Tag Archive | Advanced French

Use of the Pluperfect and Past Anterior

Both the pluperfect and the past anterior correspond to the English pluperfect, “I had done/I had been doing”. That is to say that they refer to an action which happened at a point in the past earlier than that referred to by the previous or subsequent verb in the past historic or perfect.

  • Il s’était déjà installé quand je suis arrivé. | He had already settled in when I arrived.
  • Aussitôt qu’il fut parti, elle nous téléphona. | As soon as he had left, she telephoned us.

In some cases, English may use the preterite in place of the pluperfect, but French always uses the pluperfect/past anterior to denote the appropriate time sequence.

  • Lundi j’ai retrouvé le dossier que vous aviez préparé l’année dernière. | On Monday I came across the file which you prepared/had prepared last year.

In spoken French, only the pluperfect, not the past anterior, is used. Because the past anterior uses the past historic to form the auxiliary, it is associated with formal written French. It should be used in formal written French in place of the pluperfect if the following circumstances all apply:

  • you would otherwise use the pluperfect, referring to a single completed action in the past (not a repeated habitual action)
  • the main narrative tense of the passage is the past historic (not the perfect)
  • the clause which requires the past anterior is introduced by one of the following time conjunctions: aussitôt que/ dès que (as soon as), après que (after), à peine que (hardly), quand/lorsque (when):
    • Dès qu‘il eut annoncé sa décision de vendre la maison, des agents immobiliers s’empressèrent de le contacter.
      • As soon as he had announced his decision to sell the house, estate agents rushed to make contact with him.
    • A peine se fut-elle couchée que le bruit recommença.
      • Hardly had she gone to bed when the noise started again.

Have a great week, everyone!

A bientôt !

Courtney

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Uses of the Imperfect

The French imperfect corresponds to the English form “was/were doing”. It is used, like the English form, to describe a continuous state in the past.

  • Le soleil brillait et la mer était très calme.
  • The sun was shining and the sea was very calm.

It is also used to record an action which “was happening” at the same time as another action, or when another action intervened.

  • Nous prenions un café alors qu’on a frappé à la port.
  • We were having a coffee when someone knocked on the door.

Since the imperfect conveys this idea of simultaneity, it is used after conjunctions such as comme, or pendant que (even where English uses the simple past).

  • Comme il fermait le robinet il remarqua une fuite d’eau.
  • As he turned off/was turning off the tap, he noticed water dripping.

A second use of the imperfect is to record repeated or habitual actions in the past. This corresponds to the English form “used to” (or “would”).

  • Quand je faisais mes études, je me couchais assez tard.
  • When I was studying, I used to/would go to bed quite late.

I hope you all have a great week!

A bientôt !

Courtney

Order & Placement of Double Object Pronouns

English doesn’t allow a direct and indirect object pronoun to occur together – the indirect object appears in a prepositional phrase beginning with to or for when a direct object is present. Ex: I gave it to him.

In French, double object pronouns are very common.

When the indirect object pronoun is a first or second person pronoun, the indirect object pronoun precedes the direct object pronoun. Thus, me, te, nous, and vous precede le, la, l’, and les.

  • J’ai besoin du livre de biologie. Tu me le prêtes ? | I need the biology book. Will you lend it to me?
    • Je te le passe demain. | I’ll give it to you tomorrow.
  • On dit que vous avez fait de belles photos pendant votre voyage. Vous pouvez nous les montrer ? | They say you took some beautiful photos during your trip. Can you show them to us?
    • Bien sûr. On va vous les envoyer par e-mail. | Of course. We’ll send them to you by email.

When the indirect object is third-person singular or plural, it follows the direct object pronoun. Thus, le, la, and les precede lui and leur.

  • Ils ne comprenaient pas la leçon, mais le prof la leur a expliquée. | They didn’t understand the lesson, but the teacher explained it to them.
  • Elle voulait voir tes logiciels. Est-ce que tu les lui a envoyés ? | She wanted to see your software packages. Did you send them to her?

Double object pronouns follow the same rules of position as single object pronouns. They precede the conjugated verb unless there is also an infinitive, in which case they occur between the conjugated verb and the infinitive.

Direct object pronouns cause agreement of the past participle when they appear in double object pronoun constructions.

  • Les documents ? Vous ne me les avez pas envoyés. | The documents? You didn’t send them to me.

