French Grammar — Structure

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Sentence structure

Declarative sentences

make a statement.

Interrogative sentences

ask a question.

They may start with a question word:

  • qui
  • quand
  • comment
  • pourquoi

Three most common ways to form a question

  1. Place 'Est-ce que' at the beginning of a statement
  2. Invert the subject and the verb, to make it a VSO sentence
  3. «Voice raised at the end: Tu parles français?»


The negative form of a verb comes on both sides of the verb: ne◌pas (or n'◌pas, if the verb starts with a vowel). When using passé composé, negate the helping verb.

The partitive

(Taken from this Wikibooks page, with slight modification)

"The partitive article de indicates, among other things, the word 'some. As for prepositions, de and le contract into 'du, as de and les contract into des. Also, instead 'of du or de la, de l' is used in front of vowels.

'When speaking about food, the partitive article is used at some times 'while the definite article (le, la, les) is used at other times, 'and the indefinite article (un, une) in yet another set of situations. 'In general "de" refers to a part of food (a piece of pie) 'whereas the definite article (le) refers to a food in general (I like 'pie (in general)). The indefinite article refers to an entire unit 'of a food (I would like a (whole) pie).

'When speaking about preferences, use the definite article:

J'aime la glace. I like ice cream.
Nous préférons le steak. We prefer steak.
Vous aimez les frites You like French fries.

'When speaking about eating or drinking an item, there are specific situations for the use of each article.

Def. art. specific/whole items
J'ai mangé la tarte. I ate the (whole) pie.
Ind. art. known quantity
J'ai mangé une tarte. I ate a pie.
Part. art. unknown quantity
J'ai mangé de la tarte. I ate some pie.

'In the negative construction, certain rules apply.

  • un or une changes to de (meaning, in this context, any) in a negative construction.
  • du, de la, or des change to de in negative constructions.
Nous avons mangé une tarte. We ate a pie.
Nous n'avons pas mangé de tarte. We did not eat a pie/ We did not eat any pie.
Nous avons mangé de la tarte. We ate some pie.
Nous n'avons pas mangé de tarte. We did not eat some pie/ We did not eat any pie.
With the negative partitive, use only de or d' rather than the entire partitive.
(Quotation taken from MU High School French Ⅱ First Half Unit Prerequisite Knowledge).


du de + le
des de + les
au à + le
aux à + les

Elision and liaison


In French, 'e' and 'a' are weak letters or weak vowels. When a vowel or silent h begins the following word, those letters are replaced by an apostrophe. The vowels 'u', 'o', and 'i' are strong letters or strong vowels. They elide only if the next word starts with the same vowel with which the previous one ends.


Closely-related words are pronounced nearly as if they are one.


This information is compiled based on the requirements specified in the document 'MU High School French Ⅱ First Half Unit Prerequisite Knowledge', a copy of which may be obtained here (as of 13 July 2010). It is quoted a few times throughout this document (identified by quotation marks or HTML <blockquote>◌</blockquote> tags, lacking other source information).