45 Days of French – Day 19

Lesson 11 of Essential French (EF) doesn’t add a lot of new things, but what it does add generates a lot of questions.  The conversation is about picnic preparation. The grammar reviews the present-as-future and the near future tenses, before introducing the compound past (le passé composé).

In order to show the compound past it has to introduce past participles. I can only say that though there are quite a number of examples, the coverage is minimal. One will not come away understanding that a past participle is an adjective, or that it has to be modified to agree with the subject.

The only substantial “new” thing is the introduction of the indirect pronoun (les pronoms compléments d’object indirect). And, there is some fun vocabulary, I suppose.

Le Passé Composé
We’ve already seen past participles (les participes passés) in Alpha Teach Yourself French in 24 Hours (ATYF). ATYF covered them as it addressed descriptive adjectives. EF describes the formation of the past participle, completely ignoring its usage as an adjective.  It gives no indication that the forms provided are only the masculine singular forms. However, EF has shown itself to excel at introducing the French names for grammar concepts of the language. I must admit, I like it!

So as we have already discussed from ATYF, the masculine singular French past participle of regular verbs is formed by removing the infinitive ending and adding (-er verbs), -i (-ir verbs) or -u (-re verbs).

The main past tense, the passé composé, usually combines the verb avoir (conjugated) and the past participle (in agreement with the subject). There are some verbs that take être, however. In the negative, the negative markers surround the verb, not the past participle:

  • J’ai parlé français. “I spoke French.”
  • Il n’a pas parlé russe. “He didn’t speak Russian.”

Les Pronoms Complements d’Objet Indirect – Indirect Object Pronouns
Indirect object pronouns are exactly the same as direct object pronouns, except in the third person (me, te, lui, nous, vous, leur). And just like the direct object pronouns, they are placed before the verb. The book defines an indirect object as one that is governed by a preposition. And this is important to note, because unlike English, the pronoun does not follow the adjective. It replaces both the preposition and the object.

So let’s start with a full sentence and start replacing things:

  1. Paul prépare une salade pour ses amis. Paul is preparing a salad for his friends.
  2. Il prépare une salade pour ses amis. He is preparing a salad for his friends. [replacing the subject with the subject pronoun]
  3. Il leur prépare une salade. He is preparing them a salad. [replacing the indirect object and preposition with the indirect object pronoun]
  4. Il la prépare pour ses amis. He is preparing it for his friends. [replacing the direct object with the direct object pronoun]

Sentences 3 and 4 make me wonder if the direct and indirect object pronouns can exist in the same sentence.  Though in English this is possible, my first thought is no, since most of the forms are exactly the same in French. But then again, if there was a fixed order, that might resolve the issue. If it was allowed, it would yield something like:

  1. Il leur la prépare. He is preparing them it. OR…
  2. Il la leur prépare. He is preparing them it.

Recognize that these are me speculating about possibilities, and not based on examples I have seen!

Dès Que “…as soon as…”
We saw this conjunction yesterday dealing with the future, where ATYF stressed the fact that both primary and secondary clauses should use the future. However, the conversation in this lesson shows it using the present tense (with a future meaning) in both primary and secondary clauses! So my guess is that means that the actual rule is that the tenses must match.

That does lead to a question though. We have seen two futures that make use of the present tense (the present-as-future, and the near future). Since both are actually present tenses, I would guess that we can mix-and-match: present + near future, present + present, near future + present and near future + near future. But I’m not actually sure that that is the case.

Like I said, more questions this time than answers. Guess that is what comes of proceeding to learn a language from two different routes. Au revoir!

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About George

I'm interested in theology, languages, translation and various sorts of fermentation.
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2 Responses to 45 Days of French – Day 19

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

  2. Pingback: 45 Days of French – Day 20 | σφόδρα – exceedingly

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