FR 151
Advanced French Grammar & Writing


FALL 2011
TR 3:30-4:45
ICC 221A

Office hours: ICC 427
TR 4:45-5:45 p.m.
and by appointment

A significant amount of information pertaining to this course is sent via e-mail.
Electronic messages will be sent to your <> address only
please check your GU mailbox regularly

It may be modified over the course of the semester. Always refer to the latest on-line version.

> Last updated on September 18, 2011<

   French 151 is designed to help students improve their ability to produce texts of greater complexity and quality through a systematic exploration of functional and stylistic features. Gaining a firmer grasp on grammar—understanding what grammar is and what purposes it serves, in addition to knowing its rules—is but one step in this process. This course provides a bridge between the initial phase of language study and the upper-level courses specializing in culture and/or literature.

More specifically, our objectives include:

  • Exploring basic concepts in sentence structure (syntax) and word formation/variation (morphology)
  • Exploring three specific text functions: description, narration and argumentation
  • Exploring in depth a text type, the essay, and its dialectical version, the dissertation (where multiple points of view must be confronted in a rigorously structured manner)
  • Learning strategies for crafting an improving a text at various levels

   "Advanced grammar" does not just mean learning more rules (or more complicated rules), but gaining a better understanding of how language works, in order to make sense of what you already know and to keep refining your knowledge. At each stage, we will not just review rules and apply them, but figure out why these rules exist in the first place.
     Note: although they are not the focus of this course, your listening and speaking proficiency will be greatly enhanced as well, if only by the intensive practice you will get through class participation.

Evaluation includes

  • Home assignments: Two compositions (one mostly descriptive and one mostly narrative) and a dissertation (dialectical argumentative essay), each to be revised/rewritten at least once: 15% each; 45% total
  • Four Tests (90 mins each). They include the same type of exercises and activities as those done in class: 10% each; 40% total
  • Presence, preparedness and participation : 15%

Methods / Méthodologie

     The principle of this course is that any point of grammar must be approached from a multiple perspective:

  • observing a particular linguistic reality in an authentic text;
  • comprehending this linguistic reality;
  • learning about the rule that governs this reality;
  • understanding the principles behind the rule—how language works;
  • demonstrating understanding through application in exercises, and in actual writing.

     Each session will include, in varying proportions and order:

  • problem-solving tasks based on authentic texts;
  • a series of explanations and clarifications by the instructor (to complement readings assigned as homework);
  • students' questions, leading to further explanations;
  • exercises in grammar and writing.

     Your responsibilities in preparing for class are to

  • read very attentively the assigned materials for each unit;
  • prepare questions to clarify what you do not fully understand in the readings and/or exercises;
  • complete all assigned exercices as best as you can, even if you find it difficult. We will go over some of these exercises together in class, but it is crucial that you have completed them on your own beforehandif only to dertermine what challenges you r understanding on a particular point.

     Exercises et activities come in three main types:

  • Application exercises, generally focusing on a specific aspect of syntax and/or morphology;
  • Writing activities requiring that you craft short texts according to specific formal criteria;
  • Correcting/rewriting activities requiring that you remodel sentences or short texts so as to first eliminate errors, improprieties and awkward turns of phrases, then improve them (i.e., increase their efficacy).

In all circumstances, your work will never simply amount to mechanically learning, memorizing and applying "rules"; it will also involve understanding the purpose of these rules, and figuring out why a given form is "faulty", whereas another is "correct." Finally, we will go beyond "correcting" to the next stage, where the issue is making a text more efficacious (at whatever effect it is supposed to have on its reader), not just grammatically sound.

     Ce cours se fonde sur le principe que tout point de grammaire doit s'aborder d'une perspective multiple:

  • observer un fait de langue dans le cadre d'un texte authentique;
  • s'informer sur la règle qui gouverne ce fait;
  • comprendre les principes qui justifient la règle—comment le langage fonctionne;
  • démontrer sa compréhension par l'application dans des exercices, puis dans un travail d'écriture.

