Simple Prepositions Before Nouns

Simple prepositions consist of a single word (à, dans, par, etc.), as opposed to compound prepositions, which consist of preposition + noun + preposition (à côté de, en dehors de, etc.).

Prepositions Governing Two or More Nouns

When one preposition governs (stands before) two or more nouns, it should be repeated before each noun in the case of the prepositions à, de, en. Note that this rule is observed in formal written French, but not always in informal speech.

  • J’ai montré les photos à ma mère et à ma sœur.
  • I showed the photos to my mother and sister.

In the case of other prepositions governing two or more nouns, there is no need to repeat the prepositions if the nouns are similar in meaning.

  • Il est parti avec une valise et un sac à dos.
  • He went off with a suitcase and a backpack.

However, if the preposition should be repeated before each noun if the nouns have distinct or opposing meanings.

  • On se marie pour le pire et pour le meilleur.
  • Marriage is for better or worse.

As a general rule, it is more common, and usually good manners to repeat prepositions in formal written French.


Hello, everyone! This topic will be broken up into 5 or 6 parts as I’ll be going into the literal and idiomatic uses of these prepositions, and there are a lot. Just a head’s up. Have a great week!

A la prochaine…

Courtney

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Comparisons of Adjectives and Adverbs

How to Form the Comparative of Adjectives and Adverbs

In English, we have two ways of changing adjectives and adverbs from positive to comparative degree. Many of our most common adjectives and adverbs are changed by adding -er to them; i.e.: rich → richer; soon → sooner. Other adjectives and adverbs are made comparative by placing the words “more” (or “less”) in front of them, i.e.: beautiful → more beautiful; slowly → more/less slowly.

In French, comparatives are formed by placing plus (or moins) in front of the adjective or adverb, i.e.: riche → plus riche; vite → plus/moins vite.

How to Use the Comparative in French

  • Elle est plus jolie que sa sœur. | She is prettier than her sister.
  • Vous parlez plus vite que lui. | You speak faster than he does.
  • Ce village est moins intéressant que celui que nous avons visité la semaine dernière. | This village is less interesting than the one we visited last week.
  • Jean est aussi intelligent que son frère. | Jean is as intelligent as his brother.
  • Parlez aussi lentement que moi. | Speak as slowly as I do.

Observations on the uses of the comparative:

  1. In comparatives, “than” is translated by que
  2. In French, a comparison of equality (as…as) is expressed by aussi… que.

Have a great week, everyone!

Merci à vous !

Courtney

Use of the Pluperfect and Past Anterior

Both the pluperfect and the past anterior correspond to the English pluperfect, “I had done/I had been doing”. That is to say that they refer to an action which happened at a point in the past earlier than that referred to by the previous or subsequent verb in the past historic or perfect.

  • Il s’était déjà installé quand je suis arrivé. | He had already settled in when I arrived.
  • Aussitôt qu’il fut parti, elle nous téléphona. | As soon as he had left, she telephoned us.

In some cases, English may use the preterite in place of the pluperfect, but French always uses the pluperfect/past anterior to denote the appropriate time sequence.

  • Lundi j’ai retrouvé le dossier que vous aviez préparé l’année dernière. | On Monday I came across the file which you prepared/had prepared last year.

In spoken French, only the pluperfect, not the past anterior, is used. Because the past anterior uses the past historic to form the auxiliary, it is associated with formal written French. It should be used in formal written French in place of the pluperfect if the following circumstances all apply:

  • you would otherwise use the pluperfect, referring to a single completed action in the past (not a repeated habitual action)
  • the main narrative tense of the passage is the past historic (not the perfect)
  • the clause which requires the past anterior is introduced by one of the following time conjunctions: aussitôt que/ dès que (as soon as), après que (after), à peine que (hardly), quand/lorsque (when):
    • Dès qu‘il eut annoncé sa décision de vendre la maison, des agents immobiliers s’empressèrent de le contacter.
      • As soon as he had announced his decision to sell the house, estate agents rushed to make contact with him.
    • A peine se fut-elle couchée que le bruit recommença.
      • Hardly had she gone to bed when the noise started again.

Have a great week, everyone!

A bientôt !

Courtney

Future and Future Perfect

Going further on the topic of the future perfect.

Forms of the future and future perfect

The future tense of regular verbs is formed from the infinitive (dropping the final -e in the case of -dre conjugation) + the endings -ai, -as, -a, -ons, -ez, -ont.

The future perfect of all verbs is formed from the future of the auxiliary verb (avoir or être) + the past participle.

Uses of the future and future perfect tenses

The use of the future and future perfect tenses is broadly similar to the use of the future (I shall / You will do) and future perfect (I shall have done / You will have done) in English.

In addition, the future/future perfect must be used in French in a time clause which is dependent upon a main clause in the future tense. This “logical” or “disguised” future replaces the use of the present or perfect in English.

  • Quand vous viendrez à Paris, on pourra visiter le Musée d’Orsay.
    • When you come to Paris (literally: when you will come), we’ll be able to visit the Musée d’Orsay.
  • Tu pourras sortir quand tu auras fini tes devoirs.
    • You’ll be able to go out when you have finished (literally: when you will have finished) your homework.

Note that this use of the disguised or logical future does not apply after avant que and jusqu’à ce que – both of which require the subjunctive – or after si.

One particular use of the future in French is as a formal but polite alternative to the imperative. This is associated with giving a person advice or instructions.

