How to learn French Grammar for Complete Beginners ?

How to learn French Grammar for Complete Beginners ?

How to learn French Grammar for Complete Beginners ?

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How to learn French Grammar for Complete Beginners ?
The most common questions I get from my Complete Beginner students about French Grammar are : “How to learn French Grammar when you are a Complete Beginner ?“, “Where to start ?” and “Which path should I follow to learn French Grammar properly” ?

These questions are important questions because the way you will answer them will decide the way you will learn French language in the future. And these questions are not about starting to learn the greetings in French, the numbers, the colors and then your first presentation.

They are about something else. Something deeper than that. A students’ request that through the years I started to hear and understand more and more.

Here is what my Beginner Students were truely saying :

“My situation is the one of a Complete Beginner. French Grammar and French language are bigger than me, probably stronger than me. My problem is that I cannot see the entire problem I am facing. My problem is that I cannot perceive the entire Architecture of French language I want to conquer. If only I could see it entirely from the very beginning, I could always know where I am and always know where i am going in my learning. Is it, then, possible to perceive French Grammar in it’s globality at a Beginner’s Level ?”

The big picture.

Here is what Beginners in French asked for to become independant learners who always know where they are and where they go.

We are visual animals.

To the question “Is it possible for me to perceive the entire problem of French Grammar as a Complete Beginner?”  The answer is “Yes!”

You can perceive the Global Architecture of French language as a Complete Beginner.

And that would make your learning a hundred time faster and a hundred time more structured than if you would just jump into French without knowing where you go.

In this lesson, I am going to decompose with you the Architecture of French language in 5 layers for you to perceive the problem of French Grammar the easy way.

At the end of this lesson, you’ll find a quizz waiting for you to check your understanding of this lesson.

In the comment section, you will be able to record and share your voice in French with me and other French learners like you thanks to an exercise that I’ll be giving you.

Are you ready? Then, let’s start with an image.

First layer - The Vision

Let’s say that this morning you had this vision in your mind.

How to learn French Grammar for Complete Beginners ?
This image was the first one you had in your mind when you woke up.

So what does it mean ?

1° – It means first that we, human beings, have visions. These visions are the very first thing with which we operate through out our days and lives. We have visions, then we act, then we speak about these visions. They are the true engine that moves us toward… a cup of coffee for example. But that could be many other things! Like a goal in life.

2° – It means secondly that visions do not have any language by themselves. They are silent, like this image above, and they are waiting for us to give them a language. This language could be French. But it could also be chinese, spanish or portuguese. The vision in itself, the vision of the coffee would still be the same no matter the language with which one would express it. A chinese, a portuguese, or a French all have the same image of a cup of coffee in their mind when they wake up. But they don’t give the same language to this vision.

3° – We, human beings, have the capacity to attribute a language to our visions, while visions, themselves, are silent by definition. They do not have languages. When we speak with other human beings, we communicate visions to each other thanks to language. Language is a mean to communicate the visions we have in our mind, not the end. You, as a Beginner in French, want to communicate your visions, ideas, perceptions and emotions to other human beings thanks to French language. You have to put the effort to learn and speak a new code to transmit to other human beings these visions you have in your mind and these feelings you feel in your heart. Otherwise these emotions and visions will stay silent, maybe forever.

Second Layer - Silence

Silence. The real situation in which, you, as beginner, find yourself.

How to learn French Grammar for Complete Beginners ?
You want to communicate your visions, your perceptions of the world, your feelings in your heart… But you can’t… for the moment…

You can’t because you still have to learn how to master this new code you will use to speak to this very special group of human beings : the Members of the French-Speaking Community.

And they are waiting for you to learn the code they already speak. They want you to share with them what you feel, what you see in your mind and know more about your life.

Reversely, you want to learn French because you want to express these naturally silent aspects of your life and give them to the Members of the French Speaking Community, thanks to French language.

Having visions to communicate but being trapped into silence is the situation in which each and every Beginner in French finds himself when he starts to learn it.

You still need to learn the French code to go out of silence and to express your visions, emotions and perceptions to the French Speakers.

How to learn French Grammar for Complete Beginners ?

The third layer in between : French Language

From that perspective, language is one of the most marvellous creation of mankind. For centuries, language has left poets and philosophers wonder about its very existence.

But for the purpose of our lesson, we will only say that language is nothing else but a tool for you to go out of silence and express your visions, emotions and perceptions to the rest of the world.