     Chaque séance de ce cours comportera

  • des explications et éclaircissements fournis par le professeur (à partir des lectures faites à la maison et des questions posées par les étudiants)
  • des questions posées par les étudiants
  • des exercices d'analyse et d'écriture.

     Votre responsabilité pour vous préparer consistera à

  • lire très attentivement les chapitres et les pages donnés comme devoir pour chaque cours;
  • préparer des questions pour éclairicir ce que vous ne comprenez pas dans les explications et/ou les exercices donnés;
  • faire tous les exercices demandés du mieux possible, même si vous rencontrez des difficultés. Certains de ces exercices seront corrigés en classe, mais il est essentiel de les avoir faits au préalable, ne serait-ce que pour déterminer ce qui vous pose problème.

     Les exercices et activités proposées sont de trois types principaux:

  • les exercices d'application impliquant des manipulations linguistiques focalisées sur un aspect précis de syntaxe et/ou de morphologie;
  • les activités d'écriture consistant à produire de courts textes selon des critères de forme bien définis;
  • les exercices de correction/réécriture consistant à retravailler des phrases ou de courts textes pour en éliminer les erreurs, les maladresses et les faiblesses dans un premier temps, et dans un deuxième temps pour les améliorer, c'est-à-dire pour en accroître l'efficacité (l'effet escompté sur le lecteur).

Dans tous les cas, il ne s'agira jamais de se limiter à apprendre et appliquer mécaniquement des «règles», mais il faudra aussi se demander quelle est leur finalité, et surtout comprendre pourquoi telle forme est «fautive» et telle autre «correcte», et comment, au-delà de la simple «correction», on peut rendre l'expression plus efficace.


General Procedures and Course Mechanics

     Every student is expected to be present for every class. If an absence is anticipated for any reason, the instructor must be notified beforehand by e-mail or by phone (ext. 5852). In any case, students are responsible for finding out what was done or assigned while they were absent, and for turning in assignments on time.
     Every student is also expected to be prepared for every class,
that is, having something definite to say about the assigned materials (based on research and/or reflection), and/or questions to ask the intructor, and/or
issues to raise in class for discussion. Students are mostly responsible for conducting the readings and analyses.
     Finally, every student is expected to participate in every class, that is, speak up in response to prompts by the instructor or to other students' comments, and volunteer comments without being prompted.

     Only purely administrative matters (such as this syllabus will be handled in English. In all other circumstances, including discussion and critique of your work in class or during office hours, French will be used exclusively orally and in writing, by you and by the instructor.
     You will never be asked (with rare, very precise exceptions) to translate anything, nor are you expected to use translation ever as a means to accomplish your work in this class, including on exams and to write papers—never, ever write a paper in English, then attempt to translate it into French: the result will be an unmitigated failure and you will have to redo it from scratch.

Attitude and Behavior
     This is a college class, held in a university classroom. It is not a meeting of a book club at a local library branch; it is not a game in a stadium or a workout at the gym; it is not a get together at someone's home or a pajama party in your dorm room; it is not a luau at the beach. Please dress and behave accordingly!
- No eating or snacking during class (drinking is OK)
- Cell phones, Blackberries and other mobile communication devices must me turned off and stored away in a pocket or a bag (except for emergency situations, with prior notification to the instructor)
- No wearing of gym shorts, flip flops, exercice/sport gear, pajamas, lounge wear, grass skirts, etc.
- No chit-chat that is unrelated to class matters

- Use of computers is class is strictly limited to working on class matters. Anyone caught using a computer in class for anything else (checking e-mail, Facebook status, stock prices, playing games) will be issued a warning the first time, and, the second time, banned from using a computer in class altogether for the rest of the term.

     Come to class on time. If you arrive when class has already started, take a seat and start catching up as quickly as possible, and without disturbing others. Repeated tardiness will be treated as an absence and impact your presence/participation grade.

