The limits of my language means the limits of my world.Ludwig Wittgenstein
Learning how to write sentences in French is easy and fun. It will improve your knowledge of the language and help you start speaking a foreign language today! This guide for beginners includes everything from sentence construction basics to more advanced grammar points like verb conjugation, which could be difficult without practice.
Some grammatical rules in French can seem complicated and hard to grasp. But once you understand their concept, they will become much easier to use when writing or forming a sentence in any language. That is why I've created this quick guide for my fellow English speakers trying to learn how to form sentences in French.
Declarative sentences in French
A declarative sentence is a kind of statement that communicates information about the subject, and doesn't ask questions or give commands. They are powerful because they can clearly state what you think.
The word order in a declarative sentence with a direct object is:
subject + verb + object noun.
This order is the same as English, with “Elizabeth has a dog.” (Elizabeth a un chien.)
You may have heard that some English sentences cannot be translated to French, and this would technically mean you can't get across your point another way.
One of the most important aspects to consider about language is how words are arranged. This can make all the difference in whether or not two people understand each other and will also affect what someone wants to convey when they speak.
The word order in a declarative sentence that includes a direct and indirect object is:
subject + verb + direct object + indirect object.
Elizabeth bought a watch for her husband/Elizabeth bought her husband a watch. (Elizabeth a acheté une montre pour son mari.)
I have a post about how to start learning French grammar with four verbs. You should totally check that out!
Interrogative sentences in French/ Asking Questions in French
Why do people ask so many questions? The answer is simple: we want to know.
An interrogative sentence serves as an important part of any dialogue because it can be used for multiple purposes, such as getting information from someone and determining whether he/she agrees on something.
If you want to ask a question by inversion, simply change the verb and subject pronoun from their usual order and put a hyphen (un trait d'union) in the middle. In other words, turn a declarative sentence by adding inflection at the end and a question mark.
Declarative sentence + ? + inflection at the end of sentence = interrogative sentence
I can go to the pool. (Je peux aller à la piscine.)
Can I go to the pool? (Puis-je aller à la piscine ?)
To ask a question using an inverse sentence structure, start with the word “who” or “what” at the beginning of your statement.
This is a question, right?
In many languages including English and French, raising the tone at the end of a sentence can turn it into an interrogative one.
The dog loves to eat ice cream.
The dog loves to eat ice cream?
Le chien aime manger de la glace.
Le chien aime manger de la glace ?
It’s easy, right? C'est facile non ?
Punctuation marks, such as commas and periods, must be preceded by a space in European French but not Canadian French.
Qui? = Who?
Qui est la femme qui porte la jupe rouge ? = Who is the woman wearing the red skirt?
Où? = Where?
Où est la bibliothèque? = Where is the library?
Pourquoi ? = Why?
Pourquoi pleures-tu ? = Why are you crying?
Comment? = How?
Comment dit-on gaufres en espagnol? = How do you say waffles in Spanish?
Quoi? = What?
Quand? = When?
Quand vas-tu à Lisbonne ? / Quand allez-vous à Lisbonne ? = When are you going to Lisbon?
Quel/Quels/ (m.) Quelle/Quelles (f.)? = Which?
Quels sont les livres que vous aimeriez acheter ? = Which books would you like to purchase/buy?
Quel est le plus beau foulard ? = Which scarf is the prettiest?
Quelle robe est la plus chère ? = Which dress is more expensive?
Combien? = How much?
Combien coûte une part de pizza ? = How much is a slice of pizza?
When we yell at someone, we often express great anger or distress. Yelling can be a way of expressing exactly how you feel without having the words for such emotions in your vocabulary. For example: “Stop that right now!” could mean something like “Don't do that again!”
Exclamatory sentences are an essential part of how we communicate feelings. We often use voice modulation and facial expressions to stress our emotions, as in “You surprised me!”
This sentence structure is more common in speech than in writing.
Declarative sentence + ! + inflection at the end of sentence = exclamatory sentence
Ces biscuits me donnent soif ! = These crackers are making me thirsty! (Sorry, another Seinfeld reference.)
Il fait froid ! = It is cold!
Je suis trop mignon(ne) ! = I am so cute!
Tout le monde m'admire ! = Everyone admires me!
Exclamatory Words and Phrases
Ouf ! = Whew!
Aïe ! = Ouch!
Bof ! = Bof is more of a feeling than a word that can be used as an interjection to express unhappiness or disinterest.
Bon sang ! = Good grief!
Zut/Zut alors ! = Darn!
Mon Dieu ! = My goodness (literally, My God)
Sans blague ! = No kidding!Tant mieux ! = Much better!
You might be surprised that even the most common words in your vocabulary can have hidden meanings. Prepositions are a perfect example of this! They help link words and establish relationships, which is why they're important for writing sentences (and understanding language).
A preposition always tells you where something or someone is located with respect to another word in a sentence: “She walked away from me,” or “The ball landed on top of him.” Some examples include à, de, and pour – these are simple prepositions because they only contain one word.
There's also afin de/grâce à. These take up more space due to their compound phrases but make it possible for us to wrap our brains around more complicated concepts.
These are the most commonly used French prepositions:
À = at, to, in
Contre = against
De = from, of
En = on, in, of
Sur = on
Pendant = during
Pour = for
Sans = without
Sous = under
Dans = in
Vers = toward
J'habite en Californie. = I live in California
Elle est restée à l'intérieur pendant sa maladie. = She has been indoors while she is sick.
Le parc est à côté de la boulangerie. = The park is next to the bakery.
Au lieu de manger de la viande, je mange du poisson. = Instead of eating meat, I am eating fish.
Ce cadeau est pour ma sœur. = This gift is for my sister.
Grâce à Elizabeth, j'apprends à écrire des phrases en français. = Thanks to Elizabeth, I am learning how to write sentences in French. (I know, I know. But where is the lie? :P)
You might be surprised that writing in French doesn't have to be complicated. The best way is to start with the basics and build on that foundation.
I hope you're feeling more confident in your ability to start writing French sentences now. Knowing how the language is structured should give you a better idea of where to start when it comes time for writing.
Just keep practicing!
Bon courage, et bonne chance!
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