Subject - Verb - Direct object - Indirect objectEdit
With present tense (le présent):
(1) Si + (le présent), (le futur simple)
Example: If you finish your homework, I'll give you some candies.
Si tu finis tes devoirs, je te donnerai des bonbons.
(2) Si + (le présent), (l'impératif)
Example: If you are cold, close the window.
Si tu as froid, ferme la fenêtre.
With imperfect (l'imparfait) past tense (to express hypothetical situations):
(3) Si + (l'imparfait), (le conditionnel)
Example: If I had a million dollars, I would buy a house.
Si j'avais un million de dollars, j'achèterais une maison.
With "plus-que-parfait" (also to express hypothetical situations):
(4) Si + (le plus-que-parfait), (le conditionnel passé)
Example: If I had known (or "had I known") computers were so useful, I would have taken a computer course.
Si j'avais su que les ordinateurs étaient si utiles, j'aurais suivi un cours de l'informatique.
As in English, raising the tone at the end of a sentence can turn it into a question.
Il aime les bonbons. He likes sweets.
Il aime les bonbons? Does he like sweets?
"Est-ce que" literally means "Is it that", understood as "Is it true that", and can be used to form questions. To form a question with "Est-ce que...", attach "Est-ce que..." at the beginning of the sentence. Sometimes "que" has to be modified to "qu'" for elision.
Example: Il aime ce film. => Est-ce qu'il aime ce film ?
(He likes this film. => Does he like this film?)
This is considered to be the most formal way to ask a question out of the three.
(The indicative form of the following sentences will be placed in parentheses for comparison.)
To ask a question by inversion, simple invert the verb and the subject (the pronoun) and insert a hyphen (un trait d'union) in between.
Example: Do you like apples? (You like apples.)
Aimes-tu les pommes ? (Tu aimes les pommes.)
In the case where the verb ends in a vowel while the subject starts with one, a "t" needs to be inserted to avoid elision.
Example: Did she make the decision already? (She made the decision already.)
A-t-elle déjà pris la décision ? (Elle a déjà pris la décision.)
(Notice that for compound tense [les temps composés], only the avoir or être part is interchanged with the subject.)
For third person plural (verbs ending in "ent"), there is no need to insert the "t".
Example: Are they buying a house? (They are buying a house.)
Achètent-ils une maison ? (Ils achètent une maison.)
If the subject is a noun instead of a pronoun, invert the verb and the pronoun that represents the subject.
Example: Did Marie choose this shirt? (Marie chose this shirt.)
'Marie a-t-elle choisi cette chemise ? (Marie a choisi cette chemise.)
For negative such as "ne...pas", the verb should be inserted in between:
Example: Didn't you eat the whole pizza? (You didn't eat the whole pizza.)
N'as-tu pas mangé la pizza entière ? (Tu n'as pas mangé la pizza entière.)
If there is a direct or indirect object (complément d'objet [in]direct), it goes before the verb.
Example: Have you been there? (You have been there.)
Y es-tu allé(e) ? (Tu y es allé(e).)
- Où ? - Where?
- Quand ? - When?
- Pourquoi ? - Why?
- Comment ? - How?
- Quel/Quels/Quelle/Quelles ? - Which?
- Qui ? - Who?
- Combien ? - How much?
- Quoi ? - What?
Qu’est-ce que c’est?Edit
To say What is it? or What is that? in French, Qu’est-ce que c’est? (pronounced kehss keuh say) is used.
- Qu’est-ce que c’est ? - What is it?
Literally, Qu’est-ce que c’est? translates to What is it that it is? You will be using Qu'est-ce que...? often to say What...? at the beginning of sentences.
To respond to this question, you say C’est un(e) [nom]., meaning It is a [noun].
- C'est un livre. - It's a book.
- C'est un chien. - It's a dog.
Remember that the indefinite article (un or une) must agree with the noun it modifies.
- C'est une chemise. - It's a shirt.
Il y a and voici/voilàEdit
Il y a (pronounced eel ee yah) is used to say there is or there are. Il y a expresses the existence of the noun it introduces.
- Il y a une pomme. - There is an apple.
The phrase is used for both singular and plural nouns. Unlike in English (is => are), il y a does not change form.
- Il y a des pommes. - There are (some) apples.
The -s at the end of the most pluralised nouns tells you that the phrase is there are instead of there is. In spoken French, when both the singular and plural forms almost always sound the same, the article (and perhaps other adjectives modifying the noun) is used to distinguish between singular and plural versions.
You will soon learn that a is the present third person singular form of avoir, the verb meaing to have, and that y is a pronoun meaning there. The phrase il y a, then, literally translates to he has there. You will see this phrase used in all French tenses. It is important to remember that verb stays as a form of have and not be.
Tu es d’accord ou pas?, Tu es d’accord? (lit: You are of agreement?), or simply D'accord? is used informally to ask whether someone agrees with you.
To respond positively, you say Oui, je suis d'accord. or simply D'accord. D'accord corresponds to the English okay.
This page is based on original text from French/Grammar/Sentences dated 14 July 2009.