     Deadlines indicate the absolute last day when assignments should be turned in. The cut-off time is 6:00 p.m. on the due date, whether you bring in a hard copy of your paper to my office or e-mail it to me. It is not advisable to start working on an assignment on the day it is due. Give yourself enough time to allow for unforeseen delays or problems (printer running out of ink, e-mail bugs, dog ate your paper, etc), which cannot be used as excuses for not meeting a deadline. Acceptable excuses are acts of God and system-wide server outages.

Honor System
     All aspects of this class fall under Georgetown University's honor system. If you are not completely familiar with the Honor System, please review it at

Writing / Paper rules
     You will write three papers of varying lengths, and according to different formats: a descriptive sketch, a short story and an essay.
Specific objectives, principles and guidelines for each writing format will be discussed in class and in e-mail messages. Your papers will be marked up, given a provisional grade and handed back for rewriting at least once. The rewritten paper will receive a higher grade only if significantly improved, and with a maximum of one letter-grade increase from the provisional grade (e.g., from B- to A-, or from C+ to B+). Any further rewrites will be graded according to the same principle. Note: an "F" on a first draft cannot yield a final grade higher than a "C". A coding system will help you identify and correct problems in your writing.

  • All writing assignments completed outside of class must be composed with a word-processing software and you should always keep a back-up copy. They must be submitted electronically as e-mail attachments to in <.doc>, <.docx> or <.rtf> format—when you save your document, make sure that the software (especially MS Word) does not automatically save it as anything else than a text document. Note that MS Word may save a Windows Media document with a <.doc> extension. See the instructor if you are unsure about text formats, sending attachments, or if there is a reason why you wish to submit your work in printed rather than electronic format.
  • Name the file beginning with "FR151", then your last name and a paper code as follows:
    -- DESC for the descriptive sketch (e.g. <FR151SmithDESC_1.doc> for the first draft)
    -- NARR for the story (e.g. <FR151SmithNARR_1.doc> for the first draft).
    -- DISS, for the essay (e.g. <FR151SmithDISS_1.doc> for the first draft).
  • Every paper should bear the number of the course (French 151), the name of the author, the date and a draft number (1, 2, 3).
  • Use plain fonts like Times Roman or Arial, in size 12. Double-space your text, leaving 1-inch margins on all sides.
  • All standard French diacritical marks must be used: accents (é, è, ê, ë, ù, à, û, ï) cedillas on ç and Ç, guillemets (« ...»), superscripts (XVIe siècle).
  • Division into paragraphs must be consistent with the content, and the first line of each paragraph must be tabulated on the left.

Text to be purchased /Manuel à acheter
This is a general reference book. The assigned readings cover some material that you may already know, and some that you probably do not know.

  • Y. Delatour, D. Jennepin, M. Leon-Dufour, et B. Tessier. Nouvelle Grammaire du Français. Cours de Civilisation Française de la Sorbonne. Paris, Hachette FLE, 2004.

Complementary Readings/Lectures complémentaires
      Excerpts from these titles are available through BlackBoard in PDF format. They will be used for class activities.

  • M. Boularès & J.-L. Frérot, Grammaire progressive du français avec 400 exercices, niveau avancé. Paris, CLE International, 1997.
  • H. Jay Siskin, C. Krueger et M. Fauvel. Tâches d'encre. 2e Ed. New York, Houghton Mifflin, 2004.
  • Humbert, J-L. et Vial, P. Bien rédiger. Paris, Bordas, 1996.

Supplementary Readings/Lectures supplémentaires
      These titles provide more in-depth coverage of French grammar, in some cases focusing on a particular point. They will not be used in class.

