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5.3: Grammaire - présentation

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    Les pronoms relatifs qui et que

    A relative pronoun introduces a clause that explains or describes a previously mentioned noun, which is called the antecedent. Relative pronouns are used to link two related ideas into a single sentence, thereby avoiding repetition.

    For example: Shasta est un grand chat. Il aime jouer au foot. -> Shasta est un grand chat qui aime jouer au foot.

    In the above example, the relative pronoun qui introduces the subordinate clause, that is, the clause that adds additional information about Shasta. In French there are two main relative pronouns, qui and que. The choice between qui and que in French depends solely on the grammatical role, subject or direct object, that the relative pronoun plays in the subordinate clause.

    Qui functions as the subject of the subordinate clause.

    Que functions as the direct object of the subordinate clause. Remember that que becomes qu' before a word beginning with a vowel.

    Although qui and que are invariable, they assume the gender and number of the antecedent. Que functions as a direct object preceding the verb. Therefore, when the verb of the subordinate clause is in the passé composé, or any other compound tense, the past participle agrees in number and gender with que. The past participle also agrees in number and gender with qui if the verb forms its passé composé with 'être'.

    For example: Les pronoms relatifs sont des pronoms que j'ai étudiés hier. Alex, Morgan et Nathan sont des étudiants qui se sont rencontrés sur le campus de UH.

    QUI ou QUE ?

    1. Astérix est un personnage ... les Français adorent. 2. Astérix est un personnage ... est très intelligent.


    1. que 2. qui

    Les expressions négatives

    Different nuances of negation are achieved by using the following negative expressions:

    ne ... jamais never, not ever
    ne ... pas encore not yet
    ne ... rien nothing, not anything
    ne ... personne nobody, no one, not anybody
    ne ... plus no more, not any longer
    ne ... pas du tout not at all

    Note that ne becomes n' in front of a verb starting with a vowel or a mute h. In spoken French, the ne / n' is sometimes dropped. The second element of the negation is usually placed right after the conjugated verb and before the object.

    Example: Shasta ne peut jamais vivre sans football. Il n'y a rien de plus important pour lui.

    Répondez négativement en utilisant le mot négatif entre parenthèses

    1. Est-ce que tu as déjà visité la planète Mars? (jamais) 2. Est-ce que tu vois encore tes amis de l'école maternelle ? (plus) 3. Qu'est-ce que tu vas faire ce soir ? (rien)


    1. Non, je n'ai jamais visité la planète Mars. 2. Non, je ne vois plus mes amis de l'école maternelle. 3. Je ne vais rien faire ce soir.

    Les expressions négatives PERSONNE et RIEN

    Personne and rien are negative pronouns; they may function as the subject or direct object of a sentence, or as the object of a preposition. When personne is an object, it is placed after the verb or the preposition it complements:

    Examples: Aujourd'hui Astérix n'a vu personne sur le campus. Aujourd'hui Shasta se détend, et ne pense à rien.

    Personne and rien may be used at the beginning of a sentence, as pronoun subjects, followed by ne / n':

    Example: Personne n'est venu en classe aujourd'hui, parce que c'est la fête de Thanksgiving.

    Some of the negations listed above can be combined, as shown in these examples:

    Examples: Je ne lirai plus jamais ce journal, parce que ses journalistes sont biaisés. Nous ne regardons jamais rien à la télé.

    Traduisez en français

    1. Nobody likes this cartoon. 2. Our teacher did not upload anything on Canvas. 3. I did not invite anybody to my birhtday party.


    1. Personne n'aime ce dessin animé. 2. Notre professeur n'a rien téléchargé sur Canvas. 3. Je n'ai invité personne à ma fête d'anniversaire.

    Réponses courtes avec oui, si, pas

    Oui is a 'yes' answer to an affirmative question, while si is a 'yes' to a negative question:

    Examples: - Sasha, tu aimes le football? - Oui. - Sasha, tu n'aimes plus le tennis? - Si, je l'aime un peu.

