Screen width of at least 320px is required!
Loading...

Act #1: Does Roast Beef mean “I’m ready to settle down?”

UN and UNE

Forms

In French, all nouns have a gender, they are either masculine or feminine. It is very important to learn a noun's gender along with the noun itself because articles, adjectives, and some verbs have to agree with nouns. The gender of some nouns makes sense: homme (man) is masculine and femme (woman) is feminine. But others don't: personne (person) is always feminine, even if the person is a man!

In French, few nouns can stand alone. Most need to be introduced or “determined” by an article. As in English, an article is as either definite (the) or indefinite (a, an). In French articles are also masculine or feminine, and singular or plural.

Let’s talk about the indefinite singular articles in French: un and une

Masculine singular: un

Jacques est un homme.
Jacques est un étudiant.
Elle étudie un livre.

Feminine singular: une

Sabrina est une femme.
Il mange une salade.
Je vois une voiture.
Just make the effort to learn the noun with its gender and you’ll know them forever. In future lessons, we’ll discuss some tendencies in the gender of nouns.

TU and VOUS

The words tu and vous both mean you. In English, the word you can be used to address any person or number of people, whatever the age or social status of that person. In French, it’s a bit more complex.

A common misconception is that tu is used for talking to children and vous for talking to adults. Another misconception is that tu is for friends and vous is for strangers. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple! Hence this whole paragraph on tu and vous!

So what can we make of this complex situation? Remember first that tu is always used to address a single person and someone in a similar social situation. So what does similar social situation mean? Well, all sorts of things... I've deliberately chosen a vague term.

Here are a few clues to help you determine when to use tu:

  • - Same age, especially speakers aged 15 to 30
  • - Family members and friends
  • - Adult to child, generally below 15
  • - Child to child and adolescent to adolescent
  • - Same job status
  • - Participants in online forums and chat
  • - Speaker A treating Speaker B with contempt
  • - Christians addressing God
  • - Addressing non-humans (speaking to your dog, shouting at your computer...)

And now a few clues for vous:

  • - Young child to adult
  • - Student to teacher
  • - Teacher to older student
  • - Employee to boss and boss to employee
  • - Colleagues when there is a marked difference in hierarchy
  • - New business contacts
  • - Addressing your baker, butcher or fishmonger

So the choice of tu or vous doesn’t have to do with age only. More generally, tu is often referred to as the familiar form, and vous as the formal or polite form.

PERSONAL PRONOUNS and ÊTRE


Personal Pronouns


Let’s first learn the personal pronouns. Personal pronouns are used only in conjunction with a verb.

SINGULAR PERSONAL PRONOUNS
(one subject only)
PLURAL PERSONAL PRONOUNS
(more than one subject)
je ➝ I nous ➝ we
tu ➝ you vous ➝ you
il ➝ he ils ➝ they (masculine subjects or a mixture of
masculine and feminine subjects)
elle ➝ she elles ➝ they (feminine subjects)


Être

“Être” is an essential verb in French. It serves as a verb and an auxiliary.

An auxiliary verb, or helping verb, is a conjugated verb used in front of another verb in compound tenses. There are 2 auxiliary verbs in French: “avoir” and “être”. We will learn about “avoir” in the next lesson.

Now let’s conjugate “être” in the present. It is an irregular verb so you’ll need to learn it by heart.

SINGULAR PERSONAL PRONOUNS PLURAL PERSONAL PRONOUNS
je suis ➝ I am nous sommes ➝ we are
tu es ➝ you are vous êtes ➝ you are
il est ➝ he is ils sont ➝ they are
elle est ➝ she is elles sont ➝ they are


Examples:

Je suis Marie.
Julien, tu es encore en retard.
Il est prêt.
Elle est triste.
Nous sommes dans la maison.
Julien et Marie, vous êtes très intelligents.
Ils sont portugais.
Elles sont anglaises.