81. Colloquial Expressions |
Il faut + infinitive (it is necessary, one must)
Il faut tourner à gauche. It is necessary to turn left.
Il faut faire les devoirs. One must do homework.
Il lui faut aller à l'école. He must go to school.
Il faut + noun (need)
Il faut du fromage. You need some cheese.
Il faut un jeton. You need a token.
Il me faut un stylo. I need a pen.
Il reste (there remains)
Il reste une chambre. There is one room left.
Il n'en reste plus. There are no more left.
Il me reste trois jours. I have three days left.
Notice that il faut and il reste can both take an object pronoun to indicate a person.
Il vaut mieux + infinitive (it is better)
Il vaut mieux prendre le bus. It is better to take the bus.
Il vaut mieux apprendre les langues que la politique. It's better to learn languages than politics.
Il s'agit de (it's a question of, it's a matter of, it's about)
De quoi s'agit-il ? What's is about?
Il ne s'agit pas de ça ! That's not the point!
Il s'agit de ton avenir. It's a matter of your future.
Avoir beau (although, despite the fact, however much)
J'ai beau étudier cette langue, je ne la parle pas. Although I study this language, I don't speak it.
Il a beau faire froid, nous sortirons. Although is it cold, we will go out.
Avoir l'air + adjective (to seem/look)
Ça a l'air délicieux. That looks delicious.
Vous avez l'air fatigué. You seem tired.
Ça n'a pas l'air d'aller. Things don't look so good.
Ça vous dit ? / Ça vous dirait de... ? (Would you like to? / How would you feel about...? / Does that interest you? / Does that ring a bell?)
Ça vous dirait de regarder un film ce soir ? Are you interested in watching a movie tonight? / Would you like to watch a movie tonight?
Non, ça me dit rien. No, that doesn't interest me. / No, I don't want to.
Ça te dit quelque chose ? Does that ring a bell? / Does that remind you of anything?
Non, ça me dit rien. No, that doesn't ring a bell. / That doesn't remind me of anything.
Ça ne me dit pas grande chose. That does nothing for me.
Ça parle de quoi / qui ? (What / Who is it about?)
Ça parle de quoi, le livre que tu écris ? What's the book about that you're writing?
Ça y est ! ( There! That's it ! It's done!)
Ça a été (How did it go? / It went well.)
Ton examen, ça a été ? How did your exam go?
Oui, ça a été. It went well.
On dirait... [ça ressemble à] (It seems / it looks like / it tastes like / it smells like / it feels like / it sounds like)
On dirait un chat. It looks like a cat.
pas terrible (terrible actually means terrific in this phrase)
C'est pas terrible, ce film. This movie is not very good.
pas mal de (a lot of, lots of, tons of - synonym of beaucoup)
J'ai pas mal de trucs à faire aujourd'hui. I have lots of things to do today.
82. Conjunctions & Connecting Words
The word soit has several meanings. It is also the third person singular form of être in the present subjunctive. Je veux qu'il soit là. I want him to be here. It can also be used to mean i.e. or that is when introducing a clause. Le contenu du CD est bilingue, soit français et anglais. The contents of the CD are bilingual, i.e. French and English.
83. Forms of Tout
As an adjective, tout precedes and agrees with the noun.
► As a pronoun, tout can be used alone; it then means everything and is invariable.
Tout va bien. Everything's fine.
Je ne peux pas tout faire. I can't do everything.
► It can also reinforce the subject. (The s of tous is pronounced when tous is a pronoun.)
Ils sont tous là. They are all here.
► Tout can also be used with direct object pronouns. The forms of tout follow the verb in a simple tense and go between the auxiliary and past participle in a compound tense.
Je les ai toutes. I have them all.
Je ne les ai pas tous eu. I didn't have them all.
Idiomatic Expressions with Tout
84. Babies & Children
A doudou refers to a favorite stuffed animal.
85. Primary & Secondary School
Students of all ages use a trousse in France. They're not just for elementary students!
86. Passive Voice
As in English, the passive voice in French is composed of a tense of the verb to be and a past participle. However, only a direct object in French can become the subject of the passive form. The active form, le chat mange la souris is made passive thus: La souris est mangée par le chat. The cat eats the mouse becomes the mouse is eaten by the cat. The subject in the active sentence (le chat) becomes the object of the passive. The direct object of the active sentence (la souris) becomes the subject of the passive sentence preceded by "par." The verb of the active sentence is changed into a past participle (mange becomes mangée, notice the agreement!) preceded by a form of être.
Elle est portée par Jean. She is carried by John.
Elles ont été inspirées par Van Gogh. They were inspired by Van Gogh.
