises, and recording audio samples just for you, your teacher will review your work and help improve your pronunciation. 

Happy learning on FrenchPod101!

About the Author: Born and bred in the rainy north of France, Cyril Danon has been bouncing off various jobs before he left everything behind to wander around the wonders of the World. Now, after quenching his wanderlust for the last few years, he’s eager to share his passion for languages.

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How Long Does it (Realistically) Take to Learn French?

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This is the most frequently asked question about the language, and yet it has no definite answer. It depends on many things, such as your native language, education, experience with languages, exposure, and motivation.

Beyond that, how long it takes to learn French depends heavily on the proficiency level you want to achieve. Do you want to… 

  • …reach a beginner level? 
  • …be able to make and understand very basic phrases related to everyday life? 
  • …achieve an intermediate level that would allow you to get by in simple conversations on familiar topics? 
  • …get to an advanced level, so you could have meaningful interactions and read or listen to virtually anything? 

As you can imagine, these are very different goals with different time frames. But whatever you have in mind, there are some neat techniques you can use to learn French faster.

In this article, you’ll learn how to realistically estimate how long it will take you to learn French depending on your background and the proficiency level you have in mind. Then, we’ll see how to beat these estimates by choosing the right tools for the job.

The Speedometer and Gear Indicator of a Car

Speed up your French studies!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. The Many Factors Involved
  2. From Beginner to Advanced
  3. French Learning Tools for Every Level
  4. Le mot de la fin

1. The Many Factors Involved

Before we talk about how long you should expect to study in order to reach each level, there are a few factors you should keep in mind. These factors will impact how fast you can learn French and help you better estimate your total learning time.

1 – Your Native Language vs. French

Most time estimates on how long it takes to learn French are based on the assumption that your native language is English. If that’s not the case, it will clearly impact the numbers. Languages with similar roots as one’s own language are easier and quicker for that person to learn.

In any case, if you’re reading this article, it means your English level is already really strong. And this is great news! English and French both have strong Latin influences and share a lot of similarities in their vocabulary and grammar. If you know English, you already have a nice head-start on many things that would otherwise be long and difficult to learn, such as the Latin alphabet and the core structures.

And if you’re a native speaker from another Romance language such as Spanish, Portuguese, or Romanian (to name a few), it’s even better. Even before you start studying, you’ll be able to correctly guess the meaning of many complex technical words just because they look similar to their equivalents in your native language.

2 – Your Language Learning Experience 

How strong are your language learning muscles?

If you already speak a foreign language or were raised in a bilingual environment, you can shave quite a bit of time off your estimate. It’s usually faster to learn a third language than it is to learn a second one.

This is because your brain is already accustomed to the gymnastics of language learning and you already know how to study, memorize vocabulary, practice, and so on. Also, the more languages you’re exposed to, the easier it gets to decipher their logic and understand the inner workings of their grammar and structures.

3 – Your Motivation

Why are you learning French?

Do you need to be proficient to work in France? Are you dating a cute French girl or a handsome French guy? Is it a hobby or a necessity? Maybe you’re just passionate about linguistics and want to learn French for the sake of it?

There are many reasons one might learn French, and your motivation will impact your level of commitment and how much time and effort you’re willing to put into it. Motivation is also what makes or breaks most French learners. You’ll have to keep your motivation alive by frequently reminding yourself why you’re studying.

Someone Buying Pastries at a Shop

Being able to buy croissants at your French bakery is good motivation!

4 – How Are You Learning?

Are you learning at school or at university? Casually studying on your own? Or already in a French-speaking country and fully immersed in the language?

Your learning method will play a key role in how fast you make progress and reach your desired French level. And of course, it depends on how much time you’re willing to invest in your studies. For better results, I’d recommend using a mix of different techniques, such as academic learning + online self-teaching, or online lessons + full immersion.

Hold that thought—we’ll talk more about learning techniques in a moment!

2. From Beginner to Advanced

According to FSI (Foreign Service Institute) and ELC (European Language Center), French is one of the most accessible languages for native English speakers. It’s even on FSI’s list of the top ten easiest languages to learn for English speakers, alongside Spanish and Italian.

They evaluate that it should take around 24 weeks (~600 hours) for the average student to reach a general professional proficiency (speaking and reading). This is the equivalent of Level 3 on FrenchPod101.com and approximately DELF B2.

Now, let’s see what that means and talk about the different levels of French. 

I’ll use the DELF & DALF system, as it’s the most commonly used both academically and for French proficiency tests.

    → Speaking of which, if you’re indeed interested in the tests, we have a complete guide on how to pass the DELF / DALF exams with flying colors!

1 – Beginner Level

Let’s start at the beginning, A1.

At this level, you know how to use and understand everyday expressions as well as simple statements about practical needs. (I want this. Where is that?)

You can introduce yourself, ask questions about someone, and answer similar questions. 

Your conversation skills are rather basic, but if the other person is talking slowly and articulating enough, you can exchange simple information.

At this point, you’re most likely not going to start watching French movies without subtitles, hoping it will eventually click. You need to build a foundation by learning how the language works. This means studying:

  • Word order
  • Present tense
  • Basic conjugation

At first, you won’t need much vocabulary because you can build lots of different sentences using just a few words. For now, you’ll only need some basic nouns, verbs, and adjectives. Feel free to add some new words when you need them, but there’s no need to clutter your brain with an unnecessarily long vocabulary list.

At this level, flashcards are your best friends. You can use them to remember words as well as simple phrases, conjugated verbs, and basically anything you want. 

I would recommend Anki for PC or Ankidroid on mobile phones, but a simple search for “flashcards” will give you plenty of options.

I would also recommend tackling the pronunciation from day one. To that end, it’s generally a good idea to focus on spoken French over written French.

    ★ How long to reach A1? Around 80-100 hours.

A Woman Studying at Her Laptop

Studying online can be fun with the right tools.

2 – Intermediate Level

The term “intermediate” is a bit vague, so we’ll talk about B1. (Intermediate intermediate? Sounds good!)

At this level, you understand the main topics of a conversation when the language is not too complicated and if you’re familiar with the topic (work, school, hobbies, yourself).

When traveling in a French-speaking country, you can get by and handle daily interactions. 

You can also make simple sentences about what you know and like, events, and experiences. 
Reaching this level also means you can explain basic projects or ideas.

There’s a lot of ground to cover between beginner (A1) and advanced beginner (A2), and even more on your way to intermediate (B1).

You’ll start learning more vocabulary, structures, and phrase patterns. For example, you’ll learn how to describe your routine or your surroundings in more detail.

This is also when you start learning new tenses and new types of words, such as conjunctions and adverbs. You’ll get a better grasp of pronouns, and learn how to make your sentences lighter and smoother using them.

Considering how long you’ll study to reach B1, you should make sure to nip your most common mistakes in the bud (especially when it comes to pronunciation), as it will be harder to fix them in the future. 

If you’re studying at school or university, be sure to make the most of any help your teachers can provide. If you’re studying on your own, this would be a good time to get at least a few hours of private lessons or more affordable online coaching to solidify your knowledge and make sure you’re on the right track.

    ★ How long to reach B1? Around 350 to 400 hours.

3 – Advanced Level

Let’s finish with an advanced level, C1.

At this level, you can understand long, complex texts and their implicit meaning. You can talk fluently without hesitating too much or searching for your words.

You can now use the language in an efficient and flexible manner, for both professional and personal conversations, and build sentences in varied ways. You’re also able to express your opinion on demanding topics in a clear and articulate manner.

This is getting really serious. Double the time, double the effort. But if you got as far as B1, nothing’s gonna stop you now. The sky’s the limit!

First, you’ll have to reach B2 and then C1 (Expert). Of course, this is not the end; as you keep learning, you’ll expand your vocabulary and improve your confidence. That said, there’s no need to aim specifically for C2, as most native speakers don’t even have this level.

You can keep learning academically or through various online frameworks, but to reach such a level of proficiency, nothing beats deep immersion in your target language. Start watching movies, reading books, and listening to French music. But most importantly, find native speakers you can interact with regularly.

At this point, living in the country or spending at least a few months in France is the best option. You’ll get a massive dose of real-life French, with new accents, slang terms, and idiomatic expressions you wouldn’t find in grammar books.

    ★ How long to reach C1? Around 850 to 900 hours.
A Man and Woman Socializing with Drinks at a Party

It takes an advanced level to be comfortable with group conversations.

3. French Learning Tools for Every Level

How long it takes you to learn French really depends on how much exposure you can get and how much time and sweat you’re willing to put into it—but that’s not to say you can’t speed it up with the right tools!

Like most things in life, quality beats quantity, and learning French in a smart way will often make up for not pouring ten hours a day into your studies. 

Wondering how to learn French effectively? Below are a few tools and resources you can use to make the most of your study time.

1 – Online Lessons

When it comes to learning French anywhere and anytime, online classes are your bread and butter. They’re usually fit for any level and are much more affordable than schools or private lessons. 

They’re also the most flexible option, as you can adapt them to your schedule. That said, you’ll have to carefully keep track of your progress and work consistently if you want to improve.

Many websites are entirely free and allow you to work at your own pace. But this can also be a double-edged sword. Personally, when I’ve paid any kind of fixed fee or subscription, I often find myself much more dedicated to making the best out of that investment.

You can visit FrenchPod101 to get an idea of what online lessons have to offer. Even without a paid subscription, you can access a wealth of free content, including vocabulary lists, a YouTube channel, and countless lessons for every level.

Take a look at this intermediate lesson, for example. You’ll find…
  • …a recorded lesson or dialogue
  • ….all key sentences recorded in French and English
  • ….all new words, also with audio recordings. (You can add these words to your customizable collection of flashcards.)
  • …extensive lesson notes with all the grammar points and new structures explained.

The recording and lesson notes can also be downloaded for use offline, allowing you to study them later from anywhere—even when you don’t have access to the website.


2 – Private Teachers and Schools

Private schools and teachers are the most effective resources, but also the most expensive. If you can afford to attend regular French classes or hire a private teacher (either in person or online), it will help a lot, whether for getting a reliable foundation or honing your proficiency.

In any case, however, I would recommend reading students’ feedback and reviews carefully before committing to anything. Stay away from lazy academic courses with too many students per teacher, and beware of scams.

For French classes, Alliance Française has been on the market for a while and can be found in many countries around the globe. They provide courses for all levels and can help you pass the DELF and DALF proficiency tests. 

They’re also shockingly expensive, in my opinion, so I’d advise you to check your local options. You might find something perfectly fine without having to sell a kidney.

For private teachers, you can find them online on your local equivalent of Craigslist. The French use Leboncoin, and other countries rely on Gumtree.

For online teachers, websites such as iTalki are a good resource. The trial lesson is usually rather cheap, and it will give you a good idea of whether or not you want to work with the tutor.

Finally, a cheaper and more flexible option is to subscribe to the Premium PLUS option on FrenchPod101.com. This will allow you to have one-on-one interaction with your personal teacher, who can help you with your studies, send you tests and exercises, give you feedback on your writing and pronunciation, and much more.

3 – Soft Immersion

As you become more comfortable with your French, it will become more and more important to get as much exposure to the language as possible. 

It’s all about immersing yourself in French, by any means necessary. 

Are you into movies or series?

Why not browse your favorite streaming platform for French content? You can safely start with great classics such as Amélie or Léon

Depending on your level, you might want to start with English subtitles, switch to French subtitles when you’re ready, and finally switch to no subs at all.

You can also find French movies on YouTube but they rarely have subtitles..

Are you a gamer?

Then why not try to play some amazing French titles in their original version?

Games such as Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Unity (which takes place during the French Revolution) or Asobo’s A Plague Tale would be a great place to start. 

Listening to French music is another great way to immerse yourself in the language. Once again, YouTube is a good place to start.

Once you’ve found a song you like, perform a new search with the name of the song + “paroles” or “lyrics” and you’re good to go.

4 – Deep Immersion

This is not going to be a big reveal, but the best way to immerse yourself in the French language and make quick progress is to jump out of your comfort zone and spend some time right in a French-speaking country where you’ll be forced to speak and listen to French on a daily basis.

Try to make local friends, preferably who don’t speak English or prefer speaking French. (They’re still really easy to find. We’re not the brightest in Europe when it comes to foreign languages.) Work locally and even try chatting with random people whenever you’re out and about.

That being said, unless your native language is very similar to French (like Spanish or Italian), this is not something I would recommend for a complete beginner.

A deep immersion will mainly be beneficial to intermediate students who want to reach a more advanced level, or C1 learners trying to sharpen their skills or broaden their linguistic horizon with idioms and slang.

Someone Walking through an Airport with Their Luggage

To learn as fast as possible, nothing beats deep immersion.

Le mot de la fin

In this guide, you’ve learned how long it takes to learn French, the many factors involved, the different levels of proficiency, and how to learn French fast using the right tools for every situation.

Did we forget any important tool from your learning arsenal? Do you feel ready to give it a go and kick your French into top gear?

Make sure to explore FrenchPod101, as we have plenty of free resources to help you practice your grammar and learn new words. Our vocabulary lists are also a great way to review new words and learn their pronunciation.

Remember that you can also use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal one-on-one coaching and practice with your private teacher. Your teacher will provide you with assignments, personalized exercises, and recorded audio samples; he or she will also review your work and help you perfect your pronunciation. 

Happy learning on FrenchPod101.com!

About the Author: Born and bred in the rainy north of France, Cyril Danon has been bouncing off various jobs before he left everything behind to wander around the wonders of the World. Now, after quenching his wanderlust for the last few years, he’s eager to share his passion for languages.

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French Proverbs – An Insider Look at French Wisdom

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Why are proverbs so popular? As old-fashioned as they can be, you read, hear, and use them on a daily basis. They reflect who we are and the values we stand for. They’re timeless and comforting, never seem to age, and always bring this old magical wisdom that helps us go through life.

Personally, what I find fascinating about proverbs is how they serve as a window to different cultures. When I hear Chinese, Russian, or Indian proverbs, I feel like I’m entering a whole new world with a wildly different culture and mindset to learn from.

French proverbs are no different, and this is what I’m offering you in this article: a window to popular French wisdom, made up of common proverbs and old sayings. They might not instantly make you wiser, but I’m hoping they’ll get you curious to learn more about the culture and history of France.

An Owl Perched on a Wood Stump

Be wise as a French owl!


Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. Proverbs About Wisdom
  2. Proverbs About Success
  3. Proverbs About Life
  4. Proverbs About Family & Friends
  5. A Few More Proverbs for the Road?
  6. Le mot de la fin

1. Proverbs About Wisdom

Speaking of wisdom, let’s begin by looking at some proverbs in French that touch on how to live life wisely. 

#1

FrenchIl ne faut pas vendre la peau de l’ours avant de l’avoir tué.
Literally“Don’t sell the bear’s hide before you’ve killed the bear.”
EquivalentDon’t count your chickens before they hatch.
This traditional saying comes from Old French. It means that you should wait to act until you know that something is certain.

Ne vendons pas la peau de l’ours avant de l’avoir tué, on ne sait pas encore si elle va gagner. “Let’s not count our chickens before they hatch; we don’t know yet if she will win.”

#2

FrenchL’argent ne fait pas le bonheur.
Equivalent“Money cannot buy happiness.”
Nearly identical to its English counterpart, this expression means that although money lets you buy things, it’s not enough to achieve happiness.

The most materialistic people often follow it with mais il y contribue (“but it contributes to it”). Benjamin Franklin would argue: “Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. The more a man has, the more he wants.”


#3

FrenchIl n’y a que les imbéciles qui ne changent pas d’avis.
Literally“Only fools never change their minds.”
EquivalentA wise man changes his mind, a fool never will.
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. (Emerson)
Our opinions may vary, and people clinging to their believes or decisions when they have every reason not to are being stupid.

We use this proverb to point out stubbornness or to justify changing our minds.

A: Je pensais que tu ne voulais pas lire ce livre. (“I thought you didn’t want to read that book.”)
B: Il n’y a que les imbéciles qui ne changent pas d’avis. (“Only fools never change their mind.”)

