French Grammar and Usage

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French Grammar and Usage

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adjective - a class of words which modify nouns. Adjectives appear adjacent to nouns or separated from them by verbs like être, devenir, rester: e.g. un PETIT problème 'a small problem'; une boîte CARRÉE 'a square box'; Cette robe est CHÈRE 'This dress is expensive

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  1. French Grammar and Usage
  2. French Grammar and Usage S econd edition R oger Hawkins Senior Lecturer in Language and Linguistics, University of Essex R ichard Towell Professor of French Applied Linguistics, University of Salford NATIVE SPEAKER CONSULTANT M arie-Noëlle Lamy Senior Lecturer, Open University A m ember of the Hodder Headline Group LONDON
  3. Contents Guide for the user xi Glossary of key grammatical terms xiv A cknowledgements xx A cknowledgements for the second edition xxi 1 N ouns 1 1.1 Types of noun 1 1.2 Gender 5 1.3 Number 17 2 D eterminers 23 2.1 Articles 23 2.2 Typical use of the definite article 24 2.3 Typical use of the indefinite article 29 2.4 The partitive article: du, de l', de la, des 32 2.5 Use of indefinite and partitive articles after the negative f orms ne... pas, ne... jamais, ne... plus, ne... guère 33 2.6 Omission of the article 34 2.7 Demonstrative determiners 37 2.8 Possessive determiners 39 3 Personal and impersonal pronouns 40 3.1 Subject pronouns 40 3.2 Object pronouns 53 3.3 Stressed pronouns 71 3.4 Demonstrative pronouns 75 3.5 Possessive pronouns 76 4 A djectives 78 4.1 Adjectives modifying the noun 78 4.2 Adjectives which follow verbs or verbal expressions 83 4.3 Adjectives with complements 84 4.4 Indefinite and negative noun phrases with adjective c omplements 85 4.5 Adjectives used as nouns 85 4.6 Adjectives used as adverbs 86 4.7 Masculine and feminine forms of adjectives 86 4.8 Plural forms of adjectives 89 4.9 Adjective agreement with nouns 91
  4. vi Contents 4.10 Invariable adjectives 91 4.11 Compound adjectives 92 4.12 Comparative and superlative forms of adjectives 93 4.13 Subjunctive versus indicative in clauses dependent on a superlative adjective 96 4.14 Absolute use of the superlative 97 5 A dverbs 98 5.1 Function of adverbs 98 5.2 Formation of adverbs with the ending -ment 98 5.3 Adjectives used as adverbs without addition of -ment 101 5.4 Phrases used as adverbs 102 5.5 English and French adverb formation 104 5.6 Types of adverbs 104 5.7 Location of adverbs 122 6 N umbers, measurements, time and quantifiers 126 6.1 Cardinal numbers 126 6.2 Ordinal numbers 133 6.3 Fractions 134 6.4 Some differences in the use of cardinal and ordinal numbers i n French and English 135 6.5 Measurements and comparisons 138 6.6 Dates, days, years 140 6.7 Clock time 142 6.8 Money 143 6.9 Quantifiers 143 7 Verb forms 147 7.1 Introduction 147 7.2 Conjugations 148 7.3 Easy ways of generating some parts of the paradigms 149 7.4 Changes in the stem form of some -er c onjugation verbs 152 7.5 Verbs whose stems end in c- or g- 153 7.6 Verb paradigms 154 8 Verb constructions 186 8.1 Relations between verbs and their complements 186 8.2 Intransitive constructions 186 8.3 Directly transitive verbs 188 8.4 Indirectly transitive verbs 190 8.5 Ditransitive verbs 192 8.6 The passive 194 8.7 Pronominal verbs 197 8.8 Impersonal verbs 204 8.9 Verbs which take noun + adjective or noun + noun complements 207
  5. Contents vii 9 Verb and participle agreement 208 9.1 Subject-verb agreement 208 9.2 A greement of the past participle with the subject of être 212 9.3 A greement of the past participle of verbs conjugated with avoir w ith a preceding direct object 213 9.4 A greement of the past participle of pronominal verbs in c ompound tenses 220 222 10 Tense I ntroduction 222 10.1 222 10.2 The present 10.3 The past 223 10.4 228 The future 10.5 O ther tenses indicating the time at which events occur 232 r elative to other events 10.6 C ombining tenses 235 10.7 238 Tenses in direct and reported descriptions of events 10.8 Tenses with si 240 241 11 The s ubjunctive, modal verbs, exclamatives and imperatives 241 T he attitude of the subject to events: the subjunctive 11.1 11.2 The use of devoir, pouvoir, savoir, falloir 258 The French equivalents of the English modal verbs: 'would', 11.3 ' should', 'could', 'may', 'might', 'ought to', and 'must' 262 267 11.4 E xclamatives 269 I mperatives 11.5 273 12 The infinitive 12.1 273 I ntroduction: what are infinitives? 