Everything You Need To Know About French Conjunctions

Written byAmélie Pinon

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 — the word literally means joining together — 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 où est donc Ornicar? (But where is thus Ornicar?)

Je suis un fan de La Guerre des Étoiles mais je n'aime pas Les Dents de la Mer. I'm a fan of Star Wars but I don't like Jaws.
Il a dû 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; étant donné que / given that**; vu que** / seeing that**; sous prétexte que** / under the pretext that **(indicative). **

  • Effect*:* à 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 façon que** / in such a way that**; si/tellement/tant… que** / so much that (indicative).

  • Simultaneity*:* au moment où / at the moment when**; en même 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'à ce que** / until**; en attendant que** / while, until (subjunctive).

  • Posteriority*:* après que / after that**; dès que** / as soon as**; aussitôt que** / as soon as**; une fois que** / once (indicative).

  • Goal: afin que / so that**; de façon à ce que** / in such a way that**; de manière 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 même que** / just as**; ainsi que** / just as, so as**; plus/moins que** / more/less than (indicative).

  • Concession: quoique / even though; bien que** / even though**; malgré que** / in spite of the fact that **(subjunctive). **

  • Restriction: même 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**; même si /** even if (indicative)****; au cas où / in case that (conditional)****; à condition que / provided that**; pourvu que** / provided that**; à supposer que** / assuming that **(subjunctive). **

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

  • Proportionality*:* à 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.

Conjonctions Conjunctions
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 tôt de peur qu'elle 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'a surpris au moment où je m'y 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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Everything You Need To Know About French Conjunctions
Conjunctions in French are incredibly easy to learn (and very important). This will help you memorize them.
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Amélie Pinon
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