1. Grammar and Spelling
3. Measurements and Abbreviations
5. Miscellaneous Peculiarities
6. Geographic Distribution
7. Character Set
Section One - Grammar and Spelling
1. Gender: There are no cases in French and two genders - Masculine and Feminine.
Lots of words ending with “e” are feminine but there are a lot of exceptions.
E.g. the following don’t end in ‘e’ and are feminine – souris, foi
Some nouns do end in ‘e’ and are masc. – lycée, musée, foie
Ideally, search for the article accompanying the noun to work out the gender.
2. Articles: Definite articles are LE (masculine), LA (feminine), LES (plural). Indefinite articles are UN (masculine), UNE (feminine), DES (plural).
3. Spelling: There are a few letters that could be mistaken for errors such as: à, ç, œ, ê, î, ï. These letters are usually in a word. E.g.: façade, vœu, à (one word), ouïe, être.
It is a grammatical mistake not to use the accents on the upper case characters. Also, they make it easier to understand the text.
Plural forms end with an ‘s’ or an ‘x’ and are preceded by LES or DES (meaning SOME).
The rules are:
- Nouns ending with OU forms the plural with an S except: bijoux, cailloux, choux, genoux, hiboux, joujoux, poux
- Nouns ending with EU forms the plural with X except for bleus, pneus
- Nouns ending with -(E)AU forms the plural with X except for landaus and sarraus
- Nouns ending with -AL forms plural with S except for bail, corail, émail, ferrail, travail, vantail, vitrail, which change to AUX (travaux). Attention:
FINAL is not an exception and becomes FINAL(E)S when plural.
- Nouns ending with S, X and Z keep the same ending in the plural.
The following shows how plurals are formed for various compound nouns:
Noun + noun: Usually, both nouns take the plural ending: des oiseauxmouches, des locations-ventes. There are some exception but they can be quite logical: des timbres-poste (= des timbres pour la poste), des annéeslumière, des gardes-chasse (de la chasse)
Noun + preposition + noun: Only the first noun takes the plural ending: des arcs-en-ciel. Here again, there are some exceptions: des tête-à-tête, des pot-au-feu.
Adjective + noun: Both nouns take the plural ending: des basses-cours.
Exception: the adjective grand + feminine noun takes the plural but does not take the feminine ‘e’: des grands-mères.
Adjective demi + noun : doesn't change: des demi-journées. Also they are always separated by a hyphen.
Adjective + adjective: Both adjectives take the plural ending: des sourdsmuets.
Verb + noun: 1. Only the noun takes the plural ending: des tire-bouchons; des tourne-disques.
2. Neither the verb nor the noun take the plural ending: des abat-jour
Invariable word + noun: Only the noun takes the plural ending: des avantscènes; des non-lieux.
Verb + verb: No plural agreement: des laissez-passer.
Foreign words: The last noun takes the plural ending: Des snack-bars, des pull-overs, les week-ends
No plural agreement: des post-scriptum
The formal forms of address are not capitalised apart from Madame,
Monsieur, Messieurs, Mademoiselle. These are written in lower-case in the following circumstances:
- In a letter when you write about a person that is known to the addressee.
E.g.: J’ai eu l’occasion de rencontrer votre cousin, monsieur Durant.
- In a dialogue. E.g.: Voyez-vous, monsieur, je pense que… - Merci, madame.
- When an article, a possessive or a demonstrative is placed before Monsieur and others.
E.g.: J’en ai parlé à ce monsieur et il est d’accord.
Section Two - Punctuation
1. Full stops: Full stops are not used at the end of headings, titles, subtitles, addresses, dates, no. of pages. E.g.: Le 20 mars 1984 - Page 11.
Please note that etc is followed by one full stop and not … (etc.)
2. Speech marks: The French quotation marks must always be used: « and ». “ and ” are English and should not be used in French text. On the other hand, ‘ and ’ can be used when a quote or a speech is within another quote orspeech.
Unlike English, French does not always have to have closing and re-opening speech marks around a phrase, like 'he said' when it is embedded within dialogue.
« Je veux plus de travail ! », cria Chloé. (“Give me more work!”, shouted Chloe.)
« Et il s’est exclamé ‘Quelqu’un veut du thé ?’ comme il aime à le faire. ». (“Would anyone like some tea?” asked George.)
« Je m’ennuie. » dit Michelle, « Puis-je rentrer chez moi ? » (“I’m bored – can I go home now?”, Michala said.)
3. The apostrophe: The apostrophe is used for elision purposes, especially with an article followed by a vowel. E.g.: L’anglais, l’imprimante.
4. Colons and semi-colons: Colons and semi-colons are preceded by a space (preferably non breakable) and the word following them is not capitalised. The word following ellipsis is usually capitalised.
