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Get ready for beginners’ French
Get ready for beginners’ French

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2 Grammar terminology

It is important to stress up front that a French sentence can look fairly similar to a sentence written in English or another European language (like the Romance languages you read about in Week 2). A sentence in French will start with a capital letter, and end with a full stop. Punctuation marks are broadly used in the same way as in English. Word order within sentences is also very similar.

When you learn French, though, you will be learning not just the names of things but also how to ask for things and express your opinion, and how to communicate on a more meaningful level. To do that, as a beginner, you will need to know a little more about what makes a sentence, and some basic grammar that forms the structure of the French language.

Words are the building blocks of sentences, and grammar is the set of principles that allows you to put them together in a way that ensures that others will understand what you want to communicate. Grammar provides tools to describe how language is used. It includes terminology which is useful to name different parts or aspects of language, for example ‘noun’, ‘verb’, ‘tense’, or ‘question’. Are you familiar with terminology like this? Try the activity below.

Activity 2 Grammar terms

Timing: Allows about 5 minutes

Read the sentence below, and select the correct term to refer to each individual word. Take a guess if you’re unsure, check your answers and read the discussion beneath to find out more.

Scout is a black dog.

Scout…

a. 

adjective


b. 

article


c. 

noun


d. 

verb


The correct answer is c.

… is …

a. 

adjective


b. 

article


c. 

noun


d. 

verb


The correct answer is d.

… a …

a. 

adjective


b. 

article


c. 

noun


d. 

verb


The correct answer is b.

… black …

a. 

adjective


b. 

article


c. 

noun


d. 

verb


The correct answer is a.

… dog.

a. 

adjective


b. 

article


c. 

noun


d. 

verb


The correct answer is c.

Discussion

Here are a few explanations for these terms:

A noun is a naming word, referring to people (‘Mary’), animals (‘Scout’, ‘dog’), objects (‘table’, ‘book’), or abstract notions (‘love’, ‘intelligence’).

A verb denotes an action or state: ‘do’, ‘is’, ‘eat’, ‘jump’, etc.

An adjective adds information to a noun, for example to add a description, like ‘black’, ‘nice’, ‘difficult’.

An article is a word that can be used with a noun, like ‘a’ or ‘the’ in English.

Don’t worry if grammar terminology is completely new to you! If you found the activity above challenging, don’t be disheartened. Learning to use terminology like ‘nouns’, ‘adjectives’ and so on is part of learning a new language. You will become accustomed to these terms over time as you develop your skills.