French grammar constructions? How dull, I hear you cry! However, that grammar does have its uses, especially if you are trying to make your language more interesting – whether you are looking to impress your friends with some fancy phrases, or you are keen to get some of those extra exam marks for “complex grammar constructions”.
Here are a few useful ways of saying things which should help to widen your vocabulary. Many of these constructions can be used in a range of tenses, so I have given a couple of examples in each case.
1. Être en train de + infinitive – to be in the middle of doing something.
- Je suis en train d’écrire un blog – I am in the middle of writing a blog.
- J’étais en train d’écrire un blog, quand j’ai vu un chat – I was in the middle of writing a blog when I saw a cat.
2. Au lieu de + infinitive – instead of doing….
- Au lieu d’écrire un blog, il faut faire mes devoirs – Instead of writing a blog, I must do my homework.
- Au lieu de faire mes devoirs, j’ai regardé la télé – Instead of doing my homework I watched TV.
3. Après avoir/être + past participle – after having done something. WATCH OUT! Just like the present perfect tense, you need to take care of the être verbs…
- Après avoir écrit mon blog, je vais prendre un thé – After having written my blog I am going to have a cup of tea.
- Après être allée en ville, j’écrirai encore un blog ! – After having gone to town I will write another blog!
4. Avant de + infinitive – before doing something
- Avant de boire mon thé, je vais finir le blog – Before drinking my tea I am going to finish the blog.
- Avant de finir le blog, je cherche d’autres exemples – Before finishing the blog, I look for other examples.
5. Venir de + infinitive – to have just done something
- Je venais de trouver un exemple, quand la téléphone a sonné – I had just found an example when the phone rang.
- Je viens de finir mon blog. Youpi ! – I have just finished my blog. Hurrah!
The author is a Surrey-based language tutor specialising in French, German and English as a Foreign Language. She has many years of experience of trying to sound more interesting in French, especially with a view to boosting exam grades (whether for herself or others!).