    Non is a one-word negative answer to a yes / no question; pas, by itself, negates part of a sentence:

    Examples: Shasta, tu es malade ? - Non. - Shasta, tu as faim ? - Non, pas vraiment.

    Rien (nothing), personne (no one), and jamais (never) may be used in one-word answer:

    Example: - Shasta, qu'est-ce que tu fais? - Rien. - Sasha, est-ce que tu as déjà visité la France? - Jamais.

    Traduisez en français

    1. You don't like comedies ? - Yes, I do. 2. I like reality tv? - Yes, I do. 3. You don't like horror movies? - No, I don't.


    1. Tu n'aimes pas les comédies? - Si / Si, je les aime. 2. Tu aimes la téléréalité ? - Oui / Oui, je l'aime. 3. Tu n'aimes pas les films d'horreur ? - Non / Non, je ne les aime pas.

    Les verbes dire, lire, écrire

    The irregular verbs dire, lire, and écrire have similar conjugations. Listen carefully to the forms of these verbs in the present tense.

    You may have already seen the verb dire in phrases like Comment dit-on ... ? (How do you say ... ?) and Qu'est-ce que ça veut dire? (What does that mean?) Note the vous form dites. It is unusual because it does not end in -ez. Dire is one of only three verbs where this is the case (The others are être: vous êtes, and faire: vous faites).

    Other verbs conjugated like écrire include décrire (to describe) and s'inscrire (to register).

    dire 'to say'
    je dis nous disons
    tu dis vous dites
    il/elle/on dit ils/elles disent
    past participle : dit
    lire 'to read'
    je lis nous lisons
    tu lis vous lisez
    il/elle/on lit ils/elles lisent
    past participle : lu
    écrire 'to write'
    j'écris nous écrivons
    tu écris vous écrivez
    il/elle/on écrit ils/elles écrivent
    past participle : écrit
    Choisissez le verbe correct et mettez-le à la forme correcte du présent

    1. Mes parents ... (dire / lire) un journal. 2. Tu .... (dire / écrire) un email à ton prof ? 3. Les médias (ne pas dire / ne pas lire) toujours la vérité.


    1. lisent 2. écris 3. ne disent pas

    Les verbes modaux

    Vouloir, pouvoir and devoir are called modal verbs. When used with infinitives, they act as auxiliary verbs or semi-auxiliaries.


    Vouloir expresses a strong will or desire; in the present tense it has the same feeling as a command. It is an irregular verb in the present tense. Note how the present tense forms a "boot"; the stems (in this case the vowels) change only in the nous and vous forms.

    Vouloir may be followed by an infinitive or a noun (Je veux du calme, I want some quiet. Je veux dormir, I want to sleep). This verb is also often paired with the adverb bien to express the meaning "to be willing"(Je veux bien! ).

    vouloir 'to wish, want, will'
    je veux nous voulons
    tu veux vous voulez
    il/elle/on veut ils/elles veulent
    past participle: voulu

    Pouvoir expresses the physical ability or permission to do something ie possibility. It is also an irregular verb with formation similar to vouloir. The "boot" formation is also evident.

    Pouvoir may be followed by an infinitive construction or may stand alone.
    As in English, pouvoir is used to give or to ask permission translated by the English "may" (Est-ce que je peux m'asseoir? - May I sit down?)
    It is important not to confuse the roles of pouvoir and savoir in French. Savoir expresses "to know how" whereas pouvoir expresses "to be able to."

    pouvoir 'to be able, be permitted to'
    je peux nous pouvons
    tu peux vous pouvez
    il/elle/on peut ils/elles peuvent
    past participle: pu

