samedi 4 décembre 2010

French compound nouns (noms composés)

So I was marvelling at the fact at how fast these orange snow sweeping trucks seem to just come out of the woodwork (so to speak) and do their job, and then 15 minutes later I'd see them come by again... I asked my friend what those things are called in French. Heck, I don't even know what they are called in English. I like to stick with "snow sweeping truck". (OK, a quick Google search tells me they are called snow plows. Please forgive my ignorance, I come from Australia, OK!)

So he told me they are called chasse-neige which I assume literally means "snow hunt(er)"... so after having recently bought a sèche-cheveux, this got me thinking. Whereas in English we use a noun+noun to describe an object, French uses a verb+noun (usually).

So you have snow-hunt and hair-dry, instead of snow hunter and hairdryer. Another example I quickly thought of was tire-bouchon, a bottle-opener/corkscrew, or in French, a cork-pull(er).

And with these compound nouns we come across the problem of what to do in the plural form. Yes, it's time for one of my language lessons. It's been a LONG time since I did one of these so I hope you'll learn something new.

Information compiled with help from the very excellent Shaum's French Grammar book and this website.

If a compound noun is ... formed by Two Nouns, an s or x is added to each part to form the plural.
Un chou-fleur               Des choux-fleurs  (cauliflower)
Un wagon-restaurant    Des wagons-restaurants  (dining car)

Une station-services     Des stations-services    (service station)
Une porte-fenêtre         Des portes-fenêtres     (French window)
Un oiseau-mouches     Des oiseaux-mouches    (hummingbird)
Un garde-chasse         Des gardes-chasses    (gamekeeper)

...formed by a Noun and its complement, only the first part is plural.
Un arc-en-ciel            Des arcs-en-ciel  (rainbow)
Un chef-d'oeuvre       Des chefs-d'oeuvre  (masterpeice)
Un timbre-poste        Des timbres-poste  (stamp)
Une pause-café         Des pauses-café     (coffee break)
Un hôtel de ville        Des hôtels de ville   (town hall)
Une pomme de terre    Des pommes de terre    (potato)
Un garde des sceaux    Des gardes des sceaux   ("Keeper of the seals")

In some rare cases, an s is added only to the last part
Un pique-nique     Des pique-niques  (picnic)

In other cases, it rests invariable
Un pot-au-feu          Des pot-au-feu (boiling beef (dish))
Un rez-de-chaussée     Des rez-de-chaussée  (ground floor)
Un après-midi         Des après-midi  (afternoon)
Un hors-d'oeuvre    Des hors-d'oeuvre   (canapé)
Un tête-à-tête          Des tête-à-tête   (private chat)

...formed by a Verb and a Noun, both parts are invariable
Un abat-jour            Des abat-jour  (lampshade)
Un gratte-ciel          Des gratte-ciel  (skyscraper)
Un passe-partout     Des passe-partout  (passkey)
Un réveille-matin   Des réveille-matin  (alarm clock)
Un sèche-cheveux   Des sèche-cheveux     (hairdryer)
Un chasse-neige     Des chasse-neige    (snowplow)
Un gratte-papier     Des gratte-papier    (office worker/"pen pusher")
Un faire-part           Des faire-part     (invitation)
Un porte-monnaie   Des porte-monnaie  (purse)

Un cure-dent          Des cure-dents  (toothpick)
Un tire-bouchon     Des tire-bouchons  (corkscrew)
Un couvre-lit          Des couvre-lits  (bedspread)
Un couvre-pieds     Des couvre-pieds (bedspread for end of bed/feet)
Un ouvre-boîte       Des ouvre-boîtes  (can opener)
Un garde-manger    Des garde-manger (cold room)
Un porte-plume      Des porte-plumes  (fountain pen)
Un garde-fou          Des garde-fous  (railing)
Un porte-clé(s)       Des porte-clefs   (keychain/keyring)
Un tire-ligne           Des tire-lignes   (calligraphic drawing pen) 
Un porte-avion(s)   Des porte-avions  (aircraft carrier)

Un compte rendu     Des comptes rendus   (report)

...formed by two Verbs, both parts are invariable
Un laissez-passer     Des laissez-passer     (special travel document for UN or EU)Un va-et-vient          Des va-et-vient     (coming and going)

..formed by Adjective and a Noun
Un beau-frère        Des beaux-frères  (brother-in-law or stepbrother)
Une belle-soeur    Des belles-soeurs  (sister-in-law or stepsister)
Une grand-mère   Des grands-mères  (grandmother)
Un grand-père      Des grands-pères  (grandfather)
Un coffre-fort       Des coffres-forts     (safe)
Un château fort      Des châteaux forts    (fortified castle)
Un garde-champêtre     Des gardes-champêtres  (village policeman)
Une plate-bande     Des plates-bandes    (flower bed)
Un rouge-gorge     Des rouges-gorges (redbreast)

Un nouveau-né     Des nouveau-né(e)s

..formed by Two Adjectives
Un sourd-muet      Des sourds-muets  (deaf-mute)
Un franc-tireur      Des francs-tireurs (irregular soldier/sniper)

..formed by an Adverb and a Noun
Une arrière-boutique   Des arrière-boutique  (back shop)
Un sous-sol                 Des sous-sols    (basement)
Un sous-multiple         Des sous-multiples  (sub-multiple (mathematics))

Un après-ski        Des après-ski
Un après-midi     Des après-midi

I learnt early on when I started learning French and I definitely have to revise this!  I think I just confused myself 100x more by making this article. I think it'll be easier to just learn the vocab first!

mercredi 1 décembre 2010

Snowed under

I think I saw a lifetime's worth of snow in one day today. Last night it snowed a lot and then today it continued to snow heavily all day long (stopping around 4pm). In my parts I was walking (wading?) in knee-deep snow! It has caused chaos for transport and many buses and trains stopped running. People with cars complain about the roads, and have to get new tyres. Walking through thick snow is pretty hard work too!