  • Arrivé, Michel, Françoise Gadet et Michel Galmiche. La Grammaire d'aujourd'hui : guide alphabétique de linguistique française. Paris, Flammarion, 1986. Lauinger PC2112 .A77 1986
  • Cellard, Jacques. Le subjonctif : comment l'écrire? Quand l'employer? Paris, Duculot, 1978. Lauinger Library PC2290 .C44 1978
  • Grevisse, Maurice. Le Bon Usage: grammaire française, avec des remarques sur la langue française d'aujourd'hui. Paris, Duculot, 1980. Lauinger PC2112 .G84 1980
  • Klein-Lataud, Christine. Précis des figures de style. Toronto, Éditions du GREF, 1991. Lauinger PC2440 .K44 1991.
  • Lacarra, Marcel. Les Temps des verbes: Lesquels utiliser? Comment les écrire? Paris, Duculot, 1979. Lauinger PC2301 .L26
  • Simard, Jean Paul. Guide du savoir-écrire. Montréal, Éditions Ville-Marie, 1984.
    Lauinger PC2420 .S54 1984
  • Timbal-Duclaux, Louis. L'Expression écrite: écrire pour communiquer: connaissance du problème. Paris, ESF/Librairies techniques, 1983. Lauinger P211 .T55 1983


Assignments / Devoirs

     For each unit, you must read the assigned material and prepare in writing the assigned activities and exercises
from Tâches d'encre and Grammaire progressive available on BlackBoard.

     Pour chaque unité, il vous faudra lire les chapitres indiqués dans les manuels au programme, et préparer par écrit des activités et des exercices que vous trouverez dans les divers documents disponibles sur BlackBoard.

Readings/exercises from books
Lectures / exercices dans un livre
Materials available on line only
Documents disponibles en ligne seulement

Plan / Outline

0. Introduction: What is grammar? What is a text? / Introduction: Qu'est-ce que la grammaire? Qu'est-ce qu'un texte? (Sessions 0-1-2)

     Advanced knowledge of a language extends beyond purely technical ability to express oneself orally and in writing. One also needs to understand its workings and master some basic notions and concepts in order to reach expert use both in terms of reception (comprehension) and of production (writing, speech), that is, grasping the complexity of language use and its nuances.

  • Communication
  • Grammar (morphology and syntax)
  • Sentence - Clause
  • Énoncé (utterance)
  • Topic/Comment - Subject/Predicate
  • Discourse/Text/Narrative
  • Discourse and text types

     La connaissance approfondie d'une langue dépasse les capacités purement techniques à s'exprimer à l'oral et à l'écrit. Il faut aussi en comprendre le fonctionnement et maîtriser quelques notions et concepts de base pour parvenir à une utilisation experte tant sur le plan de la réception (lecture) que de la production (écriture, discours oral), c'est-à-dire à une saisie de la complexité des faits de langue et des nuances.

  • La Communication
  • La Grammaire, la morpho-syntaxe
  • La Phrase - la Proposition
  • L'énoncé - l'énonciation
  • Thème/Rhème - Sujet/Prédicat
  • Discours/Texte/Récit
  • Les Types discursifs et textuels

I. The Sentence and its Components / La Phrase et ses constituants (Sessions 3-4-5)

     The simple sentence is the basic unit of linguistic and grammatical analysis. Therefore it is important to understand what its components are (nominal and predicative group, and their sub-componants), and to be able to identify word categories ("parts of speech") so as to employ them efficaciously.
     A complex sentence results from the combination of two or more simple sentences, then called clauses, by juxtaposition, coordination and subordination.
     In this unit, we will learn to analyze sentences in order to understand how they are constructed, and make their structure explicit.

     Model texts: News Releases

     La phrase simple est l'unité de base de l'analyse grammaticale et linguistique. Il est important de comprendre quels sont ses constituants (syntagme nominal et syntagme prédicatif et leurs composantes), ainsi que de pouvoir identifier les catégories de mots (les «parties du discours») afin de les réutiliser efficacement.

     La phrase complexe provient de la combinaison de deux ou plusieurs phrases simples, appelées propositions, par juxtaposition, coordination ou subordination.
     Dans cette unité nous apprendrons à analyser les phrases pour en comprendre la construction et mettre en évidence leur structure.

