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Le Blog: Lingual Links

By angelaluke, Nov 18 2020 02:57PM

It’s often the little words in French that are most problematic and today’s grammar question is one that I often get asked. There are a couple of rules that can help:

1) Use ‘c’est’ when 'it' is followed by a noun. E.g. c’est une maison, c’est le printemps

2) Use ‘il est’ when you’re going to use an adjective on its own. E.g. Voici mon frère. Il est très marrant.

However, if the phrase involves an impersonal phrase such as ‘il est important’ then you can use either ‘il est’ or ‘c’est’ as they both mean a neutral ‘it’ here. So, ‘il est important de manger bien’ is as good as ‘c’est important de manger bien’ and both are followed by the preposition ‘de’. I’m sure you will have heard both, and that is where the confusion stems from – both sound correct and familiar… because they are!

You can also use, ‘c’est’ with an adjective if you are referring to an inanimate object. For example, ‘c’est ta voiture? C’est beau’. In this case, the adjective directly behind ‘c’est’ is always masculine, regardless of the gender of the object you’re talking about.

C’est claire? Or, il est difficile de s’en souvenir ? Do leave a comment, s’il vous plait :)

By angelaluke, Nov 10 2020 11:07AM

At LivelyLanguages, we’ve developed a technique to enable people to speak French, Spanish or German with fluency and confidence. In our sessions, people practise scripted conversations in pairs and pick up language through repetition and modelling. They then go off piste and enjoy authentic spontaneous conversations. The attendees can also investigate further and learn the grammar focus of the conversations before even attending the sessions. With our technique, we took learning out of the classroom and moved to pubs and cafés – a more suitable environment for sociable and fun sessions!

COVID and the subsequent lockdown changed all this, and could have resulted the end of our weekly sociable sessions that people so enjoyed and even the demise of LivelyLanguages. On the advice of a friend, we moved the sessions on to Zoom, with a paid package that included breakout rooms. Of course, it’s not the same as going to a pub or a café; you have to bring your own drink for a start! On the other hand, the lively pace of the sessions is maintained because the time in the breakout rooms is limited to four minutes, and everyone comes back to the main area laughing and smiling from their recent conversation. The attendees still get to speak to different people in the sessions and they can continue to use the crib sheets as little or as much as they like, which means that someone with advanced language skills can happily chat to a near-beginner.

Zoom even has some advantages over a pub or café setting – there is little ambient noise to interfere with people’s hearing in the breakout rooms and some people appreciate not having to travel to a venue, particularly if they don’t have much time to spare.

So, on balance, I’d say that Zoom is a really effective vehicle for our particular teaching technique. It certainly doesn’t replace going to a local venue, but it does enable people to carry on with their routines, social life and language learning – all of which are so important in the strange times we’re living in. What’s more, location is not currently a deciding factor when choosing a group and attendees often swap groups.

Since March, although we’re based in Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire, we’ve had people join from Yorkshire, Spain and New York and the community is getting wider and wider whilst our daily lives are still very limited. To be honest, when life gets back to ‘normal’, we’ll probably carry on using Zoom for some sessions and people can choose whether to opt for face-to-face or online sessions. I am sure many will adopt a mixture of both and that Zoom will always have a place in LivelyLanguages.

Feel free to leave me a comment about your experience with Zoom or a different video conferencing platform. It's always good to hear from you!

By angelaluke, Oct 12 2020 07:26PM

The easiest way to learn the imperatives (or command form of the verbs in Spanish) is to break them down into positive and negative commands and formal and informal pronouns. This blog is about the positive commands such as Listen! Speak! Or learn! using 'tú' or 'vosotros'.

In English there is no difference between a singular or plural positive command. Talking to one person, you’d say, ‘Listen!’, just as you would to a group of people. However, there are singular and plural forms in Spanish.

To form a singular command (to one person) all you need to do is take the ‘s’ off the end of the verb. So, ‘escuchas’ = you listen, ‘¡escucha!’ = listen! That is the same for -er and -ir verbs. Eg, ‘¡come!’ = eat! And ‘¡vive!’ = live!

To form a command to more than one person, you need to think of the infinitive, take off the final ‘r’, and add ‘d’. So, ‘escuchar’ (to listen) would become ‘¡escuchad!’, ‘comer’ (to eat) would become ‘comed’ and ‘vivir’ (to live) would become ‘vivid’.

