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Asking for and Offering Explanations

Something to note before going into this lesson, the verb expliquer is used to translate “to explain”, but the reflexive form s’expliquer often translates to “to quarrel”, or “to have a fight”, and une explication can suggest an acrimonious change of views.

Ils se sont expliqués hier. | They fought yesterday.


Asking Someone for an Explanation

This may be a neutral request for information, or a demand that the person addressed should justify him/herself.

Est-ce que vous pourriez m’expliquer les modes d’emploi ? | Could you explain the instructions to me?


Tu peux m’expliquer ce qui se passe ? | Can you explain to me what’s happening?


Je vous demanderais de m’expliquer votre décision. | May I ask you to explain your decision?


J’espère du moins que vous pourrez expliquer votre absence. | I trust you can account for your absence.


Comment voulez-vous justifier ce retard ? | How do you intend to justify this delay?


Offering an Explanation

Here are some examples of how to give your explanation to someone.

Vous aimeriez que je vous explique la structure de notre société ? | Would you like me to explain to you our company’s structure?


Si tu veux, je peux te montrer comment l’appareil fonctionne. | If you’ like, I’ll show you how the machine works.


Permettez que je vous explique notre raisonnement. | Allow me to explain our reasoning to you.


Si vous permettez, j’essayerai d’éclairer la raison de ce malentendu ? | May I try to explain the reason for this misunderstanding?


Il voulait me fair comprendre les obstacles. | He wanted to explain the obstacles to me.


Mon collègue pourra vous rendre compte de nos progrès. | My colleague will be able to tell you about our progress.


Je dois m’excuser de ma conduite hier. | I must apologise for my conduct yesterday.


Je ne veux pas y aller. Je vais prétexter un rendez-vous. | I don’t want to go. I’ll make the excuse that I’ve got a meeting.


There will be a part 2 to this post, so be sure to come back next Thursday for that post! I hope everyone is having a great week!

A bientôt !

Courtney

Accepting Apologies

This is part 2 to last week’s Making Apologies post. This week we’ll learn what to say when we accept these apologies.

To accept an apology without reservation:

Ce n’est pas grave. | It doesn’t matter.


Je t’en prie. / Je vous en prie. | Don’t mention it./Forget it.


Il n’y a pas de quoi. | That’s alright.


Ne t’en fais pas. / Ne vous en faites pas. | Don’t worry.


N’en parlons plus. | Let’s forget it.


To accept an apology, but stress that the fault must not happen again:

Ça va, pourvu que tu ne recommences pas. (especially to children) | That’s alright, just don’t do it again.


Je vous excuse, mais vous devriez faire mieux attention à l’avenir. | I forgive you, but you should take more care in the future.


Espérons du moins que cela ne se reproduira pas. | Let’s hope it does not happen again.


Some less formal and more colloquial responses:

Pas de problème ! | No problem!


Il n’y a pas de mal ! | No harm!


Pas de soucis ! No worries!


Very short post this week. I try to bring you guys enough content in each post, so I apologise for the brevity of this post! Look at how I’m apologising on an apologies post (not intentional!). Now what would you say in response? En français. 🙂

A la prochaine…

Courtney

Making Apologies

In French, as in most languages, there are set formulae for making your apologies, and accepting those apologies of someone else.

Apologizing to Friends/Close Colleagues

Simplest form of an apology:

Oh, pardon ! | Sorry!


Je m’excuse ! | My apologies! / I’m sorry!


Je suis désolé(e) ! | I’m really sorry!

Slightly more elaborate ways of apologising and admitting responsibility:

C’est ma faute. Excuse-moi. | It’s my fault. Sorry.


Je m’en veux beaucoup. | I’m really cross with myself for it.


J’espère que tu ne m’en veux pas / ne m’en voudras pas. | I hope you’re not too upset with me.


Je suis désolé(e) de t’avoir dérangé. | I’m really sorry to have disturbed you.

There are ways to apologise and also suggest that you are not entirely to blame. You would use “Je suis désolé(e)” and one of the following examples:

Je ne l’ai pas fait exprès. | I didn’t do it on purpose/deliberately.


Je ne pouvais pas faire autrement. | I had to./There was nothing else I could do.


J’essayais simplement de vous aider. | I was only trying to help you.


Je n’avais pas le choix. | I didn’t have a choice.


More formal apologies in conversation:

Brief apology:

  • Oh, pardonnez-moi ! (ex: if you accidentally bumped into someone or stepped on their foot) | Oh, I’m sorry!
  • Excusez-moi ! (ex: when you’ve done something wrong) | I’m sorry. / My apologies.
  • C’est moi le coupable. | It’s my fault. / I’m to blame.

Come back next week for part two of this post, “Accepting Apologies”. As always, if you have a request or a suggestion, feel free to leave a comment and I will be happy to help. 🙂 Have a great week, everyone!

