French Vocabulary: Dansequâ

Posted on 26. Nov, 2014 by in Grammar, Vocabulary

Photo by Ben Watts on Flikr.

Photo by Ben Watts on Flikr.

Dansequâ is a French word you will never find in any dictionnaire.

The story behind this mot bizarre (strange word) goes back to when I first started learning French. I remember hearing my teacher say “dansequâ” and understanding it dans son contexte (in context) as meaning something like “because” or “taking that into consideration”, but I had never seen the word written down.

Try as I might I could not figure out just how you should write it, and my teacher ne pouvait pas comprendre (could not understand) what I was talking about either. I knew the word existed though, j’étais sûr (I was sure) I had heard it and j’étais sûr that the French used it!

Then one day as I was reading through my French lesson for the day, I came across quelque chose (something) that seemed very familiar. I was finally seeing the mot bizarre! Only it wasn’t a mot izarre, but rather a phrase bizarre (strange sentence):

Dans ce cas (In that case)

What I had thought was one word was actually three!

Compound Nouns en français

Posted on 26. Nov, 2014 by in Uncategorized

Les Noms Composés  ̶ Compound Nouns

verb + noun

Image courtesy of  English Channel Teacher Dai blog

Image courtesy of English Channel Teacher Dai

Dans ma région, on attend beaucoup de neige demain. Le lendemain est Thanksgiving, et le surlendemain est Black Friday. Pour vous aider dans cette période stressante de l’année, je vous présente un blog qui porte sur un sujet super intéressant: la grammaire! (In my neck of the woods, we’re expecting a lot of snow tomorrow. The day after is Thanksgiving, and the day after that is Black Friday. To help you in this stressful time of year, I present you with a fun and interesting entry: grammar!)

When learning un nom (a noun) in French, you also need to learn le genre (the gender) of the noun so you can have correct agreement in the rest of the sentence. If you speak a language that doesn’t have genders, this can prove to be quite tricky. And to go even further, what if it’s un nom composé (a compound noun)? [Quoi? A compound noun is a combination of  a noun and another part of speech to create a single noun. Par exemple: eyelid is composed of eye and lid.] If you have a masculine and a feminine noun combined to make one noun, what’s the gender? And what about for adverb + noun constructions? How do you pluralize those? Well, we can cross that bridge when it comes, but today we’re going to look at the compound nouns that follow the verb + noun construction. (But if you’re  really wondering, for the noun + noun construction, you use the gender of the main noun. For the adverb + noun pluralizing, the noun is invariable).

Just like French, English uses the verb + noun construction to form some compound nouns — cutthroat, playground, killjoy, etc. In English, you leave the verb unconjugated. Par contre (on the other hand), in French, you conjugate the verb in 3rd person singular (il/elle/on). After that, you add un tiret (a dash/hyphen). Finally, you add the noun. Unless the last letter of the verb and the first letter of the noun start with a vowel, you do not need to add the article.

Let’s take an example:

  1. marquer (to mark) conjugated 3rd person singular becomes marque
  2. Add the hyphen: marque-
  3. la page (page) Add the noun: marque-page

Any idea what un marque-page could be? It marks your page in a book. It’s a bookmark!

Wait a second — la page is feminine, and un marque-page is masculine. Mais pourquoi?  That’s the easiest part of this construction: even if the original noun is feminine, the compound form will be masculine.


C’est à vous! (It’s your turn!)

Let’s try a few more. Take the verb and noun, and try to form the compound noun. After, try to guess its meaning.

gratter (to scratch) & le ciel (sky) laver (to wash) & le linge (laundry)
ouvrir (to open) & la boîte (can) amuser (to amuse/entertain) & la bouche (mouth)


Les réponses:
un gratte-ciel: skyscraper; un lave-linge: washing machine; un ouvre- boîte: can opener; un amuse-bouche: appetizer


To pluralize a compound noun, ask yourself if the noun is countable or not. If the noun can be counted (un lit, a bed, for example), pluralize it as you normally would.  The verb will stay unchanged. For example, a bedspread in French is un couvre-lit. To talk about 2 or more bedspreads, you’ll need to pluralize un lit. A bed can be counted, so tag on the -s:

J’ai trois couvre-lits dans mon placard. (I have 3 bedspreads in my closet.)


