Table of Contents
- Commentary §§26-28
- Exercises Series A
- Commentary §§29-32
- Exercises Series B
- Essential Word Review I pp42-43
§26. Subject Pronouns
The subject pronoun on refers to a personal agent (i.e., a human bean), without specifying person (1st 2nd or 3rd person) or number (singular or plural). In theory it could mean any of these: I, we, you-singular, you-all, he, she, or they.
The Colloquial Use of On for Nous
- Où se trouve-t-on? (or even: Où se retrouver?) Literally: “Where does one find oneself again?” (“Where to find oneself again?”),but in equivalent English: “Where shall we meet, Where are we going to meet?”
- On a vu un tas de choses. (We saw a bunch of things.)
- Nous, on n’aime pas ça. (We don’t like that.)
Most frequently, it will be the equivalent of “one, they, you” (i.e., a generalized person) or (and this is unlike the English use of “one”) we. French on is used much more frequently than our “one.”
The Author recommends regularly translating on-sentences using passive voice. I prefer for you to translate with an active-voice verb, but normally don’t use “one” to translate on; it is much too stilted. Find some other appropriate subject pronoun (“we, they, people”).
It is true, however, that the on subject pronoun allows French to avoid the passive tense more often than English conveniently can. In §27, the Author brings up another means French has for avoiding the passive (§27.2).
§27. Reflexive Verbs
We English-speakers call these reflexive verbs, but the French call them pronominal verbs, meaning “pronoun verbs,” meaning: verbs that are used with the reflexive personal pronouns (me, te, se, nous, vous, se) in front of them. The reason for calling them “pronominal verbs” is that they have taken on other important functions than simply designating an action that proceeds from and returns to the same person.
Here are the four possible functions of Pronominal Verbs:
This is the original function. The subject and the object of the verb are the same person.
- Je me regarde. (I regard myself.)
- Elles se lavent. (They [female subjects] wash themselves.)
This function is based on the reflexive one.
- Le Louvre se trouve à Paris. (Literally, “The Louvre finds itself in Paris”, but the Louvre, being inanimate and immobile and without intentionality, does not really perform the action; consequently, “The Louvre is located in Paris.”)
This is more or less based on the reflexive use, but here the subject is plural, and the actions criss-cross, rather than returning to the subject.
- Ils s’aiment jusqu’à la folie. (They love each other to the point of madness.)
This use of the pronominal verb requires a plural subject. On can be used, but only when its meaning is plural:
- On s’aime beaucoup. = Nous nous aimons beaucoup. (We love each other a lot.)
The reflexive and the reciprocal use look exactly the same:
- Ils s’aiment. (They love themselves.)
- Ils s’aiment. (They love each other.)
4. Idiomatic or Subjective
I allow in this group only pronominal verbs that do not make any sense if translated literally.
The pronominal verbs the Author mentions on p31 can be explained thus:
- La lumière se propage… reflexive → passive. (propagates itself → is propagated)
- Il s’intéresse aux timbres. reflexive → passive. (interests himself in → is interested in)
- se trouver. reflexive → passive. (to find oneself → to be [found])
- se dépêcher. reflexive → passive. (to dispatch oneself → to hurry)
- s’amuser. reflexive → passive. (to amuse oneself → to have a good time)
For more on the above, see The Four Meanings of Pronominal Verbs.
See The Relative Adverb Dont. I like my presentation better than the Author’s.
Exercises Series A
1. (the lesson) it is finished
2. (French lit) it is interesting
3. (an equilateral triangle) it has three equal sides
4. (the Earth) it has an inclined axis
5. (classic-style symphonies) they have four movements
6. (nuclear physicists) they are finishing their experiment
7. (these musicians) they are performing a piece of chamber-music
8. (the professors) they / explain / are explaining / problems
9. (these buildings) they are made of reinforced concrete
10. (this home [individual dwelling]): it is built of wood
11. This experiment is being finished. (They are finishing…)
12. The disintegration of the particles is observed. (One observes…)
13. Oxygen is found in the composition of plants. (One finds…)
14. A solution to this problem is being found. (They are finding…)
15. The atmosphere is composed of several gases.
16. Light is propagated in a straight line.
17. The rule is (can be) deduced from our observations.
18. These cases are divided (can be divided) into two categories.
At times you will find that a pronominal verb of passive meaning is best translated as “can be….”
