Between the bouts of intense coughing that remain, I made it to Hour 6 of Alpha Teach Yourself French in 24 Hours (ATYF) today. I hate it when I get sick. The sick part is not always the worst part of it. I tend to get a tag-along cough that shreds my voice and makes breathing difficult for weeks. But at least this way I learned how to say, Je suis malade.
Hour 6 is right up my ally. Two primary topics, once again, the first being numbers with a short foray into math related terminology, and the second being the present subjunctive. Impersonal constructions are also introduced, since they often (always?) depend on the subjunctive.
Just like English, French refuses to just have one word for “number”. Three stand out, nombre, numéro and chiffre:
- un nombre:
- this is the general word for “number” and classes of numbers.
- Les nombres cardinaux “the cardinal numbers” and les nombres ordinaux “the ordinal numbers” both make use of this term, as does the expression les nombres colletifs – the collective numbers, which we will see soon.
- un numéro
- this is the word used of “collections” of numbers, such as addresses, telephone numbers, identification numbers, etc.
- un chiffre
- this is the word used of individual characters making up nombres or numéros.
ATYF gives a little more specific information concerning les nombres ordinaux. Previously un-noted by either of the texts I am reviewing, it appears that the numbers ending in 1 (21, 31, 41…) have a slightly different form for their ordinal. It follows the rule of adding -ième, but on un, rather than using premier (the ordinal for 1). Thus, the ordinals ending in 1 proceed premier[e] (first), onzième (eleventh), vingt et unième (twenty first), trente et unième (thirty first)…
Also the text explicitly states now that 5th and 9th are cinquième and neuvième. The first adds a u between q and i, which is a natural spelling change. The second voices the f before i. Not confusing, in any case.
Also, reading in another book (with no documentation of publisher or author!), I picked up after reading something I couldn’t understand at first, that French abbreviates “st”, “nd”, and “th” as “e” or “ème”. So where we would write “3rd century”, French would write “3e siècle” or “3ème siècle”. I don’t see any reason for one or the other based on the actual usage in the book. It seemed rather arbitrary which one was used. And just as arbitrary, the text sometimes used arabic numerals, and at other times Roman. Odd.
To our categories of numbers, ATYF now adds les nombres colletifs. Collective numbers, like English “dozen”, are fixed. You can’t just make them out of just any number. The ones that end in -aine often simply mean “about”, though commercially they would be more exact.
- 8 une huitaine
- 10 une dizaine
- 12 une douzaine
- 15 une quinzaine
- 20 une vingtaine
- 30 une trentaine
- 40 une quarantaine
- 50 une cinquantaine
- 60 une soixantaine
- 100 une centaine
- 1000 un millier
- 1,000,000 un million
- 1,000,000,000 un milliard, un billion
Ah, and then there were fractions. Fractions are expressed quite similarly to English as far as I can tell. Think seven ninths, or five eighths: you see a cardinal number for the numerator (the top number), and an ordinal in the denominator (the bottom number) – in plural. Thus it is in French as well, yielding sept neuvièmes and cinq huitièmes, respectively. There are some fractions that are expressed in a custom fashion: 1/2 is un demi, 1/3 un tiers, 2/3 deux tiers, 1/4 un quart, and 3/4 trois quarts. So far so good.
To combine with whole numbers, use et “and”. However, this et is not required, unless one adds un demi. 4 1/16 is thus quatre [et] un seizièmes. The book goes at length into demi and demie (seen in a previous hour), but I don’t think I will do that here. The difference is understandable – based on the gender of the subject (masculine “number” and feminine “hour”). I’m sure a good dictionary would calm any uncertainty that remains.
Finally, simple math operations are given French equivalents. In all cases, equals is provided by the verb faire, “to make”:
- plus is et “and”, 4 + 4 = 8 is “4 and 4 make 8” or quatre et quatre font huit.
- minus is moins, 8 – 4 = 4 is “7 minus 4 make 3” or huit moins quatre font quatre.
- times is fois, 4 * 2 = 8 is “4 times 2 make 8” or quatre fois deux font huit.
- divided by is divisé par, 8 / 4 = 2 is “8 divided by 4 makes 2” or huit divisé par quatre fait deux.
Note that all but division use faire in the plural, font.
The Present Subjunctive
ATYF begins this discussion by pointing out an impersonal verb that makes use of the subjunctive. This verb is falloir, “to be necessary” which only has forms in the infinitive (obviously, since I named it as such) and the third person singular. Thus it will always be found as il faut (or faut-il?, I suppose). This receives so much stress that I almost got the feeling that it was the only use of the subjunctive – but further discussion eventually kills that idea.
