Tag Archive | Intermediate 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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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

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

Verbs of Perception

Verbs of perception, such as voirregarderentendre, and écouter, and the verb laisser (to leave, let) are followed directly by the infinitive. The direct object of these verbs is the subject of the infinitive. If it is a noun, it can be placed either before or after the infinitive.

Nous voyons les enfants jouer.

Nous voyons jouer les enfants.

We see the children play.


On va entendre les trains siffler.

On va entendre siffler les trains.

We’ll hear the trains whistle.


Elle a laissé les étudiants entrer.

Elle a laissé entrer les étudiants.

She let the students come in.


When a direct object noun is replaced by a direct object pronoun in sentences with verbs of perception laisser, it must stand before the verb of perception or laisser.

Nous les voyons jouer. | We see them play.


On va les entendre siffler. | We’ll hear them whistle.


Elle les a laissé entrer. | She let them come in.


Verbs of perception and laisser may appear in sentences with two direct objects – a direct object of the verb of perception together with a direct object of the infinitive.

J’ai regardé les ouvriers construire le pont. | I saw the workers building the bridge.


Nous écoutons les musiciens jouer  le morceau. | We are listening to the musicians play  the piece.


J’ai laissé ma fille manger ce dessert. | I let my daughter eat that dessert.


In general, the past participles of verbs of perception and laisser agree with a preceding direct object pronoun.

Je les ai vus construire le pont. | I saw them build the bridge.


Je l‘ai laissé manger ce dessert. | I let her eat that dessert.


Have a great week, everyone!

A bientôt !

Courtney

Adverbial Phrases

Now that we’ve gone over adverbs the last few weeks, we’ll be wrapping it up this week with different types of adverbial phrases.

Prepositional phrases often function as adverbs of time, place, and manner. The preposition dès and the compound preposition à partir de combine with time words to tell when something happened.

  • dès le matin – from the morning on
  • dès le débout – from the beginning
  • dès mon retour – as soon as I get back
  • à partir d’aujourd’hui – from today on
  • à partir de demain – from tomorrow on
  • à partir d’hier – starting yesterday

Adverbial phrases of time with the prepositions dans and en:

  • dans l’avenir/dans le passé – in the future/in the past
  • dans un mois – in a month
  • dans un moment – in a moment
  • en ce moment – at this time
  • dans cinq minutes – in five minutes (five minutes from now)
  • en cinq minutes – in five minutes (time it takes to do something)
  • d’aujourd’hui en huit – a week from today
  • en avance – early (relative to a point in time)
  • en retard – late (relative to a point in time)

Adverbial phrases beginning with the preposition à:

Phrases of time

  • à l’heure – on time
  • à temps – in time
  • à l’époque – at the time, at that time
  • à l’époque où nous sommes – in this day and age
  • à leur arrivée – when they arrived
  • à leur retour – when they returned

Phrases of place

  • à trois kilomètres de la ville – three kilometers from the city
  • à trois heures de Paris – three hours from Paris
  • à droite/à gauche – to, on the right/to, on the left

Phrases of manner

  • à merveille – wonderfully
  • à pied – on foot
  • à cheval – on horseback
  • à la hâte – hastily, in a rush
  • à peine – hardly

Adverbial phrases beginning with the preposition de:

  • d’habitude, d’ordinaire – usually
  • de temps en temps – from time to time
  • du matin au soir – from morning to night
  • de bonne heure – early
  • de mois en mois/de jour en jour – from month to month/from day to day
  • marcher d’un bon pas – to walk at a good pace

Adverbial phrases with the preposition en:

  • en avant – in front, ahead
  • en arrière – in back
  • en face – across the way
  • en tout cas – in any case
  • en plus – moreover
  • en train/autobus/avion/voiture – by train/bus/plane/car
  • en désordre, en pagaille – in a mess
  • en groupe – in a group

Adverbial phrases with the preposition par:

  • par hasard – by chance
  • par la force – by force
  • par écrit – in writing
  • par terre – on the ground
  • par ici/là – this way/that way
  • par conséquent – consequently
  • par intervalles – intermittently
  • payer par chèque – to pay by check
  • par la poste – through the mail, by mail

The preposition sur has idiomatic uses in phrases of time:

  • sur les 3 heures – at about 3 o’clock
  • sur le moment – at first
  • sur une année – over (over the period of) a year
  • un jour sur deux – every other day

The following are miscellaneous phrases with sans that are often translated by English adverbs:

  • sans but – aimlessly
  • sans chaussures – barefoot
  • sans doute – doubtlessly
  • sans faute – without fail
  • sans mal – without any trouble. without difficulty

Have a great week, everyone! And please let me know in the comments if there is anything you’d like to see in future posts.

A bientôt !

Courtney

The Use and Position of Adverbs of Manner

Adverbs of manner ending in -ment and the adverbs bienmalmieuxpis, and vite usually directly follow the verb they modify. In compound tenses, short adverbs usually follow the auxiliary verb, and the longer verbs usually follow the past participle.

  • Julie et Eric se disputent constammant. | Julie and Eric argue constantly.
  • Après le dîner, ils se sont disputés amèrement et Julie a vite quitté le salon. | After dinner, they argued bitterly, and Julie quickly left the living room.

When the adverb modifies an adjective or another adverb, it precedes the word it modifies.

  • Cette lettre est très importante. | This letter is very important.
  • Les spectateurs étaient profondément émus. | The audience was deeply moved.

Adverbs of manner ending in -ment can be replaced by avec plus the corresponding noun.

  • joyeusement → avec joie
  • discrètement → avec discrétion
  • violemment → avec violence
  • amèrement → avec amertume

Sans + noun is often the equivalent of English adverbs ending in -lessly or English adverbs formed from negative adjectives.

  • sans espoir – hopelessly
  • sans hésitation – unhesitatingly
  • sans honte – shamelessly
  • sans succès – unsuccessfully

D’une façond’une manièred’un ton, or d’un air plus an adjective may be used in place of an adverb or when no adverb exists.

  • d’une façon compétente – completely
  • d’un ton moqueur – mockingly
  • d’une manière compatible – compatibly
  • d’un aire indécis – indecisively

Wishing you all a great week, everyone!

A la prochaine…

Courtney