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Nature and function of French words

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The words (French: les mots) are classified into different categories. Every word in a sentence has a very specific role. This role is called "function"

Example: → Mon amie travaille en France (my friend works in France)

In this example, "amie" and "France" are nouns and "travaille" is the verb

  • "Mon amie" is undergoing the action with the verb "travailler", Its function is "subject of the verb" (sujet du verbe)
  • "En France" indicates where the action is happening. Its function is "complement of the verb" (complément du verbe) 

Grammatical category of French words

The grammatical nature (French: la nature grammaticale) of a word is the category to which it belongs. Indeed, all the words can be grouped in the same category according to the characteristics that are similar to them. 

Among them you can find 

  • Determinants
  • Adjectives
  • Nouns
  • Verbs
  • Pronouns
  • Conjunctions
  • Prepositions
  • Adverbs

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French determinants

The determinant (French: le déterminant) is part of the nominal group (the subject). It agrees in gender and number with the subject. It usually places in front of the noun, sometimes separed by a qualifying adjective. 

Examples

  • Ces belles chaussures(These beautiful shoes)
  • Mon enfant. (My child)
  • Quel bel homme ! (What a beautiful man !)

​There are many types of determinants: 

DeterminantsExamples
Articlesle, la, les, un, une, des, du, de la, de l'
Possesivesmon, ton, son, notre votre, leur
Demonstrativescet, cette, ces,ce
Indefinitetout, aucun, chaque, certains, plusieurs
InterrogativesQuel ? Quelle ? Quelles ? Quels ?
ExclamativesQuel ! Quelle ! Quelles ! Quels !
Cardinal numberssept, douze, un, quatre, cinq

French adjectives

Adjectives (French: les adjectifs) describe the nouns or pronouns to which they refer. They agree in gender and number with the noun or pronoun they qualify.

The French has two types of adjectifs: the attribute (l'attribut du sujet) and the epithet (l'épithète du sujet).

  • The attribute, which has direct links to the noun through a state verb (verbes d'états). 
  • The epithet, which has direct links to the noun.

Examples

AdjectivesExampleTranslation
L'attribut du sujetElle reste jolie(She remains beautiful)
L'étpithète du sujetUne fille jolie(A beautiful girl)

enlightenedThe French state verbs are: être (to be), devenir (to become), paraître, passer pour, avoir l'air, sembler (to seem)demeurer, rester (to stay).

French nouns

The noun (French: le nom) is a word that agrees in gender and number usually with a determinant that inform about it. It can also be used with an epithet adjective

Gender and numberNountranslations
Desoiseaux(birds)
Unhomme(a man)
Magrande soeur(my big sister)

Types of nouns

  • The common nouns (les noms communs), which use a tiny letter, and correspond to a concept and individuals. 
  • The proper nouns (les noms propres), which use a capital letter and has no meaning, it applies to a person, a place, an unique or collective things. 
  • The compound nouns (les noms composés), which are lexical units and operate autonomously. They can be united, a nominal phrase or separated by an hyphen (-) or an apostrophe (').
NounsExamplesTranslations
Common nounsun bureau(a desk)
Proper nounsFrance(France)
Compound nouns

mademoiselle

chemin de fer

nord-est

(miss)

(railway)

(Northeast)

French verbs

The verb (French: le verbe) expresses the state of a subject or an action performed by the subject (active voice) or reflexive voice if it does the action itself or undergoes by him (passive voice).

It has a stem and many endings. Therefore, it conjugates according to the group, the subject, the mood and the tense.

In grammar, there are 

  • Defective verbs, which do not conjugate in all personal pronouns and all tenses. 
  • Transitive verbs, which use a direct object
  • Intransitive verbs, which do not use a direct object. 

Examples

  • Verifier le résultat (Check the answer)
  • Partir à Paris (Go to Paris)

French pronouns

The pronoun (French: le pronom) replace the noun. It can have all the grammatical functions of the noun

Examples

  • La femme qui m'a donné l'argent. (the woman that gave me the money)
  • Celui-là part en Grèce. (This one goes to Greece)
  • La nôtre est en vacances. (Ours is in holidays)

There are many types of pronouns, in the French grammar: 

PronounsExamples
Personalje, tu, il, elle, on, nous, vous, ils, elles
Possessivesle mien, le tien, le sien, le nôtre, le vôtre, le leur
Interrogativeslequel, duquel, auquel, laquelle, de laquelle, à laquelle
Demonstrativescelui, cela, celle, ceci, ce, ça 
Relativesqui, que, quoi, dont, où, lesquels, desquels, auxquels

enlightenedTo distinguish from the possessive determinant, it is important that you write the circumflex accent in 'nôtre' 'vôtre'. 

