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Now, it's time to build sentences. Stand alone words are rarely useful. To express an idea, whether complex or not, you need to combine words in order to build up sentences. French language distinguishes three basic sentence structures : normal sentence structure, negative sentence structure and interrogative sentence structure.
A typical French sentence is composed of the following elements :
These elements play the role of elementary bricks that compose a sentence. French, as English, is a positional language, i.e. the function played by words in the sentence depends on their position in the sentence. So, each kind of sentence is built according to a specific structure or framework.
These structures are very useful because they indicate the postition of the various elements (various bricks) in a given kind of sentence (normal, negative or interrogative). In the context of spoken language they work pretty well. Written language is often more sophisticated than spoken language and leads to more complicated sentences. Before reviewing the various sentences structures in the present tense, let's introduce some prepositions
The basic framework of a nomral sentence is :
SUBJECT + VERB + ACC + CIR
This structure is comparable to the English one. Examples :
|Tu||chantes||une chanson||dans la rue||You sing a song in the street|
|Il||conduit||la voiture||tous les jours||He drives the car every day|
|Le boulanger||vend||le pain||dans la boulangerie||The baker sells bread in the bakery|
The basic framework of a negative sentence is :
SUBJECT + ne + VERB + pas + ACC + CIR The words ne ... pas play a role similar to do not in English. While do not is located before the verb, in French the verb is put inbetween ne and pas. Excepting this difference, the structure of a French negative sentence is similar to its English counterpart.
|Tu||ne chantes pas||une chanson||dans la rue||You do not sing a song in the street|
|Il||ne conduit pas||la voiture||tous les jours||He does not drive the car every day|
|Le boulanger||ne vend pas||le pain||dans la boulangerie||The baker does not sell bread in the bakery|
The primary goal of interrogative sentences is to ask questions !! That's what we call in French a "la palissade" or "un truisme" (something obvious). When asking a question, you may want to know who (qui in French) or what (que in French) is performing the action, when (quand in French) the action is performed, how (comment in French) or where (où in French) it is performed, etc. Most of questions need an interrogative conjunction which indicate what we want to know. The basic interrogative conjunctions are :
Compared to the normal and negative structures, the interrogative sentences are a little bit more complicated. Basically, French language provides two interrogative structures : a spoken laguage oriented structure and a written language oriented one. As the spoken language is always simpler than the written one, the first structure is easier to understand. So, let's start with it.
The basic structure is :
Interrogative conjunction + est-ce que + SUBJECT + VERB + ACC + CIR + ?
Once again, the group of words est-ce que plays a role similar to do in the English interrogative sentences. As we see, the structure of a French interrogative sentence is similar to its English couterpart. Note that the interrogative conjunction is optional depending on what you want to know.
Now, we can introduce the second interrogative structure. Basically, this strcuture consists of switching the position of the subject and the verb like this :
Interrogative conjunction + VERB + - + SUBJECT + ACC + CIR + ?
Again, the interrogative conjunction is not mandatory. Examples :
|Chantes-tu une chanson dans la rue ?||oui or non|
|Où chantes-tu une chanson ?||Dans la rue|
|Que chantes-tu dans la rue ?||Une chanson|
|Conduit-il la voiture tous les jours ?||oui or non|
|Que conduit-il tous les jours ?||La voiture|
|Quand conduit-il la voiture ?||Tous les jours|
It is very easy. However, the pattern only applies when the subject is a pronoun (je, tu, il/elle, nous, vous, ils/elles). Otherwise, it is not so straight forward. When the subject is not a pronoun, the interrogative structucture is :
Interrogative conjunction + SUBJECT + VERB+ - + PRONOUN + ACC + CIR + ?
The pronoun which is added must be in accordance to the number and the number of the subject.
Normal sentence : Le Boulanger vend le pain dans la boulangerie.
1. Le boulanger vend-il le pain la boulangerie ?
2. Où le boulanger vend-il le pain ?
3. Que le boulanger vend-il ?
Explanations : "Le boulanger" is masculine singular
The corresponding pronoun is "il"
Normal sentence : La boulangère vend le pain dans
Interrogative sentences :
1. La boulangère vend-elle le pain dans la boulangerie ?
2. Où la boulangère vend-elle le pain ?
3. Que la boulangère vend-elle ?
Explanations : "La boulangère" is feminine and singular. The corresponding pronoun is "elle"
Normal sentence : Les boulangères vendent le pain
dans la boulangerie.
Interrogative sentences :
1. Les boulangères vendent-elles le pain dans la boulangerie ?
2. Où les boulangères vendent-ellesle pain ?
3. Que les boulangères vendent-elles ?
Explanaitons : "Les boulangères" is feminine
and plural. The corresponding pronoun is "elles"
Normal sentence : Le boulanger et la boulangère
vendent le pain dans la boulangerie.
Interrogative sentences :
1. Le boulanger et la boulangère vendent-ils le pain dans la boulangerie ?
2. Où le boulanger et la boulangère vendent-ils le pain ?
3. Que le boulanger et la boulangère vendent-ils ?
Explanations : "Le boulanger et la boulangère" is a subject which comprises two people, therefore it is plural. As far as the gender is concerned, you have to remember the macho rule " the masculine wins over the feminine ". Consequently the gender of this subject is masculine. The corresponding pronoun is then "ils"
This fifth lesson ends the grammatical core of the course. In the next lessons, we're going to focus on the vocabulary and the language by itself i.e. usual expressions, familiar expressions and idiomatic expressions. Other major verb tenses (past, future and conditonal) will be introduce at a steady pace. So don't miss the next lessons.
Build up the neagtive and interrogative sentences for the following normal sentences as shown in the example below :
List of normal sentences :
Click here to get the correction
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