Writing Essays in French

I’ve posted many of my essays, after corrections from lang-8 website helpers, on this blog before. One of the things that I started doing, was keeping track of my errors on a spreadsheet, so that I can break bad habits and form better ones.

I try to include all of the elements of the language into my short essays, which are usually three to five paragraphs long, so that I force myself to use that area of French. Below is my checklist, which takes up the first few columns of my spreadsheet, while to the right I check off whether I included the element, made the error, and add notes. This is a composition of several French teacher checklists, and what they are looking for when they are grading tests. Like…


Proofreading Checklist (French Essay Writing)


I continue to play with my “elements” and “common errors” guides, reorganizing and color coding them. These are my current versions…

Essay Elements

Common Errors

I’ll post the matrix so that you can copy and paste it into a spreadsheet, adding/changing what you wish…

Present Tense AS je joue (I play), c’est…(it is), j’ai (I have), je suis (I am), je fais (I do/make), je vais (I go), je mange (I eat)
Past AS j’ai joué (I played), je jouais (I was playing), c’était…(it was), j’étais (I was), j’allais (I was going), je faisais (I was doing), je mangeais (I was eating), je dois (I must)
Passé Composé AS Il a dû partir, j’ai dansé…(uses avoir)
Past + être AS elle est née
Imperfect AS il y avait, devait,
Pluperfect AS+ il y avait eu
Future AS je jouerai, ça va être…(it is going to be), ce sera…(it will be)
Past Future A2 on aura perdu
Conditional AS je voudrais
Past Conditional A2 j’aurais voulu
Verb + Indicative AS je dois épargner
Adjectives AS parce que c’est…(because it’s…)…..dur (hard), horrible (horrible), affreux (awful), déogoùtant (disgusting), fatigant (tiring), casse-pieds (boring), rasant (boring), ennuyeux (boring), nul (rubbish), facile (easy), difficile (difficult), morne (dull), excellent (excellent), génial (great), chouette (great), passionate (exciting), bon (good), fantastique (fantastic), cool (cool), intéressant (interesting), drôle (funny), merveilleux (marvelous), parfait (perfect), passionnant (exciting), pratique (practical), sensass (sensational), splendide (splendid), sympa (nice), rigolo (funny), amusant (fun), utile (useful), ridicule (ridiculous), stupide (stupid), moche (ugly), faible (weak), barbant (really boring), embêtant (annoying), bête (stupid)
Advanced Words AS+ davantage de
Agreements AS elle…je l’ai vue
Comparatives AS bon(ne) (good, adj), bien (well, adv), meilleur(e) que (adv), mieux que (adj), aussi___que (as___as), moins___que (less__than), plus___que (more__than), plus de___que (more [noun] than), autant de___que (as many [noun] as), moins de___que (less [noun] than)
Connectives / Conjunctions AS+ car (because), et (and), où (where), aussi (also), mais (but), cependant (however), puisque (however/yet), avec (with), sans (without), puis (then), ensuite (then), aprés (ça), avant (ça), parce que (because), en revanche (on the other hand), par contre (on the other hand), enfin (finally)
Frequency Adverbs AS toujours (always), rarement (rarely), parfois (sometimes), plus tard (later), quelquefois (sometimes), d’habitude (usually), tous les jours (everyday), jamais (never), souvent (often), encore (again), de temps en temps (from time to time), une fois par semaine (once a week)
Intensifiers A2 assez + adj. (quite), trop + adj. (too), tellement + adj. (so), carrément + adj. (really), vraiment + adj. (really), extrêmement + adj. (extremely), vachement + adj. (extremely), plutôt + adj. (rather), un peu + adj. (a bit)
Opinions AS Je pense que (I think that), j’adore (I love), j’aime (I like), j’aime bien (I really like), je n’aime pas (I don’t like), je deteste (I hate), je crois que (I believe that), je dirais que (I would say that), je suis d’avis que (I’m of the opinion that), à mon avis (in my opinion), pour ma part (as for me), d’aprés moi/selon moi (according to me)
Passive AS+ Il a été arrêté par…
Possessives AS+ mon, le mien…
Pronouns AS+ je l’ai vu, il leur donne
Quantifiers AS beaucoup de + nom (a lot of), un tas de + nom (a load of), plein de + nom (a lot of), peu de + nom (a few), assez de + nom (enough), trop de + nom (too many)
Reflexives+Tenses AS+ je me demande
Sentence Starters AS cependant (however), maintenant (now), néanmoins (nevertheless), en plus (in addition/furthermore), donc (therefore), par conséquent (as a result), par contre (on the other hand), pourtant (yet/however), à cause de (because of that), grace à ça (because of that), premièrement (firstly), deuxièmement (secondly), heureusement (fortunately), malheureusement (unfortunately), enfin (finally), tandis que (whereas), j’ai horreur de…(I hate…), je ne supporte pas…(I can’t stand…)
Si Constructions AS+ si j’ai…je serai
Simple Words GCSE bien, mauvais
Subjunctive AS+ bienque j’alle. The subjunctive can only be used when the subjects of the 2 verbs are different.
Superlatatives AS+ Add le, la, less before the comparative if using an adjective, la plus grande ville (the biggest city).
Time Phrases AS à l’époque, nous sommes
Use of “on” AS on a pris le bus
à…“à” & “de” aux magasins. “à” means [to, at, in] while “de” means [of, from].
Accent Marks ça, très
Adjective Position Before or after noun? An acronym to remember which ones go before the noun is BRAGS: Beauty, Resemblance (même and autre), Age/Order (premier & dernier), Goodness, and Size. All other adjectives, except numbers, go after the noun.  The five words in parentheses (bel, fol, mol, nouvel, and vieil) are used before masculine singular words beginning with a vowel or a silent h.
Adverb Position Usually after verb. Does verb have specific preposition?
Agreements ma petite copine
Apostrophies j’ai
Avant vs. Devant They both mean “before” but avant has to do with time, devant has to do with position
Capitalization Capital letters are not as commonly used in French. No capitalisation for names of months or days, ex: mardi, septembre. Nationalities: use capital letters for nouns but not for adjectives. Ex: un Australien (=the person) ; un kangourou australien (=adjective of nationality). Capitalize proper nouns, i.e names of places/countries/town, of people
Celui, celle, ci, ceci, cela, and là Celui is masculine, and its plural is ceux, ce + lui (this + he). Celle is feminine, and its plural is celles, ce + elle (this + she). Ceci is the contraction of ce + ici (this + here). Cela is the contraction of ce + là (this + there). Ci indicates a “close” reference, ce + ici (here). Là indicates a more “remote” reference, i.e. that. Comparisons like to use celui-ci (masc) and celle-ci  (fem).
Contracted Articles à + le = au, de + le = du
de… du pain
Depuis vs. Il y a Depuis and il y a are both used to describe time in the past, but depuis means “since” or “for” while il y a means “ago”, or “there is/there are”
Missing Articles Country names generally have an article in French, ex: China = la Chine
Negations Il n’en veut plus
qui, que… ce que j’aime
Possessives son chien, le sien
Pronouns j’y vais avec eux
Spelling beaucoup, la soeur, la famille, intéressant, mercredi, au revoir
Use of “fait” Faire + an infinitive is called the faire causative.  It translates to “have something done by someone or cause something to be done by someone,” or “to cause someone to do something.“
Verb Endings nous jouons
Word Order J’aurais dû le faire