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à and le together usually combine to au, and likewise à and les become aux.

When referring to parts of your body, French usually uses the definite article rather than a possessive pronoun.

encore vs à nouveau: use encore when you want to do the same thing again, à nouveau when you want to do something again, but in a different ('new') way.


Negation is usually achieved by surrounding the verb with ne and pas, e.g. je sais (I know) becomes je ne sais pas (I do not know). In spoken French the ne is often dropped, e.g. je sais pas, but not usually in written French.

In the passé composé, it is the auxilliary verb which is negated, e.g. j'ai su (I knew) becomes je n'ai pas su (I did not know).

Some words replace the pas, such as rien (anything) and jamais (never). For example, je ne sais rien (I do not know anything), not je ne sais pas rien. je ne travaille jamais (I never work), not je ne travaille pas jamais.

plus + verb = anymore. For example, je ne veux plus sortir = I do not want to go out anymore. Again, plus replaces pas.

To say 'only', which is a form of negation, place ne and que around the verb(s). For example, je n'ai vu que le train = 'I only saw the train'.


pourquoi: why

: where

quand: when

qui: who

quel: what (also who) - masculine form

quelle: what (also who) - feminine form

Frequency / quantity

Frequency of actions (to use with verbs) and unspecified quantity (to use with nouns).

souvent: often, e.g. je lis souvent - I read often.

beaucoup: a lot, e.g. j'ai beaucoup de livres - I have a lot of books, je danse beaucoup - I dance a lot.

parfois: sometimes, e.g. je lis parfois - I read sometimes.


surtout: especially / above all


sinon: otherwise / or else


avant: before

devant in front of

après: after, e.g. après-midi - afternoon (literally)

derrière: behind

près de: close/near to

sous: under

sur: on

Grammar terms

Reflexive verb: Verb where the subject and the object are the same, e.g. se lever - to get up (literally to get oneself up)

Gendered nouns

All nouns in French are either masculine or feminine (unlike Latin there is no neuter).

Some nouns are always one gender, even if they can refer to people of either gender, e.g. un bébé is a male or female baby and une personne is a male or female person. The same can be true for animals, e.g. a fish is always un poisson.

The following nouns are always masculine:

  • Days of the week
  • Months
  • Seasons
  • Names of languages
  • English nouns used in French, e.g. le football

Feminine versions of masculine nouns can often be generated by appending -e, e.g. ami (male friend) becomes amie (female friend). If the masculine form ends with a vowel, the additional e does not affect pronunciation. If the masculine form ends with a consonant, that consonant is not pronounced in the masculine form but is pronounced in the feminine form, e.g. étudiant vs étudiante.

passé composé

The passé composé is the past tense which is potentially still ongoing, e.g. j'ai reservé une table (I have reserved a table - the reservation was made in the past but it exists in the present?).

All verbs in the passé composé take either avoir or être as an auxiliary verb, which changes based on the person and number. The form of the main verb is the same in all cases, known as the participe passé or past participle.

For example, aimer (to like) has the following forms in the passé composé:

  • J'ai aimé - I liked
  • Tu as aimé - You liked (informal and singular)
  • Il/Elle/On a aimé - He/she/'we' liked
  • Nous avons aimé - We liked
  • Vous avez aimé - You liked (formal singular and plural 'you')
  • Ils/Elles ont aimé - They liked (plural)

The participe passé is always aimé and does not change. The auxiliary verb is avoir and does change.

A small number of verbs use être as the auxiliary, all other verbs use avoir.

Subjunctive (Le Subjonctif)

The subjunctive is a tense that is rarely used in English but is important in French.

There is no future subjunctive - in these cases the present subjunctive is used.

Phrases which are always (or nearly always) followed by the subjunctive:

  • pour que - so that, in order that

Useful phrases

J'aime lire, et toi? - I like to read, and you?

Greetings and goodbyes

Bonjour - Literally 'good day', but is used as a general greeting to mean good morning or good afternoon. You should always say this when entering a small shop. (Do better than Emily in Paris (a French person's take))

Salut - Hi/bye (informal).

Bienvenue - Welcome.

Enchanté - Nice to meet you. Slightly formal, most people would just say bonjour.

À plus tard - See you later (same day? Not like in English where 'see you later' could mean much later or even an unspecified time in the future)

À demain - See you tomorrow.

À bientôt - See you soon.

Likes and dislikes

When saying what objects you like and dislike in French, include the definite article. For example, j'aime le chocolat is I like chocolate, even though it literally translates as I like the chocolate (which implies the existence of a particular chocolate to be liked). Also je desteste le café, j'adore le thé etc.

Difference between je veux (I want) and j'ai envie de (I have a desire for, but possibly more colloquial French).


When saying what you do for a living in French, omit the indefinite article. For example, je suis professeur is I am a teacher, even though it literally translates as I am teacher. Je suis un professeur is incorrect.


Je ne suis pas saoul, je suis juste ivre de vous: I'm not drunk, I'm just intoxicated by you.

Tu me plais: I like you.

Tu es mannequin ?: Are you a model?

Je suis tombé amoureux de toi: I have fallen in love with you.

Vous venez ici souvent ?: Do you come here often?

Voulez-vous danser avec moi ?: Do you want to dance with me?

Faux pas

Avoid the following, lest you commit a faux pas:

  • Using the informal tu/toi with someone you don't know well. Always use vous, or say on peut se tutoyer (we can use the informal 'you').
  • Using jouir (to enjoy). Depending on context it does not mean 'enjoy' but 'enjoy amorous activities' (is the polite way of putting it).
  • Using putain. It is generally used to express frustration but depending on context it can be translated as swearing.

Watch out for translating to be literally from English. For example, je suis chaud does not mean I am hot but I am horny. J'ai chaud is the correct form (literally I have heat). Likewise when saying you are hungry (j'ai faim, 'I have hunger') or thirsty (j'ai soif, 'I have thirst').

bon vs bien

bon: Good, for food.

bien: Good, for concepts.