FREN 2551
Advanced French Grammar & Writing
De la grammaire au texte


TR 3:30-4:45
ICC 211A

TR 5:00-6:15
ICC 221B

Office hours: ICC 427
TR 3:15-5:00 p.m.
and by appointment

A significant amount of information pertaining to this course is sent via e-mail to your <> address: please check your mailbox regularly.

It may be modified over the course of the semester. Always refer to the latest on-line version.

> Last updated on August 25, 2023<


A bridge course between the initial phase of language study and the upper-level courses specializing in culture and/or literature, French 151 is designed to help students improve their communicative ability in French with a particular focus on understanding and producing certain text types that will be useful in their future studies. Since students at this level have already gained some writing capacity in French, "Advanced" means reaching greater text complexity and quality through a systematic exploration of functional and stylistic features. Gaining a firmer grasp on "grammar"—understanding what "grammar" is and what purposes it serves, in addition to knowing grammatical rules—appears as a necessary, but by no means decisive, step in this process, since a grammatically flawless texts is not necessarily a good text.

More specifically, our objectives include:

• Exploring basic concepts in linguistic communication
• Exploring basic concepts in sentence structure (syntax) and word formation/variation (morphology)
• Exploring basic concepts in text grammar
• Exploring four specific text types: the summary, the description, the story, and the dialectical argumentative essay (dissertation, for which multiple points of view must be confronted in a rigorously structured manner)
• Learning systematical strategies for crafting an improving a text at various levels

"Advanced grammar" does not just mean learning more rules (or more complicated rules), but gaining a better understanding of how language works, in order to make sense of what you already know and to keep refining your knowledge. At each stage, we will not just review rules and apply them, but figure out why these rules exist in the first place.
Note: although they are not the focus of this course, your listening and speaking proficiency will be greatly enhanced as well, if only by the intensive practice you will get through class participation.

Evaluation includes

Three papers (a summary, a portrait/description, and a dissertation, each to be revised/rewritten at least once: 15% each — 45% total.
Four Tests (90 mins each). They include the same type of exercises and activities as those done in class: 10% each; 40% total
Presence, preparedness and participation : 15%

Learning outcomes
By the end of the semester, all students will have

— been acquainted with all fundamental concepts in French grammar
— acquired a palette of strategies for improving their writing abilities, especially through constructive rewriting
— written a summary according to a specific protocol, and going through at least one rewrite
— written a descriptive or narrative text, using a specific protocol, and going through at least one rewrite
— written a dialectical argumentative essay (dissertation), using a specific protocol, and going through at least one rewrite
— completed a wide array of exercises dealing with particular points in French syntax and morphology

This course rests on some fundamental principles:

Meaningfulness: the point of the course is to understand; not just learn rules or tricks, but gain a deeper understanding of how language works
Purposefulness: everything we do has a purpose; there is no busywork, no activity that does not eventually go towards fulfilling course goals.
Practicality/applicability: everything we learn is ultimately applicable to creating more complex texts, not just to completing some exercise that does not have any clear incidence on improving writing ability.
Scaffolding: expertise and ability is acquired through progressive build-up.
Authenticity: primary materials are actual texts made to be used in an actual native context, not made-up materials for teaching purposes.

Your responsibilities in preparing for class are to

• read very attentively the assigned material;
• in that material, make a note of what seems unclear to you, even after you have given it some thought.
• complete all assigned exercises as best as you can, even if you find it difficult. We will go over some of these exercises together in class, but it is crucial that you have completed them on your own beforehand—if only to determine what you found particularly challenging. A good teacher makes the material understandable, sometimes deceptively so. Could you successfully replicate on your own what you did in class under your teacher’s guidance?
• prepare comments and questions to clarify what you do not fully understand in the readings and/or exercises.

Your “preparedness and participation” grade will reflect the level to which you appear to have fulfilled these responsibilities.

