FR conditional of travailler

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Re: FR conditional of travailler

Postby Arnaud » Wed Apr 05, 2017 3:32 pm

Si j'aurais su, j'aurais pas venu ;)
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Re: FR conditional of travailler

Postby Cainntear » Thu Apr 06, 2017 8:03 am

s_allard wrote:[No, this is poor advice. The French pattern is definitely not the same.The French imparfait in italics in the examples above is not the past tense.

It's not the past tense, but it's certainly a past tense. English doesn't have an imperfect, and many situations where the French uses imperfect, English uses past simple. The underlying logic is "hypothetical present expressed as past", and that works in both English and the western Romance languages. There is a superficial difference in the past form, but that's it.

In fact, I'd even go so far as to say that the second example is poor English.

You're right, but only in the same sense that your examples were bad English in the Spanish thread -- it's not something that conveys a clear message and it's not something you would ever naturally say.

Mea culpa.

What smallwhite has so correctly pointed out is that this construction in French is used to express hypothesis. It has nothing to do with the past. In fact, after "if" we use the subjunctive to describe a hypothetical situation contrary to reality.

So... English behaves like French here, just like I said.
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Re: FR conditional of travailler

Postby s_allard » Thu Apr 06, 2017 11:52 am

Cainntear wrote:
s_allard wrote:[No, this is poor advice. The French pattern is definitely not the same.The French imparfait in italics in the examples above is not the past tense.

It's not the past tense, but it's certainly a past tense. English doesn't have an imperfect, and many situations where the French uses imperfect, English uses past simple. The underlying logic is "hypothetical present expressed as past", and that works in both English and the western Romance languages. There is a superficial difference in the past form, but that's it.

The question here is how to understand the French construction of hypothetical statements. As cavesa has pointed out, it is quite simple and clearly explained in any decent French grammar book.

That said, the French imparfait verb form is indeed primarily used to indicate habitual or continuing actions in the past. In fact, most grammarians do not refer to the imparfait as a tense in itself but a combination of aspect and past tense reference. In English, this is commonly represented by the past continuous and even the simple past verb forms.

But in the French hypothetical construction there is absolutely no reference to past events. This is why English uses the subjunctive form "were". It's very important in French to not mix up verb form with tense. It all depends on context. For example, in French past events can be indicated by the passé simple, passé composé, présent and even the futur verb forms.

English and French verb systems are very different. This constant urge to say that English behaves just like French (or Spanish) just muddles the water and introduces confusion for nothing. Trying to frame French or Spanish grammar in terms of English grammar is a recipe for poor results, as we see here time and time again.
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Re: FR conditional of travailler

Postby Serafín » Thu Apr 06, 2017 4:28 pm

I don't think she's saying that English behaves "just like" French (or Spanish), just that it's similar enough to it (it is "like" French). I'd like to think I'm well aware of all the possibilities regarding conditions in English/French/Spanish, and I agree with Cainntear that the languages vaguely use similar tenses. Even somewhat surprisingly so, I'd like to add. Standard Arabic and Mandarin are not like this at all, in fact, those two languages don't even have a way of clearly making all the same distinctions as En/Fr/Sp...
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Re: FR conditional of travailler

Postby s_allard » Thu Apr 06, 2017 8:06 pm

Serafín wrote:I don't think she's saying that English behaves "just like" French (or Spanish), just that it's similar enough to it (it is "like" French). I'd like to think I'm well aware of all the possibilities regarding conditions in English/French/Spanish, and I agree with Cainntear that the languages vaguely use similar tenses. Even somewhat surprisingly so, I'd like to add. Standard Arabic and Mandarin are not like this at all, in fact, those two languages don't even have a way of clearly making all the same distinctions as En/Fr/Sp...

This what cainntear said: "So in English, the bold is conditional, the italic is past. The French pattern is exactly the same." Cainntear did not say ""vaguely" use similar tenses." The French pattern is not exactly the same as the English. Neither is the Spanish exactly the same. Of course there are similarities between languages, especially between French and Spanish but can one say that Spanish hypothetical constructions function exactly like the French ones? No, not exactly.
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Re: FR conditional of travailler

Postby Cainntear » Thu Apr 06, 2017 9:51 pm

s_allard wrote:
Cainntear wrote:
s_allard wrote:[No, this is poor advice. The French pattern is definitely not the same.The French imparfait in italics in the examples above is not the past tense.

