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1. Grammar and Spelling
2. Punctuation
3. Measurements and Abbreviations
4. Hyphenation
5. Miscellaneous Peculiarities
6. Geographic Distribution
7. Character Set

Section One – Grammar and Spelling

1. Gender and case: French has masculine and feminine genders but no cases. The articles are le (masc.) / la (fem.) and un (masc.) / une (fem.). As a rule, singular feminine nouns end with the letter 'e'. BUT many feminine nouns DON'T end with 'e', e.g. souris, liberté, foi AND some masculine nouns DO e.g. lycée, musée, foie.

2. Accents: As a rule of thumb, accents are not used on upper cases in French, though they are often used stylistically. If they are used (in some magazines, for example), they should be used consis tently.

3. Plurals: plural words normally end with 's' and are preceded by the articles les or des (meaning 'some') (masc. and fem.).

Exceptions include:

- some nouns ending with -ou which take 'x' in the plural: bijou, caillou, chou, genou, hibou, joujou, pou;
- nouns ending with -eu end with 'x' in the plural, except for bleu and pneu (s);
- nouns ending with -(e)au end with an 'x' except for landau and sarrau (s);
- nouns ending with -al end with 's' except for bail, corail, email, ferrail, travail, vantail, vitrail, which change to -aux, e.g. coraux;
- nouns ending with 's', 'x' and 'z' keep the same ending in the plural.

The following shows how plurals are formed for various compound nouns:

Compound noun Plural form Exceptions
Noun + noun - Both nouns take the plural ending: des oiseaux-mouches
But: Des timbres-poste (= des timbres pour la poste)
Des années-lumière
Des gardes-chasse

Noun + preposition + noun - Only the first noun takes the plural ending: des arcs-en-ciel
Des pots-de-vin
But: des bêtes à cornes
Des chars à bancs
Des tête-à-tête
Des pot-au-feu

Adjective + noun - Both nouns take the plural ending: des basses -cours

Adjective ‘demi’ + noun doesn't change: des demi-journées

Adjective + adjective - Both adjectives take the plural ending: des sourdsmuets Verb + noun

1. Only the noun takes the plural ending: des tire-bouchons; des tournedisques
2. Neither the verb nor the noun take the plural ending: des abat-jour

Invariable word + noun - Only the noun takes the plural ending: des vantscènes; des non-lieux

Verb + verb - No plural agreement: des laissez-passer

Foreign words, e.g.
Des snack-bars
Des pull-overs
Des week-ends

No plural agreement: des post-scriptum

Another peculiarity: in French, (Belgian and French from France), we write “des ayants droit”.

Section Two – Punctuation

Belgian French has a space before the following signs of punctuation: : ; ! ? " ... " « ... » (espace insécable: uppercase + Ctrl + space bar

1. Full stops: These are used at the end of headings, titles, subtitles, addresses, dates, no. of pages, e.g. Le sommaire se trouve p. 11
Bullet points do not normally have full stops, except if it is a list and each sentence finishes with a semi-colon (;).

2. Speech marks: With speech marks, the " ... " kind are tolerated rather than widely accepted; the French norm is to use the « ... » kind. Unlike English, French does not always have to have closing and re-opening speech marks around a phrase, like 'he said' when it is embedded within dialogue.

3. Brackets: The first letter is not written with upper case.

4. Capitalisation: Similar to English in its use of capitals at the beginning of sentences and for proper names, but French doesn't use capitals as often as English. Some common examples follow:

- In headings, usually only the first word has a capital letter and the rest of the words in the title are lower case.
- Product names are also normally in lower case, apart from the first word.
However, Kodak US has recently introduced capitalisation.
- Names of days/seasons/months are always in lower case, e.g. lundi, mardi/printemps, été/janvier, février.
- Languages, e.g. anglais, italien, espagnol, etc. are never capitalised in French. Capitals are only used in French in expressions such as les Français, les Espagnols, to refer to the French people, the Spanish people.

