Learn French from scratch!
Leçon 17

Lesson 17



Monsieur :

Une question, Mademoiselle.
Vous avez le plan du Louvre ?


One question, Miss.
Do you have the plan of the Louvre?

Mademoiselle :

Bien sûr, Monsieur.
Voilà le plan. Le musée est grand et beau.
Vous voulez voir quel peintre ?


Of course, Sir.
Here is the plan. The museum is big and beautiful.
Which painter do you want to see?

Monsieur :

Je cherche les impressionnistes.
Où sont les peintures d’Auguste Renoir ?


I’m looking for the Impressionists.
Where are the paintings of Auguste Renoir?

Mademoiselle :

Je suis désolée, Monsieur,
mais Renoir n’est pas ici.
C’est au musée d’Orsay.
Les impressionnistes sont là-bas.
Ils sont aussi dans un pavillon
du jardin des Tuilleries.


I’m sorry, Sir,
but Renoir is not here.
It’s in the Musée d’Orsay.
The Impressionists are overe there.
They are also in a pavilion
of the Tuilleries garden.

Monsieur :

Pardon, vous dites ?


Sorry, you are saying?

Mademoiselle :

Regardez, j’écris :
le musée d’Orsay, le jardin des Tuilleries.


Look, I’m writing:
le musée d’Orsay, le jardin des Tuilleries (the Orsay Museum, the Tuilleries garden).

Monsieur :

J’y vais. Merci, Mademoiselle.


I’m going there. Thank you, Miss.


une question a/one question
question f question
vous avez you have (avoir to have)
plan m plan
Louvre m Louvre (famous Parisian museum, originally a royal palace)
bien sûr of course
vous voulez you want (vouloir to want)
voir to see
quel which, what, who
impressionniste m, f impressionist
le jardin des Tuilleries the Tuileries garden (huge park, the favorite place for Parisians to walk)
pardon sorry! excuse me! pardon?

peinture f painting
Auguste Renoir Auguste Renoir (French painter-impressionist)
je suis désolée I am sorry
être désolé to be sorry (m.);
être désolée to be sorry (f.)
ici here
le musée d’Orsay the Musée d’Orsay, the Orsay Museum
(in Paris; the exposition of the museum is dedicated to French art of the 19th and 20th centuries)

là-bas over there
pavillon m pavilion
vous dites ? you say/you’re saying
(dire to say, to tell)
j’y vais I’m going there

Exercise 1. Listen to the recording of the dialogue several times. Fill in the blanks in the sentences by recalling what you have heard:

  1. Une , Mademoiselle. Vous un plan du Louvre ?
  2. Bien sûr, Monsieur. Voilà plan.
  3. Le musée est .
  4. Vous voir quel peintre ?
  5. Je voir le musée du Louvre.
  6. Mais c’est très grand musée.
  7. Je cherche impressionnistes.
  8. Clé
  9. les peintures d’Auguste Renoir ?
  10. Je suis désolée, Monsieur, mais Renoir ici.
  11. C’est musée d’Orsay.
  12. Les impressionnistes là-bas.
  13. Pardon, vous ?
  14. Regardez, : le musée d’Orsay.
  15. J’y . Merci, Mademoiselle.


Masculine Indefinite Article un.

Masculine Definite Article le.

Plural Articles

The masculine indefinite article in the singular has the form un [œ̃], for example:

C’est un musée. C’est un grand musée. — This is a museum. It’s a big museum.
C’est un plan. C’est un beau plan. — This is a plan. It’s a good plan.

Unlike English, French has the indefinite article des [de] in the plural form, with countable nouns, in both genders, which is translated as some, any, or not translated at all, compare:

  J’ai un livre.
(I have a book.)
J’ai des livres.
(I have (some) books.)
  J’ai une question.
(I have a question.)
J’ai des questions.
(I have (some) questions.)

Note that before words beginning with a vowel or silent h (but not with *h), the letter s at the end of the article des is pronounced as [z], for example:

des amis [dezami] (friends); des étudiants [dezetydjã] (students); des hommes [dezɔm] (men); des hôtels [dezotɛl] (hotels).

The masculine definite article in the singular has the form le [lə], for example:

Le musée est grand et beau. — The museum is large and beautiful.
Le peintre Renoir est excellent. — The painter Renoir is excellent.

Before words beginning with a vowel or silent h (but not with *h), the article le takes the form l’ and is written together with the following word, for example: l’enfant (the child), l’agent (the officer), l’hôpital (the hospital), l’hiver (the winter).

