A short introduction to French grammar for people who have never studied grammar before Part 1

Level A1.1 / A1

Reference of the lesson: GR492-NJ22

French grammar, like grammar of all languages, is not complicated, it is just very precise. There is a lot of technical terms that may seem a bit indigest at first glance, but with a little bit of practice you will remember them all.

This article is the first part of a very short introduction to French grammar for people who have never studied grammar before...

Like for all languages, all words or groups of words in a French sentence have :

- a nature, that is to say what they are,

- and a function, that is to say what they are here for, what is their role in the sentence.

I like to think of grammar as a text analysis that goes deeper and deeper into the details of a sentence. 

At first, you could even say: 

- "This is a sentence". 

- Then, you can start a very global analysis of this sentence by separating the main words or group of words, without looking into details. 

- Finally, you shrink your vision more and more to analyse words themselves, and even tiny little words like "le" in, for example : le chat ("the cat").

It is a little bit as if you looked at the Earth from its athmosphere, or from the Moon (let's imagine Moon stations already exist and some people are living in them), then you board your spaceship and begin your flight back to Earth, so you get nearer and nearer our planet, and very soon you start seing the continents better, then you start seeing the countries, the rivers, the mountains, the cities, small villages, the buildings, the people, their shoes, their shoe laces...

For example, in the sentence:

Albert mange. (Albert is eating.) That is a very simple sentence.

You have two words:  "Albert", and "mange". 


- "Albert" is a "noun" ("noun" in grammar designates first names, family names, names of animals, of towns, of rivers... names of objects...), 

- and "mange" is a "verb".


- "Albert" is the "subject". A subject is the person, or the animal, the object... that performs the action described by the verb. Who is eating? Albert. It is Albert who is eating.

- "Mange" is the centre of the sentence. Apart from being the centre of the sentence, the verb, when it is conjugated, does not have any fonction, according to many grammar books. Ok, we can nevertheless say that it describes an action. In this case, the action of eating.

Now, let's complicate a little bit (but not too much):

Albert mange [sa soupe].

You have "Albert", "mange"... and I have added "sa soupe". (Albert is eating his soup).


- "sa soupe" is a group of two words. It is a "noun group", that is to say a group which has a noun as the main element. 


- And what is its function? In other words what is this group doing here? What is it here for? This group completes the sentence. Something that completes is a "complement". 

So, you have, so far:

- Nouns

- Verbs

- Complements.

Of course, there are many different types of complements. Complement of this, complement of that... 

This complement ("sa soupe") answers the question: "What?"

In very bad English: 

"Albert eats what?" 

- His soup." 

(I did it on purpose to put "what" at the end of the sentence, instead of saying "what is Albert eating?")

Let's carry on :

[Le petit Albert] mange [sa soupe].

I have added "Le" and "petit" in the group. However, if we carry on looking globally and not in details, it is still a noun group: "Le petit Albert". 

Shall we look a little bit more into details, now?

[Le petit Albert] mange [sa soupe].

now becomes (drum rolls...)

[Le petit Albert] mange [sa soupe].

A detailed analysis will show that:

- "Le" has a nature and a function.

- "petit" has a nature and a function.

- "Albert" still has a nature and a function

- "Mange" still has a nature, and still no real function, apart from being the centre of the sentence and describing an action.

- "sa" has a nature and a function.

- "soupe" has a nature and a function.

That's all for today, Folks! See you next week!

Reference of the lesson: GR492-NJ22

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