French › Level one lessons › To be · Être

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By the end of this lesson, you should understand:
Elle est australienne.

and possibly understand:

Nous sommes à la maison.
Les hommes sont de Paris.

Vocabulary review · Greetings and goodbyes [edit]

Salut About this sound /sa.ly/ Hi./Bye. informal
Bonjour About this sound /bɔ̃.ʒuʁ/ Hello more formal than salut; all day
Bonsoir About this sound /bɔ̃.swaʁ/ Good evening, good night, hello after 19h00
Au revoir About this sound /o ʁə.vwaʁ/ Good-bye Shortened "Au Plaisir De Vous Revoir" (at the pleasure of seeing you again)
À demain About this sound /a də.mɛ̃/ See you tomorrow lit: to/until tomorrow

Dialogue · Where are you from? · Tu es d’où ?[edit]

Quentin Bonjour, Léon. Dis donc, tu es d’où ?
Hello, Léon. Say, where are you from?
Léon Je suis de Paris, Quentin.
I am from Paris, Quentin.
Quentin Alors, tu es français ?
Then, you are French?
Léon Oui, exactement.
Yes, exactly.
Quentin Et Marie, elle est d’où?
And Marie, where is she from?
Léon Elle est de Marseille. Elle est française, aussi.
She is from Marseille. She is French, too.
Quentin Merci, Léon. Au revoir.
Thanks, Léon. Goodbye.

Grammar · Subject pronouns · Les pronoms sujet[edit]

French has six different types of pronouns: the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person singular and the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person plural.

1st person singular je About this sound /ʒə/ I
plural nous About this sound /nu/ we
2nd person singular tu About this sound /ty/ you
plural or respectful vous About this sound /vu/
3rd person singular il
elle
on
About this sound /il/
About this sound /ɛl/
About this sound /ɔ̃/
he
she
one
plural ils
elles
About this sound /il/
About this sound /ɛl/
they (masculine)
they (feminine)

Supplementary usage notes [edit]

Tu and vous
This is an important difference between French and English. English no longer distinguishes between the singular and the plural, formal version of you, although thou used to be the informal singular version up to the Mid-nineteenth Century. In French, it is culturally important to know when to use vous /vu/ (voo) and when to use tu /ty/ (tew).
Vous is the plural form of you. This is somewhat equivalent to you all, you guys, all of you, except that it does not carry any familiarity when used with the plural. You'd use it to address your friends as well as when talking to the government at a press conference. Vous is also used to refer to single individuals to show respect, to be polite or to be neutral. It is used when talking to someone who is important, someone who is older than you are, or someone with whom you are unfamiliar. This is known as Vouvoiement.
Conversely, tu is the singular and informal form of vous (you) in French. It is commonly used when referring to a friend or a family member, and is also used between children or when addressing a child. If it is used when speaking to a stranger, it can be taken as disrespect. This is known as Tutoiement. As a rule of thumb, use tu only when you would call that person by his first name, otherwise use vous. French speaking people will make it known when they would like you to refer to them by tu. In French speaking Canada, the use of the singular tu is used everywhere, and can be considered a cultural difference from that of Europe and Africa. You can use the vous in Canada, but it won't affect your respect.
Il, elle, and on
French pronouns carry meanings that do not exist in English pronouns. The pronoun it does not exist in French. Il replaces all masculine nouns, even those that are not human; the same is true with elle and feminine nouns.
The French third person on has several meanings, but most closely matches the now archaic English one. While in English, sentences with one as the subject sound old-fashioned, their French equivalents are quite acceptable. In everyday language, on is used, instead of nous, to express we; the verb is always used in the 3rd person singular.
Ils and elles
While the third person plural they has no gender in English, the French equivalents ils and elles do. However, when pronounced, they normally sound the same as il and elle, so distinguishing the difference requires understanding of the various conjugations of the verbs following the pronoun. Also, if a group of people consists of both males and females, the male form is used, even with a majority of females; however, this sensibly yields to overwhelming majority: given a group of only one male to thousands of females, the female form would be used.