In-class activities include:

• Discovering and exploring linguistic/syntactic/morphological/textual concepts
• Working together through concrete syntactic/morphological/textual tasks presented in class
• Working together through concrete syntactic/morphological/textual tasks assigned as homework
• Reviewing exercises on a specific syntactic/morphological point, for verification purposes.

Assigned work includes:

• Remodeling sentences or short texts so as to first eliminate errors, improprieties and awkward turns of phrases, then improve them (i.e., increase their efficacy).
• Working through concrete syntactic/morphological/textual problems
• Crafting short texts according to specific formal criteria.
• Revising the short texts you have initially drafted.
• Completing exercises on a specific syntactic/morphological point.

In all circumstances, your work will never simply amount to mechanically memorizing and applying "rules"; it will also involve understanding the purpose of these rules, and figuring out why a given form is "faulty", whereas another is "correct." Finally, we will go beyond "correcting" to the next stage, where the issue is making a text more efficacious (at whatever effect it is supposed to have on its reader), not just grammatically sound.



For greater authenticity, we will only use materials originally produced for a French speaking public. Only purely administrative matters (such as this syllabus) will be handled in English. There will be a very limited number of sessions devoted to grammar and text grammar in English. In all other circumstances, including discussion and critique of your work in class or during office hours, French will be used exclusively orally and in writing, by you and by the instructor. You will never be asked (with rare, very precise exceptions) to translate anything, nor are you expected to use translation ever as a means to accomplish your work in this class. BILINGUAL DICTIONARIES AND ELECTRONIC TRANSLATORS ARE NOT ALLOWED IN CLASS. Use of a monolingual dictionary is strongly encouraged, however. The Trésor de la Langue Française Informatisé ( is the recommended on-line solution.

Attitude and Behavior
This is a class held in a university classroom. Please dress and behave accordingly!

— No eating or snacking during class (drinking is OK)
— Cell phones, smartphones and other mobile communication devices must me turned off and stored away in a pocket or a bag (except for emergency situations, with prior notification to the instructor)
— No chit-chat unrelated to class matters
— Use of computers is class is strictly limited to working on relevant tasks matters. Anyone found using a computer in class for anything else (checking e-mail, Facebook status, stock prices, playing games) will be issued a warning the first time, and, the second time, banned from using a computer in class altogether for the rest of the term.

Preparation and Participation
You must prepare for class by going over assigned material, and by formulating questions, remarks and comments for class discussion. Each hour spent in class should be matched by about 45 minutes of preparation before class, and another 45 minutes of follow-up work afterwards. Every evening, review what was done in class that day to verify that you understand it; if necessary, use books and on-line resources for clarification. Bring up unresolved items in class, or discuss them with your instructor during office hours.
Each and every student is expected to participate in every class, not only by responding to prompts and questions by the instructor (or to other students' comments), but also by volunteering comments and questions without being prompted (see also the "Total Commitment Policy").

Attendance and Punctuality
Every student is expected to be present for every class and arrive on time (repeated tardiness will be penalized). If an absence or late arrival/departure is anticipated, the instructor must be notified beforehand by e-mail.
An absence may be "excused" if it was caused by an unforeseen event or accident that made it impossible or extremely difficult for a student to attend class, and which can be documented. If you feel sick enough to miss class, then you should also seek medical attention and obtain a certificate from the health care provider who treated you. If you suffer from a chronic mental or physical condition that occasionally flares up to the point of incapacitating you, you need to be registered with the University health services in order to be granted accommodations.
A student who was absent (justifiably or not) still remains responsible for finding out what was done or assigned during the missed class(es), and for turning in assignments on time. You are allowed two unjustified absences; more than two will result in a reduction of the portion of the final grade allotted to "Presence, Preparedness and Participation."
You must come to class prepared by having completed readings and other assignments as indicated by the instructor, in an appropriate manner (see the "Total Commitment Policy"). Manifest lack of adequate preparation and of voluntary participation (i.e., participating only when individually called upon) will also result in a reduction of the portion of the final grade allotted to "Presence, Preparedness and Participation."

