Updated: Jul 21, 2021
French isn't easy to learn, but it's such a beautiful language, it makes it worth to learn.
Are you starting to pick up French but you don't understand why there are so many rules? What if I tell you, beginners only need to know 8 rules to be able to pick up a decent level?
Well, I am telling you, only 8! I describe them here but you can also watch the video right here . Enjoy!
1. Gender of nouns
In French, everything has a gender, either feminine or masculine, but nothing is neutral.
There is no 100% rule in French unfortunately, it would be too easy, but in this case we have an 80% rule! Not so bad right?
When a noun ends with "e", 80% of the time, it's a feminine noun.
When a noun ends with "c - d - f - k - l - m - n - p - q - r - s - t - x - z", 80% of the time, it's a masculine noun.
But what about the 20%? I have a bad news for that part, but you will need to study! When studying vocabulary, always study the article as well so you know if it's a feminine or a masculine noun.
Example : La souris - The mouse.
=> This noun ends with a "s", so it should be feminine, but it's under the 20%. So If you study "La souris", you know it's a feminine noun because of "La".
2. Plural of nouns
The plural of nouns, this hard subject that changes easy words in complicated ones ending with "AUX", or sometimes it doesn't change? Are you lost? Because I would be too!
I don't have data for this rule, but my own estimation is that 85% of nouns will only take a "S" at the end when it's plural. A couple of % won't change at all!
When a noun ends with "e - c - d - f - k - m - n - p - q - r - t", you only add "S" at the end.
Example : Une bouteille - Deux bouteilles = One bottle - Two bottles
=> It doesn't change a lot from the English grammar.
If a noun ends with one of the following letters "s - x - z" you don't have to ad anything.
Example : Une souris - Deux souris = One mouse - Two mice
There are, obviously, other rules and exceptions for the plural of nouns, but for a beginner, this is a good way to start.
3. On or Nous?
This rule can be confusing but is actually really easy to use. Simply, instead of using "Nous - We" all the time, we use "On - also We".
It's the casual way to talk in French :
Nous sommes étudiants = On est étudiants (We are students)
It can also be used as a general term, referring to "One"
One can enjoy the culture while traveling = On peut apprécier la culture en voyageant.
On a tous compris, on peut aller au point suivant = We all understood, we can go to the next point 😉
4. Il + Elle = ILS
Before starting this point, let's have a quick reminder :
And what I have seen my students struggle with, is the rule we have for plural. If we have to group the persons or the things we want to talk about, it will automatically be masculine.
It doesn't matter if it's a majority of feminine, if there is only one masculine in the group, it will be masculine. Welcome in the confusing world of the French language!
Let's see more in details :
Il + Elle = Ils
Il + Elle + Elle + Elle + Elle + .... = Ils
The only way we use Elles, it's if it's Elle + Elle!
Another example :
La souris, la bouteille et le crayon sont sur le bureau = lls sont sur le bureau.
The mouse, the bottle and the pencil are on the desk = They are on the desk.
5. Les lettres muettes
How many times did I hear, "French is so hard, when you talk it doesn't look like what I read!"
Well, I have a big surprise for you, it seems different because it is! It takes a lot of practice to know how to read in French. I will keep explaining it on the points 6 and 7 because there is more than 1 point.
What I want to talk about in this point 5, is "Les lettres muettes'. This is simply the letters that we do not pronounce. They are mostly at the end of the word and lucky you, you can start with this 3 easy points to remember :
1. When a word ends with E - P - D - T - S - X - Z
2. Plural S - X
3. Plural of verbs ENT
We don't pronounce any of them, but I guess it won't help if I don't show you some examples.
1. Téléphone - we pronounce "téléphon" - we don't say the E.
❌ This doesn't apply if the last letter is E with an accent!
2. When we have a plural, the plural becomes also the end of the word.
Un téléphone - Deux téléphones - we still pronounce "téléphon" - we don't say the ES.
3. If I say : He talks - They talk : .
Il parle - Ils parlent - both of them are pronounced the same : "parl".
On top of the "it doesn't sound anything like what I read", we have "you said a sentence but I heard mostly a long word"
And that's because .... it's mostly a long word! let me explain it and it will sound much easier after.
When a word end with a "consonne" and the next one starts with a "voyelle", we link them.
Let me show you some examples :
Elle a (she has) - no link here, we pronounce the 2 words distinctly
But if we look into this one :
Elles ont (They have) - we pronounce it ElleZont. Actually ElleZon - Because the T is the last letter.
Le rendez-vous est annulé - Le rendez-vous esTannulé. The meeting is canceled.
7. Pronunciation by sounds
In English, pronunciation can be tricky but you mostly pronounce every letter. Mostly.