Eh bien… Lesson 4 of Essential French (EF). Besides for just introducing articles, which have nearly been beaten to death here, Lesson 4 offers a starter on numbers (ATYF covered them within the first Hour). But where ATYF’s introduction to numbers was meant primarily to highlight liaison, EF is able to cement much more by introducing time expressions. We’ll get there shortly.
I don’t think I need to go too far into articles, though they make up a significant part of this lesson. I will only point out some things that stood out or had not yet been encountered.
First, des is mandatory for the indefinite plural. Where in English we might say, “I have tickets,” in French this is not allowed. “Tickets” would need an article, something similar to English “some”. And this is what des does. Which makes me much less negative about treating it as a full fledged article. While its use as an article has a history and development, it truly is a plural indefinite article. Just remember, never J’ai billets. It has to be J’ai des billets. Or J’ai les billets, if the definite article is appropriate.
And discussing the linking of the plural definite article to following words finally prompted EF to use the word “liaison”!
I’ll mention two new pronouns and a note about one that has already received much attention. Both pour “for” and sur “on” are mentioned this chapter. The book’s example for pour, for illustrative purposes here, is pour ce soir “for this evening.” Sur would be used for being on top of something, as in, sur le bureau “on the desk.”
Also mentioned was a new use of de, as a descriptive marker. We have already seen it used in possession and partitive usages, as well as motion “away from”. But un billet de 10 euros “a 10 euro note” doesn’t really fall in any of those categories. Instead it is descriptive. Just one more use to be aware of. As an extension of the “away from” usage, de can also be combined with où; forming the contraction d’où “where from…?”
There is a common French idiom that makes use of the verb avoir to express “there is/isn’t”. The basic form is il y a…, and the negative is il n’y a pas… It looks like it should always have an article on the thing that there “is”, except in the question form Qu’est-ce qu’il y a… “What is there…”, where the word que is replacing the article-lead phrase. As with other uses of the verb avoir, the absolute negative requires that de replace the article.
If instead you are intending to point something out, you would use the word ce with the verb être. As with il y a, an article is required of the object being pointed out. To point out a singular object or person, use C’est… with appropriate singular article with the object. For plural objects, it is very similar, just replacing est with sont, thus Ce sont… And this yields negatives Ce n’est pas… and Ce ne sont pas…
Numbers, as I’ve already mentioned, were mentioned in this lesson – specifically the numbers 1-10, as well as 20 and 25. All of which are incredibly helpful in pointing out time on a clock (11 and 12 are surprisingly absent, however).
So, some helpful expressions relating to time:
- Quelle heure est-il? “What time is it?”, literally, “Which hour is it?” Note that heure is feminine and singular.
- Il est une heure (1h00). “It is 1:00.” Note that the subject pronoun is masculine and singular, while the hour (both number and noun) is singular feminine.
- Il est deux heures. “It is 2:00.” Note still the masculine singular subject pronoun (and singular verb form), but the feminine plural hour.
- Il est deux heures dix. “It is 2:10.”
- Il est deux heures et quart. “It is 2:15.”
- Il est deux heures et demie. “It is 2:30.”
- Il est trois heures moins cinq. “It is 2:55.”, or “It is 5 till 3.”
There are many other helpful time expressions, mostly in the vocabulary at the end of the lesson:
- soir evening
- un jour a day
- une soirée an “evening” (outing or reception, etc.)
- un rendez-vous a meeting
- une heure an hour
- maintenant now
- déjà still
- ensuite then
- un calendrier a calendar
As well, the days of the weeks showed up (note the case, which is appropriate for French, though not for English):
- lundi Monday
- mardi Tuesday
- mercredi Wednesday
- jeudi Thursday
- vendredi Friday
- samedi Saturday
- dimanche Sunday
We’ll just wrap this up with a few other useful expressions. It is worth learning une femme “a woman, wife” (pronounced une fahm), un mari “a husband”, gauche “left”, droit “right”, vrai/vraie “true” and faux/fausse “false”. Ah, and one more nationality, chinois/chinoise “Chinese”.