Honor system
All aspects of this class fall under Georgetown University's honor system. If you are not thoroughly familiar with its provisions, please review them at A point of particular concern is using source material appropriately and avoiding plagiarism: "Plagiarism, in any of its forms, and whether intentional or unintentional, violates standards of academic integrity. Plagiarism is the act of passing off as one’s own the ideas or writings of another (…). While different academic disciplines have different modes for attributing credit, all recognize and value the contributions of individuals to the general corpus of knowledge and expertise. Students are responsible for educating themselves as to the proper mode of attributing credit in any course or field. (…) Note that plagiarism can be said to have occurred without any affirmative showing that a student’s use of another’s work was intentional.

Writing / Paper rules
You will write three papers of varying lengths, and according to different formats: a summary, a descriptive or narrative piece, and an essay. Specific objectives, principles and guidelines for each writing format will be discussed in class and in e-mail messages. Your papers will be marked up, given a provisional grade and handed back for rewriting at least once. The rewritten paper will receive a higher grade only if significantly improved, and with a maximum of one letter-grade increase from the provisional grade (e.g., from B- to A-, or from C+ to B+). Any further rewrites will be graded according to the same principle. Note: an "F" on a first draft cannot yield a final grade higher than a "C". A coding system will help you identify and correct problems in your writing.
All writing assignments completed outside of class must be composed with a word-processing software and you should always keep a back-up copy. They must be submitted electronically as e-mail attachments to in <.docx> format—when you save your document, make sure that the software does not automatically save it as anything else than a text document. See the instructor if you are unsure about text formats, sending attachments, or if there is a reason why you wish to submit your work in printed rather than electronic format.
Name the file beginning with "FR2551", then your last name and a paper code as follows:

RES for the summary (e.g. <FR2551SmithRES_1.doc> for the first draft) LENGTH: 450-500 words
DESC for the descriptive piece (e.g. <FR2551SmithDESC_1.doc> for the first draft) LENGTH: 450-500 words
DISS, for the essay (e.g. <FR2551SmithDISS_1.doc> for the first draft). LENGTH: 1400-1500 words

At the top of the first page of every paper print "French 2551," your name, the date and a draft number (version 1, 2, 3).
Font: Times New Roman in size 12. Use 1.5 spacing, leaving 1-inch margins on all sides.
All standard French diacritical marks must be used: accents (é, è, ê, ë, ù, à, û, ï) cedillas on ç and Ç, guillemets («...»), superscripts (XVIe siècle).
Division into paragraphs must be consistent with the content, and the first line of each paragraph must be tabulated on the left (0.2")


There is no text to be purchased. However, I suggest readings from the following:

• Y. Delatour, D. Jennepin, M. Leon-Dufour, et B. Tessier. Nouvelle Grammaire du Français. Cours de Civilisation Française de la Sorbonne. Paris, Hachette FLE, 2004.

This is a general reference book. The assigned readings cover some material that you may already know, and some that you probably do not know.

Complementary Readings

Excerpts from these titles are available through Canvas in PDF format. They will be used for class activities or as reference (Bien rédiger).

• M. Boularès & J.-L. Frérot, Grammaire progressive du français avec 400 exercices, niveau avancé. Paris, CLE International, 1997.
• H. Jay Siskin, C. Krueger et M. Fauvel. Tâches d'encre. 2e Ed. New York, Houghton Mifflin, 2004.
• Humbert, J-L. et Vial, P. Bien rédiger. Paris, Bordas, 1996.

Supplementary Readings
These titles available from Lau provide more in-depth coverage of French grammar, in some cases focusing on a particular point. Although they will not be used in class, you may find helpful.