That being said, il faut does not require a subjunctive. It can govern an infinitive instead, as in Il faut partir, “It is necessary to leave.” But usually it will be Il faut que… “It is necessary that…”, followed by a phrase in the the subjunctive.
Oh, and to the list of moods we have heard of, ATYF adds the conditional mood. Now for the subjunctive…
For all three of the regular patterns (and in most cases for the irregular verbs as well), the present subjunctive is formed from the third person plural (3pp) form of the present indicative. Simply drop -ent and add to it the endings -e, -es, -e, -ions, -iez, -ent (1ps, 2ps, 3ps, 1pp, 2pp, 3pp, respectively). These are the same as the endings for the regular -er verbs, except for the intervening -i- in the nous and vous forms. This yields, for example:
- regarder: je regarde, tu regardes, il regarde, nous regardions, vous regardiez, ils regardent
- rougir: je rougisse, tu rougisses, il rougisse, nous rougissions, vous rougissiez, ils rougissent
- attendre: j’attende, tu attendes, il attende, nous attendions, vous attandiez, ils attendent
Then ATYF begins on irregulars:
|faire||Irregularity is a stem change to fass-|
|pouvoir||Irregularity is a stem change to puiss-|
|savoir||Irregularity is a stem change to sach-|
|aller||Irregularity in the stem, ail- except in nous and vous forms, which have all-|
|boire||Irregularity in the stem, boiv- except in nous and vous forms, which have buv-|
|prendre||Irregularity in the stem, prenn- except in nous and vous forms, which have pren-|
|tenir||Irregularity in the stem, tienn- except in nous and vous forms, which have tien-|
|venir||Irregularity in the stem, vienn- except in nous and vous forms, which have vien-|
|voir||Irregularity in the stem, voi- except in nous and vous forms, which have voy-|
|vouloir||Irregularity in the stem, veuill- except in nous and vous forms, which have voul-|
Having addressed the forms of the subjunctive, ATYF then moves on to when to use it. And the way it is done is enough to make one’s eyes gloss over – in all seriousness. To use a subjunctive, three things are required:
- There must be two different subjects. Often, when other rules are met but there is only one subject, French requires the infinitive instead.
- A trigger phrase as the primary clause. Often these express emotion, doubt or possibility. But impersonal constructions also make use of the subjunctive in the secondary clause.
- The presence of que “that” as a connector between the primary and secondary clause.
The book’s illustration of these rules seems quite helpful, only the first phrase containing a verb in the subjunctive:
- Je veux tu ailles à Paris. “I want you to go to Paris,” or, “I wish that you would go to Paris.”
- Je veux aller à Paris. “I want to go to Paris.”
- Je vois que vous allez à Paris. “I see that you are going to Paris.”
- Je veux partir quand tu arrives. “I want to go when you arrive.”
Then we have the laundry list of trigger phrases (categorized):
- Feelings and emotions, due to their “fuzzy” nature, require the subjunctive. Thus in French you say something like, “I hate that x would y…” and “I regret that x would y…” Que “that” is required, unlike in English where it is often dropped. The “would” here captures the subjunctive sense of the verb – though it is not a separate word as it is in English. Some example verbs: aimer “to like/love”, craindre “to fear”, vouloir “to wish/want.”
- Also, être + que with adjectives expressing mood and emotion over another’s actions take the subjunctive. Thus, “I am sad that you are leaving” would require a subjunctive to express “you are leaving,” or even, “that you would leave.”
- Expressions of doubt take the subjunctive, including use of douter and many negative expressions whose verbs would not require the subjunctive in positive declarative statements. Negatives of trouver and voir are examples.
- Impersonal expressions, such as il faut que…, take the subjunctive. The only difference I see between these and the second group (être + que) is that the third person singular subject is implied – and not a real entity. But the formulation is almost always the same “It is _______ that __________.”, where the first plug-in is some adjective (good, bad, odd, urgent, etc.) and the second is an expression in the subjunctive.
And that brings us to the end. The last on subjunctives I condensed quite a bit, but I think I have given reasonable description. I am trying to do more take-away than recitation., after all. Then again, the book highlights a lot of vocabulary in addressing these possibilities. So you probably aren’t going to get the same “drowning” feel I got in reading to the end of this Hour.
In any case, have a good rest of your day.