What day is it?
Quel jour sommes-nous?
What day is it? - Quel jour sommes-nous? Literally, this means "What day are we?"
Monday is the worst day of the week
Le lundi est le pire jour de la semaine
Monday - lundi. Note that if you are not referring to a specific day (a specific Monday), but to the day in general, you must put le before the day.
I have a test on Tuesday
J'ai un examen mardi
Tuesday - mardi. When referring to a specific Tuesday, you do not need to use an article.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday
lundi, mardi, mercredi, jeudi, vendredi, samedi, dimanche
Note that days are not capitalized in French.
I am fifteen years old
J'ai quinze ans
a year - un an. Recall that when dealing with age, you must use the verb avoir instead of être.
We will play sports all year
Nous allons faire du sport pendant toute l'année
a year (duration) - une année. Année is used instead of an when emphasizing duration rather than a division or amount of time. This is similar to the difference between jour and journée.
I've been in Paris for two years
Voilà deux ans que je suis à Paris
When choosing between the basic time words an, jour, soir, matin and their feminine counterparts année, journée, soirée, matinée, note that the former should generally be used with numbers. One exception is when you are describing duration: pendant toute la journée.
The school (scholastic/academic) year is difficult
L'année scolaire est difficile
When choosing between the basic time words an, jour, soir, matin and their feminine counterparts année, journée, soirée, matinée, note that the latter should generally be used with adjectives.
When does he leave? He leaves in three months
Quand est-ce qu'il part? Il part dans trois mois
a month - un mois. Note how you can ask questions by placing any question word (quand in this case) in front of est-ce que.
It's always cold in January
Il fait toujours froid en janvier
January - janvier. Note that months are never capitalized and are used with the preposition en. En is used with months, years, and seasons to describe when something takes place.
February is the shortest month of the year
Le mois de février est le mois le plus court de l'année
February - février. Note that you could also begin the sentence Février est le mois...
My uncle's birthday is in March
L'anniversaire de mon oncle est en mars
March - mars
January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December
janvier, février, mars, avril, mai, juin, juillet, août, septembre, octobre, novembre, décembre
I have an appointment with Claude next week
J'ai un rendez-vous avec Claude la semaine prochaine
an appointment - un rendez-vous. Note that this can also mean "meeting place."
Are they going to return today?
Vont-ils retourner aujourd'hui?
to return - retourner. Note that both revenir and rentrer could also work here. All three verbs essentially mean "to return," although there are slight differences between them: retourner is best translated as "to go back," revenir as "to come back," and rentrer as "to come/go home."
How do you form the basic past tense in French?
(present tense of) auxiliary verb + past participle
The past tense (called the passé composé) is a compound tense. It's created with the present tense of an auxiliary verb -- either avoir or, less commonly, être. This verb is then followed by the past participle of the main verb. For instance: il a chanté -- "he sang."
How do you form past participles in French?
For regular verbs, the past participle is formed by dropping the infinitive ending and replacing it with é, i, or u.
For instance, the past participle of chanter is chanté.
Today, I played basketball
Aujourd'hui, j'ai joué au basket
Note the past tense of jouer, which takes the auxiliary verb avoir. Avoir is first conjugated in the first-person singular of the present (to agree with the subject), then followed by the past participle of the main verb, jouer. The past participles of regular -ER verbs are formed by removing the infinitive ending and adding é.
Then, Maxine spoke
Ensuite, Maxine a parlé
This morning, Carl watched TV
Ce matin, Carl a regardé la télé
We finished our work
Nous avons fini notre travail
The past participles of regular -IR verbs are formed by removing the infinitive ending and adding i.
We did not finish our work
Nous n'avons pas fini notre travail
Note the use of negation here: the ne... pas construction is used with the auxiliary verb, before the past participle.
The boys heard their aunt
Les garçons ont entendu leur tante
The past participles of regular -RE verbs are formed by removing the infinitive ending and adding u.
I saw something weird
J'ai vu quelque chose d'étrange
Recall that voir is an irregular French verb, and thus also has an irregular past participle, vu.
I saw nothing
Je n'ai rien vu
Note the use of rien here. It comes after the conjugated auxiliary verb and before the participle.
Have you seen this new television series?
As-tu vu cette nouvelle série télé?
Note that the subject and the auxiliary verb are inverted when asking a question in the passé composé. Also note that there is no distinction between "did you see" and "have you seen" in French.