5. Brackets: The brackets are as follows: ( and ). The following rules apply:
- If the text in brackets is a complete sentence (subject + verb at least), there is a full stop BEFORE the closing bracket. E.g.: Nettoyez l’imprimante. (Utilisez de préférence un chiffon doux.)
- If the text in brackets is a part of another main sentence, there is not full stop before the closing bracket. E.g.: Utilisez un chiffon (doux et non pelucheux) pour nettoyez l’imprimante.
The square brackets are used when there are already brackets.
6. Capitalisation: The capitalisation rules are similar to English in the use of capitals at the beginning of sentences and for proper names, but French doesn't use capitals as often as English. Please note:
- In headings, usually only the first word has a capital letter and the rest of the words in the title are lower case.
- Names of days/seasons/months are always in lower case, e.g. lundi, mardi/printemps, été/janvier, février.
- Languages (anglais, italien, espagnol, etc.) are never capitalised in French.
Capitals are only used when it refers to the people. E.g.: les Français, les Espagnols.
- Product names are also normally in lower case, apart from the first word of a sentence or phrase.
- The noun following a comma, a colon or a semi-colon is never capitalised.
The noun following an exclamation mark or an interrogation mark is usually capitalised.
The rules are as follows:
- If the bulleted items are full sentences (subject + verb), each starts with a capital letter and ends with a full stop.
- If the bulleted items are phrases or just words, they are not capitalised and all end with a semi- colon apart from the last item that ends with a full stop.
Space in punctuation: French always has a space before and after the following punctuation marks: : ; ! ? (preferably a non-breakable space).
Section Three - Measurements and Abbreviations
1. Measurement: Metric system is used except for computer monitors (inches), inner diameter of pipes/tubes, nautical miles and size of computer disks.
Numbers use a comma to denote decimals and a non-breakable space as the thousands separator (not a dot!). E.g.: 4,5 cm - 4 500 - 50 000.
10h30 / midi / 16h30 / minuit (always use the 24-hour clock)
20 février 2004 - 20/02/2004 - 20 février. Please note: 1er janvier 2000
There should always be a space before a % symbol
There should be a space before °C (preferably a non-breakable space). E.g.: 30°C.
2. Currency: 230 £ / 230 livres sterling / 45 € / 45 euros / 98 milliards de dollars / 98 $ / 5 EUR / 5 USD.
The international 3-letter code e.g. GBP for £, should appear in place of the symbol – they should not be used at the same time.
No. (nos.): N°, Nos
e.g.: c.-à-d. or par.ex
WxLxHxD: l x L x H x P
1st / 2nd / 3rd / 4th: 1er / 2e / 3e / 4e
Mr. / Mrs. / Messrs. / Miss: M. (Monsieur) / Mme (Madame) / Mlle (Mademoiselle) / MM. (Messieurs) / Mmes (Mesdames) / Mlles (Mesdemoiselles)
Dear Sir / Madam: Cher Monsieur, Chère Madame,
m (for metre): m
cm (for centimetre): cm
lb (for pound weight): s/o
g (for gram): g
km (for kilometre): km
yr (for year): a
k (for 1000): K (but km for kilometer)
EMEA (Europe, Middle-East & Asia): EMOA
Days of the week (Mon, Tues, Wed, Thurs, Fri, Sat, Sun): lund, mar, mer, jeu, vend, sam, dim
Months: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec: Janv, Fév, Mars, Avril, Mai, Juin, Juil, Août, Sept, Oct, Nov, Déc
Seasons are not normally abbreviated in French.
UE = EU - CEE (Communauté Economique Européenne) = EEC - c.a./c.c. (courant alternatif/courant continu) = AC/DC - PAO (Publication assistée par ordinateur) = DTP - Heure T.U.: UT - réf.: = reference - TVA = VAT - Mo =MB and Go = GB - P-S = post-scriptum - SVP = please - PDG = CEO - p. = pg. (p. 127 et 128) - MHz = megahertz - ppm = page/minute - bps = bit(s)/second - fig. = figure (illustration) - Tél. or Tél. = telephone - TTC = all tax included
Section Four – Hyphenation
Hyphens are used in:
- Verb pronouns: e.g. prends-le-lui
- Compounds nouns: arc-en-ciel
- Numbers: dix-sept, quatre-vingt
- To hyphenate: Here are the rules for split over lines (Words are hyphenated by syllable.):
1. Forbidden hyphenations:
- Never split a number.
- Never separate a number from its following nouns.
- Never split initials or acronyms.
- Do not split « l’ ».
- Never split just before a silent final vowel. Do not do as follows: impriman-te, grec-que.
- Never split the syllables ch, kh, ph, ps.
- Make sure the letter or the group of letter that you split is pronounceable. Do not do: tr-anquilité or cl-arifier.
