Lecciones de Francés

Temas

Present Participles Part 2 - Le Gérondif

In our previous lesson on present participles, we discussed how they can be used as verbs or as adjectives. In this lesson, we’ll focus on present participles used as verbs, known as le gérondif.

 

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Basically, the gérondif is the construction "en + present participle," as in en faisant (while doing). Like all present participles used as verbs, present participles in the gérondif don’t take agreement. 

 

In addition, the gérondif construction "en + present particple" never changes in French, but it will translate differently in English depending on context and function.

 

The gérondif usually indicates simultaneity and causation, and can be translated as "while x-ing," "by x-ing," or "as x."

 

When the gérondif is used to emphasize two actions taking place at about the same time, it usually translates as "while x-ing," as in en attendant (while waiting):

 

Bon... en attendant que notre pâte lève, on s'attaque au bredele?

Good... while waiting for our dough to rise, shall we tackle the bredele?

Caption 35, Alsace 20 - Grain de Sel: le Lycée hôtelier Alexandre Dumas

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En attendant can also be used on its own as an idiomatic expression ("in the meantime/meanwhile"):

 

En attendant, les communes doivent payer des ramassages quotidiens

In the meantime, towns must pay for daily collection

Caption 31, Le Journal - Marée verte en Bretagne

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The construction "en + present participle" can also be equivalent to "as + verb" in English when indicating simultaneity:

 

Mais... en partant, elle m'a donné son numéro de téléphone.

But... as she left, she gave me her phone number.

Captions 35-36, Extr@ - Ep. 6 - Le jour du loto - Part 3

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To further emphasize simultaneity between two actions or to indicate opposing actions in French, you can use the construction "tout en + present participle" (all while x-ing), as in tout en parlant (all while speaking). This construction is especially useful when you're talking about multitasking:

 

Je joue sur mon téléphone et parle avec mes amis tout en regardant la télé.

I play on my phone and talk to my friends, all while watching TV.

 

The gérondif can also indicate a means to achieve something, equivalent to the construction "by x-ing" in English:

 

Parents, veuillez surveiller bien vos enfants en leur apprenant à respecter les animaux.

Parents, please supervise your children well by teaching them to respect the animals.

Caption 12, Voyage en France - Chantilly - Part 3

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The gérondif can also describe the way an action is performed:

 

Est-elle rentrée en chantant?

Did she come in singing?

Caption 58, Le saviez-vous? - Les différentes négations - Part 3

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Here, the translation is straightforward. En chantant simply means "singing."

 

However, when that sentence is put in the negative form, you must use the infinitive and not the present participle. As Patricia explains in her video, en chantant (singing) becomes sans chanter (without singing). The preposition sans (without) must be followed by the infinitive:

 

Non, elle est rentrée sans chanter.

No, she came in without singing [she didn't come in singing].

Caption 59, Le saviez-vous? - Les différentes négations - Part 3

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The present participle is much more prevalent in English, whereas French favors the infinitive instead. In English you can follow a conjugated verb by an infinitive or a present participle. In French, it’s preferable to use the infinitive. For example, when talking about something you like doing or like to do, you cannot say j’aime faisant (I like doing). You have to say j’aime faire (I like to do):

 

J’aime faire des dessins.

I like drawing./I like to draw. 

 

Similarly, when a person witnesses someone doing something, it’s better to use the infinitive after a conjugated verb:

 

Je les ai vues chanter.

I saw them sing./I saw them singing. 

 

Another word of caution: the present participle is never used to form a progressive tense, simply because there is no such tense in French. You must use the present indicative instead. For example, "I am thinking" (present progressive) and "I think" (present indicative) both translate as je pense.

 

The construction je suis pensantthe literal translation of "I am thinking," simply does not exist! The only option is the present indicative: je pense (I think).

 

If you really want to emphasize an action in progress in French, you can use the expression être en train de (to be in the process/in the middle of):

 

On est en train de réchauffer la pâte en fin de compte.

We are in the process of warming up the dough in the end.

