French Workbook For Dummies
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Keep this Cheat Sheet handy as you're learning French. It's a great quick reference when you need to check definite, indefinite, and partitive articles; personal pronouns, identify être verbs, and need help with other particulars of French grammar.

Definite, indefinite, and partitive articles

You use articles with nouns to indicate something about those nouns. Definite articles refer to something specific, indefinite articles are unspecific, and partitive articles refer to a part of something. See the table below.

Gender/Number Definite (the) Indefinite (a, an, some) Partitive (some, any)
Masculine singular le/l’ un du/de l’
Feminine singular la/l’ une de la/de l’
Plural les des des

Contractions with À and De

The prepositions à (at, to, in) and de (of, from) always contract with the definite articles le and les. See the table below.

Article à + (le/les) de + (le/les)
le au du
les aux des

You don’t use a contraction with à or de + la or l’: à la, à l’, de la, de l’.

Adjectives that precede the noun

Descriptive French adjectives usually follow nouns, except for those that refer to

  • Beauty (joli [pretty], moche [ugly]
  • Age (jeune [young], vieux [old]
  • Goodness and badness (bon [good], mauvais [bad])
  • Size (grand [big/tall], petit [small/short])

Non-descriptive adjectives (demonstrative, interrogative, numerical, possessive) also precede nouns.

Personal pronouns

Personal pronouns are pronouns (words that replace nouns) that are personal (have different forms for different grammatical persons). In the table below are the most common personal pronouns.

Person Subject Pronoun Direct Object Pronoun Indirect Object Pronoun Reflexive Pronoun
1st person singular je/j’ me/m’ me/m’ me/m’
2nd person singular tu te/t’ te/t’ te/t’
3rd person singular (m) il le/l’ lui se/s’
3rd person singular (f) elle la/l’ lui se/s’
1st person plural nous nous nous nous
2nd person plural vous vous vous vous
3rd person plural ils, elles les leur se/s’

Object pronoun word order

The order of object pronouns depends on whether you use them with the affirmative imperative (commands) or some other construction.

The following figure shows you word order with the affirmative imperative.

Table showing affirmative imperative word order in French

The following figure shows the word order with everything else, including the negative imperative.

Table showing object pronoun word order in French

Identifying être verbs

Most French verbs use avoir as the auxiliary verb for the passé composé and the other compound tenses. Here are the verbs that use être instead:

aller (to go)

arriver (to arrive)

descendre (to descend)

entrer (to enter)

monter (to climb)

mourir (to die)

naître (to be born)

partir (to leave)

passer (to pass [by, in front of, behind])

rentrer (to go home)

rester (to stay)

retourner (to return)

sortir (to go out)

tomber (to fall)

venir (to come)

In addition, pronominal verbs use être: Je me suis levé (I got up.)

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Laura K. Lawless earned a BA in International Studies from the Monterey Institute of International Studies. She has also done graduate work in French and Spanish translation, interpretation, linguistics, and literature. Laura is the creator of, an online resource for students, teachers, and lovers of French.

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