The Subjunctive in Adjective Clauses

There is even more to the subjunctive than we have already tapped into. I’ve discussed this not too long ago here, here, and here.

An adjective clause is a subordinate clause that describes a noun much as an adjective does. Adjective clauses are also called relative clauses.

Most adjective clauses appear in the indicative:

Il a un travail qui lui plait. | He has a job that he likes.


Nous avons un bureau qui est confortable. | We have an office that’s comfortable.


Je me sers d’un ordinateur qui a beaucoup de mémoire. | I use a computer that has a lot of memory.


Il y a des entreprises ici qui font du commerce avec le Mexique. | There are firms here that trade with Mexico.

However, if the noun of the main clause in not identified or is negated, then the verb of the adjective clause appears in the subjunctive:

Il veut un travail qui lui plaise. | He wants a job that he will like.


On a besoin d’un bureau qui soit confortable. | We need an office that’s comfortable.


Je cherche un ordinateur qui ait beaucoup de mémoire. | I’m looking for a computer that has a lot of memory.


Il n’y a pas d’enterprises ici qui fassent du commerce avec le Mexique. | There are no firms here that trade with Mexico.

The subjunctive is therefore used after il n’y a rien qui/que, il n’y a personne qui/que, and il n’y a aucun/aucune X qui/que:

Il n’y a rien qui me plaise. | There’s nothing that appeals to me.


Il n’y a personne ici qui sache programmer. | There’s no one here who knows how to program.


Il n’y a aucune banque qui soit ouverte. | There’s no bank that’s open.

The indicative is used when there is no negative:

Il y a quelque chose qui me plaît. | There’s something that appeals to me.


Il y a quelqu’un ici qui sait programmer. | There’s someone here who knows how to program.


Il y a une banque qui est ouverte. | There’s a bank that’s open.


There’s even more on this subject, so be sure to come back next week for more! Have a great week, everyone!

A bientôt !

Courtney

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Giving Explanations

Part 2 to last weeks post on offering and asking for explanations.

Constructions for giving explanations rely heavily on prepositions/prepositional phrases, conjunctions, or verbs of explanation.

Prepositions/Prepositional Phrases

Il n’a pa pris la voiture à cause du brouillard. | He didn’t take the cause because of the fog.


La bibliothèque sera fermée le mardi en raison des congés annuels. | The library will be closed on Tuesdays due to staff holidays.

Le stock est épuisé en vertu des demandes exceptionnelles. | Supplies have been exhausted due to exceptional demand.


Par suite d‘encombrements, nous ne pouvons pas répondre à votre appel. | Since all the lines are engaged, we cannot answer your call.


Grâce à sa générosité, nous pourrons réparer l’église. | Thanks to his generosity, we will be able to repair the church.


Les fouilles ont été achevées à l’aide d‘une prestation municipale. | The excavations were completed with the help of a grant from the local council.


Ils augmenteront leur chiffre d’affaires au moyen d‘un investissement considérable. | They’ll increase their turnover thanks to large scale investment.


Devant les accusations, il a dû retirer sa candidature. | In view of the accusations, he had to withdraw from the election.


Malgré la pluie, on est sortis. | We went out despite the rain.


Le concert a eu lieu en dépit des protestations des résidents. | The concert took place despite protests from residents.


Faute de personnel, nous sommes obligés de fermer à midi. | Due to staff shortages, we have to shut down at noon.

Conjunctions Which Indicate an Explanation

Je ne peux pas venir parce que j’ai un dîner ce soir. | I can’t come because I’ve got a dinner tonight.


Il faudra augmenter les contrôles de sécurité puisqu‘il y a un risque d’attentat. | Security risks will have to be increased since there is a risk of an attack.


Elle a reçu sa formation au Mexique, ce qui fait qu‘elle parle bien espagnol. | She did her training in Mexico, which means she speaks Spanish well.


Nous avons perdu deux employés, si bien que le courrier a pris du retard. | We’ve lost two members of staff, so we’re behind with this mail.


On a besoin d’un étudiant en sciences naturelles. Voilà pourquoi j’ai pensé à toi. | We need someone studying biology. That’s why I thought of you.


