French Grammar Guide for non-francophones



The purpose of the BonPatron Grammar Guide is to provide learners with key points to keep in mind when they are writing. The guide contains explanations of the main grammatical categories, grammatical rules, exceptions and grammatical errors to avoid. Our objective is not to provide a "laundry list" of every imaginable detail of French grammar. Rather, it is to identify the key points learners need to master in order to avoid making errors in their written assignments. In brief, the guide is a valuable resource to help learners self-edit their compositions.

The grammatical rules of standard written languages are not always predictable and, well, are sometimes confusing and illogical! It is therefore normal that, when progressing through the process of learning how to write in French, errors will be made. By reviewing the guide, doing the exercises and using BonPatron, learners will hone their writing skills and be able to avoid errors that are commonly found in written French.

The rules discussed in this guide are based on the conventions of written standard French and are adhered to in all parts of the French speaking world. The errors targeted are those made by second language learners, particularly by speakers of English. BonPatron has been helping learners for close to ten years now and we have become very familiar with the challenges that students face when mastering the rules of written French.

What sets this guide apart from other descriptive grammars and sites is that we present information from the perspective of the student writer. As such, our explanations are easy to understand and target common errors to avoid. Our explanations are thorough, but we prioritize information concerning frequent structures. It makes little sense to give learners 20 points in random order. To perfect their writing, they need to be aware of the structures they will actually use. For example, while the passé simple has an important place in literary French, it is not a tense that learners produce in their compositions. As such, we have decided to exclude it from our discussion of tense in contemporary written French. Another example of this approach concerns false friends. Rather than providing a list of hundreds of potential false friends, we concentrate on the most common ones that are likely to be used by learners.

This guide can be used for independent study, or as a course text for a course on French grammar. As such, learners who work with BonPatron and the guide should not need to purchase additional grammatical resources (though there may be a need for oral materials).

Each entry has a section called Questions about ... The purpose of this is to present common errors in order for learners to reflect on the reasons why a given structure is unacceptable. By familiarizing oneself with the correct and incorrect way of expressing something, students will become better self-editors and avoid common errors in future writing assignments. When writing, learners will no doubt ask themselves questions about which of two possibilities is the correct one. The Questions about ... section guides you through this process. Throughout the guide, we use colours to draw attention to correct structures and common errors. Errors are also targeted in summary sections.

Each section also contains extensive interactive exercises to help learners apply and verify the information provided in the explanations. The guide also includes a final exam, which provides a general evaluation of a learner's level of written French.

Note finally that the BonPatron Grammar Guide is integrated with BonPatron's grammar checker. As such, when learners make an error in their composition, they will be able to access the relevant section in the guide for a full explanation of the concept or error. 

Dr. Terry Nadasdi, Professor of Linguistics.

Dr. Stéfan Sinclair, Professor of Digital Humanities.

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