12.2 274 Infinitives as complements to other verbs 12.3 Verbs which take infinitive complements without a linking 274 p reposition 12.4 Verbs which take infinitive complements preceded by the p reposition à 277 12.5 Verbs which take an infinitive complement preceded by d e 282 288 12.6 O mission of objects before infinitives 12.7 289 I nfinitives as complements to adjectives 12.8 I nfinitives as complements to nouns 291 293 12.9 Infinitives in subordinate clauses 294 12.10 I nfinitives as polite commands 294 12.11 Q uick-reference index to verbs taking infinitive complements 301 13 Prepositions 13.1 I ntroduction 301 301 13.2- P repositions listed alphabetically from à to vers 13.58 325 F rench translations for common English prepositions 13.59
  6. viii Contents 14 Question formation 332 14.1 Introduction 332 14.2 Yes/no questions 332 14.3 Information questions 336 14.4 Order of object pronouns in questions involving inversion 341 14.5 Order of negative particles in questions involving inversion 341 14.6 Use of question words and phrases: qui?, que?, quoi?, quel?, de qui?, avec combien de? etc. 341 14.7 Indirect questions 346 15 Relative clauses 349 15.1 Introduction 349 15.2 Use of relative qui 350 15.3 Use of relative que 351 15.4 Preposition plus qui 352 15.5 Use of lequel in relative clauses 352 15.6 Use of dont, de qui, duquel/de laquelle/desquels/desquelles 354 15.7 The use of où as a relative pronoun 355 15.8 Use of relative quoi 356 15.9 Free relative clauses and the use of ce qui, ce que, ce dont, ce à quoi, ce sur quoi, etc. 357 15.10 Translating 'whoever', 'whatever', 'wherever', 'whenever', ' however' 359 15.11 Indicative and subjunctive in relative clauses 361 16 Negation 365 16.1 Introduction 365 16.2 Location of sentence negators 365 16.3 Order of negators in multiple negation 368 16.4 Omission of ne in sentence negation 368 16.5 Order of negative elements in questions and imperatives 369 16.6 ne... pas 369 16.7 ne... que 373 16.8 ne... aucun(e), ne... nul(le) 373 16.9 ne... jamais 374 16.10 ne... plus 375 16.11 ne... guère 376 16.12 ne... rien 377 16.13 ne... personne 378 16.14 ne... ni... ni 379 16.15 sans u sed with other negators 380 16.16 ne u sed alone 380 17 Conjunctions and other linking constructions 382 17.1 Introduction 382 17.2 Coordinating conjunctions 382 17.3 Subordinating conjunctions 384
  7. Contents ix 17.4 Conjunctions sometimes confused by English speakers 394 17.5 Repeated subordinating conjunctions 395 17.6 Subordinating conjunctions used with infinitive clauses 396 17.7 après avoir/ être + p ast participle linking an infinitive clause t o a main clause 397 17.8 Past participle phrases used as linkers 397 17.9 Present participles and gerunds 398 A ppendix 402 B ibliography 405 Index 407
  8. Glossary of key grammatical terms I tems in bold in the definitions are also defined in the glossary. adjective - a class of words which m odify nouns. Adjectives appear adjacent to nouns or separated from them by verbs like être, devenir, rester: e.g. un PETIT problème ' a small problem'; une boîte CARRÉE ' a square box'; Cette robe est CHÈRE ' This dress is expensive'. adverb - a class of words which m odify w ords, phrases a nd sentences: e.g. Tout est si clair ' Everything is so clear'; Je fume MODÉRÉMENT ' I smoke mod- erately'; JUSTE avant le départ du train ' Just before the train leaves'; SOUDAIN, j'ai entendu un bruit ' Suddenly I heard a noise'. adverbial - a w ord or phrase which can function as an adverb, although it also h as other functions: e.g. parler BAS ' to talk quietly' (bas = an adjective); Je lui rends visite DE TEMPS EN TEMPS ' I visit her from time to time' (de temps en temps = a p repositional phrase); Elle travaille LE MATIN ' She works in the mornings' (le matin = a n oun phrase). affirmative sentence - a s entence which is not a negative: e.g. Elle parle ' She i s speaking'; Parle-t-elle? ' Is she speaking?'; Parle! ' Speak!' (as opposed to the n egative sentences: Elle ne parle pas, Ne parle-t-elle pas? Ne parle pas!). a greement - a f orm the verb m ust take to be compatible with a given subject: e.g. NOUS m angeons 'We're eating'/ Vous mangez ' You're eating'. A form a d eterminer a nd an adjective m ust take to be compatible with a given n oun: e.g. UN BON REPAS ' A good m eal' /UNE BONNE BIÈRE ' A good beer'. A form a past participle m ust take to be compatible with a preceding direct object: e.g. le coffre? Je L'AI OUVERT ' The car boot? I've opened it': La porte? Je L'ai OUVERTE ' The door? I've opened it'; and so on. article - d efinite article = le, la, les; i ndefinite article = un, une, des. T he 'parti- tive' article - du, de la, des - i ndicates that a n oun refers to something which is part of a larger mass: e.g. du gâteau ' some (of the) cake'; des abeilles ' some b ees'. auxiliary verb - t he verbs avoir or être w hich accompany a past participle in c ompound t enses or the p assive: e.g. Elle A mangé ' She has eaten'; Le vélo A ÉTÉ réparé ' The bike has been repaired'. cardinal number - a n umber in the series un (1), deux (2), trois (3), etc. c lause - a s tring of words which contains just one verb phrase a nd a subject ( whether overt or implied): e.g. ELLE PART ' She's leaving' - one clause; DEPUIS JANVIER LES PRIX ONT AUGMENTÉ ' Since January, prices have gone u p ' - one c lause; IL EST HEUREUX/PARCE QU'IL EST RICHE ' He is happy because he is rich' - t wo clauses; ELLE EST PRÊTE/A PARTIR ' She is ready to leave' - two clauses
  9. Glossary of key grammatical terms xv (in à partir t he subject is implied: She is ready, and she will leave); LES CIR- CONSTANCES AIDANT/LE PARTI GAGNERA CES ÉLECTIONS 'If the conditions are right, t he party will win this election' - two clauses; II DIT/QU'ON CROIT/QU'ELLE VA PARTIR ' He says that they think that she will leave' - three clauses. Also see coordinate clause, relative clause, subordinate clause. comparative - a w ay of m odifying adjectives a nd adverbs to draw a com- parison between one entity and another: // veut acheter une PLUS GRANDE/une MOINS GRANDE/une AUSSI GRANDE voiture ' He wants to buy a bigger car/a car w hich is not as big/a car which is just as big'; Cette voiture-ci roule PLUS VITE/MOINS VITE/AUSSI VITE QUE l'autre ' This car goes faster/slower/as quickly a s the other one'. complement - a ny phrase which follows a n oun, verb, adjective, adverb, t o form an expression with a cohesive meaning: e.g. un appartement À LOUER 'a flat to let'; Ils se réunissent LE DIMANCHE AU STADE ' They meet on Sundays at the stadium'; Pierre est difficile À VIVRE ' Pierre is difficult to live with'. coordinate clause - a c lause l inked to another by et, ou, mais: e.g. Il est riche ET i l est heureux ' He is rich and he is happy'. declarative sentence - a s entence which makes a statement (as opposed to a q uestion or an i mperative). demonstrative - d emonstrative determiner = ce, cette, ces; d emonstrative pro- noun = celui, celle, ceux, celles. determiner - an article (un, une/le, la, les/des, etc.), d emonstrative d eterminer (ce, cette, etc.) or p ossessive d eterminer (mon, ma/ton, ta, etc.) which m odi- fies a n oun. direct object - see object. directly transitive verb - see transitive verb. ditransitive verb - see transitive verb. finite verb - a verb w hich is marked for t ense a nd agreement, a s opposed to non-finite forms like the i nfinitive, imperative, participles: e.g. Je PARLE ' I'm s peaking'; J'AI PARLÉ T s poke'; Je SAIS parler français T c an speak French'. formal French - i n this grammar 'formal French' refers to a style used by speak- ers of standard educated French when they are paying particular attention t o the form of what they are saying or writing. It is a style usually appro- priate when someone is speaking in an official capacity (lectures, sermons, s peeches, etc.), or writing in learned, academic or literary style. Features of formal French which are absent from informal French i nclude: the use of t he simple past tense (Il SORTIT ' He went out'), the use of the past anterior t ense (Aussitôt qu'il FUT SORTI . . . 'As soon as he had gone out . . . ' ) , r eten- tion of ne in ne . . . pas. gender - a d ivision of n ouns i nto two classes: masculine and feminine. The d istinction shows up mainly in determiners (le v ersus la, ce v ersus cette, mon v ersus ma, etc.), in p ronouns (il v ersus elle) a nd in the agreement of adjec- tives with nouns (beau v ersus belle). G ender distinctions are grammatical and n eed not correspond to sex distinctions in the real world (although they m ostly do): e.g. médecin ' doctor' is masculine, but can refer to men or w omen; personne ' person' is feminine but can refer to men or women. gerund - see participle.