The definite article becomes les [le] in the plural, same for both genders, compare:

  Voilà le plan.
(Here is the plan.)
Voilà les plans.
(Here are the plans.)
  La montagne est devant vous.
(The mountain is in front of you.)
Les montagnes sont devant vous.
(The mountains are in front of you.)

Remember that before words beginning with a vowel or silent h (but not with *h), the letter s at the end of the article les is pronounced as [z], for example:

les enfants [lezãfã] (the children);
les impressionnistes [lezɛ̃prɛsjɔnist] (the Impressionists);
les habitudes [lezabityd] (the habits).

Plural Nouns and Adjectives

The plural number in French is usually formed almost the same way as in English, by adding -s to the singular form of nouns and also adjectives, and it is not pronounced, for example:

C’est un musée.
(This is a museum.)
Ce sont des musées.
(These are museums.)
C’est une peinture traditionnelle.
(This is a traditional painting.)
Ce sont des peintures traditionnelles.
(These are traditional paintings.)

However, the addition of the plural ending -s does not occur if the noun or adjective in the singular ends in -s or in -x. These words have the same singular and plural forms, for example:

Je suis Français.
(I am French)
Vous êtes Français.
(You are French.)
Un vieux livre.
(An old book.)
Des vieux livres.
(Old books.)

Nouns that end in -eau in the singular add the unpronounceable -x in the plural, for example:

C’est un tableau.
(This is a picture.)
Ce sont des tableaux.
(These are pictures.)
C’est un chapeau exotique.
(This is an exotic hat.)
Ce sont des chapeaux exotiques.
(These are exotic hats.)

Most nouns ending in -al in the singular change -al to -aux in the plural, for example:

C’est un journal français.
(This is a French newspaper.)
Ce sont des journaux français.
(These are French newspapers.)

Remember that the noun travail (work, job) has the plural form travaux:

C’est un travail difficile.
(This is a difficult job.)
Ce sont des travaux difficiles.
(These are difficult jobs.)

Note that if a plural noun consists of several objects where at least one of them is masculine, you need to use the masculine form of that plural noun. For example:

Lucie, Marie and Pierre are students. Lucie, Marie et Pierre sont étudiants.
(Lucie and Marie — female names, Pierre — masculine.)

Exercise 2.

a) Fill in the blanks with the indefinite articles, first the singular form, then the plural form, as shown in the example.

jardin —
jardin —

pavillon —


musée —


question —


plan —


chose —


peintre —



tour —


polyglotte —


travail —


montagne —


Français —


étudiant —



b) Do the same, only this time use the definite articles.

bruit —


toit —


journal —


soir —


langue —


vignoble —


idée —



compagnie —


silhouette —


chanson —


étudiante —


oiseau —


hiver —



Exercise 3. Change the sentences to the plural using all the words that change in number.

Je regarde une grande maison. — Nous regardons des grandes maisons.
  1. J’ai un chapeau noir.
  2. Apporte un livre français !
  3. Le petit oiseau chante une chanson merveilleuse.
  4. C’est une question difficile.
  5. Il a un plan original.

Fused forms of the definite article with the prepositions à and de

The masculine definite article le and the plural definite article les merge with the following prepositions à and de:

à + le = au [o]
à + les = aux [o]
de + le = du [dy]
de + les = des [de]

For example:

Je parle à...
(I’m talking to...)

+ le garçon
(the boy)

= Je parle au garçon.
(I’m talking to the boy.)

Il parle à...
(He’s talking to...)

+ les parents
(the parents)

= Il parle aux parents.
(He’s talking to the parents.)

C’est le musée de...
(This is the museum... of?)

+ le Louvre

= C’est le musée du Louvre.
(This is the Louvre Museum.)

La visite de...
(The visit... of? whose?)

+ les parents
(the parents)

= La visite des parents.
(The visit of the parents.)

The feminine definite article la and the article l’ (see lesson 16 about it.) do not merge with the prepositions à and de, for example:

Je parle à la petite fille. — I’m talking to the little girl.
Je parle à l’enfant. — I’m talking to the child.
Les musées de la France. — The museums of France.
Les parents de l’enfant. — The parents of the child.

Note that the silent consonants at the end of the articles aux and des begin to be pronounced as [z] in case if they are followed by the words beginning with a vowel or silent h (but not with *h), for example:

Je parle aux enfants [ozãfã]. — I’m talking to the children
Voilà les peintures des impressionnistes [dezɛ̃prɛsjɔnist]. — Here are the paintings of the Impressionists.

Exercise 4. Open the brackets and use the words with the fused article when necessary.