A la prochaine…

Courtney

Omitting the Possessive Adjective

In an imperative or command:

In French, possessive adjectives are used to modify the noun they precede.

Voici ma mère. | This is my mother.


Regarde ma nouvelle voiture ! | Look at my new car!

A common construction is one where the possessive adjective is dropped in an imperative or command (and replaced with a definite article along with a personal pronoun) only if an action is being taken on a physical attribute (head, back, arm etc.). In the following examples, action is not being taken on the physical attribute, therefore the possessive adjective remains.

Regarde mon dos. | Look at my back.


Remarque mes cheveux. | Notice my hair.

In the following examples, an action is being taken on the physical attribute.

Masse-moi le dos. | Massage my back.


Coupe-moi les cheveux. | Cut my hair.


Tiens-moi la main. | Hold my hand.

Verb

Possessive Adjective

Noun

masse

mon

dos

coupe

mes

cheveux

↙↘

Verb

Personal Pronoun

Definite Article

Noun

masse

moi

le

dos

coupe

moi

les

cheveux


In a statement:

The possessive adjective may also be dropped in a statement only if an action is being taken on the physical attribute. In the following examples, an action is not being taken.

Je regarde son dos. | I’m looking at his/her back.


Elle remarque ses cheveux. | She’s noticing his/her hair.

In the following examples, an action is being taken on the physical attribute.

Je lui masse le dos. | I’m massaging his/her back.


Elle me coupe les cheveux. | She’s cutting my hair.

The possessive adjective takes the form of the appropriate personal pronoun and is placed before the verb, and a definite article is placed before the object. The same applies to pronominal verbs (when the action is being done to oneself).

  • I wash my hands. = Je me lave les mains.
  • She brushes her hair. = Elle se brosse les cheveux.

Subject

Verb

Possessive Adjective

Object

je

masse

son

dos

elle

coupe

mes

cheveux

↙↘

Subject

Personal Pronoun

Verb

Definite Article

Object

je

lui

masse

le

dos

elle

me

coupe

les

cheveux


In the past tense (passé composé):

In the past tense as well, the personal pronoun is placed after the subject (just as it is in the present tense).

Subject

Personal Pronoun

Verb

Definite Article

Object

je

lui

masse

le

dos

elle

me

coupe

les

cheveux

↙↘

Subject

Personal Pronoun

Avoir

Past Participle

Definite Article

Object

je

lui

ai

massé

le

dos

elle

m’

a

coupé

les

cheveux


In the past tense using pronominal verbs:

The construction for using pronominal verbs is much like using passé composé with the exception that, as with all reflexive verbs, the past participle is conjugated with être.

Subject

Personal Pronoun

Être

Past Participle

Definite Article

Object

je

me

suis

lavé

les

mains

elle

s’

est

cassé

la

jambe


I hope everyone is doing well and having a wonderful week!

Merci à vous !

Courtney

Cleft Sentences

Cleft sentences: highlighting the indirect object and other elements of the sentence.

Cleft sentences in French can be used to highlight elements of the sentence other than the subject and the direct object. For example, the indirect object can be placed after c’est, and the rest of the sentence is converted into a relative clause.

J’ai donné les CDs à mon collègue.

C’est à mon collègue que j’ai donné les CDs.

I gave my coworker the CDs.


Il a demandé un prêt à ses parents.

C’est à ses parents qu’il a demandé un prêt.

He asked his parents for a loan.


Indirect object pronouns can also be highlighted as à + a disjunctive pronoun and placed after c’est in a c’est __ que construction.

Je lui ai envoyé un courriel.

C’est à lui/elle que j’ai envoyé un courriel.

I sent him/her an email.


Il leur a téléphoné hier.

C’est à eux/elles qu’il a téléphoné hier.

He called them yesterday.


Prepositional phrases can be highlighted by placing them after c’est in a c’est __ que construction.

Nous avons acheté le cadeau pour Claudie.

C’est pour Claudie que nous avons acheté le cadeau.

We bought the gift for Claudie.


Il a travaillé avec Franck et Nicolette.

C’est avec Franck et Nicolette qu’il a travaillé.

He worked with Franck and Nicolette.


Ils ont joué au foot dans le parc.

C’est dans le parc qu’ils ont joué au foot.

They played football/soccer in the park.


I hope everyone is having a wonderful week!

A la prochaine…

Courtney

Degrees of Certainty – Impossibility, Doubt

This is the third and last in this 3 part series of French in Action. (Part 1; Part 2) Today we wrap this series up with the negative : Impossibility and Doubt.

Impossibility

The expressions used to denote possibility can be used in the negative to suggest impossibility.

La date nous est impossible.|The date’s impossible for us./We can’t make the date.


