Lots of learners see French grammar as a huge beast that cannot be tamed. To start with, words in French have genders, and there are many tenses, grammatical agreements, rules (exceptions to these rules), and weird spellings...just to name a few difficulties. However, in the same way, you don’t need to memorize the whole dictionary to know a decent amount of vocabulary, you don't need to learn every grammar rule.


This article will help you find articulations in sentences and understand how all the pieces fit together so you can express yourself without having to learn extensive grammar for five years.


Below are a few examples where I have changed one part of a sentence from the above line. Here you can see which part of the sentence you need to change in order to say something totally different, using only a handful of words.






Le chien mange un biscuit.

[lə ʃjɛ̃ mɑ̃ʒ ɛ̃ biskɥi]]

The dog eats a biscuit.

Mon chien mange un biscuit.

[mɔ̃ ʃjɛ̃ mɑ̃ʒ ɛ̃ biskɥi]

My dog eats a biscuit.

Mon chien a mangé un biscuit.

[mɔ̃ ʃjɛ̃ a mɑ̃ʒe ɛ̃ biskɥi]

My dog ate a biscuit.

Le chien mangera un biscuit.

[lə ʃjɛ̃ mɑ̃ʒʁa ɛ̃ biskɥi]

The dog will eat a biscuit.

Son chien a mangé des biscuits.

[sɔ̃ ʃjɛ̃ a mɑ̃ʒe de biskɥi]

His/her dog ate biscuits.

Notre chien a mangé son biscuit.

[nɔtʁə ʃjɛ̃ a mɑ̃ʒe sɔ̃ biskɥi]

Our dog ate her/his biscuit.

Mon chien n'a pas mangé son biscuit.

[mɔ̃ ʃjɛ̃ na pa mɑ̃ʒe sɔ̃ biskɥi]

My dog didn't eat her/his biscuit.

Mon chien a mangé son os.

[mɔ̃ ʃjɛ̃ a mɑ̃ʒe sɔ̃n- ɔs]

My dog ate his/her bone.

Mes chiens ont mangé des biscuits.

[me ʃjɛ̃ ɔ̃ mɑ̃ʒe de biskɥi]

My dogs ate biscuits.

Mes chiens ne mangeraient que des biscuits.

[me ʃjɛ̃ nə mɑ̃ʒʁɛ kə de biskɥi]

My dogs would only eat biscuits.

Ma chienne ne mange pas de biscuits.

[ma ʃjɛn nə mɑ̃ʒ pa də biskɥi]

My female dog doesn't eat biscuits.

Ton chien n'aime pas les biscuits ?

[tɔ̃ ʃjɛ̃ nɛm pa le biskɥi]

Your dog doesn't like biscuits?



As you can see, you can't tell whose biscuit it is because son refers to biscuit and not to the person to whom the biscuit belongs. You have to rely on the context to know what son or sa means.


These two or three letter words (or articles) can completely change the meaning of a sentence. Luckily, these words are among the first ones you will learn!


Now that you know what those mean, try using articles yourself. Practicing will really help you understand and remember how to use them.


To build a sentence in any language, you need a minimum number of elements working together, and you can add some more later on when you feel at ease, such as adjectives.


Some verbs are here to save the day if you’re not familiar with conjugation just yet. You can use the following four verbs to precede (almost) any other verb in its infinitive form:

  • Je peux.
  • Je veux.
  • Je dois.
  • Je vais.







Je peux faire un gâteau.

[ʒə pø fɛʁ ɛ̃ gato]

I can bake a cake.

Je peux parler à ta soeur.

[ʒə pø paʁle a ta sɔœːʁ]

I can talk to your sister.

Je vais nager.

[ʒə vɛ naʒe]

I go swimming.

Je vais me faire couper les cheveux.

[ʒə vɛ mə fɛʁ kupe le ʃəvø]

I am going to have a haircut.

Je dois aller là-bas.

[ʒə dwa ale laba]

I have to go there.

Je dois faire ceci.

[ʒə dwa fɛʁ səsi]

I have to do this.

Je veux manger.

[ʒə vø mɑ̃ʒe]

I want to eat.

Je veux dormir ici.

[ʒə vø dɔʁmiʁ isi]

I want to sleep here.



You can also use adverbs. As adverbs do not change in different contexts, they won't leave you puzzled about how to use them. Just pop one in between two words and you're good to go! Here are twelve common examples:






un peu

[ɛ̃ pø]

a little









a lot








[ply, plys]

more/not anymore









over there









You will also have to use conjunctions. Here are five ones useful for everyday expressions:























And some examples of conjuctions in use:






Je n'ai plus envie, mais peut-être demain.

[ʒə ne ply ɑ̃vi, mɛ pøtɛtʁə dəmɛ̃]

I don't want to anymore, but maybe tomorrow.

Je veux aller là-bas avec mon père.

[ʒə vø ale laba avɛk mɔ̃ pɛːʁ]

I want to go there with my father.

Je suis arrivée avant, donc c'est ma place.

[ʒə sɥiz- aʁive avɑ̃, dɔ̃k sɛ ma plas]

I arrived first so this is my spot.



Of course, practice makes perfect! Learn one pattern after another, and don't try to rush. Take your time to repeat these words and create sentences until you master the interrogative form, introducing yourself, and the use of adverbs. Use short sentences and don't try to make everything fit together at once.


Decide what you’d like to learn first. I’d recommend knowing how to introduce yourself and then practice responding to questions.


After using some "pre-made" sentences for a while, you will get used to the patterns and you will be able to adapt them as you wish. Make sure to talk to native speakers and ask them to tell you if they notice anything wrong - that way you don't develop bad habits!


Hopefully after reading this article, you'll realize that French grammar is not as hard as it first looks. You can use a lot of tools to make it easier for yourself, whilst still sounding natural and being able to express very detailed ideas. You might struggle at first, but if you can practice enough with a native speaker, over time it will come more and more naturally. And if you want help mastering these tips, take a lesson with me!


Hero image by Tristan Colangelo on Unsplash