A Beginner's Course to French

Updated on July 6, 2018
Zoe S profile image

Zoe is a high school student who has been studying French since 7th grade.

An Introduction

Hello, and welcome! This will be a series where we will work together through breaking French down, and what better way than starting at the very basics? Hopefully this will be a useful learning aid and help clear up any problems you have with French. If you have any questions, please feel free to comment and I will reply as soon as I can. So, if you're ready, let's begin!


I encourage you to take this course in conjunction with an external course, such as Duolingo or a French class. This course will only go over grammatical points and vocabulary, providing examples on how to use what you have learnt in everyday life.


Why French?

French is a Romance Language, make it very similar to languages such as Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian and Catalan. Learning French provides a basis and foundation to learn these other languages, which share many characteristics. As you may know, there are many French words that are adopted into English, such as , silhouette and souvenir. With saying that, there are many English words found in French, such as T-shirt, and week-end. For some, learning a new language allows people to reinvent themselves and create a new reality for themselves.

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his languages, that goes to his heart.

— Nelson Mandela

Vocabulary table

Au revoir
Good bye
À bientôt
See you soon
Je suis
I am
Je m'appelle...
My name is...
I live...
Tu t'appelles comment?
What's your name
Tu habites où?
Where do you live?
So, then
Over there
(Au) numéro
(at) number
(La) rue
(the) road
Ça va?
How are you?
Ça va
I'm fine
Ça ne va pas
I'm not okay
Oh là là!
Oh my goodness!
Oh pardon!
Je suis désolé(e)!
I'm sorry
Ah bon?
Is it? Really?
Ils sont
They are
C'est cool
It's/that's cool
Ma tante
My aunt
Mon oncle
My uncle
Mes parents
My parents

Comprehension Task

Eloise steps out from her apartment block and accidentally knocks Arthur over.

Eloise: Oh là là! Ça va?

Arthur: Ça ne va pas. Aïe!

Eloise: Je suis une idiote et je suis désolée. Tu t'appelles comment?

Arthur: Je m'appelle Arthur. Et toi?

Eloise: Je m'appelle Eloise. Tu habites où? Ici?

Arthur: Non, j'habite là-bas, la rue Martin au numéro neuf. Alors, tu habites où?

Eloise: Moi? J'habite ici.

Arthur: Avec monsieur et madame Dubois?

Eloise: Mais ils ne sont pas mes parents. Ils sont ma tante et mon oncle.

Arthur: Ah bon? C'est cool!

*la porte s'ouvre (the door opens)*

Madame Dubois: Salut! Ça va?

Arthur: Bonjour Madame. Oui, ça va.

Eloise: Alors, au revoir Arthur!

Arthur: À bientôt Eloise!


Gender Agreement

In French, different nouns have different ways of expressing the word 'the' or 'a'. This is because in French, nouns have genders and are either male or female. If the noun is male, it is described as being masculine. If the noun is female, it is described as being feminine. 'Le' is used for masculine nouns, 'La' is used for feminine nouns, and 'Les' means the noun is plural.

Example 1

Le citron - the lemon (masc.)

La tarte - the pie (fem.)

Les citrons - the lemons (masc. plural)

Les tartes - the pies (fem. plural)

The same goes for saying 'a/an/some' - 'un' is for masculine nouns, 'une' is used for feminine nouns and 'des' is used for plural nouns.

Example 2

Un citron - a lemon (masc.)

Une tarte - a pie (fem.)

Des citrons - some lemons (masc. plural)

Des tartes - some pies (fem. plural)

In the story, we saw possesive determiners used, are used to say 'my', 'your', 'their', 'his' and 'her', but we will explore this later. To say 'my', a similar pattern follows - 'mon' for masculine nouns, 'ma' for feminine nouns and 'mes' is used for plural nouns.

Example 3

Mon oncle - my uncle (masc.)

Ma tante - my aunt (fem.)

Mes parents - my parents (masc. plural)

It is important to remember the gender of different nouns as it can be used for pronouns. Nouns cannot use one pronoun, such as 'it' but rather uses 'he' or 'she' because of their genders. However, this will be discussed at a later point.


Introducing Être and conjugation

The verb être means 'to be'. It is crucial to describe yourself, others and how something is, e.g. 'I am sorry' uses the verb 'to be'. The reason 'I am' comes from 'to be' is because it describes your being - what you essentially are.

Être is one of the 4 key irregular verbs. This means when the verb is conjugated, it does not share or follow a pattern with other verbs.

Conjugation is when you make the verb make sense with the subject. The subject is the person who is doing the verb (I, you, he, she, we, you, they).


You don't say 'I to be happy', you say, 'I am happy'. 'Am' is the conjugated form of 'to be' which fits with the subject of 'I'.

This means that according to different subjects, the verb changes accordingly.


'To be' works differently with the subject 'I', and 'you'.

'I am' is different to 'you are' - you wouldn't say 'you am' or 'I are'.

Another example is that 'you are' is used differently to 'he/she is', because you wouldn't say 'you is' or 'he/she are' - it is incorrect and doesn't make any sense.

Therefore, we need different conjugations in French as well. In the story above, we saw 'je suis' and 'ils sont' both of which are conjugated forms of être. You can see the conjugated forms of être in the verb table below.

Verb Table for Être

Être conjugation
I am
You are
He/She is
We are
You are (plural or formal)
They are
A verb table showing the conjugated forms of Être

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© 2018 Zoe S


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      18 months ago

      nice! great for basics and the foundation to such a complex language - the vocab table is definitely helpful! amazing posts!


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