#4

FrenchOn n’apprend pas au vieux singe à faire la grimace.
Literally“We don’t teach the old monkey to make a face.”
EquivalentThis old dog knows all the tricks.
You don’t need to teach something to someone who has much more experience than you have.

We typically use this expression when someone with less experience or knowledge is trying to explain something we find obvious or easy. 

#5

FrenchIl n’y a que la vérité qui blesse.
Literally“Only the truth hurts.”
EquivalentTruth hurts.
If you feel offended by a statement or reproach, it only proves that it was true. The most hurtful comments are the ones we deserve.

This expression is often used as a taunt, or when someone is denying their fault or wrongdoing and acting offended by the accusation.

#6

FrenchLa vengeance est un plat qui se mange froid.
Equivalent“Revenge is a dish best served cold.”
Vengeance is more satisfying when delayed and exacted with a clear head.

You’ll take more pleasure if you wait until the heat of anger has cooled off, rather than take revenge as an immediate act of rage.

There’s a common misconception about the origin of this quote, with many people claiming that it’s from the French novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses (“Dangerous Liaisons”) by Choderlos de Laclos. But the phrase actually appears in none of De Laclos’ work. As it stands, its origin remains unknown.

An Old Man Pointing to His Temple

The old dog knows all the tricks.

2. Proverbs About Success

We all have our own definitions of success, defined by our personal goals and our outlook on the world. Here are a few French proverbs and sayings that speak on success in its many forms—and how to attain it! 

#1

FrenchÀ vaincre sans péril, on triomphe sans gloire.
Literally“To win without risk is a triumph without glory.”
EquivalentNo guts, no glory.
Success won’t come if you’re not brave enough to take risks.

This is a quote from Le Cid, a five-act French tragicomedy written by Pierre Corneille. The whole book is written in alexandrines (lines of verse always composed of twelve syllables), which is quite impressive! 

#2

FrenchIl ne faut pas mettre la charrue avant les bœufs.
Literally“You should not put the cart before the oxen.”
EquivalentDon’t put the cart before the horse.
This expression from the fifteenth century means that you shouldn’t go so fast that you fail to do things in the right order. Literally, it means that it makes no sense to have the cart placed before the oxen if the oxen are supposed to pull the cart.

It’s often used to temper someone’s enthusiasm by reminding them to take their time and start at the beginning.

#3

FrenchOn n’est jamais mieux servi que par soi-même.
Literally“You are never served better than by yourself.”
EquivalentIf you want something done right, do it yourself.
If you want something done exactly the way you want it, you should just do it yourself.

This is a quote from the play Bruis et Palaprat (1807) by Charles-Guillaume Étienne.

#4

FrenchQui ne risque rien n’a rien. 
Literally“Who’s not risking anything gets nothing.”
EquivalentNothing ventured, nothing gained.
One must take risks to achieve something. If you don’t risk anything, you won’t get anything good.

Quit that boring nine-to-five job, grab your backpack, and chase your dreams! Success is never guaranteed, but laying still will never take you anywhere.

#5

FrenchNe remets pas à demain ce que tu peux faire aujourd’hui.
Equivalent“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” (Benjamin Franklin)
No time like the present! You shouldn’t delay doing something if you can do it right now.

This quote is a powerful mantra for serial procrastinators. I should get it as a tattoo.

#6

FrenchC’est en forgeant qu’on devient forgeron.
Literally“It is by forging that you become a blacksmith.”
EquivalentPractice makes perfect.
To really become proficient at something, you need practice and not just theory.

#7

FrenchÀ cœur vaillant rien d’impossible.
Literally“To a valiant heart, nothing is impossible.”
Equivalent
A brave heart can accomplish anything. With enough courage, one can do the impossible.

This quote was the motto of Jacques Cœur (1395 – 1456), silversmith for the French king Charles VII.


A Silhouette of Someone Leaping from One Cliff to Another

« À cœur vaillant rien d’impossible. »

3. Proverbs About Life

We could all use a little guidance now and then as we navigate this thing called life. And more often than not, we end up looking to the wisdom of our predecessors for that extra insight. Here are a few common French proverbs about life that offer just that! 

#1

FrenchChat échaudé craint l’eau froide.
Literally“A scalded cat fears cold water.”
EquivalentOnce bitten, twice shy.
This is what you’d say if you were scared of doing something again because you previously had an unpleasant experience doing that thing.

Bad experiences make us cautious, and sometimes even overly cautious. Likewise, the cat that got splashed with hot water will be scared of water, whether it’s hot or cold.

#2

FrenchOn ne change pas une équipe qui gagne.
Literally“One does not change a winning team.”
EquivalentIf it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.
The English equivalent is pretty self-explanatory: There’s no need to make any changes to something that’s already working well.

Le prochain John Wick sera encore réalisé par David Leitch et Chad Stahelski. On ne change pas une équipe qui gagne !
 “The next John Wick movie will again be directed by David Leitch et Chad Stahelski. You don’t change a winning team!”

#3

FrenchIl vaut mieux prévenir que guérir.
Literally“It is better to prevent than to heal.”
EquivalentBetter safe than sorry.
You might use this proverb when it seems wiser to be careful and protect yourself instead of taking unnecessary risks.

Je sais qu’il fait beau mais je vais prendre mon parapluie. Mieux vaut prévenir que guérir !
“I know it’s sunny, but I’ll take my umbrella anyway. Better safe than sorry!”

#4

FrenchIl n’y a pas de fumée sans feu.
Literally“There is no smoke without fire.”
EquivalentWhere there is smoke, there is fire.
If there’s any sign of something being true, then it must be at least partly true.

Je ne crois pas aux théories du complot mais il n’y a pas de fumée sans feu.
 “I don’t believe in conspiracy theories, but where there is smoke, there is fire.”

Firemen Putting Out a Fire

« Il n’y a pas de fumée sans feu. »

4. Proverbs About Family & Friends

Wherever you live in the world, relationships are an essential part of everyday life. Gain some extra perspective on the topic with these French proverbs about family and friends. 

#1

FrenchQui aime bien châtie bien.
Literally“Who loves well, punishes well.”
EquivalentSpare the rod and spoil the child.
This proverb is originally translated from Latin: “Qui bene amat, bene castigat.” It’s sometimes attributed to classical Greek philosopher Socrates.

This is a bit different from the English equivalent. “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” implies that if you don’t punish a child when they do something wrong, they will never learn what’s right.

In the French expression, we mean that when you love someone, you’ll punish them proportionally to their wrongdoing instead of being too harsh or ignoring their fault. If you don’t like someone, you’re more likely to be indifferent when they do wrong—but the behavior of your loved ones matters to you.

#2

FrenchQui se ressemble s’assemble.
Literally“Those who look alike get together.”
EquivalentBirds of a feather flock together.
People with similar interests or character tend to gather and spend time with each other.

This proverb is often used pejoratively when disapproving of a shared characteristic or interest.

#3

FrenchMieux vaut être seul que mal accompagné.
Equivalent“Better to be alone than in bad company.”
Identical to its English equivalent, this quote by Pierre Gringore reminds us that it’s pointless to seek company at all cost. If you can only be in bad company, you should rather be alone and enjoy yourself in the comfort of your mind palace.

#4

FrenchLes bons comptes font les bons amis.
Literally“Good accounts make good friends.”
EquivalentFast pay makes fast friends.
To preserve friendship, quickly pay your debts. 

Friendship and money never combine gracefully, so as Benjamin Franklin would say: “Never keep borrowed money an hour beyond the time you promised.” (Yes, I’m a Ben Franklin fan, he’s so quotable!)

#5

FrenchLes chiens ne font pas des chats.
Literally“Dogs don’t breed cats.”
EquivalentThe apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Children usually have similar characteristics or qualities to those of their parents.

This expression can be used to highlight the parents’ talents:

Elle joue déjà très bien de la guitare. Les chiens ne font pas des chats.
“She’s playing guitar very well. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

Or it can be used pejoratively:

Il a un sale caractère. Les chiens ne font pas des chats.
“He’s got a bad temper. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”


Best Friends Hanging Out on the Couch

« Qui se ressemble s’assemble. »

5. A Few More Proverbs for the Road?

#1

FrenchRien ne sert de courir, il faut partir à point.
Literally“It’s useless to run. You should start on time.”
EquivalentSlow and steady wins the race.

#2

FrenchIl n’y a que celui qui ne fait rien qui ne se trompe jamais.
Literally“Only those who do nothing never fail.”
This is sometimes used as a motivational quote when starting a new business or career.

#3

FrenchChassez le naturel, il revient au galop.
Literally“Chase away the natural and it returns at a gallop.”
EquivalentA leopard cannot change its spots.
If you go against your nature, it will never last.

#4

FrenchA cheval donné, on ne regarde pas les dents.
Literally“When given a horse, don’t look at its teeth.”
EquivalentNever look a gift horse in the mouth.
This is said to advise someone not to refuse something when it’s offered.

#5

FrenchIl n’est pire aveugle que celui qui ne veut pas voir.
Literally“There is no worse blind man than the one who doesn’t want to see.”
EquivalentYou cannot reason with someone who’s not interested in the truth.

#6

FrenchVouloir, c’est pouvoir.
Literally“To want is to be able to.”
EquivalentWhere there is a will, there is a way.

#7

FrenchAprès la pluie, le beau temps.
Literally“After the rain, the good weather.”
EquivalentEvery cloud has a silver lining.

#8

FrenchOn ne fait pas d’omelette sans casser d’oeufs.
Literally“You don’t make omelets without breaking some eggs.”
EquivalentNo pain no gain.
You cannot achieve great things without making sacrifices.

6. Le mot de la fin

In this guide, you’ve learned about the most important French proverbs on a variety of topics, from wisdom to relationships. Did I forget any important proverb that you know? Or maybe you know some cool saying on a different topic? Make sure to share them with our community in the comments below!


If you enjoyed this lesson, FrenchPod101 also has tons of vocabulary lists with audio recordings, as well as free resources to boost your studies and keep your French learning fresh and entertaining!

Remember that you can also use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal one-on-one coaching and have your private teacher practice with you. They’ll use assignments, personalized exercises, and recorded audio samples to help you improve your French skills like never before. Happy learning on FrenchPod101.com!

About the Author: Born and bred in the rainy north of France, Cyril Danon has been bouncing off various jobs before he left everything behind to wander around the wonders of the World. Now, after quenching his wanderlust for the last few years, he’s eager to share his passion for languages.

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A French Grammar Pocket Book

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Are you starting out in French and wondering what to study first? Or maybe you’re already learning French and getting a bit lost in French grammar? 

Regardless of your experience or background, you’ve come to the right place. You’ll always need a concise summary of French grammar at hand as you explore the language’s ins and outs, and that’s exactly what this guide is about.

In this article, you’ll find a general overview of French grammar, from basic sentence structure to conjugation, agreement rules, and negation.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. Vocabulary
  2. Sentence Structure
  3. Verbs & Tenses
  4. Nouns & Articles
  5. Adjectives
  6. Negation
  7. Le mot de la fin

1. Vocabulary

Let’s start with some good news: French has a lot in common with English. It has similar types of words, as well as a fair amount of common vocabulary and grammatical structures.

Although eighty percent of French vocabulary comes directly from Latin and Greek, we also use many words from other languages, including English

You’d be surprised how many common French words have been taken straight from English, such as Boss, Remake, Jet, Weekend, Babysitter, Manager, Pullover, and countless more.

Similarly to most Latin languages, French has the following types of words:

1 – Nouns

  • French nouns almost always need an article in front of them.
    You can say le chat (“the cat”) or un chat (“a cat”), but just chat is incorrect.

  • French nouns have a gender.
    Le soleil (“the sun”) is masculine; la lune (“the moon”) is feminine.

  • French nouns have a number.
    Le chat (“the cat”) is singular; les chats (“the cats”) is plural.

  • There are common nouns and proper nouns.
    Un chat (“a cat”) is a common noun. Jupiter, Miyazaki, and Nietzsche are proper nouns.

Don’t forget to stop by our article on the 100+ Must-Know Nouns in French to learn much more about nouns and expand your vocabulary!

2 – Articles

  • Articles are mandatory in French.

  • They agree with the noun in gender and number.

    • Un arbre (“A tree”)
    • Une fleur (“A flower”)
    • Des fleurs (“Flowers”)

  • There are three types of articles:

    • Indefinite articles (Not specific): Un, Une, Des
      Un oiseau (“A bird”), Une loutre (“An otter”), Des papillons (“Butterflies”)

    • Definite articles (Specific): Le, L’, La, Les
      We use them when talking about a specific, previously mentioned noun: Le parc (“The park”)
      When there is only one: Le soleil (“The sun”)
    • Or for a general notion: La vie (“Life”), L’art (“Art”), Le sport (“Sport”)

    • Partitive articles (Some / A certain amount): Du, De La, Des
      Du fromage
      (“Cheese”), De la farine (“Flour”), Des fruits (“Fruits”)

Flowers

Des fleurs (“Flowers”)

3 – Adjectives

Adjectives are used to describe a noun. In French grammar, adjectives agree in gender and number with the noun.

For example:

  • Un petit chemin (“A small path”)
  • Une petite route (“A small road”)
  • Deux petites routes (“Two small roads”)

Here’s our list of the 100 Must-Know French Adjectives, as well as the few grammar rules you need to know!

4 – Possessive Adjectives

Possessive adjectives define whom the noun belongs to. Of course, like everything related to nouns, they agree in gender and number.

For example:

  • Mon jardin (“My garden”)
  • Ma maison (“My house”)
  • Mes affaires (“My belongings”)
  • Ton adresse (“Your address”)
  • Sa faute (“His / Her fault”)
  • Ses fleurs (“His / Her flowers”)
  • Leur voiture (“Their car”)

5 – Demonstrative Adjectives

Demonstrative adjectives are used to point at something or emphasize its importance (this / that / these / those). In French, we have: ce / cet, cette, ces.

For example:

  • Ce jardin (“This / That garden”)
  • Cet arbre (“This / That tree”)
  • Cette maison (“This / That house”)
  • Ces villes (“These / Those cities”)

6 – Adverbs

Adverbs don’t agree in gender or number; they’re invariable. They describe a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. They define how something is done (slowly / violently), how much (a bit / a lot), or more information about when and where (often / yesterday).

For example:

  • Je mange lentement. (“I eat slowly.”)
  • Elle a beaucoup de fromages. (“She has a lot of cheese.”)
  • Je ne dors jamais l’après-midi. (“I never sleep in the afternoon.”)
  • Nous partirons demain. (“We will leave tomorrow.”)

In our 100 Must-Know French Adverbs, you’ll find everything you need to know about adverbs, as well as a massive list of the 100 most useful ones.

A Woman Watching Her Alarm Clock in Bed

Elle ne dort jamais. (“She never sleeps.”)

7 – Verbs

  • French verbs are split between three groups, depending on the spelling of their infinitive form and their behavior. The three types of verbs are:

    • ER (manger, parler, toucher)
    • IR (dormir, partir, venir)
    • RE (répondre, prendre)

  • In French grammar, conjugation takes place for a variety of tenses (past, future, etc.).
    More on French conjugation later in this article!

  • Some verbs are reflexive and start with se, as in: se réveiller (“to wake up”), se lever (“to stand up”), and s’arrêter (“to stop”).
    They are often used to describe things you do regularly or changes of state (such as “to wake up,” “to fall asleep,” “to sit down”) that have an effect on oneself.

The best way to start learning verbs? Our article on the 100 Must-Know French Verbs, with valuable insight on conjugation and an exhaustive guide on tenses.

8 – Pronouns

French pronouns come in many shapes and sizes:

  • Personal pronouns
    • Personal subjects: Elle a faim. (“She’s hungry.”)
    • Stressed pronouns: C’est moi ! (“It’s me!”)
    • Direct pronouns: Nous le donnons. (“We give it.”)
    • Indirect pronouns: Ils vous parlent. (“They talk to you.”)
    • Reflexive pronouns: Je me lève. (“I stand up.”)