Julie is addicted to this new song
Julie est accro à cette nouvelle chanson
addicted to - accro à. Accro is an informal, shortened form of the adjective accroché, formed from the past participle of accrocher, "to hang (up)." Chanson is a feminine noun.
What is the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs?
Transitive verbs are action verbs that have a direct object, whereas intransitive verbs don't have objects. "I ate cake" (transitive) vs. "I arrived" (intransitive)
How do you choose between the two French auxiliary verbs?
Most verbs use avoir as their auxiliary verb. Verbs that use être are typically intransitive verbs that denote movement -- aller, venir, partir, sortir, arriver, etc.
What should you pay close attention to when using être as an auxiliary verb in compound tenses?
When used with être, the participle has to agree in gender and number with the subject. This is not true for verbs conjugated with the auxiliary verb avoir (with the exception of some rare cases that you will learn about elsewhere).
For example, "she went" is elle est allée (with the extra "e").
Marie went to the concert on Friday night
Marie est allée au concert vendredi soir
Aller takes the auxiliary verb être instead of avoir. The past participle always agrees in gender and number with the subject when être is the auxiliary verb. In this case, the past participle allé takes an extra "e" because Marie is a girl.
I came home yesterday
Je suis revenu chez moi hier
yesterday - hier. Note that revenir has an irregular past participle, and that it takes être as its auxiliary verb. Alternatively, you could say Je suis rentré hier.
I was born in June
Je suis né au mois de juin
to be born - naître. Note that naître has an irregular past participle and takes être as its auxiliary verb. When referring to a specific month, it is common to say au mois de... However, en juin would also work fine here.
There are four seasons
Il y a quatre saisons
a season - une saison
He is learning to like the differences between the seasons
Il apprend à aimer les différences entre les saisons
between - entre. Note that différence is a feminine noun.
Julia went back to school in the fall
Julia est rentrée à l'école en automne
fall, autumn - l'automne. Note the use of être as the auxiliary verb for rentrer. Also note how the past participle takes an extra "e" because of the subject's gender.
When did you guys arrive in France?
Quand êtes-vous arrivés en France?
Arriver takes the auxiliary verb être in compound tenses. Also note how the past participle agrees in number with the subject.
We entered the living room
Nous sommes entrés dans le salon
As a verb of movement with a direct object, entrer takes être as its auxiliary verb. As a result, the past participle agrees with the subject.
Yesterday I reflected a lot on my homework
Hier j'ai beaucoup réfléchi à mes devoirs
Note the placement of the adverb beaucoup here. In compound tenses, most short adverbs immediately follow the conjugated (auxiliary) verb but precede the participle.
I already listened to the radio
J'ai déjà écouté la radio
already - déjà. Note the placement of this adverb between the auxiliary verb and the past participle.
He already organized this meeting
Il a déjà organisé ce meeting
to organize - organiser. The masculine noun meeting obviously comes from English. An alternative would be the feminine noun réunion.
He was able to finish his work
Il a pu finir son travail
Note the past participle of pouvoir, pu. Also note the use of the complementary infinitive right after the conjugated verb.
Did you put the book in my room?
As-tu mis le livre dans ma chambre?
Note the past participle of mettre, mis.
He is filling out the form now
Il remplit le formulaire maintenant
to fill (out) - remplir. Note that the word formulaire is masculine.
I studied a lot last week
J'ai beaucoup étudié la semaine dernière
last week - la semaine dernière. In compound tenses, longer phrases like la semaine dernière get placed after the main verb, as opposed to shorter adverbs like déjà or beaucoup, which get placed between the auxiliary verb and the main verb.
Albert is the man who I saw previously
Albert est l'homme que j'ai vu précédemment
previously - précédemment. An alternative would be auparavant. Also note how que is used (not qui) since you're really saying "the man that I saw."
I reflected for a long time on this problem
J'ai longtemps réfléchi à ce problème
(for) a long time - longtemps. Note the use of réfléchir à, meaning "to reflect on" or "to think about."
I left the book at the café
J'ai laissé le livre au café
to leave (behind) - laisser
I haven't seen my sister yet today
Je n'ai pas encore vu ma soeur aujourd'hui
yet - encore. As with other short adverbs, encore is placed between the auxiliary verb and the main verb in the past tense. The negative ne... pas construction is used with the auxiliary verb, not with the past participle.
He has completely finished the book
Il a complètement fini le livre
completely - complètement. This adverb is formed from the adjective complet, meaning "full" or "complete."
His life is completely different now
Sa vie est tout à fait différente maintenant
altogether, completely, quite - tout à fait. Used here as an adverbial phrase, the expression tout à fait can also be used as an interjection to indicate strong agreement.