19. A light ray is reflected in a single direction.
20. Among the elements present in the atmosphere are found neon, krypton, and helium.
21. Most mineral substances / appear / are found (present themselves) / in crystalline form.
22. The surface of the globe is composed of great land masses (that are) called continents.
23. Light, the speed of which is 300,000 km per second, is propagated in a straight line.
24. Oxygen exists in the air, of which it forms approximately a fifth in volume. ??
25. The nuclear-powered submarines of which the admiral is speaking use slow neutrons.
26. Here are three boxes, one of which contains an electronic machine.
27. A quadrilateral of which two of the sides are unequal and parallel is a trapezoid.
28. The problem is simpler if you divide the cases into two categories.
Notice the translation of en as “into” in number 28.
29. The composer whose birthday we are celebrating is called Mozart.
30. The data whose value Paul is examining are exact (= correct).
Now the Author begins giving us continuous passages to translate. I insert again this Note-box that you saw in Chapter 00:
A Warning about My Translations
In my translations of the exercises and the readings, in general I try to observe the rule for translating I propose for you: when a choice of, say, two translations is possible, and one is close to the French (in word choice or syntax, or both) and one is not, for our purposes it is better to choose the version closer to the French…always provided that the result is clear, idiomatic English that conveys the idea correctly.
However, honesty obliges me to say that I have not always succeeded in abiding by this rule. The instincts of the English stylist in me have sometimes been too powerful for me to resist. Consequently, when comparing your translations to mine, don’t be concerned if your wording and mine differ. The only important consideration is that the meaning should be the same.
 Light is propagated in a straight line with a speed of 300,000 kilometers per second.  A light ray that falls on (strikes) a mirror is reflected in one direction only.  Due to this reflection, the mirror gives (shows) an image of the objects placed in front of it.
 A light ray changes direction when it passes from one medium to another; it is said to be refracted.  It is because of refraction that a stick plunged in(to) water appears broken.
 Sound is produced by vibrations resulting from the compression of the air.  It travels through the air with a speed of 340 meters per second; in liquids and especially in solids, its speed is greater.  When (the) sound meets an obstacle, it is reflected and produces an echo.
 The construction of stringed instruments / relies / is based / on the vibratory properties of (the) taut strings and of (the) air.
Note the metaphorical use of reposer in . The literal meaning of this verb behind this metaphorical usage is “to rest” (on something).
The Air p34
 (The) Air is a mixture of gases, the principal of which are oxygen and nitrogen.  Oxygen is an element that forms the active part of the atmosphere.  This gas, represented by the chemical symbol “O,” maintains combustions (better: makes combustion[s] possible, OR: allows things to burn) and, consequently, respiration.  Nitrogen, on the contrary, moderates the action of oxygen and maintains neither combusion nor respiration, although it makes up 78.03% of the composition of air.  The atomic weight of oxygen is 16.000; that of nitrogen is 14.008.
 Air is indispensable for living beings.  In addition, it is the carrier of sound.  Among the other elements found in the air are neon, krypton, helium, and traces of a certain number of other gases.  Air also has carbon dioxide and water vapor.
Psychologists At Work p35
 Students often wonder if psychology is a science.  Compared to sciences like astronomy, geology, physics, chemistry, or biology, the subject of study of psychology seems very different and very preoccupied with itself. In addition, psychological problems have been studied so long from the philosophical, and not the scientific, point of view, that one may very naturally have doubts about the scientific character of psychology (that one has very natural doubts regarding…).  Even in universities psychology is sometimes classified with the humanities and sometimes with the social sciences.  The scientific character of psychology, as of any other science, natural or social, is determined by its methods and not by its subject.  Its methods are essentially the same as those of the other natural sciences, but the nature of what it studies gives rise to (calls forth) methodological problems that are not posed by the other sciences.  Psychologists use variants of the following methods: 1) direct observation; 2) clinical method; 3) experimentation. Another method that can be used to analyze and interpret the results obtained by one of these three methods is 4) the statistical method.
§29. Two or More Adjectives Qualifying a Single Noun
§30. Participles or Adjectives Followed by a Prepositional Phrase
What the Author has to say here is very important.
A. Ignoring à, de, or pour before an Infinitive
I’ve nothing to add at this time. However,…
You may want to take a look at the Language File Infinitives Following Verbs.
B. Using the “ing” form instead of the infinitive
Ditto. (That is, I have nothing to add at this time.)
C. Reducing three English words to two
It is true that après will be followed by the past (or perfect) infinitive, but the Author is mistaken when he says that the same is true of avant.
How to: Use Après & Avant With the Infinitive
- après – followed by the “perfect” infinitive
- Après avoir prononcé une courte action de grâce, le pasteur s’assit. (After pronouncing a brief grace, the minister sat down.)
- avant – followed by de and the (simple) infinitive
- Avant de semer, il faut préparer le terrain. (Before sowing, one must prepare the ground.)
