Agreement of Subject & Verb – Impersonal Verbs

In French, the form of the verb changes according to the subject, voice, tense, and mood.

Impersonal Verbs

Impersonal verbs have as their subject the neuter pronoun il (it/there). An impersonal verb can therefore only be used in the third person singular form, or as an infinitive or participle. It is important to distinguish between verbs which are used only in the impersonal form, and those which may be used in this form or with other subjects.

The following verbs are used only impersonally:

s’agir il s’agit de (+ noun) it is a question of
y avoir il y a there is/are
falloir il faut it is necessary
neiger il neige it is snowing

Other verbs occur in their common, literal meaning only with an impersonal subject:

geler il gèle it is freezing
pleuvoir il pleut it is snowing

As in English, some French verbs admit either a personal or an impersonal subject:

  • arriver
    • il va arriver un accident | there’s going to be an accident
    • un accident va arriver | an accident is going to happen
  • exister
    • il existe plusieurs solutions | there are several solutions
    • plusieurs solutions existent | several solutions exist
  • se passer
    • il s’est passé quelque chose de remarquable
    • quelque chose de remarquable s’est passé
    • something remarkable has happened
  • se trouver
    • il se trouvait dans le parc une vieille statue | there was an old statue in the park
    • une vieille statue se trouvait dans le parc | an old statue was/stood in the park

Be sure to come back next week for part 2 (of three) on this subject. Have a wonderful week, everyone!

Merci à vous !

Courtney

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