Vocabulary · Common places [edit]

la banque About this sound /bɑ̃k/ the bank
le bar About this sound /baːʁ/ the bar
le bureau About this sound /by.ʁo/ the office
l'école (f) About this sound /e.kɔl/ the school
la gare About this sound /ɡaʁ/ the train station
l'hôtel (m) About this sound /o.tɛl/ the hotel
le magasin About this sound /ma.ɡa.zɛ̃/ the store
la maison About this sound /mɛ.zɔ̃/ the house

Supplementary grammar · Verbs [edit]

A verb is a word that describes an action or mental or physical state.

Tenses and moods 
French verbs can be formed in four moods, each of which express a unique feeling. Each mood has a varying number of tenses, which indicate the time when an action takes place. The conjugations in the present tense of the indicative mood, the present indicative, is discussed in the next section. There is one conjugation for each of the six subject pronouns.
Infinitives 
The infinitive form is the basic form of a verb. It does not refer to a particular tense, person or subject. The infinitive form of the verb is often used to identify it. In English, the infinitive form is to ___. In French, the infinitive is one word. For example, parler translates to to speak, finir translates to to finish, and aller translates to to go.
Conjugation 
French verbs conjugate; they take different shapes depending on the subject. English verbs only have one conjugation; that is the third person singular (I see, you see, he/she sees, we see, they see). The only exception is the verb to be (I am; (thou art); you are; he/she is; we are; they are). Most French verbs will conjugate into many different forms. Most verbs are regular, which means that they conjugate in the same way. The most common verbs, however, are irregular.

Grammar · To be · Être[edit]

Être translates as to be in English. As in most languages, it is an irregular verb, and is not conjugated like any other verb.

Formation[edit]

être Listen /ɛtʁ/ (ehtr) to be
je suis /sɥi/ (sewee) I am
tu es /e/ (eh) you are
il est /e/ (eh) he is
nous sommes /sɔm/ (sohm) we are
vous êtes /ɛt/ (eht) you are
ils sont /sɔ̃/ (soh(n)) they are
été /e.te/ been

Examples[edit]

Je suis avocat. (zhuh sewee-zah-voh-kah) I am (a) lawyer.
Tu es à la banque. (tew eh ah lah bah(n)k) You (familiar) are at the bank.
Il est beau. (eel eh boh) He is handsome.

Supplementary vocabulary · Expressions [edit]

Used as a noun, l'être means the being or the creature. Likewise, the phrase l'être humain /ɛ.tʁ‿y.mɛ̃/ means the human being.

Ça y est! There we go!, There you have it.
Vous y êtes? Are you ready?
C'est du chinois. French/Lessons/IPA It's all Greek to me. lit: It's Chinese.
être à la bourre French/Lessons/IPA to be late or rushed
Le silence est d'or. French/Lessons/IPA Silence is golden.
Le temps, c'est de l'argent. French/Lessons/IPA Time is money.

Expressing agreement[edit]

Tu es d’accord ou pas ?, Tu es d’accord ?, literally meaning You are of agreement?, or simply D'accord ? /d‿a.kɔʁ/ is used informally to ask whether someone agrees with you.

To respond positively, you say Oui, je suis d'accord. or simply D'accord:

Oui, je suis d’accord avec vous.Yes, I agree with you.

D'accord corresponds to the English okay.

Grammar · Nationalities and jobs [edit]

When stating your nationality or job, it is not necessary to include the article:

Je suis australien(ne).I am [an] Australian.
Je suis avocat.I am [a] lawyer.

This is an exception to the normal rule.

There is both a masculine and a feminine form of saying your nationality—for males and females respectively:

Il est australien.He is [an] Australian.
Elle est australienne.She is [an] Australian.

Supplementary vocabulary · Nationalities · Les nationalités[edit]

Nationalities are not capitalized as often in French as they are in English. If you are referring to a person, as in an Arab person or a Chinese person, the French equivalent is un Arabe or un Chinois. However, if you are referring to the Arabic language or Chinese language, the French would not capitalize: l'arabe, le chinois. If the nationality is used as an adjective, it is normally left uncapitalized: un livre chinois, un tapis arabe.