  10. xvi Glossary of key grammatical terms i mperative - a f orm of the verb u sed to give orders, express encouragement or g ive advice: e.g. ASSEYEZ-VOUS! 'Sit d own!'; ALLEZ! ' Come on!'; FAIS atten- tion^. ' Watch out!' i mpersonal - refers to a p ronoun ( usually a subject pronoun) which does not refer to any person, place, thing, idea etc. il, ce, cela, ça c an be impersonal p ronouns in French: e.g. IL est temps de partir ' It's time to leave'; ÇA me fait peur d'y aller la nuit ' It scares me to go there at night'. i ndicative - t he set of forms of the verb which are not s ubjunctive, impera- tive, infinitive or participial. indirect object - see object. i ndirectly transitive verb - see transitive verb. i nfinitive - a f orm of the verb w hich ends in -er, -ir, -re, -oir, a nd corresponds t o E nglish 'to': AIMER ' to l ike', FINIR ' to f inish', VENDRE ' to s ell', RECEVOIR ' to r eceive'. informal French - i n this grammar 'informal French' refers to a style used by s peakers of standard educated French in contexts of relaxed, spontaneous c ommunication when they are interacting with friends, colleagues, family, etc. Features of informal French include: the non-use of the simple past or p ast anterior tenses, and the regular omission of ne from ne ... pas. i ntransitive verb - a verb w hich h as no direct object: e.g. La neige TOMBAIT ' Snow was falling'. modify, to - t o add to the meaning of a n oun, verb, adjective, etc. by adding a nother word o r p hrase t o it: e.g. manteau, UN manteau, UN manteau GRIS; oiseau, UN oiseau, UN oiseau QUI CHANTE; parle, IL parle, IL parle LENTEMENT; grand, si grand, ELLE EST SI grande. negator - o ne of the elements aucun, jamais, ni, nul, pas, personne, plus, rien w hich c an create negative expressions (see Chapter 16). n oun - a class of words which refers to people, places, things, ideas, and so o n; it is u sually preceded b y a determiner: e.g. un AMI; la FRANCE; une BIÈRE; le BONHEUR. n oun phrase - t he phrase consisting of a noun alone, or a noun and the ele- ments which modify it. Each of the f ollowing is a n oun phrase: PIERRE, LE SOLEIL, UN CHER AMI ' a d ear friend', UNE BIÈRE BIEN FROIDE ' a r eally cold beer', CHACUN DE MES AMIS LES PLUS CHERS ' each of my d earest friends'. n umber - a g rammatical distinction between n ouns or pronouns w hich are s ingular and those which are plural. Number distinctions need not corre- spond to real singular and plural distinctions in the world, and can differ b etween English and French (although mostly the grammatical and real- world distinctions coincide): e.g. 'hair' (singular) versus cheveux ( plural); ' trousers' (plural) versus pantalon ( singular). See also cardinal number a nd ordinal number. object - a d irect object is the n oun phrase or pronoun affected directly by the a ction described b y the v erb: e.g. Il a pris LE TRAIN ' He t ook t he t rain'; 17 L'a pris ' He took it'. An indirect object is the noun phrase or pronoun affected i ndirectly by the action described by the verb. In French, indirect object noun p hrases are always introduced by à: e.g. 17 a envoyé un cadeau À SA MÈRE 'He s ent a present to his mother'. An object of a preposition is any noun phrase
  11. Glossary of key grammatical terms xvii w hich follows a preposition, including indirect objects introduced by à : e.g. dans LE HALL ' in the hall', à côté DU RESTAURANT ' beside the restaurant', à SA MÈRE ' to his mother'. object of a preposition - see object. ordinal number - a n umber in the series premier (1er), deuxième (2e), troisième (3e), etc. parenthetical expression - a n aside made by a speaker to indicate a reserva- tion h e / s h e has about what is being said. It is the equivalent of putting s omething in brackets ('parentheses'): e.g. Pierre, SEMBLE-T-IL, a gagné le prix ' Pierre, it seems, won the prize'. Parentheticals are kinds of adverbial. participle - p ast participles are forms of the verb which occur with avoir or être: e.g. J'ai MANGÉ ' I've eaten'; Elle est PARTIE ' She has left'. Present partici- ples end in -ant a nd correspond to English verbs ending in -ing: e.g. dis- paraissant ' disappearing', attendant ' waiting'. Gerunds are present participles p receded by en: en disparaissant ' while disappearing; by disappearing', e n attendant ' while waiting; by waiting'. passive - a f orm of a normally t ransitive verb w here the direct object b ecomes t he s ubject a nd the verb is turned into an être + p ast participle c onstruc- tion: e.g. Il a réparé le vélo ' He repaired the bike'; LE VÉLO A ÉTÉ RÉPARÉ ' The b ike has been repaired'. past participle - see p articiple. person - t he three categories into which n oun phrases or pronouns c an be d ivided depending on whether they refer to the person(s) speaking (je, me, moi, nous - first person), the person(s) being spoken to (tu, te, toi, vous - s ec- ond person), or the person(s) or thing(s) being talked about (il, elle, lui, ils, etc. - third person). P ronouns t ake different forms in the first, second and t hird person, and f inite verbs c hange their form to agree with the person of the s ubject (e.g. je parle, nous parlons, vous parlez, etc.). personal pronoun - a first p erson, s econd person or third person p ronoun w hich stands for a n oun phrase m entioned or implied elsewhere in a text o r discourse. Personal pronouns contrast with i mpersonal p ronouns which d o not refer to other noun phrases. Personal pronouns are pronouns like je, me, moi, nous; tu, te, toi, vous; il, elle, lui, les e tc. They take their name from t he fact that they can be classified as first, second or third person, and do n ot necessarily refer to people; e.g. elle i s a personal pronoun, but it refers t o the inanimate émission i n: ELLE est intéressante, cette émission ' That pro- gramme's interesting'. phrase - a ny string of words which gives rise to an expression with a cohe- sive meaning: e.g. MON ONCLE JACQUES ' my uncle Jacques' ( noun phrase); Pierre MARCHE LENTEMENT ' Pierre walks slowly' (verb phrase), etc. p ossessive - p ossessive determiner - mon, ma, ton, votre, etc.; possessive pro- noun = le mien, la mienne, le tien, le vôtre, etc. p reposition - w ords like à , de, dans, en, sur, etc., which are followed by n oun p hrases a nd indicate the direction, location, orientation, etc., of an entity. p repositional phrase - a p hrase consisting of a p reposition a nd its c omple- ment. T he following are all prepositional phrases: À MIDI ' at noon'; À CHAQUE VIRAGE ' at every bend'; AU CHEVET DE MA MÈRE ' at my mother's bedside'.
  12. xviii Glossary of key grammatical terms p resent participle - see participle. p ronoun - a f orm which is used in place of a n oun phrase w hen that phrase is already known from the context: e.g. je, tu, nous, le, la, leur, etc. Pronouns h ave different forms depending on whether they are s ubjects, direct objects, indirect objects or objects of a preposition. proper noun - n ames like Marie-Paule, le Canada, a re proper nouns. q uantifier - a determiner-like e xpression which measures or quantifies a n oun or n oun phrase: e.g. BEAUCOUP D'argent ' a lot of money'; LA PLUPART DES s pec- tateurs 'most of the spectators'; TOUS les jours ' every day'. q uestion (direct v ersus indirect) - a d irect question is addressed directly to the h earer or reader: e.g. VIENS-TU? ' Are you coming?'. An indirect question r eports the asking of a question: e.g. Il a demandé si TU VENAIS ' He asked if y ou were coming'). reciprocal - a t ype of sentence where either the direct object, t he indirect object o r the object of a preposition refers to the same person, thing, idea, etc., as a p lural s ubject, a nd the sentence is intepreted so that the subjects are doing t hings to each other: e.g. Les boxeurs SE sont blessés ' The boxers injured each o ther'; Les participants SE sont posé des questions ' The participants asked each o ther questions'; Les manifestants ont lutté LES UNS CONTRE LES AUTRES ' The d emonstrators fought with each other'. reflexive - a t ype of sentence where either the direct object, t he indirect object or the object of a preposition refers to the same person, thing, idea, etc., as t he subject: e.g. Je ME lave T am washing (myself)'; Elle SE cache la vérité ' She h ides the truth from h erself; Elle parle CONTRE ELLE-MÊME ' She is speaking a gainst herself. relative clause - a c lause w hich m odifies a n oun phrase or a pronoun: e.g. // y avait deux hommes QUI SORTAIENT DU BAR ' There were two men who were c oming out of the bar'; C'est lui QUI ME L'A DONNÉ ' He is the one who gave it to me'. s ubject - t he n oun phrase o r p ronoun i n a c lause a bout which the verb a nd its c omplement s ay something. Subjects usually appear in front of the verb: e.g. LE DÎNER est servi ' Dinner is served'; SA FEMME parle lentement ' His wife s peaks slowly'; DELPHINE a été battue ' Delphine was beaten'. It can appear after the verb in some constructions. See subject-verb inversion. s ubject-verb inversion - subjects normally precede finite verbs in French. But i n questions, and after certain adverbs, the subject and the finite verb may c hange places: e.g. AIME-T-IL LE Roquefort? ' Does he like Roquefort cheese?; A peine S'EST-IL ASSIS qu'on lui a demandé de se déplacer ' Hardly had he sat down w hen someone asked him to move'. s ubjunctive - s ee Chapter 11 for discussion. s ubordinate clause - a clause w hich is part of a larger sentence, and whose m eaning is secondary to that of the main clause: e.g. PARCE QU'IL EST RICHE, Pierre est heureux ' Because he is rich, Pierre is happy' - parce qu'il est riche is s ubordinate to Pierre est heureux; Jean a complètement rénové le grenier DEPUIS QU'IL EST CHEZ NOUS ' Jean has completely renovated the loft since he has been at our house' - depuis qu'il est chez nous is subordinate to jean a complètement rénové le grenier.
