Tag Archive | Verbs

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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Future and Future Perfect

Going further on the topic of the future perfect.

Forms of the future and future perfect

The future tense of regular verbs is formed from the infinitive (dropping the final -e in the case of -dre conjugation) + the endings -ai, -as, -a, -ons, -ez, -ont.

The future perfect of all verbs is formed from the future of the auxiliary verb (avoir or être) + the past participle.

Uses of the future and future perfect tenses

The use of the future and future perfect tenses is broadly similar to the use of the future (I shall / You will do) and future perfect (I shall have done / You will have done) in English.

In addition, the future/future perfect must be used in French in a time clause which is dependent upon a main clause in the future tense. This “logical” or “disguised” future replaces the use of the present or perfect in English.

  • Quand vous viendrez à Paris, on pourra visiter le Musée d’Orsay.
    • When you come to Paris (literally: when you will come), we’ll be able to visit the Musée d’Orsay.
  • Tu pourras sortir quand tu auras fini tes devoirs.
    • You’ll be able to go out when you have finished (literally: when you will have finished) your homework.

Note that this use of the disguised or logical future does not apply after avant que and jusqu’à ce que – both of which require the subjunctive – or after si.

One particular use of the future in French is as a formal but polite alternative to the imperative. This is associated with giving a person advice or instructions.

  • Quand vous arriverez au premier carrefour, vous tournerez à gauche, et ensuite vous prendrez la deuxième rue à droite.
    • When you get to the crossroads, turn left and take the second road on the right.

The future can also be used to express a hypothesis of which you are confident. This can be used to translate the English “must be” in supposition.

  • Quelqu’un veut me parler. Ce sera mon frère.
    • Someone wants to talk to me. It must be my brother.

See you all next week!

Merci à vous !

Courtney

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

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

Cognates

Many word in English and French are exactly the same in both languages. Many others have only minor changes in spelling and are easily recognised. The following will help increase your vocabulary.

Adjectives 

The suffixes -able, -ible, -al, -ant, -ent are usually the same in both languages.

admirable

horrible

commercial

confortable

possible

municipal

considérable

terrible

royal

brilliant

évident

ignorant

excellent

important

innocent

French suffixes and their usual English equivalents: -eux (-euse) = -ous; -eur = -or; -el = -al; -ique = -ic.

dangereux/euse

extérieur

habituel

fanatique

fameux/euse

intérieur

mortel

fantastique

furieux/euse

supérieur

naturel

stratégique

Nouns

The following suffixes are generally the same in French and English: -ion, -tion, -age, -ice, -ent, -ence.

attention

distraction

courage

fonction

million

passage

opinion

question

village

caprice

accident

différence

justice

instrument

patience

service

moment

silence

French suffixes and their usual English equivalents: -eur = -or, -er; -té = -ty; -ie = -y; -ique = -ic; -re = -er.

inspecteur

curiosité

compagnie

porteur

difficulté

énergie

visiteur

qualité

industrie

logique

lettre

musique

membre

république

théȃtre

Verbs

The great majority of all French verbs belong in the 1st conjugation (-er). Notice how we may derive the meaning of many of these verbs by observing the following changes in the ending:

  • The -er ending drops in English.

aider

consulter

insister

passer

profiter

  • The French -er becomes -e.

arriver

décider

désirer

préparer

refuser

  • The French -er becomes -ate.

communiquer

hésiter

indiquer

séparer


Thank you everyone for being so understanding that I needed to take the last couple of weeks off from the blog. I’m still recovering, but I’m well enough to return here.

Have an amazing week, everyone!

Merci à vous !

Courtney

Idiomatic Verbs – Etre

The verb être (to be) can also be used idiomatically in the following important idiomatic expressions:

être de retour (to be back)

  • Je serai de retour à neuf heures.
  • I shall be back at 9 o’clock.

être en retard (to be late)

  • J’espère que le train ne sera pas en retard.
  • I hope the train won’t be late.

être sur le point de (to be about to)

  • Nous étions sur le point de sortir.
  • We were about to leave.

être en train de (to be in the middle of)

  • Nous sommes en train de le décider.
  • We are (in the middle of) deciding it.

être enrhumé (to have a cold)

  • Maman est enrhumée et ne pourra pas nous accompagner.
  • Mom has a cold and will not be able to accompany us.

Note as well:

  • Ce n’est pas la peine.
  • It is not worth the effort.

Have a fantastic week, everyone!

Merci à vous !

Courtney