Caption 12, Cap 24 Alessandro di Sarno se met au point de croix

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To sum up, French uses the infinitive in many instances where English uses the present participle, and the gérondif construction "en + present participle" can take various forms in English. 

 

There you have it for present participles! En passant (incidentally), we hope this lesson will be useful to you!

 
Grammar

It's All in the Past! - Part 3 - Irregular -Ir Verbs

In Part 2, we explored the passé composé of second-group verbs, or verbs whose infinitives end in -ir. In this lesson, we’ll discuss irregular -ir verbs, which belong to the third group.

 

As mentioned in our previous lesson, -ir verbs are classified, in addition to their infinitive endings, according to their present participles (equivalent to the -ing ending of a verb in English). So, all -ir verbs with a present participle ending in -issant (such as finirfinissant [finishing]) belong to the second group and have a past participle ending in -i.

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On the other hand, most irregular -ir verbs have a present participle ending in -ant and a past participle ending in -u.

 

For example, tenir (to keep, hold) becomes tenant (keeping, holding) and tenu (kept, held): 

 

en tenant la poêle de la main droite

while holding the pan with the right hand

Caption 33, Le saviez-vous? - La tradition de la Chandeleur - Part 2

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Mais elle a également tenu sa promesse.

But she has also kept her promise.

Caption 33, Le Jour où tout a basculé - Mon père s'oppose à ma passion - Part 6

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It’s a good idea to learn the derivatives of a verb, as they usually share the same conjugation rules. All verbs ending in -tenir will work the same way. So, obtenir (to obtain) and retenir (to retain) also have a past participle ending in -uobtenu, retenu

 

The same applies to all the derivatives of venir (to come), such as devenir (to become) and prévenir (to warn):

 

Et il a prévenu les flics.

And he called the cops.

Caption 32, Le Jour où tout a basculé - À la recherche de mon père - Part 8

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Having said that… there’s an oddball bunch of -ir verbs that have a present participle ending in -ant and a past participle ending in -i, not -u

 

For example, partir (to leave) becomes partant and parti

 

Mais... en partant, elle m'a donné son numéro de téléphone.

But... as she left, she gave me her phone number.

Captions 35-36, Extr@ Ep. 6 - Le jour du loto - Part 3

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Leurs parents sont partis vivre en Australie il y a une dizaine d'années

Their parents went to live in Australia around ten years ago

Caption 10, Le Jour où tout a basculé - À la recherche de mon passé - Part 3

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And sortir (to go out) becomes sortant and sorti:

 

Drôles d'étudiants que ceux-là, habitant l'hôtel et sortant en robe longue et nœud papillon.

Strange students they are, living in a hotel and going out in long dresses and bow ties.

Caption 12, Le Journal - L'Institut du goût

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Le mec, il est sorti

The guy went out

Caption 3, Sophie et Patrice - La révolution est-elle en cours?

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Note that partir and sortir are also part of a small group of verbs that require the auxiliary être (to be) in the passé composé, which we will discuss in a future lesson.

 

Finally, there is a minority of -ir verbs that are quite irregular and unpredictable, with a past participle ending in -ert

 

For example, the past participle of ouvrir (to open) is actually ouvert, not ouvri as its stem would suggest!

 

...qui a ouvert ses portes récemment à Mittelhausbergen

that recently opened its doors in Mittelhausbergen

Caption 3, Alsace 20 - Mangez bien, mangez alsacien!

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Again, to make it easier for yourself, learn how to conjugate ouvrir along with its derivatives, like découvrir (to discover), recouvrir (to cover up), couvrir (to cover), whose past participles all end in -ouvertThat will save you a lot of trouble. Speaking of trouble, the group of Canadians in the example below suffered a lot because of English…

 

Moi j'ai souffert beaucoup dans mon enfance de l'anglais ici.

I suffered a lot in my childhood with English here.

Caption 19, Le Québec parle aux Français - Part 3

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We hope that vous n’avez pas trop souffert (you didn’t suffer too much) learning about irregular -ir verbs in the passé composé, because we have another round of third-group verbs waiting to be discovered (découvert) in our next lesson!

 
Grammar

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