The pronouns and en also appear in double object pronoun constructions. The pronoun y usually appears with a direct object pronoun, and the direct object pronoun precedes the word y. Possible combinations are as follows:

m’y

nous y

t’y

vous y

l’y

les y

Note the elisions of metele, and la before y.

  • J’étais à la bibliothèque aujourd’hui. | I was at the library today.
    • Je sais. Je t’y ai vue. | I know, I saw you there.
  • Les enfants aiment aller à la piscine. | The children like to go to the pool.
    • Je les y emmène souvent. | I often take them there.

The pronoun en usually appears with an indirect object pronoun, and the indirect object pronoun precedes the word en. Possible combinations are as follows:

m’en

nous en

t’en

vous en

lui en

leur en

Note the elisions of metele, and la before en. The pronouns and en may also occur together. When they do, y precedes en.

  • Tu trouve des occasions dans ce magasin ? | Did you find bargains at that shop?
    • Oui, j’y en trouve toujours. | Yes, I always find some there.

Merci à vous !

Courtney

Modified Infinitive Forms in the Future Tense

Several verbs have modified infinitive forms in the future tense. These verbs have the same endings as the verbs shown in this post. The je form is given as a model for the entire conjugation except in the case of pleuvoir, which is used only in third-person form.

Verbs ending in -oir lose the oi in the future tense.

  • recevoir – je recevrai
  • décevoir – je décevrai
  • devoir – je devrai
  • pleuvoir – il pleuvra

Howeverprévoir (to foresee) and pourvoir (to supply) have the future forms je prévoirai and je pourvoirai. the future of s’asseoir is je m’assiérai.


Avoir and savoir lose the oi of the infinitive, and the final v of their stems changes to u.

  • avoir – j’aurai
  • savoir – je saurai

The future of il y a is il y aura (there will be).


Vouloir loses the oi of the infinitive, and the final l of the stem changes to d.

  • vouloir – je voudrai

Valoir (to be worth) and falloir (must) also lose the oi of the infinitive and modify the stem.

  • valoir – je vaudrai
  • falloir – il faudra

Tenir and venir change their stem vowels to ie, and the i of the infinitive changes to d.

  • tenir – je tiendrai
  • venir – je viendrai

Several verbs have rr in the future tense, sometimes with a modified stem.

  • acquérir – j’acquérrai
  • courir – je courrai
  • envoyer – j’enverrai
  • mourir – je mourrai
  • pouvoir – je pourrai
  • voir – je verrai

Three verbs have irregular stems in the future.

  • aller – j’irai
  • être – je serai
  • faire – je ferai

Most compounds of verbs that are irregular in the future show the same irregularities.

  • défaire (to undo) – je déferai
  • devenir (to become) – je deviendrai
  • revenir (to come back) – je reviendrai
  • soutenir (to support) – je soutiendrai

Have a fabulous week, everyone!

Merci à vous !

Courtney

Imperfect – Continuing Past Action

French uses the imperfect tense to refer to past actions that are seen as continuing at another point of time in the past. English uses a had been doing something construction for this function. The French construction consists of the following elements:

  • depuis quand + imperfect [OR]
  • depuis combien de temps + imperfect [OR]
  • ça faisait combien de temps que + imperfect (colloquial) [OR]
  • il y avait combien de temps que + imperfect (colloquial)

These patterns are used to ask a question about how long something had been going on.

  • Depuis quand est-ce que tu travaillais à Québec ? | How long had you been working in Quebec?
  • Depuis combien de temps est-ce que vous étiez à la bibliothèque quand vous avez vu votre professeur ? | How long had you been at the library when you saw your professor?
  • Ça faisait combien de temps qu’ils cherchaient un logement quand on leur a offert cet appartement ? | How long had they been looking for a place to live when they were offered that apartment?
  • Il y avait combien de temps qu’elle travaillait dans cette entreprise quand ils lui ont donné une augmentation ? | How long had she been working at that company when they gave her a raise?

  • imperfect + depuis + time expression [OR]
  • ça faisait + time expression + que + imperfect (colloquial) [OR]
  • il y avait + time expression + que + imperfect (colloquial) [OR]
  • imperfect + depuis + starting point of action

These patterns are used to tell how long something had been going on.

