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Everything You Need To Know About French Conjunctions

Learn French conjunctions

Les Conjonctions Francaises

In order for whole sentences to make sense, their different parts must be linked in a logical, meaningful fashion. 

This linking role is played by¬†conjonctions¬†‚ÄĒ the word literally means¬†joining together¬†‚ÄĒ which comes in two different categories:¬†coordinating¬†and¬†subordinating¬†conjunctions.

Coordinating Conjunctions

These link clauses (either words and/or sentence fragments) which are of equal importance. 

There are 7 such conjunctions in French: mais / but; ou / or; et / and; donc / thus, therefore; or / but, yet; ni / neither; car / for, because.

There is a mnemonic trick to remembering these, at least in French. 

Since some of the conjunctions are homophones of other French words, all you need to remember is the following: 

Mais¬†o√Ļ est donc Ornicar?¬†(But where is thus Ornicar?)

Je suis un fan de La Guerre des √Čtoiles mais je n‚Äôaime pas Les Dents de la Mer.I‚Äôm a fan of Star Wars¬†*but*¬†I don‚Äôt like Jaws.
Il a d√Ľ le cacher dans le tiroir ou dans le placard.He must have hidden it in the drawer¬†*or*¬†in the closet.
Elle a reçu des robes et des chaussures comme cadeaux.She received dresses *and* shoes as gifts.
Je pense donc je suis.I think *therefore* I am.
Il m’avait promis qu’il serait là or il n’est pas venu.He had promised me that he would be here *but* he didn’t come.
Elle n’a vu ni Paul ni Pierre.She saw neither Paul *nor* Pierre.
Nous avons eu peur car il ne répondait pas au téléphone.We were scared *because* he wasn’t picking up the telephone.

Subordinating Conjunctions 

These link a main clause with subordinated/dependent clauses. 

You will be able to quickly recognize the majority of them as most incorporate que / that as part of a conjunctive phrase. 

The special thing to note is that some of them dictate the use of the specific modes (e.g. indicative, subjunctive or conditional) in the subordinated clause. 

Here’s a list of subordinating conjunctions:

  • Causality**:¬†comme¬†/ because;¬†parce que¬†/ because;¬†puisque¬†/¬†since;¬†¬†√©tant donn√© que¬†/ given that; ¬†vu que¬†/ seeing that; ¬†sous pr√©texte que¬†/ under the pretext that¬†(indicative).

  • Effect**:¬†√† tel point que¬†/ to the point that; ¬†si bien que¬†/ so well that; ¬†au point que /¬†to the point that; ¬†de sorte que¬†/ so that; ¬†de fa√ßon que¬†/ in such a way that; si/tellement/tant‚Ķ que¬†/ so much that¬†¬†(indicative).

  • Simultaneity**:¬†au moment o√Ļ¬†/ at the moment when; ¬†en m√™me temps que¬†/ at the same time that; ¬†pendant que¬†/ while; ¬†tandis que¬†/ while; ¬†alors que¬†/ while, whereas; ¬†lorsque¬†/ when; ¬†quand¬†/ when ¬†(indicative).

  • Anteriority**:¬†avant¬†que¬†/ before; ¬†jusqu‚Äô√† ce que¬†/ until; ¬†en attendant que¬†/ while, until¬†¬†(subjunctive).

  • Posteriority**:¬†apr√®s¬†que¬†/ after that; ¬†d√®s que¬†/ as soon as; ¬†aussit√īt que¬†/ as soon as; ¬†une fois que¬†/ once¬†¬†(indicative).

  • *Goal: ¬†afin*¬†que¬†/ so that; ¬†de fa√ßon √† ce que¬†/ in such a way that; ¬†de mani√®re que¬†/ in such a way that; ¬†pour que¬†/ so that ¬†(subjunctive).

  • Negative goal (something to be avoided):¬†de peur/crainte que¬†/ for fear that¬†(subjunctive).

  • Comparison**:¬†comme¬†/ like; ¬†de m√™me que¬†/ just as; ¬†ainsi que¬†/ just as, so as;¬† plus/moins que¬†/ more/less than ¬†(indicative).

  • Concession:¬†**quoique¬†/ even though; ¬†bien que¬†/ even though; ¬†malgr√© que¬†/ in spite of the fact that ¬†(subjunctive).

  • *Restriction:¬†m√™me*¬†si¬†/ even if¬†(indicative ); ¬†encore que¬†/ even though; ¬†en admettant que¬†/ assuming that¬†¬†(subjunctive).

  • Alternative restriction:¬†tandis¬†que¬†/ while, whereas; ¬†alors que¬†/ while, whereas¬†(indicative).

  • Conditionality:¬†si¬†/ if; ¬†m√™me si /¬†even if¬†¬†(indicative)**; ¬†au cas o√Ļ¬†/ in case that¬†¬†(conditional)**;¬†√† condition que¬†/ provided that; ¬†pourvu que¬†/ provided that; ¬†√† supposer que¬†/ assuming that ¬†(subjunctive).

  • Negative¬†*conditionality:¬†√†*¬†moins que¬†/ unless ¬†(subjunctive); ¬†sauf si¬†/ except if; faute de quoi¬†/ failing which¬†¬†(indicative).

  • Proportionality**:¬†√†¬†mesure que¬†/ as;¬†chaque fois que¬†/ each time that; ¬†toutes les fois que¬†/ every time that¬†¬†(indicative)

Quoique (even though), the conjunction, should not be confused with quoi que ( whatever the case may be, no matter what), the relative pronoun construct.

Ils l’ont choisi pour leur équipe parce qu’il est grand.They chose him for their team *because* he is tall.
Nous l’aidions afin qu’il puisse se remettre de son accident.We were helping him *so that* he could recover from his accident.
Elle se levait t√īt de peur qu‚Äôelle ne rate son train.She got up early¬†*for fear that*¬†she might miss her train.
Elle regardait la télévision alors que j’attendais en bas.She was watching television *while* I was waiting downstairs.
Si tu ne viens pas, je ne te parlerai plus.*If* you don’t come, I won’t talk to you anymore.
Elle m‚Äôa surpris au moment o√Ļ je m‚Äôy attendais le moins.She surprised me at the moment¬†*when*¬†I least expected it.
Le film lui a tellement plu qu’il est retourné le voir plusieurs fois.He enjoyed the movie *so much that* he went back to see it several times.

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