One of the key skills involved in mastering the French language is writing. Exam boards require essays as part of the assessment and teachers also set written tasks for homework. Expressing your ideas in written form can be difficult in your native language and an even bigger challenge in a second or third language. Collecting a list of useful words and phrases in French helps add structure to your work and makes it easier to plan and complete your essay.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
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Analyse the question asked in the title. Make sure you understand what the question means so you can effectively answer it. If choosing your own title or topic, pick a subject that interests you, of which you have some experience, which is also relevant to French culture.
Present the theme of the essay in the introduction. Describe the origin of the problem or issue and the question that arises from the problem.
Structure your argument. Introduce the first point in your argument then add detail of opposing views. Useful phrases include "there are several arguments," "let us consider..." and “on one hand/ on the other hand.”
State your conclusion. Use useful concluding phrases such as "all in all," "taking everything into account," and "to conclude." The University of Manchester suggests deciding on your conclusion before tackling the introduction and the body of your essay.
Use useful connecting phrases. At the start of the essay apply "first of all," "to start off with," or "firstly." Use "next," "in addition," and "what is more" in the body of the essay and phrases like "to finish up with" at the end.
Add comments and quotes using appropriate phrases. Look up the French for phrases like "according to..." “as ... says in her book,” and "many people believe..."
Include your point of view. Express your opinion in French using phrases like "in my opinion," "as I see it," and "I consider that..." Find phrases that express both negative and positive judgments.
Use a variety of phrases and diverse language structure. According to edexcel, to score the top mark in quality of language you need to demonstrate language that is “almost always fluent, varied and appropriate (using a) wide range of lexis and structures.” Use as many tenses as you can.
Review your work. Check that every useful phrase is used correctly. Make sure you have answered the question and presented a logical argument. Check your spelling using a French dictionary. Assess your subject/verb agreement and ensure adjectives match nouns in terms of gender and number.
Tips and warnings
- French has a wide choice of verbs for presenting direct speech so you do not need to repeat "he said, she said" more than is necessary.
- Try to think in French rather than writing your essay in English then translating it. French uses different grammatical structures and syntaxes and idiomatic expressions are not easily translated.
- Essays should always be written in your own words, using your own ideas. You can use useful phrases from a list but never copy sections of an essay from the Internet or another source.
- Avoid using online translation websites to find useful phrases as the translation may not be exact. Choose words from a list your teacher provides or from a textbook.
- Avoid the passive voice and general words like "very" and "things."
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