Today’s study comes from Hour 16 of Alpha Teach Yourself French in 24 Hours (ATYF). And, well, I can only say, “Wow.” There is very little new grammar. There is some time spent on impersonal expressions for the weather, and on time. In either case, it is review.
Then the reader meets a barrage of structures used with the subjunctive, much of it review. And after that the reader meets another barrage of vocabulary, this time for travel. If one makes it to the end of the chapter, it is only with eyes glazed over; and someone should caution them not to drive or operate heavy machinery! To have so much vocabulary thrust in ones face is intimidating. And with absolutely no examples, it is dense and visually unappealing (making the eyes hurt from more than just the brain overload). I hope this is not a trend. I fear it is.
The book offers some regional “context”. Though it isn’t really about “French”, it does give one some background as to why French treats the weather and seasons the way it does. France is roughly the size of Texas, and has a mixture of temperature regions. It has lots of coastline which make the weather unpredictable, though distinctly seasonal.
As we’ve already seen, the impersonal faire is used instead of être as the default verb for talking about weather conditions. There are a number of other impersonal expressions for weather-talk, though:
- Il pleut… “It’s raining…”
- Il neige… “It’s snowing…”
- Il tonne… “It’s thundering…”
- Il gèle… “It’s icing…”
- Il grêle… “It’s raining…”
- Il fait… “It’s…”
- …froid. “…cold.”
- …chaud. “…hot.”
- …beau. “…pretty.”
- …frais. “…mild.”
- …sec. “…dry.”
- …de l’orage. “…storming.”
- …du vent. “…windy.”
- …du soleil. “…sunny.”
- …mauvais. “…bad weather.”
Also, note that France uses the Celsius scale for measuring temperature. To convert to and from Celsius/Fahrenheit, use the formula:
C° = (5/9) * (F° – 32)
So, a comfortable 76°F in the US of A is 24.4°C, while a balmy 95°F is 35°C. And should you reside someplace where it reaches -20°F, it will be -28.9° C! One should definitely memorize the fact that -40° is the same in Fahrenheit and Celsius. It’s just good trivia fodder.
Time is briefly reviewed in this Hour. Nothing really new, but a number of examples to remind the reader what was covered earlier about telling time on the clock. One thing I did think worth mentioning again, if you want to say AM/PM, use du matin, de l’après-midi, or du soir.
Asking Questions of Time
The book does provide a number of useful expressions for asking the hour, day, etc. Let’s take a moment to review some of the highlights:
- Quelle heure est-il? “What time (hour) is it?”
- Quelle était la date hier? “What was the date yesterday?”
- Quelle est la date aujourd’hui? “What is the date today?”
- Quelle est la date demain? “What will the date be tomorrow?”
- Nous sommes le sept. “It’s the 7th.”
- Hier c’était le mardi 1 mars, 2011. “Yesterday was Tuesday, March 1, 2011.”
- Aujourd’hui c’est le mercredi 2 mars, 2011. “Today is Wednesday, March 2, 2011.”
- Demain sera le jeudi 3 mars, 2011. “Tomorrow will be Thursday, March 3, 2011.”
- Je suis né en 1955. “I was born in (during) 1955.”
Depuis and Related Constructions
Depuis can be used with the present tense of verbs to mean “for (a duration of time)” or “since (a point in time)”, where the action or state is still ongoing. If it was an action or state completed in the past, the passé composé is used instead, and depuis becomes pendant, “during”. There is of course also the future, which can also make use of pendant, but also uses pour.
- depuis combien de temps? “how long?”
- depuis quand? “since when?”
So, some examples:
- Depuis combien de temps voyagez-vous en Grèce? “How long have you been traveling in Greece?”
- Je voyage en Grèce depuis quatre jours. “I’ve been traveling around Greece for four days.”
- Depuis quand dort-elle? “How long has she been sleeping?”
- Elle dort depuis hier soir. “She’s been sleeping since last night.”
As I noted before, a lot of time is spent on subjunctive expressions (many of which are purely review), followed by vocabulary for travel. I did my best to write them down in my journal, but I can honestly and without shame admit that they came too fast to really grab a hold of, and it is going to take a great deal of time to get them all memorized.
As for the subjunctive governing expressions, the notes hint that the next Hour will demonstrate ways to avoid using the subjunctive. So I’m going to save myself the time of typing them all out here. Au revoir!