Guide de grammaire


Les articles

The form of an article depends on the following noun. You need to know whether the noun is masculine or feminine (using your Dictionnaire to check as needed) and singular or plural (-s, -x). Some articles have a special singular form used before a vowel sound.

a, one

un m.
une f.


le m.
la f.
l’ vowel
les pl.

of/from the, some

du m.
de la f.
de l’ vowel
des pl.

at/to the

au m.
à la f.
à l’ vowel
aux pl.

this, these

ce m.
cet m. + vowel
cette f.
ces pl.

La possession

The form of a possessive depends on the thing being possessed. You need to know whether the noun is masculine or feminine (using your Dictionnaire to check as needed) and singular or plural (-s, -x). Singular nouns that start with a vowel sound take the same form as the masculine.


mon m./vowel
ma f.
mes pl.

your (fam.)

ton m./vowel
ta f.
tes pl.


son m./vowel
sa f.
ses pl.


notre m./f.
nos pl.

your (pl.)

votre m./f.
vos pl.


leur m./f.
leurs pl.

We also show possession with de (or d’ before a vowel sound). This word means “of” and takes the place of English possessive endings (’s). Note that de has special forms when used with certain words for “the” (see §1A above).

Voici le livre de Paul.
This is the book of Paul (Paul’s book).

Où est le crayon d’Anne ?
Where is pencil of Anne (Anne’s pencil)?

Qui est le père du garçon ?
Who is father of the boy (the boy’s father)?

C’est la mère des enfants.
She’s the mother of the kids (the kids’ mother).

Les adjectifs

The form of an adjective depends on the noun it describes. You need to know whether the noun is masculine or feminine (using your Dictionnaire to check as needed) and singular or plural (-s, -x). Adjectives usually go after the noun they modify. A few go before the noun: grand, petit, jeune, bon, beau, joli, vieux, mauvais. Most adjectives follow the regular pattern, adding -e for feminine forms and -s for plurals, but some have irregular forms, which you can check using your Dictionnaire. The irregular adjectives beau, nouveau and vieux have special forms before a masculine singular noun that starts with a vowel sound.


—   m. sing.
f. sing.

m. pl.
es f. pl.


beau m. sing.
bel m. sing. vowel
belle f. sing.

beaux m. pl.
belles f. pl.


nouveau m. sing.
nouvel m. sing. vowel
nouvelle f. sing.

nouveaux m. pl.
nouvelles f. pl.


vieux m. sing.
vieil m. sing. vowel
vieille f. sing.

vieux m. pl.
vieilles f. pl.

Les démonstratifs

The form of a demonstrative depends on the noun it describes. You need to know whether the noun is masculine or feminine (using your Dictionnaire to check as needed) and singular or plural (-s, -x).


quel m. singular
quelle f. singular

quels m. plural
quelles f. plural

which one

lequel m. singular
laquelle f. singular

lesquels m. plural
lesquelles f. plural

that one (etc.)

celui m. singular
celle f. singular

ceux m. plural
celles f. plural


tout m. sing.
toute f. sing.

tous m. pl.
toutes f. pl.


Les pronoms personnels

Use subject pronouns as the subject of a verb. Use disjunctive (disjoint) pronouns for emphasis and after prepositions (chez, avec, de, pour…). Object pronouns are placed directly in front of the verb, e.g. Je le donne à Marie. When giving a positive command, put the object pronoun after the verb, e.g. Donne-le à Marie ! The difference between familiar tu and polite/plural vous is explained in §5D below.


je I
tu you (familiar)

nous we
vous you (polite/plural)

on ppl, we (slang)
il he, it (m.)
elle she, it (f.)

ils they (m./mixed)
elles they (f.)


moi me
toi you (fam.)

nous we
vous you (pl.)

lui him
elle she

eux them (m./mixed)
elles them (f.)


me (m’) me, to me, myself
te (t’) you, to you, yourself (fam.)

nous us, to us, ourselves
vous you, to you, yourselves (pl.)

le (l’) him, it (direct object)
la (l’) her, it (direct object)
lui to him/her (indirect object)

les them (direct object)
leur to them (indirect object)

se (s’) himself, herself, themselves

Les pronoms relatifs

Relative pronouns mean “who(m), that, which”. The choice is determined by sentence structure, not by meaning. Use que (qu’) when the next part of the sentence introduces a new subject. Otherwise, use qui.

whom/that: que (qu’) + new subject

Voilà le garçon que j’ai vu.
There’s the boy that I saw.

