Exclamative sentences in French grammar

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What is la forme exclamative in French?

Exclamative sentences (les phrases à la forme exclamative) allow us to express strong emotions in French.

French exclamative sentences:

  • end with an exclamation mark (!)
  • often (but not always) start with a word like que, comme, quelle, quel, quelles, quels …
  • are said with rising intonation in spoken language

Read on to learn how to make exclamations in French, then practise in the interactive exercises.


Christian a décidé de casser sa tirelire pour s’acheter un blouson en cuir. Mais une mauvaise surprise l’attend…

« Oh non ! Je n’ai plus un rond ! Comme c’est triste ! J’aurais dû faire plus attention à mes dépenses. Pourvu que ma sœur veuille bien me prêter un peu d’argent ! »

Exclamative sentences

French exclamative sentences work much in the same way as English ones: if we want to express a strong emotion such as surprise, anger, joy, fear, etc., we simply add an exclamation mark to the end of a declarative sentence.

J’aurais dû faire plus attention. → J’aurais dû faire plus attention !I should have paid more attention(!)
declarative sentence → exclamative sentence that expresses regret


Remember: there is always a space before the exclamation mark in French.

Exclamative sentences can even be as short as just one word.

C’est dommage !What a pity!
Attention !Watch out!
Incroyable !Amazing!

Exclamative adverbs and determiners in French

French exclamative sentences can be introduced by specific exclamative adverbs and determiners (les mots exclamatifs).

Comme/Que + declarative sentence

The adverbs comme and que (= how …!) come before a declarative sentence (subject + verb + complements).

Comme c’est triste !How sad!
= Que c’est triste !How sad!

Quel/Quelle/Quels/Quelles + noun

Use quel before a noun (= what (a) …!). Remember, quel changes its ending to agree in number and gender with the noun that follows.

Je n’ai plus d’argent. Quel dommage !I haven’t got any money left. What a shame!
Quelle belle veste ! J’aimerais l’acheter.What a beautiful jacket! I’d like to buy it.
not: Quel belle veste !

Si + adjective

We can place si before an adjective to intensify it’s meaning (= so …!).

La sœur de Christian est si compatissante !Christian’s sister is so compassionate.

Si seulement + imperfect or pluperfect

We can use the expression si seulement followed by a verb in the imperfect or pluperfect tense to express a regret (= if only …!).

Si seulement ma tirelire n’était pas vide !If only my piggy bank weren’t empty! (verb in the imperfect)
Si seulement j’avais fait plus attention à mes dépenses !If only I’d paid attention to my spending! (verb in the pluperfect)

Tant de/Tellement de + noun

The adverbs tant and tellement can be used with the preposition de followed by a noun to make an exclamation (= so many …!/so much …!).

Il est difficile d’épargner. Il y a tant d’occasions de dépenser de l’argent !
= Il est difficile d’épargner. Il y a tellement d’occasions de dépenser de l’argent !It’s difficult to save, there are so many opportunities to spend money!

Tant/Tellement + verb

The adverbs tant and tellement can also be used with a verb (= really/so …!).

Christian aimerait tant acheter cette veste !
= Christian aimerait tellement acheter cette veste !Christian would really love to buy this jacket!

Pourvu que + subjunctive

The phrase pourvu que expresses a wish, hope or fear when followed by a verb in the subjunctive (= Hopefully/Let’s hope that …!).

Pourvu que ma sœur veuille bien me prêter un peu d’argent !Hopefully my sister will lend me some money!
Pourvu qu’elle ne soit pas déjà partie !Let’s hope that she hasn’t left yet!

Un tel/Une telle/De tels/De telles + noun

Adding un tel before a noun adds greater intensity (= such (a) …!). Note: un tel changes its ending to agree in gender and number with the noun that follows.

Christian a ressenti une telle déception quand il a vu que sa tirelire était vide !Christian felt such disappointment when he saw that his piggy bank was empty!

French exclamations

In addition to the above adverbs and determiners, French also has a whole host of exclamations (les interjections).

These are small words and short expressions that allow you to express a variety of emotions. They’re generally reserved for everyday language rather than formal situations and are almost always followed by an exclamation mark.

Common French exclamations include:

  • sounds: Ah !Ah!, Aïe !Ouch!, Chut !Shush!, Euh !Uh!, Oh !Oh!, Ouf !Phew! …
  • nouns: Attention !Careful!, Juste ciel !Good heavens!, Ma parole !My word! …
  • adjectives: Bon !Right!, Bref !Anyway!, Mince !Drat!, Super !Great!, Tout doux !Easy now! …
  • adverbs and adverbial phrases: Bien !Well!, En avant !Onwards! …
  • imperative verbs: Allons !Come on!, Dis donc !Hey!, Tiens !Darn!/Well, well, well!, Voyons !Let’s see! …
  • phrases: C’est pas vrai !No way!, Gare à vous !Look out! …

Some exclamations such as Ah ! and Oh ! can be used in a variety of contexts:

Oh non ! Je n’ai plus un rond !Oh no! I haven’t got a penny!
expressing surprise and disappointment
Oh ! Quelle belle veste !Oh! What a beautiful jacket!
expressing admiration

Other exclamations have more specific functions such as:

  • expressing pain
    Aïe ! Je me suis coupé !Ouch! I cut myself!
  • asking for silence
    Chut ! Le spectacle va bientôt commencer.Shush! The show is about to start.
  • catching someone’s attention
    Hé ! Attendez ! Vous avez laissé tomber quelque chose.Hey! Wait! You dropped something!
  • expressing surprise
    Tiens ! Qu’est-ce que tu fais là ?Well, well, well! What are you doing here?
    Elle est partie vivre en Australie ? Ça alors !She’s gone to live in Australia? Well I never!
  • expressing regret
    Olivier ne peut pas venir. Tant pis !Olivier can’t come. Never mind!
    Hélas ! Le train était déjà parti.Oh no! The train has already left.
  • encouraging someone
    Allez ! Tu vas y arriver !Come on! You can do it!
    Courage ! Ne baisse pas les bras !Keep going! Don’t give up!
  • expressing relief
    Ouf ! Nous avons monté tous les cartons.Phew! We’ve assembled all the boxes.