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First-level French conversation on family topics - BBC Bitesize

Family is an important part of French culture. In this article, you can learn how to talk about your own family in French.

If you want to talk about your family, the verb (to have) is useful.

Avoir is an irregular verb. Regular verbs follow the same pattern, but irregular verbs don’t.

The spelling of the verb will often be different for each person doing the action, so you need to remember the different forms:

I have
He has
She has

So you can say what family you have:

  • – I have a mother
  • – I have a father

To talk about more than one family member, you can also use the useful conjunction et which means 'and'.Conjunctions are joining words that link together parts of a sentence:

  • – I have a mother and a father
  • – I have a sister and a brother

If you don't have a brother or sister, you need the negative form of avoir.

To make a sentence negative, you add ne or n' (before a vowel) before the verb and pas after the verb.

So (I have) becomes – (I don't have).

  • – I don't have a brother
  • – I don't have a sister

Did you notice that in English, after 'I don't have' we say 'a brother' and in French, we say - any brother?

Here are some words to help you talk about your family.

a stepfather
a stepmother
a family
a brother
a mother
a father
a sister

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To say 'a big brother' in French, you say and 'a big sister' is .

To say 'a little brother', you say and 'a little sister' is .

  • – I have a little brother and a big brother
  • – I have a little sister and a big sister

Look at the sentences. Did you notice that sometimes (big) and (small) have an e on the end?

This is because they are adjectives. So if they are describing a feminine noun, like , they add e at the end to become feminine to match the noun.

You can learn more about this in the 2nd level French article on Adjectives.

If you want to introduce someone from your family, you can say - here is…

  • – Here is my mother

You use the possessive adjective 'my'. In French, this changes depending on whether the noun is masculine, feminine or plural. This is called an agreement.

So if the noun is masculine, like , the possessive adjective is :

  • – my father

If the noun is feminine, like , the possessive adjective is :

  • – my mother

If the noun begins with a vowel or h, like or the possessive adjective is :

  • – my friend (boy)
  • – my friend (girl)

If the noun is plural where there is more than one family member, like , the possessive adjective is :

  • – my parents
EnglishMasculineFeminineBefore a vowel or -hPlural

Try using some of these phrases to introduce your own family members:

  • – Here is my father

  • – Here is my mother

  • – Here is my brother

  • – Here is my sister

  • – Here are my parents

  • – Here are my grandparents

Here are some more words for members of your family.

my cousin (boy)
my cousin (girl)
my grandmother
my grandfather
my grandparents
my uncle
my parents
my aunt

When you're talking about members of your family, you can tell people their names. You use the verb – to be called, which is a reflexive verb.

If a verb is reflexive, it means you are doing an action to yourself. It's like saying 'I call myself'. In front of these verbs, there is an extra word which makes it reflexive:

So when you're talking about your own name using je (I), there's a m' before the verb:

  • – I am called (I call myself)

When talking about someone else's name using il (he) or elle (she), there's an s' before the verb:

  • – He is called Joseph (He calls himself Joseph)
  • – She is called Yasmin (She calls herself Yasmin)

Here are some more examples. Try changing the names and using the phrases to talk about your family members.

She is called Mary
She is called Kate
He is called Anil
He is called Faisal

Using the phrases you have learnt so far to introduce someone, you can say:

  • – This is my father, he's called Faisal

  • – This is my mother, she's called Mary

  • – This is my brother, he's called Anil

  • – This is my sister, she's called Kate

We can also introduce family by using , or with the il/elle (singular) or ils/elles (plural) form of the verb s’appeller.

Listen carefully and you’ll notice that the ent ending on the plural forms is silent. This means that even though s’appelle (is called) and s’appellent (are called) are spelled differently, they sound the same!

Read and listen to the examples below:

My mum is called
My dad is called
My parents are called Sally and Faheem
My brother is called
My sister is called…
My sisters are called Cara and Zoe

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If you want to ask what someone is called, you say:

  • – What is he called?

  • – What is she called?

Did you notice that now the verb is in front of the person il and elle in the question?

There are also hyphens and the letter t to separate them. These help to make it easier to say.

To describe your family, you can say:

  • – In my family, there is my step-father, my mother and two brothers

  • – In my family, there is my father, mother and three sisters

Remember that if you have more than one brother or sister, then you need to add s to the noun.

  • (a brother) – (two brothers)
  • (a sister) – (two sisters)

Try describing your own family.

Below are some important French sounds that you have heard in this topic. Try practising them yourself out loud.

  1. an, am and en

The letters an make a nasal sound. This is when air comes down your nose as well as through your mouth. Imagine the sound of an old-fashioned car horn. The e at the end of the word is silent.

  • – my grandfather
  • – my grandmother
  1. e

There are different ways of saying and writing e in French.

In the word (my brother) the letter e in the middle of the word has an accent line on it. It sounds like the e in 'egg'.

This sound can also be written as e before two consonants, ê, ai, aî, ei and e before a final c, l or t.

  • – my father
  • – my mother

The e at the end of the word is silent.

  1. œu

In the middle of the word for (my sister), there are three vowels œu. Imagine that you have seen something unpleasant, open your mouth a little and sound disgusted.

The letters œ and eu also make this sound.

  • – my sister


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