Je n’aime pas le livre qu’on étudie en classe.
I don’t like the book that we’re studying in class.

who/that: qui + same subject

Tu connais la famille qui habite ici ?
Do you know the family that lives here?

Il y a un prof qui s’appelle M. Dupont.
There’s a teacher that is named Mr. Dupont.

Les pronoms y et en

These special pronouns don’t have exact English equivalents. Use y to replace a phrase that starts with à and a location or object. Use en to replace a quantity or phrase that starts with de (d’).

y: replacing à

Je vais à l’hôtel. → J’y vais.
I’m going to the hotel. → I’m going there.

Je joue au foot. → J’y joue.
I play soccer. → I play it.

en: replacing de or quantities

Je parle du sport. → J’en parle.
I’m talking about sports. → I’m talking about it.

J’ai trois livres. → J’en ai trois.
I have three books. → I have three (of them).


Les verbes irréguliers

Irregular verbs usually have a dictionary form (infinitive) that ends in -ir or -re. They’re irregular because their forms break typical verb rules. Here are présent forms of the four most common irregular verbs for quick reference. Use the Conjugator tool to check other forms and other irregular verbs.

to be (am, is, are)

je suis
tu es
il/elle/on est
nous sommes
vous êtes
ils/elles sont

to have

tu as
il/elle/on a
nous avons
vous avez
ils/elles ont

to go

je vais
tu vas
il/elle/on va
nous allons
vous allez
ils/elles vont

to do, make

je fais
tu fais
il/elle/on fait
nous faisons
vous faites
ils/elles font

The verbs above are highly irregular, and each form must be learned separately. Most other irregular verbs follow predictable patterns. Use these tricks to reduce the number of forms you have to learn. You can see these patterns in the sample verbs listed below.

  • Singular forms will all be similar, with je and tu forms ending in -s and il/elle/on forms ending in -t or -d.
  • Plural forms may have special roots but will use typical endings (-ons, -ez, -ent).
  • Verbs that end in -mir, -tir or -vir will drop their -m/t/v- in singular présent forms but keep it in all other forms.
  • Other -ir verbs often add -ss- before a plural ending.
to wait

tu attends
il/elle/on attend
nous attendons
vous attendez
ils/elles attendent

dormir (-mir)
to sleep

je dors
tu dors
il/elle/on dort
nous dormons
vous dormez
ils/elles dorment

partir (-tir)
to leave

je pars
tu pars
il/elle/on part
nous partons
vous partez
ils/elles partent

finir (-ss-)
to finish

je finis
tu finis
il/elle/on finit
nous finissons
vous finissez
ils/elles finissent

L’infinitif (to do)

to walk

to finish

to take

The infinitif is a special verb form that often gets translated as “to…” in English. It ends in -er, -ir or -re, and when you look up a French verb in a dictionary, the infinitif is the form you’ll get. Use the infinitif after phrases that express what you like to do, want to do, are going to do, and so on.

  • J’aime regarder la télé.
    I like to watch television.
  • Elle déteste travailler.
    She hates to work.
  • Nous allons manger au café.
    We’re going to eat at the café.

Le présent (does, is doing)


je marche

tu marches
il/elle/on marche
nous marchons
vous marchez
ils/elles marchent

The French présent covers both types of English present tenses. For regular verbs, remove the infinitive ending (-er) and add the highlighted présent ending that matches the subject of the verb. For irregular verbs (with infinitives in -ir or -re), use the Conjugator to check forms.

  • Il travaille dans un restaurant.
    He works in a restaurant.
    He is working in a restaurant.
  • Nous marchons à l’école.
    We walk to school.
    We are walking to school.