Nous parlons à (le professeur). — Nous parlons au professeur.
  1. Il raconte quelque chose à (le père) de (Pierre).
  2. C’est la silhouette de (la Tour Eiffel).
  3. Parle français à (les étudiants) !
  4. Le fils de (le directeur) est marié.
  5. Parlez russe à (les étudiantes) !
  6. Les chansons de (les oiseaux) sont belles.
  7. Déjeunons à (la maison) ! — Mais je veux déjeuner à (le café) !

Some verbs of group III and the irregular verb avoir

The third group includes verbs that end in the infinitive form in -re, -ir or -oir, for example: lire, partir, vouloir. The verbs of group III mostly have the following endings in the present tense: -s or -x (1st and 2nd person singular), -t or -d, -ons, -ez, -ent. The peculiarity of these verbs is that their stem, i.e. the part of the word preceding the ending, may be changed during conjugation, compare:

Ecrire (to write)
The present tense
Person Singular Plural
1 j’écris nous écrivons
2 tu écris vous écrivez
3 il (elle) écrit ils (elles) écrivent
Imperative mood
1   écrivons !
2 écris ! écrivez !
Partir (to leave)
Person Singular Plural
1 je pars nous partons
2 tu pars vous partez
3 il (elle) part ils (elles) partent
Imperative mood
1   partons !
2 pars ! partez !
Vouloir (to want)
Person Singular Plural
1 je veux nous voulons
2 tu veux vous voulez
3 il (elle) veut ils (elles) veulent

The verb dire has an irregular form in the 2nd person plural:

Dire (to say, to tell)
Person Singular Plural
1 je dis nous disons
2 tu dis vous dites
3 il (elle) dit ils (elles) disent
Imperative mood
1   disons !
2 dis ! dites !

The verb avoir has irregular forms in the present tense:

Avoir (to have)
Person Singular Plural
1 j’ai [ʒе] nous avons [nuzavɔ̃]
2 tu as [tya] vous avez [vuzave]
3 il a [ila]
elle a [ɛla]
ils ont [ilzɔ̃]
elles ont [ɛlzɔ̃]

The verb following the forms of the verb vouloir appears in the infinitive form; the same way as in English, for example:

Je veux voir les peintures de Renoir. — I want to see Renoir’s paintings.

Exercise 5. Change the sentences by using the verbs in the singular form.

Nous avons un beau plan du Louvre. — Je ...
Nous avons un beau plan du Louvre. — J’ai un beau plan du Louvre.
  1. Vous avez un beau plan du Louvre. — Tu ...
  2. Nous voulons voir le musée du Louvre. — Je ...
  3. Ils partent à Paris. — Il ...
  4. Elles écrivent à Paul. — Elle ...
  5. Nous sommes étudiants. — Je ...
  6. Vous habitez à Moscou. — Tu ...
  7. Le touriste dit : « Où est le Louvre ? » — Les touristes ...

Question to object, adverbial modifier, attribute

I. Object is a member of a sentence denoting an object of animate or inanimate nature to which the action is directly or indirectly reffered, e.g:

He’s writing a book. — Il écrit un livre.
She’s looking for Impressionists. — Elle cherche des impressionnistes.
They’re talking to the little girl. — Ils parlent à la petite fille.

The highlighted words here are objects. You can see that in both the English and French examples they are at the end of the sentence.

Now let’s ask a question to each of these objects:

What is he writing? — Il écrit quoi ?
Who is she looking for? — Elle cherche qui ?
Who are they talking to?— Ils parlent à qui ?

Compare the interrogative sentences with the narrative ones, and you will see that in English the interrogative word (what, who, who to) is placed at the beginning of the sentence, while in French the word order does not change: the interrogative word (que/quoi, qui, à qui) is placed at the same place where the object was:

Paul’s writing a book.

— Paul écrit un livre.

What is Paul writing?

— Paul écrit quoi ?

He’s writing a book.

— Il écrit un livre.

What is he writing?

— Il écrit quoi ?


Cecile’s looking for Impressionists.

— Cecile cherche des impressionnistes.

Who is Cecile looking for?

— Cecile cherche qui ?

She’s looking for Impressionists.

— Elle cherche des impressionnistes.

Who is she looking for?

— Elle cherche qui ?


René and Edmond are talking to my mother.

— René et Edmond parlent à ma mère.

Who are René and Edmond talking to?

— René et Edmond parlent à qui ?

They are talking to my mother.

— Ils parlent à ma mère.

Who are they talking to?

— Ils parlent à qui ?

