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Expressions with “Tomber”

Tomber amoureux

  • suddenly become in love

Tomber à pic

  • to arrive at the right moment

Tomber à l’eau

  • to fail, not succeed (as in a project or school)

Tomber dans les bras de Morphée

  • to fall asleep (Morphée/Morpheus is the god of dreams)

Tomber dans le panneau

  • to be too gullible and to be trapped

Tomber au champ d’honneur

  • to die for one’s country on the battlefield

Tomber des cordes / des hallebardes

  • to rain very hard

Tomber des nues / de la lune

  • to be amazed, to be very astonished

Have a fantastic week, everyone!

A bientôt !

Courtney

The Subjunctive – Doubt, Uncertainty, & Negation of Facts & Opinions

The subjunctive is used in subordinate clauses that are dependent on main clauses expressing doubt or uncertainty about the action of the subordinate clause, or that deny its existence. Here are some expressions that negate, deny, or doubt the existence of the action of the subordinate clause.

  • nier que – to deny that
    • “Je nie qu’il sache plus que moi.” | “I deny that he knows more than I do.”
  • douter que – to doubt that
    • “Tu doutes que j’aie raison.” | “You doubt that I am right.”
  • il est douteux que – it’s doubtful that
    • “Il est douteux qu’ils puissent venir.” | “It’s doubtful that they can come.”

However, the negative of the verbs and expressions mentioned above does not negate or deny the existence of the action of the subordinate clause, and therefore it is followed by a subordinate clause in the indicative.

  • “Je ne nie pas qu’il sait plus que moi.” | “I don’t deny that he knows more than I do.”
  • “Tu ne doutes pas que j’ai raison.” | “You don’t doubt that I am right.”
  • “Il n’est pas douteux qu’ils peuvent venir.” | “It’s not doubtful that they can come.”

The following negative expressions are followed by a subordinate clause in the subjunctive.

  • il n’est pas certain que | it’s not certain that
  • il n’est pas clair que | it’s not clear that
  • il n’est pas évident que | it’s not evident that
  • il n’est pas exact que | it’s not correct/accurate that
  • il n’est pas sûr que | it’s not sure that
  • il n’est pas vrai que | it’s not true that
  • il ne paraît pas que | it doesn’t seem that
  • je ne dis pas que | I’m not saying that
  • je ne suis pas sûr(e)/certain(e) que | I’m not sure/certain that
  • ça ne veut pas dire que | it doesn’t mean that
  • ce n’est pas que | it’s not that / the fact isn’t that

 

  • “Il n’est pas certain qu’elle suive ce que tu dis.” | “It’s not certain that she is following what you are saying.”
  • “Il n’est pas exact qu’il sache faire ce travail.” | “it’s not correct that he knows how to do this work.”
  • “Il n’est pas vrai qu’il s’en aille.” | “It’s not true that he’s leaving.”
  • “Il ne paraît pas qu’il s’en rende compte.” | “It doesn’t seem that he realises.”
  • “Ce n’est pas qu’elle comprenne.” | “It’s not that she understands.”

When the above expressions are affirmative, they are followed by the indicative.

  • “Il est certain qu’elle suit ce que tu dis.” | “It is certain that she is following what you are saying.”
  • “Il est exact qu’il sait faire ce travail.” | “It is accurate that he knows how to do this work.”
  • Il est vrai qu’il s’en va.” | “It’s true that he’s leaving.”
  • “Il paraît qu’il s’en rend compte.” | “It seems that he realises.”

The verbs penser and croire function like the above expressions. When negative, they are followed by a subordinate clause in the subjunctive; when affirmative, they are followed  by a subordinate clause in the indicative.

  • “Je pense qu’il reviendra.” | “I think he’ll come back.”
    • “Je ne pense pas qu’il revienne.” | “I don’t think he’ll come back.”
  • “Elle croit qu’il veut nous inviter.” | “She thinks he wants to invite us.”
    • “Elle ne croit pas qu’il veuille nous inviter.” | “She doesn’t think that he wants to invite us.”

The subjunctive is used after the interrogative forms of these verbs, especially when there is inversion.

  • “Pensez-vous que nous devions vous raccompagner ?” | “Do you think that we ought to see you home?”
  • “Croyez-vous qu’il les connaisse ?” | “Do you think that he knows them?”

