Types of sentences in French grammar
French syntax or sentence structure (la syntaxe or la construction de la phrase française) varies according to the type of sentence or clause we are dealing with. There are numerous types of clauses in French grammar: declarative sentences, negative sentences, questions, relative clauses, and indirect sentences and questions. In addition, conjunctions allow us to connect clauses or elements of text.
Click on one of the topics below to learn about the syntax rules for each type of clause in French grammar. When you’re done with the explanations, test yourself in the free interactive exercises.
Declarative sentences talk about a fact or an event. In French, as in English, we use subject + verb + object word order.
- Le chien attrape la balle.The dog is catching the ball.
Negative sentences negate a statement. French negative clauses are constructed by placing ne … pas and other two-part negating adverbs that surround the verb.
- Je n’ai rien dit.I didn’t say anything.
- Je n’ai pas de temps.I don’t have time.
Interrogative clauses are questions. Learn the difference between intonation questions, yes-no questions, and question-word questions, and check out the list of the most important question-words in French.
- Avez-vous faim ?Are you hungry?
- Quand partez-vous ?When are you leaving?
We use indirect speech to report something that another person has said. We usually don’t repeat their words exactly, but rather just give the gist of what they said.
- Il a raconté qu’il avait passé ses vacances en Suisse.He said that he spent his holidays in Switzerland.
Complex sentences contain two or more conjugated verbs and therefore two or more clauses. We distinguish between complex sentences and simple sentences, which only contain one conjugated verb.
- Il veut savoir s’il est tard.He wants to know if he is late.
- Lucas, que je connais depuis longtemps, est très drôle.Lucas, who I’ve known for a long time, is very funny.
- Les cheveux lavés, Suzanne saisit le sèche-cheveux et les ciseaux.Hair washed, Suzanne picked up the hairdryer and the scissors.