     Textes de référence: Dépêches d'agence de presse.

Spielmann, Introduction à la structure de la phrase.
Spielmann, Texte et type textuels.
Spielmann, Guide de la phrase complexe
  Nouvelle Grammaire, Introduction, p. 10-14.

Bien rédiger
II. «La Correction du style» [<Bien_Rediger__2.pdf> on
1. Radioscopie de la phrase
A. La phrase simple p. 69
B. La phrase complexe p. 70-71
C. Phrases brèves et phrases longues p. 72
D. Attention aux phrases sans verbe! p. 73-74
E. Les phrases négatives p. 75-76
F. Les phrases énumératives avec tirets p. 77-78
G. Les phrases interrogatives p. 79
H. Les phrases exclamatives p. 80
Annick Leveau, La Phrase

     >> TEST 1 -
Session 6 (Thursday, September 22)


II. Description - The Nominal Group: Nouns, Pronouns, Determiners, Adjectives / La Description - Le Groupe nominal: noms, pronoms, déterminants, adjectifs(Sessions 7-9-10)
Session 8 (Thursday, September 29) - NO CLASS

  In this unit, we will work on description (places, people, sentiments), focusing on the use of nouns and their complements in the nominal group.
    Model Texts: Excerpts from novels and short stories

   Dans cette partie du cours, nous allons travailler sur la description (lieux, personnes, sentiments), en nous concentrant sur le nom et ses compléments dans le syntagme nominal.

    Textes de référence: Extraits de romans et de nouvelles.
Nouvelle Grammaire, Ch. 1, p. 18-24 (Le Nom); Ch. 2, p. 25-35 (L'Adjectif), Ch. 3, p. 36-47 (Les Articles); Ch. 4, p. 48-54 (Les Pronoms et adjectifs démonstratifs); Ch. 5, p. 55-58 (Les Pronoms et adjectifs possessifs); Ch. 6, p. 59-72 (Les Pronoms et adjectifs indéfinis); Ch. 7, p. 73-89 (Pronoms personnels).

Bien rédiger I, «Le Poids des mots» (<Bien_Rediger__1.pdf> on BlackBoard)
3. Les pièges des mots
A. Les noms p. 26
B. Les articles p. 27-28
C. Les pronoms p. 29-40
D. Les adjectifs p. 41-45
E. Les mots invariables p. 46-53

Tâches d'encre, «La Description» (Ch. 1) et «Le Portrait») (Ch. 2)
- Lire l'extrait de Désert de Jean-Marie Le Clézio et faire les exercices.

- Lire Portrait de Nestor de Michel Tournier
et faire les exercices.
Grammaire progressive, Ch. 1 (Articles) Exercices 1, 2 , 3 - Ch. 2 (Adjectif) Exercices 1, 2, 3, 4 - Ch. 10 (Adjectif verbal), Exercices 1, 2, 3, 4 - Ch. 18 (Pronoms personnels compléments) Exercices 1, 2, 3, 4
Spielmann - Guide de la phrase complexe
BEPP Laval - Carte des Pronoms - Carte des Déterminants

> TEST 2 - session 11 (Tuesday, October 11)

Session 12 (Thursday, October 13) - NO CLASS

>Turn in draft 1 of description on session 13 (Tuesday, October 18)  

This text sould fit on one page (about 23 double-spaced lines / 2 or 3 paragraphs / 350 words). Your description should include a setting (indoors and/or outdoors) and one or more character(s) (human and/or animal). Description of people and/or animals, in addition of appeareance, should also cover character, thoughts, feelings. Do not spend much space on actions and events, unless they directly contribute to the description (this is not a narrative). You may use an image (painting, photograph) or even a scene from a film or show as a basis for your description.      

