Submitted by’s director Elizabeth Hayes:

Elizabeth Hayes holds a first class honours degree in French Literature from the University of Limerick. She was the recipient of the College Medal for achieving first place overall in the University.
She has also lived in France for 10 years.
She is a registered member of the teaching council in Ireland, and works in The CBS Sexton Street, Limerick.



There was huge interest in our article on Predictions for the French Leaving Certificate Exam, 2016. We then considered the questions which came from that, and are looking today at showing you how to write a simple, yet grammatically accurate opinion piece for the exam. Here at French, we are very much against the idea of trying to learn essays off by heart. This is very tiring, and not very effective. I would much prefer seeing a student learning in a structured manner. In my last article, I advised students to use topic-based learning as a model. You decide on about 10 main topics and learn relevant vocabulary. You then have a stock of grammatical constructions, proverbs, and subjunctive sentences.

I won’t be going into opening or concluding phrases, as there are so many of them in your books already. I will concentrate on what you write after you have given the formulaic opening phrase.

We have looked at Q4 from the Leaving Cert paper in 2009. The theme or topic was the Environment, and the question specifically looked at the question of Global warming.

The question was: Le réchauffement global? Ne t’inquiète pas. Ce n’est pas encore un problème sérieux. Donnez vos réactions.

Global warming? Don’t worry. It is still not a serious problem. Give your reaction.

Ok. That is your question. Look at it closely. Global warming is not a serious problem yet. This question will require that you envisage a little bit into the future and assess whether Global warming will be a serious problem.

Firstly you must open your essay in a strong manner. An example of the type of opening sentence here would be:


Je suis de l’avis qu’il faut que nous soyons tous d’accord sur la préservation de notre planète et le problème du réchauffement global, car ceci est vraiment une priorité mondiale.

I am of the opinion that it is necessary that we are all in agreement about the preservation of our planet and the problem of global warming, as this is really a global priority.

After the opening you have about 2-3 points and a conclusion.


Afin de réduire ce problème il nous incombe tous d’utiliser les énergies renouvelables Les activités exercées par des agriculteurs et l’exploitation des combustibles fossiles émettent une grande quantité de ces gaz qui, de l’avis général des scientifiques, font partie des causes du réchauffement planétaire et des changements climatiques. Ceci peut être très dangereux pour l’humanité dans l’avenir.

In order to reduce this problem, it is up to all of us to use renewable energy. Work done by farmers and the use of fossil fuels emit a huge quantity of this gas, which according to the general opinion of scientists, is partly to blame for planetary warming and climate change. This could be very dangerous for mankind in the future.


Le réchauffement global est une priorité et il faut que tout le monde réfléchisse aux coûts environnementaux. Il est clair que la fonte des glaciers représente une réelle menace qui, si elle se concretise, dévastera dans la pratique l’ensemble de la culture et de l’économi européennes.

Global warming is a priority and it is necessary that everyone thinks about the environmental costs. It is obvious that the melting of the ice caps implies a likely threat, which, if it were to become a reality, would in practice totally devastate Europe’s culture and economy.


Je crois que le réchauffement global est une menace de nos jours, et j’ai peur pour l’avenir. Il y avait une conférence à Paris au mois de novembre, et j’espère que cela résoudra le problème.

I believe that global warming is a threat today, and I am afraid for the future. There was a conference in Paris in the month of November, and I hope that this will resolve the problem.


En conclusion, après mûres réflexions,  je suis de l’avis que la question du réchuffement global est très inquiètante, et il faut vraiment lutter contre ce problème. Il ne faudra pas attendre qu’il soit trop tard. Sinon, on risque de tuer un âne à coups de figues molles !    

In conclusion, after careful consideration, I am of the opinion that this question is very important, and we really need to fight against this problem. We must not wait until it is too late. If we do, we risk trying to attack the impossible!


  • Il faut que je réfléchisse aux coûts environnementaux
  • I need to think about the environmental costs
  • Il faut que nous puissions dire que certaines choses ne peuvent pas être acceptées dans notre société
  • We need to be able to say that some things cannot be accepted in our society
  • Il faut que nous travaillions ensemble pour adopter des lois qui sont bonnes pour l’ensemble de notre pays
  • We need to work together in order to adopt legislation which is good for the country as a whole.
  • Je suis ravi(e) que nous ayons réussi à trouver une solution
  • I am pleased that we have managed to find a solution.
  • Il faut que nous prêtions attention à la santé et à la sécurité de nos enfants.
  • Children’s health and security demand our attention.
  • Il faut que nous attaquions ensemble à ce problème
  • We must tackle this problem together. 
  • Il faut que je fasse de mon mieux
  • I must do my best
  • Il faut que nous fassions avancer ce projet avec énergie
  • This needs to be pursued with great vigour


french notesScreen Shot 2016-06-01 at 16.07.19

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 16.07.26SAMPLE GRAMMATICAL CONSTRUCTIONS

  1. C’est agaçant à la fin! = it really annoys me
  2. un temps fou = a crazy amount of time
  3. prendre un temps fou de + infinitive = to take a lot of time to do something
  4. je suis censé = I am meant to  + infinitive eg. Je suis censé nettoyer = I am meant to be cleaning.
  5. L’internet me permet de = The internet allows me to. Use a verb or a noun in front of this construction and for example you can say: Reading allows me to escape = La lecture me permet de m’évader.
  6. Donc  = so
  7. En fonction de = depending on. I will go to town depending on the weather. J’irai en ville en function du temps qu’il fera.
  8. Fonctionner comme un/une/des = to work like a …
  9. C’est également = it is also or equally
  10. Tant que = while


  1. Être collet monté – To be uptight
  2. Numéroter ses abattis – To check whether you are injured after a fall or a fight/ to be ready for combat or a dangerous activity.
  3. Rabattre le caquet – to force someone to be less cheeky, to put someone back in their place
  4. Rabaisser le caquet – to force someone to be less cheeky, to put someone back in their place
  5. Attendre quelqu’un au tournant – to avenge someone
  6. Avoir quelqu’un au tournant – to get someone back for something.
  7. Changer de crèmerie – to go somewhere else
  8. Une querelle d’Allemand – a ridiculous argument.
  9. À l’eau de rose – sentimental (normally used to describe soppy films or books).
  10. Tuer un âne à coups de figues molles – to attack something impossible.

I would suggest at this point, learning as much vocabulary on topics as possible. French has sample essays available on its website, with each essay written in both English and French. There is a key to the grammatical constructions used, together with a list of important vocabulary.