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yannick, Author at FrenchMaestro - Page 8 of 8
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French Verb To Be – être

The French verb to be, namely "être" in French, is obviously of great use. No doubt you will frequently use it when saying your first sentences in French. Since it is an auxiliary, it has quite a few particularities, making it more difficult than other French verbs. Anyway, you will come across those exceptions so many times that they will very soon sound familiar enough !

In this lesson, we will :

  • study its conjugation for present, perfect and future tenses
  • review how to pronounce it,
  • review a few rules showing when to use it
  • and finally give some expressions & proverbs

Conjugation charts of the French verb to be

The French verb to be is an auxiliary, just like "avoir". SO, unfortunately for students, there are few rules to remember... and its conjugation has to be known by heart. 

The images below are the conjugation charts for the french verb to be, for the main 3 tenses . You can click to open them in a bigger format, save them to your computer or print them. 

Present

French verb to be, present tense

French verb to be, present tense

Perfect

French verb to be, perfect tense

French verb to be, perfect tense

Future

French verb to be, future tense

French verb to be, future tense

If you want more details of each tense, you can visit the dedicated pages of the French verb To Be in present, in perfect or future. 

Pronunciation of French verb to be

In this section, we will focus only on the pronunciation of the French verb to be.
It is actually not that much difficult to pronounce, as there are a total of 20 different sounds to master for the three main tenses : present, perfect and future. Anyway, with a little practice, you will get it!

The following tables use the convention of the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet). I encourage you to get familiar to this system, as it is extremely helpful when learning a new language. 

Present - Phonetics

French verb to be, present tense with phonetics

French verb to be, present tense with phonetics

Perfect - Phonetics

French verb to be, perfect tense with phonetics

French verb to be, perfect tense with phonetics

Future - Phonetics

French verb to be, future tense with phonetics

French verb to be, future tense with phonetics

  • Je suis : su - i
  • Tu es : é
  • Il est : é or è, it depends on the region. People from the South would rather pronounce a "è" sound. In Paris, that would be a "é" sound.
  • Nous sommes : so - me
  • Vous êtes : zè - te (always make the liaison between the 2 !)
  • Ils sont : son
  • J'étais : jé - té or tè. It depends on the region. People from the South would rather pronounce a "è" sound. In Paris, that would be a "é" sound.
  • Nous étions : é - ti - on
  • Vous étiez : zé - ti é
  • Je fus : fu
  • Que je sois : sou - a
  • Que nous soyons : sou - a - yon
  • Que vous soyez : sou - a - yé
  • Je serai : se - ré
  • Je serais : se - rè . Pay close attention to the difference between the 2 forms "serai" and "serais". The simple future is pronunced "é" while the conditionnal tense sounds like a "è".

You see, it was not that much difficult ! By mastering around 20 different sounds, you will be able to survive in the French verbs pronunciation landscape.

Use of French verb to be

The French verb to be is used in many different ways.

To express a state :

  • je suis malade = I am ill
  • J'étais fatigué = I was tired

Expressions / Proverbs using the French verb to be

  • Etre ou ne pas être, telle est la question.
  • Je pense, donc je suis.
  • Je ne suis jamais moins seul que dans la solitude.
  • Je suis riche des biens dont je sais me passer.
  • Être comme les deux doigts de la main.
  • Nous gagnerions plus de nous laisser voir tels que nous sommes que d'essayer de paraître ce que nous ne sommes pas.

If you are really serious about learning French verbs pronunciation, you must try the Audio Verb Conjugator. With more than 200 French verbs conjugated and their audio recordings by 2 different French teachers, it already represents a reference in French learning online.

How to pronounce the French o open sound

How to pronounce the French o open sound

Bonjour ! and welcome to today's lesson focused on the French o sound. As you will read below, there are actually 2 different [O] sounds in French : the closed O and the open O. In this lesson, we will focus only on the open O. Its official symbol according to the IPA is /Ɔ/, but based on our experience with students learning French as a second language, we preferred to note it open [O-Ɔ] for clarity's sake. 