    Devoir expresses obligation, probability and supposition but if followed by a noun, expresses the idea "to owe". This verb is irregular in its present form. Once again, the "boot" formation is seen with this verb; the stem changes in the 1st and 2nd person plural conjugations. Devoir may be followed by an infinitive or may stand alone to have the meaning "to have to" (Je dois partir, I must leave.) When followed by a noun, devoir means "to owe" (Je dois 10 dollars).transdot_6s7g.gif

    devoir 'to have to, be supposed to/ to owe'
    je dois nous devons
    tu dois vous devez
    il/elle/on doit ils/elles doivent
    past participle:
    Mettez les verbes d'abord au présent, puis au passé composé

    1. Je (devoir) travailler. 2. Shasta (ne pas pouvoir) venir. 3. Mes amis (ne pas vouloir) se marier. 4. Mes parents (pouvoir) m'appeler.


    1. dois / ai dû 2. ne peut pas / n'a pas pu 3. ne veulent pas / n'ont pas voulu 4. peuvent / ont pu

    Narration au passé

    The passé composé is used in French in answer the question 'What happened?' On the other hand, you will usually put a verb in the imparfait if it answers the question 'What was going on when something else happened?' Generally, the passé composé is used to relate events while the imparfait is used to describe what was going on in the past, states of being in the past, or past habits.
    All this takes on special importance in narration of past actions, when both tenses often occur in the same story. Narrating a story entails both describing a setting (habitual actions, atmosphere, places and people) and recounting a plot or a series of events, actions, changes of feelings or thoughts. In general, all stories have a well delineated plot line of events, the foreground, and a background of supporting details and description. Some literary texts might subvert this rule but this is out of a conscious effort to surprise or unsettle their reader.

    imparfait (set scene)   passé composé (event)
    Avant, j'habitais à Fort Worth ...   et puis un jour, j'ai déménagé.
    Before, I lived in Forth Worth ...   and then, one day, I moved.
    adverbs/imparfait adverbs/passé composé
    tous les jours, tous les matins ...
    every day, every morning
      un jour, un matin, un soir ...
    one day, one morning, one evening
    chaque jour, chaque matin, chaque mois ...
    each day, each morning, each month
      soudain, brusquement, brutalement ...
    suddenly, abruptly, brusquely
    en général, généralement, d'habitude . . .
    in general, usually
      tout d'un coup, tout à coup ...
    all of a sudden, suddenly
    autrefois, à l'époque ...
    in the past, long ago, at the time
      tout de suite, immédiatement ...
    right away, immediately
    toujours, souvent ...
    always, often
      d'abord, enfin ...
    first of all, finally
    rarement ...
      puis, ensuite ...
    then, next

    Usually, when verbs like être, avoir, pouvoir, vouloir, and savoir are in a past narration, they will be in the imparfait, since they most likely describe a past state of being or condition. However, when these verbs (and others like them) occur in the passé composé, they indicate a change of state or a change of condition. Compare these examples:

    Quand j'avais 15 ans, j'habitais à Fort Worth.   When I was 15, I used to live in Fort Worth.
    Quand j'ai eu 18 ans, j'ai déménagé à Houston.   When I turned 18, I moved to Austin.

    The passé composé is also generally used for activities that lasted for a precise length of time, with a definite beginning and end. On the other hand, the imparfait is used for indefinite lengths of time. Look at these examples:

    definite period of time:    
    De 2022 à 2023,    
    Pendant un an,   Astérix a été étudiant à UH.
    Entre trente-cinq et trente-six ans,    
    indefinite period of time:    
    Quand il était enfant,   Astérix était dans un village gaulois.
    A cette époque-là,    

    But ultimately it is the entire context that determines which of these two past tenses to use and not a given adverb. For example, in the sentences below, the same adverb, un jour, is used with the imperfect or the passé composé according to the context.


    Un jour, Shasta se promenait sur le campus quand il a vu les étudiants de UH qui parlaient le français. (The imparfait sets the scene to be interrupted)

    Un jour, Shasta a décidé d'apprendre le français. (Event)

    Aknowledgment: some parts of this page are partially adopted from Francais Interactif.

    5.3: Grammaire - présentation is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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