Table of Contents
§38. Personal Pronouns Used as Subjects
Rather oddly, given that this section deals with personal pronouns, the Author chooses to speak here (on p52) about the various functions the present tense can have in French. In the discussion here, the Author does not mention the English emphatic present (with “do, does”), for which French must use its ordinary present tense.
- Fais-tu des fautes? (Do you make [any] mistakes?)
—Non, je ne fais pas de fautes. (No, I don’t make any mistakes.)
For more on the same, see Functions of the Present Tense: 1. One Tense Does the Work of Three.
A. Subject Pronouns
As the man says, learn these words.
5. The Pronoun on
I repeat what I have said in Chapter 4 §26 Subject Pronouns: I think it’s often better to translate on with a personal subject (even if a generic one).
§39. Present Tense of Regular Verbs
At last, some complete paradigms!
As the Author shows in the table on p54, the plural endings are just about universal, for all verbs and all tenses. They may have something stuck in front of them, but at the very end of all but a very few verbs, in almost all tenses, you will find these personal endings:
|Ending Looks Like||Ending Sounds Like|
|-ent||nothing, just pronounce clearly the preceding consonant (if there is one) and release from it|
Otherwise, for the singular forms, and again not only in the present, you will find these two patterns:
|The –er-verb pattern||The all-other-verbs pattern|
The singular endings of the -er verb pattern (-e -es -e) have no sound value in themselves, other than to tell you to pronounce clearly and release from a preceding consonant. They are like the 3rd-person plural ending -ent in this way. -er verbs consequently always have four present forms that sound alike:
As for the other pattern, -s -s -t, with -ir verbs the endings will be preceded by an -i- (-is -is -it). Further, for the -re verbs, the -t ending has been “absorbed” by the d of the base. Consequently, the 3rd-person singular ending -t will sometimes appear as a -d (regular -re verbs) and once or twice as a -c (e.g., vaincre: il vainc).
§40. Future and Conditional Tenses of Regular Verbs
The future and the present conditional are tenses that were created in spoken Latin as a result of the partial collapse of the classical verb system.
They are the combination of
- the infinitive of the verb in question, and
- the present or the imperfect (a past tense) of the verb “to have” (habere → avoir)
Future: porter (to carry) + (j’)ai (I have) → je porterai (I will carry)
Conditional: porter (to carry) + (j’)avais (I had) → je porterais (I would carry)
The conditional, in its origin, is a future-in-the-past. This is as true in English as it is in French, since “would” was, originally, a past form of “will.”
For the principal uses of the conditional, see Forms & Uses of the Conditional and Examples of Conditional Sentences.
Both the future and the conditional will have an r immediately before the ending:
|Future Looks Like||Future Sounds Like|
|Conditional Looks Like||Conditional Sounds Like|
Make sure that this r is indeed the r of the end of the infinitive, not an r that may be part of the present stem of the verb (e.g., rentrer, préférer, and so forth).
|Verb||Present Stem1||Future-Conditional Stem|
1. (in order) to prepare / we are preparing / you will prepare / she would prepare
Pour + infinitive = “In Order to (Do Something)”
When you want to express purpose with an infinitive, that is, when “to (do something)” means “in order to (do something),” French requires pour.
- ♫ Au clair de la lune, / Mon ami Pierrot, / Prête-moi ta plume, / Pour écrire un mot. ♫ (In the moonlight, My dear Pierrot, Lend me your pen, [in order] To write a note.)
- ♫ Elle fut à confesse / Pour demander pardon. » ♫ (She went to confession [in order] to ask forgiveness.)
The only kind of verb that does not require pour with a following infinitive to show intention is a verb indicating movement-with-direction. See Infinitives Following Verbs. Part I. Section A.
2. it is necessary to give / he gives / they will give / you would give
3. without studying / I am studying / you will study / they would study
4. to look for / you are looking for / they will look for / he would look for
5. to find / you find / we will find / he would find
6. (in order) to explain / she is explaining / he will explain / we would explain
7. without saying / he says / he will say / they would say
8. (in order) to reflect / he-it reflects / one will reflect / we would reflect
9. (in order) to be / he is / he will be / they would be
10. without having / he has / they will have / she would have
11. (in order) to arrive / he arrives / you will arrive / they would arrive
12. it is necessary to observe / he will observe / he will observe nothing
13. (in order) to build / one would build / they are building
14. without choosing / they will choose / we choose
15. to hold / he holds / he will hold
16. (in order) to obtain / they were obtaining (imperfect) / we will obtain
17. be eager for / we really want to study / he will really want to leave
18. without being / they will never be / I will no longer be
19. it is necessary to have / we would have / you have
20. it is a matter of / it is not a matter of / it will be a matter of
21. to be composed of / it is composed of / it would be composed of
22. to slow down / they are slowing down / he will slow down
23. (in order) to discover / he will discover / he is discovering
24. to carry / he will carry / let us carry
25. to win / he will earn his leaving / they would win the game.
