Lesson 10 of Essential French (EF) is spent talking about the weather, including bringing up the months and seasons. There is also some continuation of topics from previous EF lessons. But as I took notes, I was struck mostly by a couple questions where things didn’t make sense to me or contrasted with what had been said in Alpha Teach Yourself French in 24 Hours (ATYF). As you read keep your eyes open for those. Maybe you can even answer one of them for me?
Weather is usually talked about using the verb faire in an impersonal expression. I know, different. But that’s the way it is. Note the following:
- Il fait froid. It is cold.
- Il fait chaud. It is hot.
- Do be careful here. Il fait chaud means, “The weather is hot.” But to say “I am hot,” many English speakers try Je suis chaud. This, unfortunately, means something like, “I am randy.” So, you should use the idiom J’ai chaud, literally “I have hot.” Unless your intention is to say that you are sexually aroused in a crude fashion. But I’d still suggest not.
- Il fait frois. It is cool.
- Il fait bon. It is pleasant/nice.
- Quel temps fait-il? What’s the weather like? How’s the weather?
Les Mois et Les Saisons de l’Année – The Months and Seasons of the Year
We’ve already been through the months (and the seasons) in previous days, but we’ll briefly list them out: janvier, février, mars, avril, mai, juin, juillet, août, septembre, octobre, novembre, décembre. It is un mois “a month”, thus le mois d’avril.
But it is une saison “a season”, so keep that in mind in case you want to ask, Quelle saison préfèrez-vous? “Which season do you prefer?” We have already been over the seasons as well: l’hiver, la printemps, l’été, l’automne. They are all feminine, just as saison is. And as we noted before, all take the preposition en for “in (the season)”, except for printemps, which takes au. Just remember that before a consonant season use au, and otherwise use en, and you should be set.
The listing of the seasons brought to mind my first question, eventually answered by referencing Harper’s Grammar of French. Before each listing (of months and seasons), the expression given was Ce sont! Apparently, other examples in the book had used the same, but I had missed them. What I expected to see, foolishly following a logical pattern, was Ces sont, with agreement between the verb and subject. But when ce stands alone (not being used as an adjective attached to a noun) as the subject of être, it is indeclinable (per Harper’s). In other words, it is ce regardless of the number. Now, had they had used the nouns mois and saison, it would have been Ces mois sont and Ces saisons sont. Or even more likely they would have just forgone the demonstrative altogether and used the definite article!
La Conjonction “que” – The Conjunction “that”
Phrases can be combined with que, as in English they are by “that”: “I know [that] you are older than me.” Unlike English, however, French requires the que, while English often drops the “that”. But the example used in the book provides my second question: J’espère que vous pouvez lire cette phrase. “I hope that you are able to read this sentence.” Here’s the issue:
- The sentence has two subjects.
- It has a trigger phrase (of emotion), in this case J’espère.
- It contains que.
So by the guidelines of ATYF, pouvez should be in the subjunctive (puissiez, in this case), as far as I can see. I guess the question is – am I right in thinking EF has gotten this one wrong? Or is there some special consideration that makes the indicative present declarative acceptable?
Les Pronoms Compléments d’Objet Direct – Object Pronouns
This is actually a continuation of what was mentioned already, and the only new information is that when there are 2 verbs, the pronoun comes before the second (we are dealing solely with infinitive yet). Thus:
- Vous allez le lire. You want to read it.
- Tu espères la voir. You hope to see her.
But another example (and this construction has been shown before in EF, but I ignored the question then) had the impersonal Il faut negated: Il ne faut pas + infinitive. I read this as, “It is not necessary to do…” But the book has repeatedly translated this as, “One must not do.” I guess something like, “It is necessary not to do…” My quandary is how to say, “It is not necessary…”! I suppose not with il faut…
Les Verbes – Verbs
EF offers two verbs – attendre and répondre – both simple enough, and both having already been addressed already in this series.
However, based on some of the new information picked up in ATYF, it stuck out to me that attendre “to wait for” is a transitive verb. In English it is intransitive, with the preposition “for” or “on” governing an indirect object. In French, it is instead a direct object. Helpful to remember. I say this understanding that the examples may not cover all cases. But every example shown in EF had a direct object.
This verb offers no excitement itself based on the description. However, the examples offered a question format not yet seen. All the inversions to this point have been subject pronoun only. However, in the third person, a noun subject can still be turned into an inverted question:
- Mme. Sorel répond au téléphone. Madame Sorel responds to the telephone.
- Mme. Sorel répond-elle au téléphone? Is Madame Sorel responding to the telephone?
Note that the subject noun stays where it is, but that a subject pronoun in agreement with this subject is connected to the verb just as if the subject noun had not been there.
That pretty much does it for today. Au revoir!