Table of Contents
- Commentary §§74-78
§74. Adjectives with Variable Meaning According to Position
The adjectives the Author speaks of here are all ones that “normally” precede the noun. Typical of them is that, in that position, their meaning has been weakened, that is, made less concrete, more abstract, such that one can say that the adjective-and-noun together form a unitary concept. For instance:
- un jeune homme = “a youth” (The adjective simply tells you what age group the fellow belongs to.1)
- une simple question = “a mere question”
- un ancien élève = “an alumnus” (i.e., a former pupil)
In contrast, in the postposition such an adjective recovers its concreteness:
|jeune||un jeune homme
(a young man)
|un homme jeune
(a youthful man)
|simple||une simple question
(a mere question)
|une question simple
(a question with only one part)
|ancien||mon ancien mari
|mon mari ancien
(my aged husband)
|grand||un grand homme
(a great man)
|un homme grand
(a tall man)
|ma propre chambre
(my own bedroom)
|ma chambre propre
(my clean room)
||un seul homme
(a single man, only one man)
|un homme seul
(a solitary man, a lonely man)
|certain||une certaine idée
(a certain idea = some idea or other)
|une idée certaine
(a very definite idea, a sure idea)
Même has three possible meanings, depending on position:
- le même roi = “the same king”
- le roi même = “the king himself”
- même le roi = “even the king”
In the third case, même is an adverb and essentially detached from the noun phrase; in the first two cases, même is an adjective modifying the noun.
§75. Possessive Adjectives
I have nothing to add at this time. You do need to watch out, however, as the Author says, for the third-person singular possessive, which can trip you up: son, or sa, or ses can any of them mean “his,” or “her,” or “its.” A (partial) way around this ambiguity involves using the “disjunctive pronouns” lui and elle in “indirect object case” (i.e., preceded by à):
|A. Georges et Estelle sont passés me voir. Je lui ai donné ses affaires.||A. “George and Estelle came by to see me. I gave hurrim hizzer things.”|
|B. Ses affaires à lui ou ses affaires à elle?||B. “His things or her things?”|
A related case occurs in the first reading below. Note how the possessive expressions surround the noun:
| Le hasard, notre maître à tous [= à nous tous],…|| “Chance, the master of us all,…”|
The author introduces the disjunctive pronouns in Chapter 15 §79 p146.
§76. The Pronominal Adverb Y
It comes from Latin ibi. It functions 1) to replace any prepositional-adverbial phrase indicating location or movement towards a place, in which case you will translate it as “there.” Its place will be in front of the personal verb (or dependent infinitive), after any personal pronouns.
- Le prof s’est caché sous la table. > Le prof s’y est caché.
(The teacher hid under the table. > The teacher hid there.)
- Georges va m’amener au bal. > Georges va m’y amener.
(George is going to take me to the ball. > George is going to take me there.)
Y also functions 2) to replace any prepositional phrase with à followed by a noun referring to a thing. The translation of y in this case will vary.
- Je pense à l’avenir. > J’y pense.
(I’m thinking about the future. > I’m thinking about it.)
- Il répond à la question. > Il y répond.
(He answers the question. [= He responds to the question.] > He answers it.)
Il y a is idiomatic, i.e., it is impossible to translate literally (“It has there” – ???). The a is the third person singular present of the verb avoir; it can be put into just about any other tense as well:
- Il y avait… (There was / were)
Il y a eu (There was / were, finishedly)
Il y aurait (There would be)
Il y aura (There will be)
Il y avait eu (There had been)
A semi-auxiliary verb will take the place of the third-person a; avoir will now appear as an infinitive preceded by y):
- Il peut y avoir (There may be)
- Il doit y avoir (There must be)
- Il devrait y avoir (There should be)
- Il ne saurait y avoir (There couldn’t possibly be)
In his list of “One-word conjunctions” Stack includes as conjunctions two words that are really adverbs: pourtant and cependant.
Oddly, the Author does not include bien que in his list C. Et pourtant it is a terribly, terribly important conjunction!
See the French Language File Conjunctions in Groups.
§78 Use of the Irregular Stem Index
This is a handy device the Author has come up with, but in my opinion it should be used only initially. At some point you want to be completely at ease with irregular verbs, such that you can recognize any form as being what it is.