(listen: one · two)
Masculine Feminine English
allemand allemande German
américain américaine American
anglais anglaise English
australien australienne Australian
belge belge Belgian
birman birmane Burmese
brésilien brésilienne Brazilian
britannique britannique British
cambodgien cambodgienne Cambodian
canadien canadienne Canadian
chinois chinoise Chinese
coréen coréenne Korean
écossais écossaise Scottish
espagnol espagnole Spanish
finlandais finlandaise Finnish
français française French
indien indienne Indian
indonésien indonésienne Indonesian
iranien iranienne Iranian
israëlien israëlienne Israeli
italien italienne Italian
japonais japonaise Japanese
malaisien malaisienne Malaysian
mauricien mauricienne Mauritian
néerlandais néerlandaise Dutch
philippin philippine Filipino
portugais portugaise Portuguese
singapourien singapourienne Singaporean
suédois suédoise Swedish
suisse suisse Swiss
thaïlandais thaïlandaise Thai
vénézuélien vénézuélienne Venezuelan
vietnamien vietnamienne Vietnamese

Supplementary vocabulary · Professions [edit]

l'agriculteur (m)
l'agricultrice (f)
About this sound [a.ɡʁi.kyl.tœʁ]
About this sound /a.ɡʁi.kyl.tʁis/
farmer
l'architecte (m or f) About this sound /aʁʃitɛkt/ architect
l'avocat (m) About this sound /a.vɔ.ka/ lawyer
le/la comptable About this sound /kɔ̃.tabl/ accountant
le cuisinier
le chef
la cuisinière
la cheffe
About this sound [[Media:Fr-cuisinier.ogg|]]
About this sound /ʃɛf/
About this sound [[Media:Fr-cuisinière.ogg|]]
About this sound /ʃɛf/
cook
le/la dentiste About this sound /dɑ̃tist/ dentist
l'écrivain (m)
l'écrivaine (f)
About this sound /e.kʁi.vɛ̃/
About this sound /e.kʁi.vɛn/
writer
le/la fonctionnaire About this sound /fɔ̃k.sjɔ.nɛʁ/ civil servant
le garçon
le serveur
la serveuse
About this sound /ɡaʁsɔ̃/
About this sound /sɛʁ.vœʁ/
About this sound /sɛʁ.vøz/
waiter
waitress
le gardien About this sound /ɡaʁ.djɛ̃/ guard
l'homme d'affaires (m)
le businessman
la businesswoman
About this sound /ɔm d‿a.fɛʁ/
About this sound /biz.nɛz.man/
businessperson
l'informaticien (m)
l'informaticienne (f)
About this sound /ɛ̃.fɔʁ.ma.ti.sjɛ̃/
About this sound /ɛ̃.fɔʁ.ma.ti.sjɛn/
computer specialist, IT worker
l'ingénieur (m)
l'ingénieure (f)
About this sound /ɛ̃.ʒe.njœʁ/ engineer
l'interprète (m or f) About this sound /ɛ̃.tɛʁ.pʁɛt/ interpreter
le/la journaliste About this sound /ʒuʁ.na.list/ journalist
le/la juge About this sound /ʒyʒ/ judge
le marchand
la marchande
About this sound /maʁ.ʃɑ̃/
About this sound /maʁ.ʃɑ̃d/
merchant
le médecin About this sound /me.də.sɛ̃/ doctor
le musicien
la musicienne
About this sound /my.zi.sjɛ̃/
About this sound /my.zi.sjɛn/
musician
le/la peintre About this sound /pɛ̃tʁ/ painter
le pharmacien
la pharmacienne
About this sound /faʁ.ma.sjɛ̃/
About this sound /faʁ.ma.sjɛn/
pharmacist, chemist
le plombier About this sound /plɔ̃.bje/ plumber
le policier
la policière
About this sound /pɔ.li.sje/
police officer
le politicien
la politicienne
About this sound /pɔ.li.ti.sjɛ̃/
About this sound /pɔ.li.ti.sjɛn/
politician
le pompier About this sound /pɔ̃.pje/ firefighter
le postier About this sound /pɔstje/ postal worker
le professeur About this sound /pʁɔ.fɛ.sœʁ/ teacher, professor
le/la psychiatre About this sound /psi.kjatʁ/ psychiatrist
le soldat
la soldate
About this sound /sɔl.da/
About this sound /sɔl.dat/
soldier
le traducteur
la traductrice
About this sound /tʁa.dyk.tœʁ/
About this sound /tʁa.dyk.tʁis/
translator
le vendeur
la vendeuse
About this sound /vɑ̃dœʁ/
About this sound /vɑ̃.døz/
salesperson

