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The forms of phrases in French

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What are the forms of phrase in the French grammar ? 

The forms of phrases (French: les formes des phrases) are types of phrases that follow some specific rules. These are, in a way, transformations of the types of phrases.

There are 8 forms of phrases in the French grammar:

  • The negative form 
  • The affirmative form
  • The passive form 
  • The active form
  • The emphatic form 
  • The neutral form
  • The impersonal form
  • The personal form
FormsExamplesTranslations
NegativeMon amie n'a pas eu une bonne note(My friend didn't have a good mark)
AffirmativeOn peut y aller(We can go)
EmphaticTon père, Matteo l'aime bien(Your dad, Matteo likes him)
PassiveLa fête est organisée par la mairie(The party is organized by the city hall)
ImpersonnalIl faisait beau hier(It was sunny yesterday)
NeutralLe bateau arrive au port(the boat comes into the harbour)

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The negative vs the affirmative forms in French 

A phrase can be in the negative form if it says "no" or the opposite in the affirmative form if it says "yes"

An affirmative sentence (in the affirmative form) is used to say that something is true or to express its agreement. The affirmative form can also be called a positive sentence.

A negative sentence (in the negative form) is used to say the opposite (to deny) or to say that we do not agree. 

FormsExamplesTranslations
NegativeJe ne veux pas manger(I do not want to eat)
AffirmativeJe veux manger(I want to eat) 

The active vs the passive forms in French

A sentence is in the active form when the subject does the action. 

A sentence is in the passive form when the subject undergoes the action. By changing the voice of the sentence, you therefore present the same action, the same event, but in a different way. 

For the passive form, it is necessary that you use the agent complement

FormsExamplesTranslation
ActivePierre prépare une surprise(Peter is preparing a surprise)
PassiveUne surprise est préparée par Pierre(A surprise is prepared by Peter)

The emphatic vs neutral forms in French

The emphatic form allows to put a word or a group of words in relief, to insist on it and value it. 

The neutral form is the opposite of the emphatic form, it does not insist on a particular word or sentence. 

To move from a neutral phase to a emphatic sentence, you can :

  • change the order of the words
  • change the words at the beginning or the end of the sentence and regain it with a pronoun 

Examples

Forme neutreForme emphatiqueTranslations
Je comprends la leçonLa leçon, je la comprends(The lesson, I understand it)
La vie est belleElle est belle, la vie(Life is beautiful)

enlightenedThe emphasis has a close sense of English (importance given to something)

The personal vs the impersonal forms in French

Meteorological verbs such as pleuvoir (to rain), neiger (to snow), venter (to wind) are well known.

There can be verbs or sentence that have a subject that is not really one: a personal pronoun usually the 3rd personal pronoun that does not designate anyone. 

The personal form is the opposite of the impersonal form and designate someone or something.

FormsExampleTranslation
PersonalLe chat voulait rentrer parce qu'il gelait dehors(The cat wanted to get in because he was freezing outside)
ImpersonalRegarde, il gèle dehors(Look, it's freezing outside)

enlightenedIn English, the impersonal form can be translated in "it"

enlightenedLearn more about the most used forms in the following lessons with the affirmative form and the negative form. 


Exercises

  1. Active vs passive exercise in French
  2. Emphatic vs neutral exercise in French
  3. Personal vs impersonal exercise in French

Active vs passive exercise in French


Emphatic vs neutral exercise in French


Personal vs impersonal exercise in French


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Next lessons

1 Affirmative phrases in French Get a comprehensive overview about affirmative phrases in French and study them online.
2 Negative phrases in French Get an overview of the negative form of phrases in French