Essay – Mon jardin

Mes plantations poussent bien. J’ai planté des tomates, des concombres, des poivrons, de la laitue, du basilic et de nombreuses herbes. La plupart des jardinièrs sont auto-arrosantes. J’ai construit la plupart d’entre elles. En fait, après avoir regardé des vidéos sur YouTube, j’ai eu une idée pour un design simple. Je récupère les contenants de café en plastique mis au rebut et je crée de petits planteurs auto-arrosants.

Je peux faire une vidéo sur la façon dont je les fais. J’utilise des conteneurs pour le jardinage car le temps peut être très chaud. Certains jours en été il fait plus de 40 C. À cette époque, j’ai besoin de déplacer mon jardin entier à l’ombre ou à l’intérieur.

La plupart des vidéos de jardinage que je regarde décrivent d’énormes jardins de lit surélevés. Je ne veux pas cultiver 100 kilos de pommes de terre. Je ne veux pas utiliser une brouette ou une fourch. Je voudrais avoir des variétés traditionnelles et de nombreuses herbes fraîches, comme la sauge, l’origan, la coriandre, le basilic, le romarin et le thym. Ce mois-ci, je plante cinq sortes de poivrons. Le mois prochain, je vais planter de l’ail dans mes conteneurs. Mon type de jardinage est destiné aux personnes plus âgées ou qui ne peuvent pas soulever de lourdes conteneurs. Les jeunes qui veulent apprendre à démarrer un jardin. Des écoles ou groupes sociaux qui souhaitent partager un projet.

In English:

My garden is growing well. I planted tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, lettuce, basil, and many herbs. Most of the containers are self-watering. I built most of them. In fact, after watching videos on YouTube, I had an idea for a simple design. I take discarded plastic coffee containers and create small self-watering containers. I may make a video on how I make them. I use containers for gardening because the weather can get very hot. Some days in the summer are above 40 C. On those days, I need to move my entire garden to the shade or inside.

Most of the gardening videos I watch discuss huge raised bed gardens. I don’t want to grow 100 kilos of potatoes. I don’t want to use a wheelbarrow or pitchfork. I would like to have some heirloom vegetables and many fresh herbs, like sage, oregano, cilantro, basil, rosemary and thyme. This month I am planting five different kinds of hot peppers. Next month I will plant garlic in my containers. My type of gardening is for people who are older, or cannot lift heavy loads. Young people who want to learn how to start a garden. Schools or social groups that want to share a project.

Reviewing Your Essays – Don’t Let the Errorists Win

The Talk in French website has a series of great posts, showing common errors that English natives make when writing French essays.

Common errors at writing in French by English Speakers – 3 essays corrected

Common mistakes at writing in French by English Speakers – 3 new essays corrected

This is my current list of Elements that I try to include in my practice essays:

Present Tense 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), je dois (I must)
Past 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)
Passé Composé Il a dû partir, j’ai dansé…(uses avoir)
Past + être elle est née
Imperfect il y avait, devait,
Pluperfect il y avait eu
Future je jouerai, ça va être…(it is going to be), ce sera…(it will be)
Past Future on aura perdu
Conditional je voudrais
Past Conditional j’aurais voulu
Verb + Indicative je dois épargner
Adjectives 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 davantage de
Agreements elle…je l’ai vue
Comparatives 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 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 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 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 Je pense que (I think that), j’adore (I love), j’aime (I like), j’ai,e 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 Il a été arrêté par…
Possessives mon, le mien…
Pronouns je l’ai vu, il leur donne
Quantifiers 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 je me demande
Sentence Starters 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 si j’ai…je serai
Simple Words bien, mauvais
Subjunctive bienque j’alle. The subjunctive can only be used when the subjects of the 2 verbs are different.
Superlatatives Add le, la, less before the comparative if using an adjective, la plus grande ville (the biggest city).
Time Phrases à l’époque, nous sommes
Use of “on” on a pris le bus

And this is my current (and ever-expanding) list of Common Errors that I have to be watchful for:

