> Une dame et un petit garçon regardent tranquillement le paysage. Masculine and feminine nouns How adjectives behave Verbs from the first group Verbs and prepositions French is not so very far from English. Both languages have the same historical origins and this is a great help for learners, especially when it comes to acquiring vocabulary. But there are important differences in the structures of the two languages. And if you understand those from the beginning, you'll build your knowledge on a firm foundation. Let's start with the simple sentence: Une dame et un garçon regardent tranquillement le paysage. The basic elements are the same in French as in English: subject verb adverb object Une dame et un garçon regardent tranquillement A lady and a boy look peacefully le paysage at the countryside Now let's look at the differences. 1) The masculine and feminine genders Le genre masculin et le genre féminin Where in English we have 'a lady' and 'a boy', in French we have: une dame et un garçon Une is French for a - the indefinite article - when the noun that follows is feminine. Un is French for a when the noun that follows is masculine. And in French, all nouns are either masculine or feminine. une fleur et un arbre a flower and a tree une maison ou un appartement a house or a flat As for the word the - the definite article - in French it's la for feminine nouns and le for masculine nouns: la péniche et le bateau the barge and the boat la dame et le monsieur the lady and the gentleman le chat et la souris the cat and the mouse When you learn a noun, memorise the article that goes with it at the same time: «la maison» and not simply «maison». Confidence over the gender of nouns will greatly improve your fluency. Plural nouns take the same indefinite article whether they are masculine or feminine - des: un café des cafés a coffee - some coffees une voiture des voitures a car - some cars And plural nouns also take the same definite article whether they are masculine or feminine - les: les chats et les souris the cats and the mice 2) How adjectives behave Le comportement des adjectifs Adjectives must agree with nouns in terms of number, singular or plural, and gender, masculine or feminine. More often than not, making an adjective feminine involves adding an e to the masculine version. noir is masculine for black and noire is the feminine for black. Sometimes you will find the root of the word changes a little too, for example: le mur blanc the white wall la maison blanche the white house When you learn an adjective, learn its two gender forms at the same time. blanc / blanche white heureux / heureuse happy, lucky Often, making nouns and adjectives plural involves adding an s. le chat noir les chats noirs the black cat - the black cats la voiture noire les voitures noires the black car - the black cars Sometimes though, particularly when there is a group of vowels at the end of the word, making a word plural involves adding an x: Les bateaux noirs quittent le port. The black ships leave the port. Neither the s for the plural nor the x for the plural is pronounced. The adjective noir goes after the noun le café noir the black coffee la marée noire the black tide: the oil slick unlike the English 'black', which goes before 'coffee' or 'tide'. This isn't a rule for all adjectives - but in spoken French the adjectives of colour go after the noun. For other adjectives, it's a question of learning by experience. Sometimes the word order changes the meaning: un homme grand a tall man un grand homme a great man 3) The conjugation of verbs La conjugaison des verbes La Rochelle la côte atlantique La Rochelle the Atlantic coast Verb endings change according to whether the subject is singular or plural: le sujet le verbe l'objet Le bateau noir quitte le port. The black boat leaves the port. Les bateaux quittent le port. The boats leave the port. Verb endings also change according to whether the subject is the first person je I nous we the second person tu you (singular) vous you (plural or formal) or the third person il he, it elle she, it ils, elles they Here are the endings for the verb parler - 'to speak': parler - to speak je parle nous parlons I speak we speak tu parles vous parlez you speak you speak il parle ils parlent he speaks (masculine) they speak (masculine) elle parle elles parlent she speaks (feminine) they speak (feminine) With the verb parler - and all regular verbs ending in er - the pronunciation is the same for the first, second and third person singular and the third person plural. je parle tu parles il parle elle parle ils parlent elles parlent 4) The construction of verbs La construction des verbes Look again at the sentence which began this lesson. subject verb adverb Une dame et un garçon regardent tranquillement A lady and a boy look peacefully object le paysage at the countryside In English there is the additional word 'at'. The sense of 'at' is included in the French verb regarder. There are some verbs in French which stand on their own, where in English you need a preposition: regarder to look at Nous regardons la rivière. We look at the river. chercher to look for Elle cherche le journal. She looks for the newspaper. And there are some verbs in French which take a preposition, where the English equivalent stands alone: entrer dans to enter Il entre dans le bureau. He enters the office. And sometimes the meaning of a verb can change when it's followed by a preposition: chercher to look for chercher à to try to Elle cherche à comprendre. She tries to understand. When you learn a verb, always learn the construction that goes with it at the same time.