French/Appendices/Hints and common errors

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Quoi, qui, que, ce que, ce qui, est-ce que, and qu'est-ce que[edit]

  • "Quoi" is used as the object of a preposition (i.e.: à, avec, après), except for variations of "de". Example: Sais-tu à quoi il pense ? = Do you know what he's thinking about?
  • "Qui" can be most easily translated as "which", or "who". It's used when referring to a specific item or person doing something (La chienne qui aboye), or when asking a question (as in "Qui aimes-tu").
  • "Que" can be used to compare something (he eats more than she eats = il mange plus qu'elle mange), or to be used to say "that" ("he thinks that he eats a lot" = "Il pense qu'il mange beaucoup").
  • "Ce que", and "ce qui" are indefinite pronouns. Ce que is used to describe something the subject of a sentence is modifying, and ce qui describes the subject of a sentence.

This is what he wants = "C'est ce qu'il veut". This is something that satisfies me = "C'est ce qui me satisfait."

  • "Est-ce que" is a phrase placed in front of a statement to make it a question.

"Tu l'aimes" = "You like it." In French, when describing the subject of a sentence in relation to another object or place, the subject goes first, then the pronoun of the object or place being related to, and then the verb. "Est-ce que tu l'aimes ?" = "(Do) you like it?"

  • "Qu'est-ce que" means "what is it that", as in "What is it that he likes to eat" (Qu'est-ce qu'il aime manger ?) Similarly, "Qu'est-ce qui" means "What is it that", however, just like "ce qui", it refers to a subject instead of an object. ("Qu'est-ce qui aboye ?" = "What's barking?")

tout, tous, toute, toutes[edit]

"Tout", when used as an adverb, always stays invariant. When used as an adjective, it agrees in gender and number with the noun it modifies (like every adjective in French).

Example:
Ils sont sales means "They are dirty". Adding tout gives a complementary information, different whether tout is employed as an adverb or an adjective:
Ils sont tout sales. (Adverb: invariant). Insists on the adjective sale. In this case tout means "very" or "completely".
Ils sont tous sales. (Adjective: agree with "sales" in gender and in number). Insists on the fact that they are ALL dirty.

false cognates / faux amis[edit]

  • Actuel vs. actual: "actuel" in French means "current". e.g. les événements actuels = current events
  • Sale vs. sale: in French, "sale" is an adjective that means "dirty". eg. des sales = some dirt
  • Travailler vs. to travel: "travailler" is a verb meaning to work, not "to travel".
  • La librairie vs. library: "librairie" denotes bookstore.
  • La figure vs. figure: "figure" in French means face.
  • La journée vs. Journey: "journée" in French means day.

ap/em/porter[edit]

apporter - to bring an object (only things you can carry) to a place where you are. J'ai apporté mon livre à la fête.

emporter - to take an object (only things you can carry) to a place different than your current location. J'ai emporté ma boisson à la fête.

Best way to remember is that 'take' has an 'e' so the verb starts with an em.

a/em/mener[edit]

amener - to bring an animal, vehicle or a person with you to a place where you are. Si vous venez nous voir, amenez votre frère.

emmener - to take an animal or a person with you somewhere different than your current location. Il a emmené ses enfants à l'école.

Same formula to remember: 'take' has an 'e' so the verb starts with an em.

passer[edit]

  • passer la journée which means to spend the day (doing something. a longer example is needed here)
  • se passer which means for something to happen, or to occur.

pronominal verbs with meanings different than regular version[edit]

  • s'en aller
  • s'en vouloir
  • s'enfuir
  • s'envoler

plus[edit]

Plus can mean "more" or "not anymore" according to the context.

capitalization[edit]

The days and months names are always in lowercase (unless they begin a sentence):

  • lundi = Monday.
  • janvier = January.

bon vs bien[edit]

  • Bon is usually an adjective. It modifies a noun and means good, suitable, efficient, correct, useful, etc.
  • Bien means good, right, healthy, etc., and can often be used as an adjective with the verb être. It usually is an adverb, however.

an vs année[edit]

  • an is a masculine noun meaning "year".
  • année is a feminine noun meaning "year".

jour vs journée[edit]

  • jour is a masculine noun meaning "day"
  • journée is a feminine noun meaning "day"

negation other that ne... pas in detail[edit]

Pas can be substituted for other words to give a negation new meanings. For instance, ils ne regardent pas - "They are not watching" can become:

  • Ils ne regardent plus - They are no longer watching
  • Ils ne regardent guère (formal) - They are barely watching
  • Ils ne regardent jamais - They are never watching

c'est vs il est, ce vs il vs one[edit]

C'est means this is. For example, saying C'est le chien would mean 'This is a dog'.

Il est means it is. For example, saying Il est malade means 'He (or it) is sick'. Note that est is the il form (present) of the verb être, which is a 3rd group verb.

mal, le mal, faire mal, malade, malaise, etc[edit]

ger and cer verbs[edit]

Verbs like manger(to eat) and commencer(to start) have a slight deviation in the nous form for these verbs.

For verbs like manger, which use the ger ending, add an e to the nous form in front of the g of 1st group verbs - that is nous mangeons.

For verbs like commencer, which use the cer ending, add a cedilla(Ç) to the c in commencer - that is nous commençons.