Il avait été tué par les soldats français. He had been killed by French soldiers.
► Notice how pronominal verbs change from active to passive:
Active: Je me suis réveillée. I woke up.
Passive: J'ai été réveillée par quelque chose. I was awakened by something.
Passive is Not Possible
► If a verb takes an indirect object, it cannot be transformed into the passive voice in French. In this case, on is used in the active construction, as long as the agent is not specified and the action is performed by a human being (i.e. no natural forces, such as weather).
On a donné un cadeau à ma mère. My mother was given a present. [Someone gave a present to my mother.]
On lui a dit de retrouver le conservateur au musée. He was told to meet the curator at the museum. [Someone told him to meet the curator at the museum.]
Alternatives to the Passive
► In addition to using on as the subject of an active construction to replace the passive, you can also use the pronominal constructions: se voir [to see oneself], s'entendre [to hear oneself], se faire [to get oneself] and se laisser [to let oneself] + infinitive. These verbs can be used when the agent is specified, unlike the active construction with on.
Je me suis vu promettre une augmentation. I have been promised a raise.
Elle s'est entendu dire qu'il allait mourir. She was told that he was going to die.
Jean s'est fait arrêter. John got arrested.
Ils se sont laissé tomber malade. They let themselves get sick.
► You can also use a pronominal verb to translate the passive, as long as the agent is not specified. However, this does not work for all verbs.
Ça s'écrit comment? How is that written?
Ça ne se dit plus. That is not said anymore.
► Use être à + infinitive to translate must + English passive:
Ce monument est à voir ! This monument must be seen!
Ce rapport est à refaire. This report must be redone.
87. Depuis, il y a, & pendant in past contexts
1. To express an action that has been going on, depuis (or il y a ... que) is used with the present tense.
2. But to express an action that had been going on for some time when something else happened, depuis is used with the imperfect.
3. To express an action that you have not done for some time, use depuis with the passé composé.
4. To express an action that was done for a period of time, pendant is used, usually with the passé composé. But for an action that was completed some time ago, use il y a, also with the passé composé.
89. To Receive
The past participle of recevoir is reçu.
► Venir de + infinitive means "to have just" + past participle in English. Je viens de manger. I just ate.Some verbs require à or de before nouns:
And some verbs require no prepositions in French, while others use different prepositions from English:
Tu me rappelle mon père. You remind me of my father.
Ça sent la pluie. It smells like rain.
91. Adjectives + a or de + infinitives
The past participle of suivre is suivi. Suivre can also be used with school subjects to mean "to take a course."
Suivez le guide ! Follow the guide!
Suivez les instructions. Follow the instructions.
Je suis un cours de maths. I'm taking a math class.
Faire + an infinitive is called the faire causative. It translates to "have something done by someone or cause something to be done by someone," or "to cause someone to do something."
Je répare la voiture. I'm fixing the car.
Je fais réparer la voiture. I'm having the car fixed.
Il peint son appartement. He's painting his apartment.
Il fait peindre son appartement. He's having his apartment painted.
Le bébé mange. The baby is eating.
Elle fait manger le bébé. She's feeding the baby.
► When replacing the object with a pronoun, the pronoun precedes faire. And in past tenses, the past participle remains invariable.
Je la fais réparer. I'm having it fixed.
Il leur a fait apprendre les verbes. He had them learn the verbs.
Il les leur a fait apprendre. He had them learn them.
► Se faire + infinitive is usually translated as "to get" + (oneself) + verb.
Tu vas te faire tuer. You're going to get yourself killed.
Il va se faire casser la gueule. He's going to break his neck.
Se faire soigner sans se faire arrêter. Get treated/looked after without getting arrested.
Évitez de vous faire piquer. Avoid getting stung.
Direct discourse relates exactly what someone has said or written, using quotation marks and the original wording. Indirect discourse relates indirectly, without quotation marks, what someone has said or written. It works the same way in French as it does in English.
Note that if the main verb is in the present tense, no tense changes occur when using indirect discourse. However, if the main verb is in a past tense, the following tense changes occur:
Present → Imperfect
Passé Composé → Pluperfect
The Imperfect and Pluperfect do not change. Remember to use que to introduce each dependent clause, and adjust personal pronouns and possessive adjectives.
In questions, the following (rather uncomplicated) changes occur:
1. Yes/no questions = si + declarative sentence
Je t'ai demandé si tu avais faim.
2. Où, quand, comment, etc. = interrogative word + declarative sentence
Il m'a demandé à quelle heure j'allais revenir.