26. without admitting / they will admit / they admit
27. it is possible / it will be possible / it would be possible
28. you are preparing / you are finishing / they are observing
29. they are building / I am finishing / he will never finish
30. to put / I am putting / we will admit
31. he prepared (has prepared) / let us prepare / it is necessary to prepare
The Author begins slipping in verbs in the tense you will learn to call the passé composé, “compound past”; he is counting on your seeing its similarity to the English tense we call the present perfect. However, its function is broader than that of the English tense, and it is used far more frequently. If you feel you’ve got to know more about it right now, see the Language File Compound Past.
32. we give / we gave (have given) / he will have given
33. you would study / it is necessary to study / they studied (have studied)
34. he is constructing / they are constructing / he will construct
35. to contain / it contains / it will contain only
36. to produce / that is produced / one will produce
37. (in order) to understand / he will understand / they understood (have u.)
38. to descend / I am descending / we would descend
39. not to ask (for), he will have asked / he will ask
40. not to finish2 / he is finishing / they are finishing
41. The three brothers will meet to divvy up their father’s possessions.
42. It will be impossible to divide 17 camels by 2.
43. The three sons will find a solution. There remain 17 camels.
44. When the dervish arrives, he will tie up his own camel next to the others.
Tense Harmony: French Has It, English Doesn’t Care
In French, the tense of a verb in a temporal clause needs to line up with the tense of the verb in the main clause. Hence, if the verb of the main clause is in the future, the verb in the subordinate clause should also be in the future (or, conceivably, the future perfect). English doesn’t require the same degree of harmony.
- Quand il entrera, nous nous ruerons sur lui. (When he enters, we will pounce on him.)
Note also the verbs in sentence 45: il y aura (there will be), seront (will be), and in sentence 46: auront pris (will have taken), partira (will leave).
45. Then there will be 18 camels (that will be) in a row in front of him.
46. When the three sons take (have taken) their camels, the dervish will leave.
47. When the sound meets3 an obstacle, it will be reflected and produce an echo.
48. Horatio Nelson, the famous English admiral, said that Napoleon’s fleet at Aboukir would be destroyed.
49. These cases will be divided into two very different groups.
Note (not for the first time) the translation of en here: not “in,” but “into.”
50. We will examine a sample of the atmosphere4; it is probable that we will find a mixture of several gases in this sample.
51. The new train, the locomotive of which will be electric, will carry passengers but not freight.
52. It seems that most minerals (mineral substances) will appear in crystalline form(s).
53. Plans will be prepared for a new construction at the Cité universitaire in Paris.
54. These (They) are the architects who will prepare the design (blueprints) of the new building.
55. The data whose value he will examine will be prepared by physicists in the United States.
56. The new house of this engineer will be located in Houston, Texas.
Periodic Style in French
The Author makes a very important point here about the tendency in French to leave a direct object till the very end; English tendency is to place the direct object directly after the verb. Don’t forget this difference!
French Verbs Requiring a Direct Object
Also very important: verbs that take a direct object in French, whereas their English equivalents use a prepositional phrase. Get used to how these verbs work: attendre, chercher, demander, écouter, regarder. Demander works this way: the thing asked for is always direct object, whether it is a concrete thing or a piece of information.
- Elle demande une chaise. (She asks for a chair.)
- Elle demande pourquoi tu refuses de venir. (She asks why you refuse to come.)
57. He is observing the selected sample under the electron microscope.
58. They are listening to a classical symphony performed in this magnificent theater hall by the Orchestre de Paris.
59. These protons (draw, trace, move in, describe) circles in a horizontal plane under the influence of the vertical magnetic field.
60. His5 concepts organize linguistic phenomena into a new theory.
61. Our intelligence holds in the order of intelligible things the same rank as our body in the extent (expanse) of nature.
