Images de page


Others, ending in n, follow the general rule; un habit brun, a brown coat; une redingote brune, a brown great coat.

0. Adjectives terminating in t, with e or o going before it, double that consonant, and take e mute, in the formation of the feminine, as in the fifth rule, relative to n following o and ie; as, ce verre est net, this glass is clean; la rue est nette, the street is clean; un sot discours, a foolish discourse; une sotte demande, a foolish question.

Secret, complet, cagot, bigot, dévot, idiot, are exceptions to this particular rule, and follow the general one; making, in the feminine, secrète, complète, cagote, bigote, dévote, idiote.

Others, ending in t, follow the general rule; as, petit, petite, small or little; brut, brute, rough; plat, plate, flat.

There are a few exceptions to some of these rules, which will be found among the adjectives in the practical part of this work.

S. By what rules do you form the plural of adjectives, which, as you have already observed, agree in number with the nouns they attend?

M. The rules prescribed for forming the plural of nouns will serve you, without exception, for that of the adjectives.

The greater part of the adjectives ending in al, have no masculine in the plural; as, adverbial, austral, automnal, boréal, canonial, conjugal, fatal, final, frugal, idéal, jovial, littéral, naval, pascal, pastoral, pectoral, trivial, vénal; but they are used in the feminine plural: thus, we may say, des batailles navales, sea-fights; des dépenses frugales, small or raoderate expenses.

S. You observed, I remember, that the place of the adjective must be attended to. Is it of great importance whether it go before or after the noun ?

M. Of very great, in regard to particular adjectives. Thus, the French adjective honnéte, placed before a noun, signifies honest ; but, after the noun, it implies civil or polite; as, c'est un honnête homme, he is an honest man; c'est un homme honnête, he is a polite man. Few adjectives, however, change their meaning with their situation. In the practical part of this treatise, you will observe a list of such as chiefly merit attention.

Those which, in opposition to the genius of the English language, follow their nouns, are very numerous: some of these, however, may, without altering the sense, be placed before. Poets allow themselves a greater latitude, in this respect, than prose-writers,-which deviation is called a poetical licence (licence poétique). Your taste, gradually improved by reading the most elegant French writers, and by attention to polite custom, will be your best guide. S. Have



remarks on the adjective ? M. No: I have still to examine their degrees of signification and comparison, and then proceed to what ancient grammarians VOL. II.


term their regimen, but what some modern French ones term complement.

S. Be pleased then to continue your observations.

M. Men soon perceived that objects were not equally endowed with those qualities to which they had given names; and, rather than form new adjectives to express this difference (which would swell them to an immense catalogue), they naturally used nouns, denoting increase or diminution, in order to modify the adjective, or give it a degree of signification which it did not possess in itself.

S. How many degrees of signification may be expressed by the help of an adjective?

M. Three: the first is the same with the primitive signification of the word; as, gooil, bon; strong, fort; rich, riche: it is called the positive.

The second is the first reduced below its standard, by means of such words as, peu, guère, little; passablement, tolerably. Eranples: Il est peu sage, (literally,) he is little wise; or, in better terms, he has little wisdom. Ce vin-là n'est guère bon, that wine is (literally) little good. Je la trouve passablement aimable, I find her tolerably amiable: it may be called the diminutive.

The third is the first extended beyond its original meaning by the help of the words, fort, très, bien, very; extrémement, extremely: infiniment, infinitely, &c. as, Il est fort, très, or bien, riche, he is very rich; Dieu est infiniment sage, God is infinitely wise : it may be called the augmentative.

N. B. The word archi placed before some words in the familiar style, extends their signification to a very high degree: thus it is said in French, il est archi-sot, fou, vilain, &c. he is an arrant fool, madman, miser, &c.

S. How many degrees of comparison are there?

M. Three also. The signification of an adjective, comprehended in the ratio of comparison, is either levelled to equality, sunk to inferiority, or raised to superiority, in proportion as one degree is equal, inferior, or superior, to the other.

The mode of comparing consists in placing before the adjective the following words, viz. aussi, as, to express equality; moins, less, to denote inferiority; and plus, more, to signify superiority; as, elle est aussi aimable que vous, she is as amiable as you; je suis moins avancé que lui, I am less forward thau he; vous êtes plus jolie qu'elle, you are prettier, or more pretty, than she.

I request your attention to the foregoing examples, as the true model on which to extend or contract the signification of qualities, and also to determine their comparison. Your observance of these ipstrictions will greatly facilitate your progress.

S. What distinction do you make between the degrees of signification and dogroes of comparison of adjectivee?

M. From what has been already advanced, the degrees of signification are considered as independent ; the degrees of comparison, as dependent; from the first standing alone, and from the last being always compared with other adjectives (understood), through which they exist.

S. What is commonly meant by superlative?

M. When the quality has reached its utmost degree of extension or diminution, it must be expressed in the superlative; in French, it is done by placing before it. the words le, la, les, immediately preceding the words plus, more; moins, less;--as, il est le plus studieux, he is the most studious; elle est la plus studieuse, she is the most studious; ils sont les plus studieux, -elles sont les plus studieuses, they are the most studious; il est le moins savant, he is the least learned, &c.

S. Are those rules so general as to admit of no exception ?

M. Not absolutely; there are three adjectives which express the comparative and superlative, without the help of plus, le plus, &c. as bon, good; meilleur, better; le meilleur, the best; mauvais, bad; pire, worse; le pire, the worst; petit, little; moindre, less ; le moindre, the least.

