No Continuous Tense in French

English has two present tenses: simple (“I write”) and continuous (“I am writing”), but French has no specialized continuous verb tenses. This means that “I write”, “I am writing”, and “I do write” can translate to j’écris (not je suis écris) and vice versa.

However, the idiomatic phrase « être en train de » is often used to indicate that someone is in the process of doing something.

  • Je suis en train de manger. — I am [in the process of] eating.

When translating, remember that English stative verbs have no continuous forms. For instance, « j’aime un garçon » cannot be translated as “I am loving a boy”.

… Je suis en train d’étude.
= Je suis étude.

… Je suis en train de bois du café
= Je suis bois du café.

Agreement of Pronouns, Adjectives and Articles

Pronouns, adjectives, and articles must agree with their nouns in both gender and number. Consider the examples below and note how the article and adjective change to agree with each noun.

  • Masculine singular: Le chat noir — The black cat
  • Masculine plural: Les chats noirs — The black cats
  • Feminine singular: La robe noire — The black dress
  • Feminine plural: Les robes noires — The black dresses

Not all adjectives change forms. For instance, riche is the same for both masculine and feminine singular nouns.

Plural Nouns

Plurals

Many French words have plural forms. Plural nouns and adjectives often end in -s, though the S is usually silent.

  • homme (“man”) ⇒ hommes (“men”)
  • femme (“woman”) ⇒ femmes (“women”)
  • chat noir (“black cat”) ⇒ chats noirs (“black cats”)

There are also plural forms for pronouns and verb conjugations. Consider parler (“to speak”):

Person French Example
I je Je parle. — I speak.
You (singular) tu Tu parles. — You speak.
You (formal) vous Vous parlez. — You speak.
He il Il parle. — He speaks.
She elle Elle parle. — She speaks.
We nous Nous parlons. — We speak.
You (plural) vous Vous parlez. — You speak.
They (any group including a male) ils Ils parlent. — They speak.
They (all women) elles Elles parlent. — They speak.

Personal Subject Pronouns

Personal Subject Pronouns

English French Example
I je Je mange. — I eat.
You (singular) tu/vous Tu manges. — You eat.
He/It il Il mange. — He eats.
She/It elle Elle mange. — She eats.

 

Tu or Vous?

French has two words for the subject pronoun “you”: tu and vous. For a singular “you”, tu should only be used for friends, peers, relatives, children, or anyone else who’s very familiar to you. In all other cases and also for plurals, the more polite vous should be used to show respect. When in doubt, use vous.

 

Subject-Verb Agreement

Notice above that the verb manger (as well as its English equivalent, “to eat”) changes form to agree grammatically with the subject.

Subject Manger (To Eat) Être (To Be) Avoir (To Have)
je je mange — I eat je suis — I am j’ai — I have
tu tu manges — you eat tu es — you are tu as — you have
il/elle/on il mange — he eats il est — he is il a — he has