Learn French Conjunctions Easily and Effectively

By OptiLingo • 8 minute read

Learn French conjunctions easily and effectively

Conjunctions in French Create Complex Sentences

You use conjunctions in everyday life, but you barely even notice it. They’re a crucial part of English, and they’re equally crucial in French. So, if you’re learning French to become fluent, you absolutely need to know what conjunctions are. Recognize conjunctions when you encounter them, and use them in everyday French speech. That’s the best way to become fluent in French quickly.

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What Are Conjunctions?

Conjunctions are the words that connect two parts of a sentence. Without conjunctions, you’d be limited to simple sentences in French. But if you know what they are and how to use them, you can talk in complex sentences, just like the locals. There are 3 different kinds of conjunctions in the French language:

  • Coordinating Conjunctions
  • Correlative Conjunctions
  • Subordinating Conjunctions
French conjunctions
English translation
parce que
tandis que
but/and yet

French Coordinating Conjunctions

Coordinating conjunctions in French connect two equal parts of the sentence. Neither of the two parts is dominant or more emphasize. For example:

Marie took the dog for a walk, and then she went to work.

The “and” is the coordinating conjunction, and the two parts of the sentence are equally important. But, “and” isn’t the only option we have in French. There are 10 different coordinating conjunctions in French:

1. Et – and

Et (and) is a very common French conjunction. It can join equal words and clauses together seamlessly. You can use it just like in English.

  • J’adore les croissants et le café. – I love croissants and coffee.

French conjunctions help create complex sentences

2. Parce que – because

This is also an extremely common French conjunction. Everyday French people use if very often. It’s the same meaning as the English “because”.

  • Je l’ai épousée parce que je l’aime. – I married her because I love her.

3. Car – because

No, not the English word for vehicle. Car is a French conjunction that signals cause. It’s very similar to “parce que”, but there’s a subtle difference. But, it’s actually not very common in everyday speech. You’ll see it more often in French writing. Of the two, “parce que” is definitely more popular.

  • Je nage car c’est du bon exercise. – I swim because it’s good exercise.

4. Or – but/and yet

Again, a cognate. “Or” isn’t the same as English “or”, and it’s not even “gold” as a French conjunction. You use this to draw a negative conclusion in the second half of the sentence.

  • Il faudrait arrived à l’école à 8 heures , or, il y a trop de traffic. – I should be in school at 8, but/and yet there’s too much traffic.

5. Ensuite – then

This is also a very common French conjunction, use it often to create natural-sounding complex sentences.

  • Je suis allé à l’école, et ensuite à l’université. – I went to school, and then to University.

6. Ou – or

While this is a common French conjunction, it’s easy to confuse with “où” (where). The accent grave and the context can help you set them apart.

  • Je veux de la glace ou du gâteau. – I want the ice cream or the cake.

7. Ou bien – or else/or otherwise

“Or else” sounds very threatening in English, but in French, it’s a much more calm conjunction.

  • Nous pouvons avoir des spaghettis pour le dîner, ou bien nous pouvons avoir une pizza. – We can have spaghetti for dinner, or (else) we can can have pizza.

8. Puis – then

This is very similar to “ensuite”. While the meaning is the same, there’s one difference in usage. “Puis” is strictly a conjunction, and has to be in the middle of the sentence as a connector. And “ensuite” can be at the end of the sentence too as and adverb.

  • J’ai chanté puis j’ai dansé. – I sang then I danced.

9. Mais – but

You must become very familiar with this conjunction. It’s extremely common.

  • J’ai 9 ans maintenant, mais j’en aurai 10 le mois prochain. I’m 9 now but I’ll be 10 next month.

10. Donc – therefore/so

This conjunction signals cause and effect.

  • Tu m’aimes, donc je t’aime. – You love me so I love you.

Conjunctions are basically just sentences hugging each other in French.

French Correlative Conjunctions

The next step of French complex sentences is correlative conjunctions. You can express deeper thoughts and ideas with these.

1. Ni… ni – neither… nor

You can use this correlative conjunction in the same way as the English equivalent. Sometimes people use only one “ni” as a coordinating conjunction.

  • Je n’aime ni les araignées ni les serpents. – I like neither spiders nor snakes.

2. Ou (bien)… ou (bien) – either… or

While a double “ou bien” is very formal, a simple “ou … ou” sentence is much more common in everyday French.

  • Je choisis ou du poulet ou du boeuf. – I choose either the chicken or the beef.

3. Soit… soit – either… or

While it means the same as “ou … ou”, “soit … soit” is more used in writing than in everyday speech.

  • Soit vous mangez ceci, soit aucun dessert. – You either eat this, or no dessert.

French Subordinating Conjunctions

While the previous two kinds of French conjunctions had equal sentence parts, this kind is different. You use subordination conjunctions if one of the sentences relies of the other. You can only join unequal sentence parts together with subordinating conjunctions. A good example in English would be:

You can have dessert if you eat your dinner.

While you can say “you can have dessert” on its own and still make sense, you can’t say “you eat your dinner”. The first part of the sentence is the main clause, and the second is the condition. “If” is the subordinating conjunction that connects them.

1. Si – if

The French conjunction “si” works the same way as the English “if”.

  • Je t’emmène si tu dis s’il te plait. – I’ll take you if you say please.

2. Que – that

“Que” is an insanely common conjunction in French. It connects the two clauses of the sentence to add the necessary information.

  • Marie a dit que te peux manger du gâteau. – Marie said you can eat the cake.

French conjunctions like si or que are subordinating

3. Lorsque – when

This French subordinating conjunction is more formal, but you may still hear it sometimes.

  • J’achète un billet de loterie quand je vois un trèfle. – I buy a lottery ticket when I see a clover.

4. Quand – when

This conjunction is much more common than the previous one. While you can use both, French locals prefer “quand” over “lorseque”.

  • Je ferai ça quand les cochons voleront. – I’ll do that when pigs fly.

5. Comme – like/as/since

You use “comme” most commonly to compare two things. Or, you can also use it to show the cause of something.

  • La balle est bleue comme le ciel. – The ball is blue like the sky.
  • Comme Marie a le ballon, on ne peut pas jouer avec. – Since Marie has the ball, we can’t play with it.

6. Puisque – as/since

This French conjunctions is essentially the same as the one before. But, it’s only used to show the cause. Sometimes “puisque” is even translated as “because” in English.

  • Pierre a une nouvelle voiture, puisque son ancienne est tombée en panne. – Pierre has a new car, as his old one broke down.

7. Quoique – even though

If you want to convey two opposing ideas in the same sentence, you use “quoique”. French people prefer this, because “malgré que” (despite the fact that) is longer.

  • J’ai mangé mon dîner, quoique je n’en voulais pas. – I ate my dinner even though I didn’t want it.

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