  • Impersonal pronouns
    • Impersonal subjects: Ça commence maintenant. (“It starts now.”)
    • Adverbial pronouns: Je veux y aller. (“I want to go there.”)
    • Relative pronouns: Je sais que tu es là. (“I know that you are here.”)
    • Demonstrative pronouns: Celles de gauche. (“These on the left.”)
    • Interrogative pronouns: Qui es-tu ? (“Who are you?”)
    • Indefinite pronouns: Tout est possible. (“Anything is possible.”)

Curious about pronouns? You can learn much more about them by reading our article on the 10 Types of French Pronouns to Keep Things Sleek and Smooth

9 – Conjunctions

Conjunctions are these convenient little words that we use to connect things:

  • Listing things: Des fruits et des légumes (“Fruits and vegetables”)
  • Setting conditions: Je ne bois pas, sinon je m’endors. (“I don’t drink, otherwise I fall asleep.”)
  • Expressing causality: Je mange car j’ai faim. (“I’m eating because I’m hungry.”)
  • Objecting: Je mange du fromage mais pas de camembert. (“I eat cheese but not camembert.”)
  • Expressing purpose: Je médite pour me relaxer. (“I meditate to relax.”)

To learn more on conjunctions, I recommend that you stop by our extensive Guide to French Conjunctions on FrenchPod101.com.

10 – Prepositions

In French grammar, prepositions can be followed by…

  • …a noun:
    Le chat est dans le jardin. (“The cat is in the garden.”)
    Elle t’attendra devant la maison. (“She will wait for you in front of the house.”)
    Avec ou sans patates ? (“With or without potatoes?”)
  • …an infinitive verb:
    Je me prépare à partir. (“I’m getting ready to leave.”)
    Il essaye de partir. (“He’s trying to leave.”)
    J’étudie sur FrenchPod101 pour parler Français. (“I study on FrenchPod101 to speak French.”)
  • …or a stress pronoun:
    On va chez moi ? (“Are we going to my place?”)
    Elle vient avec moi. (“She’s coming with me.”)

Apple and Banana

Une pomme et une banane (“An apple and a banana”)

2. Sentence Structure

The first thing you need to learn to build sentences in French is the word order. Otherwise, even if you learn a lot of vocabulary, it will always be difficult to identify the keywords and the general meaning of what you hear or read.

French follows the SVO pattern (Subject Verb Object). It means that the default word order is: Subject Verb Object.

  • Je bois du vin. (“I drink wine.”)

Unlike other Latin languages, such as Spanish or Italian, where the subject pronouns can be omitted, we almost never skip the subject of a sentence.


A Man Arranging a Big Puzzle

One piece at a time, they all fit nicely.

3. Verbs & Tenses

Conjugation in French has a lot in common with English conjugation, but it adds a hairy layer of complexity; the verb ending changes depending on the person, mood, voice, and tense.

At first, it may seem overwhelming. But luckily, most verbs follow a set of rules and patterns that you can learn rather quickly.

1 – Conjugation Basics

Singular pronouns:
  • je / j’ (“I”)
  • tu / vous (Casual “you” / Formal “you”)
  • il / elle (“he” / “she”)
Plural pronouns:
  • nous (“we”)
  • vous (“you”)
  • ils / elles (Male “they” / Female “they”)

The ending of the verb depends on the person (or pronoun):

  • Je marche (“I walk”)
  • Nous marchons (“We walk”)
  • Elles marchent (“They walk”)

Just like English, French has simple tenses and compound tenses.

Simple tenses are conjugated by changing the verb ending, while compound tenses also add an auxiliary together with the verb.

  • Nous marchons (“We walk”) – Simple tense: Présent.
  • Nous avons marché (“We have walked”) – Compound tense: Passé composé.

At first glance, the list of all seventeen French tenses seems intimidating, but most of them are only ever used in literature. On a daily basis, you won’t need more than five or six to deal with any kind of situation.

2 – Regular & Irregular Verbs

Like in most languages, including English, the most useful and common French verbs are the most irregular. Verbs like être (“to be”), avoir (“to have”), or faire (“to do”) are highly irregular.

However, it’s important to quickly learn how to conjugate the regular verbs, as their conjugation rules will help you deal with the majority of verbs that you’ll encounter. So, let’s start with that.

Regular verb: Marcher (“To walk”) ← This is the infinitive form of a 1st group verb.

March ← This is the “stem.”

Here’s how it looks in present tense:

1st sg (I)2nd sg (you)3rd sg (she)1st pl (we)2nd pl (you)3rd pl (they)
Stem + eStem + esStem + eStem + onsStem + ezStem + ent
Je marcheTu marchesElle marcheNous marchonsVous marchezIls marchent

Now, if you follow this simple pattern, you can conjugate countless similar French verbs:

  • Parler (“To talk”)
    Je parle, Tu parles, Elle parle, Nous parlons, Vous parlez, Elles parlent

  • Penser (“To think”)
    Je pense, Tu penses, Elle pense, Nous pensons, Vous pensez, Elles pensent

  • Aimer (“To love”)
    J’aime, Tu aimes, Elle aime, Nous aimons, Vous aimez, Elles aiment

  • Demander (“To ask”)
    Je demande, Tu demandes, Elle demande, Nous demandons, Vous demandez, Elles demandent

  • Utiliser (“To use”)
    J’utilise, Tu utilises, Elle utilise, Nous utilisons, Vous utilisez, Elles utilisent

3 – The Two Most Important Verbs

Now that you know the basics of French conjugation, let’s have a look at two crucial verbs that don’t follow the rules: 

  • Être (“To be”)
    Je suis, Tu es, Elle est, Nous sommes, Vous êtes, Elles sont
    For example: Je suis heureux. (“I’m happy.”)

  • Avoir (“To have”)
    J’ai, Tu as, Elle a, Nous avons, Vous avez, Elles ont
    For example: Nous avons un chat. (“We have a cat.”)

These two verbs are not only useful in themselves, but also as auxiliaries to form the compound tenses we mentioned earlier.

  • Elle est revenue de vacances. (“She has returned from vacation.”)
  • Tu es allé au cinéma. (“You have gone to the movie theater.”)
  • J’ai rencontré Julien. (“I have met Julien.”)
  • Nous avons fini de manger. (“We have finished eating.”)

We’re just scratching the surface, but you can learn much more about this in our extensive guide on
French Conjugation and on our free French Verbs resource page.

Woman Holding a Popcorn Inside Movie Theater

Elles sont au cinéma. (“They are at the movie theater.”)

4. Nouns & Articles

    Rule #1: Nouns have a gender.

In French grammar, gender is applied to each and every noun. French nouns are either masculine or feminine.

For example, un mois (“a month”) is masculine, while une semaine (“a week”) is feminine.

    Rule #2: Nouns have an article.

Unlike those in English, French nouns always have an article and cannot be used without one.

You can say un chien (“a dog”) or le chien (“the dog”), but never chien.

    Rule #3: Nouns and articles agree in gender.

How they change when put in the feminine form depends on their initial spelling.

  • Un boulanger / Une boulangère (“A baker”)
  • Un fermier / Une fermière (“A farmer”)
  • Un chanteur / Une chanteuse (“A singer”)
  • Un acteur / Une actrice (“An actor” / “An actress”)
  • Un chien / Une chienne (“A dog”)
    Rule #4: Nouns and articles agree in number.

Like with gender, there are certain changes an article goes through to agree with the noun in number.

  • Un chat (“A cat”) / Des chats (“Cats”)
  • Le chat (“The cat”) / Les chats (“The cats”)

But there are also a bunch of special cases:

  • Un cheval (“A horse”) / Des chevaux (“Horses”)
  • Un hibou (“An owl”) / Des hiboux (“Owls”)
  • Un bateau (“A boat”) / Des bateaux (“Boats”)
  • Une souris (“A mouse”) / Des souris (“Mice”)
Toy Cat

Des chats (“Cats”)

5. Adjectives

    Rule #1: Adjective placement may vary.

The majority of French adjectives are placed AFTER the noun they’re describing.

  • Un mur épais (“A thick wall”)
  • Une voix douce (“A soft voice”)
  • Des assiettes sales (“Dirty plates”)

However, some of the most common adjectives come BEFORE the noun.

  • Un bon film (“A good movie”)
  • Une petite fille (“A little girl”)
  • Un nouveau livre (“A new book”)
    Rule #2: Adjectives agree with the noun in gender. 

Adjectives must also agree in gender with the noun they’re describing.

Most French adjectives have different feminine and masculine forms.

  • Un garçon intelligent (“A smart boy”)
  • Une fille intelligente (“A smart girl”)

But some adjectives are invariable:

  • Un train rapide (“A fast train”) 
  • Une voiture rapide (“A fast car”)
    Rule #3: Adjectives agree with the noun in number. 

Finally, adjectives must agree in number with the noun they’re describing.

Most of them simply take a final -s:

  • Un petit chien (“A small dog”)
  • Des petits chiens (“Small dogs”)
  • Des petites chiennes (“Small dogs” – Feminine)

Adjectives ending with -s or -x are invariable.

A Girl Solving Math Problem in the Board

Une fille intelligente (“A smart girl”)

6. Negation

French negative sentences are built using the particle Ne + one or more negative words.

In French grammar, negation is achieved by placing these two parts around the verb, as follows: 

[Subject] ne [verb] pas.

  • Je mange. (“I eat.”)
  • Je ne mange pas. (“I don’t eat.”)

There’s a collection of negative words you can use:

  • Je ne mange jamais. (“I never eat.”)
  • Je ne mange rien. (“I don’t eat anything.”)
  • Je ne mange personne. (“I don’t eat anyone.”)
  • Je ne mange plus. (“I don’t eat anymore.”)
  • Je ne mange nulle part. (“I’m not eating anywhere.”)
  • Je ne mange aucune viande. (“I don’t eat any meat.”)
  • Je ne mange que de la viande. (“I eat nothing but meat.”)

Negation follows the exact same pattern with any verb…

  • Je ne vais nulle part. (“I’m not going anywhere.”)
  • Nous ne parlons jamais. (“We never talk.”)
  • Elle ne fume plus. (“She’s not smoking anymore.”)
  • Tu ne sais rien, Jon Snow. (“You know nothing, Jon Snow.”)

…except when the verb starts with the vowel and Ne is shortened to N’:

  • Je n’ai rien à dire. (“I have nothing to say.”)
  • Tu n’aimes pas. (“You don’t like.”)
  • Nous n’essayons pas. (“We are not trying.”)

You can also build sentences using several negative words:

  • Je ne dirai jamais rien à personne. (“I will never tell anything to anyone.”)
  • Elle n’est plus allée nulle part après cela. (“She didn’t go anywhere anymore after this.”)

It’s also possible to start a sentence with a negative word:

  • Rien n’arrive sans raison. (“Nothing happens without a reason.”)
  • Personne ne bouge. (“Nobody moves.”)
A Man Whispering Something to His Fellow Man

Ne le dis à personne ! (“Don’t tell anyone!”)

7. Le mot de la fin

In this guide, you’ve learned all of the essential French grammar guidelines, from basic structures to conjugation, agreement rules, and negation.

Whether you’re just getting started in your French studies or consolidating your knowledge, you can use this overview as a small grammar pocket book whenever you need quick access to the basic French grammar rules. Did we forget any important rule you’d like to learn about?

Make sure to explore FrenchPod101.com, as we have plenty of free resources to help you practice your grammar and learn new words. Our vocabulary lists are also a great way to review words and learn their pronunciation.

Feel like you need more French grammar help? Remember that you can use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal one-on-one coaching. Practice these grammar basics with your private teacher so they can give you personalized feedback and advice.

About the Author: Born and bred in the rainy north of France, Cyril Danon has been bouncing off various jobs before he left everything behind to wander around the wonders of the World. Now, after quenching his wanderlust for the last few years, he’s eager to share his passion for languages.

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How Hard is it to Learn French (Really)?

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Is French hard to learn, or is it easy? Which parts are harder for foreign learners, and which are easier?  

Whether you’re just contemplating the idea of learning French, or are struggling with something and looking for comfort, you’ve come to the right place.

With 230 million speakers, French is the official language of twenty-eight countries. It’s also a very prominent language in the international business and cultural scenes, making it a must-learn language for anybody interested in foreign cultures.

Overall, French is generally considered to be mildly challenging, but to be honest, it greatly depends on your native language. Students from English-speaking countries will enjoy a big headstart for many reasons that we’ll explain shortly. And if you’re a native speaker of a Romance language (Spanish, Italian, etc.), it’s not even a head start—it’s an unfair advantage!

In this article, I’ll do my best to give the language a fair trial and examine what makes French difficult and what things are easy about it. This knowledge will allow you to assess how hard it truly is to learn French!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Learning French Table of Contents
  1. The Easy Parts of Learning French
  2. Challenging Parts of Learning French
  3. What are the Best Ways to Get Started?
  4. Why is FrenchPod101 Great for Learning French?
  5. Le Mot De La Fin

1. The Easy Parts of Learning French

A Trio of College Students Having Fun While Learning

It’s easier to learn when you’re having fun!

Is French really that hard to learn? Not according to the FSI (Foreign Service Institute) or the ELC (European Language Center). French consistently scores as “Easy” in these two rankings of the most accessible languages for native English-speakers.

In their language difficulty ranking, the Foreign Service Institute puts French in the top ten easiest languages to learn for English-speakers, alongside notoriously easy languages such as Spanish and Italian. The FSI determines that it should take around twenty-four weeks (~600 hours) for an average student to reach a general professional proficiency (speaking and reading).

Why is that? Let’s go through the main reasons why French is much easier than you might think.

1 – French is a Romance Language

If you’re reading this article, chances are your understanding of English is quite solid already. Good news: this gives you a huge headstart on many things that are typically difficult to learn, such as the Latin alphabet or the core grammatical structures.

And if you’re a native speaker of another Romance language such as Spanish, Portuguese, or Romanian (the list goes on), your luck keeps on coming! For example, the French language is so similar to Spanish that before I ever learned any of it, I was able to read some simple Spanish text and understand a good half of it.

Knowing a Romance language before beginning your French studies also allows you to show off your understanding of complicated technical terms you’d normally have no business knowing—just because these terms are almost identical across Romance languages.

As an English-speaker, if you try to learn an Asian language, such as Mandarin, you’ll be thrown into uncharted waters with nothing to hold on to. Believe me, I tried. The alphabet is different, there are no familiar words or sounds, and the grammar seems completely alien. Sentences can sometimes omit a verb or subject, and it takes a lot of persistence to assimilate the grammar logic. But when learning French, you’ll be on familiar ground.

2 – Lots of Words are Identical in English and French

Many linguists are still arguing about the exact origins of the English language, but you may have noticed how many French words can be found there. It’s all over the place! It’s believed that nearly thirty percent of English words have a French origin.

Any of these words look familiar?

  • Un lion
  • Un dragon
  • Un capitaine
  • La justice
  • Le commerce
  • La musique
  • Une terrasse
  • Une carotte

As you learn French, you’ll truly appreciate this wealth of free vocabulary that you don’t really have to learn. And believe me, there’s a hefty list. English vocabulary has more in common with French than with any other Romance language.

A bit of history?

To be honest, many of these words are technical terms that you’re not likely to use every day. This is because English began as a Germanic language, and as a result, many of English’s core elements are of German roots. These elements include its grammatical structures and the most crucial words (prepositions, auxiliaries, pronouns, and more).

Then, later on, during the reign of William the Conqueror, the first Norman King of England, French began being spoken in court and quickly became fashionable for the upper class to learn. It was spoken in schools and universities, which explains why many of the borrowed French words are scientific and technical terms.

Image of French Nobility with Wigs

Inexplicable vintage French fashion

3 – Grammar Structures are Similar

At first, you might find French grammar confusing, and this is mainly because the word order can differ. However, the basic structures are very similar in English and French!

The French language has subjects, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, prepositions, and all that good stuff. I used to take it for granted before I started studying languages from different roots (Asian, Slavic, etc.), and now, I really appreciate little things like having a subject and a verb in my sentences!

Just look at simple sentences like:

  • Je marche doucement.
    “I walk slowly.”
  • Elle a une grande maison.
    “She has a big house.”
  • Nous avons perdu un peu de poids.
    “We have lost a bit of weight.”

It’s no coincidence if you can translate these sentences word-for-word.

