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Le Blog: Lingual Links

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.



By angelaluke, Mar 4 2017 08:17PM

It is often said that developing foreign language listening skills is the hardest skill to master, yet it’s also one of the most important ones. What can we do to improve listening comprehension?

Well, it goes without saying that practice makes perfect. But if you’re not living in the country, how can you listen to authentic language? Actually, there are lots of ways and mixing up your sources of listening material will stop you getting bored.


With the Internet, it is very easy to search for radio stations in your country of choice. Whilst it’s true to say that radio presenters seem to talk particularly fast, radio programing follows a format. Therefore, start by listening on the hour, in order to hear the time, news headlines and maybe the weather. These sound bites are enough to get you started. The radio also makes great background noise and, the more you listen, the more your ear will get attuned. Here is a link to a marvellous site: radio garden - http://radio.garden/live/ You can spin the globe and listen to any live radio station in the world in real time – awesome!

Songs with lyrics

And if music is your thing, why not listen to foreign songs with lyrics. You can search on YouTube and if you’d like French lyrics, search for ‘chansons en français avec paroles’ and for Spanish, ‘canciones en español con letra’. You’ll find a huge choice and the lyrics on the videos help make the listening more accessible. The other day I was searching for songs in French and came across Sara’H who sings French covers of British and American artists. So, if you are a fan of Adele, you can hear ‘Hello’ in French. Knowing the song in the original language helps your comprehension enormously. Here is link to Sara’H’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/sarahageali


Podcasts are a great way to listen to relatively short bursts of French or Spanish and you can often get the transcript if you subscribe. There are many to choose from, but a French one I particularly like is called ‘One Thing in a French Day’ and the podcasts are produced three times a week. Here is a link: http://onethinginafrenchday.podbean.com/ For Spanish I like Audiria, with its transcripts and online exercises: http://audiria.com

Or maybe you prefer films?

Films are another entertaining way to improve listening skills, and give great insight into the country’s culture. Amazon has a fabulous collection of foreign films under the genre ‘International’ and if you are an Amazon Prime customer, the films are free to watch. It’s also worth checking what’s on in your local town. In Farnham, for example, Brasserie Blanc shows French films every Monday in their secret cinema upstairs and the Maltings also puts on foreign films. Don’t worry that the films are subtitled - the subtitles are there so that you can check how closely the English adheres to the original script!

Lastly, flashcards.

Building your vocabulary is another important language task and quizlet.com here kills two birds with one stone. Quizlet’s flashcard and online activities are great. You can search for any topic or easily add your own set. However, what I like is the fact that the site has built-in audio so you can listen to the words on the flashcards in the foreign language. Why not give this a try! https://quizlet.com/

Hold conversations with people who speak the language you’re learning.

Ultimately, we learn a foreign language to be able to communicate with other people so conversation groups are a great way to practice listening and speaking. Anyone who attends our French or Spanish conversation groups will know this, but if you can’t find a group near you, why not look to chat online? There are many sites that will help you find an online chat partner but here’s one I like: https://www.conversationexchange.com/

So, what do you do to practise listening? And what might you try now you’ve read this? Please leave me a comment below as I’d love to hear what you do and, if you’ve liked this article, please share it on your favourite social media.

Merci et gracias, Angela

By angelaluke, Feb 20 2017 04:41PM

Shrove Tuesday for us – Carnival for them!

So, it's a week tomorrow until Shrove Tuesday when in Britain we traditionally have pancakes, historically to use up all the rich food before eating more simple food during Lent. However, I have to say that some parts of Spain do much better than this; like Venice, certain towns put on a carnival. This lasts typically over a week and ends on Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. Their logic is to party hard before the forty days of simpler living. And party they do…

Vilanova i la Geltrú

In this coastal town 40 kilometres south of Barcelona, the carnival program started on 5th February and involves several balls with live music, activities for children, poetry readings, processions, meringue-throwing, and a huge boiled-sweet battle between different local groups, to the sound of live music. If you have a chance to be in the area, it’s well-worth visiting, particularly the sweet battle on Sunday 26th February, starting at 9am – but don’t worry, if you stay over on the Saturday you’ll be woken much earlier by the brass bands in the streets.

The Carnival King

Another part of the carnival is the arrival of the carnival king, Carnestoltes on Thursday 23rd February. His burial on Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the end of the carnival, but there is a still a ball that night!

Carnival in Catalunya

The Catalans take the carnival seriously and have serious fun. This is partly because Franco banned carnivals. Barcelona and Sitges also have impressive carnivals, the one in Sitges being particularly flamboyant. Given the excellent transport links along the coast, you could easily visit all three towns and sample the carnival in each. The atmosphere is fabulous and this would be something you’d never forget.

Have you been to any of these or other carnivals in Spain or Latin America? I'd love to hear about them...

Links to the three carnivals:

Vilanova i la Geltrú: http://www.carnavaldevilanova.cat/index.php/carnaval-2017/programa (in catalan)

Sitges: https://www.sitges-tourist-guide.com/en/events/sitges-carnival.html

Barcelona: http://www.barcelonayellow.com/bcn-events-calendar/details/11-barcelona-carnaval

By angelaluke, Oct 30 2016 04:12PM

You may remember being taught in school that the French for ‘us’ is 'nous'. And then you may have been told that 'on' in French is the equivalent of 'one', as in, one is not amused. However, language changes and evolves and, whereas in English the use of the pronoun 'one' is quite unusual and possibly old-fashioned, 'on' in French has gained in popularity and now is used much more than ‘nous.

A reason for this increase in popularity is down, in part, to a laziness of French speakers. As ‘on’ has the same verb endings as ‘il/elle’, the verb also sounds the same as the ‘je’ and ’tu’ forms, thus the speaker has to think less about conjugating the verb. Here’s an example: je regarde, tu regardes, on regarde.

Another reason for its popularity is the fact that the meaning can be quite fluid. We can use ‘on’ to refer to people in general (where in English often say ‘you’). For example, on doit se tenir à droite – you must stay on the right. But ‘on’ could also refer to you, me and the others we were with – on s’est bien amusés hier soir – we had a great time last night. Lastly, ‘on’ is used in French where English would use a passive. For example, ‘French is spoken here’ is often translated as ‘ici on parle français’.

If you are lucky enough to go to France soon, listen to the people around you and you’ll hear lots of ‘on’. And then try using it – you’ll sound more French and will spend less time conjugating the verbs… which will lead to more fluent French…

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