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« on: August 11, 2022, 09:19:20 am »

Colloquial French Grammar: A Practical Guide

by Rodney Ball

The grammatical patterns of languages often vary according to such factors as the formality of the situation in which a discourse or conversation is taking place, the social background of the speakers, or the medium being used (speech or writing). For example in English we weren't there, with not contracted to n't, is characteristic of spoken language, where it is appropriate in all but the most formal situations. We wasn't there is also 'colloquial', but has strong associations with working-class or uneducated usage. We were not there is more characteristic of written texts, and usually creates a 'stilted' effect in conversation (unless not is emphasized).

Similar differences exist in French, and they are the subject of this book. Je ne comprends pas (with ne and pas) is normal in writing and occurs in some spoken usage too. But in much everyday conversation, negatives are formed with pas only (je comprends pas). Other colloquial forms are stigmatized as 'uneducated' or 'lower-class': j'ai rentré (as opposed to je suis rentré), for example, is socially marked, just like we wasn't.

These three dimensions of variation (speech versus writing, formality/informality of situation, social level of speaker) need to be carefully distinguished, even though they do overlap to a considerable extent.

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