In formal language, the indicative is also possible after the negative of penser and croire. This conveys that the speaker is really sure about the action of the subordinate clause.

  • “Je ne pense pas qu’il reviendra.” | “I don’t think he’ll come back.” (I am sure he won’t.)
  • “Elle ne croit pas qu’il veut nous inviter.” | “She doesn’t think that he wants to invite us.” (She’s pretty sure that he doesn’t.)

If the implied subject of both clauses is the same, an infinitive is used instead of a subordinate clause. An infinitive is also used after impersonal expressions when making a general statement.

  • “Je suis content de vous voir.” | “I’m happy to see you.”
  • “Il ne croit pas nous connaître.” | “He doesn’t think he knows us.”
  • “Il faut faire un effort.” | “One must make an effort.”

Enjoy your week, everyone!

A bientôt !

Courtney

Agreement of the Past Participle with Avoir

The participles of verbs conjugated with avoir in the passé composé agree with the direct object, but only when the direct object precedes the verb. This occurs most often with a direct object pronoun.

  • Est-que tu a trouvé les clés ? | Did you find the keys?
    • The direct object les clés follows the verb; the past participle does not agree.
  • Oui, je les ai trouvées au sous-sol. | Yes I found them in the basement.
    • The direct object pronoun les precedes the verb, and the past participle agrees with the feminine plural direct object pronoun.
  • J’ai acheté une nouvelle cravate en soie. | I bought a new silk tie.
    • The direct object une nouvelle cravate follows the verb; the past participle does not agree.
  • Alors, pourquoi est-ce que tu ne l’a pas mise ? | So then, why didn’t you put it on?
    • The direct object pronoun la precedes the verb, and the past participle agrees with the feminine singular direct object pronoun.

The indirect object pronoun lui and leur do not cause the past participle to agree.

  • Nicole m’a envoyé un e-mail, mais je ne lui ai pas encore répondu. | Nicole sent me an email, but I haven’t answered her yet.
  • Je leur ai offert un cédé. | I gave them a give.

The other case where direct objects precede the verb is the relative clause.

  • Est-ce qu’il a découvert une solution ? | Has he come up with a solution?
    • The direct object une solution follows the verb; the past participle does not agree.
  • Oui, mais je n’aime pas la solution qu’il a découverte. | Yes, but I don’t like the solution that he came up with.
    • The que of the relative clause (elided to qu’) precedes the verb, and the past participle agrees with the feminine singular relative pronoun, which replaces la solution.
  • Tu savais que j’ai écrit cette histoire ? | Did you know that I wrote this story?
    • The direct object cette histoire follows the verb; the past participle does not agree.
  • Prête-la-moi. Je veux lire l’histoire que tu as écrite. | Lend it to me. I want to read the story  that you wrote.
    • The que of the relative clause precedes the verb, and the past participle agrees with the feminine singular relative pronoun, which replaces l’histoire.

It is the relative pronoun que, not qui, that causes agreement of the past participle. Because the relative pronoun qui is the subject, not the object of its clause, it does not cause agreement of the past participle with verbs conjugated with avoir.

  • Qui est la femme qui a travaillé ici ? | Who’s the woman who worked here?
  • Les étudiants qui ont réussi les examens sont très contents. | The students who passed the exams are very happy.

Expressions of cost (with the verb coûter) and distance are not really direct objects and do not cause agreement of the past participle.

  • les cent euros que le billet a coûté | the one hundred euros the ticket cost
  • les trois kilomètres que tu a couru | the three kilometers you ran

Except for the relatively few past participles ending in a consonant, such as ditfaitmis, prisécritouvert, etc., the agreement of the past participle is a feature of written French only. In spoken French, the agreement is heard only in the feminine singular and plural of participles ending in a consonant.


Have a fantastic week, everyone!

Merci à vous !

Courtney

Sentence Building : The Causative – Faire + Infinitive

French has a special construction to express the idea that one person causes another person to do something. This construction is called “the causative”, which consists of the verb faire followed by an infinitive.

  • Mon ordinateur ne marche pas bien. | My computer isn’t working well.
    • Il faut le faire réparer, alors. | Then you’ve got to have it fixed.
  • Notre bureau n’est pas propre. | Our office isn’t clean.
    • Il faut le faire nettoyer. | We have to have it cleaned.
  • Je ne peux pas faire démarrer la voiture. | I can’t get the car to start.
  • Je crois qu’il faut faire charger la batterie. | I think you have to have the battery charged.