62. The purpose of this experiment will be to discover the chemical composition of this substance.
63. We will not make any parallel between the Soviet and the American earth-to-air missiles.
64. The first applications of mobile atomic reactors will certainly concern6 the propulsion of submarines.
65. The nuclear submarine the construction of which is begun will use slow neutrons and probably helium to cool the reactor.
66. The installation of this machine will include (have, be done in) two parts.
67. If the sun did not exist, what would happen? (The) Planets would perish, animals would perish, and in no time the earth would be alone and silent (and behold the earth solitary and mute).
The Author has introduced the present tense of the conditional mood, and here he gives you an entire conditional sentence, though he has not introduced the other tense used here, the imperfect indicative (existait). If you are eager to get a leg up on the matter, see the topic Conditional Sentences.
68. The perfection of humanity will not be the extinction, but the harmony of nationalities.
69. In the future, a single power will have effective governance of the world7: and this power will be science, will be mind.
70. Rostopshine8 will be the last to leave Moscow,9 just as the captain of a ship is the last to leave10 in a shipwreck.
French writers favor the historical present; they also occasionally use the historical future, as here: Rostopshine sortira le dernier de Moscou, the sense of which is: “R would be the last to leave Moscow” or “R was to be the last to leave Moscow.” We will learn more about Rostops(c)hine in a reading in Chapter 16: Napoleon’s Entry into Moscow. He is also notable having a daughter who came to France and, when already a grandmorther, gained renown as the author of French moral stories for children. Read all about her here.
The Calculation of Probablities p59
I don’t always have my students read this passage, but if your field is in any way affected by probability or statistics (and what field isn’t?), you probably should.
 The probability of an event is the relationship that exists between the number of cases favorable to this event and the total number of possible cases.  (The) Probability is thus represented by a fraction (that is) always less than one.  The number one itself11 is the symbol of certainty.
 An event must be considered probable when its probability is greater than 1/2; for the favorable outcomes are more numerous than the unfavorable outcomes.
 The sum of the probabilities of all the possible events is always equal to one.  Thus, when one has an urn that contains w white balls, b black balls, and r red balls, the probability of extracting a white ball is expressed by the fraction:
w + b + r
the probability of extracting a black ball is expressed by b / w + b + r ;
and the probability of drawing a red ball is expressed by r / w + b + r ;
lastly, the sum of these three fractions is equal to one.  This evaluation presupposes equally possible cases.
 If the the cases are not equally possible, one must first determine their respective possibilities; and the probability is then the sum of the possibilities of each favorable case.
 For example, in the well-known game of coin-tossing, the possibility of the coin turning up tails on the first throw is obviously 1/2; whereas, if one wants to know the probability of getting tails at least once in two throws, one can count only three different cases, namely:  tails on the first throw, which makes it unnecessary to play a second time; heads on the first throw and tails on the second; lastly, heads on the first and on the second throw:
 The probability of getting tails on the first throw is still 1/2, but in the two other cases it is 1/4,12 such that the probability we are looking for13 is 1/2 + 1/4, or 3/4.  One reaches the same result by considering that the letters A and B can give rise to only four equally possible arrangements—AA AB BA BB—and that three of these arrangements are favorable to the outcome whose probability we are looking for.
 If the events are independent of each other, the probability of the existence of their totality is the product of their individual probabilities.  This is normally expressed by saying a compound probability is the product of the simple probabilities.
 les uns des autres – Literally, “the ones from the others.” If only two events were involved, singular forms could be used: l’un de l’autre (the one from the other): see sentence  below. Since in the present case there are three, plural is required.
 la probabilité de l’existence de leur totalité – I have translated the French word for word; the meaning, however, I believe, is “the probability of their all (OR: both) occurring.”
 Let us suppose for example that you have gathered in a pack thirteen cards of the same suit that are found in a complete deck of 52 cards and that you are asking for the probability that the first two cards of the pack will be an ace and a two.  The probability that the ace should be the first in the pack of thirteen cards is 1/13; once this card has been removed, there remain twelve, and the probability that the two should be the first of the new pack is 1/12.  Thus the probability of both these events occurring will be
1/13 x 1/12 = 1/156
 When two events depend on each other, the probability of the compound event is, here too,14 the product of the probability of the first event multiplied by the probability that, the first event having happened, the other will happen.  Thus, let there be three urns, A, B, C, two of which contain only white balls, and one of which contains only black balls.  You want to know the probability of extracting white balls from urns B and C at the same time.  The probability of extracting a white ball from C is 2/3; and if this ball really is extracted, the probability of extracting a white ball from B would be 1/2.  The probability of extracting white balls from urns B and C at the same time is thus:
2/3 x 1/2, or 1/3 .
