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Basic French Lesson 8 Homework

 French is not always a language that appeals to everyone, but with the right lesson plans in place, even reluctant learners will stand a better-than-average chance at gaining an interest and improving their language skills.

Our guide covers all experience levels and, in fact, we begin (rather appropriately) with beginner and young learners, continuing on to the intermediate and advanced levels. Of course, there are many lessons in other sections that may suit these learners too. Grammar, for example, is a crucial element of learning any language but is a very dry subject matter and can be hard to teach. If you combine it with one of the other lessons though, the whole affair can be much more rewarding. The same might be said of French writing although the lessons included here are very engaging but combining it with another element is always possible.

For the times when you want to throw off the shackles of conventional learning, games are a way to teach without students even realizing it, or check out some of our less conventional lesson plans and ideas at the end of the article.

The following learning supplement makes use of some of the concepts taught in Lesson 8 of Brainscape’s French Sentence Builder, including:

-Food vocabulary
-Basic use of direct objects
-Quantitative words
-Units of measure
-The structure “devoir + infinitif”

The following text presents a famous and classic recipe of the gâteau au chocolat (chocolate cake). It is a very common dessert in France, and it’s very easy to make!

Here’s a little exercise. While all the directions in this recipe are identical to the real recipe, one intruding element has been added. Can you tell which one of the following steps you should not follow?

Note that in French, while recipes can also be presented in the imperative tense, they are often presented with verbs in their infinitive form.

Recette: Gâteau au chocolat

Pour 8 personnes.

200 grammes de chocolat noir
150 grammes de beurre
150 grammes de sucre en poudre
30 grammes d’ail + Add quantity
50 grammes de farine
3 oeufs

Temps de préparation: 15 minutes

Temps de cuisson: 25 minutes

Temps total: 40 minutes

  1. Préchauffer le four à 150°C.

  2. Casser le chocolat en morceaux. Ajouter 3 cuillères à soupe d’eau. Réchauffer le tout pour faire fondre le mélange.

  3. Faire ramollir du beurre. Ajouter l’intégralité du sucre en poudre (150 g). Mélanger. Le mélange doit devenir léger et fondant. Vous pouvez utiliser un appareil électrique. Ajouter les oeufs un par un, ainsi que la farine entre chaque oeuf.

  4. Faire chauffer 30 grammes d’ail et ajouter au mélange.

  5. Incorporer le chocolat fondu à ce mélange. Remuer avec une grande cuillère.

  6. Verser le tout dans un plat rond beurré.

  7. Faire cuire au four pendant 25 à 30 minutes à 150°C.

  8. Sortir le gâteau du four. Vous pouvez également ajouter du sucre glacé sur le dessus du gâteau.

  9. Bon appétit!

The direct object in French schoolbooks is referred to as the COD (complément d’object direct). All it means is the person or thing that receives the action of a verb in a sentence, like in the example “Matthew gives the cake to Jacob.” “Matthew” is the subject because he is the one doing the action and “the cake” is the object because it is what is being given. We call “the cake” the direct object (COD) because it most directly receives the action, while “Jacob” is the indirect object because he is indirectly affected by the action. Since French has a similar pattern, it is easy to pick out what word is the object. Most sentences in both languages are constructed in the order of Subject-Verb-Object.

Just like in English, we can substitute the objects of a sentence with pronouns, so that we say “Matthew gives it to Jacob,” although the word “cake” must have been mentioned before to be understood. In French, of course, the direct object pronouns must agree in gender and number:

Singular Direct Object PronounsPlural Direct Object Pronouns

The main difference between French and English is that when you substitute a COD pronoun for a direct object noun, the order in French changes to Subject-Object-Verb. Observe:

Marie loves Matthew and Jacob.
Marie aime Matthieu et Jacques


Marie loves them.
Marie les aime.

Marie loves us.
Marie nous aime.

So because the direct object pronouns come before the verb, it is important to keep in mind the rules of contraction and liaison:

I love you.
Je t’aime.