It's not the past tense, but it's certainly a past tense. English doesn't have an imperfect, and many situations where the French uses imperfect, English uses past simple. The underlying logic is "hypothetical present expressed as past", and that works in both English and the western Romance languages. There is a superficial difference in the past form, but that's it.

The question here is how to understand the French construction of hypothetical statements. As cavesa has pointed out, it is quite simple and clearly explained in any decent French grammar book.

The explanations in grammar books are correct, but they are not simple to understand, or we wouldn't be having this conversation. It is self-evident that the explanations in most grammar books are not clear enough or comprehensible enough for learners to understand, and we won't get anywhere by constantly referring students back to the same rules that they didn't understand last time.

That said, the French imparfait verb form is indeed primarily used to indicate habitual or continuing actions in the past. In fact, most grammarians do not refer to the imparfait as a tense in itself but a combination of aspect and past tense reference.

Again, you are making my point for me. The name I learned it as at school was "past imperfect", and I later learned it was called that because it has past tense and imperfect continuous.
In English, this is commonly represented by the past continuous and even the simple past verb forms.

Exactly.

But in the French hypothetical construction there is absolutely no reference to past events.

And in English hypotheticals there is exactly the same lack of reference to past events.
This is why English uses the subjunctive form "were".

The past subjunctive -- so even though the mood is subjunctive, the tense is still past. If you look at the major modern Western Romance languages, those that still have a past imperfect subjunctive use it for hypothetical present, French has lost its past imperfect subjunctive, so uses the plain past imperfect (which I won't describe as "indicative" because I don't believe it's appropriate to call it that if there's not a subjunctive or similar to contrast it to).
Besides, there are many millions of English speakers who don't use the past subjunctive at all.

jeffers wrote:...

Jeffers, can I ask -- would you say "if he were here" in English, or would you say "if he was here"?

It's very important in French to not mix up verb form with tense.

No it's not, because the concept of "tense" is only really of much interest to students of linguistics. For students of language, the most important thing is to make a connection between form and meaning.

English and French verb systems are very different. This constant urge to say that English behaves just like French (or Spanish) just muddles the water and introduces confusion for nothing. Trying to frame French or Spanish grammar in terms of English grammar is a recipe for poor results, as we see here time and time again.

What we see here time and again is assertions of me being wrong, with arguments that keep shifting and more often than not make my point for me.
What this shows is that you think I'm wrong but you cannot explain how I'm wrong, but you seem not to be aware of this.
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Re: FR conditional of travailler

Postby reineke » Fri Apr 07, 2017 12:53 am

Arnaud wrote:Si j'aurais su, j'aurais pas venu ;)


Tu aurais dû le savoir car c'est toujours la même histoire ici.
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Re: FR conditional of travailler

Postby s_allard » Fri Apr 07, 2017 4:30 am

I have to say that I can't follow most of Cainntear's reasoning in the absence of some concrete examples. I know that for some readers here, much of the discussion must seem rather arcane. Most people could care less about hypothetical statements in French or Spanish. Until of course they want to speak the language well. And that's when things get complicated.

I believe that for speakers of English one of the most difficult components of French to master is the correct use of the verb system. I also believe that the cause of the difficulty is great differences between the verb systems of the two languages. So when I read the statement "The French pattern is exactly the same" when referring to hypothetical statements in French and English, I am concerned that readers are being led down a path to disastrous results. I believe that if you approach the French verb system with the idea that it works exactly like the English system your French is going to be awful. And since we have very few examples in French from Cainntear, it is hard to ascertain how well he/she masters the French system.

To summarize and simplify a very complicated subject, I'll say that the French verb system uses morphologically rich forms that encode tense, aspect and mode whereas English uses simple morphology and context or syntax and a variety of words to convey aspect and mode. I'll skip the technical explanations but what this means essentially is that you can't always transpose from one language to the other. All the more so that in each language the various forms can be used in a variety of ways.

One has to very careful in French when using term tense when referring to either a point in time or the verb form. The two are different things. My favourite example is the fact that French verbs in the present tense are commonly used where in English we would use a verb in the past tense. This is what is called le présent historique, and there is even the futur historique. Right now I'm reading a book with a biographical sketch of the author that starts:

Elle remporte à 20 ans son premier prix de chant et de musique de chambre du Conservatoire National Supérieur de Paris. Quelques années plus tard...elle obtient le diplôme d'État de professeur de chant...

