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.
il fallait, il valait mieux
il a fallu, il a mieux valu
il faudra, il vaudra mieux
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.
As in English, in French the indefinite article refers to a noun which has not been specifically identified. Note that the plural form “some” is frequently omitted in English, but must always be included in French.
J’ai acheté des pêches et des poires.
I bought peaches and pears.
The indefinite article must also be included before a noun followed by de + a singular abstract noun which is qualified.
Elle a une mère d’une tolérance exceptionnelle.
Her mother is exceptionally tolerant. (Literally: She has a mother of exceptional tolerance.)
Il est d’une patience admirable.
He has admirable patience. (Literally: He is of an admirable patience.)
So sorry for the very short post this week. I’ve been very sick with the flu this week and forgot all about planning, but I am doing much better now. 🙂
As always, have a great week, everyone, and stay healthy!
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!
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!
In French, the form of the verb changes according to the subject, voice, tense, and mood.
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:
il s’agit de (+ noun)
it is a question of
il y a
it is necessary
it is snowing
Other verbs occur in their common, literal meaning only with an impersonal subject:
it is freezing
it is snowing
As in English, some French verbs admit either a personal or an impersonal subject:
il va arriver un accident | there’s going to be an accident
un accident va arriver | an accident is going to happen
il existe plusieurs solutions | there are several solutions
plusieurs solutions existent | several solutions exist
il s’est passé quelque chose de remarquable
quelque chose de remarquable s’est passé
something remarkable has happened
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!
The relative pronoun qui may serve as the object of a preposition. In such cases, it refers only to people. There is no agreement of the past participle in the compound tenses when qui is preceded by a preposition.
l’homme à qui je donne le livre | the man I’m giving the book to
la femme à qui nous pensons | the woman that we’re thinking of
les étudiants à qui j’ai parlé | the students whom I spoke to
Lequel is the relative pronoun that refers primarily to things after a preposition. It agrees in gender and number with its antecedent.
The preposition à and de combine with the forms of lequel as follows:
à laquelle, de laquelle
l’examen auquel j’ai réussi | the test I passed (réussir à)
la matière à laquelle je m’intéresse | the subject I’m interested in (s’intéresser à)
les bureaux auxquels vous téléphonez | the offices you telephone (téléphone à)
les études auxquelles il s’applique | the studies he applies himself to (s’appliquer à)