à vs. de “à” means [to, at, in] while “de” means [of, from]. À is used for location or destinations – Je vais à Rome (I’m going to Rome), while De is used for starting points and origins – Je suis de Bruxelles (I’m from Bussels). À is used for distance in time or space – Il habite à ten metres d’ici (He lives 10 meters from here), C’est à 5 minutes de moi (It is 5 mins from me). Possession uses à, like of/to – un ami à moi (a friend of mine), while de denotes ownership – le livre de Paul (Paul’s book). Purpose uses à like for, un sac à dos (pack for the back), while de is used for content description – un roman d’amour (a story of love). Characteristics use à – fait à la main (made by hand), and à la francaise (in the french style), while de is a defining feature – une salle de classe (classroom), un livre d’histoire (history book).
Accent Marks There are four French accents for vowels and one accent for a consonant. The accent aigu ´ (acute accent) can only be on an E . At the beginning of a word, it often indicates that an S used to follow that vowel, e.g., étudiant (student). The accent grave ` (grave accent) can be found on an A, E or U. On the A and U, it usually serves to distinguish between words that would otherwise be homographs (sound alikes) e.g., ou (or) où (where). The accent circonflexe ˆ (circumflex) can be on an A, E, I, O or U. The circumflex usually indicates that an S used to follow that vowel, but not always, e.g., forêt (forest). It has other uses, like serving to distinguish between homographs; e.g., du (the contraction of de + le) and dû which is the past participle of the verb devoir (to owe). The accent tréma ¨ (dieresis or umlaut) can be on an E, I or U. It is used when two vowels are next to each other and both must be pronounced, e.g., naïve, Saül.
The cédille ¸ (cedilla) is that small hook under the letter C. It changes a hard C sound (like K) into a soft C sound (like S), e.g., garçon. The cedilla is never placed in front of E or I, because C always sounds like an S in front of these vowels.
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 The adverb in French usually follows the conjugated verb. Thus, in all compound tenses (i.e. tenses where an auxiliary is required, such as the passé composé), adverbs are placed right after the auxiliary and just before the past participle. However, some longer adverbs ending in -ment may follow the past participle. In a sentence in the periphrastic future (‘futur proche’), adverbs are placed right before the infinitive. If the conjugated verb is in the negative, the adverb follows the negation. Oh, j’ai trop mangé. Je ne vais pas bien dormir (Oh, I ate too much. I am not going to sleep well), Mais tu n’as pas beaucoup mangé! Juste de la soupe! (But you didn’t eat much! Just some soup!).
Agreements ma petite copine
An vs. Année an, ans is used after a cardinal number:Mon frère a cinq ans – My brother is five years old
année, années is used after ordinal numbers and adjectives: Pendant de longues années – During long years, Ma troisième année d’études – My third year of studies, January is the first month of the year – Janvier est le premier mois de l’année
Apostrophies j’ai
Avant vs. Devant They both mean “before” but avant has to do with time, devant has to do with position
Because There are many words for because, “à cause de”, “grâce à”, “car”, “parce que”, “puisque”. “Parce que” introduces reasons, and can be used at the beginning of a sentence or in the middle of the sentence whereas “car” can only be used in the middle of a sentence, therefore “car” cannot be used to start a phrase like….“Parce qu’il pleut je ne sors pas”. Either one can be used in the middle of a similar sentence: “Je ne sors pas parce qu’il pleut”, ”Je ne sors pas car il pleut”.
The sentences mean the same, but you cannot say, “Car il pleut je sors”. “Car” is used as a justification, and is more formal. “Puisque” could replace both “parce que” and “car” but it’s usage implies that the fact is already known or very obvious. It is similar to “since” in English.
Bon, Bien, Meilleur, Mieux Bon (good) is an adjective. Although it has an irregular feminine form, bonne, the plural is formed regularly by adding an -s to the masculine or feminine adjective. Bien (well, really, very) is an adverb. The adjective bon modifies a noun, whereas the adverb bien modifies verbs, adjectives or other adverbs. Comparisons with bon and bien are not formed regularly using ‘plus … que’ (more … than). Instead the French use meilleur(e)(s) que as the adverb (like bon), and mieux que as the adjective (like bien). 1. Il chante mieux que son frère. (comparison of verb) 2. Jean est meilleur en physique qu’en français. (comparison of noun) 3. Ils connaissent bien les paroles de cette chanson. (modifies verb) 4. Les enfants mangent bien à la cantine. (modifies verb) 5. Sophie travaille mieux que Tina. (comparison of verb) 6. Le dessert est meilleur à la maison qu’à la cantine. (comparison of noun) 7. Ton gâteau au chocolat est très bon, (modifies noun) 8. mais il serait meilleur avec un peu de noix de coco. (comparison of noun) 9. Vous parlez mieux le français que l’anglais. (comparison of verb) 10. Ce médicament est-il bon pour la gorge ? (modifies noun)
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/towns/people
C’est vs. Il est There is a difference in their usages. C’est – used to describe a situation, modified adverb, modified noun, proper name and stressed pronoun. Il est – used to describe a person, unmodified adverb, unmodified noun and prepositional phrase. When describing people and things with être in French, you usually can’t use a personal subject pronoun like “elle”. Instead, you must use the impersonal pronoun “ce”, which can also mean “this” or “that”. Note that “ce” is invariable, so it can never be “ces sont”.

C’est un homme. — He’s a man. / This is a man. / That is a man. Ce sont des chats. — They’re cats. / These are cats. / Those are cats. If an adjective, adverb, or both appear after être, then use the personal pronoun.

Elle est belle. — She is beautiful. (Or “It is beautiful.”) Il est très fort. — He is very strong. (Or “It is very strong.”) As you know, nouns generally need determiners, but one important exception is that professions, nationalities, and religions can act as adjectives after être. You can also choose to treat them as nouns.

He is a doctor. — Il est médecin. / C’est un médecin.
Il est médecin. (Describes person)
C’est un médecin. (Describes situation)
C’est should be used when using an adjective to make a general comment about (but not describe) a thing or situation.