Before digging into the lesson, we'd like to give you a few recommendations :

  1. ​don't give up because you don't understand everything in the video : at that stage, you are here to learn and perfect your pronunciation
  2. be active during this video : repeat each word or syllable during the blank spaces we left for you on purpose
  3. take a blank sheet of paper and write down any word you don't know to start building your own list
  4. if you can't pronounce a difficult French word with /Ɔ/, just leave us a comment : we will record it for you

If you watch all our videos on the French sounds and apply the method above, in no time you will be improving your French. And now, let's focus on the French o open /Ɔ/ sound video : 

Phonetics of the French o open sound  /Ɔ/

There are 2 very distinct sounds in [O] in French. Contrary to the [A] sound for which the sounds are quite similar, the difference between the 2 [O] sounds is very strong and you must respect it to speak a correct French. 

  • /o/ : this is a closed sound, coming from the front part of your mouth. It is noted /o/ in the official IPA phonetic alphabet. Usually this sound is heard in the following circumstances :
    • end of word : mot, bateau, crapaud
    • before [z] : rose, arroser, pause
    • ô circumflex : hôtel, hôtesse
  • /ɔ/ : this sound is more "open", coming from the internal part of your mouth. It is noted /Ɔ/ in the official IPA phonetic alphabet. Usually this sound is heard in 4 situations :  
    • preceding 2 consonants : pomme, homme, botte
    • before a "R" or a "L" : or, dormir, parole
    • latin words : serum, album
    • foreign words : chewing-gumfootball, volleyball

The rules are not that complicated, but there are a few exceptions and it might take time for you to know with confidence which sound to pick. Anyway, remember that practice makes perfect :-)

Sample French o words with open [O-Ɔ] sound

We selected a few words from our 999 Essential French Words list to help you pronounce the [O] sound. Don't forget : practice makes perfect, so repeat loudly after you hear the voice saying the words in French. 

  • fort : adjective : strong
  • une porte : noun, feminine : door
  • sortir: verb : to go out, to exit
  • tortue : noun, feminine : turtle
  • encore : adverb : again

Same open [O-Ɔ] sound... different spelling

French is usually difficult to learn precisely because the letters or combination of letters are not always pronounced the same way, and reciprocally, a same sound can be written in different manners. There are more than a dozen different manners to write the same French o sound : 

  • o : homme, gomme, pomme
  • o : culotte, compote, pilote
  • eo : Georges, rougeole
  • ho : horde
  • au : dinosaure, Laure
  • um : album, serum
  • aw : tomahawk

Essential “Mots-Outils” with open [O-Ɔ]

In elementary French schools, there is a list of about 150 critical French words that kids must know before they turn 8 years old, in the class level called "CP/CE1". I always make sure to teach them to my adults students, because by knowing them by heart, you will cut your learning curve and it will help you concentrate on other difficulties. By working on the pronunciation of the French sounds, you will learn get to know them very quickly ! Here is a short extract of this list with the [O] sound : 

  • alors : then, so, well
  • comme : like, just as, just like, as well as
  • dehors : outside, out
  • encore : more, again, now, else, still, another
  • lorsque : when, as soon as, while

French Verbs with open sound [O-Ɔ]

There are tens of verbs containing the [O] sound in their radical. Our intention there is not to be exhaustive, but to provide a selection of French verbs with this syllable in various positions (initial, middle, final). Here is a short list taken from our 222 Most Valuable French Verbs list.  :  

    1st group : divorcer, égorger, prospérer

    2nd group : ​forcir, obscurcir

    ​3rd group : clore, mordre

French idioms with open sound [O-Ɔ]

Again, a new expression with an animal : a pig this time ! Literally, it would mean "to have a pig's personality". We usually use it about someone who is difficult to deal with, quite stubborn, moody, difficult to live with. 

  • avoir un chat dans la gorge : to have a frog in your throat

French for Kids

This week, a gentle dinosaur came up in our drawing book. Pay attention to the 2 different O sounds here : the first "o" is actually the closed O sound (/o/) while the "au" is the open O sound (/Ɔ/). Note that in some regions the first "o" could also be pronounced as an open O... that's right, French is full of exceptions & subtleties :-)

  • un dinosaure: a dinosaur
French For Kids : dinosaur in French is dinosaure

French For Kids : dinosaur in French is dinosaure

French culture starring... the open [O-Ɔ] sound !

Who said pronunciation has to be boring ?! So why not discover a bit of French culture while practicing your pronunciation of the [O-Ɔ] sound ? We have selected for you those famous symbols of France - a purely subjective choice, based on our personal preferences ;-)

  • Georges Brassens : bla bla bla in anglish, 2-3 lines maximum.
  • Victor Hugo : bla bla bla in anglish, 2-3 lines maximum.
  • Roquefort : bla bla bla in anglish, 2-3 lines maximum.
  • Orléans : bla bla bla in anglish, 2-3 lines maximum.
  • Christian Dior : bla bla bla in anglish, 2-3 lines maximum.
  • Thorgal : bla bla bla in anglish, 2-3 lines maximum.
  • 36 Quai des Orfèvres : bla bla bla in anglish, 2-3 lines maximum.

