Vous avez quel âge?
How old are you?
J’ai 20 ans.
I am 20 years old. Note that avoir, not être is used with ages.
The use of ‘on’
is a much-used pronoun. It can mean ‘they’ or ‘us’ depending on the
context. It can also be translated as the impersonal ‘one’ in English,
like when we say: one must not cheat.
On parle anglais.
Here ‘on’ means ‘we’.
En France, on parle français.
Here, ‘on’ means ‘they’. Similarly the context usually makes the meaning clear.
This has the same meaning as:
En France, ils parlent français.
that although ‘on’ is
classified with il/elle when conjugating, if it describes plural
objects, the rest of the sentence will agree with the plural object.
Nous sommes etudiants. / We are students.
The same sentence expressed with 'on':
On est etudiants.
So you see, although 'est' is singular, 'etudiants' will be plural, since it expresses more than one object.
Les articles définis: The Definite Articles
The definite article in English is ‘the’. Definite articles in French are:
Le, la, les and l’.
- for masculine nouns
- for feminine nouns
- for nouns starting with a vowel, both masculine and feminine
- for plural objects, both masculine and feminine.
L'homme - the man
La femme - the woman
Le garçon - the boy
La fille - the girl / daughter
L'actrice - the actress
Les maisons - the houses
corresponds to 'le', 'une' corresponds to 'la', 'des' corresponds to
'les', and l' corresponds to both 'le' and 'la'.
NOTE: The definite articles in French are also used to describe abstract concepts, feelings, etc.
L'amour - love
L'eternite - eternity
Recall that the indefinite articles are:
Un - for masculine objects
Une - for feminine objects
Des - for plurals
More on adjectives : Adjective Placement
Some adjectives are placed after the noun, some before. In English, all adjectives are placed before the noun, like:
A furry cat.
A big tomato.
how to remember? One help is that if the adjective is of one or two
syllables, it will be placed BEFORE the noun. Bigger adjectives usually
Adjectives coming before noun:
Un beau garçon.
Une belle fille.
Un grand arbre.
Adjectives coming after noun:
Un livre interessant.
Un leçon difficile.
The plurals of most nouns are formed by just adding an 's' at the end of the word, like in English.
Une table - Des tables
Un garçon - Des garçons
L’entreprise - Les entreprises
More ways of forming plurals
If the word ends with ‘al’, the plural is formed by changing it to ‘aux’.
Le journal - Les journaux
Un animal - Des animaux
Un hôpital - Des hôpitaux
In English, adjectives don't change with the subject. For example, compare:
The beautiful car
The beautiful cars
Although the second sentence is plural, the adjective hasn't changed.
In French however, the adjective must be modified to agree with the
Using the example above:
La belle voiture
In plural, it becomes:
Les belleS voitures.
Again, most adjectives form their plurals by adding an 's' to the end.
Now, adjective agreement is a part of sentence agreement as
a whole – so like the adjective must agree with the noun, the whole sentence
must be in agreement. For example, if the nouns are plural, the adjectives must
be plural, the conjugations must be plural, and so on.
For example, try to find out the errors in the following
Les Americain est
plus sympathique que le Français. (not true, by the way)
Americans are friendlier than the French.
There are several, actually.. since we are starting with
‘les’, Americains must be plural. Next, les Americains corresponds to the
pronoun ‘ils’, so ‘être’ must be conjugated as ‘sont’. Sympathique is an
adjective, so to agree with the noun, it must be plural – sympathiques. Again,
since we are comparing the French with the Americans, it should be ‘les français’.
So the correct sentence is:
Les Americains sont
plus sympathiques que les Français.