C’est normal ? — Is this normal? Non, c’est étrange. — No, this is strange

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).
Chaque vs. Chacun Chaque functions as an adjective, chacun is a pronoun. Examples: “chaque jour” means “each/every day”, whereas “chacun” means “each one”, usually in the sense of referring to a group of individuals rather than a group as a singular unit.
Contracted Articles à + le = au, de + le = du
De/Du/Des

 

To say “some” in French, you need to know the gender of the word (noun) in question. If the word is masculine, such as (le) chocolat, (le) café, then the French for some is du: du café (some coffee). If the word is feminine, such as (la) limonade, (la) confiture, then the French for some is de la : de la limonade (some lemonade). If the word is plural (whether masculine or feminine), then the French for some is des: des garçons (some boys). Before a word beginning with a vowel, use de l’ instead of du or de la: de l’oignon (some onion). With the phrase “avoir besoin de” meaning “to need”, the word for some is always de (or d’ before a vowel), unless the meaning some of the… is specifically meant: j’ai besoin de sucre (I need some sugar).
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”
Depuis vs. Pendant Depuis vs. Pendant (Time) – In French the present tense is used with ‘depuis’ whereas in English we use a past tense. ‘Depuis’ can mean ‘for’ and ‘since’, and is used in a sentence involving a time element, like: J’habite à Paris depuis quatre ans (I have lived in Paris for four years). The  We also never use “pour” to indicate a duration, unlike the “for” in English.
Devoir vs. Falloir Devoir can be used with all personal pronouns: je, tu, il/elle/on, nous, vous, ils/elles: Je dois partir – I have to leave, Nous devons attendre – We have to wait. Devoir  when followed by an infinitive, expresses an obligation, probability, or supposition. Falloir can only be used with one pronoun: il (impersonal ‘it’): Il faut partir – It must go, Il faut que je te parle – I have to talk to you (literally: It has to that I speak to you). Falloir is stronger and somewhat more formal than devoir ; it expresses necessity. Falloir can be used with an infinitive or the subjunctive. Because it’s an impersonal verb, falloir does not conjugate for different subjects. In order to specify the person who needs to do something, you can either use the subjunctive or an indirect object pronoun with the infinitive.
Encore vs. Toujours The French adverbs encore and toujours both have several meanings which partially overlap. Encore – again, another, even, still, yet. Toujours – always, anyhow, still, yet. Again always can be “de nouveau”. Still can be “néanmoins”. Yet can be “déjà”.
Est-ce que vs. Est-ce These words show up everywhere, and they mean “is it that”. Why do you see “que” sometimes and then you don’t? “Est-ce que” is followed by a verb.
Ex. “Est-ce que tu travailles ? Is it that you work? “Est-ce” is followed by a noun, or a pronoun. Ex. “Est-ce un oiseau ? Is it a bird?
Etre Verbs Seventeen so-called “house” verbs and all pronominal verbs are conjugated with être, and they must agree in gender and number with the subject. Irregular past participles are highlighted.
Faire Causative 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.“

Je répare la voiture (I’m fixing the car). Je fais réparer la voiture (I’m having the car fixed)/ Il peint son appartement (He’s painting his apartment). Il fait peindre son appartement (He’s having his apartment painted). Le bébé mange (The baby is eating). Elle fait manger le bébé (She’s feeding the baby). When replacing the object with a pronoun, the pronoun precedes faire.  And in past tenses, the past participle remains invariable. Je la fais réparer (I’m having it fixed). Il leur a fait apprendre les verbes (He had them learn the verbs). Il les leur a fait apprendre (He had them learn them). Se faire + infinitive is usually translated as “to get” + (oneself) + verb. Tu vas te faire tuer (You’re going to get yourself killed). Il va se faire casser la gueule (He’s going to break his neck). Se faire soigner sans se faire arrêter (Get treated/looked after without getting arrested). Évitez de vous faire piquer (Avoid getting stung).

Faire (Weather) References to the weather, using “faire” i.e. faire beau (nice weather) do not make sense to an English speaker, but it certainly does to romantic language speakers. Il fait soleil (It’s sunny). Il faisait froid (It was cold).
Faire (Other Uses) Faire means to do or to make. Along with to have (avoir) and to be (etre), it is a verb you will see in many conjugations. Faire is not used as “to make” when it is followed by an adjective. Ex. Ça me rend heureux. – That makes me happy (here we use rendre). It is also not used in making a decision, Ex. J’ai pris une décision (here we used prendre). When using the verb faire in the present tense, it is conjugated as follows: je fais, tu fais, il fait, nous faisons, vous faites, ils font

Using faire in the imperfect is used to describe the past tense as an ongoing state or implies incomplete or repetitive action. Many French expressions use this form of faire. When using faire in imperfect, conjugate it as follows: je faisais, tu faisais, ils faisait, nous fasions, vous faisiez, ils faisaient. You may also need to use faire to refer to things you will do or may have to do. Conjugate faire in the future tense as follows: je ferai, tu feras, il fera, nous ferons, vous ferez, ils feront

Fiancé Rule In English, a male person you are engaged to is spelled fiancé. However, a female person you are engaged to is spelt fiancée with an extra “e” on the end. This fiancé/fiancée rule happens to apply to all verbs in French when they are used with “to be” to form the past tense. Let’s look at an example: I have arrived. (said by a man) Je suis arrivé. I have arrived. (said by a woman) Je suis arrivée. You can see how, although it is arrivé for a man who has arrived, it is arrivée for a woman, with an extra “e” on the end. This is just the same as for fiancé/fiancée – fiancé for a man but fiancée, with an extra “e”, for a woman.

