French For Football/Appendices/Basic Grammar

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G: Gender of nouns[edit | edit source]

In French, all nouns have a grammatical gender; that is, they are either masculin (m) or feminin (f).

Most nouns that represent people or animals have both a masculine and a feminine form. For example, the two words for "the player" in French are le joueur (m) and la joueuse (f). The two words for "the spectator" are le spectateur (m) and la spectatrice (f).

However, there are some nouns that talk about people or animals whose gender are fixed, regardless of the actual gender of the person or animal. For example, la personne (f) (the person) is always feminine, even when it's talking about your uncle! L'entraîneur (m) (the coach) is always masculine, even when it's talking about a female coach!

The nouns that express things without an obvious gender (e.g. objects and abstract concepts) have only one form. This form can be masculine or feminine. For example, la victoire (victory) can only be feminine; le surnombre (numerical advantage) can only be masculine.

Here is a chart which depicts some tendencies of French nouns. Eventually, you will be able to guess the gender of a noun based on patterns like this:

Gender of Nouns · Genre des Noms
Ending Masculine
-age le sauvetage the save
-aire le partenaire la partenaire the team mate
-l le sol the ground / soil
-ment le dégagement the clearance
-n le terrain the pitch
-r le buteur the striker
le mur the wall
-s l'avis[1] the opinion
-t le but the goal
le sifflet the whistle
-e la surface the (penalty) area
-ée la demi-volée the half-volley
-ie la sortie de but the goal kick
-ion la finition the finishing
l'occasion[2] the chance
-ise la mainmise the stranglehold
-ite/-ité la rivalité the rivalry
l'indemnité[3] the (transfer) fee
-lle la balle the ball
-nce la concurrence the competition
-ne la tribune the stand
-se la défense the defence
-tte la pichenette the flick

^ In this book, the definite article will come before a noun in vocabulary charts. If the definite article is l' due to elision, (m) will follow a noun to denote a masculine gender and (f) will follow a noun to denote a feminine gender.

G: Definite and indefinite articles[edit | edit source]

The definite article[edit | edit source]

In English, the definite article is always “the”.

Unlike English, the definite article is used to talk about something in a general sense, a general statement or feeling about an idea or thing.

In French, the definite article is changed depending on the noun's:

  1. Gender
  2. Plurality
  3. First letter of the word

There are three definite articles and an abbreviation. "Le" is used for masculine nouns, "La" is used for feminine nouns, "Les" is used for plural nouns (both masculine or feminine), and "L' " is used when the noun begins with a vowel or silent "h" (both masculine or feminine). It is similar to English, where "a" changes to "an" before a vowel.

The Definite Article · L'article défini
singular masculine le le tir the shot
feminine la la parade the save (parry)
singular, starting with a vowel sound l’ l’avis the opinion
plural les les tirs the shots
les parades the saves
les avis the opinions

Plurality, pronunciation, and exceptions[edit | edit source]

The plural of most nouns is formed by adding an -s. However, the -s ending is not pronounced. It is the article (e.g. le/les) that tells the listener whether the noun is singular or plural.

^ Avis: Most singular nouns do not end in -s. The -s is added for the plural form of the noun. Avis is one exception. Whenever the singular form of a noun ends in -s, there is no change in the plural form.

the opinion
les avis
the opinions
un avis
an opinion
des avis
(some) opinions
the bone
les os
the bones
un os
a bone
des os
(some) bones

Secondly, the final consonant is almost always not pronounced unless followed by an -e (or another vowel).

Elision[edit | edit source]

Elision refers to the suppression of a final unstressed vowel immediately before another word beginning with a vowel. The definite articles le and la are shortened to l’ when they come before a noun that begins with a vowel or silent h. When pronounced, the vowel sound is dropped.

  • (le) ami - l'ami - lahmee - the (male) friend
  • (la) amie - l'amie - lahmee the (female) friend
  • (le) équipe - l'équipe - lay keep - the team
  • (la) heure - l'heure - leur - the hour/the time

Elision does not occur on an aspirated h:

  • (le) héros - le héros - a legendary hero

In addition to the definite article, elision will also occur with other words, such as que, je, le, ce, ne, and de. The details on these words will be covered in further sections of the book.

