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Introduction to French Sentences

Learn about the parts and types of French sentences


A sentence (une phrase) is a group of words including at minimum a subject and a verb, and may also include any or all of the parts of speech.

Sentence Parts

Sentences can be separated into a subject (un sujet), which may be stated or implied, and a predicate (un prédicat). The subject is the person or thing performing the action, and the predicate is the rest of the sentence, which usually begins with the verb:

Je suis professeur - I am a teacher
Subject: je - I
Predicate: suis professeur - am a teacher

Paul et moi aimons la France - Paul and I love France
Subject: Paul et moi - Paul and I
Predicate: aimons la France - love France

La jeune fille est mignonne - The young girl is cute
Subject: la jeune fille - the young girl
Predicate: est mignonne - is cute

Sentence Types

There are four types of sentences: statements, exclamatives, interrogatives, and commands.

1) Statement - Phrase assertive or Phrase déclarative

Statements, the most common type of sentence, state something:

   I'm going to the bank - Je vais à la banque
   I am tired - Je suis fatigué
   I will help you - Je vous aiderai
   I hope you'll be there - J'espère que tu seras là

There are two subcategories of statements: affirmative statements - les phrases (déclaratives) affirmatives, as above, and negative statements - les phrases (déclaratives) négatives:

   I'm not going - Je n'y vais pas
   I'm not tired - Je ne suis pas fatigué
   I don't want to help you - Je ne veux pas vous aider
   He won't be there - Il ne sera pas là

2) Exclamative - Phrase exclamative

Exclamatives express a strong reaction such as surprise or indignation. They look just like statements except for the exclamation point, and for this reason are sometimes considered a subcategory of statements, rather than a different type of sentence:

   I want to go! - Je veux y aller !
   I hope so! - J'espère que oui !
   He's very handsome! - Il est très beau !
   That's a great idea! - C'est une bonne idée !

3) Interrogative - Phrase interrogative

Interrogatives, more commonly known as questions, ask for or about something:

   Do you have my book? - As-tu mon livre ?
   Are they ready? - Sont-ils prêts ?
   Where is he? - Où est-il ?
   Can you help us? - Peux-tu nous aider ?

4) Command - Phrase impérative

Commands are the only kind of sentence without an explicit subject; instead, the subject is implied by the conjugation of the verb, which is in the imperative:

   Go away! - Va t'en !
   Be good - Sois sage
   Do the dishes - Faites la vaisselle
   Help us find it - Aidez-nous à le trouver*

*à and le do not contract to au here because le is an object, not an article - learn more
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