Tag Archive | Intermediate French

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

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

Omitting the Possessive Adjective

In an imperative or command:

In French, possessive adjectives are used to modify the noun they precede.

Voici ma mère. | This is my mother.


Regarde ma nouvelle voiture ! | Look at my new car!

A common construction is one where the possessive adjective is dropped in an imperative or command (and replaced with a definite article along with a personal pronoun) only if an action is being taken on a physical attribute (head, back, arm etc.). In the following examples, action is not being taken on the physical attribute, therefore the possessive adjective remains.

Regarde mon dos. | Look at my back.


Remarque mes cheveux. | Notice my hair.

In the following examples, an action is being taken on the physical attribute.

Masse-moi le dos. | Massage my back.


Coupe-moi les cheveux. | Cut my hair.


Tiens-moi la main. | Hold my hand.

Verb

Possessive Adjective

Noun

masse

mon

dos

coupe

mes

cheveux

↙↘

Verb

Personal Pronoun

Definite Article

Noun

masse

moi

le

dos

coupe

moi

les

cheveux


In a statement:

The possessive adjective may also be dropped in a statement only if an action is being taken on the physical attribute. In the following examples, an action is not being taken.

Je regarde son dos. | I’m looking at his/her back.


Elle remarque ses cheveux. | She’s noticing his/her hair.

In the following examples, an action is being taken on the physical attribute.

Je lui masse le dos. | I’m massaging his/her back.


Elle me coupe les cheveux. | She’s cutting my hair.

The possessive adjective takes the form of the appropriate personal pronoun and is placed before the verb, and a definite article is placed before the object. The same applies to pronominal verbs (when the action is being done to oneself).

  • I wash my hands. = Je me lave les mains.
  • She brushes her hair. = Elle se brosse les cheveux.

Subject

Verb

Possessive Adjective

Object

je

masse

son

dos

elle

coupe

mes

cheveux

↙↘

Subject

Personal Pronoun

Verb

Definite Article

Object

je

lui

masse

le

dos

elle

me

coupe

les

cheveux


In the past tense (passé composé):

In the past tense as well, the personal pronoun is placed after the subject (just as it is in the present tense).

Subject

Personal Pronoun

Verb

Definite Article

Object

je

lui

masse

le

dos

elle

me

coupe

les

cheveux

↙↘

Subject

Personal Pronoun

Avoir

Past Participle

Definite Article

Object

je

lui

ai

massé

le

dos

elle

m’

a

coupé

les

cheveux


In the past tense using pronominal verbs:

The construction for using pronominal verbs is much like using passé composé with the exception that, as with all reflexive verbs, the past participle is conjugated with être.

Subject

Personal Pronoun

Être

Past Participle

Definite Article

Object

je

me

suis

lavé

les

mains

elle

s’

est

cassé

la

jambe


I hope everyone is doing well and having a wonderful week!

Merci à vous !

Courtney

Cleft Sentences

Cleft sentences: highlighting the indirect object and other elements of the sentence.

Cleft sentences in French can be used to highlight elements of the sentence other than the subject and the direct object. For example, the indirect object can be placed after c’est, and the rest of the sentence is converted into a relative clause.

J’ai donné les CDs à mon collègue.

C’est à mon collègue que j’ai donné les CDs.

I gave my coworker the CDs.


Il a demandé un prêt à ses parents.

C’est à ses parents qu’il a demandé un prêt.

He asked his parents for a loan.


Indirect object pronouns can also be highlighted as à + a disjunctive pronoun and placed after c’est in a c’est __ que construction.

Je lui ai envoyé un courriel.

C’est à lui/elle que j’ai envoyé un courriel.

I sent him/her an email.


Il leur a téléphoné hier.

C’est à eux/elles qu’il a téléphoné hier.

He called them yesterday.


Prepositional phrases can be highlighted by placing them after c’est in a c’est __ que construction.

Nous avons acheté le cadeau pour Claudie.

C’est pour Claudie que nous avons acheté le cadeau.

We bought the gift for Claudie.


Il a travaillé avec Franck et Nicolette.

C’est avec Franck et Nicolette qu’il a travaillé.

He worked with Franck and Nicolette.


Ils ont joué au foot dans le parc.

C’est dans le parc qu’ils ont joué au foot.

They played football/soccer in the park.


I hope everyone is having a wonderful week!

A la prochaine…

Courtney

Uses of the Subjunctive

Continuing on with the subjunctive subject, we’ll go over the uses of the subjunctive this week. The present subjunctive is used in subordinate clauses appearing after main clauses that imply that someone wants someone to do something or that someone wants something to happen that is not yet part of reality or that person’s experience.

Verbs of wanting or ordering someone to do something include vouloirdésirersouhaitervouloir bien (to be willing), commanderordonner (to order), and exiger (to demand).

The present subjunctive can follow a verb in any tense in the main clause.

Elle ne veut pas qu’il revienne. | She doesn’t want him to come back.


Nous souhaitons que vous trouviez un poste. | We hope that you will find a job.