Translate this way:
- après avoir mangé = “after eating”
- avant de manger = “before eating”
D. Il faut
The expression is impersonal, like the ones in §32. That is to say that the form il does not replace any noun. It means nothing; it is a mere place-holder, a “grammatical subject,” not a real one. Il here does not mean “he” and does not even mean “it,” in the sense of a thing.
Consequently, it is safest at least to begin by translating il faut followed by an infinitive as “It is necessary (to…).”
Il ne faut pas!
As the Author points out, whereas Il faut = “It is necessary,” Il ne faut pas does NOT mean “It is not necessary” but “It is necessary NOT (to do whatever).” See, in Chapter 5, the first sentence  of the reading “The Practical Mind of the Americans.”
Another Use of Falloir
The verb falloir is related to our word “fail.” Its base meaning was “to be lacking,” and so became “to be necessary.” It can be followed by a noun phrase, often in the partitive:
- Pour voyager, il faut de l’argent. (To travel, there is needed money [one needs money].)
§32. Impersonal Verbs
Learn these expressions as well. As with il faut, the il of these expressions is not a real subject, but only a “grammatical subject.”
Regarding il s’agit de in particular, here are some guides:
How to Translate Il s’agit de + NOUN
Do not ever treat the il of il s’agit de as if it were a real subject. Always begin translating il s’agit de + NOM as “it is a matter of.”
French: Dans ces chapitres, il s’agit des religions de l’antiquité.
→ First English version: “In these chapters, it is a matter of the religions of antiquity.”
→ Second English version only: “These chapters deal with the religions of antiquity.”
How to Translate Il s’agit de + INFINITIVE
Usually this construction refers to a course of action called for in the given circumstances. You may, if you like, intially translate with “it is a matter of,” but you definitely shouldn’t stay with that formulation.
- « Il a cessé de respirer. —Il s’agit de le réanimer! »
(“He’s stopped breathing.” “Quick! We’ve got to give him C.P.R.!”)
- « Quelqu’un est en train d’enfoncer la porte! —Il s’agit d’appeler la police! »
(“Someone is breaking down the door!” “We’ve gotta call the police pronto!”)
Exercises Series B
1. a single fact / a single interesting fact / this single quite interesting fact
2. a method / this new method / (the) true experimental methods
3. a concert / a little concert / little daily concerts
Notice, again in number 3, the de replacing partitive des when a plural adjective precedes a noun: de petits concerts quotidiens.
4. an hypothesis / a famous hypothesis / Newton’s famous hypothesis
Regarding newtonienne in number 4: The French favor the use of “proper adjectives,” that is, adjectives based on a proper noun (= a name). “Newtonian” might work here, but is not quite as natural (according to me) as the simple “Newton’s.”
5. a meter / a square meter / one thousand square meters
6. reactors (or batteries) / nuclear reactors / mobile nuclear reactors
7. classical symphonies / the magnificent classical symphonies / magnificent, but long, classical symphonies
8. modern music / instrumental music / modern instrumental music
9. mechanical complications / new complications / new mechanical complications
10. an intelligible character / a mysterious, sacred character / an intelligible but mysterious character
11. a simple (= either “not difficult, not lofty,” or “not compound”) occupation / simpler occupations / the simplest occupations
12. a subtle motive / many dishonest motives / several subtle, dishonest motives
13. an exquisite taste / a pure taste / a pure, exquisite taste
14. the first building / the air-conditioned building / the first air-conditioned building
15. a system / a new system / new systems of analysis
16. a discovery / a new discovery / an entirely new discovery
17. carbon dioxide / a little carbon dioxide / exhaled carbon dioxide
18. the law / (the) physical and chemical laws / the same physical and chemical laws
19. a crisis / an industrial crisis / unexpected industrial crises
20. another question / the same question / this other important question
21. the observed data / of-from-about the data observed in this case
22. an observed substance (?) / a substance observed in this mixture
23. There are (some) accelerated forces / There are forces accelerated towards the centers.
24. It is a matter of several resistant substances / It is a matter of a few substances resistant to high temperatures.
25. It (That) is a relative question / That is a question relative to the current problems.
26. It is a matter of an industrial nation. / It is a matter of a hostile but powerful nation.
27. It is a matter of several difficult but useful methods / It is a matter of another method for resolving the problem.
28. There remains another (one other) important case / There remain other cases to consider.
Since autre regularly precedes the noun, and the noun will often be plural, you will very often encounter the form d’autres, which you will translate as “other.”
