Content Words and Structure Words
To understand French texts, you're going to have to learn a lot of words. But it's more important to learn some words than others. Words like the, a, it, and but are found in almost every text, whereas words like apple, water and spoon, even though they seem very common, will only be found in some texts.
So a useful way of looking at the words of languages like English and French is to divide them into structure words (like the), and content words (like apple). In the following text, the structure words are in black italic and the content words are in blue.
Content words (in blue) are further classified into Nouns,
Verbs, Adjectives and Adverbs. There are tens of
thousands of them in a language and so they make up most of the words
in a dictionary. Proper nouns (names of people and places) are
not usually a problem for understanding, but are also Content Words.
What is interesting about structure words and content words is that each group makes up almost exactly 50% of any text. Try counting the words in the Phantom of the Opera texts above, or in any other.
As you can imagine, if 50% of a text is made up of content words, and there are only a couple of hundred of them in a language (it depends how you count), it's in your interest to make sure you know all those words.
Let's look at the structure words in the above text, grouping them