For collective nouns [Quoi? A collective noun is a noun that’s counted as a group. Par exemple, la neige (snow) is collective because even if there’s a lot, it’s considered an individual unit.] you don’t need to make any changes in the spelling. Some people do prefer to pluralize the collective nouns, and it’s for this reason that you’ll find the plural with and without an -s in certain references. At the bottom of this entry, you will find a downloadable pdf with une trentaine (around thirty) examples of compound nouns with English translations of the original verb, the original noun, the final compound noun, and all the plurals (even the ones that pluralize the collective nouns).


C’est à vous!: Pluralize the following compound nouns and try to guess their meaning.

tirer (to pull) & le bouchon (cork) penser (to think) & la bête (beast)
essuyer (to wipe) & la glace (window) curer (to scrape clean) & la dent (tooth)


Les réponses:
des tire-bouchons: corkscrews; des pense-bêtes: reminders; des essuie-glaces: windshield wipers; des cure-dents: toothpicks


So there you have it. French compound nouns are formed with a number of constructions. Today we looked at the verb + noun construction. Pluralizing is pretty facile (easy), too.

Vous pouvez télécharger une liste des nom composés ici. (You can download a list of compound nouns here). The list includes all the compound nouns mentioned in this entry and more. It also has the translation of every French noun and verb used and how to form the plural.

Si vous avez des questions, n’hésitez pas à laisser un commentaire en bas! (If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below). We’d be happy to help!

Les Fables de La Fontaine: Le Soleil et les Grenouilles

Posted on 25. Nov, 2014 by in History, Literature

Image by Carla216 on Flickr

Image by Carla216 on Flickr

Our last fable from Jean de La Fontaine is taken from Livre VI (Book VI) of the Fables de La Fontaine. Le Soleil et les Grenouilles (The Sun and the Frogs) is unique in that it is told by Aesop, the famous Greek fabulist of the 7th century B.C. who no doubt served as La Fontaine’s muse on many occasions. In fact, The Frogs and the Sun was one of Aesop’s own fables in which he narrates the plight of the frogs when the sun decides to marry and perhaps produce another sun that will dry up the marshes. In this fable, the sun represents King Louis XIV and the frogs represent his subjects.


Aux noces d’un tyran tout le peuple en liesse

Noyait son souci dans les pots.

Ésope seul trouvait que les gens étaient sots

De témoigner tant d’allégresse.

“Le Soleil,” disait-il, “eut dessein autrefois

De songer à l’hyménée.

Aussitôt on ouït, d’une commune voix

Se plaindre de leur destinée

Les citoyennes des étangs.

“Que ferons-nous, s’il lui vient des enfants?”

Dirent-elles au Sort : ‘Un seul Soleil à peine

Se peut souffrir ; une demi-douzaine

Mettra la mer à sec et tous ses habitants.

Adieu joncs et marais : notre race est détruite ;

Bientôt on la verra réduite

À l’eau du Styx.’ Pour un pauvre animal,

Grenouilles, à mon sens, ne raisonnaient pas mal.”


Rejoicing on their tyrant’s wedding day,

The people drown’d their care in drink;

While from the general joy did Aesop shrink,

And show’d its folly in this way.

“The sun,” said he, “once took it in his head

To have a partner: so he wed.

From swamps, and ponds, and marshy bogs,

Up rose the wailings of the frogs.

“What shall we do, should he have progeny?”

Said they to Destiny;

‘One sun we scarcely can endure,

And half-a-dozen, we are sure,

Will dry the very sea.

Adieu to marsh and fen!

Our race will perish then,

Or be obliged to fix

Their dwelling in the Styx!’

For such an humble animal,

The frog, I take it, reason’d well.”