Lesson 10 : Grammar, the past and vocabulary

Lesson 10 : Grammar, the past and vocabulary


In the grammar part of the lesson 10, I’ll explain the French expression “il y a” which is very used in this language. Then we’ll begin to learn  past tense and we finally see time vocabulary. Are you ready? Let’s go!




1. the French expression il y a  means “there is” or “there are”

It is one of the most important expressions in the French language. It’s usually followed by an indefinite article + noun, a number + noun, or an indefinite pronoun.

Il y a des gens là-bas. There are some people over there.

Il y a un chien dans le jardin. There’s a dog in the garden.

Il y a 2 choses à faire. There are 2 things to do.

2. Il y a can also be followed by a period of time to mean “ago” 

J’ai vu mes parents il y a trois semaines. I saw my parents three weeks ago.

Il y a 5 ans que nous avons quitté la France. We left France two years ago.

3. Ask a question with il y a using “est-ce que” or an inversion

Like we learnt in the previous lesson

Ask a question starting with “est-ce que”:

Est-ce quil y a un chien méchant ? Is there a vicious dog?

Est-ce quil y a des enfants dans le jardin ? Are there any kids in the garden?

Ask a question with an inversion :

How to process with an inversion:

1. first,  put y at the beginning of your interrogative sentence.

2. invert il and a

3. place -t- between il and a :

Y a-t-il un chien dans le jardin ? Is there a dog in the garden?

Y a-t-il des enfants ?
Are there any kids?

Of course, you can use il y a with the interrogative words we learnt in lesson 9:

Pourquoi est-ce qu’il y a un chien sur mon lit ? Why is there a dog in my bed?

Combien d’enfants y a-t-il dans le jardin ? How many kids are in the garden?



The 4 most common past tenses in French are :

  1. Passé composé
  2. passé simple
  3. imparfait
  4. plus-que-parfait

Let’s start today with the passé composé
 The “passé composé”
It is a compound tense which means it has 2 parts.

  1. The first is the auxiliary verb : avoir or être (verbs you should know very well)
  2. the second is the past participle.

To find the past participle, you have to determine the stem of the infinitive. To do so, drop the -er, -ir, -oir or -re, as usual. Then, add an ending as shown in the following tab :


Example verb Ending removed Ending added Past participle
Jouer –          Er –          é joué
Finir –          ir –          i fini
Vouloir –          oir –          u voulu
Attendre –          re –          u Attendu


The verbs avoir, être, and faire have irregular past participles.

avoir : eu
être : été
faire : fait
Most verbs form the passé composé with avoir, however there are a small number of verbs that are always conjugated with être. The most common are :

verb example translation
aller Je suis allé au cinéma. I went to the cinema.
venir Il est venu me voir. He came to me.
arriver Tu es arrive hier. You arrived yesterday
Partir Tu es parti ce matin You left this morning
rester Tu es resté là You stayed there
retourner Tu es retourné chez toi You returned to your place
tomber Je suis tombé I fell
naitre Je suis né en 1979 I was born in 1979
mourir Il est mort l’an dernier He died last year
Passer Je suis passé devant chez toi I happened in front of your house
monter Je suis montée chez toi I climbed to your place
descendre Je suis descend du bus I got out the bus
sortir Tu es sortie dans la rue You went out in the street
entrer Il est entré en souriant He came in with a smile
rentrer Je suis rentrée de vacances I came back from holidays


Thoses verbs  can be easily remebered by the Acronym MRS. RD VANDERTRAMP:
• M : monté
• R : resté
• S : sorti
• R : revenu
• D : devenu
• V: venu
• A : arrivé
• N : né
• D : descendu
• E : entré
• R : rentré
• T : tombé
• R : retourné
• A : allé
• M : mort
• P : parti



In French, “il est” is used to express the time; though it would literally translate as “he is”, it is actually, in this case, equivalent to “it is” (unpersonal “il”). Unlike in English, it is always important to use “heures” (“hours”) when referring to the time. In English, it is OK to say, “It’s nine,” but this wouldn’t make sense in French.
Quelle heure est-il ? What time is it?

Il est une heure. It is one o’clock.
Il est deux heures. It is two o’clock.
Il est huit heures. It is eight o’clock.

Il est midi. It is noon.

Il est minuit. It is midnight.

Il est six heures cinq. It is five past six.
Il est cinq heures et quart. It is a quarter past five.
Il est trois heures quinze. It is three fifteen.
Il est sept heures et demie. It is half past seven.
Il est sept heures trente. It is seven thirty.
Il est deux heures moins vingt It is twenty to three
Il est quatre heures quarante. It is four forty.

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