Supplementary grammar · From · De[edit]

The preposition de /də/ means from:

Il est de Paris.He is from Paris.

De becomes d' before a vowel, due to elision:

Nous sommes d'Orléans.We are from Orléans.

The definite article is included with countries:

Vous êtes de la Suisse ?Are you from Switzerland?

The contraction du /dy/ is used in place of de le:

Elles sont du Luxembourg.They are from Luxembourg.

Likewise, the contraction des /de/ is used in place of de les:

Nous sommes des Pays-Bas.We are from the Netherlands.

De also has other translations, which depend on context. For example, it is used to indicate an amount:

5 kilos de pommes5 kilograms of apples

Examples[edit]

Le fromage est de l'Espagne. The cheese is from Spain.
Elle est d’une famille pauvre. She is from a poor family.
Le vent est de l'ouest. The wind is from the west.
C'est du nord de la France. It's from the north of France.

Supplementary vocabulary · Countries [edit]

Supplementary grammar · At · À[edit]

The preposition à /a/ means at or in:

Nous sommes à la maison.We are at home.
Il est à l'hôtel.He is at the hotel.

The contraction au /o/ is used in place of à le:

Je suis au bar.I am at (in) the bar.

Likewise, the contraction aux /o/ is used in place of à les.

À also has other translations, which depend on context. For example, when used with je vaisI am going , à means to:

Je vais à Paris.I am going to Paris.
Je vais au bureau.I am going to the office.

Exercises [edit]

ExerciseTranslation of places

(Highlight or hover over a line to show the answer.) Translate from French to English.

le magasin the store
la gare the train station
le bureau the office
la maison the house
la banque the bank
le bar the bar
l'hôtel the hotel
l'école the school
ExerciseTranslation of places

(Highlight or hover over a line to show the answer.) Translate from English to French.

the school l'école
the hotel l'hôtel
the bar le bar
the train station la gare
the store le magasin
the house la maison
the office le bureau
the bank la banque
ExerciseFill in the blank using être

(Highlight or hover over a line to show the answer.) Fill in each blank with the correct form of être.

nous ______ nous sommes
elle ______ elle est
tu ______ tu es
il ______ il est
elles ______ elles sont
vous ______ vous êtes
je ______ je suis
ils ______ ils sont
nous ______ nous sommes
tu ______ tu es
on ______ on est
ils ______ ils sont
nous ______ nous sommes
je ______ je suis
vous ______ vous êtes
on ______ on est
elles ______ elles sont
vous ______ vous êtes
ExerciseWorking with the dialogue
  • Translate the dialogue to English with the help of the lists of vocabulary. Write your translation on a piece of paper before you check it.
  • Listen to the recording without reading and try to understand the meaning of the words. If you cannot remember some words, look them up and start again.
  • Read the dialogue aloud. Compare your pronunciation with the pronunciation of the recording.
  • Listen to the recording without reading and write down the dialogue in French. Pause the playback after each sentence to write down what you have heard. Repeat this exercise until you know the spelling of the French words.