- Never split a group of letters that forms a “unique” vowel (au, eau, oi, eu an, on, in, ein, un, etc.)
2. Other Divisions
|A consonant between two vowels.||Split after one of the two vowels. ||Lu-mineux ou lumi-neux|
|Two vowels in a row.||Split after the first vowel unless it is a “unique” vowel.||Alé-atoire|
|Two consonants together surrounded by two vowels.|
Split between the consonants but never split ch, ph, kh ou ps.
Always split separating both consonants:
- If it is only one sound.
- If the second consonant is R or L and the first other than R or L.
|Three consonants in a row.||Split after:|
- The second consonant as a general rule ;
- The first consonant not to separate (ch, ph, kh ou ps) or if the 3rd consonant is R or L.
|Four consonants in a row.||Split after the second.||Ins-tructions|
|Exceptions||The origin of the word may justify some exceptions..||In-stable,|
Words joined together using hyphens are quite commons especially with compound nouns and verb pronouns.
The prefixes extra, super, multi, semi, ultra are used to form compound nouns.
|Extra||There is no specific rule but the major trend is not to use any hyphen or space.|
E.g.: Papier « extra blanc »
|Multi||Words formed with multi are written with one word and without any hyphen. The then compound adjective agrees with the noun it goes with.|
E.g.: Des connexions multilignes - Lecteur optique multifonction
|Semi||This prefix can be used with nouns or adjectives. It remains invariable and the noun or adjective that follows can be plural. There is always an hyphen.|
E.g.: Papier semi-glacé
|Super||Never use a hyphen for compound nouns with super.|
E.g.: microprocesseur MIPS superscalaire
|Ultra||The compounds nouns with ultra are never written with a hyphen.|
The dash is usually replaced with colons in French but text in brackets or a semi colon can as well be used.
E.g.: Printer - Driver installation and configuration
Imprimante : installation et configuration du pilote
Section Five – Miscellaneous Peculiarities
Usually, the ending “burg” is “bourg” in French.
In addresses, there is no county or district as the postcode says it all:
8, rue de la Faisandrie
80100 Amiens… and that is all!
Usually surnames are given before the first name (and lists of names are classified according to surnames)
Surnames are sometimes written all in upper case in French.
French uses italics as a stylistic form but not the same way as English does.
Section Six – Geographic Distribution
The official language of France is … French! but there are also regional languages such as Breton (in Brittany), Basque (in the Basque area), Corsican in Corsica and dialects such as Flemish, French Alsatian, Occitan, Picard, etc. Different Creole languages are also spoken in French Guyana, French West Indies, and Reunion. There are also different languages and dialects in New Caledonia.
French is one of the world's great languages, rivalled only by English as the language of international society and diplomacy. Besides being spoken in France, it is one of the official languages of Belgium, Switzerland, and Canada; it is the official language of Luxembourg, Haiti, more than fifteen African countries, and various French dependencies such as St. Pierre and Miquelon (off the coast of New-Foundland), Guadeloupe and Martinique (in the Caribbean), French Guyana (in South America), Reunion (in the Indian Ocean), and New Caledonia and Tahiti (in the South Pacific). In addition, French is the unofficial second language of a number of countries, including Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Lebanon, Syria, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. All told, it is the mother tongue of about 75 million people, with millions more familiar with it, in some degree, as a second language. French is one of the Romance languages, descended from Latin.
French is spoken/used in the following countries:
Algeria, Belgium, Benin, Bora Bora, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros (Federal Islamic Republic), Congo (Zaire), Congo Republic, Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast),Djibouti, Europa Island, France, French Guiana, French Polynesia, French Southern & Antarctic Lands, Gabon, Glorioso Islands, Guadeloupe (French), Guernsey, Guinea, Haiti, Italy, Jersey, Juan de Nova Island, Laos, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Martinique (French), Mauritius, Mayotte (French), Monaco (Principality of), Morocco, New Caledonia, Niger, Reunion Island (France), Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles Islands, St. Pierre & Miquelon (French), Switzerland, Syria, Tahiti (French), Togo, Tunisia, United States of America, Vanuatu, Vietnam, Virgin Islands (U.S.), Zaire.
Source: http://www.worldlanguage.com/Languages/French - Copyright © Kenneth Katzner, The Languages of the World, Published by Routledge.
Here are other useful links for reference:
Section Seven – Character Set
[ ] = Alt key codes
By Wordbank Ltd,
|a à  â  æ ||A, À , Æ |
|c ç ||C, Ç |
|e è  é  ê  ë ||E, È , É |
|i î  ï  ||I, Î , Ï |
|l ||L |
|n ||N |
|o ô  œ  ||O, Ô , Œ |
|r ||R |
|s ||S |
|t ||T |
|u ù  û  ||U, Ù |
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