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The Infinitive

The French infinitive parallels many of the uses of the English present participle, which ends in -ing.

In French, the infinitive can be a verbal noun that functions as the subject of a sentence.

  • Trouver un bon travail n’est pas facile. | Finding a good job is not easy.
  • Mon but, c’est de travailler à Paris. | Working in paris is my goal.
  • Voir, c’est croire. | Seeing is believing.

The infinitive in French is used after prepositions.

  • avant de sortir | before going out

The French infinitive is often used for impersonal instructions.

  • Ralentir | Slow (on road signs)
  • Agiter avant emploi | Shake before using

The impersonal expressions il faut (one must, you have to), and il vaut mieux (it’s better to) are followed directly by an infinitive. These expressions are not conjugated for person, because impersonal il is the only possible subject. However, they are conjugated for tense.

Imparfait il fallait, il valait mieux
Passé Composé il a fallu, il a mieux valu
Futur il faudra, il vaudra mieux
Conditionnelle il faudrait, il vaudrait mieux
  • Quand est-ce que tu veux partir en vacances ? | When do you want to go on vacation?
  • J’aime prendre mes vacances en hiver. Toi ? | I like to take my vacation in the winter. How about you?
  • Moi, je préfère les prendre au printemps. | I like to take it in the spring.
  • Je déteste voyager quand il fait froid. | I hate to travel when it’s cold.
  • Tu comptes avertir Paul ? | Do you intend to alert Paul?
  • Oui, mais j’ai beau l’appeler. Il ne fait pas attention. | Yes, but it’s no use calling him. He pays no attention.
  • Il affirme pouvoir nous aider. | He affirms that he can help.
  • Nous devons accepter son offre. | We must accept his offer.
  • Il faut lui téléphoner, alors. | Then we must phone him.
  • Il vaut mieux lui envoyer un courriel. | It’s better to send him an email.

Have a great week, everyone!

Merci à vous !

Courtney

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Agreement of Verbs with Collective Subject

A collective subject is a noun occurring in the singular which refers to a plural group of people or objects – e.g. the police (all those employed by the police force).

Usually in French a singular collective noun requires the third person singular of the verb, whereas English may use a plural verb.

  • La foule s’est dispersée. | The crowd has/have scattered.
  • Tout le monde a applaudi. | Everyone applauded.

When a singular collective noun is followed by de/des + plural noun, the verb may occur in either the singular or plural. There is a greater tendency to use the plural when the plural noun is qualified.

  • Un groupe de manifestants a été arrêté. | A group of protesters has/have been arrested.
  • La sélection des fromages français qui sont proposés dans ce magasin viennent surtout de Normandie. | The selection of French cheeses which are sold in this shop come mainly from Normandy.

The plural form of the verb must be used after the following collective subjects:

  • force + plural noun = many a (literary)
  • une infinité de + plural noun = a good many
  • nombre de + plural noun = many (formal)
  • un assez grand nombre de + plural noun = a substantial number of
  • le plus grand nombre/le plus grand nombre de + plural noun = the majority
  • la plupart/la plupart de + plural noun = the majority
  • quantité de + plural noun = many (formal)

La plupart des conférenciers viennent de l’étranger.| Most of the speakers/lecturers are from abroad.


Happy New Year, everyone et Bonne Année ! Have a great week, everyone!

A bientôt !

Courtney

Agreement of Verbs with Composite Subjects

This is part 2 of Agreement of Subject and Verb, and today I’ll be going over agreement of verbs with composite subjects.

A composite subject consists of two or more nouns or pronouns. When a verb has as its subject two or more nouns in a list or joined by et, the verb is put in the third person plural.

  • La fidélité, la générosité, et la tolérance sont des qualités importantes.
  • Fidelity, generosity, and tolerance are important qualities.

When a verb has as its subject two nouns joined by ou, the verb is put in the third person plural if ou expresses the idea of conjunction (i.e. “both… and…”).

  • La neige ou le verglas rendent cette route très dangereuse.
  • Snow or ice (i.e. both snow and ice) make this road very dangerous.

But if two nouns joined by ou are in opposition, the verb is put in the third person singular (i.e. “either… or…”).

  • Le ministre ou son député va assister à la cérémonie.
  • The minister or his deputy (i.e. either the minister or his deputy) will attend the ceremony.

When the subject of a verb is a first or second person pronoun plus another pronoun/noun, the verb agrees with the first person (if there are both first and second persons) or with the second person (if there are second and third persons). It is usual to include the pronoun nous or vous after the composite subject, before the verb.

  • Suzette et moi, nous allons au théâtre ce soir.
  • Suzette and I are going to the theatre this evening.
  • Votre frère et vous, vous pourriez ouvrir un magasin diététique.
  • You and your brother could open a health food store.

Last post of 2017! I will see you all in the new year, so be safe and have fun!

A l’année prochaine…

Courtney

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

Verbs of Perception

Verbs of perception, such as voirregarderentendre, and écouter, and the verb laisser (to leave, let) are followed directly by the infinitive. The direct object of these verbs is the subject of the infinitive. If it is a noun, it can be placed either before or after the infinitive.

Nous voyons les enfants jouer.

Nous voyons jouer les enfants.

We see the children play.


On va entendre les trains siffler.

On va entendre siffler les trains.

We’ll hear the trains whistle.


Elle a laissé les étudiants entrer.

Elle a laissé entrer les étudiants.

She let the students come in.


When a direct object noun is replaced by a direct object pronoun in sentences with verbs of perception laisser, it must stand before the verb of perception or laisser.

Nous les voyons jouer. | We see them play.


On va les entendre siffler. | We’ll hear them whistle.


Elle les a laissé entrer. | She let them come in.