III. Narration - The Verb System (mood, tense, aspect) - Adverbs and Adverbial Phrases / La Narration - Le Système verbal (mode, temps, aspect) - Adverbes et locutions adverbiales (sessions 13-14-15-16)

   In this unit, we will work on narration (the recounting of sequences of events), focusing on the verb system and the nuances of expression that can be obtained by variations in mood, tense and aspect.

   Dans cette partie du cours, nous allons travailler sur la narration (la relation de séquences d'événements), en nous concentrant sur le système verbal et les nuances expressives que permettent les variations de mode, de temps et d'aspect.

Nouvelle Grammaire, Ch. 14, p. 117-134 (Indicatif); Ch. 15, p. 135-140 (Subjonctif); Ch. 16, p. 141-144 (Conditionnel); Ch. 145-147 (Impératif); Ch. 18, p. 148-151 (Infinitif); Ch. 19, p. 152-159 (participe); Ch. 21, p. 169-179.

Bien rédiger II, «La Correction du style» (<Bien_Rediger__2.pdf> on BlackBoard)
2. Pratique des modes et des temps
A. A quoi sert le présent de l'indicatif? p. 81-82
B. Les temps du passé de l'indicatif p. 83
C. Le passé composé p. 83-84
D. Le passé antérieur et le plus-que-parfait p. 85
E. Imparfait ou passé simple? p.86-88
F. Les temps du conditionnel p. 89-91
G. Futur simple ou conditionnel présent? p. 92-93
H. Les temps du subjonctif p. 94-96
I. La concondance des temps p. 97-98
Tâches d'encre, «La Narration» (Ch. 3)
Lire l'extrait de La Prise de conscience de Simone de Beauvoir, et faire les exercices.
Grammaire progressive, Ch. 4 (Indicatif), Ex. p. 45, #2,5; p. 51, #1,5; p. 53, #1 - Ch. 5 (Subjonctif), Ex. p. 57, #3; p. 59, #6; p. 61, #1,2; p. 63, #1, 2, 3; p. 65, #2, 3 - Ch. 6 (Conditionnel), Ex. p. 67, #3; p. 69, #5; p. 71, #3 - Ch. 7 (Infinitif), Ex. p. 77, #5 - Ch. 8 (Participe présent), Ex. p. 79; #1, 2, 4 - Ch. 9 (Gérondif), Ex. p. 81, #1, 2, 3, 4 - Ch. 11 (La Forme passive), Ex. p. 85, #1, 2, 3, 4; p. 87, #1,2,3,4 - Ch. 12 (La Forme pronominale), Ex. p. 89, #2,4,5 - Ch. 14 (Pronoms au discours indirect) Ex. p. 95, #1, 2, 3; p. 97, #1, 2 - Ch. 15 (L'adverbe), Ex. p. 101, #5,6; p. 105, #1; p. 107, #1,2,4 Ch. 20 (Situation dans le temps), Ex. p. 137, #1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
BEPP Laval - Carte des Adverbes

> TEST 3 - session 16 (Thursday, October 27)       
Turn in draft 1 of narration on session 17 (Tuesday November 1)

IV. The dialectical essay (dissertation). Building Complex Sentences: Text Connectors and Organizers; indicators of purpose, of cause/consequence, of concession, of hypothesis, of comparison.
La dissertation. Construction de la phrase complexe:
Les Connecteurs et organisateurs; expression du but, de la cause/conséquence, de la concession, de l'hypothèse, de la comparaison (Sessions 18-19-20-21-22-24)

   In this unit, we will work on your ability to craft an essay in the form of dissertation, that is, a discussion of a given topic through multiple, contradictory points of view—an extremely useful skill that is also a common exercise in French academe.

   Dans cette partie du cours, nous allons travailler votre capacité à élaborer un essai dialectique sous la forme de la dissertation, qui consiste à débattre d'un sujet donné en envisageant de multiples points de vue, souvent contradictoires.

