Grammar/sentence rules?

I’ve been attempting to learn French in my spare time for a good few months on and off, something that I’ve really been struggling with is the way the order of sentences are supposed to be. Such as “manteau bleu” blue coat, the words are the opposite way around in English and French.
I have been trying to write my own sentences in French but obviously they are coming out all wrong as I don’t know the order some of the words are supposed to be in.

So does anyone have a list of grammar/order of sentences/words rules???


I can try to offer some tips. I’ve been learning French for a few years, but it has been a while since I was actively revising my French grammar, so if there are mistakes, please correct me.

I think for French the rules are rather the same as English in terms of (for example) verb placement, and the general overall structure. (At least, in comparison to German sentences, which I’m still trying to wrap my head around right now. :sweat_smile:)

Here are just a few things off the top of my head.

  1. It’s fundamentally Subject-Verb-Object.
    Example: J’ai un chien. (I have a dog.)

  2. There can be subject-verb inversion when asking questions.
    Example: As-tu un chien? (Do you have a dog?) But not in Est-ce que tu as un chien?
    There is inversion in Quand allez-vous à la bibliothèque? (When are you going to the library?)

  3. Negation requires two words, ne and another negative word such as pas.
    Ne comes after the subject; pas comes after the conjugated verb.

    You also have others like plus (not any more), rien (nothing), personne (nobody), and they all fill the same position as pas.
    Example: Je n’ai pas de chien. (I don’t have a dog.)
    Ne contracts to n’ before vowels, as per the example above.
    Side note: In colloquial speech, the ne is usually dropped. People would say: J’ai pas de chien.

    • Compound tenses: It depends.
      • With pas, it goes before the past participle (allé in this case): Je ne suis pas allé(e) à la fête. (I did not go to the party).
      • However, with personne, it goes after the past participle (vu in this case): Je n’ai vu personne. (I didn’t see anyone.)
  4. Adjectives generally go after nouns.
    As you have already noted, manteau bleu is correct, not bleu manteau.
    There are exceptions that go before, like grand (big), petit (small), jeune (young) etc… which are commonly known as the Beauty Age Goodness Size (BAGS) adjectives.

    • Note that some adjectives can go before or after, and the placement changes the meaning, for example ancien, which means either “old” (if placed after) or “former” (if placed before).
      Example: une usine ancienne (= an old factory) vs. une ancienne usine (= a former factory, which means that the place was a factory in the past, but no longer is one now)
  5. Object pronouns generally go before the verb.
    Things like le, lui, en all go before the verb. (This is also true for compound tenses like the passé composé.)
    Example: J’achète une voiture. Je l’achète. (I buy a car. I buy it.)

    • If there are two verbs, it goes before the verb that it makes sense to attach the pronoun to.
    • Double Pronouns: I think that as a beginner, you do not need to worry about things like double pronominalisation yet, but if you want to check it out, I put up a page about French Double Pronouns that tells you the order if there is more than one pronoun in the sentence.
  6. For reflexive verbs, the reflexive pronoun goes before the conjugated verb.

    • Present: Je me lève. (I get up.)
    • Present (negative): Je ne me lève pas tôt. (I don’t get up early.)
    • Passé Composé: Hier, je me suis levé(e) à 10 h. (Yesterday, I got up at 10 am.)
    • Passé Composé (negative): Hier, je ne me suis pas levé(e) tôt. (Yesterday, I didn’t get up early.)

Whew! This post turned out longer than I expected!
I don’t know what you already know or don’t know, so if you have any other questions, feel free to ask.

I hope this helps somewhat! :slight_smile:


Thank you, all this information is really appreciated and helpful.