As stated earlier, however, it is only for this group of “going and coming” verbs (which use “to be” to form the past tense) that there is this difference. Normal verbs, which use “have” to form the past tense, are the same no matter who they refer to. Take a look: I have eaten. (said by a man) J’ai mangé, I have eaten. (said by a woman) J’ai mangé.

Il y a Il y a is made up of three words: il – the subject “it”, y – the adverbial pronoun “there”, a – the third person singular present tense of avoir (to have). The whole thing adds up to a meaning of “there is/there are” in English.
Il y a vs. Voici/Violà Il y a and voilà are two ways of introducing nouns. They are translated into English as ‘there is / there are’ or ‘here is / here are.’  Il y a + noun usually indicates the existence of a person or a thing in the context of a particular setting. It is commonly translated as ‘there is’ or ‘there are.’ Voilà + noun and voici + noun are commonly translated as ‘here is / here are’. Alternating between voici and voilà is common when referring to more than one item.
Je puis vs. Je peux Puis is an older form but it’s ok and can be used though mainly in questions cause it makes it easy to prononce “puis-je vous aider?”.
Jour vs. Journée Jour is a calendar day, ex. 24h day. It also means daylight: Les jours de la semaine – The days of the week, Voir le jour – To see the light of day. Journée is the time between sunrise and sunset: Belle journée d’automne – A beautiful autumn day
Jusqu’à vs. Jusque It’s all about which preposition you use after the “until”, and if it starts with a vowel or not. Because the French do not link a vowel to another vowel. That’s why there are: jusqu’à, jusqu’au, jusqu’où, jusqu’en, jusqu’ici, etc…If the preposition starts with a consonant then you have to use “jusque”.
Leave The verbs partir, sortir, quitter and laisser all mean ‘to leave’ in English, but they have distinguishing nuances and uses in French. An important distinction among these verbs is the idea of transitivity. Partir and sortir are intransitive in this context; they do not take a direct object (but may be followed by a prepositional phrase). Quitter and laisser are transitive; they take a direct object in a sentence.
Lequel vs. Quel Lequel is a pronoun that replaces the adjective quel and the noun it modifies. It expresses “Which one?” as a question, but “which” is a statement (usually preceded by a preposition). Lequel, lesquels, laquelle, lesquelles are pronouns, i.e. they are used in place of a noun. They are used to ask the questions ‘which one?’ or ‘which ones?’ They assume the number and gender of the nouns they replace and contract with the prepositions à and de. Masc. Singular – lequel; with à – auquel; with de – duquel. Masc. Plural – lequels; with à – auquels; with de – duquels. Feminine Singular – laquelle; with à – à laquelle; with de – de laquelle. Feminine Plural – lequelles; with à – auxquelles; with de – desquelles.
Leur, Les, Lui Lui means him or her and leur means them, regardless of group gender. We use these indirect objects when the verb goes before an “à”: i.e. Je parle à Jean –> Je lui parle. i.e. Je demande à mes amis –> Je leur demande. The à is dropped, and the indirect object (lui, leur) is moved before the verb. If the indirect objects are pronouns, you do not use lui or leur. i.e. Il va contacter ses parents –> Il va les contacter. Instead of  « leur », we use « les » for “them”. If we try to substitute direct objects (direct objects replace the people or things that receive the action of the verb in a sentence), we use object pronouns to replace nouns. French has seven direct object pronouns (DOPs) — and three more when you count the forms with an apostrophe. Here are the direct object pronouns and their English equivalents: me (m’ in front of a vowel or mute -h) (me) te (t’ in front of a vowel or mute -h) (you [singular informal]) le (l’ in front of a vowel or mute -h) (him/it [masculine]) la (l’ in front of a vowel or mute -h) (her/it [feminine]) nous (us) vous (you [singular formal or plural informal and formal]) les (them).  If the noun to be replaced is masculine (such as le père, which means the father), the pronoun must be masculine (le). If the noun to be replaced is feminine (such as la voiture, which means the car), the pronoun must be feminine (la). If the noun to be replaced is plural masculine or feminine (such as ses enfants, which means his/her children), the pronoun must be plural (les).
Liason, Elision & Enchainement Liasion – This is where the French speaker does not normally say the silent consonant at the end of a word, but then does when they encounter word that begins with a vowel. They’ll use the last letter as the first letter for that vowel starting word. It seems strange, but it helps their word fluency, and you’ll eventually get used to it. Elison – In English, the words “I’m”, “aren’t” and “don’t” are examples of elision.  Sounds (and letters in the written form) have been removed to make the words shorter. Ex. C’est, j’aime, s’il vous plait, l’horloge. Usually, only one-syllable words ending in E can be elided, but elle, si, and words ending in que also elide. However, si only elides before il and ils, so you must write s’il, but cannot write s’elle. Enchaînement – similar to liaisons, it is when the ending consonant sounds are pushed onto the next word if it begins in a vowel. For instance: elle est is pronounced like “eh-lay”. Mange une pomme is pronounced like “mahn-jun-pom”.
Manquer The French verb manquer (to miss) is a word order nightmare, because “I miss you” translates not as je te manque but rather tu me manques (literally, “you are missing to me.”) Once you understand the proper French word order, you’ll never miss this one again.
Matin / Soir vs. Matinée / Soirée Matin and soir indicate the divison of time, the general sense: Il est six heures du matin – It’s six in the morning, Je sors tous les soirs – I go out every evening
Matinée and soirée indicate the duration: J’ai travaillé toute la matinée – I worked all morning, Elle passe ses soirées à lire – She spends her evenings reading.
Missing Articles Country names generally have an article in French, ex: China = la Chine
Ne Expletif Sometimes ne must be inserted in a phrase even when it is not expressing the negative. It is used: 1) after certain conunctions: avant que, à moins que;
2) after expressions and verbs of fear: de crainte que, de peur que, craindre que, avoir peur que, redouter que, trembler que, empêcher que, éviter que; 3) before a verb that follows a comparison of inequality: plus, moins, autre; and 4) after adverbs of doubt and negation used in the negative to express a positive idea.
Je sors ce soir à moins qu’il ne pleuve (I’ll go out this evening unless it rains). Il craint que tu ne sois fatigué après le voyage (He’s afraid that you’ll be tired after the trip).
Negations The dots are where the verb goes, and if the verb starts with a vowel, ne becomes n’. Ne…plus (no longer), ne…jamais (never), ne…rien (nothing), ne…aucun(e) (not a single one), ne…que (only), ne…personne (nobody), ne…ni…ni (neither…nor), ne…nulle part (nowhere), ne…plus (no more, not any longer), ne…pas du tout (not at all), ne…pas encore (not yet), ne…rien (nothing, not anything). Personne and rien are also negative pronouns that may be used at the beginning of a sentence, as pronoun subjects, or followed by ne/n’. Oui is a ‘yes’ answer to an affirmative question, while si is a ‘yes’ to a negative question, and not just “if”.
Qui vs. Que You will see “que” for the word “that” and “qui” for the word “who/whom” when you have subordinate clauses (two sentences with one introducing the other). To join the clauses there must be a “que”, i.e. Je sais que tu es intelligent. In English “that” is optional, so “He thinks I like dogs” prompts the English speaker to write, “Il pense j’aime les chiens” instead of the correct, “Il pense que j’aime les chiens”. If you are translating, “I want him to do it”, the sentence is actually the French, “je veux qu’il le fasse (I want that he does it). Qui and que are the most often confused relative pronouns, probably because one of the first things French students learn is that qui means “who” and que means “that” or “what.” In fact, this is not always the case. The choice between qui and que as a relative pronoun has nothing to do with the meaning in English, and everything to do with how the word is used; that is, what part of the sentence it is replacing. Que replaces the direct object. Qui replaces the subject and indirect object.
Qu’est-ce que/ Qu’est-ce qui/ Qui est-ce que/ Qui est-ce qui “Qu’est-ce qui” stands for “what is it that…..”, “Qui est-ce qui” stands for “who is it that…”, Qu’est-ce qui = what (“what” is the subject i.e. doing something) Ex. Qu’est-ce qui vous derange? What is bothering you?