French is one of these many languages human beings speak to fulfill these two desires.

French, as one of the most marvellous languages, comes, as a solution, in between the visions you want to express and the silence of which you want to go out.

How to learn French Grammar for Complete Beginners ?
Now let’s express in French this vision you had this morning and let’s go out of the silence you were trapped in as a Complete Beginner. Turn on the volume of your device and click the sentence below.

This sentence, said or written, “Ce matin, je voudrais un café“, helps you to go out of silence and communicate your vision or desire to the other members of the French-Speaking Community.

It comes in between your silent vision and silence itself as a pure expression of your desire.

How to learn French Grammar for Complete Beginners ?
As a Complete Beginner in French, you should always have in mind that French language and its structure are tools for you to express your visions, emotions and perceptions.

French and Language in general are mankind’s creation here to help you to go out of the Silence you experience as a Beginner when you don’t know yet how to express yourself.

French language comes in between your Visions and Silence. It comes as the solution of their relationship.

It is now time to deploy French Language for itself.

And French language is made of the 3 following layers :

  1. The layer of the Pronunciation (Sounds and Spellings);
  2. The layer of the Words (adverbs, verbs, adjectives, etc.);
  3. The layer of the Groups of Words composing your Sentences (group subject, etc.).

How to learn French Grammar for Complete Beginners ?
These 3 layers are the 3 perspectives under which you can look at French Grammar.

  • You can look at French Grammar under the perspective of the Sounds and Spellings.
  • You can look at French Grammar under the perspective of the Words and their 9 Categories.
  • You can look at French Grammar under the perspective of the Groups of Words and the Sentences’ structures.

When you speak and when you write, when you listen and when you read, all these 3 perspectives MUST be taken into account at the same time because they are all always there at the same time.

As a beginner, your task is to patiently build them all, one by one, to properly express yourself.

Now, let’s explore together the first layer of French language, the Pronunciation Layer.

The Pronunciation Layer of French Language

Exercise n°1 : Click each one of the colors of our sentence below.

Sounds. Sounds are what you produce when you speak to other human beings.

To produce our sentence above, you need to produce a series of 18 sounds.

And by speaking French in general, you will always produce the same 44 sounds to be understood by other French Speakers.

The French Sound System, famous for being difficult, is actually easily masterable because of its finiteness, because it is only made of 44 sounds.

The finiteness of the French Sound System is your best ally. We, French people, only communicate with each other thanks to 44 sounds. Explore this finiteness and master them all! It is about being sure of your French pronunciation. Click To Tweet

As a new French Speaker, it is imperative that you take responsability and great care of your pronunciation.

You cannot delegate this responsability to your listener by only relying on the meaning of what you say.

The meaning of what you say can be understandable by your listener. It doesn’t necessarily mean that your pronunciation is correct and pleasant to hear.

If you want to properly be understood by your listener and also be perceived as an elegant man or an elegant woman, you MUST take care of your pronunciation.

Fortunately, a great teacher of languages and mathematics named Caleb Gattegno, has invented a marvellous tool for you to master language pronunciation.

I use it all the time with my students.

At first invented for english language, French teachers from the association Une éducation pour demain have adapted this tool to French language.

I have also adapted this tool for online learning by adding clickable sounds to it. This way, you will always be able to train for French pronunciation at home whenever you need it.

Let’s have a look at this cool tool and do the following exercises.

Exercise n°2 : Click the chart below and train your ears to distinguish each and every French sounds. The 44 French sounds are all there. Not a single one is missing.

 

Amazing, right? As you can see, one color equals to one sound. This chart also compiles each and every ways to write each sound of French. But this will be for another in depth lesson about French pronunciation.

Exercise n°3 : Try to find the corresponding sounds of our sentence in the chart above. Help yourself with the colors and a trial-error process.

Found them? That’s it! You’ve just discovered the pronunciation layer of French language.

Conclusion on pronunciation : As a new French speaker, to express your visions, thoughts, emotions and perceptions to the other Members of the French-Speaking Community, you will have to master the first layer of French language, French pronunciation.

With this tool above you have everything in your power to become excellent at it.

It is now time for us to move on toward the second layer of French language, the Realm of the Words and their 9 Categories.

The Layer of the Words and their 9 categories

Words. All the words in French fall into 9 categories. When you look at a French dictionary, the tens of thousands of words compiled in it all fall into 9 categories and 9 categories only.