And as you can see, whether we’re looking at adjectives or adverbs, they behave in very similar ways. Only the word order will differ in some cases.

4 – Conjugation is Much Easier Than it Seems

Has your first contact with French conjugation been a shock? Did you get anxious looking at all the specific endings, as well as the plethora of convoluted tenses? I get it, it’s intimidating. But don’t let it scare you away!

Sure, the verb endings will be challenging at first, until you realize that a vast majority of them behave in the exact same way. 

Like in any other language, the most common verbs are also the most irregular (just think about “to be” or “to go” in English…it’s quite a mess). You’ll have to learn these irregular conjugations before you get to the easy ones, but at least you know there’s a nice and cozy plateau at the top of this hill. 🙂

And what about all the tenses? What if I told you that out of the seventeen French tenses, you only need five to deal with any situation on a daily basis (and even less in spoken French)! Almost all of the complicated stuff is for literary purposes.

So, what do you think? Is French hard for English-speakers to learn, after all?

2. Challenging Parts of Learning French

Now, let’s have an honest look at the more complex aspects of the French language and how you can soften the blow with some quick and dirty tricks.

1 – False Friends are Worse than Open Enemies

Remember those thirty percent of English words with a French origin? Well, it turns out that it’s a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s great to have this free vocabulary. But on the other hand, many similar—or even identical—words have different meanings! 

We call them faux-amis (“false friends”).

For example: J’aime le pain et le poisson. 

This doesn’t mean: “I love pain and poison.” It means: “I love bread and fish.”

Similarly, you should not confuse “Preservative” (Conservateur) with Préservatif (“Condom”) or you might make embarrassing mistakes at a fancy Sunday dinner.

Here are some of the worst offenders:

You should not confuse…With…
Une librairie (“A bookshop”)“A library” (Une bibliothèque)
Une fabrique (“A factory”)“Fabric” (Le tissu)
Sensible (“Sensitive”)“Sensible” (Raisonnable; Sensé)
Actuellement (“Currently”)“Actually” (En fait; Effectivement)
Attendre (“To wait”)“To attend” (Assister à)
Prétendre (“To claim”)“To pretend” (Faire semblant)

    → Do you want to know more? Here’s an extensive list of the French-English false friends.
Fish

“Hi, I’d like three pounds of poison, please!”

2 – Everything Has a Gender

If your native language has gendered nouns, like the majority of European languages, this aspect of French should not particularly frustrate you. However, this is something English-speakers often find confusing.

I mean, why is le soleil (“the sun”) masculine and la lune (“the moon”) feminine? What about une voiture (“a car”) being feminine while un vélo (“a bicycle”) is masculine? 

If you were to take a deep linguistic dive into the language’s history and its roots, you’d probably find a lot of good reasons for all of this. But for now, let’s just say it’s arbitrary.

Oh, and that’s not it. Gender has an influence on many parts of the language, such as the ending of verbs and adjectives, pronouns, or articles. For example:

  • Ma voiture est verte. (“My car is green.”)
  • Mon vélo est vert. (“My bicycle is green.”)

Look how the possessive pronouns ma and mon agree in gender with the noun. For the same reason, the adjective verte ends with an extra “e” in its feminine form.

3 – Pronunciation is Tough

Now, things are getting officially hairy. French pronunciation is tough, and there’s no way to sugarcoat it. One thing that might make you feel better about it is that it’s much easier than English pronunciation.

Yes, things like silent letters, the infamous guttural R, and there being around twelve ways to spell any given sound can make words in French hard to pronounce—but at least it’s consistent. For example, there are specific letter combinations that almost always create the same sound. Once you get used to the rules, you can start to rely on them.

  • Un chateau / Un bateau / Un blaireau / De l’eau
    All of these words end with the same letters AND the same [o] sound.

Sure, if you dig deep enough, you’ll always find some exceptions here and there, but nothing remotely close to the level of inconsistency found in English pronunciation. Just think about how many different sounds are produced using the letter combination “ough.” The answer is eleven.

  • “Cough” / “Though” / “Through” / “Plough”
    And the list goes on.

Check out this video if you’re not convinced yet.

Back to French, there are a few common pronunciation mistakes and pitfalls to avoid. It will take some practice and getting used to, but nothing you can’t handle. 🙂

  • The French guttural [R]
  • Our three infamous nasal sounds
  • The two “ay” sounds, each with countless possible spellings
  • The many traps and snares of silent letters
    → Don’t miss our complete French Pronunciation Guide to learn about these common mistakes, the thirty-six sounds of the French language, and how to produce them all, with lots of examples and study material.
A Woman Getting Her Mouth Checked by a Doctor

Careful not to hurt your tongue speaking French!

4 – Weird Spelling and Twisted Accents

As I mentioned earlier, the French way of spelling words is not exactly straightforward. Each sound can be spelled in several different ways, and we use a set of special characters that don’t exist in English, such as ç, é, ê, and à, just to name a few.

Here’s a list of all the special French characters:

  • Accent aigu: é
  • Accent grave: à, è, ù
  • Accent circonflexe: â, ê, î, ô, û
  • Tréma: ë, ï, ü
  • Cédille: ç

The good news is that out of the twelve possible combinations of accentuated characters (and this is already not an overwhelming number), only a few are commonly used, while the rest are rather marginal. 

On a regular basis, you’ll deal mostly with é, è, ê, and à, and that’s it!

    → If you’re not afraid of the more complex aspects of the language, jump right into our list of the most common mistakes you make while learning French!

3. What are the Best Ways to Get Started?

Have you decided it may not be that hard to learn French, after all? Are you ready to start your language-learning journey, but don’t know where to begin? 

Here’s a brief overview of where you can start and how to make your learning endeavors successful! 

1 – Where to Start?

When learning a new language, your priority should be to learn a tight package of useful words and structures that you can use in as many sentences and situations as possible. 

Quickly learning the core features of the language—such as pronouns, auxiliary verbs, and the most common adjectives—will help you get started with practical tools you can use in almost every sentence. Learning these things early on will also allow you to recognize some important keywords while listening.

For starters, you could check our Top 100 articles and make yourself some flashcards with your personal top twenty verbs, nouns, and adjectives. This will provide you with a solid foundation to play with.

2 – Practice Makes Perfect

There’s no need to stuff yourself with vocabulary if you don’t create the opportunities to use it. I would recommend that you start making sentences from day one, using whatever basic words you’ve learned.

You can start small, with a modest Subject + Verb + Object structure, and then keep building upon it. Simple sentences will serve as a base for countless more complex statements.

For example:

  • Elle aime. (“She loves.”)
  • Elle aime les chats. (“She loves cats.”)
  • Elle aime beaucoup les chats. (“She loves cats a lot.”)
  • Elle aime beaucoup les gros chats. (“She loves fat cats a lot.”)

Every new word is an opportunity to practice your sentence-building skills! Not only will building sentences this way help you remember the word by putting it into context, but you’ll also be practicing French grammar and conjugation at the same time.

Image of a Man Walking a Trail with a Backpack and Map

Learning is a journey, not a destination.

3 – Speak From Day 1

You should take every single opportunity to practice, whether you’re living or traveling in France, or learning from home. In case of the latter, we recommend that you find a teacher or tutor whom you can practice with (perhaps using our MyTeacher program!).

You don’t need many words or a thorough understanding of French grammar to communicate. It’s fine to speak dirty French for a few months, as long as you get to talk. You can always refine your French by learning the grammar later on, but you don’t need any of it to get started.

No native speaker ever learned their language using grammar books. First, we learn by imitation, trials, and errors. Only later can we truly learn about the rules and how they apply to what we already empirically know.

4 – Exposure is Key

Last but not least, I believe exposure is the most important aspect of learning French (or any language, really). Immerse yourself in the language by listening to music or podcasts, watching movies and series, and reading articles or books.

This will help you practice your reading and listening skills, and will also teach you loads of vocabulary. At first, most of this will be passive vocabulary: words you can understand but not use. But as you keep bumping into these words, structures, or expressions, you’ll get to the point where you internalize them and can use them yourself.

If you only learn the language academically, it will always seem cold and abstract. But if you expose yourself to it through thought-provoking articles or entertaining material, it will create emotional connections and help you solidify your knowledge much more effectively than by just repeating exercises.

    → Have a look at our list of the best French series on Netflix, and you’ll find many suggestions for a fun immersion experience into the French culture!

4. Why is FrenchPod101 Great for Learning French?

To summarize, I would say that French is rather easy to learn but hard to master, which makes it fun and interesting in the long run, yet not too frustrating for students. And whether you want to learn the basics or refine your advanced knowledge of the language, FrenchPod101 has a lot to offer.

1 – An Integrated Approach

First of all, we offer an integrated approach. Instead of artificially splitting lessons between reading practice and listening practice, and so on, we blend several skills into every lesson. 

This makes learning French more natural and more effective. You’ll practice your listening skills with podcasts and recordings while reading text materials and completing writing exercises—all in one conveniently tight package.

2 – A Massive Offering of Free Content

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced learner, FrenchPod101 offers a huge depth and breadth of content for all levels. From vocabulary lists to customizable flashcards, you’ll find a variety of free tools that can be tailored to your needs. Some of these resources can even be downloaded and used offline.

After you complete the assessment test, you’ll be directed to the level that matches your needs. From there, you’ll find a wide variety of pathways to follow, depending on the type of French you’re interested in (for casual encounters, professional interactions, romance, etc.).

3 – Premium Personal Coaching

As you go through the lessons on FrenchPod101.com, you’ll practice your reading, listening, and writing skills. Now, if you spice it up with the Premium MyTeacher service, you can also practice speaking and improve your pronunciation thanks to the feedback from your private tutor.

MyTeacher grants you the services of a French teacher to guide you through your journey of mastering the language of Love. You can send your teacher text or audio, get personalized exercises and assignments, and much more. Together, you’ll focus on the areas you need to work on the most and give your studies a serious boost.

A Woman Weightlifting While Being Spotted by a Coach

Flex these brain muscles with your personal coach on MyTeacher!

5. Le Mot De La Fin

In this guide, you’ve learned about the easiest and most challenging aspects of the French language and why it’s easier than you might think—from a common alphabet to a wealth of shared vocabulary, similar grammar structures, and only a few truly useful tenses.

Did we forget an important aspect of the language you’d like to know about? Do you feel ready to dive right in and start speaking right from the start using whatever few words you know?

Make sure to explore FrenchPod101, as we have plenty of free resources for you to practice your grammar and learn new words. Our vocabulary lists are also a great way to review new words and learn their pronunciation.

Remember that you can also use our premium service, MyTeacher, to get personal one-on-one coaching. Practice speaking French with your private teacher so they can give you personalized feedback and advice, and help you with pronunciation.

About the Author: Born and bred in the rainy north of France, Cyril Danon has been bouncing off various jobs before he left everything behind to wander around the wonders of the World. Now, after quenching his wanderlust for the last few years, he’s eager to share his passion for languages.

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The Most Common French Mistakes to Avoid as a Learner

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Did you know that even native French speakers make lots of mistakes when using their own language? Some grammatical mistakes are so common that they become the new normal.

Idiomatic expressions such as au temps pour moi have been incorrectly spelled autant pour moi for so many decades that most people don’t even know they’re doing it wrong. And don’t get me started on speakers improperly using the conditional case instead of the indicative. 

My point is that it’s no big deal to make French mistakes, as long as you can express yourself. As you come closer to fluency, you’ll have time to figure out what mistakes you’re still making and how to address them. And this is exactly what this guide is about.

In this article, we’ll list the most common mistakes people make when learning French, as well as some more advanced French mistakes for experienced students. We’ll cover a wide range of categories, from false friends to gender agreement, pronunciation, and word order. By the end of this guide, you should be better able to spot and correct French mistakes, some of which are very easy to fix.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. Gender and Agreement
  2. Faux-amis
  3. Conjugation
  4. Word Order
  5. Word Choice
  6. Pronunciation
  7. The Most Embarrassing French Mistakes
  8. Le Mot De La Fin

1. Gender and Agreement

What’s the most common mistake non-native speakers make? Gender agreement, without a doubt!

This is one of those typical French mistakes that allow us to pick out foreign learners, because these are mistakes that natives don’t usually make.

As you probably already know, French nouns—including inanimate objects, ideas, and abstract concepts—are either masculine or feminine.

For example, une chaise (“a chair”) is feminine, while un banc (“a bench”) is masculine.

Why is la route (“the road”) feminine but le trottoir (“the sidewalk”) masculine? It’s just plain arbitrary, but what really matters is: How do you know which gender a noun is?

Feminine endings:
Most words ending in -e or -ion
  • Une mine, une journée, une centaine
  • Une fusion, une addition
Except words ending in -age, -ege, , -isme
Masculine endings:
Words ending in -age, -ege, , -isme
+ Everything else
  • Un bandage, un thé, un séisme
  • Un soleil, un porc, un bain

How can you avoid making gender mistakes? I recommend that you always learn new nouns with their article.

  • Soleil Un soleil, Le soleil (“A sun”)
  • Lune Une lune, La lune (“A moon”)

2. Faux-amis

The origin of the English language is still fiercely debated among linguists, but you’ve probably noticed that there are many French words in English. If you start digging, you’d be surprised how many you can find! Nearly thirty percent of English words could be of French origin.

In a way, this is really convenient when you learn the language, because you can understand lots of words before you even study them:

  • Un prince (“a prince”)
  • Une giraffe (“a giraffe”)
  • Un régime (“a regime”)
  • Une salade (“a salad”)

And the list goes on!

On the other hand, you should be extra careful about “false friends”: Similar words with wildly different meanings. These words might make you really confused when you see the French shopping for pain and poison! 

  • Un pain (“a loaf of bread”)
  • Un poisson (“a fish”)

Want to avoid making inconvenient French word mistakes? Here are some of the trickiest false friends you should keep in mind:

You should not confuse…With…
Actuellement – CurrentlyActually – En fait / Effectivement
Effectivement – Actually / IndeedEffectively – Efficacement
Eventuellement – PossiblyEventually – Finalement
Sensible – SensitiveSensible – Raisonnable / Sensé
Compréhensif UnderstandingComprehensive – Complet
Grave SevereA grave – Une tombe

There are also false friends among verbs!

You should not confuse…With…
Attendre – To waitTo attend – Assister à
Demander – To askTo demand – Exiger
Achever – To complete / To finishTo achieve – Atteindre
Décevoir – To disappointTo deceive – Tromper
Injurier – To insultTo injure – Blesser
Prétendre – To claimTo pretend – Faire semblant
Supplier – To begTo supply – Fournir
Retirer – To withdrawTo retire – Prendre sa retraite
Résumer – To summarizeTo resume – Reprendre
Rester – To stayTo rest – Se reposer


And of course, beware of faux-amis among nouns!

You should not confuse…With…
Le pain – BreadPain – La douleur
Une librairie – A bookshopA library – Une bibliothèque
Un store – A blind / A window shadeA store – Un magasin
Un habit – ClothesA habit – Une habitude
Le hasard – ChanceHazard – Danger
Une fabrique – A factoryFabric – Le tissu
Une issue – An exitAn issue – Un problème
Le pétrole – OilPetrol – L’essence
Une cave – A cellarA cave – Une grotte

Do you want more? Here’s a massive list of the French-English faux-amis.

A Boy about to Punch Another Boy in the Face

Nobody likes false friends!

3. Conjugation

This is another set of mistakes French learners make regularly. Conjugation is not the easiest part of French, and has its fair share of traps. Let’s shed some light on the most common offenders.

1 – Reflexive Verbs

Are you familiar with reflexive verbs? They’re the verbs starting with se:

  • Se lever (“To stand up”)
  • Se souvenir (“To remember”)

For example, to use the verb se dépêcher (“to hurry”), you’d say: Je me dépêche. (“I hurry.”) Literally, this means “I hurry myself.”

Here are some more conjugation examples:

  • Elle s’habille. (“She dresses.” – Literally: “She dresses herself.”)
  • Nous nous asseyons. (“We sit.” – Literally: “We sit ourselves.”)

A common mistake among students of French is to skip the pronoun (me, te, se, nous, vous, se) and directly attach the subject to the verb:

  • Ils dépêchent Ils se dépêchent. (“They hurry.”)
  • Vous habillez Vous vous habillez. (“You dress.”)

