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Keys for Writers, Second Edition
Ann Raimes
ESL Tip Sheet 4: French (and Haitian Creole)

Spoken in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Haiti, Canada, French possessions in the Caribbean and South Pacific, and in former colonies in Africa (including Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Senegal, Congo) and Asia (Cambodia, Vietnam). In places where the language has become Creolized, as in Haiti, French is the standard form taught in the schools.

The written language
  • No capital letters for nationalities, languages, days, and months. 53.
Sentence structure and word order
  • An adverb can occur between verb and object: *I like very much clam chowder. 34b; 45e.
  • Want is followed by a that clause: *He wants that you leave now. 61c.
  • Uses a clause structure where English uses -ing form: *He savored the sight of the flowers that blew gently in the wind.
  • A dependent clause with a noun subject uses V-S order: *I knew what would decide the committee. 34b.
Nouns and pronouns
  • Some uncountable nouns in English are countable and plural in French: *furnitures, hairs, luggages. 60c.
  • Relative pronouns make no distinction between human and nonhuman: *The girls which . . . 46a.
  • Reflexive pronouns have the same form as personal object pronouns for the first and second persons: *I taught me to ski. 44h.
  • In both French and Creole, no endings are added to indicate possessive nouns (Žs). 48.
Verbs and verbals
  • No ending on third person singular verb (-s) in French or Creole, and final -s is not pronounced. 43.
  • Has no equivalent of gerund (-ing form); uses infinitive instead: *She asked me about to work on the weekend. 61d; 63e.
  • Forms of be are often omitted, particularly in Haitian Creole. 38c; 41c; 61a.
  • Haitian Creole does not distinguish past tense and past perfect, and does not change the verb to indicate past tense. 41f.
  • The present perfect form is used in French for simple past time: *He has left yesterday. 41f.
  • French has no present progressive form. No distinction is made between She eats and She is eating. 41e.
Adjectives and adverbs
  • French often uses and between two adjectives: *A big and square box. 45f.
  • In French, definite article is used with singular or uncountable noun to state a generalization: *The photography is an art. 60c; 60f.
  • In Haitian Creole, no article is used for a generalization with a singular noun: *Bird can fly. 60c.
  • No article is used with a profession: *She is lawyer. 60e.

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