L’imparfait (was doing, used to do)


je marchais

tu marchais
il/elle/on marchait
nous marchions
vous marchiez
ils/elles marchaient

The imparfait indicates a habitual or repeated action in the past. For regular verbs, remove the infinitive ending (-er) and add the highlighted imparfait ending that matches the subject of the verb. For irregular verbs (with infinitives in -ir or -re), use the Conjugator to check forms.

  • Il travaillait dans un restaurant.
    He was working in a restaurant.
    He used to work in a restaurant.
  • Nous marchions à l’école.
    We were walking to school.
    We used to walk to school.

Le conditionnel (would do)


je marcherais

tu marcherais
il/elle/on marcherait
nous marcherions
vous marcheriez
ils/elles marcheraient

Use the conditionnel to describe what someone would do. Regular verbs use the same endings as the imparfait, adding those endings to the entire infinitive. For irregular verbs (with infinitives in -ir or -re), use the Conjugator to check forms. The conditionnel often appears alongside an “if” (si) clause in the imparfait.

  • Il travaillerait dans un restaurant s’il aimait faire la cuisine.
    He would work in a restaurant if he liked cooking.
  • Nous marcherions à l’école s’il ne pleuvait pas.
    We would walk to school if it wasn’t raining.

Le futur simple (will do)


je marcherai

tu marcheras
il/elle/on marchera
nous marcherons
vous marcherez
ils/elles marcheront

Use the futur simple to describe what someone will do in the distant future. For regular verbs, add the highlighted endings to the entire infinitive. For irregular verbs (with infinitives in -ir or -re), use the Conjugator to check forms. All verbs use the same -r- stem for the conditionnel and futur simple, so if you know one, you know the other even if it’s irregular. Note how the futur simple endings resemble forms of avoir.

  • Il travaillera dans un restaurant.
    He will work in a restaurant.
  • Nous marcherons à l’école.
    We will walk to school.

Le futur proche (going to do)

Use the futur proche to say what someone is going to do in the near future. The structure is the same for all verbs. Start with a form of aller “to go” as the helping verb. Then give the infinitive of the main verb. Example: il va marcher “he’s going to walk”.

helping verb

je vais
tu vas
il/elle/on va
nous allons
vous allez
ils/elles vont



Le passé composé (did, has done)

Use the passé composé to tell what someone did or has done. The structure is the same for all verbs. Start with a form of avoir “to have” as the helping verb. Then change the main verb to its past participle. Example: il a marché “he walked”.

with avoir

helping verb

tu as
il/elle/on a
nous avons
vous avez
ils/elles ont

past participle

-er → é
-ir → i*
-re → u*

*common, but double check on Conjugator.

with être

These verbs use être as their helping verb in the passé composé. The past participle must agree with the subject. Examples: il est allé “he went”, elle est allée “she went”.

helping verb

je suis
tu es
il/elle/on est
nous sommes
vous êtes
ils/elles sont

past participle

aller → allé(e)(s)
arriver → arrivé(e)(s)
descendre → descendu(e)(s)
devenir → devenu(e)(s)
entrer → entré(e)(s)
monter → monté(e)(s)
mourir → mort(e)(s)
naître → né(e)(s)
partir → parti(e)(s)
rentrer → rentré(e)(s)
rester → resté(e)(s)
revenir → revenu(e)(s)
sortir → sorti(e)(s)
tomber → tombé(e)(s)
venir → venu(e)(s)


Les questions

yes/no questions

Ask a yes/no question by changing the tone of your voice or starting with the phrase Est-ce qu(e).

  • Tu marches ? → Est-ce que tu marches ?
  • Il mange ? → Est-ce qu’il mange ?
informal questions

Informal questions are worded like sentences, but with a question word in the place of the missing detail.

  • Qui marche vers la porte ?
  • Il y a combien de livres ?
formal (inversion) questions

In very formal language, the subject and verb are flipped. They’re joined by a hyphen, and -t- is inserted when the verb form ends in a vowel and the subject is il, elle or on.