A difficult French word with open [O-Ɔ] sound ?

If you still struggle to pronounce correctly the open [O-Ɔ] sound in French, we're here to help. Leave us a comment below with the word you can't pronounce, and we will record it for you. We'll only ask you to avoid any slang / crude terms, as this page is accessible by general audiences - including kids.  

Requested French words with [O-Ɔ] sound  :

  •  none so far... be the first ( "Soyez le premier !") and leave us a comment below !

A bientôt !

This was probably more complicated than the [A] sound, but I hope you enjoyed this lesson on the open [O] sound. I actually didn't think the video would last more than 25 minutes ! If not already done, I encourage you to read the similar lesson on the French O closed sound. We have a lot more to come in the next few weeks, so stay tuned with our method. If you consistently practice the pronunciation of all the sounds in French (remember, we have more than 150 !) I guarantee you will be speaking a perfect French in no time.

And now before leaving :

A detailed #frenchlesson video from @FrenchMaestro : 25 minutes to pronounce correctly the open [O] sound in #french. 

Click to Tweet
Learn how to pronounce the French O closed sound

How to pronounce the French o closed sound

The French o closed sound is relatively easy to pronounce, as it is quite frequent and common to other languages. In this lesson, we will focus only on the closed O, which official notation from the IPA is /o/ . You are probably aware that there is a second French O sound : the open O sound notated /Ɔ/

Before digging into the lessons, we'd like to give you a few recommendations :

  1. ​don't give up because you don't understand everything in the video : at that stage, you are here to learn and perfect your pronunciation
  2. be active during this video : repeat each word or syllable during the blank spaces we left for you on purpose
  3. take a blank sheet of paper and write down any word you don't know to start building your own list
  4. if you can't pronounce a difficult French word with [O], just leave us a comment : we will record it for you

If you watch all our videos on the French sounds and apply the method above, in no time you will be improving your French. And now, the [O] sound video : 

Phonetics of the French o closed sound

Contrary to the [A] sound, the difference between the 2 French o sounds is quite strong and you must absolutely respect it to speak a correct French. 

  • /o/ : this is a closed sound, coming from the front part of your mouth. Official notation is /o/.  Usually this sound is heard in the following circumstances :
    • end of word : mot, bateau, crapaud
    • before [z] : rose, arroser, pause
    • ô circumflex : hôtel, hôtesse
  • /ɔ/ : this sound is more "open", coming from the internal part of your mouth. Official IPA notation is /ɔ/. Usually this sound is heard in 4 situations :  
    • preceding 2 consonants : pomme, homme, botte
    • before a "R" or a "L" : or, dormir, parole
    • latin words : serum, album
    • foreign words : chewing-gumfootball, volleyball

The rules are not that complicated, but there are a few exceptions and it might take time for you to know with confidence which sound to pick. Anyway, remember that practice makes perfect :-)

Sample words having the French o closed sound

We selected a few words from our 999 Essential French Words list to help you pronounce this  closed [O] sound. Don't be shy : repeat loudly after you hear the voice saying the words in French. 

  • un kilo : noun, masculine : kilo
  • un pot : noun, masculine : jar
  • écologie : noun, feminine : ecology
  • trop : adv : too much
  • un hôtel : nouns, masculine : hostel
  • le dôme : noun, masculine : dome
  • un fantôme : noun, masculine : ghost

Same [O] sound... different spelling

French is usually difficult to learn precisely because the letters or combination of letters are not always pronounced the same way, and reciprocally, a same sound can be written in different manners. There are more than a dozen different manners to write the same sound [O] in French : 

  • o : photo, apéro
  • ô : nôtre, vôtre
  • os : nos, vos, vélos
  • ot : pot, mot, camelot
  • oc : croc
  • op : trop
  • : hôtel
  • au : autre, auto
  • aux : taux, faux, animaux
  • aut : saut, défaut
  • eau : beau, eau
  • eaux : bateaux, oiseaux
  • ault : hérault
  • ow : bungalow, marshmallow

Essential “Mots-Outils” with [O]