How to learn French Grammar for Complete Beginners ?
They are all there. As a Complete Beginner I recommend that you take the time to patiently meet, understand and conquer these 9 categories. I recommend that you make them your best friends. These nine categories all have a very specific function inside French language and each one of them should be perceived as a unique jewel with its precious qualities and lights.

If you take the time to meet the French Words properly, they’ll open themselves to you and show their most colorful shades of lights. Love them and they’ll love you in return. You’ll always be in your best light thanks to them.

My favorite category among those nine are the Adjectives. Because they are here to precise the nouns and because they bring emotions and colors to my language. I love precision and Adjectives always make me look good when I speak to the other Members of the French Speaking Community.

Each one of these nine categories of words have internal rules and external rules. Once you know these rules, French Words will simply enter at your service. They’ll submit to you and serve you the best way. They’ll make you look the way you want to look when joining the French-Speaking Community.

As an example of what an internal rule is : in French, the Nouns have by themselves a gender. This is an internal rule of the Noun Category that comes from the Cultural fact that for French people the world is either male or female. They have decided it to be like that. A historical arbitrary decision that reflects itself in the fundamental definition of the Nouns in French.

One of my past English student was stunned by the news the day she learned that for us the world was divided in two genders. More than everything, that it would reflect itself in our Grammar. She couldn’t believe it and was admiring it because she couldn’t believe it. For her, and since she never went out of England and was browsing the internet in English, the entire humanity was perceiving the world like she and English people did : Gender Neutral.

As I always say, Grammar is not a boring set of rules you submit yourself to without knowing why. Grammar is cultural first. It is historically and emotionally charged. It is a set of arbitrary decision people of the world have decided to set and follow for centuries. That’s why French Grammar is fascinating as a human invention.

Then, because of that arbitary decision to give a male or a female gender to the nouns and the things in the world, the adjectives you will use to qualify the nouns will receive this gender from the nouns. Qualities of the things in the world jump also from male to female. In French, there are both a male and a female way to be big or small or magic or colorful. As well as for all the other adjectives in French. Pronunciation of the Adjectives will change, ways to write the Adjectives will change too.

These are external rules. They are an effect of the relationship between the Nouns and the Adjectives put together in French.

Pay very close attention to these rules and you’ll master the 9 French Words’ Categories.

Here is a recapitulation of what you need to know about the Words in French.

How to learn French Grammar for Complete Beginners ?
Now, let’s train ourselves with our favorite sentence, expressing our morning vision of a coffee. And to understand it under the perspective of Words, let’s do the exercise n°4.
Exercise n°4 : This exercise is about being able to recognize the category of each word. Try to find the category of each word of our favorite sentence :

  1. Which words designate things in our sentence ? What is the category of these words then ?
  2. Which words introduce, identify or quantify these things ? What is their category then ?
  3. Which word designate an action ? What is its category then ?
  4. Which word designate the actor of the action ? What is its category then ?

Let’s check if you got it right :

  • Ce, is a Determiner identifying/showing/demonstrating/designating the thing it is related to : Ce matin;
  • matin, is a Noun designating a thing, a moment in the day;
  • je, is a Pronoun designating who is wanting a coffee, the actor of the action;
  • voudrais, is a Verb designating the action of wanting a coffee;
  • un, is a Determiner identifying/quantifying the thing/coffee it is related to;
  • café, is a Noun designating the vision you had this morning and now want to drink. It’s a thing.

How to learn French Grammar for Complete Beginners ?
Easy ? If not, by patiently meeting the French words, you will understand them more and more and soon you’ll be able to categorize and use them the way you want to. You’ll find all the ressources on this website to fully fall in love with French words.

Adding this discovery about the words to our schema, we end up with this :

How to learn French Grammar for Complete Beginners ?
You see ? Patiently, we are building the Architecture of French language.

To have a vision of its structure as a Complete Beginner will help you to navigate through your learning process.

Nothing is difficult here for a beginner. On the contrary, this lesson is here to make it easy for you. You just need to be concentrated and look to learn their internal and external rules.

You need to make these 9 categories your best friends to master the expression of yourself in French.

Now, let’s move on to the one last layer missing in our schema.

The Groups of words and the Sentences' Structures

Sentences Structures. To properly express yourself you will need to master this layer and make it yours too. It is actually not the most difficult.

We are not going to look at all the structure possibilities in this lesson. We will reserve it for another in depth lesson.