• Arrivé, Michel, Françoise Gadet et Michel Galmiche. La Grammaire d'aujourd'hui : guide alphabétique de linguistique française. Paris, Flammarion, 1986. Lauinger PC2112 .A77 1986
• Cellard, Jacques. Le subjonctif : comment l'écrire? Quand l'employer? Paris, Duculot, 1978. Lauinger Library PC2290 .C44 1978
• Grevisse, Maurice. Le Bon Usage: grammaire française, avec des remarques sur la langue française d'aujourd'hui. Paris, Duculot, 1980. Lauinger PC2112 .G84 1980
• Klein-Lataud, Christine. Précis des figures de style. Toronto, Éditions du GREF, 1991. Lauinger PC2440 .K44 1991.
• Lacarra, Marcel. Les Temps des verbes: Lesquels utiliser? Comment les écrire? Paris, Duculot, 1979. Lauinger PC2301 .L26
• Simard, Jean Paul. Guide du savoir-écrire. Montréal, Éditions Ville-Marie, 1984.
Lauinger PC2420 .S54 1984
• Timbal-Duclaux, Louis. L'Expression écrite: écrire pour communiquer: connaissance du problème. Paris, ESF/Librairies techniques, 1983. Lauinger P211 .T55 1983



Plan / Outline

Readings from Nouvelle Grammaire
Lectures dans La Nouvelle Grammaire
Materials available on line only
Documents disponibles en ligne seulement

0. Introduction: What is grammar? What is a text? From communication to sentence structure / Introduction: Qu'est-ce que la grammaire? Qu'est-ce qu'un texte? De la communication à la structure phrastique

Advanced knowledge of a language extends beyond purely technical ability to express oneself orally and in writing. One also needs to understand its workings and master some basic notions and concepts in order to reach expert use both in terms of reception (comprehension) and of production (writing, speech), that is, grasping the complexity of language use and its nuances.
• Communication
• Énoncé (utterance, speech act)
• Grammar (morphology, syntax, semantics)
• Discourse/Text/Narrative
• Discourse and text types
• Sentence - Clause
• Topic/Comment - Subject/Predicate

La connaissance approfondie d'une langue dépasse les capacités purement techniques à s'exprimer à l'oral et à l'écrit. Il faut aussi en comprendre le fonctionnement et maîtriser quelques notions et concepts de base pour parvenir à une utilisation experte tant sur le plan de la réception (lecture) que de la production (écriture, discours oral), c'est-à-dire à une saisie de la complexité des faits de langue et des nuances.
• La Communication
• L'énoncé - l'énonciation
• La Grammaire (morphologie, syntaxe, sémantique)
• Discours/Texte/Récit
• Les Types discursifs et textuels
• La Phrase - la Proposition
• Thème/Rhème - Sujet/Prédicat

Spielmann - Les fonctions communicatives
Spielmann - La Comptétence communicative
Spielmann – L'Énonciation
Spielmann - La Grammaire
Spielmann - Texte et type textuels

TEST 1 - Session 4, Thu. Sept. 7


I. The Summary — The Sentence and its Components / Le Résumé — La Phrase et ses constituants
The simple sentence is the basic unit of linguistic and grammatical analysis. Therefore it is important to understand what its components are (nominal and predicative group, and their sub-components), and to be able to identify word categories ("parts of speech") so as to employ them efficaciously.
A complex sentence results from the combination of two or more simple sentences ("clauses"), by juxtaposition, interjection, coordination and subordination, and with the help of punctuation.
In this unit, we will learn to analyze sentences in order to understand how they are constructed, and make their structure explicit.
Model texts: News Releases from Agence France Presse (AFP), articles from French press titles like Le Monde diplomatique.