  • Vous parlez anglais ? → Parlez-vous anglais ?
  • Il marche ? → Marche-t-il ?
  • Nous partons à quelle heure ? → À quelle heure partons-nous ?

La négation

Following the rules below, add ne (n’) … pas to a complete sentence to make it negative (don’t, doesn’t). To make a short phrase negative, just use pas: pas maintenant “not now”, pas moi “not me”. Remember that n’ is used before a vowel sound.

one-word verb forms

Place ne (n’) … pas around the verb.

  • Il marche. → Il ne marche pas.
  • Elle aime les maths. → Elle n’aime pas les maths.
two-word verb forms

Place ne (n’) … pas around the helping verb.

  • Je vais manger. → Je ne vais pas manger.
  • Ils ont étudié. → Ils n’ont pas étudier.
with il y a

The negative of il y a is il n’y a pas. This negative expression often involves the quantity pas de (d’) “not any”.

  • Il y a un livre. → Il y n’y a pas de livre.
  • Il y a un hôtel ici. → Il n’y a pas d’hôtel ici.
  • Il y a des crayons là-bas. → Il n’y a pas de crayons là-bas.
with object pronouns

Object pronouns are always bound directly to their verb. Place ne (n’) … pas around the object-verb group.

  • Il m’a parlé. → Il ne m’a pas parlé.
  • Elle me les a donnés. → Elle ne me les a pas donnés.

La quantité

Quantity expressions take the place of other articles (un, une, des…) and generally involve a quantity word + de (d’): pas de “no, not any”, beaucoup de “a lot (of)”, trop de “too much (of)”, assez de “enough (of)”. Remember that de becomes d’ before a vowel sound.

  • Je n’ai pas de crayons.
  • J’ai beaucoup de devoirs.
  • Le prof donne trop de devoirs.
  • Tu as assez d’oranges ?

Les prépositions de lieu

Below are rules for saying “in, at, to” a certain place. We use the same word for “in, at, to” regardless of meaning. It’s the type of place that determines the choice of word.

countries and regions

Use en for countries and regions that are feminine (la) or start with a vowel (l’).

  • la France → en France
  • la Louisiane → en Louisiane
  • l’Italie → en Italie

Use au for countries and regions that are masculine (le).

  • le Sénégal → au Sénégal
  • le Canada → au Canada
  • le Tennessee → au Tennessee

Use aux for countries and regions that are plural (les).

  • les États-Unis → aux États-Unis
  • les Bahamas → aux Bahamas
  • les Antilles → aux Antilles
cities, stores, etc.

Use à for cities, stores and other smaller locations.

  • Paris → à Paris
  • Walmart → à Walmart

C’est vs. il/elle est

There are two different ways of saying “he/she/it is” in French. The difference depends on the type of sentence, not the meaning.


Use c’est to identify people and things, especially before un and une:

  • C’est un livre.
    It’s a book.
  • C’est un acteur français.
    He’s a French actor.
  • C’est une chanteuse très célèbre.
    She’s a very famous singer.

A few common opinion phrases start with c’est:

  • Les maths, c’est difficile.
    Math is difficult.
  • La biologie, c’est intéressant.
    Biology is interesting.
il/elle est

Use il/elle est when describing a person or thing:

  • Voilà mon père. Il est très grand.
    That’s my dad. He’s very tall.
  • J’aime ce livre, mais il est vraiment compliqué.
    I like this book, but it’s really complicated.
  • Comment est ta mère ? Elle est sympa ?
    What’s your mom like? Is she nice?
  • Je n’aime pas cette robe. Elle est trop petite.
    I don’t like this dress. It’s too small.

Use il/elle est to tell someone’s profession. We omit un(e) in this pattern:

  • Il est architecte.
    He’s an architect.
  • Elle est avocate.
    She’s a lawyer.

Les accents

Accent marks are used in French to clarify pronunciation and distinguish similar words (e.g. ou “or”, “where”).

accent aigu


Appears only on the letter e and sounds like [ay] as in “day”.

accent grave

à, è, ù

Pronounce the vowel clearly and openly.

accent circonflexe

â, ê, î, ô, û

Pronounce the vowel clearly and openly.


