I read Hour 15 of Alpha Teach Yourself French in 24 Hours (ATYF) yesterday. This Hour covers present participles, which are quite different from their English counterpart, as well as interrogatives, to finally end up with a laundry list of vocabulary for things found in the home.
Much of this is completely new to this series, having never been seen in ATYF or Essential French (EF). We have seen some of the question forms, but the focus is on question words, and not sentence structure (though it does touch on it). Of course, many of the question words are relative pronouns, and so are not altogether new. But this usage clearly documented is new. Present participles and the lion’s share of the vocabulary are completely new. So let’s dive in.
Right from the start, EF began illustrating question structures, though without a lot of explanation. ATYF was much slower to get to that point, but a lot more clarity has been the consistent pattern. And so it is here
The relative pronouns can be all be used as interrogative pronouns – “what?”, “who?” “whom?”, “which?”:
|subject||qui est-ce qui||qu’est-ce qui|
|direct object||qui est-ce que||qu’est-ce que|
Qui est-ce qui is rarely written, but is common in conversation. The long forms work with standard sentence order, while the short forms use the inverted question structure. All of these stand at the head of the clause.
The interrogative pronoun qui can also be used of persons with prepositions, in either normal or inverted structures, so you can form things like à qui? or de qui?. When asking of things and using prepositions, use quoi? (à quoi?, de quoi?, etc.) instead of que.
You’ll notice that there is a consistent pattern to the long form. The first qui/que marker identifies whether you are asking about a person (qui) or a thing (que). The second identifies whether you are asking about a subject (qui) or direct object (que).
Lequel and its forms can also be used to ask “which one(s)?”. It replaces a noun previously mentioned, and agrees in gender with that noun. Number is a little fuzzier, but it also agrees. As noted with the relative pronoun of similar form, it contracts with à and de.
Other Common Question Starters
Some other possibilities for asking information-gathering questions are:
- quand? “when?”
- où? “where?”
- d’où? “from where?”
- comment? “how?”
- combien [de…]? “how much [of]?” or “how many [of]?”
- pourquoi? pourquoi pas? “why?”, “why not?”
- à quelle heure? “at what time?”
Typical placement is at the head, as with the interrogative pronouns. But for those like d’où?, placement can be a little more dynamic.
English present participles provide a very poor introduction to the usage of French present participles. While the basic idea is a verbal adjective, as in the past participle, the present participle is not used to form verb tenses (as the past participle is in both French and English), and the present participle is in English (-ing forms of verbs).
The French present participle is used as an adjective, a replacement for a relative clause, or to denote simultaneous action (with en) or immediate prior action (standing alone). It is typically formed from the first person plural present tense, by removing the ending -ons and adding the ending -ant. Three important exceptions are:
- avoir → ayant
- être → étant
- savoir → sachant
Present Participles as Adjectives
The present participle can be used as an adjective. Obviously, certain verbs lend themselves more readily to this usage, just as certain verbs lend themselves to use as adjectives derived from the past participle. Some examples are intéressant and charmant. Since these are typically longer adjectives, they often follow the verb.
Additionally, in this usage, they must agree with the noun they are associated with:
- l’homme intéressant “the interesting man”
- les hommes intéressants “the interesting men”
- la femme intéressante “the interesting woman”
- les femmes intéressantes “the interesting women”
Present Participles as Replacement for Relative Clauses
In the case of replacing a relative clause, the present participle does not change to agree with the associated noun:
- l’homme qui arrive “The man who is arriving” → l’homme arrivant “The man arriving…”
- les homme qui arrivent “The men who are arriving” → les hommes arrivant “The men arriving…”
- la femme qui arrive “The woman who is arriving” → la femme arrivant “The woman arriving…”
- les femmes qui arrivent “The women who are arriving” → les femmes arrivant “The women arriving…”
Present Participles and Prepositions
En is the only preposition used with the present participle. It implies simultaneous action or manner of action:
- en courant “running” or “by running”
- en chantant “singing”
- en arrivant “when arriving…”
- en sortant “when leaving…”
Since en is the only preposition used with the present participle, it makes sense to wonder how one might express something like “after doing” or “without doing”. These are accomplished by using a preposition + infinitive. Note that the preposition avant “before” becomes avant de when governing an infinitive.
The different styles of home and living arrangements are briefly discussed. Seems that the French are fond of concrete construction, whether in houses or apartments. ATYF offers a large amount of vocabulary, grouped by portions of the house. Enough that it is beyond hope to spend a mere hour on it and learn it. It will need to be gone over for quite a while. Once again, a dictionary will serve to provide the terms, so I will not attempt to list the words here.
That brings us to the end of this lesson, and I bid you farewell. It’s time for some much-needed sleep.