And of course, there are some irregular imperatives, but luckily only in the singular and fortunately not too many!

Infinitve - imperative - English

Decir - di - say!

Hacer - haz - do/make!

Oír - oye - hear!

Poner - pon - put!

Salir - sal - go out!

Saber - sé - know!

Tener - ten - have!

Venir - ven - come!

Ver - ve - see!

So, how are you feeling about imperatives now! Comenta abajo para decirmelo.



By angelaluke, Apr 24 2020 02:38PM

The subjunctive in French is often referred to as a tense, but in fact, it is a mood, not a tense. A tense means that the action will happen, is happening or has happened, but when the action is not a given reality, we have to use the subjunctive in French.

There are many situations that can trigger the use of the subjunctive and the one we're going to look at today is obligation.

In English, this construction is straightforward (for English speakers... you'll be pleased to know that people learning English find it tricky!) We'd say, 'it is necessary / essential to pay in advance' or 'I have to explain some rules to you'. In French, however, you have to use 'que' and a second verb, which is in the subjunctive.

Let's look at this sentence: 'il faut que vous payiez 2€'. LIterally, we are saying, 'it is necessary that you pay 2€'. As we don't know whether they are actually going to pay the money, the second verb 'payiez' is in the subjunctive.

Without knowing the reasons for using the subjunctive, we can just learn which verbs will trigger it. So, some of the verbs that express obiligation (or a lack of it) and thus need the subjunctive are the following:

- il faut que...

- il est nécessaire que...

- il est essentiel que...

- il est indispensable que...

And now for the good news:

The formation of the subjunctive is not so tricky, particularly for -er verbs (which is the biggest verb group). Here is a link that explains how to form the subjunctive (click on the button 'LivelyLanguages' PowerPoints on grammar') http://livelylanguages.co.uk/explainer-videos/4594450317 (For best viewing, go to the top right of your screen and click on 'open' and then 'open in PowerPoint').

Et pour terminer, il n'est pas nécessaire que vous donniez un 'like' ou laissiez un commentaire pour cet article, mais cela me ferait plaisir... :)

A plus,


By angelaluke, Apr 18 2020 11:46AM

The French conversation via Zoom last week about remembering the good old times, le bon vieux temps, threw up lots of questions about the two verbs in French for 'to remember'.

If you'd like to say you remember having done something, you can do this with both verbs: je me souviens d'avoir visité le Musée d’Orsay' or 'je me rappelle d'avoir visité le Musée d’Orsay.'

You can also use 'se rappeler' or 'se souvenir' with the relative 'que'. An example would be, 'je me rappelle que nous avons visité le Musée d’Orsay' or 'je me souviens que nous avons visité le Musée d’Orsay'.

The grammatical difficulté comes when we want to use the pronoun 'it'.

'Se rappeler' takes a direct object - it's not followed by a preposition. So, for example, 'I remember the film' translates as 'je me rappelle le film', and 'I remember it' ie le film, would be 'je me le rappelle'.

However, because 'se souvenir' is followed by the preposition 'de', you can't say, 'je me souviens de le' ; you have to say 'je m'en souviens' because 'de' + it (le/la) transforms into 'en'. The beauty of saying, 'je m'en souviens', when talking about it (an inanimate object) is that no-one can check the accuracy of your usage of gender in French, as 'en' can refer to a masculine 'it', such as 'le film' or a feminine 'it', such as 'la visite'!

If, on the other hand, you're talking about remembering people, you'd use an emphatic pronoun such as 'lui', elle', 'eux' or 'elles' as these follow preposition. Therefore, 'I remember him' would be 'je me souviens de lui', and 'I remember her' would translate as 'je me souviens d'elle'. With se rappeler, you'd just use the object pronouns for 'him' and 'her'. 'Je me le rappelle' or 'je me la rappelle'.

The verb 'rappeler' can also be used without the reflexive pronoun 'se' and it's meaning is 'to remind' or 'to ring back'. Examples of these would be 'rappelle-moi de téléphoner à ma mère' (remind me to phone my mother) and 'je dois rappeler ma mère parce qu'elle n'était pas à la maison' (I must ring my mother back as she wasn't at home).

So, rappelez-vous que 'je m'en souviens' et 'je me le/la rappelle' veulent dire la même chose.

