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French Phrases: Basic French words

Function words

The following are some basic 'function' words in French. They provide some of the 'glue' that allow other words (nouns, adjectives etc) to be put together to form sentences.

The words below are therefore useful for forming a sentence in French. For the French for simple salutations such as hello, goodbye etc, see the section on greetings in French.

 If you have an iPhone or iPad, then you may wish to check out the site's French Vocab Games app.

See also: French subject pronouns, French greetings.

Very basic articles and prepositions

The following little words crop up extremely frequently. They are slightly tricky to begin with because they are words whose form changes depending on the following word.

dedə, d, tof, from
dudyof/from the (masculine1 singular); some
desdeof/from the (plural); some
àato; at; in2
auoto/at/in2 the (masculine1 singular)
auxoto/at/in2 the (plural)
lelə, løthe (with masculine1 word)
lalathe (with feminine1 word)
leslethe (with plural)
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See also: When to use le and la.

Question words

Other basic words

The following lists contain a number of basic 'function' words that will crop up in a range of French sentences. Firstly, some basic French prepositions and words to do with space and location:

pourpuʁfor
parpaʁby; via
sursyʁon
dansdɑ̃in2
enɑ̃in2
avecavɛkwith
dehorsdəɔʁoutside, out
lahere, there; now
iciisihere
là-baslabathere, over there
près de...pʁe də, pʁɛdnear to...
près d'icipʁɛdisinearby, near here
loinlwæ̃far
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Now some words to do with 'ownership'. Note that the labels masculine and feminine refer to the "gender" of the possession rather than the owner (remember that, unlike English, all nouns in French including words for 'table', 'newspaper' etc as well as words referring to people, are arbitrarily assigned a "gender").

monmõmy (masculine)
mamamy (feminine)
mesmemy (plural)
tontõyour (masculine)
tatayour (feminine)
testeyour (plural)
votrevɔtʁəyour (referring to a stranger/multiple people)
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And here are a few other common French words, some to do with expressing degree and quantity:

parce quepaʁsk(ə)because
trèstʁevery
peulittle, hardly
bienbjæ̃well; rather
assezasequite; enough, sufficiently
troptʁotoo; too much
trop de...tʁodtoo much...; too many...
paspanot
jamaisʒamenever
toujourstuʒuʁalways; still
encoreɑ̃kɔʁstill, yet
plusply, plysmore
moinsmwæ̃less, fewer
quethat; what
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Notes:
1. As in many languages, French nouns are arbitrarily divided into groups called genders. In French, there are two genders, usually called 'masculine' and 'feminine'. Which gender a noun belongs to depends on various criteria such as the gender of the person/animal they represent (if any), or the ending of the noun (for example, nouns ending in -ation are feminine). The gender of the noun determines which form of determiners (words meaning 'the', 'a', 'some', 'any', 'my' etc) and adjectives are used.
2. As a very general rule, dans is used in cases where there is a determiner (a word like le/la (the), un/une (a); and en is used in other cases, such as before names of countries and regions and in figurative expressions. In some cases, au, à la and aux are used with a similar meaning to dans le/dans la/dans les.

The following phrases are worth knowing:

il y a...il i ja, iljathere is...; there are...
y a... (Informal)ja...there is...; there are...
c'est...seit's...
ce n'est pas...sne pait isn't...
ceci est...søsi ethis is...
ce n'est pas...s(ə)ne pait isn't...
voilàvwalahere's..., there's...
voicivwasihere is...
est-ce que...ɛsk(ə)is it true that... (formula used to ask a question in French)
est-ce qu'il y a...?ɛskiljais there...?
j'ai...ʒeI have...
avez-vous...?ave vudo you have...?
je suis...ʒə sɥiI am...
je ne suis pas...ʒən sɥi pasI'm not...
êtes vous...?ɛt vuare you...?
(en) anglais(ɑ̃n) ɑ̃gle(in) English
(en) français(ɑ̃) fʁɑ̃se(in) French
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Page written by Neil Coffey. Copyright (c) Javamex UK 2014. All rights reserved.