- d’autres questions, d’autres problèmes, d’autres idées… (other questions, other problems, other ideas…)
29. It is a matter of 60 samples studied in detail. It is important to (= What we must do is) study these samples carefully.
30. It is important to examine these gas engines (motors) / It is possible to complete the examination without delay.
31. It is possible that the stick immersed in (the) water is (may be) broken.1
32. The important fact is that living matter is everywhere subject to the same physical and chemical laws.
33. The professor is there (in order) to explain patiently his theory about economic phenomena.
34. These physicists are examining the data in order to be able to understand the theory in question here (= “the theory of which it is a matter”).
35. This gas has the effect of moderating the action (=effect) of (the) oxygen.
We will encounter this construction (with pour effet and pour objet) a few more times:
- avoir pour effet de = “to have the effect of, to serve to”
- Cet accommodement aura pour effet de calmer les esprits. (This accommodation will / have the effect of calming / serve to calm / people’s minds.)
- avoir pour objet de = “to have the / purpose / intention / of”
- Cette étude a pour objet d’élucider un problème de longue date. (The purpose of this study is to elucidate a longstanding problem.)
See, below, 
36. It appears that M. Brun has lunch before leaving for the office.
37. He studies his financial problems after arriving at the office.
38. (The faculty of) Memory is necessary for all the operations of reason.
39. The doctors left (have left) without finding a satisfactory solution.
40. The priest is beginning to speak elegantly.
41. Calculus helps in studying the variation of functions.
42. They must (It is necessary that they should) arrive on time.
 Oxygen is, of all bodies, the most widespread in nature.  It exists not only in the air, of which it forms approximately a fifth in volume, but constitutes eight-ninths of the mass of water, and it enters into the constitution of plants and animals; lastly, most minerals contain some of it.
 Nitrogen, a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas, maintains neither combustion nor respiration.  A lighted candle placed in a flask containing nothing but nitrogen will go out.  In the air, this gas has the effect of slowing down combustions.
[48[ Nitrogen makes up part of plants and the flesh of animals.  It is indispensable for plant life.  Uncultivated earth always contains some, but in insufficient quantity; the farmer must provide some in the form of fertilizer.
The Author sneaks in here, in  and , though he does gloss it, the form en, which is, here, not the preposition, but a “pronominal adverb”: La terre inculte en renferme… le cultivateur doit lui en fournir…
A Mathematical Mystery p41
 An old Arab is on the point of dying. He calls his three sons into his bedroom to tell them how he wants to divide his possessions.  He says to the oldest that his share will be half, and to the second son that his share will be a third.  As for the youngest, his share will be a ninth of all his father’s goods.
 After a time, the father dies.  The three brothers meet to divide up the goods of their father.  At first it seems there is no problem amongst them, but soon, when they must divide (when it is a matter of dividing) up the camels their father left, the sons are very perplexed.  There are 17 camels; it is impossible to divide 17 by 2, 3, or 9, without cutting some of the animals into pieces.
 The sons do not want to kill the camels, and they want to obey their father’s instructions.  So they ask the advice of an old dervish.  It seems that this dervish is esteemed by everyone on account of his wisdom.
 The dervish is very nice and very wise.  He wants to help the three sons find a solution for their rather complex problem.  The next day he comes to their house, and he asks to look at the camels.  He lines up the camels in front of him, and he ties up his own camel next to the others.
 “Listen to me,” he says. “There are now 18 camels.  Let each one take his share!”
 The oldest takes 9 (half of 18), the second son 6 (a third of 18), and the youngest 2 (a ninth of 18).  The sons are very happy.  Then the dervish gets back on his camel and leaves, leaving the three sons very intrigued.
Essential Word Review I pp42-43
As the Author says, learn these expressions. To his list I add the following notes.
- partir – This verb is intransitive, and will be used with the preposition de:
- Elle part de cette ville demain. (She is leaving this city tomorrow.)
- Elle part de cette ville demain. (She is leaving this city tomorrow.)
For some other meanings of partir, see in the French Language topic Verbs Like Dormir.
- arriver = a) arrive, b) happen, c) manage to do something.
- savoir – Some day you will want to consult the French Language file Savoir.
- servir – servir de + noun = “to serve as”; servir à + infinitive = “to serve to.”
- chercher (to look for), rechercher (to search for) – Both verbs are transitive in French.
- Je cherche un emploi à temps partiel. (I’m looking for a part-time job.)
- Une scientifique recherche les causes des phénomènes. (A scientist searches for the causes of phenomena.)
- That is, I presume: it looks that way, and it might really be the case, until you do a little more investigating and discover that refraction is the real cause.↩
Leave a Comment