A sentence in the causative may include the person whom you cause to do the work or perform the action. That person usually appears at the end of the sentence if there is no other object present.

  • Il a fait attendre ses clients. | He kept his customers waiting.
  • J’ai fait entrer les invités. | I had the guests come in.

However, if there is another object present, the person who is caused to do something may appear as an agent phrase beginning with par, as in the passive voice, or as an indirect object introduced by the preposition à.

  • J’ai fait réparer ma voiture par le mécanicien.
  • J’ai fait réparer ma voiture au mécanicien.
    • I had the mechanic repair my car.
  • Elle a fait raccourcir ses robes par son tailleur.
  • Elle a fait raccourcir ses robes à son tailleur.
    • She had her tailor shorten her dresses.

One or both of the objects in the previous examples can be replaced by object pronouns. The object pronouns always precede faire in the causative.

  • J’ai fait réparer ma voiture au mécanicien.
    • Je la lui ai fait réparer.
  • Elle a fait raccourcir ses robes à son tailleur.
    • Elle les lui a fait raccourcir.

Note that fait, the past participle of faire, does not agree with a preceding direct object in the causative.


Have a wonderful week, everyone!

A la prochaine…

Courtney

Sentence Building – Prepositions + Infinitive Phrases as Adverbial Complements (2/2)

Part 2 from last week’s lesson.

Several verbs that express the achievement or failure of an action require à before a following infinitive.

arriver à | to manage to

s’attarder à | to linger (doing something)

continuer à | to continue to

parvenir à | to manage to, succeed in

renoncer à | to give up (doing something)

réussir à | to succeed in

  • Marc n’hésite pas à causer avec tous les passagers Américains.
    • Marc doesn’t hesitate to chat with all the American passengers.
  • De cette façon, il s’exerce à parler anglais.
    • That’s the way he practices speaking English.
  • Il parviendra à chasser tous les passagers de nos avions.
    • He’ll wind up driving all the passengers away from our planes.
  • Tu exagères. Les touristes  prennent plaisir à converser avec lui.
    • You’re exaggerating. The tourists are delighted to converse with him.

In the examples above, the implied subject of the infinitive is the same as the subject of the conjugated verb. Therefore, in “il s’exerce à parler”, the implied subject of “parler” is “il” (Marc).

Verbs that convey the idea of getting someone have two subjects. The following expressions in which quelqu’un (someone) is both the direct object of the first verb and the subject of the infinitive.

  • accoutumer quelqu’un à faire quelque chose | to get someone used to doing something
  • aider quelqu’un à faire quelque chose | to help someone do something
  • autoriser quelqu’un à faire quelque chose | to authorize someone to do something
  • condamner quelqu’un à faire quelque chose | to condemn someone to do something
  • contraindre quelqu’un à faire quelque chose | to compel someone to do something
  • décider quelqu’un à faire quelque chose | to help someone decide to do something
  • encourager quelqu’un à faire quelque chose | to encourage someone to do something
  • engager quelqu’un à faire quelque chose | to urge someone to do something
  • forcer quelqu’un à faire quelque chose | to force someone to do something
  • inciter quelqu’un à faire quelque chose | to incite someone to do something
  • inviter quelqu’un à faire quelque chose | to invite someone to do something
  • obliger quelqu’un à faire quelque chose | to oblige someone to do something
  • pousser quelqu’un à faire quelque chose | to talk someone to do something
  • préparer quelqu’un à faire quelque chose | to prepare someone to do/for doing something

When it means “to teach”, apprendre patterns like enseigner, and it takes the indirect object of the person.

apprendre/enseigner à quelqu’un à faire quelque chose | to teach someone to do something

  • Qui vous à poussé à accepter ce poste ? | Who talked you into taking that job?
    • Mes parents m’ont encouragé à l’accepter. | My parents encouraged me to accept it.
  • Il faut accoutumer les enfants à regarder un peu moins la télé. | We have to get the children used to watching TV a bit less.
    • D’accord. Je vais les obliger à sortir un peu plus. | Agreed. I’m going to make them go out a little more.

Have a great week, everyone!

A bientôt !

Courtney

The Pluperfect Subjunctive

The pluperfect subjunctive consists of the imperfect subjunctive of the auxiliary verb (avoir or être) plus the past participle.

