Yesterday, I studied Hour 5 of Alpha Teach Yourself French in 24 Hours (ATYF). I’m only now getting to post my notes and thoughts, random as they may be.
So what is Hour 5 about? Two things primarily: time (periods of the day) and dates, and then expressing oneself in the present tense. A lot of this has already been addressed amply through the numerous examples in Essential French (EF), but ATYF handles the material in a more descriptive way that does add nuance and detail.
Morning, Day and Night
The words for morning, day and night have masculine and feminine counterparts, that follow a consistent expressive pattern:
|morning||le matin||la matinée||all morning (long)
an afternoon theater performance
frequently combined with numbers as in 2 jours, 3 jours…
|le jour||la journée||all day (long)
rarely connected with numbers
|evening||le soir||la soirée||all evening (long)
a party (usually in the evening)
In order to say, “in the morning”, “in the day” or “in the evening”, you do not use a preposition in French. The definite article alone expresses this: le soir, “in the evening”. However, dans la matinée “in the course of the morning” stands in contrast to this, requiring the preposition dans.
Other useful expressions for time include the following:
|hier (au) matin
|demain (au) matin
|hier (au) soir
|demain (au) soir
the next day
or le jour d’avant heir
the day before yesterday
or le jour après demain
the day after tomorrow
Les Jours de la Semaine: The Days of the Week
The days of the week are not capitalized in French as they are in English. Also quite different, the week typically starts on Monday. The weekend is either le week-end or la fin de la semaine. The days are:
- lundi, Monday
- mardi, Tuesday
- mercredi, Wednesday
- jeudi, Thursday
- vendredi, Friday
- samedi, Saturday
- dimanche, Sunday
Also note the difference made by these two expressions. The only change is the article, but the force of the statement is quite different:
- Je travaille lundi. I work Monday.
- Je travaille le lundi. I work Mondays.
Months and Seasons
Here they are, also not capitalized in French as they are in English:
There are a couple ways of saying this, and they vary by what you are trying to actually say. If you intend to say, “Look [over there], there is/are….!”, use Voilà… If the object you are pointing out is really close by though (physically or figuratively), use Voici… instead. But if you are just trying to state the presence of something, and not pointing it out, then the proper idiom is il y a _____, which does not change for number or gender, being an impersonal expression. We have already covered this last expression in depth, but I thought it worth stressing the differences between these three expressions.
The typical structure of a declarative sentence is subject, verb, then direct object (or SVO), very similar to English. And like English, even though the verb form contains a marker for person, it is not typical to leave off the subject pronoun. A simple negative can be made by surrounding the verb with ne…pas, as we have seen on numerous occasions in EF.
The verb used has a lot to do with the structure of a sentence. One of the biggest features is transitivity. Transitive verbs (v.t.) govern direct objects. Intransitive (v.i.) verbs do not. And knowing whether a verb is transitive or intransitive is very important in French.
English “leave” provides a good example of French possibilities:
- partir [de], v.i., to leave [from]
- sortir [de], v.i., to go out [of], or, to go out on a date avec…
- quitter, v.t., to leave a place
- laisser, v.t., to leave something (behind)
The following verbs are usually intransitive: aller, arriver, descendre “to go down”, entrer dans, monter “to go up”, mourir “to die”, naître “to be born”, partir [de], passer [par], rester, retourner [à], sortir [de], tomber “to fall” and venir. However, descendre, monter and sortir, when provided a direct object, mean “to take something down”, “to put something up” or “to take something out of”, respectively.
Then, ATYF addresses three ways to produce a question:
- Est-ce que…, literally “it is that…”, or like English “Do? Does?”, before a normal declarative statement turns it into a question.
- Subject and verb can be inverted to create a question.
- This is rarely used in the first person
- A -t- is added between the verb and subject pronoun in the third person if the verb doesn’t already possess the sound t or d at its end. This still gives me a moment pause – not sure if it is in agreement with what EF suggested.
- A hyphen is used to connect the verb and subject.
- Change in intonation can produce a question. Raising the tone at the end of a regular declarative sentence will make the statement a question.
Imperatives, or commands, can be made by removing the subject pronoun altogether. Imperative forms are only available for the tu, nous and vous form of verbs. In the tu form of -er verbs, the ending -s is dropped unless it is followed by a vowel:
- Parle! Ne parle pas! Speak! Don’t speak! (note the removed -s on the tu form of parler)
- Finissons! Ne finissons pas! Let us finish! Let us not finish!
- Vendez! Ne vendez pas! Sell! Don’t sell!
The following verbs have irregular imperatives:
- avoir: aie, ayons, ayez
- être: sois, soyons, soyez
- savoir: sache, sachons, sachez
- vouloir: veuille, veuillons, veuillez
Having read ahead a little, it looks like the imperative is formed from the present subjunctive for these irregulars – but this has not been said explicitly. The imperative of avoir is rare, that of être common, and vouloir with an infinitive means something like, “please…”.
That’s it for the day (well, hier, anyway). Salut!