So, you have decided to learn French and want to dive into some basic French grammar. Très bien. Grammar is essential for speaking French, as well as reading, writing, and listening.
We will explain how to start learning French and then list 10 useful grammar points all beginners should learn. Your foreign language learning adventure starts here.
Modern French is a popular Romance language spoken by around 300 million native French speakers. When you start learning French, you open doors for communicating with millions of people around the world.
Let's dive into this quick guide for learning French so you can start exploring French culture and talking to native speakers today.
How to Start Learning French
French is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world and one of the most popular Romance languages. Learning French will open doors for travel, work, and cultural exploration.
To begin your French studies, you will need some excellent French learning resources. French learners can use language-learning apps to develop their French vocabulary.
You can also check out Lingopie, a streaming service that boasts a lot of great French TV shows and movies. If you are a native English speaker, you can watch with English and French subtitles to help you follow the context.
It is also a good idea to delve into French literature to practice your French reading skills. Or try an audiobook read by a native French speaker for some French listening practice. This will introduce you to French sounds.
Moreover, it is a great idea to sign up for French courses online. A French tutor who is a fluent French speaker can teach you useful everyday French words, as well as slang French vocabulary, and even the French alphabet if you are a total beginner.
The chance to speak with real French people is invaluable. A tutor will help you to learn French grammar and basic vocabulary, as well as provide a great chance to work on your spoken French.
Finally, you can try out language exchanges. This is when you talk with a native French speaker online or in person. This person is not necessarily a tutor, but they do have a great grasp of the French vernacular.
Native French speakers can help you to speak French with more fluency and better French pronunciation. A language exchange partner might also want to learn English from you.
French learners can employ these techniques to kick-start their French learning journeys.
Now, let's take a look at 10 grammar points in French for beginners.
1. French Nouns and Gender
If you want to learn French, and there are many reasons why you should, you will need to understand the concept of gender in language. All French nouns are either masculine or feminine. This can be a confusing concept for English-speaking learners, as English nouns are neutral.
Every noun in French is assigned a gender, and you need to know the gender of a noun to use the correct article, adjective, and pronoun with it. Luckily, there are a few general rules to follow to help you identify the gender of a noun in French.
For example, most nouns that refer to male beings or objects are masculine. Meanwhile, most nouns that refer to female beings or objects are feminine. For instance, la fille (the girl - feminine) and le garçon (the boy - masculine).
However, there are exceptions to this rule. Something you will notice during your French learning journey is that many grammatical rules have exceptions.
In addition to memorizing the gender of individual nouns, it is also important to learn the different endings for masculine and feminine nouns. For example, many masculine nouns end in -eau, -age, or -isme, while many feminine nouns end in -elle, -tion, or -té.
2. Articles in French
Articles are an essential part of French grammar, and they are used to indicate the gender and number of nouns. There are two types of articles in French: definite and indefinite.
Definite articles are used to refer to a specific person, place, or thing. In English, we use "the". In French, the definite articles are le for masculine singular, la for feminine singular, les for plural, and l' before a vowel or silent letters, like "h".
For example, le livre (the book- masculine, singular) and la maison (the house - feminine, singular). Meanwhile, les livres means "the books" in plural form.
Indefinite articles are used to refer to a non-specific person, place, or thing. In English, we use "a" or "some". In French, the indefinite articles are "un" for masculine singular, "une" for feminine singular, and "des" for plural.
For example, un livre (a book - masculine, singular), and une maison (a house - feminine, singular). And des livres means "some books", which is plural.
Getting to know French articles is a great step in learning French for beginners.
3. Subject Pronouns in French
Subject pronouns are used to replace the subject of a sentence. In French, several subject pronouns correspond to different grammatical persons. These are essential for understanding spoken French.
- Je - I
- Tu - You (singular informal)
- Il - He
- Elle - She
- Nous - We
- Vous - You (plural or singular formal)
- Ils - They (masculine or mixed gender)
- Elles - They (feminine)
These subject pronouns are essential for forming French phrases. They are used in conjunction with verbs to express actions.
For example, je suis means "I am," tu parles means "you speak, and nous dansons means "we dance."
If you are a total beginner in French, do not panic. We will look at verbs in a minute.
4. Object Pronouns in French
Object pronouns in French replace the direct or indirect object of a verb. You will see this in spoken and written French.
The different types of object pronouns in French include direct object pronouns (me, te, le/la, nous, vous, les) and indirect object pronouns (me, te, lui, nous, vous, leur).
Direct object pronouns replace the object that directly receives the action of the verb, while indirect object pronouns replace the object that receives the action indirectly.
For example, je le vois (I see him - direct) je lui parle (I speak to him - indirect).
Learning to use object pronouns comes with practice. Talk with a native speaker every day if you can. This will help you learn French faster and more efficiently through exposure.
5. Regular Verbs in French
That brings us to French verbs. There are different verb tenses in French, but we are just going to look at the present at the moment.
The present tense is used to describe actions and states of being that are happening now or that occur regularly. For instance, "the train is arriving," or "the train arrives at 3 pm every day."
In French, regular verbs in the present follow a pattern of conjugation. This involves adding endings to the verb stem, or the first part of the verb.