Verbs conjugated with avoir:

que j’eusse parlé, réfléchi, rendu que nous eussions parlé, réfléchi, rendu
que tu eusses parlé, réfléchi, rendu que vous eussiez parlé, réfléchi, rendu
qu’il/elle eût parlé, réfléchi, rendu qu’ils/elles eussent parlé, réfléchi, rendu

Verbs conjugated with être:

que je fusse descendu(e) que nous fussions descendu(e)s
que tu fusses descendu(e) que vous fussiez descendu(e)(s)
qu’il fût descendu qu’ils fussent descendus
qu’elle fût descendue qu’elles fussent descendues

The pluperfect subjunctive is used to indicate that the action of the subordinate clause happened before the action of the main clause in sentences where the verb of the main clause is in the past. The following are sentences comparing formal and everyday speech.

Everyday French

Formal French

English

Je n’étais pas sûr qu’il vienne. Je n’étais pas sûr qu’il vînt. I wasn’t sure he was coming.
Je n’étais pas sûr qu’il soit venu. Je n’étais pas sûr qu’il fût venu. I wasn’t sure he had come.
J’étais content qu’il le fasse. J’étais content qu’il le fît. I was happy he did it.
J’étais content qu’il l’ait fait. J’étais content qu’il l’eût fait. I was happy he had done it.

The pluperfect subjunctive can also replace the pluperfect and the conditional perfect in both parts of a conditional sentence.

Everyday French

Formal French

S’il me l’avait dit, j’aurais compris. S’il me l’eût dit, j’eusse compris.
S’il était venu, nous aurions parlé. S’il fût venu, nous eussions parlé.

French language learners rarely need to use the forms of the imperfect subjunctive or the pluperfect subjunctive. It is enough to recognise them in reading and in their occasional occurrences in very formal speech.


Have a great week, everyone!

A bientôt !

Courtney

Literary Tenses : The Imperfect Subjunctive Irregular Verbs

Here is part 2 of the imperfect subjunctive, now with regular verbs.

The imperfect subjunctive of irregular verbs is also based on the passé simple. Below are the imperfect subjunctive forms of avoirêtrefaire, and venir.

avoir

que j’eusse

que nous eussions

que tu eusses

que vous eussiez

qu’il/elle eût

qu’ils/elles eussent

être

que je fusse

que nous fussions

que tu fusses

que vous fussiez

qu’il/elle fût

qu’ils/elles fussent

faire

que je fisse

que nous fissions

que tu fisses

que vous fissiez

qu’il/elle fît

qu’ils/elles fissent

venir

que je vinsse

que nous vinssions

que tu vinsses

que vous vinssiez

qu’il/elle vînt

qu’ils/elles vinssent

In formal written French, the imperfect subjunctive is used in a subordinate clause in sentences where the main verb is in a past tense and the subjunctive is required in the subordinate clause.

Everyday French Formal French English
Je veux qu’il vienne. Je veux qu’il vienne. I want him to come.
Je voulais qu’il vienne. Je voulais qu’il vînt. I wanted him to come.
Je suis content qu’il le fasse. Je suis content qu’il le fasse. I’m happy he’s doing it.
J’étais content qu’il le fasse. J’étais content qu’il le fît. I was happy he did it.
Il faut qu’il attende. Il faut qu’il attende. It’s necessary for him to wait,
Il a fallu qu’il attende. Il a fallu qu’il attendît. It was necessary for him to wait.

An inverted third-person singular imperfect subjunctive (especially of être) often means even if. This construction is commonly used for stylistic effect in newspaper writing.

  • Il ne pourrait pas prendre cette décision, fût-il le PDG de l’entreprise.
    • He wouldn’t be able to make this decision even if he were the CEO of the firm.
  • Il faudrait que le patron s’adresse aux employés, ne fût-ce que pour cinq minutes.
    • It would be necessary for the boss to speak to the employees, even if it were only for five minutes.

In everyday French, the above examples would be expressed as follows:

  • Il ne pourrait pas prendre cette décision, même s’il était le PDG de l’enterprise.
    • He wouldn’t be able to make this decision even if he were the CEO of the firm.
  • Il faudrait que le patron s’adresse aux employés, même si ce n’était que pour cinq minutes.
    • It would be necessary for the boss to speak to the employees, even if it were only for five minutes.

Enjoy your week, everyone!

A la prochaine…

Courtney