45 Days of French – Day 24

Hour 11 of Alpha Teach Yourself French in 24 Hours (ATYF) is today’s focus. For the most part it is about possession and relationship between objects. A lot of things covered. Actually, it was yesterday I covered this chapter – but I was unable to post my notes. Too late and too tired.

So here we go, with possessive adjectives, possessive pronouns, demonstrative pronouns (building on demonstrative adjectives which we have already seen), the French tout which deserves treatment of its own, and finally tonic pronouns and a list of related prepositions for remembering.

The Preposition De
The text begins by recapping the possessive/partitive article, and the usual manner of showing possession and relationship. But it does this by comparing to English, which I found a little misguided. It was one thing to point out the differences, and the need to learn French; not to force English on to French syntax. But it sounded more like ATYF was saying that French possession is both simpler and more elegant, two adjectives that fail to really describe the situation accurately.

In English, there are two primary ways of showing possession, the suffix -‘s with its phonological variations, and the preposition “of”. French has no case/noun modification for possessive or partitive usage; de “of”, is the singular manner of showing this relationship between nouns. Similarly, English will often nuance a noun by pairing it with another descriptive noun: “a bank employee”, for instance. In French, this is also accomplished with de, and there are only the rarest usages of nouns directly connected to other nouns without this intervening preposition.

So in French one uses {noun + de [+ article] + noun} to show possession. As is likely expected, de contracts with the article to form the partitive article. The article is common, and would indicate more specificity or closer association. Leaving the article out is more general and descriptive:

  • un employé de banque, a bank employee, “an employee of [a] bank”
  • un employé de la Banque de France, an employee of the Bank of France
  • la porte de la voiture, the car door, “the door of the car”
  • la soeur du rei, the king’s sister, “the sister of the king”
  • un sac de cuir, a leather bag, “a bag of leather”

The Preposition En
En can be used to emphasize a material’s composition, taking the same place as de:

  • un sac en cuir, a bag made of leather

Just keep it in mind. It doesn’t spend a lot of time on this, as it is not much more than a note. I’m not sure the range of contexts where one might choose to use en rather than de to make the point.

The Possessive Adjectives
We already saw the possessive adjective in Essential French (EF) on Day 12, so this will be a recap:

Possessor Singular Noun Plural Noun
Masculine Feminine
je mon ma mes
tu ton ta tes
il/elle/on son sa ses
nous notre nos
vous votre vos
ils/elles leur leurs

As has already been noted in previous days, mon, ton and son, though normally masculine, are commonly used before feminines that begin with vowels, much as the English a/an changes before vowels.

From all the examples I have seen, the possessive adjective acts much like an article, taking the place of an article in compound expressions. I can’t remember ever seeing an example that combined a definite or indefinite article with the possessive adjective. And possession, using de, would be rendered something like la voiture de ma soeur “my sister’s car”, ma taking the place of the definite article la.

The gender of mon, ton and son (and ma, ta and sa) is the gender of the associated noun, not the subject. So bury that fact deep inside the recesses of your mind. Similarly the choice of mon/ma or mes, ton/ta or tes and son/sa and ses is based on the number of the associated noun.

The Possessive Pronoun
This we have not yet seen, but you will immediately notice similarities between it and the possessive adjective, I imagine:

Possessor Singular Noun Plural Noun
Masculine Feminine Masculine Feminine
je “mine”
le mien la mienne les miens
les miennes
tu “yours”
le tien la tienne
les tiens
les tiennes
il/elle/on “his, her, its”
le sien la sienne
les siens
les siennes
nous “ours”
le/la nôtre les nôtres
vous “yours”
le/la vôtre les vôtres
ils/elles “theirs”
le/la leur les leurs

A major difference here is that the article is required. And as might be expected, it contracts with prepositions like de and à.

Demonstrative Pronouns
We have seen these as well in EF, on Day 15, however the description was minimal and partial. ATYF begins by reviewing the demonstrative adjective (ce, cet, cette, ces), and the use of -ci and -là to differentiate near and far objects, thus “this” or “that”. Three demonstrative pronouns sets exist, without much to distinguish why one would use one or other, except in the case of ce:

  1. celui, ceux, celle, celles
    • “this”, that”, “these” or “those”.
    • often combined with the suffixes -ci and -là to distinguish between objects, as in celui-ci, or celles-là.
  2. ceci, cela (ça)
    • “this” or “that”
    • Cela is often shortened to ça within conversation
  3. ce/c’
    • “this” or “that”
    • Used before être
    • Does not change to agree
    • Used instead of third person pronouns, usually

The Word Tout
This word is both adjective, adverb and pronoun, though what form it takes and what it means varies by the category. Tout, as an adjective or pronoun means “all, every” or even “each”. As an adverb it means “quite” or “really”. Thinking about that makes me think of the turtles in Finding Nemo: “Totally, dude.”

As a pronoun or adjectives, it takes the following forms to agree with the noun: tout, tous, toute, toutes. One peculiarity, however, is that as a pronoun,  the masculine plural form tous sounds like “tousse”, in other words, the s is sounded. I dislike that the book calls this “voiced”, as that means quite another thing to me! In any case, the adjective tous has the expected silent s.

Though the text failed to explicitly state this, the examples are clear regarding tout as an adjective. The forms of tout precede the article if there is one, yielding something like, “all [of] the…”. Fight the good fight to avoid inserting de, as French does not want it. And maybe use the idiom both for its own merit and as a memory device of this rule: tout le monde, literally “all the world”, means “everyone” or “everybody”. Note that it is a singular noun!

Finally, tout as an adverb actually does change forms! Weird, no? Before feminine adjectives beginning with consonants or an aspirated h, tout becomes toute or toutes. So if you see the form tous, you know it isn’t an adverb. I guess that is the silver lining here.

Tonic Pronouns
The last topic of this Hour is tonic pronouns. These are the forms like moi and toi we have seen used for emphasis, but they are used for so much more! The forms are moi, toi, lui/elle/soi, nous, vous, eux/elles. Note soi is used as a reflexive.

  • stress or emphasis
    • Toi, tu veux partir. As for you, you want to leave.
  • with être
    • C’est moi! It’s me!
  • with comparisons
    • plus grand que moi, larger than me
  • when the subject contains a noun and a pronoun
    • Paul et moi sont… Paul and I are…
  • after prepositions
    • avec moi, with me
  • alongside possessive adjectives in order to clarify gender
    • C’est son livre à lui. It is his book.
  • with some idiomatic expressions
    • penser à “to think about someone”
    • faire attention à “to pay attention to”
    • tenir à “to value someone”
    • être à “to belong to”
  • standing alone
    • As an answer to a question one might remark, Moi!

Note that the idiomatic expressions all involved the preposition à, almost making me inclined to combine them in the group “after prepositions”. Similarly, to express gender, it is using a fairly idiomatic phrase with à. I have simply followed ATYF’s categorization, though.

So that about does it. There is quite a bit of vocabulary based on the idioms seen in this chapter. So it is well worth reviewing, adding expressions to journal or other device for future study. All in all, a helpful Hour. Though to truly grapple with it all will take more than an hour!


About George

I'm interested in theology, languages, translation and various sorts of fermentation.
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3 Responses to 45 Days of French – Day 24

  1. Pingback: 45 Days of French | σφόδρα – exceedingly

  2. Pingback: 45 Days of French – Day 27 | σφόδρα – exceedingly

  3. Pingback: 45 Days of French – Day 30 | σφόδρα – exceedingly

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