For example, the verb parler (to speak) is conjugated as follows:
- Je parle - I speak
- Tu parles - You speak
- Il/elle parle - He/she speaks
- Nous parlons - We speak
- Vous parlez - You speak
- Ils/elles parlent - They speak
Learning conjugation is a key part of your French journey, so congratulations. You start learning French right here, right now. Depending on your learning style, you might want to make conjugation flashcards, recite verb conjugations daily or make a poster.
6. Irregular Verbs in French
That being said, there are also irregular verbs in French. Irregular verbs are verbs in French that do not follow the standard pattern of conjugation.
Unfortunately, these French verbs must be memorized individually. It is wise to note down any new words you learn that are irregular.
French irregular verbs have unique and unpredictable changes to their stems or endings in different verb tenses, such as the past and future.
Some of the most commonly used irregular verbs in French include être (to be), avoir (to have), aller (to go), and faire (to do/make).
Language learners will need to learn how to conjugate irregular verbs to master the French language, as they are frequently used in conversation and writing.
7. Reflexive Verbs in French
Reflexive verbs are verbs that indicate that the subject is acting on itself. In French, reflexive verbs are identified by the presence of the reflexive pronoun se before the verb.
For instance, the reflexive verb se laver (to wash oneself) is conjugated as follows:
- Je me lave - I wash myself
- Tu te laves - You wash yourself
- Il/elle se lave - He/she washes himself/herself
- Nous nous lavons - We wash ourselves
- Vous vous lavez - You wash yourselves
- Ils/elles se lavent - They wash themselves
Learning about reflexive verbs in French will also help you with your French vocabulary. It's important to recognize reflexive verbs in French and understand how to conjugate them to communicate effectively.
A native French speaker will find this effortless, but for a French learner, it often takes a bit of time. Learn French reflexive verbs by explaining your daily routine (I wake up, I get up, I brush my teeth...)
8. Adjectives in French
Adjectives are words that describe nouns or pronouns in a sentence. In French, adjectives agree in gender and number with the noun they are describing.
For example, the adjective petit (small) becomes petite in its feminine form and petits in its masculine plural form. In English, our adjectives do not change in this way.
Adjectives typically appear after the noun in French, unlike in English where they usually appear before.
Language learners need to learn to use adjectives correctly to create grammatically correct sentences. Learn French adjectives from TV shows, movies, and songs. Hearing these French words in spoken French should help them sink in.
9. Prepositions in French
Prepositions are words that show the relationship between nouns, pronouns, or other French words in a sentence.
In French, prepositions are used in a similar way to English, but there are some differences in usage and meaning.
Common French prepositions include à (to, at), de (of, from), en (in, on), avec (with), and sans (without). As you can see, these basic words crop up all the time, so it is vital to understand their meaning and usage.
It is important to use prepositions correctly in French to avoid confusion. Prepositions often appear before nouns, pronouns, or verbs, and their use can change the meaning of a sentence, so it's important to understand them.
Learning French pronouns can seem dull, so try to pick them out of entertaining books or podcasts to make learning more fun.
10. Past Tense Verbs in French
Finally, the past tense in French is used to describe actions that have already happened in the past. There are two main forms of the past tense in French: the passé composé and the imparfait.
The passé composé is typically used to describe completed actions in the past. Meanwhile, the imparfait is used to describe ongoing or habitual actions in the past.
This is the difference between "I ate my dinner at 6 pm" and "I used to eat my dinner every night at 6 pm".
As a native speaker of your native language, you probably don't often consider this kind of nuance. But when learning any other language, it can help to consider your own language's grammar and compare the rules.
Regular verbs in the past tense are typically formed by adding a past participle to the present tense of the verb, while irregular verbs must be memorized individually.
Of course, there are other tenses to master when you are learning French. Learn French tenses one at a time to avoid confusion.
FAQs About Learning French
Let's take a look at some frequently asked questions by those who want to learn French.
Is it possible for me to teach myself the French language?
Yes, you can teach yourself the French language. With the help of some useful French resources, like Lingopie and language-learning apps, you will be able to get to the intermediate level on your own. Note that you will be able to start speaking French more quickly with a language exchange partner.
Can I learn to speak French in 3 months?
Yes, it is possible to learn to speak French in 3 months. While you will not sound as proficient as native speakers, you should be able to get by in French-speaking countries if you practice daily for 3 months. Learn French with language-learning apps and websites.
What should a beginner learn in French?
Beginners in French should learn some basic French words, such as useful French verbs, nouns, and adjectives. Moreover, beginners will need to learn some simple grammar, such as French verb conjugations. You can learn grammar online or through a French language course.
Is French pronunciation hard for beginners?
French pronunciation can be hard for beginners. Learn French pronunciation with language exchange partners, watch French-language TV shows, and listen to French music. The more you practice conversational French, the faster your accent will improve.
Summing Up: 10 Must-Know French Grammar Points for Beginners
As you can see, grammar is an essential part of learning French and indeed all foreign languages.
If French is your first foreign language, you may feel overwhelmed by the grammar. But you should not worry. Learning a new language takes time and effort, so start today and use great resources to help you.
Lingopie can teach you French, as well as several other romance languages and popular world languages. By watching TV shows and movies in French, you can develop your listening and reading language skills.
Remember to practice writing and speaking French too, with a language partner or a tutor. This will prepare you to visit a French-speaking country. Good luck with your French learning journey.