Apprendre la Langue Française (103e partie): la conjonction–que


The French word que, which contracts to qu’ in front of a vowel or mute h, has numerous uses and meanings. This summary includes links to detailed information on each use of que.

Comparative and superlative adverb

Il est plus grand que moi. He is taller than I.


Je pense que tu as raison. I think that you’re right.

Conjunctive phrases

Je l’ai fait parce que j’avais faim.  I did it because I was hungry.

Exclamative adverb

Que tu es grand !  You’re so tall!

Indefinite relative pronoun

Ce que j’aime, c’est l’aventure.  What I love is adventure.

Indirect commands

Que le bonheur vous sourie.  May happiness smile upon you.

Interrogative phrase

Est-ce que tu es prêt ?  Are you ready?

Interrogative pronoun

Que veux-tu ?  What do you want?

Negative adverb

Je n’ai que 10 euros.  I only have ten euros.

Relative pronoun

J’ai perdu le livre que tu m’as acheté.  I lost the book that you bought me.

When the French word que is used as a conjunction, it is equivalent to “that”:

Je pense qu’il a raison.I think (that) he is right.

Nous espérons que tu seras là. We hope (that) you’ll be there.

C’est dommage qu’il ne soit pas prêt. It’s too bad (that) he’s not ready.

Note that “that” is optional in English, but que cannot be omitted.

With verbs of wanting followed by que, the French structure is the same as the above, but the English translation uses an infinitive:

Il veut qu’elle aide.  He wants her to help.

J’aimerais que tu sois là. I would like (for) you to be there.

Que can be used to repeat a previously-stated conjunction (like comme, quand, or si) or conjunctive phrase:

Comme tu es là et que ton frère ne l’est pas…Since you’re here and (since) your brother isn’t…

Je lui ai téléphoné quand j’étais rentré et que j’avais fait mes devoirs. I called him when I got home and (when) I’d done my homework.

Si j’ai de l’argent et que mes parents sont d’accord, j’irai en France l’année prochaine. If I have money and (if) my parents agree, I will go to France next year.

Pour que tu comprennes la situation et que tu sois à l’aise…So that you understand the situation and (so that) you feel comfortable…

Que can begin a clause and be followed by the subjunctive, with various meanings:

Que = whether

Tu le feras, que tu le veuilles ou non.You’ll do it whether you want to or not.

Que tu viennes ou que tu ne viennes pas, ça m’est égal. Whether you come or or not, I don’t care.

Que = so that

Fais tes devoirs, qu’on puisse sortir.Do your homework so that we can go out.

Téléphone-lui, qu’il sache où nous rejoindre. Call him, so that he knows where to meet us.

Que = when

Nous venions de manger qu’il a téléphoné.We had just eaten when he called.

Je travaillais depuis seulement une heure qu’il y a eu un exercice d’évacuation. I had been working for only an hour when there was a fire drill.

Que = third person order

Qu’il pleuve !Let / May it rain!

Qu’elle me laisse tranquille ! I wish she would leave me alone!

Que can be used to emphasize oui or non:

Que oui !


Yes indeed! Certainly! You bet!

Que non !  No way! Certainly not! Not at all!

Que can represent something that was just said:

Que tu crois !(informal) That’s what you think!

Que je le fais tout seul ? C’est absurde ! (You think) I should do it all alone? That’s absurd!

Que can be used instead of inversion with direct speech and certain adverbs:

« Donne-le-moi ! » qu’il me dit (me dit-il)

“Give it to me!” he said

Peut-être qu’il sera là (Peut-être sera-t-il là)

Perhaps he will be there

Apprendre la Langue Française (102e partie): le verbe–falloir (usage et conjugaison au présent)


Falloir is an irregular impersonal French verb that is better known in its conjugated form: il faut. Falloir means “to be necessary” or “to need.” It is impersonal, meaning that it has only one grammatical person: the third person singular. It may be followed by the subjunctive, an infinitive, or a noun:

Il faut partir.  It’s necessary to leave.
Il faut que nous partions.  We have to leave.
Il faut de l’argent pour faire ça.   It’s necessary to have / You need money to do that.

When falloir is followed by an infinitive or noun, it may be used with an indirect object pronoun to indicate who or what needs whatever comes next:

Il faut manger.   It’s necessary to eat.
Il nous faut manger.   We have to eat.
Il faut une voiture.   It’s necessary to have a car.
Il me faut une voiture.   I need a car.

Falloir is used in a number of expressions, including:

ce qu’il faut – what is needed
Il a bien fallu ! – I/We/They had to!
s’il le faut – if (it’s) necessary
Faudrait voir à voir (informal) – Come on! Come off it!
Il faut ce qu’il faut (informal) – You’ve got to do things right

The impersonal pronominal construction s’en falloir means to be missing or short of something, as in “this action did not occur because something was missing”:

Tu as raté son appel, il s’en est fallu de 10 minutes.    You missed his call by 10 minutes.
Je n’ai pas perdu, mais il s’en est fallu de peu.    I very nearly lost (I didn’t lose, but it was close).

Present tense   il faut
Imperfect   il fallait
Future   il faudra

Apprendre la Langue Française (101e partie): reconnaître les phrases

Source: Berlitz French Grammar Handbook

A sentence is a spoken or written utterance that has a subject and a predicate.  When talking we often say things that are not sentences, but in writing we usually try to use complete sentences.  The way a sentence is put together is known as its syntax.

Generally speaking the subject is the word or phrase whose action or state the sentence is describing.

Le ferry part de Douvres à sept heures. The ferry leaves Dover at seven o’clock.