In writing, however, you will more often encounter questions to the object that are constructed by reversing the word order, namely:

Qu’écrit Paul ? Qu’écrit-il ?
Qui cherche Cecile ? Qui cherche-t-elle ?
A qui parlent René et Edmond ? A qui parlent-ils ?

Remember that in such cases, that is the reverse word order, the spelling of verbs and pronouns with hyphens and the inserted t is due to the rule you are already familiar with (see lesson 16).

II. If you need to ask a question in French to adverbial modifier — i.e. a member of a sentence that answers a question about the place, manner, time, purpose, cause of action or state — the word order does not change, it remains the same as in the narrative sentence, for example:

They live in Paris. — Ils habitent à Paris.
Where do they live? — Ils habitent ?

You’re leaving on Sunday. — Vous partez dimanche.
When are you leaving? — Vous partez quand ?

They’re leaving. — Ils partent.
Why are they leaving? — Ils partent pourquoi ?

A question to an adverbial modifier can also be asked by using the reverse word order, which, however, is more common in written speech. The word order in a French interrogative sentence is the same as in the English one, compare:

The Eiffel Tower is over there. — La Tour Eiffel est là-bas.
Where is the Eiffel Tower? — est la Tour Eiffel ?

Note how the interrogative sentence opening with the word pourquoi (why) is constructed in writing speech:

Why is Cecile crying? — Pourquoi Cecile pleure-t-elle ?
Why are René and Edmond leaving ? — Pourquoi René et Edmond partent-ils ?

Note that in questions with pourquoi we get additional pronouns at the end: elle (for Cecile), ils (for René et Edmond). Subjects in these examples are nouns.

And here is how the questions with pourquoi look like if the subject is a pronoun:

Why is she crying? — Pourquoi pleure-t-elle ?
Why are they leaving? — Pourquoi partent-ils ?

III. Attribute is a member of a sentence that answers the question which?, or what (kind of)?, or whose? The question to the attribute is asked in French with the word quel (you will learn its forms later, but you may have a look here: lesson 18). Quel is placed before the attributive noun, and the word order remains the same as in the narrative sentence, compare:

Paul wants to see Cecile’s professor. — Paul veut voir le professeur de Cecile.
Which professor does Paul want to see? — Paul veut voir quel professeur ?

You are looking for the Musée d’Orsay. — Vous cherchez le musée d’Orsay.
Which museum are you looking for? — Vous cherchez quel musée ?

Note that in writing, it is preferable to put the question to the attribute differently, namely by reversing the word order:

Quel professeur veut Paul voir ?
Quel musée cherchez-vous ?

As you can already guess, if you change the order of the pronoun and the verb, you have to write a hyphen between them, and if necessary, add -t, for example:

Quel musée cherche-t-il ?

Exercise 6. Ask questions in French to the words in bold:

  1. Les impressionnistes sont là-bas.
  2. Elle veut lire des journaux français.
  3. Il cherche le livre italien.
  4. Elle parle à son mari.
  5. Vous habitez à Paris.
  6. Elles partent demain matin.

Exercise 7. Ask the interlocutor a question that relates to the entire sentence using all the ways of asking the question. Where possible, address the interlocutor first with the polite form of “you” and then with the simple singular form.

J’ai le plan du Louvre.
Avez-vous le plan du Louvre ? As-tu le plan du Louvre ?
Est-ce que vous avez le plan du Louvre ? Est-ce que tu as le plan du Louvre ?
Vous avez le plan du Louvre ? Tu as le plan du Louvre ?
  1. J’ai une question.
  2. Je veux voir Paris.
  3. Je pars à Moscou.
  4. Clé
  5. J’écris à Paul.
  6. C’est un grand musée.
  7. Les peintures de Renoir sont au musée d’Orsay.

Exercise 8. Let’s see how you have learned the vocabulary and grammar of this lesson. Translate into French:

  1. We want to see the Louvre Museum.
  2. It’s a very beautiful museum.
  3. Here is the plan of the Louvre.
  4. Is the gentleman looking for Impressionists?
  5. They are not in the Louvre.
  6. Clé
  7. The paintings of the Impressionists are in the Orsay Museum.
  8. Sorry, you are saying?
  9. Where are the Impressionists?
  10. I’m writing: they are in the Orsay Museum.
  11. I’m going there. Thank you, Miss.

Mastering the language subtleties

If you do not understand the person you are talking to, you can ask them again:

Pardon ? — Sorry?

Vous dites ? — You are saying?

If you need to respond negatively to someone’s request, be sure to soften your refusal, for example, by using the expression I’m sorry, but...:

Je suis désolé, mais... (masc.)

Je suis désolée, mais... (fem.)