French Conjunctions – Les Conjonctions: All You Need to Know
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French Conjunctions – Les Conjonctions: Everything you need to know

French Conjunctions: A comprehensive overview.

Reading time 3 minutes Difficulty: Intermediate / Advanced

So, what exactly is a conjunction?

Of course you know Facebook, but do you know what the main role of it is. It is used to facilitate the interaction between people, or, in other words, to CONNECT people. In language, you would also need something to CONNECT things.

You have two separate ideas and you want to connect them, you need a conjunction! You have an idea that depends on another idea, you also need a conjunction! You want to add a new idea into an existing one, you still need a conjunction.

Some might say that French conjunctions are a bit confusing because many of them include “que”, so it’s hard to know how to choose the good conjunction. There is no better way, but you’ll have to structure your knowledge, and reading this article will help tremendously.

Here we go!

Coordinating conjunction

These are 7 coordinating conjunctions in French: “mais”, “ou”, “et”, “donc”, “or”, “ni”, “car”. Those are invariable words that are used to join words or clauses that have equal value. Below examples will help you understand better their meanings and uses:

ConjunctionEnglish translation Example
butC’est cher mais de très bonne qualité
It’s expensive, but very good quality
ouorNous allons au cinéma ou nous allons au supermarché
We go to the cinema or we go to the supermarket
etandMarc et Alice vont à la plage
Marc and Alice go to the beach
doncso,thereforeC’est donc toi!
So it was you!
ornow,yetIl faut tenir les délais, or, ce n’est pas possible
The deadlines must be met, now this is not possible
nineither…norIl ne veut ni l’argent ni les cadeaux
He doesn’t want neither money nor gifts
carbecauseIl reste calme car il est gentil
He stays calm because he is nice

Subordinating conjunction

Subordinating conjunctions, are used to join a subordinating clause (dependent clause) to main clauses.

Actually, there are only a few subordinating conjunctions comme, quand, lorsque, puisque, que, quoique, si. However, we usually encounter what is called the « conjunctive phrases » (locutions conjonctive). These are groups of two or more words that have the same function as a conjunction. French’s conjunctive phrases usually end with “que”.

Let’s talk about the simple coordination conjunction first. The table below provides the use of each conjunction with an example:

ConjunctionEnglish translation ExplanationExample
commeas, since Use to compare or indicate a causeElle est blanche comme la neige
She is as white as snow
puisque as, since Indicate a subordinating causePuisque je suis ici, ne t’inquiète pas
As I was here, don’t worry
quand(*)whenIndicate a cause or a condition (similar to “si”)Je pars quand tu arrives
I leave when you come
lorsquewhenIndicate a cause (similar to “quand”)L’indiscipline se comprend losqu’on est enfant
quethatIntroduce a completive subordinating clause Je crois qu’il viendra demain
I believe that he will come tomorrow
quoique eventhough Indicate two ideas in oppositionJe commence à progresser quoique le français soit une langue difficile.
I start to make some progress eventhough French is a difficult language.
siifIndicate a condition or hypothesisSi tu arrives à l’heure je t’accepterai en cours
If you come on time I will accept you to class

The list of all conjunctive phrases is too big to be imported in this article. Here I classify them by meaning so you could have an idea how to use them in French.

objective conjunctionsde manière (que), en sorte que, pour que…Je vous donne ce texte pour que vous puissiez le travailler à la maison
I will give you this text so that you could work on it at home
cause conjunctionsparce que, alors que…Je ne viendrai pas parce que mon fils est malade
I will not come because my son is ill
opposition conjunctionsbien que, malgré que, sauf que, sans que…Je ne peux pas te faire passer bien que tu aies fait des progrès
I can’t let you pass although you have made progress
time conjunctionsAvant que, à mesure que, après que, depuis que…Il est parti avant que je vienne
He left before that I come
comparison conjunctionsautant que, tel que, de même queTravaillez autant que vous pouvez
Work as much as you can
condition conjunctionsà condition que, au cas où, à moins que….Je te laisserai entrer à condition que tu ne fasses pas de bêtises
I will let you enter on condition that you did not do stupidities

Note : When using subordinating conjunction in French, you’ll need to memorize the mood/tense that follows the verb. For the mood, ask yourself this question “Do I need the indicative, subjunctive OR conditional mood with this conjunction”? Try to learn the rule for common conjunctions that you use. As for the tense, make your decision based on the meaning of each tense.


Quick recap

  • French conjunctions are divided into 2 main types: coordinating conjunction and subordinating conjunction.
  • Coordinating conjunctions connect 2 independent/equal value ideas while subordinating conjunction links 2 ideas that are related to each other.
  • Subordinating conjunctions can be classified into different sub-group based on the relationship they express: cause, goal, comparison, opposition…
  • When you learn a subordinating conjunction, learn also the mood of the verb follow it (indicative, subjunctive, conditional…)

I hope this article helps to organize your knowledge about French conjunctions. Please do not hesitate to ask your question.


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About the Author Frederic

Frederic Bibard is the founder of Talk in French, a company that helps french learners to practice and improve their french. Macaron addict. Jacques Audiard fan. You can contact him on Twitter and Google +

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