Understanding Core French Grammar

by Andrew J Betts (Lancing College)

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"This lucid, accessible and user-friendly book fills an unfortunate gap in the literature on French grammar.
I have no doubt that generations of students will be grateful to Andrew Betts for making their language-learning so much easier and more enjoyable."

Neil Smith is Emeritus Professor of Linguistics at University College London.
He is a Fellow of the British Academy (FBA) and an Honorary Member of the Linguistic Society of America.

"'Understanding Core French Grammar' by Andrew Betts is a very useful addition to the tools available for English-speaking learners of French. In a very short space, the author manages to introduce the reader to the central areas of French grammar: the main structures of sentences, verb constructions, moods and tenses, the use of pronouns, adjectives, adverbs and articles. Grammatical terminology is carefully defined without presupposing that readers have years of grammatical training behind them. The book also includes an interesting overview of some of the differences between written and spoken usage. This book offers an important resource to learners of French at various levels. Despite the dreams entertained by some that French can be learned in a totally spontaneous way, it is necessary to know its grammar to function adequately in writing and speaking."

Jacques Durand
Emeritus Professor of Linguistics
University of Toulouse Jean Jaurès

"Understanding Core French Grammar does exactly what it says on the tin. It provides students of French with all the essential grammar points, broken down into bite sized chunks and conveyed in a simplistic yet thorough way. From the simple future to the subjunctive, it covers everything you need to know. My students from GCSE upwards have enjoyed learning from this book and have affectionately named it their ‘grammar bible'. Sometimes the trickier grammar points need a couple of different explanations and I have found that Dr Betts's is often the one where they finally experience that "light bulb moment". The translation exercises which accompany each chapter enable students and teachers alike to check understanding and ensure the grammar point has been fully grasped before moving on. As a firm believer that translation is one of the best ways of getting to grips with grammatical structures, I have found these activities most useful.

"I will definitely be using it as a staple and have already incorporated it into my schemes of work. Even the most reticent of linguists can't fail to learn the ins and outs of the subjunctive from this book! "

Laura Fryer, Head of French at Lancing College

"The book is not intended for the complete beginner, but it might be useful for a beginning teacher who is looking for exact words to help explain to students 'why it is like that in French.'”

Leonard Marsh, The French Review, Vol. 91, No. 1, October 2017

This book contains an explanatory treatment of the core areas of difficulty for the English speaking learner of French. It deals with the key issues in tense formation and use and verbal structures and processes such as negation, passives and subjunctives along with a highly exemplified treatment of pronouns and a section dealing with adjectives and other elements of the grammar.

It fills a gap between general text books of French in which grammatical issues are frequently treated piecemeal and scattered throughout the book in between more communicative information on one hand and exhaustive reference grammars aimed at graduate and research students on the other which would be beyond the level of intellectual maturity of most school children and some non-specialist undergraduates.

It has the advantage of treating each grammatical issue in detail but without being too long-winded, explaining the systems and processes which underlie the facts of the language. The emphasis is on explanation and not merely the listing of facts, enabling the learner to master the system and become an independent user of the language. It could be used highly successfully either as a classroom aid alongside the more usual textbooks which are organized typically around topics and themes in society or for self-study for the committed individual learner of any age. There are extensive exercises and answers for all topics covered.

Andrew Betts is currently Registrar at Lancing College, England. He holds a BA in English Language with Medieval Literature from Durham University, a Postgraduate Diploma in Linguistics from UCL, a Postgraduate Diploma in French translation from the Institute of Linguists and a PhD in German Linguistics, German Impersonal Passives from UCL. He lectured part-time in Historical Linguistics and Communications Studies at the Polytechnic of Central London and at Goldsmiths’ College London and then became Research Officer at the University of Essex working on the EUROTRA Machine Translation project from 1986 to 1990. Since 1990 he has been teaching French and German to University scholarship and entrance level at Lancing College and was latterly Head of the French Department there.

Independence, systematic, explanatory, structured, concise

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Bibliographic Information

Book Title

Understanding Core French Grammar





Number of pages


Physical size

236mm x 160mm

Publication date

July 2016