You must observe, however, that mauvais and petit admit also of plus and le plus, to express the comparative and superlative, and therefore may be considered as having two comparatives and two superlatives.

S. What do you mean by the regimen or complement of an adjective?

M. It is a word which is necessary to some adjectives to complete their meaning, as it would be indistinct without it. The relation of the adjective to that necessary word is manifested by the words de, d, or pour, which immediately follow it,--these prepositions extend its influence to the next word, and may not unaptly be compared to a conduit conveying the water of a fountain to a particular spot.

Je suis bien aise de son rétablissement. I am overjoyed at his recovery.
Il est indigne de vivre.

He is unworthy of living.
Tous les hommes sont sujets à la mort. All men are liable to death.
Il est loclin à médire.

He is inclined to slander. I must further observe, that there are adjectives which have no complement, when used in a general sense, but which require one when applied in a particular sense.

EXAMPLES. On m'a dit qu'il vivait content. I was told be lived contentedly. Content du simple nécessaire, je vis Content with mere necessaries, I lipe heureux.

happy. Whenever an adjective requires a particular preposition after it, no other should be used: thus, the adjective prêt requiring d after it. the following mode of speaking, and the like, though used by many Frenchmen, is incorrect: Je suis prêt de partir, I am ready to set off. The preposition à must be substituted for the preposition de.



Scholar. Of what subject do you mean now to treat ?
Master. Of the article.
S. What do you mean by the article?

M. A word generally placed before the common noun, to fix or deteruine its sense with such accuracy as to distinguish the object it represents from all others of the same or of a different species, and by that means to arrest exclusively in its behalf the attention of the mind. We have several kinds of articles in French, occasionally used to fix and determine the signification of the noun.

S. How many are the kinds of articles ?
M. Three principally: 1. Un (masculine), une (feminine), a or an.

2. Le, m.; la, fen. singular; and les, of both genders, plural; all of which are expressed by the single English article, the.

3. Ce, m. cette, f. sing. this or that; and ces, of both genders, plur. these or those.

The first is called the declarative or indefinite article; the second the indicative or definite article; and the third the demonstrative article, or demonstrative pronou.

S. Will you have the goodness to make mc sensible of the distinctions of these three articles, so that I may be enabled to employ them in their proper places?

M. With infinite pleasure; and, to throw the more light on this subject, I shall borrow a few sentences from that excellent work of Sicard, entitled Elémens de Grammaire Générale appliqués à la Langue Française.

“ If there were several objects before you, such as knives, penknives, pens, keys, &c. and, in order to cut bread or any thing else, you stood in need of one of the knives; were they all of different kinds and before your eyes, what would you say to obtain one? You would say, Give me a knife. By thus expressing yourself in asking for a knife, would it be your intention to require but one knife, to specify the number only, and not ask for two? By no means : would you refuse the one which might be offered to you, alleging that it was not the one you called for? No: all would be equally indifferent to you; you would have said a knife, that a pen-knife should not be given to you: to determine the kind would have been your intention: thus, in that case, one, a word of number, would


not have occurred to you, but an article, a definite word, which we may call a declarative article.

"If it be not only a knife you wish for, but such a particular knife, and no other, your idea is no longer so vague, so unfixed; it is, on the contrary, very exact. The first article, which only aims at declaring the object, and separating it from the rest, in order to show and particularize it, without determining the choice, is no longer the proper word; if you would have that knife only which you wish, you must employ a term designed to fix the idea, to place the object before

your eyes; the article, in such case, is this or that, and not a or an. This knife is already known to you, and to the person who has given it to you; and, if it be no longer in his view or in yours, and should you still ask for it, you do not use a or an; it is known: you no longer say this or that; it is not in your view, and you cannot point at it; you say the knife, and you are understood. For it is the same as if I had said, Give me the knife you have already given me.

“ There are three modes then of determiving the object of your investigation, and these three modes gave rise to three words belonging to the same class, which words are the articles un, ce, le, without excluding the other terms relative to thein.”

S. Having lately glanced over the pages of a celebrated French grammar, I found that the articles, as well as the nouns, have cases, and are declined together. I hope that you will explain more fully this particular.

M. It is impossible, as neither nouns nor articles have cases, nor can they be declined in French or English; you will be sensible of this, when the case and declensions are explained to you.

These words, which have no meaning when applied to our nouns, have been borrowed from the Greeks and Romans, who really had cases and declensions in their language.

A case is the change of terminatior which a noun undergoes in performing its part in a sentence; and, as a noun may have six different parts to perform, it also has six cases.

The declension of a noun comprehends all its cases, and to decline a noun is to review each of its cases in succession.

S. How do you supply, in French, the place of those terminations which by the Romans were tbought necessary to express the different parts a noun may perform in a sentence ?

M. We, as well as the English, first give the noun a particular place in the phrase, which denotes whether it is considered as the subject or object of the action expressed by the verb. This enables us to render the two cases denominated by the Latins nominative and accusative. To denote also other relations of the noun, we have recourse to general terms: these are the prepositions à, de, or par ; which, being placed before the nouns and their articles, clearly express these relations.

As the article is never used without the noun, for which alone it exists, I shall introduce examples of the three articles already mentioned, viz.

« PrécédentContinuer »