He knows us.
Il nous connaît.

You all see them.
Vous les voyez.

Remember that all nouns in French have a gender. As a result, the word “it” can be represented by le/la whenever “it” is a COD or by il/elle whenever “it” is the subject of a sentence. Observe how this works in normal speech.

Ta voiture est très belle. Je l’entends parfois. Elle fait beaucoup de bruit ?*
Your car is very beautiful. I hear it sometimes. Does it make a lot of noise?

*Elle ta voiture. Even though the car is an inanimate object, in French you refer to “it” with the pronoun “elle.”

***When negating a sentence with a COD pronoun, the ne still comes directly after the subject and the pas right after the verb. Let’s see the same examples as above, but negated:

I don’t love you.
Je ne t’aime pas.

He doesn’t knows us.
Il ne nous connaît pas.

You all don’t see them.
Vous ne les voyez pas.

The only tricky part about using COD pronouns comes when we use them in the past tense. Luckily we only have to worry about the verbs that use avoir as the auxiliary verb, since they are transitive verbs. This means that they can take a direct object, such as the verb voir (“to see”). Let’s use the sentence “I saw your brother” as an example:

J’ai vu ton frère.

If we have already mentioned “your brother” in conversation, we might opt to simply say, “I saw him,” in which case we would replace ton frère with le and move the le to the spot between the subject (je) and the main, conjugated verb (ai). Once again, be mindful of rules of contraction:

Je l’ai vu.

Whenever a COD pronoun is used with the passé composé, however, the past participle (in this case, vu) must agreewith the COD pronoun in gender and number. In the example above, we don’t have to change anything because vu is already masculine and singular, just like frère. But let’s see what happens when we change it up:

J’ai vu ta soeur → Je l’ai vue

J’ai vu tes parents → Je les ai vus

J’ai vu tes soeurs → Je les ai vues

As usual, we must add an -E for the feminine ending and an -S for the plural. Notice, however, that vu, vue, vus, and vues and all pronounced the same, [vy]. The difference is only discernible in writing, or when the past participle ends in a consonant. For example:

You lost the letters? But you wrote them! Did you put them on the table?
Tu as perdu les lettres ? Mais tu les as écrites ! Est-ce que tu les as mises sur la table ?

Determining the gender of a COD can be difficult when using me, te, le, and la, because they contract with verbs that begin with a vowel. On the other hand though, the past participle can often let us know the gender of the person talking or being talked about:

If we see Il m’a entendue (“He heard me”), we know the speaker is a woman.
If we see Je t’ai aimé (“I loved you”), we know the person being addressed is a man.

As usual, be careful when using vous, because it can be both masculine and feminine and both singular and plural. Always double check the endings depending on the context. For example:

M. Dubois, je vous ai vu hier.
Mr. Dubois, I saw you yesterday. 

Mme Dubois, je vous ai vue hier.
Mrs. Dubois, I saw you yesterday.

Marie et Sophie, je vous ai vues hier.
Marie and Sophie, I saw you yesterday.

Les enfants, je vous ai vus hier.
Kids, I saw you yesterday.

When we consider the sentence we began with, “Matthew gives the cake to Jacob,” we can conclude that “Jacob” is the indirect object, called the Complément d’Object Indirect (COI) in French, because we can rewrite this sentence as “Matthew gives him the cake.” We know that “the cake” is what is being given, not “him.” Rather, the cake it given to him. Another clue that “Jacob” is the indirect object of the sentence is because of the preposition “to” in “to Jacob.” That preposition is our clue that the relationship to the verb is indirect. The COI pronouns will look very familiar:

Singular Direct Object PronounsPlural Direct Object Pronouns

COI’s follow the same rules as COD’s regarding placement. Like the COD’s, they go between the subject and the verb:

Sophie is making a cake for me. →  Sophie fait un gâteau pour moi.
Sophie is making me a cake. → Sophie me fait un gâteau.

