Tag Archive | French

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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Uses of the Indefinite Article

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!

Merci à vous !

Courtney

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

Relative Clauses with Qui & Lequel

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.

masculine

feminine

singular

lequel

laquelle

plural

lesquels

lesquelles

The preposition à and de combine with the forms of lequel as follows:

masculine

feminine

singular

auquel, duquel

à laquelle, de laquelle

plural

auxquels, desquels

auxquelles, desquelles

  • 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)

Have a wonderful week, everyone!

A bientôt !

Courtney

Idioms & Expressions with Negative & Indefinite Words

It’s been awhile since I did an idioms post. Here’s one that is specific with negative and indefinite words.

Expressions with jamais:

  • jamais deux sans trois | Misfortunes always come in threes
  • à jamais | forever
  • à tout jamais | forever and ever
  • jamais de la vie ! | Not on your life!
  • il n’en manque jamais une ! | He’s always blundering/He always puts his foot in it

Expressions with quelque(s):

  • Il est trois heures et quelques | It’s a little past three
  • Je suis quelque peu déçu | I’m a little disappointed

Expressions with ni … ni:

  • Cette histoire n’a ni queue ni tête | This story doesn’t make any sense at all
  • Cela ne me fait ni chaud ni froid | It’s all the same to me/I don’t feel strongly

Expressions with rien:

  • de rien | you’re welcome
  • ça ne fait rien | it doesn’t matter/that’s ok (A response to “Pardon”.)
  • comme si de rien n’était | as if nothing had happened
  • si cela ne vous fait rien | if you don’t mind
  • Rien qu’à le voir, on sait qu’il est gentil | Just by looking at him you know he’s nice
  • Je veux te parler, rien que cinq minutes | I want to talk to you, just five minutes
  • rien ne sert de pleurer | it’s no use crying

Expressions with chacun:

  • chacun son goût/chacun ses goûts | everyone to his own taste/to each their own
  • chacun pour soi | every man for himself
  • chacun à son tour | each one in his turn

Expressions with certain:

  • d’un certain âge | middle-aged
  • elle a un certain charme | she has a certain charm

Expressions with ailleurs:

  • il est ailleurs/il a l’esprit ailleurs | he’s miles away (not paying attention)
  • d’ailleurs | moreover, besides
  • partout ailleurs | everywhere else

I’m hoping to post at least one idioms post every month. Have a wonderful week, everyone!

A la prochaine…

Courtney