TNs, U09: Weather 1 (Impersonal Expressions, Il fait, Il y a)

Impersonal Expressions to Describe the Weather

In French, it is common to use verbs like faire ("to do") idiomatically for general conditions such as weather, especially with ordinary adjectives like beau, mauvais, chaud, froid, etc.

To describe the weather (le temps), we can use the impersonal expression il fait (literally, "it does" or "it makes"). In English, when we say "it is raining", we do not use "it" as a real subject. The "it" doesn't refer to anything. This is the same with the French il in impersonal expressions: it is not a real subject. You have encountered something similar to this in the "Phrases" unit: il y a ("there is/are").

However, il fait followed by various ordinary adjectives describes sensory impressions.

  • Il fait chaud. — It is hot (outside).
  • Il fait froid. — It is cold (outside).
  • Il fait beau. — It is nice out.

Note that we can also explicitly describe the weather with the same adjectives: Le temps est chaud. Le temps est froid. Le temps est beau., etc.

Some weather conditions are commonly expressed with a noun instead of an adjective, and il y a is used, followed by a partitive article if the noun is uncountable or the indefinite article with a count noun.

  • Il y a du vent. — It is windy.
  • Il y a de la brume. — It is misty.
  • Il y a de l'orage. — It is stormy.
  • Il y a des nuages. — It is cloudy.

There are other French verbs used impersonally with il to describe the weather. You will encounter some of them in this unit.

  • Il pleut. — It is raining.
  • Il neige. — It is snowing.
  • Il gèle. — It is freezing.

To ask someone about the weather, simply use the expression Quel temps fait-il ? (What is the weather like?). You will learn later on how this question is formed grammatically.

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December 10, 2018


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