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Section 1

#12 Always learn the French article and the noun together.

In English, there is nothing masculine about a piano or feminine about a trumpet. But in French, that’s not true. For some reason, “the piano” in French is le piano, taking the masculine article “le” – and “the trumpet” is la trompette, taking the feminine article “la.” In some cases, there may be arcane and complicated rules enabling you to predict whether a word is going to be masculine or feminine, but it’s much, much easier to just learn the appropriate article with the noun as you learn new vocabulary words. This is a critical point and can not be overstated. It’s “la trompette“, not just trompette!

play le piano
the piano
play la trompette
the trumpet

#13 Learn how to use verbs correctly.

Most French verbs, fortunately, are regular, conjugating in one of three predictable ways. (These are called er, ir,and re verbs, after the final two letters of the infinitive form of the verb.) Within those regular verb groups, there are various inflections which determine the correct way to say “I speak” versus “I have spoken” or “I will speak.” Once you understand the way a handful of regular verbs conjugate – and I won’t lie, it will take you some time to do this – you’ll be able to conjugate any regular verb.

But in addition to the regular verbs, there are about 300 irregular verbs that conjugate strangely. You won’t have to learn all of them, but some – like the verb for “to be” – are used constantly and you can’t avoid learning them. (Think how ignorant an English-speaking person sounds when he says “He don’t got it.” Do you want to sound like that?) Look for recurring patterns in verb conjugations as you learn them; even though irregular verbs don’t follow the patterns typical for an er, ir or re verb, in many cases they’ll have some predictable aspects that will help lock them in your memory.

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