Mon fils a toujours tenté l’impossible.|My son’s always tried to do the impossible.


J’aimerais faire le tour du monde, mais c’est un rêve irréalisable.|I’d like to travel around the world, but it’s an impossible dream.


L’accord était voué à l’échec.|The agreement was impossible/bound to fail.


Il est impossible qu‘elle soit exclue de l’équipe.|She can’t possibly be excluded from the team.


Votre démarche a rendu impossible tout compromis.|Your action has made any compromise impossible.


Il est hors de question que vous le fassiez à sa place.|It’s out of the question for you to do it instead of him/her.


Doubt

French possesses the verb douter, the cognate of the English verb “to doubt”. The constructions in which it is used can confuse English speakers. Note that se douter de quelque chose means “to suspect that something is the case” (as in the opposite of doubt).

On peut douter de l’authenticité de la signature.|There is reason to doubt whether the signature is authentic.


Je doute qu‘il ait eu le temps de tout faire.|I doubt if/that he had time to do everything.


Il est parti ? Je m’en doutais.|Has he left? I thought as much.


Je me doutais de ses intentions.|I suspected those were his intentions.


J’ai hésité à vous réveiller.|I wasn’t sure whether I should wake you up.


Je me suis méfié de ce qu’il a dit.|I wasn’t sure whether to trust what he said.


On peut avoir des doutes sur ses capacités.|There’s reason to doubt his abilities.


Rien n’indique qu‘il ait décidé de revenir.|There’s nothing to suggest he’s decided to come back.

Here are some adverbial and adjectival constructions to express doubt:

Il ne sera pas forcément d’accord.|He won’t necessarily be in agreement.


Je serais difficilement convaincu.|It would be difficult to persuade me.


Ile est fort peu probable que le magasin soit ouvert dimanche.|It’s very unlikely that the shop is open on Sunday.


Il est douteux qu‘elle se représente aux prochaines élections.|It is doubtful whether/unlikely that she will stand again at the next election.


L’issue est incertaine.|The outcome is undecided/unsure.


Le verdict était contestable.|The verdict was debatable/open to question.


C’est une procédure tout à fait aléatoire.|It’s a completely random procedure./The procedure leaves everything to chance.


Have a great week, everyone!

A bientôt !

Courtney

Degrees of Certainty – Probability, Possibility

Continuing on from last week’s part 1 post, we’ll continue with probability and possibility.

Probability

The chance that something will happen. To convey that something is probable in a word or short phrase:

Tu assisteras au concert ? – Sans doute.|You’ll go to the concert? _ Most likely./Probably.


C’est Christine qui a téléphoné ? – Probablement.|Was it Christine who called? – Probably.


Christophe fait du théâtre maintenant ? – Paraît-il.|Christophe is doing some acting now? – So it seems.


Vous allez poser le tapis vous-même ? – En principe.|Are you going to lay the carpet yourself? – That’s the idea.

The combination of the verb pouvoir with the verb bien provides the basis for a number of expressions of probability:

Je peux bien prendre le train.|I may well take the train.


Ils pourraient bien téléphoner ce soir.|They’re likely to call this evening.

Other ways to form probability expressions:

Il est très/fort probable qu‘elle jouera le rôle de la reine.|It’s very/highly likely that she’ll play the role of the queen.


Il y a de fortes chances que j’obtiendrai une bourse.|There’s a very good chance that I’ll get/obtain a grant.


Ils sont censés arriver par le train de six heures.|They’re meant to arrive on the six o’clock train.


Ils devraient vous rembourser tout de suite.|They should reimburse you immediately.


Possibility

Most constructions expressing “the possibility that…” or “doubt that…” are followed by the subjunctive.

Brief responses to indicate that something is possible include:

Il est malade ? C’est possible.|Is he sick? – Possibly./Maybe.


Tu as besoin de la voiture ? – Ça se peut.|Will you need the car? – Possibly./I might.


Tu pourrais le remplacer ? – Oui, éventuellement.|Could you replace him? – Possibly.

More elaborate expressions often use the verb pouvoir:

Ils ont pu perdre leur chemin.|They may have lost their way.


Il se peut que la voiture soit tombée en panne.|It’s possible the car’s broken down.


A la limite, on pourrait croire qu‘il l’a fait exprès.|You might almost think he did it deliberately.

Possibility can also be expressed by idiomatic phrases:

Il est possible que je sois en mesure de vous aider.|It may be that I’m in a position to help you.


Nous vous soutiendrons dans la mesure du possible.|We shall support you as far as we can.


Ce que vous proposez, c’est très faisable.|What you’re suggesting is quite possible/do-able.


Tu crois que c’est un projet réalisable ?|Do you think the plan could work/is feasible?


Come back next week for the final installment of this three part topic. Have a great week, everyone!

A la prochaine…

Courtney