Most of the time, it just sounds incorrect. But in some cases, it can mean something different and lead to misunderstandings:

  • Je me lave. (“I wash.”)
  • Je lave. (“I clean.”)

2 – Passé Composé: Être or Avoir?

The passé composé is one of the most useful tenses in spoken French. It’s used to express things that happened in the past and are over now. It’s formed using an auxiliary + a conjugated verb.

PrésentPassé composé
Je pars. (“I leave.”)Je suis parti. (“I have left.”)
Je dors. (“I sleep.”)J’ai dormi. (“I have slept.”)

But wait… In the first example, we formed it using the auxiliary verb être, while in the second example, we used avoir. How do you know which one to choose?

We generally use avoir, except in these two cases:

1) We use être for all reflexive verbs (those starting with se).

For example: se calmer (“to calm down”)

  • Présent: Je me calme. (“I calm down.”)
  • Passé composé: Je me suis calmé. (“I have calmed down.”)

2) We also use être for a few other verbs, mostly those that reflect a change of direction, state, or movement.

Some examples: 

  • venir
  • aller
  • entrer
  • sortir
  • arriver
  • partir
  • tomber
  • monter
  • rester
  • retourner
  • descendre
  • passer


4. Word Order

Many common French language mistakes have to do with using the incorrect word order. Here are a few of the errors you should watch out for: 

1 – Misplacing Adjectives

French adjectives can be placed before or after the noun they describe, and a common mistake is to place them on the wrong side of the noun. 

The majority of French adjectives are placed AFTER the noun:

  • Une maison bleue (“A blue house”)
  • Un objet bizarre (“A strange object”)

However, some of the most common French adjectives are placed BEFORE the noun:

  • Une grande maison (“A big house”)
  • Un bel object (“A beautiful object”)

In most cases, if you misplace an adjective, the sentence will simply sound “off.” But it can also create confusion in situations where an adjective’s position changes its meaning: 

  • Un ancien hôpital (“A former hospital”)
  • Un hôpital ancien (“An ancient hospital”)


2 – Inverting the Verb and Subject When Speaking

Do you know how academic teaching and old-school grammar books keep promoting a weird vintage style that makes you sound like a dusty vinyl? The kind of teaching program that makes you say “Excuse me sir, would you please be so kind so as to fetch me the check, please?” when locals just say “Check please.”

In French, we have various ways to ask questions. One for oral interactions, one for writing only, and one for both. The written form consists of inverting the verb and pronoun, as in:

  • Voulez-vous du café ? (“Do you want coffee?”)
  • As-tu bien dormi ? (“Did you sleep well?”)

Sadly, many French teachers keep promoting this form without warning their students that they’ll often sound awkward if they use it in oral conversations. The following lines sound much more natural:

  • Vous voulez du café ? (This is just as polite, as it also uses the formal vous.)
  • Tu as bien dormi ?

    → Do you want to know more about questions? Check out our complete guide on the most useful French questions and how to answer them!

A Butler Carrying a Tray with Flowers and Dishes

Only if you dress like this guy, should you invert verbs and subjects.

3 – Misplacing Pronouns

To keep it simple, let’s just say that French pronouns have the unpleasant habit of moving around the sentence instead of sticking to the position of what they’re replacing.

  • David mange cette pomme. (“David is eating this apple.”)
  • David la mange. (“David is eating it.”)
  • David parle aux voisins. (“David is talking with the neighbors.”)
  • David leur parle. (“David is talking to them.”)

It gets pretty rough when you have multiple pronouns in one sentence. They all need to be in the right place, otherwise the sentence will make no sense.

  • Sophie donne une pomme à David. (“Sophie gives an apple to David.”)
  • Elle la lui donne. (“She gives it to him.”)
  • Elle lui donne la.
  • Elle lui la donne.

    → The placement of pronouns is a very complicated topic, so I won’t go too far into the specifics. But feel free to dive into our comprehensive guide on French pronouns on FrenchPod101.com.

5. Word Choice

As you get more and more comfortable with the language, picking the right word for any situation is what will get you from mastery to fluency.

1 – Jour vs. Journée

Here, it’s a matter of time unit versus duration.

In a nutshell, we use jour when we’re talking about a specific moment or counting the days:

  • C’est le jour de Noël. (“It is Christmas day.”)
  • Je t’appellerai dans deux jours. (“I’ll call you in two days.”)

And we use journée when we’re talking about a duration of time:

  • J’ai dormi toute la journée. (“I’ve slept all day.”)
  • C’est une très belle journée. (“It’s a very beautiful day.”)

This same rule of thumb applies to An / Année, Matin / Matinée, and Soir / Soirée.

2 – Pour vs. Par

Many learners confuse pour and par, and for good reasons! It’s not always easy to pick the right one, so let’s summarize what each one is used for:

► POUR

  • Intention: C’est pour toi. (“It is for you.”)
  • Destination: Nous partons pour le Canada. (“We’re leaving for Canada.”)
  • Duration: Nous partons pour deux semaines. (“We’re leaving for two weeks.”)
    Here, we could also say: Nous partons pendant deux semaines.
  • Instead of: Je paye pour toi. (“I’m paying for you.”)
  • Percent: Dix pour cent. (“Ten percent.”)

In most cases, if you’re translating a sentence using “for,” you should probably use pour:

  • Merci pour ton aide. (“Thank you for your help.”)
  • Merci de m’aider. (“Thank you for helping me.”)

► PAR

  • During: Ne sortez pas par ce temps. (“Don’t go out with that weather.”)
  • To start/end with: Je commence par toi. (“I’m starting with you.”)
  • Frequency: Trois fois par mois. (“Three times a year.”)
  • Distribution: Deux cookies par personne. (“Two cookies per person.”)

In many cases, you’d translate “by” as par:

  • Je le prend par la main. (“I take him by the hand.”)
  • Par hasard (“By change”)
A Group of Coworkers Having Champagne at a New Year’s Party

Nothing like an awkward party on New Year’s Day! (Le jour de l’an)

3 – Y vs. EN

Ready for more pronouns? There are two that just keep confusing students!

Y

Y is used to replace: 

  • à [quelque chose] (“to [something]” / “about [something]”) 
  • en [quelque chose] (“in [something]”)

This [something] is often a place, but not always, as long as it’s inanimate.

  • Je veux aller à Paris. (“I want to go to Paris.”)
    = Je veux y aller. (“I want to go there.”)
  • Je pense à mon avenir. (“I’m thinking about my future.”)
    = J’y pense. (“I’m thinking about it.”)
  • Je crois en la science. (“I believe in science.”)
    = J’y crois. (“I believe in it.”)

EN

En is used to replace de(s) ____ (“some ____” / “of ____”)

You’ll see it a lot when talking about quantities.

  • J’ai une pomme. (“I have an apple.”)
    = J’en ai une. (“I have one.”)
  • J’ai deux frères. (“I have two brothers.”)
    = J’en ai deux. (“I have two of them.”)
  • J’ai beaucoup de cheveux. (“I have lots of hair.”)
    = J’en ai beaucoup. (“I have a lot of it.”)
  • Il a du temps. (“He has time.”)
    = Il en a. (“He has some.”)

4 – C’est vs. Il est

C’EST

To identify a thing or a person, we use c’est (or the plural ce sont) + noun.

  • C’est un livre. (“That’s a book.”)
  • Ce sont des amis. (“These are friends.”)
  • C’est un cousin. (“He’s a cousin.”)
  • C’est Sophie, ma voisine. (“This is Sophie, my neighbor.”)

IL EST

To describe a thing or a person, we use il est / elle est (ils sont / elles sont in plural) + adjective or profession.

  • C’est un livre. Il est cher. (“This is a book. It’s expensive.”)
  • Ce sont des livres. Ils sont chers. (“These are books. They are expensive.”)
  • C’est un bon ami. Il est très gentil. (“This is a good friend. He’s really nice.”)
  • C’est Sophie. Elle est belge. Elle est professeur. (“This is Sophie. She’s from Belgium. She’s a teacher.”)

5 – Connaître vs. Savoir

Connaître is about knowledge, and it refers to being acquainted with a place or a person:

  • Je connais cet endroit. (“I know this place.”)
  • Je connais cette personne. (“I know this person.”)
  • Je connais cette théorie. (“I know this theory.”)

Savoir is more like “to know (a fact),” such as things you know by heart or abilities:

  • Je sais que tu es là. (“I know that you’re here.”)
  • Je ne sais pas ce que je fais. (“I don’t know what I’m doing.”)
  • Je sais danser. (“I know how to dance.”)
Matrix

Je connais le Kung Fu. (“I know Kung Fu.”)

6. Pronunciation

French is full of challenging sounds for foreign students, such as the French guttural [R], the [U], and a collection of difficult nasal sounds. However, these are not what I would call the trickiest aspects of French. They just take time and practice to master.

For now, I’ll focus on three seemingly trivial things that I’ve seen many students struggle with: the final silent letters, the liaisons, and the French words for “more” and “not anymore.” These are some of the most common French pronunciation mistakes, so you should definitely pay attention here.

1 – Final Letters

French words often end with consonants. Some are silent, others are not, and it’s hard to predict whether you should pronounce them or not.

Let’s talk about the CaReFuL letters.

If a French word ends with C, R, F, or L (consonants from the word CaReFuL), the final letter is usually pronounced. Otherwise, the final letter is silent. This rule is not without exceptions, but when in doubt, you can rely on this trick.

Here are some examples of words where the final letter is pronounced:

  • Un truc (“A thing”)
  • Un dortoir (“A dormitory”)
  • Le chef (“The boss”)
  • Avril (“April”)

There’s one big exception to the CaReFuL rule: verbs ending with the letters “ER” have a silent R:

  • Aimer (“To love”)
  • Manger (“To eat”)
  • Tuer (“To kill”)

All other consonant letters are usually not pronounced:

  • Froid (“Cold”)
  • Le poing (“The fist”)
  • Un coup (“A hit”)
  • Le marais (“The swamp”)

2 – The Art of Liaison

When one word ends with a consonant and the next starts with a vowel sound (but not necessarily a vowel), we sometimes do what we call a liaison (linking). This link between two words is what makes the sentence “flow.”

  • Vous avez (“You have”) is pronounced [vou zavé]
  • Ils ont (“They have”) is pronounced [il zon]
  • Les enfants (From the letter S to the sound [en], we do the liaison)
  • Les hommes (Hommes starts with a consonant but with a vowel sound, so we do the liaison)

And sometimes, you don’t make the liaison, as in:

  • Les chiens ont aboyé. (“The dogs have barked.”)
    We don’t make the first liaison between chiens and ont. However, you link ont and aboyé. It’s pronounced : [Lé chien on taboyé].
  • David et Alain (“David and Alain”)
    There is never a liaison with et.

→ Everything you need to know about silent letters, liaison, and more, is explained in all its detailed glory in our Full Guide on French Pronunciation!

A Woman Examining Lipstick Marks on a Man’s Shirt

Il a une liaison. (“He’s having an affair.”)

3 – Plus vs. Plus

Depending on the context, plus means either “more” or “not anymore.”

You generally pronounce the S when it has a positive meaning (more):

  • J’ai besoin de plus de temps. (“I need more time.”)
  • J’en veux toujours plus. (“I always want more.”)
  • Servez-nous plus de vin. (“Serve us more wine.”)

And you don’t pronounce the S when it has a negative meaning (not anymore):

  • Je n’en peux plus. (“I can’t take it anymore.”)
  • Je ne veux plus dormir. (“I don’t want to sleep anymore.”)
  • Il n’est plus là. (“He’s not here anymore.”)

With some exceptions! (It wouldn’t be French, otherwise.)

1) When positive plus is directly followed by an adjective that starts with a consonant sound, the S is not pronounced:

  • C’est plus drôle. (“It’s more fun.”)
  • C’est plus fort. (“It’s stronger.”)

2) When positive plus is directly followed by an adjective that starts with a vowel sound, the S is pronounced like a [Z]:

  • Elle est plus intelligente. (“She’s more intelligent.”)
  • C’est plus intéressant. (“It’s more interesting.”)

7. The Most Embarrassing French Mistakes

To finish on a lighter note, here are some of the worst cases of mistranslation that could put you in a shameful situation. Save yourself the embarrassment and try to remember them!

You should not confuse…With…
She’s good. – Elle est douée.Elle est bonne. – She’s really hot.
Literally, “good” translates to bonne in the feminine form.

However, French is full of graphic slang and bonne, in the specific context of describing a woman, actually means “hot,” but in a much more sexual way than its English equivalent.

As a result, if you hear your friend’s sister playing the violin and want to say that she’s really skilled, don’t say: Ta soeur est vraiment bonne ! (“Your sister is hot as hell!”)

You should not confuse…With…
I envy you. Je t’envie.J’ai envie de toi. – I want you.
“To envy” simply translates to envier.

However, “to want” translates to avoir envie de.

The difference is as subtle as it is important!

If your friend is showing you his new shirt, describing how nice and cozy it feels, and you comment with J’ai envie de toi, your relationship might take an unexpected turn.

You should not confuse…With…
Preservative ConservateurPréservatif – Condom
This is a prime example of faux-ami, lurking in the dark, waiting to put you in embarrassing situations!

When having dinner with your French hosts, you should probably NOT say: 

Dans mon pays, on met beaucoup de préservatifs dans la nourriture. (“In my country, we put lots of condoms in the food.”)

One Woman Looking in Confusion at Another Woman, Who’s Covering Her Mouth

Wait, what did you just say?

8. Le Mot De La Fin

In this guide, you’ve learned everything about the most frequent mistakes in French, from common word misplacement to pronunciation, conjugation, and more advanced French mistakes. Did I forget any important topic that you’d like to read about?

It’s no use trying to remember it all, but if you read this article once in a while, try to keep as many as you can in a corner of your mind. Try to spot the mistakes you keep making, so you can work on them prioritarily. Just take it at your own pace. =)

FrenchPod101 also has tons of vocabulary lists with audio recordings and other free resources to boost your studies and keep your French-learning fresh and entertaining!

Remember that you can also use our premium service, MyTeacher, to get personal one-on-one coaching. Your private teacher can help you correct these common mistakes (and more) using assignments, personalized exercises, and recorded audio samples. Your teacher can review your own recordings as well, to help you improve your pronunciation.  

Happy learning on FrenchPod101.com!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French

About the Author: Born and bred in the rainy north of France, Cyril Danon has been bouncing off various jobs before he left everything behind to wander around the wonders of the World. Now, after quenching his wanderlust for the last few years, he’s eager to share his passion for languages.

A Complete Guide on Questions in French & How to Answer Them

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Just imagine: You’re going out with a group of native French-speakers. This is the perfect opportunity to make friends and practice your French in a real-life situation! But how do you break the ice? What should you say if you run out of topics, or if your French isn’t solid enough to fuel the conversation?

The universal answer is: ask questions! Among countless benefits, being able to ask questions in French will help you avoid awkward silences by keeping the conversation going. It will also make the other person feel like you want to know more about them or value their opinion, thus making you more likeable. Asking questions you’re genuinely interested in opens a world of new information and cultural insight! 

Another perk is that you don’t have to talk too much; just sit back and listen. Don’t think about your next question or how to steer the conversation back toward yourself. Just enjoy the ride and dive into whatever the other person has to say.

In this guide, you’ll learn everything about asking questions in French, from the question words to a collection of common topics with comprehensive examples. By the end of this article, you’ll not only know how to ask questions in French, but also how to answer them!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. Golden Rules of French Questions
  2. The 8 Most Common Question Topics
  3. Le Mot De La Fin

1. Golden Rules of French Questions

A Meal with Friends

Insightful answers can take you a long way!

In our daily lives, we have plenty of opportunities to ask questions, all day long: “Can I have a coffee?” / “At what time is that meeting, again?” / “What’s up, Sophie?” / “Is that seat taken?” / “How much is that product?”

We don’t even think about it, but a hefty portion of our social interactions is based on questions and answers—and this portion grows out of proportion as a foreigner in a strange land, where you need to learn the rules and make sense of unusual things.