Supplementary exercises [edit]

ExerciseTranslation of professions

(Highlight or hover over a line to show the answer.) Translate from French to English.

le/la dentiste dentist
le postier postal worker
le politicien politician
le policier police officer
le garçon waiter
le gardien guard
le musicien musician
le professeur teacher, professor
l'écrivain writer
le vendeur salesperson
l'homme d'affaires businessperson
le marchand merchant
le soldat soldier
le/la fonctionnaire civil servant
l'informaticien computer specialist, IT worker
le plombier plumber
l'ingénieur engineer
l'interprète interpreter
le/la comptable accountant
le peintre painter
le pompier firefighter
le traducteur translator
le journaliste journalist
le juge judge
l'avocat lawyer
le médecin doctor
l'agriculteur farmer
le pharmacien pharmacist, chemist
l'architecte architect
le cuisinier cook
le psychiatre psychiatrist
ExerciseTranslation of professions

(Highlight or hover over a line to show the answer.) Translate from English to French.

lawyer l'avocat
soldier le soldat
firefighter le pompier
politician le politicien
writer l'écrivain
translator le traducteur
engineer l'ingénieur
businessperson l'homme d'affaires
civil servant le/la fonctionnaire
police officer le policier
waiter le garçon
plumber le plombier
guard le gardien
psychiatrist le psychiatre
pharmacist, chemist le pharmacien
salesperson le vendeur
computer specialist, IT worker l'informaticien
farmer l'agriculteur
musician le musicien
journalist le journaliste
judge le juge
merchant le marchand
doctor le médecin
architect l'architecte
accountant le/la comptable
painter le peintre
cook le cuisinier
postal worker le postier
interpreter l'interprète
teacher, professor le professeur
dentist le/la dentiste
ExerciseTranslation of European countries

(Highlight or hover over a line to show the answer.) Translate from French to English.

l'Italie Italy
la Pologne Poland
les Pays-Bas Netherlands
la France France
l'Estonie Estonia
l'Allemagne Germany
l'Andorre Andorra
la Chypre Cyprus
la Roumanie Romania
l'Ukraine Ukraine
la Hongrie Hungary
Le Royaume-Uni United Kingdom
Malte Malta
l'Autriche Austria
la Suisse Switzerland
la Russie Russia
la Finlande Finland
l'Espagne Spain
la République tchèque Czechia
le Portugal Portugal
la Belgique Belgium
l'Islande Iceland
la Slovénie Slovenia
la Grande-Bretagne Great Britain
la Norvège Norway
la Slovaquie Slovakia
l'Irlande Ireland
le Danemark Denmark
la Grèce Greece
la Bulgarie Bulgaria
la Monaco Monaco
la Moldavie Moldova
la Biélorussie Belarus
le Luxembourg Luxembourg
la Lituanie Lithuania
la Lettonie Latvia
la Suède Sweden
ExerciseTranslation of European countries

(Highlight or hover over a line to show the answer.) Translate from English to French.

Portugal le Portugal
Italy l'Italie
France la France
Malta Malte
Ireland l'Irlande
Netherlands les Pays-Bas
Slovakia la Slovaquie
Spain l'Espagne
Estonia l'Estonie
Germany l'Allemagne
Ukraine l'Ukraine
United Kingdom Le Royaume-Uni
Austria l'Autriche
Switzerland la Suisse
Monaco la Monaco
Russia la Russie
Finland la Finlande
Czechia la République tchèque
Belgium la Belgique
Iceland l'Islande
Slovenia la Slovénie
Great Britain la Grande-Bretagne
Hungary la Hongrie
Norway la Norvège
Denmark le Danemark
Romania la Roumanie
Greece la Grèce
Cyprus la Chypre
Bulgaria la Bulgarie
Andorra l'Andorre
Moldova la Moldavie
Belarus la Biélorussie
Luxembourg le Luxembourg
Lithuania la Lituanie
Latvia la Lettonie
Sweden la Suède
Poland la Pologne
ExerciseFill in the blank using à

(Highlight or hover over a line to show the answer.) Fill in each blank with à la, à l', or au.

Nous sommes ___ école. Nous sommes à l'école.
Nous sommes ___ bureau. Nous sommes au bureau.
Nous sommes ___ magasin. Nous sommes au magasin.
Nous sommes ___ banque. Nous sommes à la banque.
Nous sommes ___ gare. Nous sommes à la gare.
Nous sommes ___ maison. Nous sommes à la maison.
Nous sommes ___ hôtel. Nous sommes à l'hôtel.
Nous sommes ___ bar. Nous sommes au bar.
ExerciseFill in the blank using de

(Highlight or hover over a line to show the answer.) Fill in each blank with de, d de la, de l, du, or des.

