Intermediate French For Dummies
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If you’re ready to move beyond the basics in French and want to improve your skills at reading, writing, or speaking in French, start by reviewing the three types of French articles, the French contractions formed with à and de, and French personal pronouns.

Learning the correct object pronoun word order and identifying verbs that use être as their auxiliary verb will boost your confidence when speaking French.

Categorizing French articles

In French, there are three kinds of articles (small words you can only use with nouns): definite, indefinite, and partitive. The purpose of an article is to present a noun and indicate its gender and number.

This chart represents articles and how to use them in French writing and language:

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

French contractions with à and de

The most common French prepositions are à (to, at, in) and de (of, from, about). When these two prepositions are followed by the definite articles le and les, a contraction needs to be formed. (Note: There’s no contraction with à or de plus la or l’: à la, à l’, de la, de l’.)

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

À and de also contract with the different forms of lequel (which one):

Form of Lequel à + (lequel) de + (lequel)
Lequel auquel duquel
Lesquels auxquels desquels
Lesquelles auxquelles desquelles

There’s no contraction with laquelle: à laquelle, de laquelle.

French personal pronouns

Simply put, pronouns replace nouns. Pronouns refer to people, places, things, and ideas, without having to use the same nouns over and over. The French language uses five types of personal pronouns. These French pronouns are the equivalents to I/me, you, or he/him/it:

Person Subject Pronoun Direct Object Pronoun Indirect Object Pronoun Reflexive Pronoun
1st person singular je me me me
2nd person singular tu te te te
3rd person singular (masc.) il le lui se
3rd person singular (fem.) ell la lui se
1st person plural nous nous nous nous
2nd person plural vous vous vous vous
3rd person plural ils, elles les leur se

Object pronoun word order in French

To effectively use French object pronouns, you need to understand what they mean and where they go in the sentence. In the affirmative imperative, direct-object pronouns (like reflexive pronouns) follow the verb and are attached to it with hyphens; in addition, me changes to moi and te changes to toi. This chart shows the object pronoun word order with the affirmative imperative (command):

Direct Object (3rd Person) Direct Object (1st or 2nd Person) or Reflexive Pronoun Y (there — refers to place) En (some, any, of them)
Le moi y en
La toi
Les lui

Here’s the word order with everything else, including the negative imperative:

Reflexive Pronoun, Direct Object (1st or 2nd Person), or
Indirect Object (1st or 2nd Person)
Direct Object (3rd Person) Indirect Object (3rd Person) Y (there — refers to place) En (some, any, of them)
me le lui y en
te la leur
se les

Recognizing être verbs in French

In French, the passé compose is a compound verb tense, meaning it has two parts: an auxiliary verb and a past participle. French has two auxiliary verbs, avoir or être, and most main verbs use avoir.

Memorize the following short list of verbs, which refer to coming and going (both literally and figuratively) that use être:

  • 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] )

  • 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 is a French fanatic. From the day she learned her first French words (the numbers 1–10 at age 10), she has been obsessed with the language of love. Her first trip to France, at 15, further convinced her that French would always be an essential part of her life. Laura has a BA in International Studies from the Monterey Institute of International Studies, and she has done graduate work in French and Spanish translation, interpretation, linguistics, and literature. She also studied French at Institut de formation internationale in Mont-St-Aignan, France, and at the Alliance française in Toulouse, France.
In 1999, after a year of teaching French and Spanish to adults, Laura became the French Language Guide at (, where she continues to create lessons, quizzes, listening exercises, and games for French students and teachers around the world. Her fascination with all things French guarantees that she will never run out of ideas for her French site or books (this is her fourth). Laura has lived in France, Morocco, and Costa Rica, and after scheming and dreaming for more than half her life, she and her husband will be moving to France in 2008.

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