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MILESTONE 2

By now, you have hopefully started to gain a better understanding of how the French language works. You will already have spotted some similarities but also some differences with English when it comes to sentence structure (which is very close, with the exception of adjectives, for example). You will also have noticed a wider range of variations in the form of verbs and adjectives.

Although it might appear confusing at first, these different forms should be considered as a way to gain a better and sounder understanding of a sentence. Below are a couple of remarks to illustrate this statement:

  1. GENDER

As far as you are concerned (i.e. as a reader, not an active user), you simply need to accept the idea that gender is hard to predict (although there are some general rules again full of exceptions that can be applied, often based on the ending of the words). Gender can, however, be an important element to consider because it might enable you to identify other elements of the sentence that are connected to a noun (such as adjectives and past participles, for example).

Consider the two following sentences:

Marc a quitté Sophie en la traitant d'idiote.

Marc a quitté Sophie en lui prétextant être vexé.

In these sentences, the adjective idiot bears the feminine mark (extra final 'e') while the past participle vexé is left unmarked (no extra final 'e'). Without needing to understand the whole sentence you already can tell that idiote in sentence 1 refers to Sophie while vexé in sentence 2 refers to Marc.

  1. PLURAL

Several elements in the sentence might help you to know whether a noun is used in its singular or plural form. The most obvious clue is the presence of the articles les (the) or des (some) but, as we have seen above, adjectives that relate to the noun might also act as a clue.

Take, for instance, the sentence "Il s'agit de choix difficiles". Here the fact that the adjective difficiles ends with an 's' indicates that we're talking about choices and not just about one choice.)

  1. THE POSITION OF THE ADJECTIVE

Note that the general rule about the place of the adjective after the noun should sometimes help you clarify expressions that might be a bit confusing.

Examples :

1) Chaque matin il achète un quotidien économique. (Given that 'économique' comes after 'quotidien', it is likely to be an adjective: so 'quotien économique' refers to a daily financial newspaper).

2) En utilisant mon vélo au lieu de ma voiture, je réalise une économie quotidienne de trois euros. (Given that 'quotidenne' comes after 'économie', it means it is an adjective: so 'économie quotienne' refers to a 'daily saving')