English does have something similar but it is not as widely used as in French. But the key point here is that the verbs in the so-called present tense form are really referring to past events and not present events. We would normally translate the above verbs as "won" and "obtained".

When it comes to the past tenses, the differences between English and French are huge. In English, the most common form is the simple past (I went, I came, etc), and French has the passé simple (Je fus, je vins) but we know that the passé simple is used only in written French. It turns out that French uses the passé composé for our simple past but the French passé composé looks a lot like out English present perfect.

And then there is the vast world of the subjunctive that is one of the last things that learners master in French.

To see how this applies in the context of the thread, I want to return to the example that Cainntear gave:

Cainntear wrote:
jeffers wrote:The example sentences from the Hugo book are:

Qu’est-ce que vous feriez, si vous ne travailliez pas?
Si je ne travaillais pas, je peindrais et je dessinerais.

The answer's in the English translation:

What would you do if you weren't working?
If I wasn't working, I'd paint and draw.

So in English, the bold is conditional, the italic is past. The French pattern is exactly the same.

Cainntear intreprets the French imparfait as referring to the past, based on his/her understanding of the English. And this is why he/she gives the translation "If I wasn't working...". This is wrong because the French imparfait here is not referring to anything in the past. Sure, it's the imperfect form but used for conjectural purposes. The correct translation would be: "If I weren't working..." where the were is a subjunctive. But one could also translate this by "If I didn't work..." with maybe a different shade of meaning.

The point of all this is that in French, like in English, form and usage are two different things. Things may have similar labels in both language but actual usage is often very different.
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Re: FR conditional of travailler

Postby Cainntear » Fri Apr 07, 2017 6:29 am

s_allard wrote:To see how this applies in the context of the thread, I want to return to the example that Cainntear gave:

Cainntear wrote:
jeffers wrote:The example sentences from the Hugo book are:

Qu’est-ce que vous feriez, si vous ne travailliez pas?
Si je ne travaillais pas, je peindrais et je dessinerais.

The answer's in the English translation:

What would you do if you weren't working?
If I wasn't working, I'd paint and draw.

So in English, the bold is conditional, the italic is past. The French pattern is exactly the same.

Cainntear intreprets the French imparfait as referring to the past, based on his/her understanding of the English. And this is why he/she gives the translation "If I wasn't working...". This is wrong because the French imparfait here is not referring to anything in the past. Sure, it's the imperfect form but used for conjectural purposes. The correct translation would be: "If I weren't working..." where the were is a subjunctive. But one could also translate this by "If I didn't work..." with maybe a different shade of meaning.

There is nothing "incorrect" about. Check a modern corpus-based grammar, and you'll see this is perfectly acceptable. The Englishpast subjunctive is dying. Nobody uses it for you, we or they
Some people use it for I and he/she/it.
Some people only use it for I.
Quite a lot of people only use it in the fixed phrase "if I were you".
And a lot of us Don't Use It At All.

When you attack my credentials based on dialectal differences between your English and mine, that's anti-intellectual snobbery.
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Re: FR conditional of travailler

Postby Fortheo » Fri Apr 07, 2017 8:18 am

There's no reason to have a pissing contest about the best way to explain a grammar point. The Original poster is having a problem with Si clauses in french, more particularly the si clause with the combination of imparfait and the conditional, which is also known as the iréel du présent. I for one liked Hugo's and didn't have a problem with their explications, but they definitely can be on the brief side, so I'll provide some links that go deeper into the subject at the end of this post.

Note that there are various types of si clauses, each have different nuances in usage and in meaning; but in time you will grasp them, especially once you start to grasp the concordance des temps en français. Hugo's only really focuses on the Si+imparfait + conditional clause at the chapter that you're in, so if you don't feel like being overwhelmed with all the other si clause combinations (si+ present+present/ Si + present+ future/ si+ passé composé+ present etc etc etc), then you should probably focus on grasping the most common combinations right now, which would likely be the ones listed in these first two links:

https://www.laits.utexas.edu/tex/gr/tac3.html

http://www.orbilat.com/Languages/French ... es-Si.html

*the links that cavesa provided are also very good*



If you really want to go deep into the subject of conditional phrases and hypotheticals, then these two links go more in depth in regards to the various nuances between the different si clauses.


https://www.cliffsnotes.com/study-guide ... -sentences

http://www.francaisfacile.com/exercices ... s-1517.php


Good luck!
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