Qu’est-ce que = what (“what” is the direct object-thing) Ex. Qu’est-ce que tu fais? What are you doing?

Qui est ce qui = who (“who” is the subject) Ex. Qui-est-ce qui est à la porte? Who is it that is at the door?

Qui est ce que = who (“who” is the direct object-person) Ex. Qui-est-ce que vous avez-vu? Who is it that you have seen?

The requirement of using “que” and “qui” and “qu’il” and on and on, is an English speaker mystery until you realize this fact. Behind the question “Est-ce que Jean est ici?” lurks that strange “que”, because the sentence really is…. “Is it that Jean is here?” not ”Is Jean here?”. When translating from English, remember to subordinate clauses and join them together with “que”.

Possessive Adjectives Possessive adjectives are words like my, your, his/her/its, our, and their. These are words that take the place of articles to indicate to whom or to what something belongs. They also have seemingly random applications. My has the masculine mon, feminine ma, and plural mes. Your (familiar) has the masculine ton, feminine ta, and plural tes. His/Her/Its has masculine son, feminine sa, and plural ses. Your has votre for both masculine and feminine and the plural is vos. Our is similar, and has notre for both singulars, and nos for plural. Their has leur for both singulars and leurs for plural. For the sake of euphony, all singular feminine possessives switch to their masculine forms when followed by a vowel sound.
Possessive Pronouns refer to an object or person by identifying its possessor….mine, ours, yours, his/hers, or theirs. They have a masculine form or feminine form, as well as a singular and plural form. No big deal right? The problem comes when you notice that this is not always true. The ones that make sense are: Mine has le mien (sing. masc.) and la mienne (sing. fem.), as well as plurals les miens and les miennes. Yours (familiar) has le tien (sing. masc.) la tienne  (sing. fem.), as well as plurals les tiens and les tiennes. His/Hers has le sien (sing. masc.) la sienne (sing. fem.), as well as plurals les siens and les siennes. The ones that will trick you: Yours has the same masculine and feminine singular le vôtre and la vôtre, and the plural becomes les vôtres. Theirs is similar, the same masculine and feminine singular le leur and la leur, and the plural becomes les leurs. Ours, likewise, has the same masculine and feminine singular le nôtre and la nôtre, and the plural becomes les môtres.
Pronomial Verbs A pronominal verb is one that is accompanied by a reflexive pronoun, found where the subject and the object are the same. Pronominal verbs fall into three major classes based on their meaning: reflexive, idiomatic, and reciprocal. You have probably already seen the pronominal verb s’appeler (Comment t’appelles-tu? What is your name?). To conjugate pronominal verbs in the present tense, you need to pay attention to both the pronoun and the verb form. These require a reflexive pronoun to complete their meaning. For example: Je me lève = I get up (I raise up myself), Nous nous promenons = We walk (We walk ourselves), Tu te reposes = You are resting (You rest yourself). This grammatical structure is called the pronominal voice, and it’s common in French but rare in English. That’s because we usually omit the direct object and use the active voice. The main things to know about pronominal verbs: #1: The reflexive pronoun always matches the subject. The reflexive pronouns are: me/te/se/nous/vous/se. This is why you see a lot of nous nous and vous vous. Se is used for all third-persons: him, her, them, Billy-Bob, etc. Se becomes s’ when followed by a vowel or mute H. #2: There are three kinds of pronominal verbs. Reflexive verbs, like those first three examples. Idiomatic pronominal verbs, which are standard transitive verbs that take on a special meaning when you use them reflexively.
#3: Some reflexive verbs can be used non-reflexively. Elle se promène (She’s taking a walk), Elle promène le chien (She’s taking the dog for a walk). #4: Most reflexive verbs have to do with parts of the body, clothing, personal circumstance, or location…
Pronouns j’y vais avec eux
Que, Qui, Où, Dont, Lequel These are relative pronouns, and their use is dependent on the grammar that comes before them. Qui replaces the subject (person or thing) in the dependent clause, replaces an indirect object referring to a person after a preposition. Que replaces the direct object in the dependent clause. Lequel replaces a n indirect object refering to a thing after a preposition. Dont replaces any person or thing after “de”, and may indicate possession. Où is used to indicate a place or time. When you first start learning how to join clauses, it is common to think of que as “that” or “which”, and qui as “who” or “whom”, but the use is not based on English meaning but rather grammar usage.
