Old French preserved the two case system of the Vulgar Latin, consisting of Subjective case (cas sujet) and Objective case (cas régime):
- Subjective case: paistre <= L pastor
- Objective case: pasteur <= L pastôre(m)
In the 14th century this system became obsolete, the forms of the Objective case replacing those of the Subjective case. The further phonetic evolution brought about the coincidence of the grammatical forms and resulted in stronger trend towards analytism.
Thus, in modern French nouns are not declined for case. Formerly, they were marked for plural by the addition of -s or -es, but the ending, though retained in spelling, has generally been lost in speech. Masculine and feminine gender are distinguished but are usually marked not in the noun but rather in the accompanying article (definite article le / la) or adjective. Plural marking in spoken French is often similarly distinguished (definite article le / la : les). The neuter gender has completely disappeared.
Adjectives change endings (usually by adding an -e for feminine and -s for plural) to agree with nouns.
The verb in French is conjugated for three persons, singular and plural, but again, although distinguished in spelling, several of these forms are pronounced identically. French verb has 4 moods (indicative, imperative, subjunctive and conditional), 4 simple tenses (present, preterite, imperfect, future) of compound (analytical) perfect and progressive tenses; the latter are especially characteristic of the spoken language. As in the other Romance tongues, the French future and conditional indicative are really compounds formed by adding to the entire infinitive (used as a stem) the present and imperfect indicative endings, respectively, of avoir. The perfect, pluperfect and future perfect are usually constructed with avoir (L habere) to have, but some intransitive and all reflexive verbs use être (L esse) to be; in this French is quite similar to Italian.
Another common feature with Italian is the usage of the partitive article (du, de l’ / de la : des), cf.:
- Je veux du pain = I want some bread (bread is considered substance in general)
- Je veux le pain = I want the bread (i.e. a given loaf of bread etc.)
- Like Italian, French uses pronominal adverbs (en = of it / them, y = to it / them), cf.
- Sur l’étagère il y a des livres. J’en prend deux