Section Three – Measurements and Abbreviations

1. Measurements: Metric system is used except for computer monitors (inches), inner diameter of pipes/tubes, nautical miles, size of computer disks.

Numbers: use a decimal comma, and a space as the thousands separator (no dot!).

Time: 24 hour clock is used (no am/pm). E.g. 13 h 20

Date: 25/8/99, 25 août 1999, 25.8.1999. NB: When date is 1st November 1999 in English, the equivalent in French is 1er novembre 1999 (with “er” superscript).

Always use a space between figure and measurement abbreviation.

Always use a space before a % symbol.

Space (insécable) left before °C, e.g. 30 °C.

2. Abbreviations:

Equivalent abbreviations:
No. (nos.) = n°
e.g. = p. ex.
WxLxHxD = l x L x H x P (small “l” to differentiate it from the length “L”)

Other abbreviations:
CEE (Communauté Economique Européenne) = EEC
CA (courant alternatif) = AC
PAO (Publication assistée par ordinateur) = DTP
EET (heure de l'Europe de l'Est) = Eastern Europe Time
N/réf. = Our ref
Mo = MB
Go = GB
P.J. = enclosure
p. = pg.

Section Four – Hyphenation

Hyphens are used to link compound terms and verb pronouns, e.g. arc-enciel, prends-le.

Words are hyphenated by syllable.

Section Five – Miscellaneous Peculiarities

Always uses the 24 hr clock in writing, usually using 'h' as separator, e.g. 10 h 30.

Certain place names have a different spelling in French, like Lyons/Lyon, Luxembourg/Luxemburg.

Section Six – Geographic Distribution

French is one of the world's great languages, rivalled only by English as the language of international society and diplomacy. Besides being spoken in France, it is one of the official languages of Belgium, Switzerland, and Canada; it is the official language of Luxembourg, Haiti, more than fifteen African countries, and various French dependencies such as St. Pierre and Miquelon (off the coast of New-Foundland), Guadeloupe and Martinique (in the Caribbean), French Guyana (in South America), Reunion (in the Indian Ocean), and New Caledonia and Tahiti (in the South Pacific). In addition, French is the unofficial second language of a number of countries, including Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Lebanon, Syria, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. All told, it is the mother tongue of about 75 million people, with millions more familiar with it, in some degree, as a second language. French is one of the Romance languages, descended from Latin.

French is spoken/used in the following countries:

Algeria, Belgium, Benin, Bora Bora, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia,

Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros (Federal Islamic

Republic), Congo (Zaire), Congo Republic, Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast),Djibouti, Europa Island, France, French Guiana, French Polynesia, FrenchSouthern & Antarctic Lands, Gabon, Glorioso Islands, Guadeloupe (French),Guernsey, Guinea, Haiti, Italy, Jersey, Juan de Nova Island, Laos, Lebanon,Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Martinique (French), Mauritius, Mayotte(French), Monaco (Principality of), Morocco, New Caledonia, Niger, ReunionIsland (France), Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles Islands, St. Pierre & Miquelon(French), Switzerland, Syria, Tahiti (French), Togo, Tunisia, United States of America, Vanuatu, Vietnam, Virgin Islands (U.S.), Zaire.

Language Family
Family: Indo-European
Subgroup: Romance

Source: - Copyright © Kenneth Katzner, The Languages of the World, Published by Routledge.

Section Seven – Character Set

[ ] = Alt key codes

a à [0224] â [0226] æ [0230] A Æ [146]
b B
c ç [0231] C Ç [128]
d D
e è [0232] é [0233] ê [0234] ë [0235] E
g G
i î [0238] ï [0239] I
l L
n N
o ô [0244] œ [0156] O Œ [0140]
p P
q Q
r R
s S
t T
u ù [0249] û [0251] U
v V
w W
x X
y Y
z Z

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