Notice that the COD and COI pronouns are identical except for the third person. Lui is used for both il and elle, even though it is the disjunctive pronoun only for il (see Lesson 7). Remember that leur can also be the possessive adjective and pronoun. Watch out for easy mistakes.

The COI pronouns are usually used to avoid having to use the preposition à or pour, just like in English we often say “I made him a cake” rather than “I made a cake for him.” It is worth mentioning that there are several verbs that use a preposition in English, but not in French. These verbs, such as “to speak to”, “to wait for”, “to write to”, etc., take COD or COI pronouns in French without the use of a preposition. Let’s see some examples:

I am waiting for you at the subway station.
Je t’attends à la station de métro.

**The te in the sentence above is a COD, not a COI. This is because the structure of the verb attendre in French is direct. Attendre quelqu’un. Since there is no preposition between attendre and its object, in this case “toi,” we use the COD: Je t’attends.

However, the structure of the verb parler requires a COI: parler à quelqu’un. The object will be indirect:

The teacher is speaking to him.
Le professeur lui parle.

**the nous in the sentence above is a COI, not a COD

It is therefore very important to know the structure of verbs in French in order to determine whether or not they take indirect objects. Do not rely on translating from English, learn the verb structures as you learn new verbs!

You will recall from Lesson 3 that certain verbs can take the preposition de as a way of introducing an infinitive. For instance, if you wanted to say the phrase “to try to do,” then you could say essayer de faire. Now that we have learned indirect objects, it is worth noting that several French verbs can use the preposition de in this way while also taking an indirect object. Here is a list of some of these verbs:

conseiller à quelqu’un de faire quelque chose, to advise someone to do something
défendre à quelqu’un de faire quelque chose, to forbid someone to do something
demander à quelqu’un de faire quelque chose, to ask someone to do something
dire à quelqu’un de faire quelque chose, to tell someone to do something
permettre à quelqu’un de faire quelque chose, to permit someone to do something
suggérer à quelqu’un de faire quelque chose, to suggest to someone to do something

Ex: Marie permet à Paul de chanter une chanson.
Marie permits Paul to sing a song.

Paul is the indirect object of the verb permettre. Meanwhile, the preposition de links permettre to chanter, which tells us what specifically Marie permitted Paul to do. As you look over this list, bear in mind that many of these verbs do not always take indirect objects in English. This is important to know if you ever find yourself translating between English and French.

Finally, certain verbs have the ability to take both a direct object and an indirect object. These are important verbs to familiarize yourself with, especially since many of them do not translate literally into English.

acheter quelque chose à quelqu’un, to buy something from/for someone
apprendre quelque chose à quelqu’un, to teach something to someone
cacher quelque chose à quelqu’un, to hide something from someone
dire quelque chose à quelqu’un, to say something to someone
emprunter quelque chose à quelqu’un, to borrow something from someone
prendre quelque chose à quelqu’un, to get something for someone
souhaiter quelque chose à quelqu’un, to wish something for someone
voler quelque chose à quelqu’un, to steal something from someone

Let’s take a quick look at some sample sentences:

J’emprunte un stylo à Marie.
I borrow a pen from Marie.

Elle apprend la leçon à ses étudiants.
She is teaching the lesson to her students.

Ils lui achètent une voiture.
They are buying him a car.

So, whenever a verb uses the preposition à to complete its meaning, we can substitute it with a COI pronoun. This is the case for two common idiomatic expressions: aller à quelqu’un (“to suit somebody”) and être égal à quelqu’un (“to not matter to someone”).

Cette robe te va très bien ! → That dress suits you very well!
Ça m’est égal. → It is the same to me, i.e. I am indifferent, I don’t care.

The wonderful thing about COI’s is that they do not have to agree in the past.

Matthieu a écrit ces lettres. 
Matthew wrote these letters.

Matthew nous a écrit ces lettres.
Matthew wrote us these letters.

In the second example, we do not have to add an -S after écrit because it’s not “us” that Matthew wrote. He wrote “these letters” to/for us.