The winter was very cold
L'hiver a été très froid
winter - l'hiver. Note the past tense of être, which takes avoir as its auxiliary verb.
I love the summer!
summer - l'été. Note that the seasons take the preposition en: en été -- "in (the) summer."
April is the first full month of spring
Avril est le premier mois complet du printemps
spring - le printemps. Note that you could use entier instead of complet. Also note that printemps is the only season that takes au instead of en: au printemps -- "in (the) spring."
Isn't Jean's mom already very proud of her children?
La mère de Jean n'est-elle pas déjà très fière de ses enfants?
proud - fier. Note the feminine form of this adjective, as well as the construction fier de to mean "proud of."
Christmas is in December
Noël est en décembre
Christmas - Noël. Note that there is no le before Noël.
They came home at 9 o'clock on Wednesday, February 27th, 2013
Ils sont revenus à neuf heures le mercredi vingt-sept février, deux mille treize
Today is December 16, 2013
Aujourd'hui, c'est le 16 décembre 2013
I was born 22 years ago
Je suis né il y a vingt-deux ans
ago - il y a. Recall that il y a can mean "there is" or "there are." When followed by a period of time, however, it means "ago."
Marie's boyfriend is beautiful, isn't he?
Le petit ami de Marie est beau, n'est-ce pas?
isn't it/aren't you? - n'est-ce pas? This expression is added to the ends of statements to make them yes or no questions. Its equivalents in English would be "no?" or "right?" An informal French alternative is non?
Sometimes, Julie plays with her nephew
Parfois, Julie joue avec son neveu
sometimes - parfois. Note that this adverb has several synonyms, including de temps en temps and quelquefois.
I got off the bus
Je suis descendu du bus
Note that descendre is typically followed by de + a noun. Note also that descendre takes the auxiliary verb être.
He went down the stairs
Il a descendu les escaliers
Descendre normally uses être as its auxiliary verb. However, if it takes a direct object, avoir becomes its auxiliary verb. Used like this, it means "to take something down" or "to go down something."
Pierre got on the train
Pierre est monté dans le train
Note that monter normally uses être as its auxiliary verb.
He climbed/went up the stairs
Il a monté l'escalier
Monter normally uses être as its auxiliary verb, but when it takes a direct object, it uses avoir instead. Used this way, it means "to go up something" or "to take something up."
They came back at 10 o'clock
Ils sont rentrés à dix heures
As an intransitive verb of movement, rentrer uses être as its auxiliary verb.
He brought the pencils back (inside)
Il a rentré les crayons
Rentrer usually takes être as its auxiliary verb, but if it has a direct object, it uses avoir instead. Used this way, it means "to return something." So here you are essentially saying "He returned the pencils."
He entered the data
Il a entré les données
Entrer usually takes être as its auxiliary verb, but if it has a direct object, it uses avoir instead. Also note the plural feminine noun for "data," données.
You came here from New York
Tu es venu ici de New York
Note that venir has an irregular past participle, and that revenir and devenir are conjugated the same way.
Julius Caesar died on March 15
Jules César est mort le quinze mars
Note the irregular past participle of mourir, as well as its use with the auxiliary verb être. La mort is also the feminine noun for "death."
Lucien passed by the window
Lucien est passé devant la fenêtre
to pass - passer. When used intransitively -- that is, when there is no object or when a preposition sits between the subject and object -- this verb uses être as its auxiliary verb.
We passed the park
Nous avons passé le parc
Passer normally takes être as its auxiliary verb. However, when used transitively, it takes avoir instead. Used this way, it can mean either "to pass" (like in the example) or "to spend" (when applied to an amount of time).
Marie and Christophe passed the house. Marie and Christophe passed by the house
Marie et Christophe ont (dé)passé la maison. Marie et Christophe sont passés par la maison
Passer is used transitively (with a direct object) in the first sentence, so it takes avoir. In the second sentence, it is used intransitively, so it takes être. When a verb is used intransitively, it is usually followed by a preposition.
He spent six days trying to learn English
Il a passé six jours à essayer d'apprendre l'anglais
to spend (time) - passer. When used transitively with an amount of time in the past tense, passer takes the auxiliary verb avoir and means "to spend" rather than "to pass."
Did they go back to Rome?
Sont-ils retournés à Rome?
When used intransitively, retourner takes être as its auxiliary verb.
You guys sent back the books
Vous avez retourné les livres
Retourner usually takes être as its auxiliary verb, but if it has a direct object, it uses avoir instead. Used this way, it means "to send something back."
