French Nationalities

Knowing the names of different nationalities (les nationalités) will not only allow you to tell something about yourself but also it will help you to get to know better the person you are talking to, especially if he/she is a foreigner.

Things to remember:

  • As with majority of the French adjectives, there is a masculine and feminine form for most of the names of nationalities. All you need to do is to add an “-e” to the masculine form.  Eg. français / française
    • Most of the time it will change the pronunciation  français / française (z) but there are some exceptions where it stays the same: Eg. espagnol / espagnole
    • If the name of the adjective of nationality ends with “-e”, the word stays the same. Eg. Paul est suisse. / Marie est suisse
  • The names of nationalities in French are written in small letters, unlike in the English language !

Names of Nationalities in French: 

French French feminine English
français française French
anglais anglaise English
sénégalais sénégalaise Senegalese
marocain marocaine Moroccan
allemand allemande German
russe russe Russian
américain américaine American
espagnol espagnole Spanish
suédois suédoise Swedish
britannique britannique British
écossaise écossaise Scottish

Names of the Countries

You may also want to learn the names of the countries in French that go with the names of these nationalities. Have a look at this lesson. 

Exercise 1

Exercise 2

Exercise 3

Speak in French About the Past with Passé Composé

Citroën 2CV, a legendary French car

In French there are four ways of expressing the past: le passé composé, l’imparfait, le plus-que-parfait et le passé simple. The first two you will use quite often, the third one from time to time, and the last one you won’t use at all. That’s the beauty of the French language.

Let’s start with the most famous and frequent French tense of the past:

Continue reading “Speak in French About the Past with Passé Composé”

11 Things You Didn’t Know About the French Language

11 things about the French language (and France) that you might not have known before reading this article. Some of them can be quite surprising. Enjoy and comment if you have anything to add. Thank You !

  1. French is the only language, along with English, spoken on all five continents
  2. The influence of the French language is to be found in Harry Potter books: Voldemort ? Vol-de-mort ? Joanne K. Rowling studied French at the University of Exeter and also  studied for a year in Paris.
  3. France is the third most attractive country for foreign students, after United States and the United Kingdom. In this way, France is also the first among non English speaking countries to welcome the biggest numbers of international students.
  4. France is also the world’s number one tourist destination.
  5. French people are really good at mathematics. René Descartes, Blaise Pascal, Pierre de Fermat, to only name some of the most famous ones of the past. Nowadays, France is the second after the United States to have the highest number of the recipients of the Fields medal (also known as the “Nobel Prize” in Mathematics, it is also considered the highest honor a mathematician can receive). Mathematics are also highly valued in French education in general and there are many outstanding institutions offering studying maths. Is it because of the French language ?
  6. Did you know that these people speak French fluently ? Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister, Queen Elizabeth 2, Nick Clegg, the former UK Vice-Prime Minister, John Kerry, the US Secretary of State. There is also Prince William but his French is a bit rough. And there is the American actor Bradley Cooper who can speak quite well.
  7. French is the language of philosophy: Pascal, Voltaire, Descartes, Sartre and Derrida were all famous French philosophers. It is the only country in Europe (correct me if I’m wrong) where philosophy makes up an integral part of the high-school education system.
  8. Knowing French will also make it possible for you to communicate in half of the African continent. It will certainly make your stays in Morocco, Algeria or Tunisia a lot easier and more interesting. Take a look at this Wikipedia article about African FrenchFrancophone_Africa
  9. It is the third most used language for business after English and Chinese.
  10. The French language is one of the three working languages of the European Commission. The other two are English and German.
  11. The French counting system in France is partially vigesimal, which means the base of 20, that used to be common in the Middle Ages. That’s why in French the term for 70 is soixante-dix (3 times 20 plus 10), for 80 is quatre-vingts (4 times 20) and 90 is quatre-vingts-dix (4 times 20 plus 10).

If you feel like adding to the list, don’t hesitate to give your ideas in the comment section. Thanks !