There are examples of the above grammatical constructions in our conversation last week 'Parler du bon vieux temps' which is also on Quizlet. Do comment if you have any questions or would like further clarification. A plus, Angela

By angelaluke, Nov 23 2019 10:25AM

Quoi crops up again and again in French conversation and has several meanings. First and foremost, it means what. It can be used in the abrupt way we use what in English to mean pardon, or to express surprise.

E.g. Paul : ‘J’ai gagné 5000€ !’ Sarah : ‘Quoi?’

It is also a question word and can be a substitute for ‘que’, although the word order changes and the tone is more familiar. So, you could say, ‘Que veux-tu manger ce soir ?’ or ‘tu veux manger quoi ce soir’.

Quoi is also widely used as a tag at the end of phrases in colloquial French. The nearest equivalent in English is ‘like’ or ‘innit’.

So here’s an example, Paul: ‘tu voudrais aller au cinéma ce soir ? Sarah : ‘Je ne sais pas. J’ai plein de choses à faire, quoi.’

Furthermore, quoi is used in certain expressions and idioms. In my opinion, these are what make a foreign language interesting, but also tricky, as the expressions cannot be translated literally. ‘A quoi bon…’ is a useful and common expression, meaning ‘what’s the point of…’ We often see in our crib sheets the phrase, ‘Quoi de neuf?’ meaning ‘What’s new?’ and this a great way to encourage the person you’re engaged in conversation with to talk to you (and so you become the listener.) A common way of saying ‘You’re welcome’ is ‘De rien’, but why not add variety to your French and use the synonym ‘Il n’y a pas de quoi’. It sounds beautiful… And finally, in our last crib sheet, we had the expression, ‘Tu as de quoi noter?’ meaning ‘Do you have something to write with?’ The de quoi used here is very handy as it can be used with many verbs. For example, you could say, ‘Je rentre plus tard. Il y a de quoi manger dans le frigo, d’accord ?’ meaning ‘I’m coming home later. There’s something to eat in the fridge, okay ?’

So there you have it – another small word in French with a myriad of meanings! J’espère que vous avez trouvé cet article utile, quoi :)

By angelaluke, Jan 11 2019 05:17PM

‘Perhaps’, in French, is maybe not as straightforward as it first seems (but at least French only has one word: ‘peut-être’ for our ‘perhaps’ and ‘maybe’!)

There are three ways that ‘peut-être’ can be used if you want to be wholly accurate in French. The first way is to position the word in the middle of a sentence surrounded by commas. E.g. nous allons, peut-être, arriver en retard.

However, we often want to start a sentence with ‘peut-être’ and therefore there are two rules to choose from.

Firstly, you can follow ‘peut-être’ with ‘que’ and then the rest of the sentence. E.g. Peut-être que nous allons arriver en retard. Or you can invert the subject and verb directly after ‘peut-être’. E.g. Peut-être allons-nous arriver en retard. Just bear in mind that if the subject of the sentence is a name, you need to add the relevant pronoun too when you invert. E.g. Peut-être Paul et moi, allons-nous arriver en retard. And if you need the pronouns ‘il’, ‘elle’, ‘ils’, ‘elles’ or ‘on’, you need to add an extra ‘t’ to aid pronunciation. E.g. Peut-être Jean va-t-il arriver en retard.

So, if you just want to take just one thing from this blog entry, make it this: if you start a sentence with ‘peut-être’ in French, bolt the ‘que’ onto it and then continue with your sentence. French speakers will love your mastery of the language, peut-être!

If you have enjoyed this entry, peut-être que vous voulez me laisser un petit commentaire. Ou peut-être avez-vous une question. Dans ce cas, n’hésitez pas d’appuyer sur le panic button !

By angelaluke, Oct 10 2017 03:52PM

Quizlet is an online learning tool that was the brainchild of an American adolescent, Andrew Sutherland. He devised Quizlet to help him revise his French vocabulary test, which he then aced. However, its popularity has spread but not just amongst teachers and students. It is now well-liked and used all over the world by 20 million people each month.

Here are 5 reasons why we should love Quizlet:

1. It's free

Anyone can use Quizlet and upload material onto it. There is an option to upgrade but the free version is good.

2. Others may have already uploaded what you are looking for

There is a very useful search facility and quite often, someone else will have already uploaded something that you were thinking of uploading. Plus, you are sometimes able to edit other people's material. And you can find material on all sorts of subjects, not just languages. I've just looked for and found a set of flashcards on the A level biology topic of lipids and another on presidents of the United States!

