I’m trying to learn a little French in advance of our trip to France in May. I thought I would report here on my progress and the interesting little things that I’m learning about differences and similarities between French and English.
Two of the most prevalent verbs in French, as they are in English, are “to be” and “to have.”
In case you’ve forgotten about conjugations of verbs, I’ll go through them in English for you. The “to be” conjugations for the present tense are: I am, you are, he/she/it is; we are, you are, they are. The “to have” conjugations are: I have, you have, he/she/it has; we have, you have, they have.
In English, then, we have three words meaning “to be” in the present tense (am, are, and is) and two words meaning “to have” in the present tense (have and has). French, which is famous for its difficult conjugations has six different words for each of these verbs in the present tense.
In French, the present tense of “to be” conjugates this way: Je suis, tu es, il/elle/ce est; nous sommes, vous êtes, ils/elles sont. The present tense of “to have” conjugates like this: J’ai, tu as, il/elle/ce a; nous avons, vous avez, ils/elles ont.
Here’s the part I thought you all might find interesting. In English, we use the “to be” words idiomatically to say things like “I am cold” or “are you hungry?” In French, they use the “to have” verbs for those sorts of things. J’ai faim correctly translates in English to “I’m hungry” but literally translates to “I have hunger.” Ages are handled in a similar way. Elle a 50 ans would be translated to English as “She is 50 years old” but really says “She has 50 years.”
Another interesting difference is that French has the concept of an informal and formal version of “you.” Vous is a plural “you” but it’s also the formal “you.” Since I don’t anticipate becoming bosom buddies with anyone or speaking to many children in France, I’m trying to forget tu and the verbs that go with it.
In my 100 Day Challenge, I pledged to learn 100 words of French in 100 days. I think I’ll count the present tense of verbs as one word, even though in both of these cases they are actually five. I learned the pronouns earlier, so I won’t count them.
My first two words then are:
1. suis, est; sommes, êtes, sont
2. ai, a; avons, avez, ont
Now, I just have to figure out how to use and remember them. I’m open to suggestions!
Visit today’s Wondrous Words Wednesday at BermudaOnion’s Weblog for more word play today!