 Quand deux événements dépendent l’un de l’autre – Once again, the “each other” construction: “the one from/on the other” = “each from/on the other” = “on each other.” The preposition is de, but the translation is “on,” because in French one hangs from, which is in truth is more logical than our English hanging on. See the French Language topic dépendre (de).
 étant arrivé – Glossed by the Author at the foot of page 61. étant by itself is a present participle (of être); the whole form is what in English we call (or used to) a present perfect participle. If you feel you must know more right now about the present participle, read the Language File The -Ant form of the Verb.
Critique of Rousseau’s Ideas About the Education of Children (Mme de Staël) p61
Three literary figures of note are involved in this reading: Jean-Jacques Rousseau (†1778); the author of this piece, Madame (Anne-Louise Germaine) de Staël (†1817); and Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (†1827). All three originated in what is now the Swiss Confederation, Mme de Staël and Rousseau in the French-speaking part (in and around Geneva), while Pestalozzi, whose father was an Italian refugee, was born in Zurich. Mme de Staël uses him as an example of forward-looking thinking about education in German-speaking lands. The work in which this passage appears is De l’Allemagne (1813),15 the first introduction French readers had to recent German thought and culture.
 At first it seems (may seem) illogical16 to praise the old (= previous) method, which makes the study of languages the basis for education, and to consider the school of Pestalozzi (as) one of the best inventions of our century.  I think, however, that these two ways of seeing things can be reconciled. Of all the subjects of study,17 it is mathematics that gives the most brilliant results with Pestalozzi.18  But it seems to me that his method could be applied to several other parts of the syllabus, and that it would bring about sure and rapid progress.
 Il paraît d’abord illogique de louer l’ancienne méthode,…, et de considérer… – Why illogical? In the chapter before this one, Mme de Staël has “praised the old/former method” of using language as the basis for educating children, whereas Pestalozzi developed his new pedagogical method in connection with mathematics.
 l’ancienne méthode – ancien here means old in the sense of “what we had before we had the current thing.” On this and other short words of double meaning, review if you need to: Short Adjectives.
 celle qui donne – Celle is the feminine singular of the “definite demonstrative pronoun”; its function is to replace a specific noun, in this case: étude. If you wish, consult the language file on the subject. The Author gets around to talking about it in Chapter 9, §51.
 et qu’elle y ferait faire – Literally, “and that it would make (somebody) make (sure and rapid progress)” > “cause sure and rapid progress to be made.” The Author speaks about this construction, Causal Faire, in Chapter 10, §55. My Language File on it is here. See also sentences [108, 112] below.
 Rousseau realized that children before the age of 12 or 13 do not have the necessary intelligence for the kind of studies demanded of them, or rather for the teaching method to which they are subjected.  They repeat without understanding; they work without learning. Everything Rousseau said against this mechanical education is perfectly true; but, as often happens, what he proposes as a remedy is even worse than the evil (sickness).
 Rousseau – Rousseau’s treatise on pedagogy, Emile, ou De l’éducation (1762), left its mark on many, including Pestalozzi and Mme de Staël.
 Ils répètent sans comprendre – Répéter in French has this additional meaning: redire ou refaire pour fixer dans sa mémoire = “to resay or redo in order to fix (something) in one’s memory” (TLFi I.B.2.a). So the translation here might better read “They learn by heart…”
 Tout ce que – The indefinite relative pronoun (plus tout) once again. “All that which” = “All that” = “Everything (that).” Compare, in the readings of Chapter 5, sentences [59, 63, 70]. Also, later in this same sentence: ce qu’il propose… – “that which = what…” And again in [100, 101, 102, 108]. Also: see the very important note after sentence .