Nous sommes heureux de partir en vacances. We are happy to be going on vacation.

Il pleut. It is raining.

The verb may be used in a form known as the passive, which means that the subject of the verb, instead of doing the action of the verb, becomes the receiver of the action.

Tous les passagers sont accueillis par l’equipe du bateau. All the passengers are welcomed by the crew of the ship.

Sometimes the subject is omitted but understood. This happens in command forms.

Prenez vos places dans le restaurant, s’il vous plaît.  Take your places in the restaurant, please.

The predicate consists of the whole of the rest of the sentence, excluding the subject. It must have at least a main verb, that is, a verb in one of the simple tenses. This verb agrees with the subject; that is its form changes to match the subject.

Le bateau arrive. The ship arrives.

Les passagers regagnent leurs voitures. The passengers return to their vehicles.

However, most predicates have more than the minimum requirement of a main verb.

Les passagers regagnent leurs voitures avec impatience. The passengers return to their vehicles impatiently.

There are three types of complete sentence:

  • statements, which are the basic form;
  • direct questions;
  • commands.

All three types must have a main clause; they may also have any number of subordinate clauses.

A main clause is the key grammatical element of a sentence to which any other parts are connected. It can often stand by itself, though of course it may not make much sense on its own.  The main clause does not necessarily open the sentence, though it often does.

Les Robinson cherchent une boulangerie. The Robinsons look for a bakery.


Une fois qu’ils sont sortis du port, les Robinson ont cherché une boulangerie, parce qu’ils adorent le pain français. Once they are out of the clock area, the Robinsons look for a bakery, because they love French bread.

A subordinate clause is always dependent on a main clause, whose meaning it completes or expands. It is linked to the main clause by one of three types of word:

  • a subordinating conjunction (such as une fois que and parce que);
  • a question word, such as (where), pourquoi (why), quand (when), or combien (how much); and
  • a relative pronouns such as qui (who/which), or que (whom/which).

John Robinson demande à un passant où se trouve la boulangerie la plus proche. John Robinson asks a passerby where the nearest bakery is.

Le passant, qui habite le quartier, donne les indications au visiteur anglais.  The passerby, who lives in the neighborhood, gives directions to the English visitor.

Apprendre la Langue Française (100e partie): le verbe–devoir (usage et conjugaison au présent)


Devoir is one of the most common French verbs. It is irregular in conjugation and has a number of different meanings related to concepts like obligation and probability.

1. Obligation and necessity

    Dois-tu étudier ce soir ?
    Do you have to study tonight?
    Elles doivent manger.
    They must / need to eat.

2. Probability and supposition

    Il doit rentrer avant le dîner
    He should / will probably be back before dinner
    Nous devons gagner plus cette année
    We should earn more this year.
    Elle doit être à l’école
    She must be at school

3. Expectation and intention

    Je devais aller avec eux
    I was supposed to go with them.
    Il devait le faire, mais il a oublié
    He was supposed to do it, but he forgot

4. Fatalism and inevitability

    Il devait perdre un jour
    He had to / was bound to lose one day
    Elle ne devait pas l’entendre avant lundi
    She wasn’t to hear it until Monday

Translating devoir
Devoir can be translated by should, must, ought to, have to, supposed to – the distinction between necessity and probability is not always clear:

    Je dois faire la lessive
    I should/must/have to do the laundry
    Il doit arriver demain
    He is supposed to / should / has to arrive tomorrow

To specify “must” rather than “should,” add a word like absolument or vraiment:

    Je dois absolument partir
    I really have to go
    Nous devons vraiment te parler
    We must speak to you

To specify “should” rather than “must,” use the conditional:

    Tu devrais partir
    You should leave.
    Ils devraient lui parler
    They should talk to him.

To say that something that “should have” happened, use the conditional perfect of devoir plus the infinitive:

    Tu aurais dû manger
    You should have eaten.
    J’aurais dû étudier
    I should have studied.

Devoir as a transitive verb
When used transitively (and thus not followed by a verb), devoir means “to owe”:

    Combien est-ce qu’il te doit ?
    How much does he owe you?
    Pierre me doit 10 francs
    Pierre owes me 10 francs

Present tense

    je dois
    tu dois
    il doit
    nous devons
    vous devez
    ils doivent

Apprendre la Langue Française (99e partie): les nombres ordinaux et les fractions


Ordinal numbers are used to express rank or position – in other words, ordinal numbers are used for ordering, as opposed to cardinal numbers which are used for counting. French ordinal numbers are often taught at the same time as fractions because, beginning with “fifth,” French ordinal numbers and fractions are the same word.

Ordinal Numbers

first premier
1st 1er
second deuxième 2nd 2e
third troisième 3rd 3e
fourth quartrième 4th 4e
fifth cinquième 5th 5e
sixth sixième 6th 6e
seventh septième 7th 7e
eighth huitième 8th 8e
ninth neuvième 9th 9e
tenth dixième 10th 10e


half une moitiè
1/3 un tiers
1/4 un quart
1/5 un cinquième
1/6 un sixième
1/7 un septième
1/8 un huitième
1/9 un neuvième
1/10 un dixième
3/4 trois quarts
2/5 deux cinquièmes

All ordinal numbers (except first) and most fractions are created from their corresponding cardinal number:

cardinal number drop the final e (if any) add -ième
six six sixième
onze onz onzième
vingt et un vingt et un vingt et unième

Watch out for the spelling changes in cinquième and neuvième. Ordinal numbers are not used to talk about dates in French, except for premier.