  13. Glossary of key grammatical terms xix superlative - a w ay of modifying adjectives and adverbs to single out an entity a s the best or the worst of its kind: e.g. C'est la route LA PLUS DANGEREUSE/LA MOINS DANGEREUSE de la région ' It's the most dangerous road/least dangerous r oad in the region'; Cette voiture-là est LA PLUS VITE/LA MOINS VITE ' That car is t he fastest/the least fast'. tense - a f orm of the verb w hich indicates the time at which an event took place relative to other events being talked about: e.g. Je PRENDS [ present tense] la route par où nous SOMMES VENUS [ compound past tense] 'I'm taking t he road along which we came'. Tenses have names like present, future, sim- ple past, compound past, etc. - see Chapter 7 for the forms of verbs in dif- ferent tenses, and Chapter 10 for their uses. transitive verb - a v erb which has a direct object: e.g. Elle mange UNE POMME 'She is eating an apple'. In this grammar we also distinguish directly tran- sitive verbs, which have direct objects, from indirectly transitive verbs which h ave prepositional c omplements: e.g. Il parle DE SES PARENTS ' He is talking of his parents', and from ditransitive verbs which have complements consist- ing of a direct object and a prepositional object: e.g. J'ai envoyé LA LETTRE À MON FRÈRE T s ent the letter to my brother'. verb - a class of words which refers to actions, states, events, accomplishments, a nd so on, and has different forms to indicate t ense a nd agreement: e.g. Elle PARLE ' She is speaking'; L'eau SCINTILLAIT ' The water was sparkling'. verb phrase - t he phrase consisting of a verb a lone, or a verb a nd the elements w hich m odify it (but excluding the subject). Each of the following is a verb p hrase: marchait ' was walking'; marchait lentement ' was walking slowly'; a envoyé un cadeau d'anniversaire à sa tante ' sent a birthday present to his aunt'.
  14. 1 Nouns I.I Types of noun I .I.I Abstract versus concrete nouns Concrete nouns refer to entities with physical attributes which can be seen, heard, touched, etc. Abstract nouns refer to entities without such physical attributes: Typical concrete n ouns Typical abstract n ouns beauty b ière (f) beer b eauté (f) b onbon (m) sweet b onheur(m) happiness c adeau (m) present b onté (f) goodness c arte (f) card p atience (f) patience d isque (m) record m œurs (f pi) customs, morals s avoir (m) knowledge église (f) church livre (m) book s ilence (m) silence m annequin (m) (fashion) model soif (f) thirst Abstract nouns in French are usually accompanied by a definite article whereas English has no article: La patience est une qualité qui se fait rare Patience is a quality which is becoming rare Je cherche le bonheur I'm looking for happiness But when abstract nouns refer to a particular example of 'patience', 'happiness', ' knowledge', and so on (for instance, when they are modified by an adjective), they occur with an indefinite article: Il a fait preuve cette fois d'une patience appréciable The patience he showed on this occasion was appreciated Il s'est alors produit un silence absolu Absolute silence ensued Un bonheur en vaut un autre One kind of happiness is the same as any other (See Chapter 2 for definite and indefinite articles.) 1.1.2 Mass versus count nouns C ount nouns identify individual entities, and usually have both singular and p lural forms. Mass nouns treat the entity or entities they refer to as a single u nit, and typically have only a singular form (although some mass nouns only h ave a plural form):
  15. 2 Nouns T ypical count nouns Typical mass nouns u ne bouteille a bottle d e l'air air d es bouteilles bottles butter d u beurre u n chien a dog water d e l'eau cake d es chiens dogs d u gâteau people d es gens u ne personne a person d u sable sand d es personnes people M a s s n o u n s in French are u s u a l l y a c c o m p a n i e d by the partitive article (see C h a p t e r 2.4) - du, de V, de la o r des - i n those cases w h e r e English h a s ' s o m e ' o r no article at all: J e voudrais du lait, s'il vous plaît I would like some milk, please II y a du vin dans le placard There's wine in the cupboard Personnes a nd gens personnes a nd gens, b oth of which mean 'people', differ in their uses because personne i s a count noun and gens a m ass noun. Only personne c an be preceded by a number (e.g. cinq), or the quantifiers plusieurs ' several', quelques 'a few', un certain nombre de 'a c ertain number of: Les cinq personnes (NOT *gens) qui ont mangé avec nous The five people who ate with us P lusieurs personnes (NOT *gens) sont restées tout l'après-midi Several people stayed for the whole afternoon B y t h e s a m e token, gens i s preferred in contexts w h e r e ' p e o p l e ' are treated as a mass: Les gens (NOT *personnes) n'aiment pas rester à table trop longtemps People don't like to spend too long over a meal N B : gens c an be p r e c e d e d by beaucoup de ' m a n y ' , peu de ' few', tous les ' all t h e ' a n d l a plupart des ' m o s t ' . M a s s n o u n s u s e d countably S o m e m a s s n o u n s can be u s e d c o u n t a b l y to refer to specific e x a m p l e s of the s u b s t a n c e in question: les vins de France the wines of Trance les Eaux et Forêts the Trench Torestry Commission les fromages de Normandie the cheeses of Normandy un pain a loaf of bread u n petit pain a bun S o m e c o u n t n o u n s can also b e u s e d a s m a s s n o u n s : P renez du p oulet Have some chicken Il met du citron dans tout He puts lemon in everything 1.1.3 Collective nouns C ollective n o u n s refer to collections of p e o p l e or things.