 A child who, following Rousseau’s system, has learned nothing up to the age of 12 will have lost six precious years of his life;  his intellectual organs will never acquire the flexibility that exercise alone, pursued from earliest childhood, could have given them.
 d’après le système de Rousseau – d’après is not the same as après; its usual meaning is “according to” and is a synonym of selon. It is also used when a literary work has been adapted to another medium:
- Madame Bovary, un film de Sophie Barthes. D’après le roman de Gustave Flaubert.
 dès la première enfance – Learn this preposition dès (pronounced [dɛ]) = “from (this point) on,” which has nothing to do with the contraction, or the plural partitive article, des (pronounced [de].
 Rousseau says, justly, that children do not understand what they learn, and he concludes (en = from that) that they should learn nothing.  Pestalozzi has studied in depth what is responsible for children’s not understanding,19 and his method simplifies ideas and puts them in an order of graded difficulty, such that they are put within the children’s reach and that the childish intelligence can reach the most complicated results without tiring itself.  By passing through all the degrees of reasoning with exactitude,20 Pestalozzi makes it possible for the child to discover for himself what we want to teach him.
 Pestalozzi’s method is precise; there is nothing approximate in his method. Either one understands well, or one doesn’t understand; for all the propositions are so closely connected that the second reasoning is always the direct consequence of the first.  Rousseau said that we tired the heads of children by the studies we demanded of them;  Pestalozzi always leads them by an easy and positive21 route.  It costs them no more to be introduced to the sciences than to the simplest occupations.  Each step in these sciences is as easy (by comparison with the preceding) as the most natural conclusion drawn from the most ordinary circumstances.  What tires children is our having them skip the intermediaries, our making them advance without knowing what they have learned.  There is in their heads then a sort of confusion (= things being mixed up, indistinguishable) that makes every examination fearful for them, that inspires in them an invincible distaste for work.  There exists no trace of these disadvantages in Pestalozzi: the children have fun with their studies.
 Pestalozzi’s method, like everything that is truly good, is not an entirely new discovery, but an enlightened and systematic application of truths already known.  Patience, observation, and the philosophic study of the procedures of the human mind have shown him what is elementary in thoughts and what is successive in their development [See the note below!];  and he has taken farther than any other the theory and the practice of gradation in teaching.  His method has been successfully applied to grammar, geography, music; but it would be highly desirable for the distinguished teachers who have adopted his principles to apply them to all the disciplines.
The Construction Ce qu’il y a de + Adjective
In  Mme de Staël uses this construction:
ce qu’il y a d’élémentaire dans les pensées et de successif dans leur développement
Literally, one could translate: “what there is of elementary in thoughts and (what there is) of successive in their development,” which sounds rather dreadful in English. The de in this construction is a way of attaching an adjective to an indefinite expression, such as we also see in
- quelqu’un d’intéressant = “somebody interesting,” not “somebody of interesting”
- quelque chose d’intéressant = “something interesting,” not “something of interesting”
- Quoi de neuf? = “What(’s) new?” not “What of new?”
The best way to translate the construction, most of the time, will be to transform “what there is of (adjective)” into “what is (adjective).” Get used to this construction; you have not seen the last of it!
- The present stem is used for the Indicative Present, the Subjunctive Present, and Imperfect.↩
- You will appreciate how I have avoided splitting this and other infinitives. See The Professor’s Writing Guide 6.1.↩
- I would be happier if the first verb were in the future: rencontrera.↩
- Literally, “the atmospheric air.”↩
- Or “Hers,” or “Its.”↩
- So the Author glosses the French verb intéresseront here. I think “affect” or “involve” might do better.↩
- Literally, “will truly govern the world.”↩
- Literally, “Rostopshine will leave Moscow the last.”↩
- Literally, “the captain of a ship leaves (the ship) last.”↩
- “The number one itself” is my gloss of L’unité.↩
- Literally, celle des deux autres cas est 1/4 = “that (= the one = the probability) of the two other cases is 1/4.”↩
- Literally, la probabilité cherchée = “the probability sought.”↩
- “Here too” is my fancy version of encore = “still.”↩
- London. An earlier edition in 1810 in Paris was confiscated by the authorities on the grounds that it was unFrench.↩
- The word in the original text is not illogique, but inconséquent, the meaning of which is the same, however: inconséquent means “it doesn’t follow.” Another good translation: “inconsistent.”↩
- Literally: “Of all (the) studies.”↩
- Closer to the French: “the one that gives the best results … “↩
- More literally: “what causes that children do not understand”↩
- I.e., without missing a single step?↩
- Positive here means “clear, plain, visible.” See sentence  in the Chateaubriand reading in the previous chapter.↩
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