Today, we just want to approach as a beginner the structure of our favorite sentence. We want that you be able to perceive the practical utility of knowing the French language structures : they are here to serve the expression of yourself.

To understand that French language structures are here to serve you, we are going to take our sentence at its very core and rebuild it piece by piece.

How to learn French Grammar for Complete Beginners ?
As you can see, “je voudrais” is the most minimal sentence you could say and still be grammatically correct. But it doesn’t say much things, right?

Still, let’s analyze what we have. We have 2 Groups of Words : A Subject Group and a Verbal Group. 

  • With the Subject Group you precise who is doing the action : Je.
  • With the Verbal Group you precise the Action being done : voudrais.

That’s all our minimal sentence says.

Now let’s add more precision to it. Let’s say that you want to precise the Object of your desire.

How to learn French Grammar for Complete Beginners ?
It looks better, right ? We’ve just added the Object of your desire, a coffee. We’ve precised the “what” of your want.

For this reason, the grammatical category of this new little piece of language is : Direct Object.

In French we call this category Complément d’Object Direct because :

  1. It comes to complete the Verb (the action to want), Complément.
  2. It precises the Object that is being desired.
  3. And it is Direct because there is no preposition separating it from the verb to make it Indirect (this is for another lesson).

Let’s just remember the name of our new piece of language : le Complément d’Object Direct. It’s very simple.

With Grammar, everything is in the name of the category. The name of the category explains everything about its purpose inside your sentence. Categories are just tools serving you. Not the other way around. They are tools serving your desire to say what you want in a more or less precise way.

You are the master of French grammar. Reach this mindset and grammar won't be anymore a boring set of rules you submit yourself to without understanding why. It will become a tool at your service to fully express yourself. Click To Tweet

 

To prove that language is serving you, let’s say that you would like to precise the “when” you want a coffee. What would you add to our sentence?

How to learn French Grammar for Complete Beginners ?
You would add “ce matin”.

Thanks to which you’d be able to precise one of the circumstances in which you are desiring a coffee : the “when”, the time.

For this reason, we call this little piece of language : a Circumstancial Complement of Time (Un Complément Circonstanciel de Temps).

You use this Circumstancial Complement of Time to add more precision to your sentence simply because you want it.

As long as you respect the rules of construction of your sentences, you can add or substract pieces of languages as much as you want. We will look at these rules in another lesson to make you more free with your sentences and your expression.

For now, and because we have completely rebuilt our favorite sentence, it is time to conclude this chapter and recapitulate what we’ve learned about Sentences’ Structures.

By going back to the very core of our sentence and by adding to it one piece of language after another, we’ve perceived and understood how our sentence was actually structured at a sentence level. Thanks to this Reconstruction Method, we’ve perceived the third layer of French language. Which was our first mission.

Thanks to that, you are also capable now of distinguishing the Sentence Layer from the Layer of Pronunciation and from the Layer of the Words. Sentences structures have their own rules like the two other layers of French Language.

Finally, we named each component of our sentence and we saw that the names with which we call these components explain their role inside the sentence. These components are at your service to express yourself in French. Understand their functions and you’ll become their master. By learning them, these components will submit to you to serve you the best.

Conclusion

Finally… We are now able to conclude this entire lesson and fully complete our Schema of The Architecture of French Language, otherly named, French Grammar.
How to learn French Grammar for Complete Beginners ?
Learning a language requires time and dedication. Consistency through time.

French has the reputation of being a difficult language mainly because of all its silent letters. But it also has the reputation of being one of the most beautiful language in the world. A socially rewarding language to learn and to speak.

My hope is that with this lesson and with this schema of French Grammar, you now know how to learn French language in your own way if you need to.

And as promised at the beginning of this lesson, and before closing this lesson about French Grammar, I propose you to test your understanding of this lesson with the Quizz. You’ll be able to compare your results with the other learners of French language like you by entering your results in the leaderboard at the end.

To speak French, you are able to record your voice in the comment section of this lesson.

Here is the exercise I want you to do : Tell me and others what was your morning vision. Like I did with “Ce matin, je voudrais un café”. Record your voice in French and write your sentence in the comments. I’ll reply to you and you can reply to others.

Exercise 1 of 0

Quizz - How to learn French Grammar for Complete Beginners ?

Quizz – How to learn French Grammar for Complete Beginners ?

Dedicatedly yours,
Gil

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