To form the negative in French, we usually use two little words, ne and pas. We place ne in front of the verb and pas after the verb. English mostly gets by with one word, not. For example:
je ne vais pas
I am going
I am not going
We can see that ne and not are very similar; both can make the sentence negative. But where does this extra little word “pas” come from?
The word “pas” in French also has another meaning. It is a noun that means “step,” as in to take a step forward. If you are a ballet fan, you have heard of the expression “pas de deux” used to describe a dance for two people.
Linguists tell us that the use of pas as a negative came from people using pas in its original meaning of a step.
Just as in English we might say “I am not walking one step,” in French the expression at one time was “je ne march pas,” with the meaning of “I am not walking a step.”
This use of pas became extended to apply in other cases also, and so evolved into the present day use of pas in most negative sentences.
This process of turning a noun, verb, or adjective into a grammatical word is called “grammaticalization” by those who study the history and evolution of languages. The French use of pas is just one example of this.
Adjectives, words that describe people, places, things, or ideas, bring life and color to our writing and speech. They describe things so that the reader or listener can get a truer picture of what the author or speaker is talking about.
Which of these sounds more appealing? A glass of iced tea, or a tall, cool glass of sweet, refreshing, iced tea? Adjectives are essential to good communication.
In English, nouns don’t have gender so the adjective stays the same, no matter what we are describing. It makes no difference whether we are writing about a tall boy or a tall girl; we still use tall. Even when we are describing more than one thing, such as tall boys and tall girls, the adjective doesn’t change.
When it comes to adjectives in French, though, things are more complicated. Continue reading →
L’Art de lire combines beginning conversational French with an introduction to French phonics, enabling children to read simple stories in French from the first lesson. Includes verb conjugations, grammar, and conversational French.
The six levels of L’Art de lire correspond roughly to the curriculum guidelines for Grades 4-8 Core French in Ontario, Canada.