La phrase simple est l'unité de base de l'analyse grammaticale et linguistique. Il est important de comprendre quels sont ses constituants (syntagme nominal et syntagme prédicatif et leurs composantes), ainsi que de pouvoir identifier les catégories de mots (les «parties du discours») afin de les utiliser efficacement.
La phrase complexe provient de la combinaison de deux ou plusieurs phrases simples (appelées «propositions») par juxtaposition, interjection, coordination ou subordination.
Dans cette unité nous apprendrons à analyser les phrases pour en comprendre la construction et mettre en évidence leur structure.
Textes de référence: Dépêches d'agence de presse, articles de grands titres de la presse française, comme Le Monde diplomatique.
  Nouvelle Grammaire, Introduction, p. 10-14.
Spielmann - Le résumé
Spielmann -
Les catégories de mots
Spielmann - Analyse de la phrase
Schéma de la phrase verbale - Carte de la phrase verbale

Bien rédiger
II. «La Correction du style» <Bien_Rediger__2.pdf> (Canvas)

1. Radioscopie de la phrase
A. La phrase simple p. 69
B. La phrase complexe p. 70-71
C. Phrases brèves et phrases longues p. 72
D. Attention aux phrases sans verbe! p. 73-74
E. Les phrases négatives p. 75-76
F. Les phrases énumératives avec tirets p. 77-78
G. Les phrases interrogatives p. 79
H. Les phrases exclamatives p. 80

Turn in Résumé draft 1 by Friday September 22


TEST 2 - Session 10, Thu. September. 28

II. The Description — The Nominal Group: Nouns, Pronouns, Determiners, Adjectives / La Description — Le Groupe nominal: noms, pronoms, déterminants, adjectifs
In this unit, we will work on description (places, people, sentiments), focusing on the use of nouns and their complements in the nominal group.
Model Texts: Excerpts from novels and short stories

Dans cette partie du cours, nous allons travailler sur la description (lieux, personnes, sentiments), en nous concentrant sur le nom et ses compléments dans le syntagme nominal.
Textes de référence: Extraits de romans et de nouvelles.

Nouvelle Grammaire, Ch. 1, p. 18-24 (Le Nom); Ch. 2, p. 25-35 (L'Adjectif), Ch. 3, p. 36-47 (Les Articles); Ch. 4, p. 48-54 (Les Pronoms et adjectifs démonstratifs); Ch. 5, p. 55-58 (Les Pronoms et adjectifs possessifs); Ch. 6, p. 59-72 (Les Pronoms et adjectifs indéfinis); Ch. 7, p. 73-89 (Pronoms personnels).

Bien rédiger I, «Le Poids des mots» (<Bien_Rediger__1.pdf> (Canvas)
3. Les pièges des mots
A. Les noms p. 26
B. Les articles p. 27-28
C. Les pronoms p. 29-40
D. Les adjectifs p. 41-45
E. Les mots invariables p. 46-53

Tâches d'encre, «La Description» (Ch. 1) et «Le Portrait») (Ch. 2) (Canvas)
- Lire l'extrait de Désert de Jean-Marie Le Clézio et faire les exercices.

- Lire Portrait de Nestor de Michel Tournier
et faire les exercices.
Grammaire progressive (Canvas)1. Articles: Exercices 1, 2 , 3 — 2. Adjectif: Exercices 1, 2, 3, 4 — 3. Adjectif verbal: Exercices 1, 2, 3, 4 — 4. Pronoms personnels compléments: Exercices 1, 2, 3, 4
Spielmann - Guide de la phrase complexe
Carte des Pronoms - Carte des Déterminants

TEST 3 - Session 16, Thu. October 19
Turn in Description draft 1 by Tuesday, October 24


III. Narration - The Verb System (mood, tense, aspect) - Adverbs and Adverbial Phrases / La Narration - Le Récit - Le Système verbal (mode, temps, aspect) - Adverbes et locutions adverbiales
In this unit, we will work on narration (the recounting of sequences of events), focusing on the verb system and the nuances of expression that can be obtained by variations in mood, tense and aspect.

