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Simple French Sentences

Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

While it may seem easy to just memorize vocabulary, eventually you'll need to put those words to use in sentences. This lesson will help you jump-start that process and make French more useful to you today.

Creating Simple French Sentences

While you may just now be at the point in your study of French where most of what you're learning is just isolated words, you know the day of using sentences is coming. Of course, most children learn a language by learning words first, then full sentences, and while it may be difficult to try to squeeze all your complex thoughts through the eye of the needle that is your current understanding of French, this lesson will help you greatly widen that needle eye!

In this lesson, we're going to learn how to compose basic French sentences. None of what we'll learn will help you earn any great prizes of French literature immediately, but it will help you better understand the most basic building blocks of this language.

The Subject

Let's start with the beginning of almost every simple French sentence--the subject. In most French sentences, the subject comes right at the beginning of the sentence. As these two examples show, the subject can either be a noun or a pronoun:

Le chien mange.

Elle va a la banque.

In the first sentence, the subject was a noun, le chien, whereas in the second one, a pronoun, elle, was the subject. Based off this sentence, we have no idea who elle is, but we could probably figure it out if we had more of the backstory.

Again, in almost every simple French sentence, the first words will be the subject, and the subject will always be either a noun or a pronoun.

The Verb

Now let's find out what that subject is doing. The next part of a basic French sentence is the verb. The verb lets us know what is going on. Let's go back to those two sample sentences:

Le chien mange.

Elle va a la banque.

With the verb, we get more detail as to what action the subject is performing. We learn that the dog is eating in the first sentence, while in the second, we learn that our mystery woman represented by elle is going. To find out where, we have to go to the next section.

Adding Detail

French sentences, much like English sentences, would be incredibly boring if they were just comprised of nouns, pronouns, and verbs. Therefore, it's a good thing that we can quickly add detail with various other parts of speech. We can use adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, and conjunctions to make our writing and speech more interesting and more informative. Let's look at those sentences one more time, with a modification in the first:

Le grand chien mange.

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