Don’t learn French, it’s a mess – Part 5 : La place des adjectifs

An adjective in French must be written after the name. A red house is “une maison rouge”, but poets like to put before to sound poetic.

The meaning can be different if you put it before or after. Un “grand homme” is a great man, and un “homme grand” means a tall man.

Here’s a (uncomplete) list of these : ancien, brave, cher, chic, curieux, certain, drôle, grand, jeune, nul, pauvre, petit, seul, sale…

  • un drôle de chat (a strange cat), un chat drôle (a funny cat)
  • une seule dame (only one woman), une dame seule (a lonely woman)

Short adjectives are often written before the name : un vieux château (an old castle), une jeune fille (a young girl).

Well, some of them can be placed before or after : “un excellent travail”, or “un travail excellent” (good job!).

English adjectives are invariables. In French, adjectives change depending on gender and number (I’m sorry, dear).

 

  1. Un petit homme (a little man)
  2. Une petite fille (a little girl)
  3. Des petits crayons (little pencils)
  4. Des petites boîtes (little boxes)

 

Some adjectives like beau (beautiful) and nouveau (new) are really tricky.

You can say “un homme beau” (an handsome man) but more commonly “un bel homme” (I don’t know why, but I suppose it’s because it sounds better like that !).

“Il a un nouveau clavier” (he has a new keyboard) but “Il a un nouvel ordinateur” (he has a new computer) – just because it’d sound ugly with a nouveau-ordinateur (o-o).

 

 

Read books and watch movies, that’s a good way to learn all this…

Thanks for reading!

 

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“Ces belles fleurs et ces beaux poissons sont à moi !”

Don’t learn French, it’s a mess – Part 3 : “tu” or “vous”?

“You” is a little mess in English because one uses the same word to one or to a group :

“You come with us?” addressed to five persons is a problem : You to the group or you to one person of the group?

In French the first you is “tu”, and the plural one is “vous”. Therefore it’s clearer (even if in real life I know the context helps). “You come with us” means :

  • Tu viens avec nous (to one person)
  • Vous venez avec nous (to the group)

 

But we complicated it a bit much of course. Because in French you can only use “Tu” to persons you know very well : friends, family, or maybe little kids. First names = Tu.

The formal, polite way to address someone you just met, an employee, your superior or anyone you have to show respect, is not “Tu”, but “Vous”.

If you buy a coffee, if you’re a teacher in front of teens or adults, if you just met your future mother in law, you have to say “Vous”. Yes, like the plural. I know…

Therefore, “You come with us?” becomes :

  • Tu viens avec nous ? (to one person)
  • Vous venez avec nous ? (to the group)
  • Vous venez avec nous ? (to one person you want to show respect)

 

Yaah if you use the casual “Tu” to your new boss or to the waiter in a bar, you are clearly disrespectful.

The problem, then, is to find the frontier between both!

  • Some teachers (but not all of them) say “Tu” to students, even when they are 17 years old.
  • You can say “Tu” to your manager, but you’ll never do that with the top manager.
  • You will be asked by your future mother in law to address her with “Tu”, when you’ll know her a bit more. It’s often very hard to pass from one to another, and you’ll hear yourself telling back “Vous” sometimes. Maybe you’ll stay in that state!
  • We sometimes want to sound aristocratic for fun, and if you want to sound like a baroness, you’ll tell your mother “Mère, voulez-vous me passer le sel s’il vous plaît ?” insteat of “Maman, passe-moi le sel, stp” – “Mother will you please…” instead of “Mom pass the salt, please”.
  • Your “Please” becomes “s’il vous plaît” (formally), “s’il te plaît” (friends). Kids say for fun : “steup“.

 

To use tu is “tutoyer”. To use vous is “vouvoyer”.

I have a couple of online friends with whom we use only “Vous” in our emails – even if I’ve known them for 20 years. It gives a way I can’t really explain. A way to stand, to be focused and maybe elegant. It’s clearly a smile…

 

Let’s call it the “don’t call me by my first name” state…

 

Thanks for reading!