Savoir vs. Connaître French has two verbs which can be translated by the English verb “to know”: savoir and connaître. This can be confusing to English speakers, but in fact there are distinct differences in meaning and usage for the two verbs. Savoir is used when you know a fact, know something by heart or when you know how to do something. Connaître has two meanings, and they are related to knowing a person, or being familiar with a person/thing.
Spelling beaucoup, la soeur, la famille, intéressant, mercredi, au revoir
Tous vs. Tout As an adjective: Masc. Sing. – tout, Masc. Plural – tous, Fem. Sing. – toute, Fem. Plural – toutes. As an adverb: Fem. Sing. – toute, Fem. Plural – toutes, Invariable – tout. As a noun: Invariable – le tout. As a pronoun: Masc. Plural – tous, Fem. Plural – toutes, Invariable – tout. Used as a Noun – Examples: à tout âge – at any age, avoir toute liberté – to be completely free, en tout cas – in any case, tout enfant – every child. Used as Definite Articles – Examples: tous les enfants – all the children, tout le temps – all the time, tous les jours – every day. Used as Possessive Adjectives – Examples: prendre tout son temps – to take one’s time tous mes amis – all my friends, toute ma famille – my whole family, toutes nos affaires – all of our things. Used as Demonstrative Adjectives – Examples: tous ces gens – all these people, toute cette tristesse – all this sadness, tout ce temps – all this time, toutes ces idées – all of these ideas. Used as Adverb – Examples: tout doucement – very quietly, tout droit – straight ahead tout haut – very loudly, tout loin d’ici – very far from here, tout près – very near.
Uses of “en” 1 – En replaces a QUANTITY: This quantity is likely to be introduce by a partitive article “De, du, de la, de l’, des”, or a number such as “un, une, trois, vingt-huit”… or a fraction “un quart”… or an adverb of quantity “beaucoup de, un peu de”… or an expression of quantity “un kilo de, un litre de, une boîte de…”. Examples: Je veux 6 pommes = j’en veux 6. (I want six of them). Je bois de l’eau = j’en bois. (I drink of it). Je mange du gâteau = j’en mange. (I eat of it)
J’achète des pommes = j’en achète (plusieures – you don’t have to say the “plusieur(e)s” part, but you can). (I buy of it). Note that you will always repeat the quantity and also the adverb of quantity: Je voudrais beaucoup de sucre = j’en voudrais beaucoup. (I want a lot of it). J’achète un litre de vin = j’en achète un litre. (I buy a liter of it). Je mange un paquet de petits-gateaux = j’en mange un paquet. (I eat a packet of it). Remember that PAS is also a quantity: Je ne veux pas de lait = je n’en veux pas. (I don’t want of it). And “un, une” are also numbers, so they need to be repeated in the answer: Tu as un chien ? Oui, j’en ai un. (Yes, I have one of it)2 – En replaces a THING introduced by “de, du, de la, de l’, des”: Je rêve de mes vacances = j’en rêve (I dream of it). Je parle de mon voyage = j’en parle (I speak of it). The “de, du , des…” often comes from the verb meaning that this particular verb is going to be followed by “de”, and that is why you’d be using a “de” there. This is the case for my examples “rêver de” and “parler de”. So, in order to master EN, you should really learn the most common verbs followed by de in French and train on making sentences using EN with these verbs. When the “de, du, des…” introduce a person, then you must use a stress pronoun (moi, toi, lui, elle, nous, vous, eux, elles), Je rêve de Jean = je rêve de lui3 – En = strong liaison and glidings: Now with “en”, it’s important to note that it’s followed by a strong liaison, and usually part of expressions that glide a lot in spoken French: Il y en a = yan na, Il n’y en a pas = yan na pa. So the negative form is pronounced almost the same way – only the pas (or plus, aucun..) will tell you it’s negative. A lot of French people would do a mistake and write “j’en n’ai pas” when it is actually “Je n’en ai pas”, just because the liaison with “en” in N is so strong that is sounds like the negative, and because we are so accustom to writing “n’ai pas”… It actually calls for a big effort to write “je n’en ai pas”, because the spoken glided French sounds like “jan nay pa”…