ë, ï, ü

Pronounce the vowel separately, e.g. Noël [no-ell].



Used before a, o, u to show that c sounds like [s].

In addition to accent marks, you’ll also see the symbol œ which is optional and can be typed or handwritten as separate letters (oe), the symbol for the euro currency, and French quotation marks « and ».

Les voyelles, l’élision et l’apostrophe

ce → c’
de → d’
je → j’
la → l’
le → l’
me → m’
ne → n’
que → qu’
se → s’
te → t’

The French vowel sounds are a, e, i, o, u, y and h (which is silent in French). Several words have a special form used when the following word starts with a vowel sound. The words in the box are attached directly to a following word that starts with a vowel sound. In speech, the combination is pronounced like a single word, shown in writing with an apostrophe (’). For example:

  • je + aime → j’aime
  • de + Élisabeth → d’Élisabeth
  • le + hôtel → l’hotel

L’emploi de -s et -x

The USE-X trick can help you remember certain spelling rules involving -s and -x. Typically, we use -s to mark plural forms and certain verb endings:

  • le garçon the boy → les garçons the boys
  • il prend he takes → je prends I take

However, if the word base ends in -u, we “use -x” instead:

  • le bureau the desk → les bureaux the desks
  • il peut he can → je peux I can
  • beau beautiful (sing.) → beaux beautiful (pl.)

On the other hand, if the base ends in -x, it will change to -s- in feminine forms. This is the “USE” part:

  • courageux brave (m.) → courageuse brave (f.)
  • curieux curious (m.) → curieuse curious (f.)

L’emploi de tu et vous

French has two concepts for “you”. Use familiar tu when speaking to one person that you know well, such as a friend or family member. Use polite/plural vous in all other situations: to show respect to someone older than you and/or when speaking to more than one person. This distinction also extends to a few common phrases that are specifically familiar or polite in usage. Below are some examples.


Comment vas-tu ?
How are you?

Tu t’appelles comment ?
What’s your name?

Et toi ?
And you?

Hi. Bye.

Je t’en prie.
You’re welcome.


Comment allez-vous ?
How are you?

Comment vous appelez-vous ?
What’s your name?

Et vous ?
And you?

Bonjour. Au revoir.
Hello. Goodbye.

Je vous en prie.
You’re welcome.

Les nombres

Here are basic French numbers. Below the chart, you’ll find additional explanations and notes related to numbers.

  0 zéro
  1 un
  2 deux
  3 trois
  4 quatre
  5 cinq
  6 six
  7 sept
  8 huit
  9 neuf
10 dix

11 onze
12 douze
13 treize
14 quatorze
15 quinze
16 seize
17 dix-sept
18 dix-huit
19 dix-neuf

20 vingt
30 trente
40 quarante
50 cinquante
60 soixante
70 soixante-dix
80 quatre-vingts
90 quatre-vingt-dix

100   cent
1000 mille

There are masculine and feminine forms for “one”:

  • un livre (m.)
  • une table (f.)

The numbers 20–59 follow a pattern similar to English, but note how we say …et un for “-one”:

  • 20 vingt
  • 21 vingt et un
  • 22 vingt-deux
  • 23 vingt-trois
  • 24 vingt-quatre
  • 25 vingt-cinq
  • 26 vingt-six
  • 27 vingt-sept
  • 28 vingt-huit
  • 29 vingt-neuf
  • 30 trente
  • 31 trente et un
  • 32 trente-deux
  • 33 trente-trois
  • 34 trente-quatre
  • 35 trente-cinq
  • 36 trente-six
  • 37 trente-sept
  • 38 trente-huit
  • 39 trente-neuf
  • 40 quarante
  • 41 quarante et un
  • 42 quarante-deux
  • 43 quarante-trois
  • 44 quarante-quatre
  • 45 quarante-cinq
  • 46 quarante-six
  • 47 quarante-sept
  • 48 quarante-huit
  • 49 quarante-neuf
  • 50 cinquante
  • 51 cinquante et un
  • 52 cinquante-deux
  • 53 cinquante-trois
  • 54 cinquante-quatre
  • 55 cinquante-cinq
  • 56 cinquante-six
  • 57 cinquante-sept
  • 58 cinquante-huit
  • 59 cinquante-neuf

