The subject in French
The subject (French: le sujet) is a word or a group of words (le groupe nominal) which makes it possible to identify what someone is talking about and which agrees with the verb that completes it.
It depends on the verb of which it determines the gender and the number.
How to find the subject in French ?
To find the subject, you have to ask these questions:
- Qu'est-ce qui ? (what ?) to find the object
- Qui est-ce qui ? (who ?) to find the person
It often precedes the verb, but not always
|papa répare la voiture||Qui est-ce qui répare la voiture ?||(Dad is repairing the car)|
|la carte montre une nouvelle maison||Qu'est-ce qui montre une nouvelle maison ?||(The map shows a new house)|
In these examples, 'papa' is the subject of the verb "réparer" and 'la carte' is the subject of the verb "montrer"
The nominal group in French
The nominal group (French: le groupe nominal) is a set of words that is part of the subject and characterizes the action of the verb. It is placed in general before the verb.
There are many ways to form the nominal group
|Determinant + noun||Le monsieur parle anglais||(The mister can speak english)|
|Determinant + adjective + noun||Une jolie fille m'a salué||(A beautiful girl greeted me)|
|Determinant + noun + adjectif||une femme italienne est tombée dans le métro||(An italian woman fell in the metro)|
|Proper noun||la France est le pays du fromage||(France is know for its cheese)|
The subject verb agreement in French
The subject agrees in gender and in number with the verb it completes.
- Sa mère conduit une belle voiture.
- Ses parents conduisent une belle voiture.
Here, the subjects are "sa mère" and "ses parents", the verb is "conduire" conjugated with the gender and number of the subject.
There are however some particularities to take into account:
- A subject may have several verbs. In this case, the verbs still conjugate with the gender and number of the subject.
- A verb can have several subjects, it is then given in the plural.
- The subject may be inverted: situated after the verb in an interrogative sentence and separated by a hyphen.
|several verbs||Cette personne crie, s'exprime et agit impoliment||(This person screams, exclaims and acts impolitely)|
|several subjects||Sa mère et son père ont un nouvel enfant||(Her mom and her dad have a new child)|
|Interrogative sentence||Où allons-nous ?||
(Where are we going ?)
The incidental proposition indicate that someone's words are being reported, in this case the subject is after the verb. Not like in English.
- "Je ne veux pas te perdre" disait-il. ("I don't want to lose you" he said")
Even if it follows the verb, you will need to agree the verb with the subject.
The nature of the subject in French
The subject can have many grammatical category and function:
|Noun||Paul aime le chocolat||(Paul loves chocolate)|
|Personal pronoun||Nous allons faire une surprise à ta mère||(We are going to make a surprise for your mom)|
|Infinitive verb||Cuisiner est un art||(Cooking is art)|
|Proposition||Qu'il soit menteur ne m'étonne pas||(The fact he is a liar does not surprise me)|
With impersonal turnings, the grammatical subject is always "il" and the verb agrees with the third person singular.
- Il pleuvait beaucoup. (It was raining a lot)
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