In French schools, there is a list of about 150 critical connectors that kids must know before they turn 8 years old, in the class level called "CP/CE1". As an adult, by knowing them by heart, you will cut your learning curve and it will help you concentrate on other difficulties. By working on the pronunciation of the French sounds, you will learn get to know them very quickly ! Here is a short extract of this list with the French o closed sound : 

  • au : at, to
  • autant : as much as, as many
  • aussi : also, as well, too
  • aussitôt : immediately
  • côte à côte : side by side
  • trop : too, overly, too much, too many

French Verbs with sound [O]

There are tens of verbs containing the [O] sound in their radical. Our intention there is not to be exhaustive, but to provide a selection of French verbs with this syllable in various positions (initial, middle, final). Here is a short list taken from our 222 Most Valuable French Verbs list  :  

    1st group : potasser, localiser

    2nd group : ​abolir, applaudir, appauvrir

    ​3rd group : promettre, produire, connaître, corrompre

French idioms with sound [O]

Again, a new expression with an animal : a pig this time ! Literally, it would mean "to have a pig's personality". We usually use it about someone who is difficult to deal with, quite stubborn, moody, difficult to live with. 

  • avoir une caractère de cochon  : to have a nasty disposition

French for Kids

Drawing done by my own daughter, 6 years old, representing a gentle robot helping preparing fruits and vegetables for the diner. Fell free to share this with your kids and help them learn French :-)

  • un robo: a robot
French For Kids : robot in French is robot

French For Kids : robot in French is robot

French culture starring... the [O] sound !

Who said pronunciation has to be boring ?! So why not discover a bit of French culture while practicing your pronunciation of the [O] sound ? We have selected for you those famous symbols of France - a purely subjective choice, based on our personal preferences ;-)

  • Johnny Halliday : bla bla bla in anglish, 2-3 lines maximum.
  • Guillaume Musso : bla bla bla in anglish, 2-3 lines maximum.
  • Pot-au-feu : bla bla bla in anglish, 2-3 lines maximum.
  • Bordeauxbla bla bla in anglish, 2-3 lines maximum.
  • Peugeot : bla bla bla in anglish, 2-3 lines maximum.
  • Obélix et Compagnie bla bla bla in anglish, 2-3 lines maximum.
  • Jean de Florette : la bla bla in anglish, 2-3 lines maximum.

A difficult French word with [O] sound ?

If you still struggle to pronounce correctly the [O] sound in French, we're here to help. Leave us a comment below with the word you can't pronounce, and we will record it for you. We'll only ask you to avoid any slang / crude terms, as this page is accessible by general audiences - including kids.  

Requested French o closed words :

  •  none so far... be the first ( "Soyez le premier !") and leave us a comment below !

A bientôt !

I hope you enjoyed this lesson on the French o closed sound. I actually didn't think the video would last more than 25 minutes ! We have a lot more to come in the next few weeks, so stay tuned with our method. If you consistently practice the pronunciation of all the sounds in French (remember, we have more than 150 !) I guarantee you will be speaking a perfect French in no time.

And now before leaving :

a detailed #frenchlesson from @FrenchMaestro to master the [O] sound pronunciation in #french. 

Click to Tweet
French pronunciation of the sound A

How to pronounce the French A sound

Bonjour ! and welcome to this lesson dedicated to the French A sound. The [A] sound in French is relatively easy to pronounce, as it is common to a lot of other languages. There are yet a few specifics worth noting, that we explain in this video and its transcript below. To get the most of this lesson, we'd like to give you those advice before starting :

  1. ​don't give up because you don't understand everything in the video : at that stage, you are here to learn and perfect your pronunciation
  2. be active during this video : repeat each word or syllable during the blank spaces we left for you on purpose
  3. take a blank sheet of paper and write down any word you don't know to start building your own list
  4. if you can't pronounce a difficult French word with [A], just leave us a comment : we will record it for you

If you watch all our videos on the French sounds and apply the method above, in no time you will be improving your French. And now, the [A] sound video : 

Phonetics of the French A sound

To be strictly accurate, there are actually 2 slightly different [A] sounds in French, even though this difference tends to disappear in modern French language. 

  • /​a/ : what I would call the "standard" [A], rather "closed", with the sound coming from the front of your mouth, like in "Paris" or "bateau
  • /ɑ/ : this sound is more "open", coming from the internal part of your mouth, it is more internal. Usually this sound is heard in 4 situations :  
    • before a "z" : gaz
    • before a "s" : base, phrase
    • before a silent "s" : en bas
    • with a circumflex accent : âme

My advice : don't overthink this. Depending on the regional accents in France, the difference might be more or less stronger. But in any case, if you pronounce both sounds the exact same way, I can assure you that any French people will understand you. 