Je veux bien que tu fasses sa connaissance. | I’d like for you to meet him.


J’ai ordonné que vous restiez. | I ordered you to remain.


Le prof a exigé que nous sachions tout. |The professor demanded that we know everything.

Verbs permitting, forbidding, and preventing include permettreautoriserdéfendreinterdire (to prohibit/forbid), éviter (to avoid), and empêcher (to avoid/prevent).

Je ne permettrai pas que vous me parliez comme ça. | I won’t allow you to speak to me like that.


Personne n’a autorisé que vous sortiez. | No one has authorised you to go out.


Je défends que tu me répondes sur ce ton. | I forbid you to answer me like that.


Il empêche que nous fassions notre travail. | He’s keeping us from doing our work.

Verbs of asking an suggesting include diredemandersuggérerproposer, and recommander.

Je dis qu’il vienne. | I’m telling him to come.


Il a demandé que tout le monde soit présent. | He asked that everyone be present.


Je suggère qu’ils y aillent. | I suggest that they go there.


Il propose que nous travaillions ensemble. | He suggests that we work together.


Vous recommandez que je prenne l’avion ? | Do you recommend that I take the plane?

Verbs that try to get someone to do something by expressing likes, preferences, or waiting include aimer (to want), aimer mieux (to prefer), préférer (to prefer), accepter (to agree), admettre (to allow), and attendre (to wait for).

J’aimerais que vous m’aidiez. | I’d like for you to help me.


J’aimerais mieux qu’elle s’en aille. | I’d prefer for her to go away.


Personne n’acceptera que tu partes. | No one will agree to your leaving.


Sa mère n’admettre pas qu’elle mette cette robe. | Her mother won’t allow her to wear that dress.


Nous attendons que vous soyez prêt. | We’re waiting for you to be ready.


This wraps up the subjunctive. Let me know if there’s something in particular you would like me to go over in a future post. Have a great week, everyone!

A bientôt !

Courtney

The Subjunctive in Noun Clauses

A noun clause is a subordinate clause that functions as a noun, that is, it can serve as either the subject or the object of a verb. Noun clauses are introduced in French by the conjunction que.

The following examples have dependent noun clauses in the indicative. They show events perceived as part of reality because they are the objects of verbs such as savoirpenserentendre (dire), and voir.

Jesais que Jérôme habite ce quartier. | I know that Jérôme lives in this neighbourhood.


Je pense que la réunion est en haut. | I think that the meeting is upstairs.


On a entendu dire que l’entreprise a des problèmes. | We have heard that the firm has problems.


Je vois que les résultats sont bons. | I see that the results are good.

Note that in the above examples, the subordinate clauses beginning with que are the direct objects of the verbs. They all answer the question “Qu’est-ce que?

  • Qu’est-ce que tu sais ? → Je sais que Jérôme habite ce quartier.
  • Qu’est-ce que tu penses ? → Je pense que la réunion est en haut.
  • Qu’est-ce que vous avez entendu dire ? → On a entendu dire que l’entreprise a des problèmes.
  • Qu’est-ce que tu vois ?  → Je vois que les résultats sont bons.

Next week I will go over the uses of the subjunctive, so stay tuned for that! Have a great week, everyone!

A bientôt !

Courtney

The Subjunctive : The Present Subjunctive

The Subjunctive is a mood used largely in subordinate clauses – clauses that do not stand alone but that are part of a larger sentence. The subjunctive is used after main clauses that express volition – the imposition of will to get someone else to do something; emotion – feelings, a personal reaction to an event or condition; and doubt – uncertainty, denial, or negation of facts and opinions.

Forming the Present Subjunctive

All French verbs, except for être, have the same endings in the present subjunctive. The stem of the present subjunctive for most verbs is the nous form of the present tense without the -ions ending. The following examples of subjunctive forms will be shown after il faut que (one must, it is necessary to/that):

parler (1st person plural present parlons, stem parl-) to speak

Il faut que je parle                  Il faut que nous parlions

Il faut que tu parles                Il faut que vous parliez

Il faut qu’il/elle/on parle          Il faut qu’ils/elles parlent


finir (1st person plural present finissons, stem finiss-) to finish

Il faut que je finisse                Il faut que nous finissions

Il faut que tu finisses             Il faut que vous finissiez

Il faut qu’il/elle/on finisse       Il faut qu’ils/elles finissent


vendre (1st person plural present vendons, stem vend-) to sell

Il faut que je vende                 Il faut que nous vendions

Il faut que tu vendes               Il faut que vous vendiez

Il faut qu’il/elle/on vende         Il faut qu’ils/elles vendent


In the subjunctive of -ir and -re verbs, the final consonant of the stem is sounded in the singular as well as the plural. The presence of that final consonant is the signal of the subjunctive in speech:

  • je finis vs. je finisse
  • je vends vs. je vende

Next week I will continue on this subject of the subjunctive. There is a lot to go over. I hope everyone is having a wonderful week!

A la prochaine…

Courtney