French Grammar: A Complete Guide
While French grammar may be perceived as intimidating, it plays a vital role in achieving language proficiency. From vocabulary to syntax, conjugation to sentence construction, this free and comprehensive guide will provide you with useful examples and help you navigate through this linguistic territory.
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Learning French grammar
While French and English share some common elements, French grammar can often be perceived as boring for beginner or more advanced learners alike. Some of the differences you will find in French grammar include:
- gendered words (a table is neutral in English, but la table is feminine in French. Similarly, a mushroom is neutral in English but le champignon is masculine))
- complicated conjugation and tenses (both subject and verb will have an impact on the form)
- depending on the singular form of a noun, its plural may be spelled differently
Looking for more learning tips to take your French to the next level? Our 300+ cheat sheets are sorted by category and are available to help you decipher each grammar point and build your French vocabulary in no time.
French grammar rules by category
Each of our cheat sheets comes with a clear explanation of the grammar rule and simple and easy-to-understand examples.
List of French grammar rules by category:
- Adjectives & Adverbs
- Common mistakes
- Everyday French
- Sentence Structure
- Singular / Plural
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Adjectives & Adverbs
Generally speaking, the use of French adjectives and adverbs is similar to English.
Adjectives are words used to describe something or someone. In French, they have comparative forms and agree with the gender (and number) of the noun they describe.
examples of adjectives:
tall -> grand / grande
hot -> chaud / chaude
Adverbs provide additional information (time, place, manner, reason) in a sentence. Some adverbs have comparative forms, but they are invariable in the sense they don't agree with any other parts of the sentence.
examples of adverbs:
yesterday -> hier
only -> seulement
Nouns and Articles
Nouns in French are either masculine or feminine (e.g. le pain, la boîte). They generally follow an article (e.g. un, une, des). Adding an "-s" generally makes a noun plural, although there are some exceptions (see the cheat sheets below).
Conjugation can be scary, but alas, it's essential to mastering the French language.
In French, conjugated forms of verbs take different endings depending on person, tense, and mood. Regular verbs are separated into two groups ("verbe du premier groupe" or "verbes du deuxième groupe") however there are many irregular verbs ("verbes du troisième groupe").
While there are tools to help you conjugate verbs online, you will need to learn about each tense in order to use them appropriately.
We've handpicked a few of the most common mistakes made by French learners.
Word order: the structure of a French sentence
The basic word order of a French sentence is: subject-verb-object (e.g. Je mange une baguette), but a
sentence can include more elements (or fewer), and the order of each element may vary. Word order can be an
indicator of the stylistic register, formality, etc.
Word order can also be affected by negation in a sentence or a question (see cheat sheets below).
French numbers are not as straightforward as their English counterparts. You may even notice the regional differences depending on the Francophone country (see "Numbers from 10 to 100").
Prepositions link two related parts of a sentence. They are used to specify the relationship in time or space
between the noun and another element (verb, adjective or another noun).
Some common prepositions include: à (to, at, in), après (after), avant (before), devant (in front of), près de (close to), loin de (far from)...
In French, pronouns are used in the same way as they are in English. Pronouns replace nouns (une madame -> elle, un monsieur -> lui). Pronouns can be personal, possessive, relative, reflexive, interrogative, demonstrative and indefinite.
Here are some useful French phrases you can use in your everyday life.
Singular / Plural
French conjugation includes many different tenses, and while there are some similarities between the most common French and English conjugations, there are some subtle differences.
Check out some of our blog posts to learn more about French grammar and its many quirks.
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