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If you feel rather confident about your dictionary skills, we invite you to put them to the test here (thereby skipping some of the current section).

Dictionaries often tend to abbreviate grammatical categories (nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.) in one or few letters, which you will normally see straight after the French word. It is easy to overlook them, but they do provide information that can be essential.

Try to see whether you can match each of the following abbreviations with the English word that belongs to the category they refer to.


Please note that you can use each answer only once

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Dictionaries, including those online, are not always straightforward to use if you are not overly familiar with them. To illustrate the complexity and to draw your attention to potential problems, simply look up the words mousse and livre using (also available as an application on some smart phones). Then watch the video below.

You now know that there may be several possible translations for one and the same words. It may be difficult to know which one to choose when this happens, but there should be some elements within the sentence that can help you identify the type of words you are dealing with (telling you whether it is a verb, a feminine or masculine noun, a preposition, etc.). As we saw earlier, the dictionary also relies on these categories to classify each word. If you're unsure yourself what differentiates an adverb from an adjective or a noun from a pronoun, you can refer to the glossary (although we will provide you with further explanations and more examples as we move along in the course and tackle each category in more depth). As we said before, the information provided by the abbreviation given by the dictionary can be very precious.


To take another example, look up 'ferment' in a dictionary. What are its possible translations?

If you looked the word up in a paper dictionary, you will probably have come across 'leaven' or 'ferment' as possible translations for the noun 'ferment'.

However if you look it up in an online dictionary, it will have provided you with an extra possibility - that of a conjugated form of the verb 'fermer'.

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Now consider the following sentence: "Ils ferment le magasin à midi". Can you tell what grammatical category 'ferment' falls into?

Since 'ferment' follows 'ils' (they), it is a verb. This also explains its '-ent' ending.Vérifier votre réponse
Try to translate the following sentences with the help of a dictionary:


Ce livre porte sur une ferme qui produit et livre des légumes biologiques.

This book is about a farm that produces and delivers organic vegetables.Vérifier votre réponse


La cuisinière ferme le livre de recettes et ouvre la porte du four.

The cook closes the recipe book and opens the oven door.Vérifier votre réponse


Les poules du couvent pondent rarement.

The hens from the convent rarely lay eggs.

Note that the '-ent' ending generally indicates a verb ending but most adverbs as well as some nouns also end in '-ent' (as is the case here) - so be very careful!

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