  • Quand vous arriverez au premier carrefour, vous tournerez à gauche, et ensuite vous prendrez la deuxième rue à droite.
    • When you get to the crossroads, turn left and take the second road on the right.

The future can also be used to express a hypothesis of which you are confident. This can be used to translate the English “must be” in supposition.

  • Quelqu’un veut me parler. Ce sera mon frère.
    • Someone wants to talk to me. It must be my brother.

See you all next week!

Merci à vous !

Courtney

Titles and Modes of Address

All (adult) strangers should be addressed as Monsieur, MadameMademoiselle. This rule applies to both adults and children.

  • Pardon, Madame, vous pourriez m’indiquer la gare ?
  • Excuse me, ma’am, could you show me the way to the station?

People in particular professional positions – priest, mayor, M.P. – should be addressed as:

  • Monsieur le curé
  • Madame le maire
  • Monsieur le deputé

When addressing someone you have already met, you may have to choose between surname and first name. While the younger generation tend to use first names as freely a the English/Americans, with older people, be cautious about dropping courtesy titles unless you are invited to do so. Because of the complexity of the choice between tu and vous, some older people may be reluctant to rush onto first-name terms.

To make a polite reference in the third person to someone, use the following:

  • le monsieur | the gentleman/the man
  • la dame | the lady
  • la jeune femme | the lady/young lady (approximately 18-40 years old)
  • la jeune fille | the young lady (approximately 12-20 years old)

Note: la fille is not a polite way to refer to a girl (roughly translated as “chick”). But groups of young people may be described as les gars (the guys) and les filles (the girls).

For more on this topic, check out my previous post Tu or Vous.


Enjoy your week!

A la prochaine…

Courtney

Uses of the Imperfect

The French imperfect corresponds to the English form “was/were doing”. It is used, like the English form, to describe a continuous state in the past.

  • Le soleil brillait et la mer était très calme.
  • The sun was shining and the sea was very calm.

It is also used to record an action which “was happening” at the same time as another action, or when another action intervened.

  • Nous prenions un café alors qu’on a frappé à la port.
  • We were having a coffee when someone knocked on the door.

Since the imperfect conveys this idea of simultaneity, it is used after conjunctions such as comme, or pendant que (even where English uses the simple past).

  • Comme il fermait le robinet il remarqua une fuite d’eau.
  • As he turned off/was turning off the tap, he noticed water dripping.

A second use of the imperfect is to record repeated or habitual actions in the past. This corresponds to the English form “used to” (or “would”).

  • Quand je faisais mes études, je me couchais assez tard.
  • When I was studying, I used to/would go to bed quite late.

I hope you all have a great week!

A bientôt !

Courtney

Order & Placement of Double Object Pronouns

English doesn’t allow a direct and indirect object pronoun to occur together – the indirect object appears in a prepositional phrase beginning with to or for when a direct object is present. Ex: I gave it to him.

In French, double object pronouns are very common.

When the indirect object pronoun is a first or second person pronoun, the indirect object pronoun precedes the direct object pronoun. Thus, me, te, nous, and vous precede le, la, l’, and les.

  • J’ai besoin du livre de biologie. Tu me le prêtes ? | I need the biology book. Will you lend it to me?
    • Je te le passe demain. | I’ll give it to you tomorrow.
  • On dit que vous avez fait de belles photos pendant votre voyage. Vous pouvez nous les montrer ? | They say you took some beautiful photos during your trip. Can you show them to us?
    • Bien sûr. On va vous les envoyer par e-mail. | Of course. We’ll send them to you by email.

When the indirect object is third-person singular or plural, it follows the direct object pronoun. Thus, le, la, and les precede lui and leur.

  • Ils ne comprenaient pas la leçon, mais le prof la leur a expliquée. | They didn’t understand the lesson, but the teacher explained it to them.
  • Elle voulait voir tes logiciels. Est-ce que tu les lui a envoyés ? | She wanted to see your software packages. Did you send them to her?

Double object pronouns follow the same rules of position as single object pronouns. They precede the conjugated verb unless there is also an infinitive, in which case they occur between the conjugated verb and the infinitive.

Direct object pronouns cause agreement of the past participle when they appear in double object pronoun constructions.

  • Les documents ? Vous ne me les avez pas envoyés. | The documents? You didn’t send them to me.

The pronouns and en also appear in double object pronoun constructions. The pronoun y usually appears with a direct object pronoun, and the direct object pronoun precedes the word y. Possible combinations are as follows:

m’y

nous y

t’y

vous y

l’y

les y

Note the elisions of metele, and la before y.

  • J’étais à la bibliothèque aujourd’hui. | I was at the library today.
    • Je sais. Je t’y ai vue. | I know, I saw you there.
  • Les enfants aiment aller à la piscine. | The children like to go to the pool.
    • Je les y emmène souvent. | I often take them there.

The pronoun en usually appears with an indirect object pronoun, and the indirect object pronoun precedes the word en. Possible combinations are as follows:

m’en

nous en

t’en

vous en

lui en

leur en

Note the elisions of metele, and la before en. The pronouns and en may also occur together. When they do, y precedes en.

  • Tu trouve des occasions dans ce magasin ? | Did you find bargains at that shop?
    • Oui, j’y en trouve toujours. | Yes, I always find some there.

Merci à vous !

Courtney