Nouvelle Grammaire, Ch 20, p. 160-168 (Prépositions); Ch. 26, p. 204-211 (Propositions relatives); Ch. 29, p. 230-238 (Cause); Ch. 30, p. 239-246 (Conséquence); Ch. 31, p. 247-251 (but); Ch. 32, p. 252-269 (Temps); Ch. 33, p. 270-280 (Opposition); Ch. 34, p. 281-290 (Condition et Hypothèse); Ch. 35, p. 291-300 (Comparaison).

Bien rédiger
, III. «La Rédaction des textes» (<Bien_Rediger__3.pdf> sur
3. Les trois parties du texte [argumentatif]
A. Comment rédiger une introduction p. 144
B. Qu'est-ce qu'un développement? p. 145-150
C. Comment rédiger une conclusion p. 151-152

Grammaire progressive, Ch. 16 (Prépositions), Ex. p. 113, #2; p. 115, #3 - Ch. 17 (Relatifs), Ex. p. 119, #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 , 10, 11 - Ch. 21 (Cause), Ex. p. 139, #4; p. 141, #2 - Ch. 22 (Conséquence), Ex. p. 143, #4; p. 145, #3 - Ch. 23 (Comparaison), Ex. p. 147, #2,3 - Ch. 24 (Opposition/Concession), Ex. p. 153, #1,2,3 - Ch. 25 (But), Ex. p. 155, #1,2,3 - Ch. 26 (Condition/hypothèse), Ex. p. 157, #2,3 - Ch. 27 (La Modalisation) Ex. p. 159, #1,2,3,4; p. 163, #1,2,4; p. 165, #1,3
  • Turn in draft 1 of essay on session 22 (Thursday, November 17)
Session 23 (Tuesday, November 22 - NO CLASS
  • Test 4 - session 25 (Thursday, December 1) [this is not a final exam]
  • Turn in draft 2 of essay on session 26 (TUESDAY, DEC. 6)


Advanced Grammar: from sentence to text

Introduction: Grammar and Texts
    Whereas formal language study is often focused on "grammar" (which can be defined in many different ways—see below), there is often little coherence between the grammar being learned and its eventual applications. Indeed, we may wonder why exactly one needs to attain a higher level of grammatical knowledge beyond what gets taught in a typical academic "language sequence"; is it a case of learning for its own sake?
    The most obvious justification for "advanced" grammar is the capacity to produce more complex language, so as to express more complex ideas, notions and propositions. Complexity, however, is relative: what appears complex for a non-native learner of a particular linguistic background is not necessarily so for another non-native learner of a different linguistic background, and for a native speaker.

What is Grammar?
    Whenever someone learns a language—as a mother tongue or a foreign language—s/he inevitably learns some grammar, even without being aware of it. Language is governed by rules of various kinds that must somehow be mastered to some degree for any communication to occur: even understanding everyday speech or reading a simple text cannot be achieved without an implicit understanding of some of these rules.
  The fact is that most native speakers of a language never reach a very high mastery of its grammar: even "educated" people know just enough to function, orally and in writing, at a level appropriate to their socio-professional standing. Much of this knowledge is acquired inductively through communicative experience, early on in life; only a small part of it comes from explicit instruction in an academic setting, and most speakers are not able to explain the rules that they apply correctly. Frequently, they need to resort to a reference book (dozens are in print for French) in order to clarify certain points.

    There is a lingering confusion about the exact nature of "grammar," which can mean

1) a set of laws that account for the way language operates in general—in which case it is virtually synonymous with "linguistics"
2) a set of laws governing the morphology of a specific language—how linguistic units are formed—and its syntax—how linguistic units are arranged in linear sequences in speech.
3) a set of rules and recipes on how to produce "correct" forms.