Nous sommes ___ Pays-Bas. Nous sommes des Pays-Bas.
Elles sont ___ Luxembourg. Elles sont du Luxembourg.
Nous sommes ___ Orléans. Nous sommes d'Orléans.
Vous êtes ___ Suisse ? Vous êtes de la Suisse ?
Il est ___ Paris. Il est de Paris.
ExerciseFill in the blank using de and countries with many English speakers

(Highlight or hover over a line to show the answer.) Fill in each blank with de la, de l', du, or des.

Nous sommes ___ Australie. Nous sommes de l'Australie.
Nous sommes ___ Nigeria. Nous sommes du Nigeria.
Nous sommes ___ États-Unis. Nous sommes des États-Unis.
Nous sommes ___ Philippines. Nous sommes des Philippines.
Nous sommes ___ Canada. Nous sommes du Canada.
Nous sommes ___ Inde. Nous sommes de l'Inde.
Nous sommes ___ Royaume-Uni. Nous sommes du Royaume-Uni.
ExerciseFill in the blank using de and European countries

(Highlight or hover over a line to show the answer.) Fill in each blank with de la, de l', du, or des.

Nous sommes ____ Portugal. Nous sommes du Portugal.
Nous sommes ____ Italie. Nous sommes de l' Italie.
Nous sommes ____ France. Nous sommes de la France.
Nous sommes ____ Irlande. Nous sommes de l' Irlande.
Nous sommes ____ Pays-Bas. Nous sommes des Pays-Bas.
Nous sommes ____ Slovaquie. Nous sommes de la Slovaquie.
Nous sommes ____ Espagne. Nous sommes de l' Espagne.
Nous sommes ____ Estonie. Nous sommes de l' Estonie.
Nous sommes ____ Allemagne. Nous sommes de l' Allemagne.
Nous sommes ____ Ukraine. Nous sommes de l' Ukraine.
Nous sommes ____ Royaume-Uni. Nous sommes du Royaume-Uni.
Nous sommes ____ Autriche. Nous sommes de l' Autriche.
Nous sommes ____ Suisse. Nous sommes de la Suisse.
Nous sommes ____ Monaco. Nous sommes de la Monaco.
Nous sommes ____ Russie. Nous sommes de la Russie.
Nous sommes ____ Finlande. Nous sommes de la Finlande.
Nous sommes ____ République tchèque. Nous sommes de la République tchèque.
Nous sommes ____ Belgique. Nous sommes de la Belgique.
Nous sommes ____ Islande. Nous sommes de l' Islande.
Nous sommes ____ Slovénie. Nous sommes de la Slovénie.
Nous sommes ____ Grande-Bretagne. Nous sommes de la Grande-Bretagne.
Nous sommes ____ Hongrie. Nous sommes de la Hongrie.
Nous sommes ____ Norvège. Nous sommes de la Norvège.
Nous sommes ____ Danemark. Nous sommes du Danemark.
Nous sommes ____ Roumanie. Nous sommes de la Roumanie.
Nous sommes ____ Grèce. Nous sommes de la Grèce.
Nous sommes ____ Chypre. Nous sommes de la Chypre.
Nous sommes ____ Bulgarie. Nous sommes de la Bulgarie.
Nous sommes ____ Andorre. Nous sommes de l' Andorre.
Nous sommes ____ Moldavie. Nous sommes de la Moldavie.
Nous sommes ____ Biélorussie. Nous sommes de la Biélorussie.
Nous sommes ____ Luxembourg. Nous sommes du Luxembourg.
Nous sommes ____ Lituanie. Nous sommes de la Lituanie.
Nous sommes ____ Lettonie. Nous sommes de la Lettonie.
Nous sommes ____ Suède. Nous sommes de la Suède.
Nous sommes ____ Pologne. Nous sommes de la Pologne.