4 – En = preposition or adverb? Watch out that “en” can also be a PREPOSITION or an ADVERB, having different meanings: Il va en France (He goes to france), L’avion fait Paris-Boston en 6 heures (It takes the plane 6 hrs to cover Paris-Boston), Je vais à Paris en voiture (I go to Paris by car), Nous sommes en novembre, en 2012 (It is November, in 2012).

5 – “En” is part of many idioms: J’en ai marre (I’m fed up of it), Je m’en vais (I’m leaving of it), Ne t’en fais pas (Don’t worry about it).

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.“
Uses of “Y” 1 – Y replaces a PLACE. A place is introduced by a preposition of place which can be “à” but also “sur, sous, en, au, aux…”: Je vais à Paris = j’y vais (I go there), Je vais en France = j’y vais, Je vais au Japon = j’y vais

2 – Y also replaces A THING (never a person) introduced by “à, au, aux, à l’, à la”, Je pense à mon travail = j’y pense. The “à, au, aux, à la à l’” often comes from the verb meaning that this particular verb is going to be followed by “à”, and that is why you’d be using a  “à” there. This is the case for my examples “penser à” and “réfléchir à”. So, in order to master Y, you should really learn the most common verbs followed by à in French. And train on making sentences using Y with these verbs. Note than when a verb is followed by à + PERSON, you need to use an indirect object pronoun (me, te, lui, nous, vous, leur): Je parle à Pierre = je lui parle or a stress spronoun:  “moi, toi, lui, elle, nous, vous, eux, elles”  Je pense à lui – I think of him. You cannot guess, you have to know which verb’s construction asks for which pronoun – indirect object or stress… another difficulty of French…

3 – Il y a states the existence of something – there is, there are: Il y a des livres sur la table (There are some books on the table), Il n’y a pas de vin (There is no wine), Il n’y a plus de bon vin blanc (There is no more good white wine).  4 – “Il y a” to talk about the weather. We also use “Il y a” a lot for expressions of weather: Il y a + partitive article + noun. Il y a du soleil (There is some sun) = it’s sunny out, Il y a de la neige (There is some snow) – it’s snowy out, 5 – The glidings with the expression “il y a”. The “a” is the verb “avoir” and can be conjugated: “il y avait, il n’y aura pas…” The pronunciation in glided spoken French is quite different from the written form: Il y a = ya, Il n’y a pas de = yapad, Il n’y aura pas de = yorapad.

Verb Endings nous jouons
Word Order J’aurais dû le faire
Y vs. En Y and en are both pronouns that go before the verb.  Y (ee) means “it” or “there”.  En (awn) means “some” or “some of them”, or “of it”.  They replace prepositional phrases. In French, the phrases will begin with à (or any contraction of it), en, sur, sous, chez, devant, derrière, dans, etc. for y; and de (or any contraction of it) or a number for en. They cannot replace people unless the person is introduced with an indefinite article, partitive, number or quantity.  Sometimes y and en have no direct translation in English. Remember that they go before the verb, except in a command, in which they follow the verb and are connected with a hyphen.  The -er verbs also add the -s they lost when forming the you (familiar) command.

Confession

Bien que j’écris en français depuis mon ordinateur en utilisant un clavier virtuel, je swap sur le clavier anglais pour en tirer de nombreux symboles. Je ne sais pas comment capitaliser les lettres accentuées. Lorsque j’ai besoin de taper une lettre accentuée, je copie et colle à partir d’internet, ou j’utilise ce site:

http://french.typeit.org/

J’ai remarqué que d’autres personnes qui écrivent des essais en français, qui sont d’autres pays, eux aussi tapent minuscule ç quand ils commencent une phrase. Par exemple, ça va ?

Suis-je fou ? Suis-je paresseux ? Que se passe-t-il ?

Avec un pavé numérique, il est possible de taper des lettres majuscules avec diacritique.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alt_code

Par exemple :
– Alt+144 = É
– Alt+0183 = À
– Alt+0199 = Ç

Avec un peu de pratique ça devient naturel.