The 60s continue through the 70s, e.g. soixante-dix “sixty-ten” (60 + 10 = 70):

  • 60 soixante
  • 61 soixante et un
  • 62 soixante-deux
  • 63 soixante-trois
  • 64 soixante-quatre
  • 65 soixante-cinq
  • 66 soixante-six
  • 67 soixante-sept
  • 68 soixante-huit
  • 69 soixante-neuf
  • 70 soixante-dix
  • 71 soixante et onze
  • 72 soixante-douze
  • 73 soixante-treize
  • 74 soixante-quatorze
  • 75 soixante-quinze
  • 76 soixante-seize
  • 77 soixante-dix-sept
  • 78 soixante-dix-huit
  • 79 soixante-dix-neuf

The word for 80 literally means “four twenties” and drops its -s in compound numbers. The 90s are a continuation from the 80s, e.g. quatre-vingt-dix “eighty-ten” (80 + 10 = 90):

  • 80 quatre-vingts
  • 81 quatre-vingt-un
  • 82 quatre-vingt-deux
  • 83 quatre-vingt-trois
  • 84 quatre-vingt-quatre
  • 85 quatre-vingt-cinq
  • 86 quatre-vingt-six
  • 87 quatre-vingt-sept
  • 88 quatre-vingt-huit
  • 89 quatre-vingt-neuf
  • 90 quatre-vingt-dix
  • 91 quatre-vingt-onze
  • 92 quatre-vingt-douze
  • 93 quatre-vingt-treize
  • 94 quatre-vingt-quatorze
  • 95 quatre-vingt-quinze
  • 96 quatre-vingt-seize
  • 97 quatre-vingt-dix-sept
  • 98 quatre-vingt-dix-huit
  • 99 quatre-vingt-dix-neuf
number formatting

Use a comma (,) for decimals and a period (.) for large numbers. Place currency symbols after the price. This usage is opposite from English:

  • 1,5 heures 1.5 hours
  • 7,25$ $7.25
  • 5.482,99€ €5,482.99

Times are typically noted with h (for heures “hours”) instead of a semicolon (:). We don’t use am and pm in French, but 24-hour time is common:

  • 8h30 8:30
  • 23h15 23:15 (11:15 pm)

Years are typically stated as a full number, though teens are sometimes used as in English:

  • 2010 deux mille dix
  • 1930 mille neuf cent trente or dix-neuf cent trente

Dates start with le and are spoken and written in day/month/year format. Months are always said as words. Use premier for the first of the month; use regular numbers for all other dates:

  • 25/12/2015 le vingt-cinq décembre deux mille quinze (December 25, 2015)
  • 01/09/2008 le premier septembre deux mille huit (September 1, 2008)

Phone numbers start with le and are spoken and written in two-digit pairs:

  • le zéro trois, quinze, vingt-cinq, quarante-quatre, vingt-trois
  • le zéro deux, onze, trente-sept, quinze, zéro six
ordinal numbers (first, second…)

Ordinals are adjectives that must agree with the noun they refer to. However, premier (1er) or première (1re) “first” is the only ordinal with distinct masculine and feminine forms:

  • le premier étage (m. sing.)
  • les premiers résultats (m. pl.)
  • la première place (f. sing.)
  • les premières arrivées (f. pl.)

Other ordinals are formed by adding -ième to the number:

  • deuxième (2e)
  • troisième (3e)
  • vingt et unième (21e)
  • centième (100e)

If the number ends in -e, drop it and add -ième:

  • quatrième (4e)
  • treizième (13e)
  • cinquantième (50e)

The numbers cinq and neuf have spelling changes before -ième:

  • cinquième (5e)
  • neuvième (9e)
  • dix-neuvième (19e)