Before we go any further, let’s look at the basic rules of how to formulate questions in French.

1 – The 3 French Question Patterns

We’ll start with this simple declarative sentence:

  • Tu parles Français. (“You speak French.”)

Here are the three ways you can turn it into “Do you speak French?”

1. Parles-tu Français ?
This is mostly for written French, and it’s unlikely that you’ll hear it in spoken conversations. We simply invert the verb and the pronoun. This pattern only works with pronouns.

2. Est-ce que tu parles Français ?
This works fine in speaking or writing, making it the most polyvalent of the three forms. Est-ce que literally means “Is it that.” So, our sentence would translate to: “Is it that you speak French?”

3. Tu parles Français ?
This is the casual spoken form that you’ll rarely see in writing, and it’s super-easy to form. This is the exact same sentence as the declaration; we simply change the intonation (the pitch goes up at the end).


2 – French Question Words

When? / Where? / How? / Why? / How much? / How many? / What?

Let’s have a look at how these questions look in French!

In this table, I will put all possible question forms, but you can usually use any of the three structures.

Quand
(“When”)
Quand mangeons nous ?
Quand est-ce qu’on mange ?
On mange quand ?
(“When are we eating?”)

(“Where”)
Tu vas où ?
(“Where are you going?”)
Comment
(“How”)
Comment ça marche ?
(“How does it work?”)
Pourquoi
(“Why”)
Pourquoi est-ce qu’il fait ça ?
(“Why is he doing this?”)
Combien
(“How many,” “How much”)
Combien ça coûte ?
(“How much is it?”)
QueQu’Quoi
(“What”)
Que fais-tu ?
Qu’est-ce que tu fais ?
Tu fais quoi ?
(“What are you doing?”)


A Man Looking a Blueprint

Comment ça marche ? (“How does it work?”)

2. The 8 Most Common Question Topics

There’s such a wide range of basic French questions and answers that it would be impossible to list them all. But in this section, we’ll go through the most typical questions that you might be asked or want to ask your French pals. 

For each topic, you’ll find examples of possible answers so that you can start imagining how you would deal with it yourself. A good exercise is to try and come up with answers of your own, using the vocabulary and structures you’ll learn today.

First Encounter

1 – Personal Information

The French usually don’t go too far with intimate questions when meeting someone for the first time. Questions about marital status, for instance, could be deemed a bit too personal for a first encounter. 

That said, here are a few questions you can’t go wrong with:

How old are you?

  • Vous avez quel âge ?
  • Tu as quel âge ?

    J’ai 32 ans. (“I’m 32.”)

There’s no strict rule about it, but it’s commonly accepted in French etiquette that it’s a bit rude to ask a woman her age, just like you shouldn’t ask about her weight. It may not apply when the other person has no reason to feel insecure about it, but when in doubt, you’d better not ask.

The difference between the casual tu and formal vous is pretty much straightforward.

What’s your name?

  • Comment tu t’appelles ? [Casual]
  • Tu t’appelles comment ? [Casual]
  • Comment vous appelez-vous ? [Formal]
    Je m’appelle Sophie. (“My name is Sophie.”)

Do you have brothers and sisters?

  • Vous avez des frères et soeurs ?
  • Tu as des frères et soeurs ?
    J’ai un frère et deux soeurs. (“I have a brother and two sisters.”)
    J’ai une grande soeur et un petit frère. (“I have a big sister and a little brother.”)
Twin Sisters

J’ai une soeur jumelle. (“I have a twin sister.”)


2 – Where are You From?

Being a foreigner in France, you’ll often be met with this question. Some people might try to guess, and some will just ask you; it’s bound to spark some interest and follow-up questions.

Asking this question to a French native while in France also works. They’ll answer about their hometown or region, and you may learn about interesting local traditions or exciting dishes!

Where are you from?

  • Vous venez d’où ?
  • Tu viens d’où ?
  • Tu es d’où ?
  • Tu es de quelle nationalité ?

    Foreign answers
    Je suis Japonais. (“I’m Japanese.”) [Male]
    Je suis Japonaise. (“I’m Japanese.”) [Female]
    Je viens du Japon. (“I’m from Japan.”)

    Local answers
    Je viens de Paris. (“I’m from Paris.”)
    Je suis Parisienne. (“I’m a Parisian.”) [Female]
    Je viens d’Alsace. (“I’m from the Alsace region.”)

What country are you from? 

  • De quel pays venez-vous ?
  • Tu viens de quel pays ?
    Je suis Russe. (“I’m Russian.”)
    Je viens de Russie. (“I’m from Russia.”)

What city are you from? 

  • De quelle ville venez-vous ?
  • Tu viens de quelle ville ?
  • Tu habites dans quelle ville ? (“In what city are you living?”)
    Je suis de Toulouse. (“I’m from Toulouse.”)
    Je suis Toulousain. (“I’m a Toulousian.”)
    Je viens de Tokyo. (“I’m from Tokyo.”)
    J’habite à Niigata. (“I’m living in Niigata.”)

Where is it?

  • Où est-ce que ça se trouve ? (“Where is it located?”)
  • C’est où ? (“Where is it?”)
  • C’est par où ? (“Where about is that?”)
  • C’est dans quel coin ? (Literally: “In what corner is that?”)
    C’est sur la côte ouest. (“It’s on the West coast.”)
    C’est à côté de Londres. (“It’s near London.”)
    C’est près de la frontière Canadienne. (“It’s close to the Canadian border.”)
Children with Different Races

Tu viens d’où ? (“Where are you from?”)


Introducing Yourself

3 – Do You Speak ___?

Another foreigner-friendly topic. You may want to ask if the other person speaks English, just as you might be asked whether you speak French or not. This question can lead to a few potential follow-ups on studies, travels, and levels of proficiency.

Do you speak [Language]? 

  • Vous parlez Français ? (“Do you speak French?”)
  • Est-ce que tu parles Anglais ? (“Do you speak English?”)
    Je parle un peu Français. (“I speak a bit of French.”)
    Je parle Anglais couramment. (“I speak English fluently.”)
    Comme ci comme ça. (“So-so.”)
    J’ai des rudiments de Japonais. (“I have Japanese basics.”)

How long have you been studying French?

  • Vous étudiez le Français depuis combien de temps ?
  • Tu étudies le Français depuis combien de temps ?
    J’ai étudié 2 ans à l’université. (“I studied for two years at the university.”)
    J’ai commencé il y a 6 mois. (“I started six months ago.”)

What languages do you speak?

  • Quelles langues parlez-vous ?
  • Tu parles quelles langues ?
  • Tu parles quelles autres langues ? (“What other languages do you speak?”)
    Je parle Espagnol, Polonais et Roumain. (“I speak Spanish, Polish, and Romanian.”)
    Je parle juste Anglais et un peu Français. (“I only speak English and a bit of French.”)

4 – Concerning Hobbies

The French are about working hard but partying harder, and we tend to think that our hobbies define us more than our jobs. As a result, you may be asked about your tastes and favorite artists early in a conversation. 

Asking these kinds of questions is a great way to show your interest in the other person and find common ground through shared interests. Following are some ways to ask and answer this type of question in French.

What are your hobbies? 

  • Quels sont vos loisirs ? 
  • Tu as quoi comme hobbies ?
  • Quel est ton passe-temps préféré ? (“What’s your favorite pastime?”)
  • Tu fais quoi pendant ton temps libre ? (“What do you do in your free time?”)
    J’aime aller au cinéma. (“I like going to the cinema.”)
    J’adore les jeux vidéos. (“I love video games.”)
    Je fais de la photo et du montage vidéo. (“I do photography and video editing.”)

Do you do sports? 

  • Vous faites du sport ?
  • Tu fais du sport ?
  • Tu fais quoi comme sport ? (“What sports are you doing?”)
    Je fais de l’escalade et de la plongée. (“I do climbing and diving.”)
    Je joue au Tennis. (“I play tennis.”)

What kind of [entertainment / art] do you like? 

  • Quel genre de film aimez-vous ? (“What kind of movies do you like?”)
  • Tu écoutes quel genre de musique ? (“What kind of music do you listen to?”)
  • Quel est ton acteur préféré ? (“Who’s your favorite actor?”)
    J’aime les films d’horreur. (“I love horror movies.”)
    J’écoute surtout du Blues et de la Deep House. (“I listen mostly to Blues and Deep House.”)
    Mon acteur préféré est Mads Mikkelsen. (“My favorite actor is Mads Mikkelsen.”)
A Man Painting

J’aime la peinture. (“I love painting.”)

    → You’ll find many more words to talk about your hobbies on our free vocabulary list, with audio recordings to practice your pronunciation.

5 – Let’s Talk Business

Even though we try to find a healthy balance between work and personal life, our professional dealings still take up an important part of our lives (and many hours during the week). As a result, don’t be surprised if it comes up early in a conversation when meeting strangers.

The French love to complain about their jobs: how they’re working too much for an insufficient salary, how their boss is a jerk and their company is a frustrating disarray. Please, don’t hold it against them!

What is your profession?

  • Dans quoi travaillez-vous ? (“In what field are you working?”)
  • Tu bosses dans quoi ? (“What’s your job?”)
  • Tu fais quoi ? (“What do you do?”)
  • Tu fais quoi dans la vie ? (“What do you do?” but literally “What do you do in life?”)

This last one sounds a bit silly and people use it with a smile, but it’s a great way to make sure your question is understood. 

If you’re in a bar and you just say Tu fais quoi ? the other person could be caught off guard and answer “Nothing, why?” or “Huh…drinking a beer?”

    Je suis programmeur. (“I’m a programmer.”)
    Je bosse dans l’informatique. (“I work in IT.”)
    Je travaille dans l’aviation. (“I work in aviation.”)
    Je travaille à Decathlon. (“I work at Decathlon.”)

What do you study?

  • Vous faites des études dans quel domaine ? (“In what field are you studying?”)
  • Tu étudies quoi ? (“What are you studying?”)
  • Tu étudies où ? (“Where are you studying?”)
  • Tu apprends quoi ? (“What are you learning?”)
    Je fais des études en sociologie. (“I study sociology.”)
    J’étudie le droit international. (“I study international law.”)
    J’étudie à l’université de la Sorbonne. (“I study at the Sorbonne University.”)
A Woman Solving Mathematics Problem

J’étudie les mathématiques. (“I study mathematics.”)

    → You don’t know how to talk about your profession in French? Stop by our free vocabulary list on Jobs.

6 – Do You Like ___?

What better way to get to know someone than to find out what they like and dislike?

As a visitor, you may get the regular questions on how you appreciate the country or city you’re visiting, but you can use the same structure with any topic, from trivial to intimate!

In France, it’s usually fine to say when you don’t like something. Obviously, out of respect for your hosts, you might want to refrain from throwing mud at what they offer, but overall, compared to other countries, we can be rather blunt when expressing our opinion.

How do you like this place? 

  • Comment trouvez-vous Paris ? (“How do you like Paris?”)
  • Comment tu trouves Toulouse ? (“How do you like Toulouse?”)
  • Tu aimes Paris ? (“Do you like Paris?”)
  • Tu te plais en France ? (“Do you enjoy France?”)
    Oui, j’adore Paris. (“Yes, I love Paris.”)
    Oui, mais c’est un peu bruyant. (“Yes, but it’s a bit noisy.”)
    C’est pas mal. (“It’s not bad.”)
    Non, pas trop. (“No, not so much.”)

Do you like that thing? 

  • Vous aimez la cuisine Française ? (“Do you like French cuisine?”)
  • Est-ce que tu aimes le vin rouge ? (“Do you like red wine?”)
  • Tu aimes les films avec des gladiateurs ? (“Do you like Gladiator movies?”)
  • Est-ce que tu aimes la musique Française ? (“Do you like French music?”)
    (It’s okay, you don’t have to say yes. I understand!)
    Oui, j’aime beaucoup ! (“Yes, I like it a lot!”)
    Non, je n’aime pas trop. (“No, I don’t really like it.”)
    Non, je déteste ça. (“No, I hate it.”)
    Oui, ça dépend. (“Yes, it depends.”)
    (The perfect vague, non-committal answer to get yourself out of trouble!)

7 – Have You Been There?

Other basic French questions to a traveler, visitor, or expat are those about where you’ve been. When people have been to exotic places, they’re usually eager to talk about it and discuss landscapes, climates, and customs. It’s an interesting and safe topic for when you want to know more about someone’s past adventures.

Have you been to this place? 

  • Êtes-vous allé à Lyon ? (“Have you been to Lyon?”)
  • Tu es déjà allé en Ecosse ? (“Have you ever been to Scotland?”)
  • Tu as voyagé en Amérique du sud ? (“Have you traveled to South America?”)
    Oui, je connais bien. (“Yes, I know it well.”)
    J’y suis allé l’année dernière. (“I went there last year.”)
    J’y suis allé il y a longtemps (“I went there a long time ago.”)
    Non, je n’y suis jamais allé. (“No, I’ve never been there.”)

Have you visited this place?

  • Tu as visité le musée du Louvre ? (“Did you visit the Louvre museum?”)
  • Tu connais le pont de l’Alma ? (“Do you know the Alma Bridge?”)
  • Tu es déjà allé sur les quais de Bercy ? (“Have you ever been to the docks of Bercy?”)
    Oui, j’y suis allé une ou deux fois. (“Yes, I have been there a couple of times.”)
    Non, pas encore. (“No, not yet.”)
    Je ne suis pas sûr. (“I’m not sure.”)

8 – How Much? 

The final set of basic questions and answers in French you’ll for-sure need are those about costs and prices.

How much is it?

  • Combien ça coûte ? (“How much does it cost?”)
  • C’est combien ? (“How much is it?”)
  • Je vous dois combien ? (“How much do I owe you?”)
    12 euros, s’il vous plait. (“12€ please.”)
    5 euros, s’il te plait. (“5€ please.”)

How much is this? 

  • La pinte est à combien ? (“How much is a pint?”)
  • Celui-ci coûte combien ? (“How much is this one?”)
  • Vous le faites à combien ? (“How much do you ask for this?”)
    Une pour 8€, deux pour 15. (“One is 8€, two for 15.”)
    Ça fait 20€, s’il vous plait. (“It will be 20€, please.”)

Man Calculating on Something

Combien ça coûte ? (“How much is it?”)

Le Mot De La Fin

In this guide, you’ve learned the bread and butter of asking questions in French, from the question words to the most common topics, with plenty of examples.

Did we forget any important topic you’d like to learn about? Do you feel ready to get out there and express yourself, using everything you’ve learned today?

A good way to practice is to take each of the questions we’ve covered today and imagine how you would answer them. Maybe you’ll need to do some research on the sentence structures or key words, but it will be a great way to learn how to talk about yourself. 

Learning how to talk about personal topics is always worth the time, as you can use this knowledge in any occasion, with your friends or people you’ve just met.

Make sure to explore FrenchPod101, as we have plenty of free resources to help you practice your grammar and learn new words. Our vocabulary lists are also useful for revisiting new words and practicing their pronunciation.

Remember that you can also use our premium service, MyTeacher, to get personal one-on-one coaching. Practice questions and answers in French with your private teacher so they can give you personalized feedback and advice, and help you with the pronunciation.

Happy learning!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French

About the Author: Born and bred in the rainy north of France, Cyril Danon has been bouncing off various jobs before he left everything behind to wander around the wonders of the World. Now, after quenching his wanderlust for the last few years, he’s eager to share his passion for languages.

Speak from Day 1 – The Top 10 French Sentence Patterns

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What’s the best way to learn a foreign language? To speak it as early as you can! Are you going to achieve this by stuffing yourself with tedious grammar rules, barren conjugation tables, or endless vocabulary lists? Not likely.

A smarter approach is to quickly pick up on the most common and useful French sentence patterns—the kind that will allow you to communicate effectively in most day-to-day situations with your local friends or colleagues. Sure, it won’t allow you to express subtle thoughts on complicated topics. But it should cover a wide range of interactions and help you practice on a regular basis without being frustrated when you can’t say something as vital as “I like cheese.”

