Correct use of verb ETRE / Omission of articles with professions

Word press Language Choices Angie Andrews
Lesson 4

Uses of the verb ETRE
Vocab focus:Professions
Omissions of definite and indefinite articles

We need to know the definite and indefinite articles in French but we also need to know when to omit them.

So the word for the in French depends on the noun.

Le secrétaire=The secretary (m)
La secrétaire= The secretary (f)
L’architecte=The architect

The apostrophe in L’ replaces the vowel when the word the needs to stand in front of a word beginning with vowels A E I O U or H Y
as in L’architecte=The architect

The Indefinite articles are straightforward

Un secrétaire = A secretary(m)
Une secrétaire= A secretary(f)
Un/Une architecte

The plural of le/la secretaire would be les secrétaires=The secretaries
The plural of un/une sécretaire would be Des secrétaires=Some secretaries

Un homme d’affaires=A businessman
Une femme d’affaires=A businesswoman
Des hommes d’affaires= (Some)Businessmen
Des femmes d’affaires=(some)Businesswomen

Le professeur=The teacher
Un professeur= A teacher

I am a teacher=Je suis professeur

Now notice that we do not put the indefinite article ‘a’ in front of professions in French.

Some professions are referred to in their masculine and feminine forms

Je suis serveur=I am a waiter
Je suis serveuse=I am a waitress

Il est serveur
Elle est serveuse

What do you think that means?

He is a waiter
She is a waitress

That’s correct!

How do we translate the statement :
You are a teacher
We would say:
Vous êtes professeur

If we wished to confirm this , we would say:
Vous êtes professeur, n’est-ce pas?
You are a teacher, aren’t you?

N’est-ce pas? Is a useful phrase which is used to confirm a statement:
Isn’t it? /Aren’t you? etc

If we are familiar with the person we are speaking with , we could use ‘tu es’ which means ‘you are’, familiar form.
To a male:
Tu es serveur, n’est-ce pas?=You are a waiter, aren’t you?
To a female:
Tu es serveuse, n’est-ce pas?= You are a waiter, aren’t you?

To a male nurse:
Tu es infirmier, n’est-ce pas?=You are a nurse, aren’t you?
To a female nurse:
Tu es infirmière, n’est-ce pas?=You are a nurse, aren’t you?

If you do not know these people very well , you would address them as ‘vous’:
Vous êtes infirmier, n’est-ce pas?=You are a nurse, aren’t you?
Vous êtes infirmière, n’est-ce pas?=You are a nurse, aren’t you?

How about the rest of the verb Etre? How confident are you at using it correctly?
Here it is in full:

Je suis=I am
Tu es=You are
Il est=He is
Elle est =She is
On est=One is/We are

Nous sommes=We are
Vous êtes =You are
Ils sont=They are (m.)
Elles sont=They are (f.)

What is the difference between ‘Ils sont’ and ‘Elles sont ?’
They both mean ‘They are’
Only ‘Ils sont’ is used in the masculine plural when we are refering to two or more males or to a mixed group of males and females.

‘ Elles’ means ‘they’ when referring to females:
Ils sont travailleurs=They are workers (masc. or mixed)
Elles sont travailleuses=They are workers (fem.)

2000 workers are on strike:
Ils sont 2000 travailleurs en grève .

So the verb ‘ETRE’ is straightforward or is it?

How is ‘On est’ used?
‘On est’ literally means ‘one is’ and can be used to refer to someone or to more than one person who is not being identified
for example: If we are on a cruise-liner and want to say that some or all of us are sick , we would say ‘on est malade’, literally meaning ‘one is sick’, in other words’ we are sick’.

This is the trickiest subject pronoun and once you get the idea that it is used to refer to people in general, you will soon see how it can mean one, we , you or they or even some people but we will come back to it at a later date.

The difference between ‘nous sommes’ and ‘on est’ when both can mean ‘we are’
would depend on the concept .

If we are referring specifically to ourselves , we could use’nous’ ex. Mark and John are both tired. They could say
Nous sommes fatigués=We are tired
But if Mark is a tourist guide and wishes , on behalf of the tourists, to ask the coachdriver to stop for a rest, he could say ’On est fatigué=We are tired’.


About angeleannandrews

I am Anglo Maltese and live in Surrey with my husband and son. I have been teaching languages for almost 30 years. Having been trained in Anthropology, I have social issues at heart. When I was nearing 50, I wished to use my talents to make money for charity. I have created 50 photo-poems which will be featuring on this site. If you wish to encourage my effort, please give a small donation to ShelterBox after reading my poems. Many people are out there actually tackling the world's problems. We may not be able to join them but every little helps.Thanks a million! Angie
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