45 Days of French – Day 18

While the title of Hour 8 of Alpha Teach Yourself French in 24 Hours (ATYF) states that the chapter is about the future tense, I thought I would poke my eyes out before I ever got there! The coverage of the negative is extensive, while that of the future tense and present conditional mood are minimal. But it is a good introduction to these verb forms, whetting the whistle for more later.

Because of the chosen topics, there is very little overlap with anything we have seen yet in Essential French (EF). However, negative questions are one thing that we have been experiencing in EF that to this point had not been seen in ATYF.

Verb Patterns
Let’s jump in to today’s notes, getting the future tense and the present conditional mood out of the way. Both are formed form the same stem (the future stem), which is the infinitive itself, except for -re verbs, in which case it is the infinitive with the final -e removed. There are also some notable exceptions, though they are few: aller (ir-), avoir (aur-), courir (courr-), être (ser-), faire (fer-), mourir (mourr-), pouvoir (pourr-), savoir (saur-), venir (viendr-), voir (verr-), vouloir (voudr-), falloir (faudr-), and lastly valoir (vaudr-). Those last two are impersonal expressions and so only have third person  singular forms.

Le Futur – The Future Tense
To form the future, equivalent to English “I will do…”, use the future stem and add the endings -ai, -as, -a, -ons, -ez or -ont. Remember the present declarative endings for avoir and you are well prepared. Example patterns for each of the three verb families are:

  • -er: je parlerai, tu parleras, il parlera, nous parlerons, vous parlerez, ils parleront
  • -ir: je finirai, tu finiras, il finira, nous finirons, vous finirez, ils finiront
  • -re: je perdrai, tu perdras, il perdra, nous perdrons, vous perdrez, ils perdront

The future tense is used similarly ot the English future. There is one major distinguishing item, however. When used with conjunctions, both the primary and secondary verbs are both in the future (where English has the primary in the future and the secondary in the present or perfect). Note the following conjunctions:

  • quand or lorsque “when”
  • dès que or aussitôt que “as soon as”
  • tant que “as long as”
  • après que “after”

Thus, Je partirai à Paris dès qu’il arrivera. “I will leave for Paris as soon as he arrives.”

The Present Conditional Mood
To form the present conditional mood, equivalent to English “I would do…”, use the future stem and add the endings -ais, -ais, -ait, -ions, -iez or -aient. ATYF notes than grammarians give this mood the name “the future in the past”. Catchy. Example patterns for each of the three verb families are:

  • -er: je parlerais, tu parlerais, il parlerait, nous parlerions, vous parleriez, ils parleraient
  • -ir: je finirais, tu finirais, il finirait, nous finirions, vous finiriez, ils finiraient
  • -re: je perdrais, tu perdrais, il perdrait, nous perdrions, vous perdriez, ils perdraient

The most common use of this case is in the conditional sentence, “If x then y…” However, verb agreement requires a number of tenses we have not yet seen. Future hours will help us get there.

The present conditional can also be used to create polite expressions expressing doubt, desires and wishes:

  • Tu aurais faim? Would you be hungry?
  • Je voudrais… I would like…

Interrogative Adjective
We’ve seen it in use on numerous occasions. Now we finally get told what it is. It is quel, quelle “what”, a regular adjective used to form questions like:

  • Quel temps fait-il? What is the weather doing?

Apparently, you can also exclaim something like Quelle fromage!, “What (a) cheese!”

So we’ll just dive in. We’ve already seen the standard negation ne…pas. But there are a number of other expressions and modifications. One thing the text points out is that in French, it is actually common to drop the ne…, though it is supposedly required. As I am learning, I will follow the book’s advice and keep it in place.

Negation Notes
ne…pas “not” (standard negation)
Example: Je ne parle pas français. “I don’t speak French.” 

  • Can answer a question like Vous êtes malades? Non, pas moi. “No, not me.”
ne…personne “not anyone”, “no one”
Example: Elle n’aime personne. She doesn’t like anyone. 

  • Can answer a question like Qui est là? Personne. “No one.”
  • Personne can move into the subject position. Can form expressions like Personne ne parle. “No one is speaking.” It acts as 3ps subject pronoun.
ne…guère “not much”, “hardly”
Example: Ils ne sont guère fatigués. They are hardly tired.
ne…point “not…at all”
Example: On n’écrit point. They do not write at all.
ne…que “only”
Example: Ici, on ne parle que russe. They only speak Russian here.
ne…rien “nothing”, “not anything”
Example: Je ne taperai rien. I will not type anything. 

  • Can answer a question like Que veux-tu? Rien. “Nothing.”
  • Rien can move into the subject position. Can form expressions like Rien ne change. “Nothing changes.” It acts as 3ps subject pronoun.
ne…jamais “never” or “not ever”
Example: Il ne va jamais au cinéma. He never goes to the movies. 

  • Can answer a question like Buvez-vous? Non, jamais. “No, never.”
  • Jamais is often placed at the front of the sentence to stress the “never” part: Jamais je ne manger de fromage. I never eat cheese.
ne…pas encore
“not yet”
Example: Elle ne va pas encore lire le phrase. She is not going to read the sentence yet.
ne…ni…ni… “neither…nor…”
Example: Il ne faut ni manger ni boire. You must not eat or drink.
ni…ni…ne… “neither…nor…”
Example: Ni Robert ni sa soeur ne regardent la télé. Neither Robert or his sister are watching the television.

Negatives of Infinitives
Both parts of the negation precede the infinitive.

Negatives of Infinitive-Governing Verbs
The verbs savoir, pouvoir, cesser and oser often do not take pas in the negative, using ne alone. This apparently sounds better to French speakers.

Negatives Questions
When a question is created by inversion of subject and verb, the negation surrounds the combination, not just the verb. Remember that the inversion is in a sense one word, the verb and subject pronoun connected by a hyphen. So, Ne parlez-vous russe? You don’t speak Russian?

Just as in English, negative questions cause some consternation – when to answer “yes” and when to answer “no”. So French has a solution. Answering si is like responding “O, but yes!”, in other words, the positive of whatever the negated action was.

Negative Adjectives
There are two negative adjectives, aucun/-ne and nul/-le, roughly “no” or “any”. The latter is not usually spoken, only written. These are paired with singular nouns, except when the noun is only ever plural, and even that is rare.

Often using this adjective will create a double negative, perfectly allowable in French:

  • Aucun étudiant ne travaille suffisament. “No student works enough.”

Aucun/aucune can also stand alone as “none” or “not a one”. Nul/nulle may not do so.

That’s all I can take tonight. The lesson reviewed how the partitive changes in general with negative expressions, and why some of these negatives don;t require the normal change. It also demonstrated some doubling of negative words like ne…plus rien and ne…jamais rien. But I’m tired. So goodnight!


About George

I'm interested in theology, languages, translation and various sorts of fermentation.
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3 Responses to 45 Days of French – Day 18

  1. Pingback: 45 Days of French | σφόδρα – exceedingly

  2. Pingback: 45 Days of French – Day 19 | σφόδρα – exceedingly

  3. Pingback: 45 Days of French – Day 37 | σφόδρα – exceedingly

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