Note: Here are the other ALT codes (you press the “alt” key, enter the numbers and then when you release the “alt” key, the symbol magically appears)

alt codes

Note: For others having this problem, one of my readers advised that I install the English International virtual keyboard using my Control Panel. I then followed the instructions on this site:

http://www.starr.net/is/type/intlchart.html

and I learned how to type the characters I was missing. Using the Right ALT key plus other keys, I can now type Ç and other capitalized accent marked letters. Thanks David.

This English International keyboard also allows us to use a shortcut key for accent acute letters.

To type accent grave letters (à è ì ò ù) you use the accent grave key (`) followed by the letter. The accent grave key is in the top left of the keyboard. So:

Accent grave key and a = à

Accent grave key and e = è

Accent grave key and i = ì

Accent grave key and o = ò

Accent grave key and u = ù

To type accent acute letters (á é í ó ú) you use the apostrophe key (‘) followed by the letter. The apostrophe key is two keys over from the letter ‘L’ key. So:

Apostrophe key and a = á

Apostrophe key and e = é

Apostrophe key and i = í

Apostrophe key and o = ó

Apostrophe key and u = ú

The apostrophe key, if you wish to use it for an actual apostrophe, requires you to hit the space bar after the apostrophe key so that it types an apostrophe instead of an accent acute letter.

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…

https://madamethomasfrench.wordpress.com/french-teacher-resources/

Proofreading Checklist (French Essay Writing)

http://frenchyourway.com.au/wp_fyw/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Proofreading-checklist.pdf

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

 

French Punctuation

I realized that I had never covered French punctuation, in any of my posts, and it is one of those things that is strangely different than English punctuation.

http://french.about.com/library/writing/bl-punctuation.htm

Starting with the period ( . ), which is called “le point”, these are the rules to know:

1. In French, the period is not used after abbreviations of measurement: 25 m (mètres), 12 min (minutes), etc.
2. Le point can be used to separate the elements of a date: 10 septembre 1973 = 10.9.1973
3. When writing numbers, either a period or a space may be used to separate every three digits (where a comma would be used in English): 1,000,000 (English) = 1.000.000 or 1 000 000
4. It’s not used to indicate a decimal point, a comma (la virgule) is used instead.

Speaking of the comma ( , ), which is called “la virgule”, these are its rules of use:

1. In French, the comma is used as a decimal point: 2.5 (English) = 2,5 (French)
2. It’s not used to separate three digits, that would be “le point” that separates three digits.
3. In English, there is something known as a serial comma, which comes before the word “and”: I bought a book, two pens, and some paper. In French, they don’t use that serial comma, so they write: J’ai acheté un livre, deux stylos et du papier.

The colon ( : ), called “les deux-points”, is much more common in French than in English. It may introduce direct speech; a citation; or the explanation, conclusion, summary, etc. of whatever precedes it. Example:

Jean a dit : « Je veux le faire. »
Jean said, “I want to do it.”

Ce film est très intéressant : c’est un classique.
This movie is interesting: it’s a classic.

Quotation marks, also known as “inverted commas”, ( ” ” ) are not used in French. Instead the French use “les guillements”, which look like this: « » , and they have a space between themselves and the words within. Example:

« Salut Jeanne ! dit Pierre. Comment vas-tu ? »
“Hi Jean!” Pierre says. “How are you?”

You may also notice that the exclamation point and the question mark also have spaces between themselves and the last letter. A French person correcting your essay will always correct you if you do not. Don’t worry, when you correct their essay, you can take away the space they sometimes leave, when you correct their English essay. Touché !

Besides their « les guillements », the French also use “les points de suspension”:
— Ah, salut Pierre ! crie Jeanne.
“Oh, hi Pierre!” shouts Jeanne.

That dash is called “le tiret” and it can also be used like parentheses, to indicate or emphasize a comment:

Paul — mon meilleur ami — va arriver demain.
Paul—my best friend—will arrive tomorrow.

Misc. Rules:

1. In French, a space is required both before and after punctuation marks and symbols, including : ; « » ! ? % $ #

les deux-points :
le point-virgule ;
le point d’exclamation !
le point d’interrogation ?

punctuation la ponctuation
comma la virgule
period le point
colon le deux-points
apostrophe l’apostrophe (f)
semi-colon le point-virgule
exclamation mark le point d’exclamation
question mark le point d’interrogation
hyphen le trait d’union
ampersand l’esperluette (f)
brackets les parenthèses (f)
square brackets les crochets (m) droits
curly brackets les accolades (f)
angled brackets les crochets (m) flechés
asterisk l’astérisque (m)
ellipsis [ … ] les points (m) de suspension
French conversation marks les guillemets (m) [ « » ]
long dash [also “new speaker”] le tiret [ — ]
underlined souligné(e)
degree symbol le symbole du degré
hash symbol [ # ] le dièse
@ symbol l’arrobas (m)
forward slash la barre oblique
backslash la barre oblique inverse
pound sign [ £ ] le symbole livre
dollar sign [ $ ] le signe du dollar
acute accent l’accent (m) aigu [ ´ ]
grave accent l’accent (m) grave [ ` ]
circumflex le circonflexe [ ^ ]
cedilla la cédille [ ¸ ]
diaeresis [example: Noël] l’accent (m) tréma