French conjunctions

The conjunction (French; la conjonction) is an invariable word whose function is to join words, or groups of words.

There are two types of conjunction: the conjunctions of coordination (les conjonctions de coordinations) and the conjunctions of subordination (les conjonctions de subordinations), which function is to link two propositions: the principal sentence and the conjunction

ConjunctionsExamples
Subordinationsque, quand, comme, si, lorsque, puisque, quoique
Coordinationsmais, ou, est, donc, or, ni, car

Examples

  • Je souhaite que tu reste ici. (I wish you could stay)
  • Je voulais partir à Rome mais il n'y a pas de vol pendant cette période. (I wanted to go in Rome but there is no flight during this period)

​French prepositions

The preposition (French: la préposition) is an invariable word without a grammatical function in the sentence, but which makes it possible to join two words.

Some prepositions can also be used as an adverb like devant

The are many types of prepositions: 

  • Those used as an complement to define the place, the way, the time, the goal, the state, the reason or the movement. 
  • Those used as a noun, a pronoun, an infinitive verb, an adverb or a group words. 
Prepositions
à, de, sans, pour, chez, dans, 
entre, jusque, hors, par, vers, après, en
dès, devant

Example

  • La maison à Samantha. (Samantha's house)
  • Je pars chez ma mère. (I am going at my mom's)
  • Je partirai après toi. (I will leave after you)

​French adverbs

The adverb (French: l'adverbe) is an invariable word. Most of them serve to clarify or modify the meaning of a verb, an adjective, another adverb or a whole proposition.

Examples

  • Je parle doucement. (I speak slowly)
  • Il nettoie avec tant de force(He cleans with so much strengh)
  • Ils sont rentrés très tard, hier. (They came back very late, yesterday)

There are many types of adverbs

AdverbsExample
Time

 tard, alors, après, après-demain, aujourd'hui, auparavant, aussitôt, autrefois, avant, avant-hier, bientôt, déjà, demain, depuis, désormais, dorénavant

Waycalmement, doucement, rapidement, ainsi, bien, comme, debout, ensemble, exprès, mal, mieux, plutôt, vite,
Placeloin, ailleurs, alentour, arrière, autour, avant, contre, dedans, dehors, derrière, dessous, dessus, devant, ici, là, où, partout, près proche.
Quantitybeaucoup, assez, autant, beaucoup, combien, davantage, environ, guère, mais, moins, pas mal, peu, plus, presque, quelque, si, tant, tout, tout à fait, tellement, très, trop

Grammatical function of French words

Grammatical functions (French: la fonction grammaticale) are the role played by words in a sentence relative to other words. The same word can have different functions according to the sentences. 

Among them you can find: 

  • The subject
  • The complement
  • The attribute
  • The epithete
  • The antecedent
  • The apposition
  • The apostrophe
  • The expletive
FunctionExamplesTranslations
SujetJeanne mange une pizza(Joanne is eating a pizza)
ComplementJe vais à la pharmacie(I am going to the pharmacy)
AttributIls restent positifs(They remain optimistic)
EpithèteUn bel homme(A beautiful man)
AntécédentMa mère, elle est partie au marché(My mom, she went to the market)
AppositionLa capitale de l'Italie, Rome accueille des réfugiés(Italy's capital, Rome welcome refugees)
ApostropheToi, dis nous ce que tu en penses ? (You tell us what you think ?)
ExplétifJe crains qu'il ne se perde(I am afraid he get lost)

Exercises

  1. Multiple choice exercise about the nature of French words
  2. Multiple choice questions about the function of French words

Multiple choice exercise about the nature of French words


Multiple choice questions about the function of French words


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Next lessons

1 The subject in French Get an overview of the subject in French
2 The apostrophe and apposition in French Get a comprehensive overview about the apostrophe noun and study the topic online.
3 The complement object in French Get a comprehensive overview about all the object complement and study the topic online.
4 The circumstancial complement in French Get a comprehensive overview about all the circumstancial complements and study the topic online.
5 The agent complement in French Get an overview of the agent complement in French