So, it's been 6 days straight of seeing the snow for me and it still amazes me and I still take lots of photos every day all throughout the day. I guess if you're used to seeing it year after year it's nothing special but for me it's still pretty special!

I HAVE seen snow before but after many people have asked me if it's my first time, I've kind of started lying and saying it is because it's just easier than explaining plus it feels like my first time anyway. The real first time I saw snow was when I was 14 and my parents took my sister and I, and went with their friends to the snow in Australia.

For those that don't know: YES, IT DOES SNOW IN AUSTRALIA. I am kind of tired of getting asked that question! For some reason people think Australia (despite it being so huge) has the same weather and temperature throughout the entire country and that it's always hot and sunny??? Yes we have seasons and it can get cold too! And yes, we have snow and skiing too! However it's only in a tiny part of Australia, the highest part where all the mountains are.

Back to my thoughts about the snow...

Thursday 25 November 2010
Lunchtime (around 1pm) - I looked out the window and saw snow for the first time in my town.
Dinnertime (around 6:30pm) - I looked out the window and saw the snow making the ground white
Around 8pm - The ground and all the cars etc were all covered in white and I was soooo excited!

Friday 26 November 2010
Morning - there was a lot of snow overnight and it looked gorgeous.

Saturday 27 November 2010
It was still snowing a lot and was overcast. It stopped around 3-4pm and then it started up again around 6pm. I built my snowman (snow family).

Sunday 28 November 2010
It wasn't snowing but there was still a lot of snow on the ground everywhere. Around noon I walked around the block and took some photos. Saw lots of kids building snowmen and playing with their toboggans. Ahhhh to be a kid again!
Late afternoon the snow started melting a bit but then in the evening it started falling again. I felt really really cold that night.

Monday 29 November 2010

It was beautiful! The snow had melted a bit overnight and then new snow had covered the melted snow, making a 'bubblebath' effect which I loved. That, combined with the sun which shone brightly made the everything look so beautiful and dreamy. Luckily I didn't have to work that day and pulled myself out of bed early to walk around the town and take pictures of the snow in the beautiful, perfect sunny morning light with blue skies.

Tuesday 30 November 2010
It was very overcast and continued to snow a bit and then stopped. In the early afternoon it had been swept and was that ugly murky brown-grey colour from cars, and from people walking in it and I actually started wondering whether I'd see that brilliant bright white colour and full coverage again. I needn't have worried because around 3pm it started snowing heavily and did not stop...

Wednesday 1 December 2010
It snowed a lot overnight and all the grass outside my window was covered. Completely covered. It was the thickest I had ever seen and it continued to snow throughout the day. A lot. The roads were not swept as I guess it was too hard to do and it was very hard to walk through it in many places. I noticed the cars were driving very slowly, at around 40km/hour or less. A few people have told me they needed to get new/special tyres for their cars.

• I love looking out the window when it's snowing heavily and marvelling at the wonders of Mother Nature. This morning I started thinking to myself there must be some mathematical formula that calculates how much snow an object can withstand, ie how wide must the object be to the ratio of how high the snow can be on top of it. And at what angle it can hold snow, ie vertically it can't really hold any snow, but diagonally it can.  Although it was snowing so much today that even vertical things (like wire fences, walls and poles) had snow stuck all over it!

• You know it's been snowing a lot when even the electrical wires and the thinnest, tiniest branches are all completely covered in snow!

• I need to wear sunglasses because the whiteness of everything is so blindingly white. Today all I could see was WHITE WHITE WHITE everywhere!

• Surprisingly, it's not actually that cold when it's snowing. It seems colder when it's not actively snowing.

• I like and hate walking through the snow at the same time. I like it for that 'crunchy' effect and marvelling at how it turns to ice when it's melted and then refrozen. I hate it because I want everything to stay pristine and perfect and beautiful without footprints and dirty spots!

• I suck at making snowmen. I tried and the snow was too dry and I couldn't make even a decent sized snowball in my hand. However, I do know it's possible as I've seen them around the town. I lack proper training, obviously! I even watched some YouTube tutorial videos (yes, that's how seriously I take it ;) ) and found out you make the snowball in your hand first and then start rolling it on the ground which will pick up more snow in turn.. (hence the term 'snowball effect). I watched a father and son do it so I know it's possible but I think I need  personal tutor to show me (just kidding!) :) I did manage to make a mini snowman though, complete with snow wife and snow child.

• I don't know when I will get sick of the snow. I know it is causing a lot of hassles for people but it makes me feel sooooo happy looking at it and being in it. They say that no two snowflakes are alike. Isn't that amazing? And all the snowflakes are different sizes and diameters.  I tried to take a photo of one/some but they melt too quickly.

• Walking through thick snow is a bit dangerous. Actually you can't tell how deep it is and you don't even know what's underneath: is it concrete, grass, sand, dirt, mud, (frozen) water? It could be anything and I have nearly put my foot into some frozen water (ice)! Also you can't see where the kerb is or where the steps are when it's that deep. It's hard to estimate depth or distance. It also becomes very slippery when it's re-frozen and turned into ice. I keep thinking I'm on a giant ice-skating rink! Even with really good rubber-soled snowboots I have slipped a little and felt like I was nearly going to fall.

• It's taken me a while but I think I have actually acclimatised. From the 23-24°C when I came to minus degrees. I think it's been anywhere from -1 to -10°C lately.

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