FRENCH GRAMMAR EXPLAINED. By David Knott. Hodder amp; Stoughton pound;17.99.
When A-level pupils ask "How do you tell what tense a pronoun is?"and "Is the imperfect another word for the future?", then it would seem that this book's claim to be suitable for A-levelHigher grade students is a little ambitious.
It is a hefty volume - 546 pages - giving detailed explanations, exceptions and illustrations in grammatical language which, I fear, will be impenetrable to all but the strongest students.
The text is peppered with terms such as "modalisers", "cleft constructions" and "tonic pronouns" - but not familiar ones such as "conditional perfect". There is a useful glossary of grammatical terms, and there are separate indexes for French and English keywords and grammatical points. A comprehensive reference section and notes on pronunciation and spelling leave no stone unturned.
Scattered throughout are exercises for individuals, pairs, or groups, and an answer key will be welcomed by those seeking to practise a particular point of grammar on their own.
To test how easy it is to use, I tried to find an explanation of when to use "c'est" and when to use "il est", something notoriously badly covered in reference books. There are 11 index entries for "it". I tried them one by one and struck gold under the heading "How to refer back and forward". Eight pages of lucid explanation!
After that I was hooked. I moved from one section to another, fascinated and enlightened as the finer points of the language were paraded before me.
Richard Marsden is a former head oflanguages at Minster School, Nottinghamshire