Verbs of perception and laisser may appear in sentences with two direct objects – a direct object of the verb of perception together with a direct object of the infinitive.

J’ai regardé les ouvriers construire le pont. | I saw the workers building the bridge.


Nous écoutons les musiciens jouer  le morceau. | We are listening to the musicians play  the piece.


J’ai laissé ma fille manger ce dessert. | I let my daughter eat that dessert.


In general, the past participles of verbs of perception and laisser agree with a preceding direct object pronoun.

Je les ai vus construire le pont. | I saw them build the bridge.


Je l‘ai laissé manger ce dessert. | I let her eat that dessert.


Have a great week, everyone!

A bientôt !

Courtney

Irregular Verbs Resembling Regular Verbs

It is essential to know how to conjugate verbs in French, and more importantly how different verbs (-er, -ir, -re ending) are conjugated. There comes the dilemma when there are irregular verbs that resemble “regular” verbs, but they do not conjugate the same way.

A small number of -ir verbs have the ending of -er verbs in the present tense. The example below is ouvrir (to open).

j’ouvre nous ouvrons
tu ouvres vous ouvrez
il/elle ouvre ils/elles ouvrent

Verbs conjugated like ouvriraccueillir (to welcome), couvrir (to cover), cueillir (to gather, pick), découvrir (to discover), rouvrir (to reopen), souffrir (to suffer).


Another group of -ir verbs is conjugated like -re verbs. The example below is partir (to leave, to set out for [a destination]).

je pars nous partons
tu pars vous partez
il/elle part ils/elles partent

Verbs conjugated like partir: dormir (to sleep), mentir (to lie), repartir (to leave again), sentir (to feel), servir (to serve), sortir (to go out).


The verb mettre (to put) is conjugated like an -re verb, but it only has one t in the singular.

je mets nous mettons
tu mets vous mettez
il/elle met ils/elles mettent

Verbs conjugated like mettre: battre (to beat), combattre (to fight, combat), débattre (to debate), omettre (to omit), permettre (to permit), promettre (to promise).


The verbs convaincre (to convince) and vaincre (to conquer) have two stems. The singular stem ends in -c, and the plural stem ends in -qu.

je convaincs nous convainquons
tu convaincs vous convainquez
il/elle convainc ils/elles convainquent

Infinitives ending in -aindre-eindre, and -oindre have two stems. The singular stem ends in -n, and the plural stem ends in -gn. They follow the pattern of the verb craindre (to fear), in the following example.

je crains nous craignons
tu crains vous craignez
il/elle craint ils/elles craignent

Verbs conjugated like craindre: atteindre (to reach, attain), éteindre (to put out, extinguish), joindre (to join), peindre (to paint), plaindre (to pity), rejoindre (to rejoin).


Verbs like connaître (to know) have a singular stem ending in -ai. In the third person singular form, the -i changes to . The plural stem ends in -ss.

je connais nous connaissons
tu connais vous connaissez
il/elle connaît ils/elles connaissent

Verbs conjugated like connaître: apparaître (to appear), disparaître (to disappear), paraître (to seem, appear),  reconnaître (to recognise).


Verbs with infinitives ending in -uire like construire (to build) have two stems. The singular stem ends in -i and the plural stem ends in -s.

je construis nous construisons
tu construis vous construisez
il/elle construit ils/elles construisent

Verbs conjugated like construire: conduire (to drive), détruire (to destroy), introduire (to introduce), produire (to produce), traduire (to translate).


The verb recevoir (to receive) is conjugated similarly to devoir. Note the change of c to ç before o.

je reçois nous recevons
tu reçois vous recevez
il/elle reçoit ils/elles reçoivent

Verbs conjugated like recevoir: décevoir (to disappoint), apercevoir (to notice).


Until next week, dear readers. Have a wonderful week!

A bientôt !

Courtney

The Conditional Perfect

The conditional perfect tense in French consists of the conditional of the auxiliary verbs avoir or être + the past participle. The past participle follows the same agreement rules as in the passé composé.

avoir

j‘aurais parlé, fini, vendu nous aurions parlé, fini, vendu
tu aurais parlé, fini, vendu vous auriez parlé, fini, vendu
il/elle/on aurait parlé, fini, vendu ils/elles auraient parlé, fini, vendu

être

je serais parti(e), rentré(e), allé(e) nous serions parti(e)s, rentré(e)s, allé(e)s
tu serais parti(e), rentré(e), allé(e) vous seriez parti(e)(s), rentré(e)(s), allé(e)(s)
il serait parti, rentré, allé ils seraient partis, rentrés, allés
elle serait partie, rentrée, allée elles seraient parties, rentrées, allées
on serait parti(s/es), rentré(s/es), allé(s/es)

The conditional perfect expresses the idea would have spoken, would have finished, would have sold. In other words, it labels actions that did not take place, but that would have or could have taken place if certain conditions had been met.

Moi, je n’aurais pas fait ça. | I wouldn’t havedone that.


Personne ne l’aurait compris. | Nobody would have understood him.


Tu lui aurais dit la vérité, toi ? | Would you have told her the truth?

In journalistic language, the conditional perfect may be used to express an assertion that the writer sees as alleged but not yet verified, one deriving from sources rather than investigation. The English equivalent is usually the present perfect tense.

L’enterprise aurait demandé un prêt considérable. | The company had asked (implication – it is rumoured) for a large loan.


Selon des sources en générale bien informées, des officiels de l’ONU auraient été à la solde de régimes brutaux du Moyen-Orient. | According to usually knowledgeable sources, UN officials have been on the payroll of brutal Middle Eastern regimes.


See you all next week, everyone!

A bientôt !

Courtney