  16. Types of noun 3 Typical collective nouns assistance (f) audience comité (m) committee é quipe (f) team foule (f) crowd g ouvernement (m) government linge (m) de maison household linen m ain-d'œuvre (f) workforce p euple (m) people vaisselle (f) dishes, crockery W hen a collective n o u n is the subject of a clause, the v e r b is u s u a l l y singular. T his contrasts w i t h English, w h e r e the v e r b can be either singular or plural: Le gouvernement a (NOT *ont) décidé d'interdire la publicité pour les cigarettes The government has/have decided to ban cigarette advertizing L'équipe s'entraîne (NOT *s'entraînent) le jeudi soir The team trains/train on Thursday evenings (For more on subject-verb a g r e e m e n t see C h a p t e r 9.1.) 1.1.4 Proper nouns P roper n o u n s are n a m e s like Marie-Paule, Paris, Toulouse, Le Havre, La Seine, La France, Le Canada. W ith persons there is u s u a l l y no article: M arie-Paule viendra demain Marie-Paule will come tomorrow I n some cases an article is inserted in informal speech: Dis donc, elle était pas fière, la Marie-Paule! So Marie-Paule must have felt a bit of a fool! T 'aurais vu la tête qu'il faisait, le Jérôme! You should have seen Jerome's face! T his conveys a familiar, affectionate a t t i t u d e t o w a r d s the i n d i v i d u a l concerned. W hen reference is m a d e to a family, as in ' t h e Jones family', a p l u r a l article is u sed, but the n a m e itself is n o t pluralized: J'ai invité les Martin à venir manger dimanche I have invited the Martins for Sunday lunch W hen a p e r s o n ' s title is u s e d , it is n o r m a l l y a c c o m p a n i e d by the definite a rticle: J e vous présente le Professeur Bodin May I introduce Professor Bodin c hez le Docteur Gleizes c/o Dr Gleizes (on an envelope or package) W hen p r o p e r n o u n s are m o d i f i e d by p r e c e d i n g adjectives, t h e y require a def- inite article:
  17. 4 Nouns le petit Jules little Jules le gros Henri fat Henri U nlike in English, regions a n d countries are n o r m a l l y u s e d w i t h a definite a rticle: J'ai visité la Normandie I visited Normandy la France d'aujourd'hui today's France N ous survolons la Belgique We're flying over Belgium ( See C h a p t e r 2.2.2 for the u s e of articles w i t h regions a n d countries.) 1. 1.5 Use of anlannée, jour/journée, matin/matinée, soirisoirée E nglish h a s o n l y o n e w o r d for each of ' m o r n i n g ' , ' e v e n i n g ' , ' d a y ' a n d ' y e a r ' . F rench h a s t w o , b u t each are u s e d u n d e r different circumstances. It is often s aid t h a t the -ée f orms are u s e d w h e n the activity w h i c h takes place d u r i n g the m o r n i n g , e v e n i n g , etc. is highlighted. C o m p a r e : J e travaille chaque matin/soir/jour I work every morning/evening/day ( where the frequency rather than the activity is highlighted) J'ai travaillé toute la matinée/la soirée/la journée I worked all morning/evening/day ( where the length of work is highlighted) B ut there are other cases w h e r e the forms h a v e distinct uses w h i c h a p p e a r to b e the result s i m p l y of convention: a u début de la matinée/la soirée/la journée at the start of the morning/the evening/the day en fin de matinée/ at the end of the morning/ s oirée/journée the evening/the day p ar une belle matinée on a beautiful morning t ôt le matin early in the morning Un beau matin il est parti One fine morning he up and left t ous les jours/matins/ans every day/morning/year l 'an 2000 the year 2000 le jour de l'an New Year's Day le nouvel an the New Year s ouhaiter la bonne année à qn to wish so a Happy New Year les années 70 the 70s l 'année précédente/suivante the previous/following year W ith p r e c e d i n g n u m b e r s the forms w i t h o u t -ée a re n o r m a l l y used: II a cinq ans He is five t rois fois par jour three times a day B ut if an adjective modifies the n o u n as well this seems to highlight the a ctivity: t rois bonnes années three good years six longues journées six long days
