Learn French from scratch!
Leçon 15

Lesson 15



Mademoiselle :

Bonsoir, Monsieur.


Good evening, Sir.

Monsieur :

Bonsoir, Mademoiselle.


Good evening, Miss.

Mademoiselle :

Monsieur Beaucourt,
voilà René Calot.
Il est étudiant.


Mr. Beaucourt,
here is René Calot.
He is a student.

Monsieur :

Bonsoir, René.
Je suis Edmond Beaucourt.
Je suis professeur.
Vous êtes Français ?
Vous habitez à Paris ?


Good evening, René.
I am Edmond Beaucourt.
I am a professor.
Are you French?
Do you live in Paris?

René :

Non, Monsieur,
je suis Russe
et j’habite à Moscou.
Je suis étudiant à Moscou.


No, Sir,
I am Russian
and I live in Moscow.
I am a student in Moscow.

Monsieur :

О ! Vous habitez à Moscou
et vous parlez bien français !


Оh! You live in Moscow,
and you speak French well!

René :

Merci, Monsieur.
Je parle aussi anglais et allemand.


Thank you, Sir.
I also speak English and German.

Monsieur :

Vous êtes polyglotte !


You are a polyglot!


bonsoir ! good evening!
mademoiselle f. miss, young lady
Beaucourt [boku:r] Beaucourt (surname)
René [rəne] René (male name)
Calot [kalo] Calot (surname)
il est [ilɛ] he is *
Edmond [ɛdmɔ̃] Edmond (male name)
je suis [ʒəsɥi] I am *
professeur m. professor, teacher
Français m. French (person)
vous habitez you live
(habiter to live (in), to inhabit)
à Paris in Paris

Paris Paris
Russe Russian
j’habite I live
à Moscou in Moscow
Moscou Moscow
Londres [lɔ̃dr] London
vous parlez you speak
français m French (language)
je parle I speak
aussi also, too
anglais m English
allemand m German
vous êtes [vuzɛt] you are *
polyglotte m polyglot

* est, suis, êtes - forms of the verb être (to be). More details below.


Unstressed Personal Pronouns as Subjects

You are already familiar with the pronouns il and elle and know that they do not have their own stress when used with verbs (see lesson 14). Remember all the French unstressed personal pronouns that are used as subjects in a sentence:

Person Gender Singular Plural
1   je [ʒə] (I) nous [nu] (we)
2   tu [ty] (you, sing.) vous [vu] (you, pl.)
3 masc. il [il] (he; it) ils [il] (they)
fem. elle [ɛl] (she; it) elles [ɛl] (they)

These pronouns are called personal because they indicate the persons who participate in the speech, and they are called unstressed because they merge with the following verbs in the flow of speech, like syllables in a word, and do not carry their own stress.

An interesting feature of the French language compared to English is that in French there are also stressed personal pronouns-subjects which are expressed by other words, but you will learn about them later.

If there is a word starting with a vowel or silent h after an unstressed personal pronoun, the following changes take place:

  1. The pronoun je loses its vowel and becomes j’ that merges with the following word, e.g.:
    je + aime = j’ + aime = j’aime (I love);
    je + habite = j’ + habite = j’habite (I live).
  2. The unpronounced letter s at the end of the pronouns nous, vous, ils, elles becomes pronounced as [z], compare:
    nous parlons [nuparlɔ̃] (we speak) — nous habitons [nuzabitɔ̃] (we live);
    vous parlez [vuparle] (you* speak) — vous aimez [vuzɛme] (you* love);
    ils parlent [ilparl] (they speak) — ils habitent [ilzabit] (they live);
    elles parlent [ɛlparl] (they speak) — elles aiment [ɛlzɛm] (they love).

    However, these changes do not apply to words starting with *h, for example *heurter — to hit: je heurte [ʒəœrt]— I hit, nous heurtons [nuœrtɔ̃] — we hit.

  3. * do not forget that vous is the plural form or the polite form. It’s not just a simple “you” that we have in English.