3. Quizlet accommodates all learning styles

Whatever your learning style, Quizlet ensures you can use it. Thus there are flashcards with sound for the visual and auditory learners, match for the kinaesthetic ones and learn for the people who learn through reading and writing. Most people find that their learning style is a blend of one or more of the above, so it's worth varying the exercises.

4. Quizlet keeps you up to date with your progress

You are given a score for each activity and in the case of 'write', if you have missed or added punctuation, a capital letter or a superfluous word, you are able to use the 'overwrite' function and so you are not penalised for these so-called errors.

5. You can become a member of a class.

You can request to join a class or you could be sent a link to join a class. The benefits of joining a class include the fact that you are notified of any new sets of flashcards, plus you have access to all the flashcard sets ever created for that class. Here's a link to the Spanish and French conversation groups: https://quizlet.com/join/tYkGTzB2A and https://quizlet.com/join/eSXYtvSkr respectively.

And let's not forget that Quizlet can be accessed via a mobile, tablet or computer, so you're good to go, wherever you are!

So, why not join the classes or save the link so that you can find all previous conversations that we've practiced in our conversation groups...

Lastly, I'd love to hear if you've got any tips on using Quizlet. Put them in the comments box below. Thanks, Angela

By angelaluke, Mar 25 2017 02:15PM

So this week's conversation had one phrase that

four people asked me about: 'Il ne cesse de pleuvoir'.

Why was there no 'pas' to accompany the 'ne'?

The 'ne' used on its own like in the phrase above is called the 'ne littéraire' and there are seven verbs whose meanings are rendered negative just by adding the 'ne'. The first six verbs are: cesser, oser, pouvoir and, less common, bouger, daigner, and manquer. And so, 'il ne cesse de pleuvoir' means 'it hasn't stopped raining' or 'it keeps on raining'.

The seventh verb is savoir and the 'ne' can be used on its own under three conditions. Firstly, if the sentence expresses doubt, 'je ne sais s'il arrive', secondly. with 'would', je ne saurais comment y aller', and thirdly with a question word, 'il ne sait quoi dire'. However, we cannot use 'ne' on its own if we are talking about a skill or a fact, for example 'je ne sais pas parler chinois'.

The other instance when 'ne' can be used without 'pas' is called the 'ne explétif ' and, unlike the 'ne littéraire', it does not have a negative meaning. However it is used in situations where the main clause has a verb with a negative meaning to express fear, warning, doubt, and denial. Here's an example: J'ai peur qu'il ne fasse trop froid'. The 'ne explétif ' is also used after certain conjunctions, namely, à moins que, avant que, de crainte que, de peur que and sans que. So, for example, we could say, 'j'irai à la plage demain à moins qu’il ne pleuve.'

In common parlance, you can get away without using either the 'ne littéraire' or the 'ne explétif ' but if you want to use stylised, beautiful-sounding French, having a couple of set phrases up your sleeve can be a good idea.

Please let me know if you have found this useful, or use our panic button if you'd like more detail on this. We are always happy to help... à moins que la question ne soit trop difficile bien sûr :)

À bientôt,


By angelaluke, Mar 17 2017 03:34PM

Recent scripted conversations threw up some imaginative endings when people were faced with the realisation that they had gone the wrong way, ‘on s’est trompés de route!’. This led to all sorts of scenarios.

What’s in this grammatically?

The grammar here involves a reflexive verb in the past tense but the best way forward is to learn the set phrase, ‘je me suis trompé(e) de...’ as you can then add any noun onto the ending. In English we have many ways of expressing this: je me suis trompé(e) d’adresse means ‘I got the wrong address’, and ‘ je me suis trompé(e) de ville’ could mean ‘I went to the wrong town’. ‘Je me suis trompé(e)’ on its own means that you made a mistake. However, ensure you use the reflexive pronoun, otherwise it means you are deceiving, betraying or cheating on someone, instead of you making a mistake. So, ‘elle a trompé son mari’ means that she had an affair, which I guess is still getting the husband wrong in a way!

Not to be confused with...

There is a very similar verb: ‘tremper’ which means ‘to soak’, so ‘je suis trempé(e) jusqu’aux os’ means that you are soaked to the bone.

Please leave me a comment if you have found this useful or use the panic button on the right if you'd like more information on this or you have another grammar conundrum.



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