The women went out
Les femmes sont sorties
When used intransitively, sortir takes être as its auxiliary verb.
Jean took his boat out
Jean a sorti son bateau
Sortir usually takes être as its auxiliary verb, but if it is used transitively with a direct object, it takes avoir instead. Used this way, it means "to take something out."
She left at 9
Elle est partie à neuf heures
Partir uses être as its auxiliary verb.
Jean-Marc eats. At the same time, he listens to the radio
Jean-Marc mange. En même temps, il écoute la radio
at the same time - en même temps. Note that two alternatives are au même moment and à la fois.
The play is funny and serious at the same time
La pièce de théâtre est drôle et sérieuse à la fois
at the same time - à la fois. Note that this expression is less common than en même temps.
The pizza is eaten by the boy
La pizza est mangée par le garçon
The passive voice is formed by pairing être with the past participle of the main verb. The participle must agree with the subject. Par is often used to introduce the person or agent that performed the main action. The active form would be "The boy eats the pizza": Le garçon mange la pizza.
The teacher is liked by his students
L'enseignant est aimé de ses élèves
When a verb in the passive voice indicates condition or emotion, de is used to introduce the agent of the action.
The novels were written by my professor
Les romans ont été écrits par mon professeur
Here the passive voice is used in the passé composé: the past tense of être is paired with the past participle of the verb écrire. The participle is plural to match the subject. The active form would be "My professor wrote the novels": Mon professeur a écrit les romans.
Rewrite the sentence in the passive voice: La femme a pris une douche ("The woman took a shower")
Une douche a été prise par la femme
Note how in the passive form of the sentence, the object and subject have switched.
Rewrite the sentence in the active voice: L'encas a été mangé ("The snack was eaten")
On a mangé l'encas
If the agent in the passive phrase is not expressed, the active form of the phrase uses the generalized, impersonal on with the active form of the verb.
He is going to Paris without his girlfriend!
Il va à Paris sans sa petite amie!
without - sans
That car regularly passes by our middle school
Cette voiture passe régulièrement devant notre collège
regularly - régulièrement. This adverb is formed from the (feminine form of the) adjective régulier, which means "regular."
Did you guys open the box?
Avez-vous ouvert la boîte?
a box - une boîte. Note the past participle of ouvrir, ouvert, which can also serve as the adjective "open."
Is the door open?
La porte est-elle ouverte?
open - ouvert
I can't (manage to) do my homework
Je n'arrive pas à faire mes devoirs
to manage to - arriver à. Arriver takes this meaning whenever it's followed by à and an infinitive. A common alternative is the construction réussir à.
He managed to drink all the wine
Il a réussi à boire tout le vin
to manage to - réussir à. This construction must be followed by an infinitive. Note that two alternatives are arriver à (more informal) and parvenir à (more formal).
She's the only girl in the school who speaks French
C'est la seule fille de l'école qui parle français
only - seul. Note how the definite article is used with (the feminine form of) seul here: la seule, meaning "the only."
Marc is often alone
Marc est souvent seul
alone - seul. Remember that this word can also mean "only."
After the dispute, they left
Après la dispute, ils sont partis
a quarrel, a dispute - une dispute
His idea caused a dispute between Marie and Claude
Son idée a entraîné une dispute entre Marie et Claude
to bring about, to cause - entraîner. Note that this verb uses avoir as its auxiliary verb.
There is a strong link between these two novels
Il y a un lien fort entre ces deux romans
a link - un lien
She had a truly ridiculous idea
Elle a eu une idée vraiment ridicule
ridiculous - ridicule. Note the past tense of avoir here. It uses itself as its auxiliary verb.
My father always appears crazy
Mon père a toujours l'air fou
crazy - fou. Note that the feminine form of this adjective is folle.
New York is never quiet
New York n'est jamais tranquille
quiet, calm - tranquille. Note that Laisse-moi tranquille! is a common French expression meaning "Leave me alone!"
He is a very mature child
C'est un enfant très mûr
mature - mûr. Note that mûr can also be used in reference to fruits and vegetables, in which case it means "ripe."
That film is rubbish
Ce film est nul
bad, rubbish, lame - nul. The feminine form is nulle. The usage of nul here is informal. Nul can also be used as a negative pronoun (meaning "no one") or adjective (meaning "zero").
The songs of Edith Piaf are legendary!