3. Interrogative pronouns are a little trickier:
96. Ne Expletif
Sometimes ne must be inserted in a phrase even when it is not expressing the negative. (However, do not confuse the use of ne explétif with the verbs that can exist in the negative with only using ne and not pas in formal, written language: cesser, daigner, oser, pouvoir, savoir).
It is used 1) after certain conunctions: avant que, à moins que; 2) after expressions and verbs of fear: de crainte que, de peur que, craindre que, avoir peur que, redouter que, trembler que, empêcher que, éviter que; 3) before a verb that follows a comparison of inequality: plus, moins, autre; and 4) after adverbs of doubt and negation used in the negative to express a positive idea.
Je sors ce soir à moins qu'il ne pleuve. I'll go out this evening unless it rains.
Il craint que tu ne sois fatigué après le voyage. He's afraid that you'll be tired after the trip.
Nous sommes plus forts qu'elle ne pense. We are stronger than she thinks.
Je ne doute pas que vous ne fassiez des progrès. I don't doubt that you are making progress.
97. Conditional Tenses: Present & Past
The present conditional tense corresponds to "would." It is used after the imperfect in a conditional sentence. Most conditionals sentences begin with si (if). However, do not confuse the conditional would with the would that expresses a repeated action in the past. If would means used to, then the imperfect tense is used. Another use of the conditional is in news reports to indicate that the information is not confirmed.
Si j'étais (imperfect) dans une autre famille, est-ce que je serais (conditional) plus heureuse ? If I were in another family, would I be happier?
Quand nous étions (imperfect) en vacances, nous dormions (imperfect) jusqu'à midi. When we were on vacation, we would (used to) sleep until noon.
Un otage étranger serait mort en route pour l'hôpital. A foreign hostage (probably) died on the way to the hospital.
To form the conditional, use the infinitive and add the imperfect endings (but remember to drop the -e on -re verbs). You use the same irregular stems and exceptions for the conditional that are used for the future tense.
The past conditional is formed by using the conditional of avoir or être and a past participle. It corresponds to "would have" and is used in hypothetical sentences.
Il n'aurait jamais dit ça ! He would have never said that!
► If... sentences: When si (if) is used in sentences of condition, the verb tenses change. These pretty much correspond to English usage.
1. Si + present tense + present, imperative, or future
Si je suis fatiguée, je me repose. If I'm tired, I rest.
Repose-toi si tu es fatigué. Rest if you're tired.
Si je suis fatigué demain, je me reposerai. If I am tired tomorrow, I will rest.
2. Si + imperfect + present conditional
Si j'étais riche, je pourrais acheter un château. If I were rich, I would buy a castle.
Il deviendrait roi s'il avait plus de courage. He would become king if he had more courage.
3. Si + pluperfect + past conditional
Si j'avais su, j'aurais compris. If I had known, I would have understood.
It is possible to have past conditional with the imperfect, and it is also possible to have present conditional with pluperfect. However, you can never have the future or conditional tenses directly following si. They must be in the other clause.
► Translating Would, Could, Should
In general, you use the conditional tense of a verb to express would + infinitive, such as je dirais - I would say. Again, make sure to use the imperfect of the verb if you're referring to repeated actions in the past (i.e. used to). You can also use the conditional of pouvoir to mean could, as long as the meaning is something that is yet to happen. Il pourrait m'aider. He could help me. Otherwise, you use the imperfect or passé composé to mean could if you're referring to the past of can (i.e. was/were not able to). Elle ne pouvait pas s'arrêter de rire. She couldn't stop laughing. Should is usually translated by using the conditional of devoir. Tu ne devrais pas dire ça. You shouldn't say that. For would have, could have and should have, you use the past conditional of the verb, past conditional of pouvoir + infinitive, and past conditional of devoir + infinitive, respectively. Just remember that would and would have are not followed by infinitives in French.
"You shouldn't have" or "that wasn't necessary" when someone gives you a gift is il ne fallait pas.
Listen to the le conditionnel : si tu gagnais au loto mp3 and try the cloze (fill-in-the-blank) exercise from French Listening Resources.
The most common types of cars in France are Peugeot, Clio, Renault, and Fiat, and the majority are manual drive. Automatic cars in Europe are generally reserved for handicapped people. The driving age in France is 18, and young drivers who have just gotten their licenses have a red A sticker on their car.
The past participle of conduire is conduit. Other verbs conjugated like conduire are: traduire - to translate, produire - to produce, and construire - to construct.
When asking Where is/are..., Où est is the singular form and Où sont is the plural form, even if it's singular in English. Where is the entrance? would be Où est l'entrée ? and Where is the lost and found? would be Où sont les objets trouvés ?