The indefinite article[edit | edit source]

In English, the indefinite articles are "a" and "an". "Some" is used as a plural article in English.

Again, indefinite articles in French take different forms depending on gender and plurality. The articles "Un" and "une" literally mean "one" in French.

The Indefinite Article · L'article indéfini
singular feminine une oon une séance a session
masculine un uh un plongeon a dive
plural des day des séances some sessions
des plongeons some dives

Liaison[edit | edit source]

Remember that the last consonant of a word is typically not pronounced unless followed by a vowel. When a word ending in a consonant is followed by a word beginning with a vowel sound (or silent h), the consonant often becomes pronounced. This is a process called liaison. When a vowel goes directly after un, the normally unpronounced n sound becomes pronounced.

  • (un) ami - unnami (uhnahmee) - a (male) friend
  • (un) élève - unnélève (uhnay lev) - a student

Compare the pronunciation to words without liaison:

  • un garçon (uh gehrsoh) - a boy

Une is unaffected by liaison.

Liaison also occurs with les and des.

  • (les) amis - leszamis (layzahmee) - (some) (male) friends
  • (des) amis - deszamis (dayzahmee) - (some) (male) friends
  • (des) amies - deszamies (dayzahmee) - (some) (female) friends

In this book, you will see liaison denoted with n or z between two words.

As with elision, an aspirated h isn't liaised.

  • (les) huitièmes - leszhuitièmes (layzweetyem) - the eighths (the round before the quarter-finals)

"Some"[edit | edit source]

Note that des, like les, is used in French before plural nouns when no article is used in English. For example, you are looking at photographs in an album. The English statement "I am looking at photographs." cannot be translated to French as "Je regarde photographies" because an article is required to tell which photographs are being looked at. If it is a set of specific pictures, the French statement should be "Je regarde les photographies." ("I am looking at the photographs.") . On the other hand, if the person is just randomly browsing the album, the French translation is "Je regarde des photographies." ("I am looking at some photographs.")

V: People[edit | edit source]

People · Les personnes
la personne person pehr son
Gender and Age
l'homme (m) man ohm
la femme woman fehm
le garçon boy gehrsoh
la fille girl fee
la fillette little girl fee yet
l'ami (m)
le copain
male friend ahmee
co pahn
l'amie (f)
la copine
female friend ahmee
co peen

V: Expressions[edit | edit source]

Qu’est-ce que c’est?[edit | edit source]

To say What is it? or What is that? in French, Qu’est-ce que c’est? (pronounced kehss keuh say) is used.

  • Qu’est-ce que c’est ? - What is it?

Literally, Qu’est-ce que c’est? translates to What is it that it is? You will be using Qu'est-ce que...? often to say What...? at the beginning of sentences.

To respond to this question, you say C’est un(e) [nom]., meaning It is a [noun].

  • C'est un billet. - It's a ticket.
  • C'est un sifflet. - It's a whisle.

Remember that the indefinite article (un or une) must agree with the noun it modifies.

  • C'est une civière. - It's a stretcher.

Il y a and voici/voilà[edit | edit source]

Il y a (pronounced eel ee ah) is used to say there is or there are. Il y a expresses the existence of the noun it introduces.

  • Il y a un os. - There's a snag (lit. a bone).

The phrase is used for both singular and plural nouns. Unlike in English (is => are), il y a does not change form.

  • Il y a des os. - There are (some) snags / bones.

The -s at the end of the most pluralised nouns tells you that the phrase is there are instead of there is. In spoken French, when both the singular and plural forms almost always sound the same, the article (and perhaps other adjectives modifying the noun) is used to distinguish between singular and plural versions.

You will soon learn that a is the present third person singular form of avoir, the verb meaing to have, and that y is a pronoun meaning there. The phrase il y a, then, literally translates to he has there. You will see this phrase used in all French tenses. It is important to remember that verb stays as a form of have and not be.

Like in English, il y a... is not often used to point out an object. To point out an object to the listener, use voici ("over here is/are" or "right here is/are") and voilà ("over there is/are").

Acknowledgements[edit | edit source]

This page is based on an original text from French/Lessons/Basic grammar dated 4 September 2009.