Grammar in language instruction
    In naturalistic acquisition, grammatical mastery is initially limited to recognition and comprehension, before proceeding to production and, possibly, to the ability to analyze and explicate grammatical forms.
    Educational theories have not always respected this inductive progression: "traditional" language pedagogy, in fact, follows a deductive process that begins with formulating rules that students must learn, then "apply" in exercices, before moving on to progresssively more divergent expression. Since the late 1970s, "functional" and "communicative" approaches have strived to change this status, sometimes by proscribing explicit grammar instruction altogether, in other cases by respecting the natural acquisition process in which rule-stating comes after recognition and comprehension.
    Unfortunately, the problem of grammar in language instruction has not, for the most part, been satisfactorily addressed. Language instruction methods overwhelmingly rely on "traditional grammar" (type 3), even when they seek to cast grammar in a supporting role, or present it inductively. However, such grammar does not always reflect a coherent, scientific vision of how language operates: its rules, which admit many exceptions, are really ad hoc prescriptions that do not explain linguistic mechanisms, and tend to focus on correctness rather than meaning. Even language teachers who devote a great deal of time and effort to grammar instruction do not always understand exactly how language works: they teach and use the rules they have learned but would be hard pressed to explain why these rules exist.
    Moreover, Language instruction methods tend to focus on grammar and ignore usage, i.e., how grammar rules are really applied in specific contexts. Because rules of usage are based on what natives actually do, rather than on theoretical prescription, they sometimes contradict grammatical rules, and sometimes qualify or restrict them.
    Adopting a "scientific" grammar thus appears as an indispensable first step towards more productive learning: its rules must suffer no exceptions, and it must begin by carefully defining notions beyond commonly held (mis)conceptions. Anyone with a modicum of formal education has some idea of what a "sentence," a "text," a "verb" are; yes these terms remain imprecise, and are often used inappropriately.
    In fact, the very notion of "grammatical knowledge" is at issue, since it can refer to several types of competencies.

1. Receptive competency :
- recognition, comprehension and understanding of langage forms from authentic documents
2. Evaluative competency :
- Normative judgement : ability to distinguish between correct and incorrect forms
- Register judgement : ability to distinguish between formal, standard and colloquial forms
- Authenticity judgement : ability to distinguish between grammatical forms (which are possible, even though they may not be correct) and agrammatical forms (which are never produced by a native speaker)
3. Productive competence :
- Mechanical (convergent) production, of a single, specific form or structure: in an exercice or in response to a direct prompt from a teacher, for example.
- Directed (semi-convergent) production of a range of forms or structures: in an exercice or in response to a direct prompt from a teacher, for example, but also in writing a text with explicit constraints.
- Autonomous (divergent) production, in an activity where generic formal constraints may exist, but are less determinant than the (free writing, composition, essay, description, narration)
4. Metalinguistic competence :
- Ability to identify forms by name (knowledge of technical vocabulary);
- Ability to state a grammatical rule or principle in a coherent, economical manner;
- Ability to develop explanations (analysis of sentence components, linguistic commentary)

   These competencies mostly pertain to morphology and syntax, at the sentence level. They must be set apart from discursive and textual competence (sentence arrangement, "text grammar"), from rhetorical (or stylistic) competence, or lexical competence (vocabulary knowledge), which must be evaluated separately. They must also be set apart from oral competencies, which involve a different hierarchical structure, and allow for a wider usage of colloquial forms.
   Although it is often used in the singular, "communicative competence" thus appears as a complex set of competencies, some of which are only activated in oral communication (such as gestural or proxemic competencies) while others pertain to both oral and written expression/reception, while not always overlapping completely.

   The forms themselves can be grouped into three main categories : elementary, intermediate and advanced (which, depending on circumstances, involve learning phases of varying lengths, corresponding to various academic divisions). Such a double hierarchy of forms is founded less on intrinsic "difficulty" than on the level distinction between standard and formal writing (in French, advanced competencies almost always involve a mastery of formal speech).
   Learning can thus be conceived as a "spiraling" progression beginning with recognition and comprehension of forms at the elementary level, and concluding (insomuch that it can ever be "completed") with the ability to explain more advanced forms.
    >> Download the scale of grammatical knowledge (échelle des acquis grammaticaux en français écrit) from BlackBoard.