Présent (present tense of verbs). Group I

Unlike English, French verbs have more endings. For example, this is how the verb parler is conjugated in the present tense (the endings are highlighted in bold)

  Parler (to speak, to talk)
  Present tense
Person Singular Plural
1 je parle (I speak) nous parlons (we speak)
2 tu parles (you speak) vous parlez (you speak)
3 il parle (he speaks)
elle parle (she speaks)
ils parlent (they speak)
elles parlent (they speak)

Remember that of all these highlighted endings, only two are pronounced: -ons [ɔ̃] and -ez [е]. Therefore, you should read it like this:

nous parlons [nuparlɔ̃];
vous parlez [vuparle].

The other endings are silent, and if it weren’t for the personal pronouns, it would be impossible to distinguish some verb forms by ear, have a look:

  je parle
tu parles
il parle
elle parle
ils parlent
elles parlent



That is why it is very important to remember that in French, like in English, the personal pronouns-subjects are used with verbs. Compare:

Vous habitez à Londres ? — Do you live in London?

The verb habiter in the present tense takes the same endings as the verb parler:

Habiter (to live (in), to inhabit)
Person Singular Plural
1 j’habite [ʒabit] (I live) nous habitons [nuzabitɔ̃] (we live)
2 tu habites [tyabit] (you live) vous habitez [vuzabite] (you live)
3 il habite [ilabit] (he lives)
elle habite [ɛlabit] (she lives)
ils habitent [ilzabit] (they live)
elles habitent [ɛlzabit] (they live)

The verbs habiter, parler and many others belong to the so-called verbs of group I or the first group: they have in common the fact that in the indefinite form (infinitive) they end in -er [e], and in the present tense of the indicative mood they have endings -е, -es, -е, -ons, -ez, -ent.

There are three groups of verbs in total, and there are also irregular verbs, and you will gradually learn them.

Exercise 1. Complete the endings of the verbs:

Nous parl, il habit, elles parl, vous aim, tu parl, j’habit, nous aim, tu aim, elles habit, je parl.


Irregular verb être

Like the English verb “to be”, être has special forms in the present tense, which you are going to memorize:

Etre (to be)
Person Singular Plural
1 je suis [ʒəswi] nous sommes [nusɔm]
2 tu es [tyɛ] vous êtes [vuzɛt]
3 il est [ilɛ]
elle est [ɛlɛ]
ils sont [ilsɔ̃]
elles sont [ɛlsɔ̃]

Exercise 2. Fill in the blanks with the right form of the verb être:

1. Nous étudiantes.

2. Tu étudiante.

3. Vous étudiantes.

4. Elles étudiantes.

5. Je étudiante.

6. Elle étudiante.


Designation of profession and occupation

If you need to state in French people’s professions or occupations after the verb être do not use the indefinite article (if it does not include adjectives too). For example:

Je suis professeur. — I am a professor.
Vous êtes étudiant. — You are a student.

Note: The letter t at the end of the verb forms est, sont becomes pronounceable if the following noun begins with a vowel or silent h, for example:

Il est agent [ilɛtaʒã]. — He is a police officer.
Il est homme politique [ilɛtɔmpɔlitik], — He is a politician.
Elles sont étudiantes [ɛlsɔ̃tetydjãt], — They are students. (f.)

However, this change does not apply to the words starting in *h, for example, *hockeyeur — hockey player: Il est hockeyeur [ilɛɔkɛjœ:r]. — He is a hockey player.

Exercise 3. Translate into French:

1. Good evening, Sir!

2. Good evening, René!

3. Here is Jean. He is a student.

4. I am a student.

5. You are a professor. (polite form)

6. I speak German well.

7. He speaks French well.

8. He is a polyglot.

9. I live in Paris.

10. You (pl.) live in London.


Mastering the language subtleties

The French love to compliment foreigners on the way they speak French. Note, however, that very often this is just a courtesy...

The French treat their language very responsibly and with care, making sure that the penetration of foreign elements into it is minimal. The fight against borrowings, including scientific terminology, is conducted by special terminology committees, which annually publish dictionaries - lists of recommended French equivalents. At the same time the state pays much attention to the dissemination of the French language throughout the world. The policy of preservation and popularization of the French language has a special name - “francophonie.”