The Complete Idiot's Guide to Learning French

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Learning French

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by Gail Stein, Gail Complete Stein

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You're no idiot, of course. You appreciate wine and brie, can pronounce "croissant," and know that "bonjour" means hello. But when it comes to actually learning the language, you feel stranded on the Eiffel Tower with no way down. Don't strap on your parachute just yet! The Complete Idiot's Guide to Learning French, Second Edition makes mastering French fun and…  See more details below


You're no idiot, of course. You appreciate wine and brie, can pronounce "croissant," and know that "bonjour" means hello. But when it comes to actually learning the language, you feel stranded on the Eiffel Tower with no way down. Don't strap on your parachute just yet! The Complete Idiot's Guide to Learning French, Second Edition makes mastering French fun and entertaining—instead of bogging you down with verb tenses and vocabulary lists. You'll feel confident about "parlaying" your new proficiency into conversations with native speakers. In this Complete Idiot's Guide, you get:

Product Details

Alpha Books
Publication date:
Complete Idiot's Guide Series
Edition description:
Older Edition
Product dimensions:
7.36(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.12(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 8

Greetings and Salutations

In This Chapter

  • Hellos and good-byes
  • The irregular verb être (to be)
  • Jobs and professions
  • When you need information
The time has come to put what you've learned to good use. Now that you can create simple French sentences (using subject nouns, pronouns, and regular verbs) and ask yes-no questions, you're ready to engage in a short conversation.

While you're sitting on the plane on your way to a glorious vacation in a French-speaking country, you might want to strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you. If that person speaks French, you're in luck. This is an excellent opportu-nity for you to introduce yourself and, perhaps, to get a few helpful hints and recom-mendations about places to visit, restaurants to go to, and things to do in the country you're visiting.

Becoming Friends

Even though you've read every travel book in your local bookstore, you may still be a little nervous about your trip. What you really need to do is speak to someone from the country—someone who lives there and can fill you in on everything you can do and see and everywhere to go. Where can you find this person? Probably sitting right next to you on the plane! There's plenty of time before you arrive at your destination, so why not strike up a conversation?...

Getting Information 1-2-3

You're ready to make your move. What's your opening line? Something corny like, "Excuse me, where are you from?" Or, "Where are you going?" Or perhaps you have a more interesting question to break the ice. No matter how you choose to pursue your line of questioning, you'll find that the easiest way to ask for information is to put the question word immediately after the verbal phrase or thought. Here are some questions you might want to ask a traveling companion:

Vous voyagez (Tu voyages) avec qui?

Vous voyagez (Tu voyages) pourquoi?

Vous voyagez (Tu voyages) comment?

Vous parlez (Tu parles) de qui? de quoi?


Note that French does not have separate words for who (subject)and whom (object).The word qui serves as both.

Vous regardez (Tu regardes) quoi?

Vous êtes (Tu es) d'où?

Vous habitez (Tu habites) où en France?

Le vol (the flight) arrive quand? à quelle heure?

Un soda coûte combien?

Getting Information Using est-ce que

Information questions can also be asked by using est-ce que. This is done by putting the question word at the very beginning of the sentence and then adding est-ce que before the verbal phrase or thought:

Avec qui est-ce que vous voyagez (tu voyages)?

Pourquoi est-ce que vous voyagez (tu voyages)?

Comment est-ce que vous voyagez (tu voyages)?

De qui? De quoi est-ce que vous parlez (tu parles)?

Qu'est-ce que vous regardez (tu regardes)?

D'où est-ce que vous êtes (tu es)?

est-ce que vous habitez (tu habites) en France?

Quand? À quelle heure est-ce que le vol (the flight) arrive?

Combien est-ce que un soda coûte?

Getting Information Using Inversion Finally, you can use inversion to ask information questions. Put the question word(s) (as listed in the previous table) before the inverted subject pronoun and conjugated verb form:

En 10 Minutes

You can get information by using question words at the end of a thought with intonation,before est-ce que,or before an inverted verb form.


Quoi becomes que (qu ')before est-ce que: Tu veux faire quoi? Qu 'est-ce que tu veux faire?What do you want to do?

Avec qui voyagez-vous (voyages-tu)?

Pourquoi voyagez-vous (voyages-tu)?

Comment voyagez-vous (voyages-tu)?

De qui? De quoi parlez-vous (parles-tu)?

Que regardez-vous (regardes-tu)?

D'où êtes-vous (es-tu)?

habitez-vous (habites-tu) en France?

Quand? À quelle heure le vol (the flight) arrive-t-il?

Combien coûte-t-il un soda?

You will probably ask for information in a variety of different ways. No doubt you'll choose the way that feels more comfortable and seems to flow. Most of the time, however, you will probably tack the question word or phrase onto the end of your statement (Vous êtes d'où?). Why not? It's easy and it works. Using est-ce que may be your choice on occasion, especially if you have a noun subject (A quelle heure est-ce que l'avion arrive?). At other times, you might find it preferable to invert (Que cherches-tu?). Whichever way you choose, you will be perfectly understood and will get the informa-tion you need.


Quoi becomes que (qu ')when inversions is used:Tu veux faire quoi? Que veux-tu faire?

Getting the Scoop

Read each of the following paragraphs. Ask as many questions as you can, based on the information given to you in each selection. In paragraph A, you are asking about Robert. In paragraph B, you must ask Georgette questions about herself:

    >A. Robert est des États-Unis. Il voyage avec sa famille en France en voiture. Ils passent deux mois en France. Is désirent visiter tous les villages typiques. Ils retournent à Pittsburgh en septembre. >B. Je m'appelle Georgette. Je suis de Nice. Je cherche une correspondante américaine parce que je désire pratiquer l'anglais. Je parle anglais seulement quand je suis en classe. J'adore aussi la musique. Je suis sérieuse.
Un deux trois

Be imaginative.Pretend that right now you are sitting next to an interesting person in an airplane bound for Martinique.Think of five questions you would ask that person to get to know him better.

The Least You Need to Know

  • Choose your words carefully!The greeting words you use depend upon your familiarity with that person.
  • The verb être is one of the most useful verbs in French.It is essential to memo- rize it because it is irregular.
  • You can ask yes/no questions by using intonation,the tag n 'est-ce pas,est-ce que at the beginning of a sentence,and inversion.
  • You can get information easily by learning a few key words and phrases,and by placing them at the end of the thought,before est-ce que at the beginning of the sentence,or before an inverted question form...

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Meet the Author

Gail Stein is the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Learning French on Your Own, The Complete Idiot's Guide Learning Spanish on Your Own, the French Is Fun series, the French Practice and Testing series, the Spanish Practice and Testing series, and French at a Glance. A well-known language instructor who has taught in New York City public schools for more than 25 years, she has given presentations at numerous foreign language conferences, and her lessons have been videotaped by the New York City Board of Education for national distribution. She lives in Bayside, New York.

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Complete Idiot's Guide to Learning French 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book helped me out alot! I realy enjoyed reading it, and learning French with this book. It helped me out with learning the french sounds and the french verbs. I would suggest this book to someone who is learing French in school or college - This book helps ALOT!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book helped me a lot! I think it's a great book to study French with. It has an excellent way of explaining things and I actually understood what it was teaching. I recommend this book to anyone who needs help in a French class or to anyone who just wants to learn French.