Below are some sentences to help you practice both COD’s and COI’s in the present and past:

I promised my sister a new car. → I promised her a new car.
J’ai promis une nouvelle voiture à ma soeur. → Je lui ai promis une nouvelle voiture.

You all ate the pizza. → You all ate it.
Vous tous avez mangé la pizza. → Vous tous l’avez mangée.

They made dinner for us. → They made us dinner.
Ils ont fait le dîner pour nous.  → Ils nous ont fait le dîner.

We hate these 3 movies. → We hate them.
Nous détestons ces 3 films. → Nous les détestons.

There are some commonly used verbs that need to be addressed so as to not make easy mistakes when speaking.

DIRE: The first one is dire (to say, to tell). In both English and French, we tend to only mention the COI and not the COD, because it is implied. If we want to hear what someone has to say, we might just say “Tell me!” The “me” is indeed a COI, because whatever is being told is the COD. Let’s compare some examples:

Il (me) dit toujours la vérité.
He always tells (me) the truth.

Je leur dis “bonjour !” tous les jours.
I say “hello!” to them everyday.

Just keep in mind that you can translate dire as either “to say” or “to tell”, and this is influenced by the COD and COI. For example, je le dis would be best translated as “I say it” and je lui dis would be best as “I tell him.”

DONNER: The second one is donner (to give). This conjugates like any regular -ER verb and is the best example of how to use COD’s and COI’s. Remember that when substituting a COD or COI pronoun for a noun, you must place the pronoun between the subject and the main verb. For the time being, do not worry about mixing these. We will learn how to use COD and COI pronouns simultaneously later on, so that you can say “I gave you it.” But for now, master this:

Le professeur nous donne des devoirs tous les jours.
The teacher gives us homework everyday.

DONNER is a great way to remember that COD pronouns affect the agreement of the past participle in the passé composé, but COI pronouns do not. Notice the difference:

Ma mère m’a laissée au restaurant.
My mother left me at the restaurant = She forgot me. We know the speaker is female.

Ma mère m’a laissé quinze dollars pour le dîner.
My mother left me $15 for dinner = $15 is what she left. I am whom she left them to.

Therefore when we use donner, we are much more likely to use COI pronouns.

Mon petit-ami m’a donné un roman.
My boyfriend gave me a novel.

Whenever an infinitive is involved in the equation, the COD or COI pronoun is placed right before the infinitive, not right before the conjugated verb as before. Observe the difference:

Je t’achète un livre.
I am buying you a book.

Je vais t’acheter un livre.
I am going to buy you a book.

Il nous parle souvent.
He speaks to us often.

Il veut nousparler demain.
He wants to speak to us tomorrow.

Indirect discourse is a way to join sentences together to report other people’s thoughts. Knowing how to do this properly will greatly increase the length of your French sentences. In English, indirect statements are two sentences which are joined by the word “that.” Observe:

He told me something. Sophie wants to eat. → He told me that Sophie wants to go eat.

It’s just as easy in French! The French equivalent of “that” is que, which always contracts when the next word begins with any vowel. Remember that although in English it is optional to include “that”, because we could also say “He told me Sophie wants to eat,” in French the que is mandatory at all times! It can never be dropped out like in English. For now, we can only use this construction with verbs that report factual information, not with verbs that reflect wishes or speculations (so not with vouloir, demander, etc.). Those require more difficult grammar that we will learn later on. Practice using this technique with verbs like dire, savoir, entendre, apprendre, and lire, all of which report facts:

J’ai entendu qu’elle va te donner un livre pour ton anniversaire.
I heard that she is going to give you a book for your birthday.

Ils m’ont dit que vous venez de Paris.
They told me that you (formal) are from Paris.

Il a appris que nous allons voyager au Canada.
He found out (“he learned”) that we are going to travel to Canada.

J’ai lu dans le journal que tu es en train d’écrire un roman.
I read in the newspaper that you are writing a novel.

That wraps up Lesson 8! For practice and further examples, be sure to check out Brainscape’s French Sentence Builder!

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