Cet auteur est très apprécié, car il traite un sujet d’actualité. | This author is highly thought of because he writes about a topical subject.


Je me chargerai des invitations, à condition que vous m’envoyiez la liste des adresses. | I’ll take care of the invitations, provided that you send me the address list.


Nous sommes rentrés hier, bien qu‘ils / quoiqu‘ils aient voulu nous garder un jour de plus. | We came back yesterday, although they wanted us to stay a day longer.


Je n’ai pas sonné de peur quede crainte que vous ne soyez déjà couché. | I didn’t ring the bell in case you were already in bed.

Verbal Constructions Used to Give an Explanation

L’érosion résulte surtout des intempéries. | The erosion is mainly caused by adverse weather.


La querelle provenait d‘un conflit de tempéraments. | The quarrel stemmed from a clash of temperaments.


Ce sujet de doléance remontait aux conditions de vie à l’époque. | This grievance could be traced to living conditions at the time.


On peut attribuer son succès à son enthousiasme. | His/Her success can be attributed to his/her enthusiasm.


La crise s’explique par le manque d’investissement. | The crisis can be explained by the lack of investment.


Have a great week, everyone!

A la prochaine…

Courtney

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

Compound & Complex Sentences

This week let’s learn about what makes up compound and complex sentences.

There are two types of conjunctions that join sentences together: Coordinating conjunctions & Subordinating conjunctions.

Coordinating conjunctions create compound sentences, sentences in which neither clause is subordinate to the other. Typical coordinating conjunctions are etmais, and ou.

Je suis allé(e) à son bureau et j’ai demandé une interview. | I went to his office and asked for an interview.


Nous, on est sortis, mais elle, elle est restée à la maison. | We went out, but she stayed home.


Laissez-moi travailler ou je m’en vais. | Let me work, or I’ll leave.

The French equivalent of not only… but also is non seulement… mais aussi.

Non seulement il fait froid, mais il neige aussi. | It’s not only cold, but it’s also snowing.

The conjunction ou may be expanded to ou alors.

Laissez-moi travailler ou alors je m’en vais. | Let me work, or else I’ll leave.

Ou bien adds a note of emphatic exclusion of one of the alternatives. It may appear at the head of both conjoined sentences.

Ou bien c’est lui qui ment ou bien c’est elle. | Either he’s lying or she is.


Ou bien je reste locataire ou bien je deviens propriétaire. | Either I continue being a tenant or I become an owner.

Soit…soit also conjoins two sentences with the meaning either…or.

Soit ils le savaient déjà, soit ils ont reçu un courriel à cet égard. | Either they knew it already or they got an email about it.


Subordinating conjunctions embed a sentence within a larger sentence, and that embedded sentence is then dependent on, or subordinate to, the main clause. This is called a complex sentence. The most common subordinating conjunction in French is que.

Que is followed by the indicative after verbs that emphasize the truth value of the subordinate clause, like savoiraffirmerconfirmerdéclarer, and  jurer.

  • Nous savons qu‘ils aiment la France. | We know they like France.
  • Il affirme qu‘il n’y est pour rien. | He affirms that he is not at all to blame.
  • Je confirme que j’ai vendu ma maison. | I am confirming that I sold my house.
  • Elle a déclaré qu‘elle était l’auteur du message. | She declared that she was the author of the message.
  • Je jure que je le lui ai rendu. | I swear that I returned it to him.

Subordinating conjunctions that express cause and result also introduce clauses in the indicative One of the most common is parce que because.

On ne peut pas sortir parce qu‘il pleut. | We can’t go out because it’s raining.


Je ne peux pas aller avec vous parce que j’ai trop à faire. | I can’t go out with you because I have too much to do.

There are many conjunctions of time that are always followed by the indicative.

  • après que – after
  • aussitôt que/dès que – as soon as
  • chaque fois que – each time that
  • depuis que – since/from the time that
  • lorsque – when
  • maintenant que – now that
  • pendant que – while
  • quand – when

Après que tu installeras ce logiciel, tu pourras travailler avec plus d’efficacité. | After you install this software, you will be able to work more efficiently.


Chaque fois que je reçois un de ses courriels, je le lis avec beaucoup d’intérêt. | Each time I receive one of his emails, I read it with a great deal of interest.