(and oh sorry for my English here)…

 

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Instagram : keri_karina

 

 

Don’t learn French, it’s a mess – Part 2 : “aller”

“To go” is cool when you’re a little French student : In the present “I go”, in the future “I will go”. I just had to remember “He goes” (not “gos”), and the preterit “I went” – but we early knew by heart our list of irregular verbs, right?

To go is “aller”, in French : this beast is constantly mutating! The present is “Je vais”, the future “J’irais”, and he’s back with the past : “Je suis allé”.

(by the way : “Go on” is “Allez-y”, but “Go ahead” is also “Allez-y”)

 

Of course you know that our first “you” (tu) is used for people you know very well, and the other “you” (vous) for a more formal speech.

Thus if you talk to a group OR to your mother in law, you say “Go on” : “Allez-y”, but if you talk to a kid ou your best friend, your “Go on” becomes “Vas-y”.

  • You have to go? : “Il faut que tu y ailles“.
  • They would go : “Ils iraient“.
  • Go! Go for it : “Allez! Vas-y!”.
  • OK maybe I should go now : “Bon, je devrais peut-être y aller“.

(I’m sorry)

 

Have a nice day!

 

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Patterning Unusual : thus my own casual #blogging #French #poetry – #ESL #meta

“It’s what I do that teaches me what I’m looking for”, says Pierre Soulages (painter). This is exactly what I felt when I began to blog in English.

Well, I’m French, and if I’m able to write in English, I’m still and stay an ESL (English as Second Language) guy. It’s a strange way to stay focused, I can tell you!

I thus know I make little mistakes everywhere. At the beginning I asked some friend to fix them, then I had to think about it and decided to let go, and forced to learn a certain form of casualness.

There are mistakes left – I hope it’s a little charming (?)…

I add some French words here and there, voilà, your turn to learn!

I have to make it short too, because

  • 1/ I know you don’t have time
  • 2/ I’m not skilled enough, and my vocabulary is poor

I learn new words and idioms in each article, though, because I have to dig for them (I use Word Reference now, my neighbourtab all day long). Call it “ESL stairs”.

I also don’t care about inventing new words (I often aggregate two), most of the time because I hesitate between two.

As I present tools, dials and levers here (which are usable concepts, right?) in one-paged-articles, I really have to forget to be rigorous, and I know I take many shortcuts. That’s fun (or funny?) –

I catalog here all the tools I found useful in my life, and it makes me explore my shelves, which is a source of good bliss and reassessment – oh a new word!). I hope some of you will peck the seed…

I really observed and gazed at some other people’s blog to understand how to pattern and structure articles, and how to title them. I did it my way, then…

 

All this produce a sort of “Poetic License”. My few norms are strong (produce a short tool minilecture), but I really acquired a freedom I had to learn… from being an ESL.

Some neuroscientists say that having another language is good for the brain. Why wouldn’t you try to blog in French, ehhh?

Thanks for reading! Bonne journée !

 

 

Some places WATCH you. Have you been there?

One day I was in Britain, en Bretagne, which is the West of France. I was in the countryside, I had my camera in had, and I was chasing dragonflies…

It was really full summer. Quiet blue sky. Really, a pleasant promenade, a pleasant walk.

(I think you don’t have a word in America for our French “promenade”. Let’s say it’s “to have a walk”, with more Frenchiness I suppose : you walk, you wander, you just walk slowly with no goal, no purpose, you smell the air, “le nez au vent”, the nose in the wind, as we say, voilà).

So. I quit the path and I went on the right, near a little wood. Some quiet water was walking along the wood’s border. I did too. Fireflies hunt just above the water, as you know.

(we have two beautiful words to say “the border” of a forest : “l’orée” is colored by “the entrance” idea, and “la lisière”, which sounds, for us, like “the line which is the border of the woods”).

French has more words about certains things, but I realised a long time ago how rich English can be too!…

Suddenly I stopped in the sun. I felt it.

Something is watching me.

A coomb. A little clairière (a clearing). I felt danger. I was amazed by the quality of the threat. I ran away, quickly.

Some places are watching you. Are they haunted? Is there something coming from you? Is it the light, a sudden silence, a mystery, a ghost?

Sometimes (for examples after a dream), your guts are speaking. You just have to listen. It’s a matter of life or death!

Thanks for reading!