Les chansons d'Édith Piaf sont légendaires!
legendary - légendaire
I stayed home yesterday evening
Je suis resté à la maison hier soir
to stay, to remain - rester. Note that this verb uses être as its auxiliary verb.
He changed a lot
Il a beaucoup changé
to change - changer. Note that this verb uses avoir as its auxiliary verb.
They are staying here until the 13th
Ils restent ici jusqu'au treize
until, up to - jusqu'à. Note how à becomes au before the day of the month, which is normally preceded by le.
I don't want to fall!
Je ne veux pas tomber!
to fall - tomber. Note that this verb uses être as its auxiliary verb.
I (a girl) fell during the basketball game
Je suis tombée pendant le match de basket
Since tomber uses être as its auxiliary verb and since the speaker is female, an extra "e" is added at the end of the past participle.
The two athletes fought during the match
Les deux athlètes se sont battus pendant le match
to fight - se battre. This is a reflexive verb. We will learn more about these verbs elsewhere, but for now, note that they use the auxiliary verb être in compound tenses like the passé composé.
His body is very muscular
Son corps est très musclé
the body - le corps
While growing old, the hips often become weaker
En vieillissant, les hanches deviennent souvent plus faibles
the hip - la hanche
Her soul is stronger than her body
Son âme est plus forte que son corps
the soul - l'âme. This is a feminine noun.
She must be operated on immediately!
Elle doit être opérée tout de suite!
to operate (on) - opérer
It's true that Claude made a mistake
C'est vrai que Claude a commis une faute
to make a mistake - commettre une faute/erreur. An informal alternative is faire une bêtise. Also note the adjective vrai, "true."
I'm having the kitchen cleaned
Je fais nettoyer la cuisine
Note the use of the causative faire here. This is formed by pairing faire with an infinitive, and helps express that someone is having something done.
I'm paying attention to the lesson
Je fais attention à la leçon
to pay attention - faire attention. Note that "to pay attention to" is faire attention à.
It's been three months since I've been in New York
Ça fait trois mois que je suis à New York
it's been... since - ça fait... que. A more natural translation of the French here would of course be "I've been in New York for three months."
Since she isn't here, I will not start eating yet
Comme elle n'est pas là, je ne vais pas encore manger
since, as - comme. Comme usually takes this meaning (instead of meaning "like") when it begins a sentence. Another option would be puisque.
That is a part of our work
Ça fait partie de notre travail
to be a part of - faire partie de. This expression can also mean "to be involved with."
He is pretending to work
Il fait semblant de travailler
to pretend to (do something) - faire semblant de (faire quelque chose)
This seat here is available
Ce siège-ci est disponible
Note the use of the suffix -ci. This suffix is added to demonstrative pronouns (celui-ci) and nouns (ce mardi-ci) to refer to something that is closer than something else. It translates roughly as "here." Its opposite is the suffix -là, "there."
At that moment, I left
À ce moment-là, je suis parti
at that moment - à ce moment-là. Note the use of the suffix -là. This suffix is added to demonstrative pronouns (celui-là) and nouns (ce stylo-là) to refer to something that is farther away than something else. It translates roughly as "there." Its opposite is the suffix -ci, "here."
They went to the United States the day before yesterday
Ils sont allés aux États-Unis avant-hier
the day before yesterday - avant-hier
That day, I took an exam
Ce jour-là, j'ai passé un examen
that day - ce jour-là. Note that passer un examen means "to take an exam," not "to pass an exam." The latter is expressed by réussir un examen. Finally, note that passer is used transitively here, so it takes the auxiliary verb avoir.
She played against Marc, but she lost
Elle a joué contre Marc, mais elle a perdu
against - contre. This preposition usually means "against," but it can take other meanings as well, depending on context. It generally signifies some kind of contrast or opposition.
She is angry with her brother
Elle est en colère contre son frère
to be angry with (someone) - être en colère contre (quelqu'un)
He is going to break something
Il va casser quelque chose
to break - casser
He has the face of a small child
Il a le visage d'un gosse
a face - un visage. Note that the feminine noun figure is an informal alternative.
I'm preparing the food
Je prépare à manger
to prepare - préparer
Have you ever been to New York?
Es-tu jamais allé à New York?
ever - jamais. Note how jamais without the negative ne means "ever." It is used this way in questions or in the conditional.
They heard a sound
Ils ont entendu un bruit
a noise, a sound - un bruit. Another word for "sound" is the masculine noun son.
I did not find out the truth
Je n'ai pas su la vérité
Note how in the passé composé, savoir means "to find out" rather than "to know." Also note the feminine noun vérité, "truth."