French Sentence Structure

Go ahead, take them, they are lamps that I no longer use.Vas-y, prends-les, ce sont des lampes dont je ne me sers plus. 

When you’re learning French grammar from a textbook, most of what you learn has been carefully dissected so that you can focus on one topic at a time. This is very important in the beginning stages, but in reality, many French sentences include lots of different aspects of French grammar.

It can be interesting to look at French sentences and their English translations while comparing the two. Once you have identified corresponding words, you will realize how many similarities there are French and English. You’ll also notice some big differences, and those are worth examining more closely.


Comparing French and English Sentence Structure


Vas-y = Go ahead  

This is the imperative (command) form of the verb aller, and it is used with the pronoun Y.  The verb aller cannot stand alone, so when you aren’t stating where you’re going, you must use the pronoun Y.

The rule says to take the S off of the TU form of aller in the imperative, just as you would with regular verbs ending in ER.  However, when followed by the pronoun Y,  the S is retained for pronunciation purposes. 

Lesson:  French imperative with pronouns

Lesson:  The pronoun Y


prends-les = take them

This is the imperative form of the verb prendre in the TU form.  Since prendre is not a verb ending in ER, you always need to keep the S in the TU form. 

In this example, the imperative of prendre is followed by LES, a direct object pronoun which refers to the lampes in the next part of the sentence.

Lesson:  Direct and indirect object pronouns

Lesson: Irregular French verb prendre


ce sont des lampes = they are lamps

The big question here is:  Why use ce sont instead of elles sont?  After all, lampes are feminine and plural in this context.  The answer is simple.  Use ce sont when the next word is a determiner, un déterminant

Determiners are words that define the number and gender of the words they determine. They can be definite, indefinite, or partitive articles, demonstrative adjectives, interrogative adjectives, possessive adjectives, etc. 

Lesson:  C’est vs Il est / Ce sont vs Ils sont

Determiners:  Definite, indefinite, and partitive articles

Determiners:  Demonstrative adjectives

Determiners:  Possessive adjectives

Determiners: Forms of TOUT


dont je ne me sers plus = that I no longer use

DONT is a relative pronoun.  Relative pronouns introduce relative clauses, and they allow us to avoid repetition.  DONT replaces de + an object in a relative clause (les lampes = object). Some expressions in French have to be followed by DE. 

DONT is required in this sentence because of the verb being used:  se servir de.  Je me sers de cette lampe. C’est une lampe dont je me sers.

Lesson:  Relative pronoun DONT

Lesson:  Relative pronouns QUI – QUE – OÙ – DONT

Lesson: Relative pronouns CE QUI – CE QUE – CE DONT

Lesson:  Relative pronouns LEQUEL – AUQUEL – DUQUEL

Lesson:  French verbs followed by DE + NOUN




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