In this article, you’ll learn everything about the 10 most useful French sentence patterns, from making the most basic statement to asking questions, as well as expressing what you want or what you’ve done. And I promise you that once you’re comfortable with just these 10 basic French sentence patterns, you’ll be able to communicate more efficiently than after a hundred pages of grammar books!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. A is B
  2. It Is
  3. I Want
  4. I Need To
  5. I Like, I Love
  6. I’m Doing it Right Now
  7. I’ve Just Done It
  8. I’m Going to Do It
  9. Asking Questions
  10. Asking for Permission
  11. Le Mot De La Fin

An Architect Sketching a Design

Be the architect of your French sentences!

1. A is B

First on our French sentence list is how to describe something or someone, using nouns or adjectives to give it substance. To do this, we simply use the verb être (“to be”). You can find details about its conjugation right here.

  • Paul est mon ami. (“Paul is my friend.”)
  • Ce vin est un Saint Emilion. (“This wine is a Saint Emilion.”)
  • Julie est ma copine. (“Julie is my girlfriend.”)
  • Bastien était mon patron. (“Bastien was my boss.”)
  • Les tomates sont des fruits. (“Tomatoes are fruits.”) – But are they, really? The jury is still out.

Now, here’s how it looks when we describe something or someone using an adjective:

  • Paul est beau. (“Paul is handsome.”)
  • Cette journée est importante. (“This day is important.”)
  • Julie est très gentille. (“Julie is really kind.”)
  • Bastien était jeune. (“Bastien was young.”)
  • Cette voiture est neuve. (“This car is brand-new.”)

    → Learn many more useful adjectives in our article about the Top 100 most common French adjectives. It’s available for free on FrenchPod101.com.

Vegetables on Shelves

Les tomates sont des légumes. (“Tomatoes are veggies.”)

2. It Is

Now that we’ve talked about “A is B,” there won’t be anything shockingly difficult here. But it is such a common French sentence structure that we need to see it in more detail.

C’est (“it is”) uses the verb être, and it can be used in a wide range of situations to describe either a thing, a situation, or an action.

  • C’est super ! (“It’s great!”)
  • C’est très intéressant. (“It’s very interesting.”)
  • C’est gentil, merci. (“It’s kind, thank you.”)
  • C’est assez dangereux. (“It’s rather dangerous.”)
  • C’est trop tard. (“It’s too late.”)


3. I Want


Sentence Patterns

Anyone will tell you how important it is that you know what you want, but how do you talk about it in French? Let’s find out.

We use the verb vouloir (“to want”), and it works very similarly to how it does in English, with the indicative mood for something you WANT and the subjunctive mood for something you WOULD LIKE.

  • Je veux (“I want”)
  • Je voudrais (“I would like”)

You’ll find the full conjugation table for vouloir right here.

  • Je veux un café. (“I want a coffee.”)
  • Je veux te voir. (“I want to see you.”)
  • Je veux que tu sois là. (“I want you to be there.” Literally: “I want that you would be there.”)
  • Elle voudrait une bière. (“She would like a beer.”)
  • Je voudrais venir demain. (“I would like to come tomorrow.”)
  • Je voudrais que tu chantes. (“I would like you to sing.” Literally: “I would like that you would sing.”)

And let’s not forget “I don’t want,” as the French have no problem saying they don’t want something!

  • Je ne veux pas venir. (“I don’t want to come.”)
A Woman Holding Her Hands Out to Say No

Je ne veux pas venir. (“I don’t want to come.”)

4. I Need To

What’s more important than the things you want? The things you need!

Expressing your needs is something you’re likely to do on a daily basis: at work (I need more time; I need a new computer; I need friendlier customers), at home (I need a nap; I need to wash the dishes; I need an enormous fondue savoyarde and a bottle of pinot noir), or with friends (I need a beer; I need a cigarette; I need to kiss that girl tonight).

There are several ways to express your needs:

  • J’ai besoin de (“I need,” or literally “I have need of”)
J’ai besoin + NominalJ’ai besoin d’un café. (“I need a coffee.”)
J’ai besoin + Infinitive verbJ’ai besoin de boire un café. (“I need to drink a coffee.”)
  • Je dois (“I must,” “I need to”)
Je dois + Infinitive verbJe dois boire un café. (“I need to drink a coffee.”)
  • Il me faut (“I need”) 

This one doesn’t really have a literal translation. It uses the verb falloir (“to have to”), conjugated with il (“he”). In a sentence like this, il is used as an impersonal pronoun, just like in the sentence Il pleut (“It rains”).

Il me faut + NominalIl me faut un café. (“I need a coffee.”)

Technically, you could also say: Il me faut boire un café, but it’s overly sophisticated and would make people smile. You can use it in writing, though.

Here are some more French sentence examples for expressing needs:

  • J’ai besoin de me reposer. (“I need to rest.”)
  • Je dois te parler. (“I need to talk to you.” / “I must talk to you.”)
  • Il me faut plus de temps. (“I need more time.”)
  • Nous avons besoin d’une réponse. (“We need an answer.”)
  • Il nous faudrait une nouvelle télé. (“We would need a new TV.”)


A Man Yawning While Working Llate at Night

J’ai besoin de dormir. (“I need to sleep.”)

5. I Like, I Love

Our desires and needs being satisfied, let’s talk about things we love.

The main thing you should know about “I like” and “I love” in French, is that we have one verb for both. You heard me: aimer can translate as “like” or “love,” depending on the context, and we have different ways to express them.

J’aime bien (“I like”)

Literally: “I like well,” this is for what you find quite enjoyable. You’re not crazy about it or ready to do anything to have it. You just like it, plain and simple.

  • J’aime bien la bière, mais je préfère le cidre. (“I like beer, but I prefer cider.”)
  • J’aime bien ce film. (“I like this movie.”)

J’aime (“I like” / “I love”)

This is the gray area. You can use aimer for things you “love” or “like” in English. It’s often in the middle, but not always; you’ll sometimes have to read the situation to find out.

  • J’aime le fromage. (“I like cheese.”)

Here, I’m not saying it’s my favorite thing and I love it so much, but it’s stronger than j’aime bien.

  • Je t’aime. (“I love you.”)

J’adore (“I love”)

When j’aime isn’t enough—when you’re talking about something you’re really fond of, like one of your favorite foods or a movie you could watch over and over—then you could use the verb adorer.

  • J’adore la tartiflette ! (“I love tartiflette!”)
  • J’adore cet album. (“I love this album.”)

What about people? 

When it comes to people, should you say j’aime or j’aime bien? The answer is rather simple:

  • Family, best friend, and romantic partner: J’aime.
  • Friends and acquaintances: J’aime bien.

Here are a few examples to help you make sense of it:

  • J’aime mes parents. (“I love my parents.”)
  • Elle aime Nicolas. (“She loves Nicolas.” / “She’s in love with Nicolas.”)
  • J’aime bien Kévin, il est sympa. (“I like Kévin, he’s nice.”)
A Baker Holding a Large Tray of Croissants

J’aime les croissants. (“I like croissants.”)

6. I’m Doing it Right Now

This French sentence construction uses a verb equivalent to the English participle: verb + ING, in sentences like “I’m eating” or “She’s sleeping.”

In many cases, you could simply use the indicative present:

  • Je mange. (“I’m eating.”)
  • Elle dort. (“She’s sleeping.”)

But if you want to stress the fact that this is an ongoing process, the structure is a little bit more complicated. For this, we use: être en train de (literally: “to be in the process of”).

  • Je suis en train de manger. (“I’m eating now.”)
  • Elle est en train de dormir. (“She’s sleeping now.”)
  • Nous sommes en train d’emménager. (“We are moving in now.”)

And before you ask, it doesn’t mean that I’m eating in the train or she’s sleeping in a train. None of this has to do with the railway network!


Sentence Components

7. I’ve Just Done It

Another hugely popular French sentence pattern is Je viens de (“I’ve just”). Literally, it means “I come from” / “I’m coming from,” and indeed, you’re just “coming from” this last action, in a way.

  • Je viens de dormir. (“I’ve just slept.”)
  • Je viens de manger. (“I’ve just eaten.”)

You can make it even more immediate by adding juste (“just”) or even tout juste (literally: “all just”).

  • Je viens juste de dormir. (“I’ve just slept now.”)
  • Je viens tout juste de manger. (“I’ve just eaten right now.”)

8. I’m Going to Do It

Similarly, you’ll want to know how to talk about something you’re about to do. Luckily, there won’t be anything complicated here, as this sentence is formed exactly like in English, with the verb aller (“to go”).

  • Je vais dormir. (“I’m going to sleep.”)
  • Elle va manger. (“She’s going to eat.”)
  • Nous allons bientôt partir. (“We’re going to leave soon.”)

Just like in English, it has this double meaning of “I’m about to” and “I’m moving toward,” but with context, it never creates any confusion.

In spoken French, this structure is very often used to talk about the future, much more often, actually, than the future tense itself. As a result, this might be the most important pattern on this list!


A Tired Man Drinking Coffee

Je viens de me lever. (“I’ve just got out of bed.”)

9. Asking Questions

Especially as a foreigner, we can’t stress enough the importance of learning how to form questions. 

Whether you’ll be looking for a place, a person, or a word, chances are you’re gonna spend a lot of time asking questions. Let’s see the most popular French patterns for that.

We’ll start from this simple declarative sentence:

  • Tu aimes les chats. (“You love cats.”)

There are mainly three ways to turn this into “Do you love cats?”

  1. Aimes-tu les chats ?
  2. Est-ce que tu aimes les chats ?
  3. Tu aimes les chats ?

#1 is barely ever used in spoken French, but is popular in writing.

#2 and #3 are equally common, and you should ideally master both. There’s not much difference in meaning, except that #2 makes clear from the start that you’re gonna ask a question, while #3 only expresses it at the end (thanks to the intonation).

  1. Aimes-tu les chats ?

Nothing difficult here. We’re simply inverting the verb and the pronoun.

It would be the same with any verb or pronoun, but it only works when the subject is a pronoun.

  • Voulez-vous du vin ? (“Do you want wine?”)
  • Allons-nous dormir ? (“Are we going to sleep?”)
  • Est-elle partie ? (“Is she gone?”)
  • Mange-t-il ici ? (“Is he eating here?”)

Did you notice this weird t- in the last sentence? We use it with the pronouns that start with a vowel sound, such as il, elle, ils, and elles, to make the sentence flow smoothly and avoid having an awkward transition from vowel to vowel.

  1. Est-ce que tu aimes les chats ?

Est-ce que literally means “is it that.” So, our sentence would translate to: “Is it that you love cats?” It’s invariable regardless of the verb or subject, and it works with anything, not just pronouns.

  • Est-ce que vous voulez du vin ? (“Do you want wine?”)
  • Est-ce que nous allons dormir ? (“Are we going to sleep?”)
  • Est-ce qu’elle est partie ? (“Is she gone?”)
  • Est-ce qu’il mange ici ? (“Is he eating here?”)
  1. Tu aimes les chats ?

This one is really straightforward. Simply take the declarative sentence and end it with an interrogation mark. We don’t use it in formal writing, but very often in spoken French with the right intonation.

A Gray Kitten with Blue Eyes

Of course I love cats. Who could resist these eyes?

Now, what if I want to ask questions about What, Where, When, How, or Why?

Let’s take a look at each of the three forms with the simple sentence: Tu manges. (“You eat.”)

“What are you eating?”Que manges-tu ?Qu’est-ce que tu manges ?Tu manges quoi ?
“Where are you eating?”Où manges-tu ?Où est-ce que tu manges ?Tu manges où ?
“When are you eating?”Quand manges-tu ?Quand est-ce que tu manges ?Tu manges quand ?
“How are you eating?”Comment manges-tu ?Comment est-ce que tu manges ?Tu manges comment ?
“Why are you eating?”Pourquoi manges-tu ?Pourquoi est-ce que tu manges ?Pourquoi tu manges ?

And last but not least, here’s how you can stress a question, like you would do in English with “Right?” or “Isn’t it?”

  • Tu aimes les chats, non ?
  • Tu aimes les chats, n’est-ce pas ?
  • Tu aimes les chats, hein ?

This is a declarative phrase, followed by a short question. Non ? is probably the most common.


10. Asking for Permission

And finally, going to France, you might want to work on your first impression by following the well-known French etiquette. 

Luckily, being polite isn’t rocket science, and with only a few set French phrases, you’ll get through any daily situation! These phrases are:

  • “Can I ____?”

Just like we explained in section #9, there are three ways you can ask this question. The first one is only for written French, while the other two are equally common. We use the verb pouvoir (“can”).

1. Puis-je avoir un verre d’eau ? (“Can I have a glass of water?”)
2. Est-ce que je peux avoir un verre d’eau ?
3. Je peux avoir un verre d’eau ?

  • “Please”

S’il vous plaît (“please”) literally means: “If it pleases you.” It might sound very fancy, but it’s actually the simplest way we have to say “please.” With vous (formal “you”), it’s the formal way to address strangers, the elderly, or business partners.

S’il te plaît (“please”) uses tu (casual “you”), and it’s the casual form to address kids, family, friends, or colleagues.

For example, in a restaurant:

  • Je peux avoir un verre d’eau, s’il vous plaît ? (“Can I have a glass of water, please?”)

And if you’re visiting a friend:

  • Je peux avoir un verre d’eau, s’il te plaît ? (“Can I have a glass of water, please?”)
A Woman Thinking in Front of a Blackboard

10 French sentence patterns, endless possibilities.

11. Le Mot De La Fin

In this guide, you’ve learned everything about the most useful French sentence patterns, from basic French sentences to questions, polite requests, and expressing what you love or want.

Did we forget any important pattern you would like to know about? Do you feel ready to start talking to random strangers using everything you’ve learned today?

Make sure to explore FrenchPod101.com, as we have plenty of free resources for you to practice your grammar and learn new words. The vocabulary lists are also a great way to review the words and learn their pronunciation.

Remember that you can also use our premium service, MyTeacher, to get personal one-on-one coaching. Practice talking about French sentence patterns with your private teacher so they can give you personalized feedback and advice, and help you with the pronunciation.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French

About the Author: Born and bred in the rainy north of France, Cyril Danon has been bouncing off various jobs before he left everything behind to wander around the wonders of the World. Now, after quenching his wanderlust for the last few years, he’s eager to share his passion for languages.

100 Must-Know French Adverbs

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Could you imagine a novel written without any adverbs? It would feel terribly bland and boring, devoid of flavor and lacking substance. You wouldn’t have characters walking awkwardly or talking softly; they couldn’t stare suspiciously or ambiguously. They could only gaze upon the world with flat eyes.

Luckily, writers as well as speakers have a wide collection of adverbs at their disposal to spice things up. French adverbs describe where, when, how, and much more. They can express the feelings and perspective of the speaker and make any description tremendously more lively and colorful, just like adjectives do in their own way—starting with this very sentence!

French adverbs are not particularly tricky, but they still hold a few secrets which we’ll unfold together. In this article, we’ll cover French adverb placement, their formation, and most importantly, we’ll give you an extensive list of the 100 most useful French adverbs to know.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Useful Verbs in French Table of Contents
  1. French Adverbs User Manual
  2. The 100 Most Useful French Adverbs
  3. How FrenchPod101 Can Help You Learn More French
Woman Enchanted with a Book She’s Reading

Can you feel the magic of adverbs washing over you?

1. French Adverbs User Manual

1 – What are they?

Adverbs are a type of word that works together with a verb, an adjective, or another adverb to change its meaning or make it more precise. Basically, they describe verbs, adjectives, or fellow adverbs.

Here are some examples of French adverbs:

  • Doucement (“Softly”)
  • Sérieusement (“Seriously”)
  • Furieusement (“Furiously”)

And here’s how they combine with the verb parler (“to speak”):

  • Je parle doucement. (“I speak softly.”)
  • Je parle sérieusement. (“I speak seriously.”)
  • Je parle furieusement. (“I speak furiously.”)

With just one word, you completely change the tone of the sentence and create a whole different mood.

2 – What are they made of?

In French, just like in English, adverbs are often based on adjectives. More specifically, they’re based on the feminine form of the adjective. 

Do you remember how French adjectives have masculine and feminine forms? If not, be sure to check our previous article on the 100 Must-Know French Adjectives!

