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Lesson Transcript

Let's take a closer look at the conversation.
Do you remember how Ben asks,
"How do you say “book” in French?"
Comment dit-on “book” en français ?
The standard way to ask for the meaning of a word in French follows a simple pattern.
First is comment, translating as "How" in this context. Comment (enunciated). Comment.
Next is dit-on. “One says.” Dit-on.
Dit, “says,” as in “one says.” Dit. (enunciated). Dit.
Dit is from the verb, dire, meaning “to say.” Dire.
Next is on, “one” as in “one says.” On (enunciated). On.
Together, Comment dit-on, literally, “How says one,” but it translates as, “how [does] one say.” Comment dit-on.
Note the word order when asking a question: verb followed by the subject, dit-on, in this case.
When this inverted word order occurs in French, there is a hyphen between the verb and the subject.
After this is the English word, “book.”
Last is the phrase, en français, “in French.” En français.
First is en, “in.” En (enunciated). En.
After this is français, “French,” as in “the French language.” Français (enunciated). Français.
Note, when the context is clear, you may omit en français.
All together, Comment dit-on “book” en français ? literally, “How one says “book” in French?”, but translates as, “How [do] you say “book” in French?”
Comment dit-on "a book" en français ?
Let’s take a closer look at the response.
Do you remember how Justine (@college-friendf) says,
“You say ‘book.’”
Justine Jérôme (@college-friendf): On dit “livre”.
First is on dit, which literally means “one says” but translates here as “you say.” On dit (enunciated). On dit.
After this is the answer to the question: livre, “book.” Livre (enunciated). Livre
All together On dit “livre,” literally, “One says “book,” but it translates as “You say ‘book.’”
Justine Jérôme (@college-friendf): On dit “livre”.
The pattern is
Comment dit-on “{ENGLISH WORD}” en français ?
How do you say “{ENGLISH WORD}” in French?
Comment dit-on “{ENGLISH WORD}” en français ?
To use this pattern, simply replace the {ENGLISH WORD} placeholder with the word you want to know.
Imagine you want to know the French word for “pen.”
“How do you say “pen” in French?”
Comment dit-on “pen” en français ?
"How do you say ‘pen’ in French?"
Comment dit-on “pen” en français ?
This lesson introduces a grammatically complex, but commonly used, pattern: the impersonal form with on. The on-construction is used to express what people do in general, rather than point to a specific person.
The pattern is on plus a verb in the third, singular person. The example used in the lesson was on dit, “one says.” Let’s quickly look at a few more examples.
On appelle, one calls, as in, one calls it “book.”
On mange, one eats, as in, one eats a lot at Christmas.
On dort, one sleeps, as in one sleeps late on Saturday.
Also note that all nouns in French have grammatical gender. When learning new words, it’s often important to identify this gender so that you can remember how to use it in the future.
One simple way to do this is to follow up after someone tells you what a word is in French. You can simply say Un ou une ? after being told the word, to clarify if it is masculine or feminine. If the person responds with Un, you know it is masculine, and if they say une, it’s feminine.