Dans cette partie du cours, nous allons travailler sur la narration (la relation de séquences d'événements), en nous concentrant sur le système verbal et les nuances expressives que permettent les variations de mode, de temps et d'aspect.

Nouvelle Grammaire, Ch. 14, p. 117-134 (Indicatif); Ch. 15, p. 135-140 (Subjonctif); Ch. 16, p. 141-144 (Conditionnel); Ch. 145-147 (Impératif); Ch. 18, p. 148-151 (Infinitif); Ch. 19, p. 152-159 (participe); Ch. 21, p. 169-179.

Bien rédiger II, «La Correction du style» <Bien_Rediger__2.pdf>
2. Pratique des modes et des temps
A. A quoi sert le présent de l'indicatif? p. 81-82
B. Les temps du passé de l'indicatif p. 83
C. Le passé composé p. 83-84
D. Le passé antérieur et le plus-que-parfait p. 85
E. Imparfait ou passé simple? p.86-88
F. Les temps du conditionnel p. 89-91
G. Futur simple ou conditionnel présent? p. 92-93
H. Les temps du subjonctif p. 94-96
I. La concondance des temps p. 97-98
Tâches d'encre, «La Narration» (Ch. 3)
Lire l'extrait de La Prise de conscience de Simone de Beauvoir, et faire les exercices.
Grammaire progressive 5. Situation dans le temps 1: Exercices 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 — 6. Situation dans le temps 2: Exercices 2, 3, 4, 5 / 2, 3, 4, 5 — 7. Subjonctif: Exercices 1, 2 / 1, 2, 3, 4 — 8. Conditionnel: Exercices 2, 3, 4, 5 — 9. La Forme passive et la forme pronominale: Exercices 1, 2, 3, 4
Carte des Adverbes

TEST 4 - Session 18, Tuesday, Nov. 28


IV. The dialectical essay (dissertation). Building Complex Sentences: Text Connectors and Organizers; indicators of purpose, of cause/consequence, of concession, of hypothesis, of comparison - La dissertation. Construction de la phrase complexe: Les Connecteurs et organisateurs; expression du but, de la cause/conséquence, de la concession, de l'hypothèse, de la comparaison

   In this unit, we will work on your ability to craft an essay in the form of dissertation, that is, a discussion of a given topic through multiple, contradictory points of view—an extremely useful skill that is also a common exercise in French academe.

   Dans cette partie du cours, nous allons travailler votre capacité à élaborer un essai dialectique sous la forme de la dissertation, qui consiste à débattre d'un sujet donné en envisageant de multiples points de vue, souvent contradictoires.

Nouvelle Grammaire, Ch 20, p. 160-168 (Prépositions); Ch. 26, p. 204-211 (Propositions relatives); Ch. 29, p. 230-238 (Cause); Ch. 30, p. 239-246 (Conséquence); Ch. 31, p. 247-251 (but); Ch. 32, p. 252-269 (Temps); Ch. 33, p. 270-280 (Opposition); Ch. 34, p. 281-290 (Condition et Hypothèse); Ch. 35, p. 291-300 (Comparaison).

Bien rédiger
, III. «La Rédaction des textes» <Bien_Rediger__3.pdf>

3. Les trois parties du texte [argumentatif]
A. Comment rédiger une introduction p. 144
B. Qu'est-ce qu'un développement? p. 145-150
C. Comment rédiger une conclusion p. 151-152

Grammaire progressive 10. Adverbe: Exercices 1, 2, 3, 4 / 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 — 11. Relatifs: Exercices 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 — 12. Participe présent: Exercices 1, 2, 3, 4 — 13. Gérondif: Exercices 1, 2, 3, 4 — 14. Discours indirect: Exercices 1, 2 / 1, 2


TUESDAY, Nov. 21 and THURSDAY, Nov. 23 - NO CLASS


Turn in draft 1 of essay by Tuesday, December 5 (last class meeting )