10 Very Popular Everyday French Idioms

Here is a list of 10 French idiomatic expressions that you will probably hear most frequently while in France.  The list is rather subjective, as I did not base myself on any official document proving the frequency (Does such such thing exist ?). The only explanation I have is that to my mind these idiomatic expressions are used more often than others. Of course, there are others but I thought these might be the most useful ones for the beginning and intermediate learners of French. Thus, upon your arrival to France you won't be surprised to hear what may at first appear as some strange sounding expressions you have no idea about their meaning.

"Why learn French idioms ?"

You may ask. If you want to get over the "speaking the very basic French" level, you need to get to know some idiomatic expressions. And this is true for any language. That's just the way people like to express ideas. Idioms make the language more vivid, more colorful and more expressive.It's one of the things that shows that you know the language well.

You may also check this website about The French Idioms (origin, explanations, translation).

The List of the 10 Popular Everyday French Idioms:

  1.  Prendre quelque chose au pied de la lettre: It is used to describe somebody who believes too seriously in everything he/she hears. Eg. On entend souvent dire que tous les parisiens sont grincheux mais il ne faut pas le prendre au pied de la lettre. C'est juste un cliché.
  2. Il n'y a pas un chat: used to say that there are very few or no people in a particular place. There isn't a soul. Eg. Cet endroit est complètement désert ! Il n'y a pas un chat !
  3. Il pleut des cordes: when it rains a lot and hard. It's raining cats and dogs. Eg. Tu as vu le temps qu'il fait dehors ? Il pleut des cordes ! Hors de question que je sorte ! 
  4. Il n'y a pas le feu au lac / y'a pas le feu: when you are not in a hurry. There is no panic. Eg. Attends ! Pourquoi t'es si pressé ? Il n'y a pas le feu au lac !
  5. Fumer comme un pompier: to smoke a lot of cigarettes. To smoke like a chimney. / To be a chain smoker. Eg. Ca pue la cloppe chez ton voisin ! C'est parce qu'il fume comme un pompier

    fumée-pompier
    In the past the firefighters used to soak their clothes with water so they wouldn’t set ablaze while fighting the flames. The water turned to steam and made their clothes “give off fumes”.
  6.  Maigre comme un clou: speaking about someone really thin, a skinny person. Thin as a rake. Eg. Il est maigre comme un clou ! Il ne doit pas peser plus de 50 kilos tout habillé ! 
  7. Etre au taquet: when you are fully engaged in some activity. To be going flat out / to be going full throttle.  Eg. Regarde le ! Il est complètement absorbé par son travail. Ouais, il est vraiment au taquet
  8. Etre nickel (chrome): when something is neatly / very well done. To be spotless. Eg.(En parlant de nettoyage d'une voiture par exemple) Vous avez fait du bon travail. C'est vraiment nickel ! / C'est nickel chrome
  9. En avoir marre: to have had enough of something. To be fed up with something. Eg. J'en ai marre de ton comportement stupide ! Je me casse d'ici !
  10. S'en moquer / ficher / foutre:  to be completely uninterested or indifferent to something / somebody. Not to give a damn / toss about something. Eg. Tu es au courant que fumer tue ? Oui, me je m'en fous

French Conjugation of Etre and Avoir

It this lesson you will learn or consolidate, if you have gone through the 1st and 2nd part of my French Lessons for Beginners, the conjugation and use of the two most important verbs in the French language: Etre and Avoir.  

1. Etre / Avoir

Interesting facts and advantages of learning well from the start of etre (to be) and avoir (to have):

  • Two the most important verbs in almost any language
  • Because of that, you will be able to express all the basic things concerning yourself
  • Etre and avoir are essential in constructing the other tenses and structures in the French language (past, future, conditional, perfect)
  • Two irregular verbs, which means they conjugate differently from other verbs
  • In both verbs, the second ( tu ) and the third( il/elle ) person singular are pronounced in the same way (although they are written a bit differently)

Continue reading “French Conjugation of Etre and Avoir”