  • J’habitais ce quartier depuis un an. | I’d been living in that neighbourhood for a year.
  • Ça faisait un an qu’ils sortaient ensemble quand ils se sont fiancés. | They had been going out for a year when they got engaged.
  • Il y avait une heure que nous attendions l’autobus quand vous nous avez aperçus. | We had been waiting for the bus for an hour when you spotted us.
  • Je travaillais à Québec depuis septembre quand j’ai dû rentrer en Belgique. | I had been working in Quebec since September when I had to go back to Belgium.

End Point Specified for Past Action

Although the imperfect is usually used to express repeated actions in the past, when the end point of those actions is specified, the verb is in the passé composé because the speaker’s focus shifts to the completion of the actions. In the following example, no end point is specified:

  • Quand j’étais petit, j’allais au bord de la mer tous les étés. | When I was a child, I went to the seashore every summer.

Notice the change in tense when an endpoint is specifically mentioned:

  • Jusqu’à l’âge de douze ans, je suis allé au bord de la mer tous les étés. | Until the age of twelve, I went to the seashore every summer.

Have a great week, everyone!

Merci à vous !

Courtney

Double Object Pronouns with Reflexive Verbs

When a reflexive pronoun is an indirect object and the verb also has a direct object, that direct object can be replaced by the corresponding direct object pronoun. The reflexive pronoun always comes first.

  • Je me brosse les dents. | I brush my teeth.
  • Je me les brosse. | I brush them.

  • Il se lave la tête. | He washes his hair.

  • Il se la lave. | He washes it.

  • Elle se lime les ongles. | She files her nails.

  • Elle se les lime. | She files them.

The pronouns and en also appear with reflexive pronouns.

  • Je me suis mêlé à la conversation. | I joined in the conversation.
  • Je m’y suis  mêlé. | I joined in.

  • Ils se sont repentis de leurs actes. | They regretted their actions.

  • Ils s’en sont repentis. | They regretted them.

  • Nous nous sommes habitués à cet appartement. | We got used to that apartment.

  • Nous nous y sommes habitués. | We got used to it.

  • Vous vous doutiez de son incompétence. | You suspected his incompetence.

  • Vous vous en doutiez. | You suspected it.

  • Je me suis fait mal au bras. | I hurt my arm.

  • Je m’y suis fait mal. | I hurt it.

Commands are formed with and en as follows:

  • Arrête-toi au feu rouge. | Stop at the red light.
  • Arrête-t’y. | Stop there.

The direct object pronouns cause agreement of the past participle because they precede the verb.

  • Ils s’est acheté cette voiture. | He bought himself that car.
  • Il se l‘est achetée. | He bought it for himself.

  • Elle s’est cassé la jambe. | She broke her leg.

  • Elle se l‘est cassée. | She broke it.

Have a great week, everyone!

Merci à vous !

Courtney

Colloquialisms

Continuing with colloquialisms this week.

  • il n’y a pas le feu ! – there’s no rush!
    • Vite, on est en retard ! | Hurry, we’re late!
    • Pourquoi se presser, il n’y a pas le feu ! | Why hurry up, there’s no rush!
  • bof – meh
    • Tu as envie de sortir ? | Do you want to go out?
    • Bof… | Meh…
  • être le chouchou – to be the favourite
    • Ce joueur est le chouchou du public. Les gens l’adorent !
    • This player is the fans favourite. The fans love him!
  • poser une colle – to ask a trick question
    • Ma série préférée ? Là tu me poses une colle, j’aime toutes les séries
    • My favourite series? There’s a trick question, I like every series!
  • capter – to get, to understand
    • Tu a compris sa théorie ? Moi je n’ai rien capté !
    • You understood his/her theory? I don’t understand anything!
  • rocambolesque – over-the-top, far-fetched
    • Ton histoire est vraiment rocambolesque. Je n’y crois pas du tout !
    • Your story is very far-fetched. I don’t believe it at all!
  • faire la tête – to sulk
    • Nos voisins font la tête car on ne les a pas invités à l’anniversaire de notre chat.
    • Our neighbours are sulking because we didn’t invite them to our cat’s birthday.
  • craquer pour quelqu’un – to find someone irresistible
    • Roméo a craqué pour Juliette.
    • Romeo found Juliette irresistible.
  • preux – brave
    • Un preux chevalier triompha de l’ennemi.
    • A brave knight triumphed over the enemy.
  • être fleur bleue – to be sentimental
    • Alice est fleur bleue. Elle aime les filmes romantiques.
    • Alice is sentimental. She loves romantic movies.

Have a great week, everyone!

A bientôt !

Courtney