Here’s an example of the masculine vs. feminine forms of French adjectives: 

  • Doux / Douce (“soft”)
  • Sérieux / Sérieuse (“serious”)

Now, here’s how to go about forming French adverbs from adjectives: 

Feminine adjective + ment = Adverb

  • Douce (“Soft”) >> Doucement (“Softly”)
  • Sérieuse (“Serious”) >> Sérieusement (“Seriously”)
  • Rapide (“Quick”) >> Rapidement (“Quickly”)

Then, like in English, there are a few exceptions to this rule.

Adjectives ending with -i are formed like this:

Masculine adjective + ment = Adverb
  • Vrai (“Real”) >> Vraiment (“Really”)
Adjectives ending with -ent or -ant are formed with:

Masculine adjective – nt + mment = Adverb
  • Fréquent (“Frequent”) >> Fréquemment (“Frequently”)

And of course, there are the rebellious ones that don’t follow any rules:

  • Bon (“Good”) >> Bien (“Well”)
  • Mauvais (“Bad”) >> Mal (“Badly”)

Finally, many common adverbs in French are not created from adjectives. You’ll find plenty of them in our list.

Scientists Working in a Lab

What are these mysterious adverbs? Let’s find out!

3 – Where do they live?

Now, where do adverbs go in French sentences? Luckily, this is very similar to English.

When adverbs modify verbs, they usually come AFTER the verb.

  • Je parle doucement. (“I speak softly.”)
  • Elle mange lentement. (“She eats slowly.”)
  • Nous travaillons sérieusement. (“We work seriously.”)

When adverbs modify adjectives or adverbs, they come AFTER the verb and BEFORE the adjective / adverb.

  • C’est vraiment bien. (“It’s really good.”)
  • Il est souvent absent. (“He’s often absent.”)
  • Ils sont plutôt intelligents. (“They are rather intelligent.”)

Top Verbs

2. The 100 Most Useful French Adverbs

1. French Adverbs of Time (When?)

1

Tard
“Late”
C’est trop tard.
“It is too late.”

2

Tôt
“Early”
Je me lève tôt.
“I wake up early.”

3

Bientôt
“Soon”
Nous arriverons bientôt.
“We will arrive soon.”
Bientôt literally means “Well early.”

4

Déjà
“Already”
Tu as déjà mangé ?
“Have you eaten already?”

5

Hier
“Yesterday”
Je ne l’ai pas vu depuis hier.
“I haven’t seen him since yesterday.”

6

Aujourd’hui
“Today”
Il fait beau aujourd’hui.
“It’s sunny today.”
Why is this word so weird? It has a long and interesting story, but to keep it short:

Au +‎ jour +de +‎ hui, literally means “on the day of today.”

Hui isn’t used anymore and originally comes from the Latin word hodie.

7

Demain
“Tomorrow”
Il va pleuvoir demain.
“It’s going to rain tomorrow.”

8

Longtemps
“A long time,” “Long”
Ça ne prendra pas longtemps.
“It won’t take long.”
Longtemps is simply the combination of long (“long”) + temps (“time”).

9

Longuement
“At length”
Ils en ont parlé longuement.
“They talked about it at length.”

10

Brièvement
“Briefly”
Je vais expliquer brièvement les règles.
“I will briefly explain the rules.”

11

Maintenant
“Now”
Nous partons maintenant.
“We leave now.”

12

Avant
“Before”
C’était mieux avant.
“It was better before.”

13

Après
“After”
J’irai après le travail.
“I will go after work.”

14

Encore
“Again,” “Still”
Ils reviendront encore et encore.
“They will come back again and again.”

Elle vit encore à cette adresse ?

“She still lives at this address?”

15

Enfin
“At last”
J’ai enfin terminé !
“I’ve finished at last!”

16

Ensuite
“Then”
On va ensuite le mettre au four.
“Then, we’re going to put it in the oven.”
Another quick tip for this one: une suite means “sequel” or “follow-up.”

17

Précédemment
“Previously”
Revenons sur les problèmes mentionnés précédemment.
“Let’s go back to the previously mentioned issues.”

18

Actuellement
“Currently”
Vous ne pouvez actuellement pas acheter ce produit.
“You can’t currently buy this product.”
This is what we call a “false friend.” Although it looks like the English word “actually,” it has a different meaning. “Actually” would translate to en fait.

To make things even more confusing, “currently” comes from the same root as couramment which has yet a different meaning (“commonly”). I think I need an Aspirin!

19

Dernièrement
“Lately”
Je fume beaucoup dernièrement.
“I smoke a lot, lately.”
Dernièrement comes from the word dernier (“last”) but it doesn’t mean “lastly.” This would be enfin or finalement.

20

Soudain
“Suddenly”
Il a soudain arrêté de fumer.
“He has suddenly stopped smoking.”

21

Alors
“Then”
Il a alors commencé à boire.
“He then started drinking.”
People in Formal Work Clothes Crossing a Finish Line

J’ai enfin terminé ! (“I have finished, at last!”)

2. French Adverbs of Frequency (How Often?)

22

Jamais
“Never”
Je n’oublierai jamais.
“I will never forget.”

23

Parfois
“Sometimes”
Elle mange parfois dehors.
“She sometimes eats outside.”

24

Rarement
“Rarely”
Je vais rarement au cinéma.
“I rarely go to the cinema.”

25

Trop
“Too much”
J’ai trop mangé…
“I’ve eaten too much…”
It’s also very common to use trop with the meaning of “so,” either in a positive or negative context: 

C’est trop bien ! (“It’s so good!”)
C’est trop chiant… (“It’s so annoying…”)

26

Souvent
“Often”
Tu fais souvent la fête !
“You often have parties!”

27

Habituellement
“Usually”
Il se couche habituellement vers minuit.
“He usually goes to bed around midnight.”
Habituellement comes from une habitude (“a habit”), and describes something that happens routinely. We use it almost like “usually” for anything that keeps repeating until it becomes predictable.

28

Généralement
“Generally,” “Usually”
Ils commencent généralement à l’heure.
“They usually start on time.”

29

Couramment
“Commonly,” “Fluently”
C’est l’option la plus couramment utilisée.
“This is the most commonly used option.”

Vous parlez couramment Allemand.
“You speak German fluently.”

30

Toujours
“Always”
Je t’aimerai toujours.
“I will always love you.”

31

Tout le temps
“All the time”
Elle a tout le temps faim en ce moment.
“She’s always hungry lately.”

32

Quotidiennement
“Daily”
Il s’entraîne quotidiennement.
“He’s training daily.”

33

Mensuellement
“Monthly”
Vous serez prélevé mensuellement.
“You will be charged monthly.”

34

Fréquemment
“Frequently”
J’ai fréquemment envie d’un gros kebab.
“I frequently want a big kebab.”

35

Peut-être
“Maybe”
Elle viendra peut-être ce soir.
“Maybe she’ll come tonight.”
This weird contraption is the combination of peut (from the verb pouvoir, meaning “can”) and the verb être (“to be”). It literally means “can be” or “may be.” Quite fitting, right?

36

Aussi
“As well,” “Too,” “Also”
Tu veux venir aussi ?
“Do you also want to come?”

37

Egalement
“As well,” “Too,” “Also”
Tu viendras également ?
“Will you come as well?”
This is a slightly more sophisticated version of aussi, but they have the same meaning, really.

38

Même
“Same”
On a tous les deux la même coiffure.
“We both have the same haircut.”
Man Training for a Boxing Match

Il s’entraîne quotidiennement. (“He trains daily.”)

3. French Adverbs of Place (Where?)

39

Ici
“Here”
Tu viens souvent ici ?
“Do you come here often?”

40


“There”
Tu peux le mettre là.
“You can put it there.”

41

Partout
“Everywhere”
Je veux voyager partout !
“I want to travel everywhere!”

42

Nulle part
“Nowhere”
Ce chemin ne mène nulle part.
“This road is going nowhere.”

43

Quelque part
“Somewhere”
Si on continue de marcher, on arrivera quelque part.
“If we keep walking, we’ll end up somewhere.”

44

Ailleurs
“Somewhere else”
Si on ne peut pas rester ici, on ira ailleurs.
“If we can’t stay here, we’ll go somewhere else.”

45

Dedans
“Inside”
Tu vois ce qu’il y a dedans ?
“Do you see what’s inside?”

46

Dehors
“Outside”
Les enfants sont allés jouer dehors.
“The kids have gone outside to play.”

47

En haut
“Up,” “Above”
Elle a marché tout en haut de la montagne.
“She walked all the way up the mountain.”

48

En bas
“Down,” “Below”
Elle est revenue en bas pour camper.
“We went back down to camp.”

49

Dessus
“Over,” “On”
Les ingrédients sont écrits dessus.
“The ingredients are written on it.”

50

Dessous
“Under,” “Below”
Il est enterré en dessous de ce rocher.
“It is buried under this rock.”

51

Loin
“Far”
Nous avons marché plus loin que prévu.
“We have walked farther than planned.”

52

Près
“Close”
Le prochain camp est près du sommet.
“The next camp is close to the summit.”

53

Autour
“Around,” “Round”
Asseyez-vous autour du feu.
“Gather round the fire.”

54

Là-bas
“Over there”
Nous y arriverons avant midi.
“We will get there before noon.”
A Group of People Hiking Up a Mountain

Ils marchent loin. (“They walk far.”)

4. French Adverbs of Manner (How?)

55

Bien
“Well”
On mange bien ici !
“We eat well here!”

56

Mal
“Badly,” “Poorly”
Ce texte est mal traduit.
“This text is poorly translated.”

57

Doucement
“Softly,” “Quietly”
Parlez doucement, les enfants sont couchés.
“Speak softly, the kids are sleeping.”

58

Lentement
“Slowly”
Je pédale lentement car je suis fatigué.
“I pedal slowly because I’m tired.”

59

Vite
“Quickly”
Je pédale plus vite quand je suis en forme.
“I pedal faster when I’m in good shape.”

60

Rapidement
“Fast,” “Quickly,” “Shortly”
Dis moi si je parle trop rapidement.
“Tell me if I speak too fast.”

61

Calmement
“Calmly,” “Quietly”
J’attends calmement mon tour.
“I quietly wait for my turn.”

62

Joyeusement
“Joyfully,” “Happily”
Elle souriait joyeusement.
“She was smiling joyfully.”

63

Facilement
“Easily”
Tu apprends facilement de nouvelles langues.
“You easily learn new languages.”

64

Litttéralement
“Literally”
Il y a littéralement des centaines d’adverbes !
“There are literally hundreds of adverbs!”

65

Simplement
“Simply,” “Just”
Tu peux simplement le démonter avec cet outil.
“You can simply disassemble it with this tool.”

Je veux simplement t’aider.

“I just want to help you.”

66

Gentiment
“Gently”
Demande-moi gentiment.
“Ask me nicely (gently).”

67

Heureusement
“Luckily”
Heureusement, l’histoire se termine bien.
“Luckily, the story ends well.”
Beware of another false friend! Heureusement comes from heureux (“happy”), but it doesn’t mean “happily.” This would be joyeusement or volontiers.

68

Poliment
“Politely”
On lui a demandé poliment de partir.
“We politely asked him to leave.”

69

Brusquement
“Suddenly”
Le sentier s’arrête brusquement.
“The trail suddenly stops.”

70

Naturellement
“Naturally”
Nous cherchons naturellement un autre chemin.
“We naturally look for another way.”

71

Précisemment
“Precisely”
Nous marchions depuis précisément une heure.
“We were walking for precisely one hour.”

72

Parfaitement
“Perfectly”
Je savais parfaitement où nous allions.
“I knew perfectly well where we were heading.”

73

Sérieusement
“Seriously”
Nous pensons sérieusement à revenir sur nos pas.
“We’re seriously considering backtracking.”

74

Ainsi
“As well as,” “Thus,” ?
On pourrait ainsi trouver notre chemin.
“It would allow us to find our way.”
This one is tough to translate. It often means “as a result,” but in a more subtle way… So subtle that it could often be omitted in most translations.
Man Making an Apology at Work

Je m’excuse poliment. (“I politely apologize.”)

5. French Adverbs of Quantity and Degree (How Much? To What Extent?)

75

Vraiment
“Truly,” “Really”
J’ai vraiment faim !
“I’m really hungry!”

76

Plutôt
“Rather”
Tu ne veux pas plutôt reprendre un verre ?
“Won’t you rather have another drink?”

77

Assez
“Enough”
Tu ne crois pas que tu as assez bu ?
“Don’t you think you’ve been drinking enough?”

78

Tout
“All,” “Everything”
Je veux tout essayer.
“I want to try everything.”

79

Rien
“Nothing”
Tu n’as encore rien vu.
“You haven’t seen anything yet.”

80

Surtout
“Especially”
J’aime surtout le vin.
“I especially love wine.”
Quick tip: Surtout literally means “above all.”

81

Beaucoup
“Many,” “Much,” “A lot”
Tu en bois beaucoup.
“You drink a lot of it.”

82

Seulement
“Only”
J’en ai bu seulement quatre verres.
“I only had four glasses.”

83

Presque
“Almost”
Tu as presque fini la bouteille.
“You almost finished the bottle.”

84

Quasiment
“Almost”
La seconde bouteille est quasiment pleine.
“The second bottle is almost full.”

85

Peu
“Little,” “Few”
Il en reste peu.
“There is little left.”

86

Très
“Very,” “Really”
Le fromage aussi est très bon !
“The cheese is very good as well!”

87

Nettement
“Clearly”
C’est nettement meilleur avec du pain.
“It’s clearly better with bread.”

88

Carrément
“Totally”
Ah oui, j’avais carrément oublié.
“Oh yes, I totally forgot.”

89

Absolument
“Absolutely”
Tu dois absolument essayer.
“You absolutely need to try.”

90

Franchement
“Frankly,” “Really,” “Truly”
C’est franchement délicieux.
“It’s really delicious.”

91

Certainement
“Certainly,” “Probably”
Celui-ci est certainement mon préféré.
“This one is certainly my favorite.”

92

Extrêmement
“Extremely”
Il est extrêmement cher.
“It’s extremely expensive.”

93

Terriblement
“Terribly,” “Badly”
J’en ai terriblement envie.
“I badly want it.”

94

Combien
“How,” “How much,” “How many”
Tu sais combien ça coûte ?
“Do you know how much it cost?”

95

Plus
“More”
J’en commanderai plus la prochaine fois.
“I will order more next time.”

96

Davantage
“More”
J’en commanderai davantage tout à l’heure.
“I will order more later.”
This is the sophisticated version of plus. Both have very similar meanings.

97

Moins
“Less”
Je dépenserais moins, si j’étais toi.
“I would spend less, if I were you.”

98

Tant
“That much,” “So much,” “So many”
J’ai tant d’argent que je peux payer ce soir.
“I have so much money that I can pay tonight.”

99

Tellement
“So,” “So much,” “So many”
Tu es sûr ? C’est tellement cher.
“Are you sure? It’s so expensive.”

100

Environ
“About,” “Approximately”
Il y en a pour environ 100€.
“It will be around 100€.”


Woman Upset at Her Drunk Colleagues

Ils boivent vraiment trop. (“They really drink too much.”)

3. How FrenchPod101 Can Help You Learn More French

In this guide, you’ve learned everything about French adverbs, from their formation to their placement in a sentence. You’ve also studied a list of the 100 most useful French adverbs. Did I forget any important adverb that you know? Do you feel ready to add them to your speech and impress your French-speaking friends with your tasteful and accurate descriptions?


FrenchPod101 also has tons of vocabulary lists with audio recordings, and free resources to boost your studies and keep your French learning fresh and entertaining!
Remember that you can also use our premium service, MyTeacher, to get personal one-on-one coaching with your private teacher, who will help you practice with adverbs and more. Your teacher will also give you assignments, personalized exercises, and recorded audio samples, and will review your own recordings to help improve your pronunciation. Happy learning on FrenchPod101.com!

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About the Author: Born and bred in the rainy north of France, Cyril Danon has been bouncing off various jobs before he left everything behind to wander around the wonders of the World. Now, after quenching his wanderlust for the last few years, he’s eager to share his passion for languages.