Sample words with the French A sound

We selected those 3 different words, coming from our list of 999 Essential Words, to help you pronounce correctly the French A sound. More than the words themselves, relatively easy, pay attention to the liaison made between the articles (deux, trois, cinq, des, un, une) and the word starting with a vowel (année, avion). 

  • année : noun, feminine : year
  • avion : noun, masculine : plane
  • canard : noun, masculine : duck

Same [A] sound... different spelling

French is usually difficult to learn precisely because the letters or combination of letters are not always pronounced the same way, and reciprocally, a same sound can be written in different manners. There are at least 6 different ways to write the same sound [A] in French. 

  • a : avion, année, parade, lavande
  • â : âtre, appât, âme, âne
  • à : voilà, là-bas
  • as : tu as, tu auras, verglas, repas
  • at : rat, odorat, sénat, sultanat
  • ha : haleter, hasart, havre​

Essential “Mots-Outils” with [A]

In French elementary schools (in the class level called "CP/CE1"), pupils must know a list of about 150 critical connectors before they turn 8 years old. As an adult, by knowing them by heart, you will cut your learning curve and it will help you concentrate on other difficulties. By working on the pronunciation of the French sounds, you will learn get to know them very quickly ! Here is a short extract of this list focusing on the French A sound : 

  • afin : in order to
  • alors : then
  • après : after
  • assez : enough
  • avant : before
  • avant-hier : the day before yesterday
  • avec : with

French Verbs with sound [A]

There are dozens - if not hundreds - of verbs containing the [A] sound in their radical. Our intention there is not to be exhaustive, but to provide a selection of French verbs with this syllable in various positions (initial, middle, final). Here is a short list taken from our 202 French Verb Conjugator list.  :  

    1st group : acheter, appeller, apprécier, amuser

    2nd group : ​aboutir, agir, ralentir

    ​3rd group : abattre, appartenir, apparaître, apercevoir, aller

French idioms with sound [A]

Today, an expression with an animal : a cow ! Literally, it would mean "oh, the cow !" or "look at that cow !". We usually use it to express surprise about something incredible, shocking or unbelievable. Also when we admire a great performance (like in sports, someone scoring many times in a game). 

  • Oh, la vache ! : oh my god ! hell ! damn !

French for Kids

Drawing done by my own daughter, 6 years old, representing a raccoon (hopefully you recognized it !). Fell free to share this with your kids and help them learn French :-)

  • un raton laveur : a raccoon
French For Kids : racoon in French is raton laveur

French For Kids : racoon in French is raton laveur

French culture starring... the [A] sound !

Who said pronunciation has to be boring ?! So why not discover a bit of French culture while practicing your pronunciation of the [A] sound ? We have selected for you those famous symbols of France - a purely subjective choice, based on our personal preferences ;-)

  • Charles Aznavour : bla bla bla in anglish, 2-3 lines maximum.
  • Arthur Rimbaudbla bla bla in anglish, 2-3 lines maximum.
  • Macarons : bla bla bla in anglish, 2-3 lines maximum.
  • Avignon : bla bla bla in anglish, 2-3 lines maximum.
  • Petit Bateau : bla bla bla in anglish, 2-3 lines maximum.
  • Le secret de l'Espadon bla bla bla in anglish, 2-3 lines maximum.
  • Intouchables : la bla bla in anglish, 2-3 lines maximum.

A difficult French word with [A] sound ?

If you still struggle to pronounce correctly the [A] sound in French, we're here to help. Leave us a comment below with the word you can't pronounce, and we will record it for you. We'll only ask you to avoid any slang / crude terms, as this page is accessible by general audiences - including kids.  

Requested French words with [A] sound  :

  •  none so far... be the first ( "Soyez le premier !") and leave us a comment below !

A bientôt !

I hope you enjoyed this lesson on the [A] sound. I actually didn't think the video would last more than 25 minutes ! We have a lot more to come in the next few weeks, so stay tuned with our method. If you consistently practice the pronunciation of all the sounds in French (remember, we have more than 150 !) I guarantee you will be speaking a perfect French in no time.

And now before leaving :

a very detailed #frenchlesson to pronounce correctly the sound [A] in #french. 

Click to Tweet
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