  18. Gender 5 1.2 Gender Nouns in French are either masculine or feminine. Unfortunately there are no simple rules which non-native speakers can use to predict with complete accu- racy the gender of a given noun. However, there are some patterns, either in the form or meaning of nouns, which can normally be used to predict the cor- rect gender with greater than chance accuracy. The reader should remember, however, that these patterns are not comprehensive, and that there are excep- tions. 1.2.1 Gender signalled by the final letters of the w r i t t e n forms of nouns Masculine Many nouns whose singular written form ends in a c onsonant a re masculine: -c un franc a franc (un lac a lake, le public the public, etc.) -d le bord the edge (le fond the bottom, le pied the foot, etc.) -g un camping a camp site (un parking a car park, un shampooing a shampoo, etc.) -1 un détail a detail (le travail work, le soleil the sun, etc.) -r le fer iron (l'hiver winter, un couloir a corridor, etc.) -t le chocolat chocolate (le climat the climate, un jouet a toy, un poulet a chicken, le ciment cement, un jugement a judgement, etc.) Exceptions are typically found with nouns which end in -n, -r, -s, -t, a nd -x: une maison a house une cuiller a spoon la mer the sea une tour a tower une fois one time une dent a tooth une nuit a night une jument a mare une croix a cross Nouns ending in -on a re usually masculine {un poisson 'a fish', un sillon 'a fur- row', etc. Although une chanson ' a song' is an exception). But nouns ending in -aison, -(s)sion, -Hon or -xion a re usually feminine: une comparaison a comparison une liaison a liaison une maison a house une raison a reason une saison a season une décision a decision la tension tension, blood pressure une vision a vision une émission a broadcast une connexion a connection Exception: un bastion a bastion N ouns ending in -eur a re usually masculine {un ordinateur 'a computer', le bon- heur ' happiness', etc.), but the following frequently-used nouns are feminine:
  19. 6 Nouns l a chaleur the heat u ne couleur a colour u ne erreur a mistake u ne fleur a flower l a largeur the width la longueur the length l a peur fear la profondeur the depth Many nouns whose singular written form ends in a vowel (but excluding -e w ithout an acute accent) are masculine, although there are a significant num- ber of exceptions: -ai, un délai a time limit un essai an attempt (a 'try' in rugby) un emploi a job un roi a king Exceptions: la foi faith, une loi a law, u ne paroi a wall le café the café or coffee u n fossé a ditch l e marché the market le thé tea E xception: u n e c lé a key -eau u n couteau a knife u n marteau a hammer le niveau the level l e réseau the network u n tableau a picture E xceptions: l'eau water, la peau skin -i l'abri shelter un cri a shout un pari a bet un pli a fold un raccourci a short-cut -ou un bijou a jewel un caillou a pebble un clou a nail un genou a knee le hibou the owl F eminine M any nouns whose singular written form ends in - e w ithout an acute accent a re feminine: l'audace daring, la façade the front, the outside, une salade a salad une baie a bay, la haie the hedge
  20. Gender 7 une douzaine a dozen, une fontaine a fountain une ambulance an ambulance, une flèche an arrow une thèse a thesis, une grève a strike, etc. une araignée a spider, une bougie a candie, etc. But there are a large number of exceptions to this rule: -isme Nouns ending in -isme a re masculine: le romantisme ' romanticism', le tourisme 'tourism', u n idiotisme ' an idiom (linguistic)', etc. -ède, -ege, -eme Nouns with these endings are usually masculine: un intermède an interlude un cortège a procession un piège a trap un stratège a strategist un poème a poem le système the system le thème the theme or translation into a foreign language la crème ' cream' is an exception (but see 1.2.4). -age Nouns ending in -age a re usually masculine, but there are some notable excep- tions: le courage courage un garage a garage un message a message un stage a work placement un voyage a journey Exceptions: u ne cage a cage, u ne image a picture, u ne page a page, u ne plage a beach, la rage rabies. Other common exceptions: un grade a rank un stade a stadium u n groupe a group le monde the world le capitaine the captain le domaine the area le silence silence u n musée a museum un lycée a (sixth-form) college un trophée a trophy un génie a genius a fire u n incendie u n cimetière a cemetery le derrière the backside u n magazine a magazine platinum l e platine a windscreen u n pare-brise an interval u n intervalle the rebel le rebelle honeysuckle le chèvrefeuille
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