French is a Romance language that has undergone significant changes in its phonology and grammar from its Latin parent forms and cognates in other Romance languages. For instance, the Latin word secūrum, meaning ‘sure, secure’, became Spanish seguro, but in French, it is sûr. Similarly, the Latin word vōcem, meaning ‘voice’, became Spanish voz, but in French, it is pronounced voix (vwa).
Like other Romance languages, French grammar has been simplified from that of Latin. Nouns are not declined for case, and the plural ending -s or -es, though retained in spelling, is often lost in speech. Gender is marked in the accompanying article or adjective rather than the noun, and several verb forms, though distinguished in spelling, are pronounced identically.
French has various verb forms for indicative, imperative, and subjunctive moods; preterite, imperfect, present, future, and conditional tenses; and passive and reflexive constructions. The language has undergone rapid and drastic changes in phonology and grammar, particularly in northern France, where the influence of Latin was comparatively slight, and the impact of Germanic Frankish invaders contributed to the abundance of diphthongs and nasal vowels in Old French.
The French language’s codification of grammar during the 18th century has played a significant role in its popularity as a first foreign language, despite its numerous pronunciation difficulties. Furthermore, the language’s brilliant literature throughout its history has also contributed to its popularity.
Modern French dialects are mostly classified based on geography, with most dialects surviving only in rural areas. An exception to this is Walloon, mainly spoken in Belgium, which has a flourishing dialect literature since approximately 1600.