Je suis un peu effrayé depuis que j’ai reçu son message. | I’m a bit frightened since I received his message.

Note: aussitôt quedès quelorsque, and quand are followed by the future tense when the main clause is in the future or the imperative.


Have a great week, everyone!

A bientôt !

Courtney

Negatives – Indefinite Words & Expressions

Continuing from last week’s post on Negatives.

Many English indefinite expressions begin with the word some. They are often the positive counterparts of negative words.

  • quelquefois – sometimes
  • quelqu’un – someone, somebody
  • quelque chose – something
  • quelque part– somewhere

The word some before a noun is expressed in French either by the partitive article or by quelques, which is more emphatic.

Je n’ai que quelques mots à vous dire. | I only have a few words to say to you.


Vous trouverez quelques idées intéressantes dans cet article. | You’ll find some interesting ideas in this article.

The pronoun some when used emphatically is rendered by quelques-unsquelques-unes. The pronoun en will also usually appear in the sentence.

As-tu acheté des journaux français ? | Did you buy any French newspapers?

J’en ai acheté quelques-uns. | I bought some/a few.


As-tu acheté des revues françaises ? | Did you buy any French magazines?

J’en ai acheté quelques-unes. | I bought some/a few.

When some is the subject of the sentence and means “some people”, its French equivalent is certains. It often occurs in conjuction with d’autres (others).

Certains appuient cette nouvelle loi, d’autres sont contre. | Some support this new law, others are against it.


To express someone/somewhere/something or other, etc., French uses je ne sais plus the appropriate interrogative word.

  • je ne sais qui – someone or other
  • je ne sais quoi – something or other
  • je ne sais où – somewhere or other
  • je ne sais comment – somehow
  • je ne sais quel + noun – some + (noun) or other
  • je ne sais quand – sometime or other
  • je ne sais pourquoi – for some reason or other
  • je ne sais combien – I’m not sure how much/many

Examples:

Nicolette est allée je ne sais où aujourd’hui. | Nicolette went somewhere or other today.

Oui, le dimanche elle va rendre visite à je ne sais qui à Lille. | Yes, on Sundays she goes to visit someone in Lille.


Il s’est sauvé de l’accident je ne sais comment. | Somehow or other he saved himself from that accident.

Quelle chance ! Cette tragédie a fais je ne sais combien de victimes. | What luck! That tragedy caused I don’t know how many deaths.


Any in the sense of “it doesn’t matter which one” is expressed in french by n’importe followed by the appropriate interrogative word.

  • n’importe qui – anyone
  • n’importe quoiquoi que ce soit – anything
  • n’importe où – anywhere
  • n’importe comment – anyhow
  • n’importe quel + noun – any + noun
  • n’importe lequel, laquelle, lesquels, lesquelles – whichever one(s), any one(s)
  • n’importe quand – at any time
  • n’importe combien – any amount, no matter how much, how many

Qu’est-ce que tu veux manger ? | What do you want to eat?

N’importe quoi. | Anything.

Et où est-ce que tu veux aller après ? | And where do you want to go afterwards?

N’importe où. | Anywhere.


Note that the English word any and the words it appears in (anyone, anything, anywhere) are translated by negative words in French if the sentence is negative, and by indefinite words and expressions if the sentence is positive.

Est-ce qu’il en sait quelque chose ? | Does he know anything about it?

Non, il n‘en sait rien. | No, he doesn’t know anything about it.


Allez-vous quelque part cette semaine ? | Are you going anywhere this week?

Non, nous n‘allons nulle part. | No, we’re not going anywhere.


Sometimes when the English word any is used in a negative sentence, its French equivalent is one of the expressions with n’importe. The word “just” often appears before “any” in the English sentence in this case.

Je ne vais pas offrir n’importe quoi. | I’m not going to give just anything as a gift.


Nous ne voulons pas passer le temps avec n’importe qui. | We don’t want to spend time with just anyone.


I hope you all don’t mind me posting a day early. I’m actually going to be out of town, and will be travelling on my usual posting day and just wanted to get a weekly post out to you sooner rather than later. 🙂

Have a wonderful week, everyone!

Merci à vous !

Courtney