Essentially, for irregular verbs you need to be able to move back and forth with complete ease between these ten forms:
2-7. all six forms of the present
8. future-conditional stem (1st-person singular will do for memorization)
9. past participle
10. simple past (1st-person singular will do for memorization)
Not included in the above: irregularly formed subjunctives.
1. the same novel / the same person / the theory itself (the very theory)
2. the same character / even the president / the director himself (the very director)
3. an old statue / a former student (an alumnus) / ancient history
4. my former professor / an ancient culture / a veteran
5. their own books / my own room / a clean room (of public use, salle)
6. their own computer / our own ideas / our program itself (our very program)
7. your decision alone / your only decisions / his-her-its own evaluation
8. the university: its computer / its library / its students
9. Mme Leblanc: her computer / her library / her students
10. Mr Dupont: his computer / his library / his programs
11. Paul: his own car / Marie: her jet plane
12. France: its (her?) great authors / Victor Hugo: his famous poem
14. Napoleon was a great man, but he was not a tall man.
15. Chemists concern themselves with the elements, whereas psychologists concern themselves with mental phenomena.
16. An isoceles triangle is constructed such that two of the sides are equal.
17. Psychology uses both direct observation and the clinical method.
18. This train transports (is transporting) both passengers and wares (merchandise).
19. I think however that these two forms of government can be reconciled.
20. We will go to the movies unless you are too tired. / We will get there around 7pm.
Regarding, in sentence 20 à moins que vous ne soyez trop fatigué, see Part II of the French Language File “Ne Without Pas.”
21. The French fleet was destroyed at Aboukir. The English admiral Nelson took the French by surprise there.
On the meanings of surprendre (sentence 21), see towards the end of the French Language Topic Verbs Like Prendre.
22. The young woman arrived at (the door of) the shop.2 She went inside because she wanted to buy something for her child.
23. The engineer took a taxi to go to his hotel. He got out of his taxi there (scil., at the hotel) a few minutes later.
24. The cylinders will be immersed either in the sea or in the harbors.
25. Fermat was the most powerful mathematical mind of the 17th century.
26. Einstein was the first to formulate the theory of relativity.
27. Guy Patin was the first to think of using steam as a propulsive force.
We have seen constructions like 26 Einstein énonça le premier and 26 Guy Patin pensa le premier before. Go to the second reading of Chapter 12, Les Sciences au 17e siècle, sentence  (and note) and sentence . —Is it Guy Patin, as here, or Denis Patin, as in Chapter 12? Apparently: Guy.
28. The theory of relativity was expounded by Einstein more than 70 years ago.
29. The notion of “attitude” is as undetermined (“as little determined”) as the conditions that (have) formed it.
30. Uranium is much less abundant than thorium.
31. There are international companies that have had skyscrapers built in the center of Paris.
32. There is no people (i.e., a nation) that has made progress as rapid as the Americans.
The Author asks: “Are any of them [= these forms] to be found in the dictionary?” Answer: No, because none of them is an infinitive.
33. they thought/believed (croire).
34. we put/placed (mettre)
35. he was born (naître)
36. he held (tenir)
37. Untranslatable without a context. 3rd-person present subjunctive of voir
38. they followed (suivre)
39. they were able (pouvoir)
40. he had to OR he must have (devoir)
I recommend not bothering with the second reading.
An Interview between the Pope and the Emperor p141
Alfred de Vigny (1797-1863) is best known today for his poetry, but he also wrote historical novels (notably Cinq-Mars, set in the reign of Louis XIII) and plays (notably Chatterton, a life of the 18th-century English poet Thomas Chatterton). The present text appears in the fifth chapter of Canne de Jonc, the third volume of the three making up Servitude et grandeur militaires (1835). In Canne de jonc, a (fictional) captain recounts signal events in his life, of which this is an early one. As a child he had been taken under the care of Napoleon and had become one of the emperor’s pages. At first an unquestioning worshiper, he has begun to suspect that the emperor himself does not fully believe in his public image.
Pius VII, the emperor’s interlocutor in this passage, did indeed come to France (under some duress) in 1804 to preside over Napoleon’s coronation; he was not yet a prisoner of the French (as his predecessor, Pius VI [†1799], had been). In 1809, after relations between France and Rome had (yet again) deteriorated, Pius VII was made a prisoner and held in various places. The last (from 1812 to 1814) was Fontainebleau, where he used the famous words tragediante… commediante… in referring to Napoleon.3
The online text of the chapter is here. The Author has omitted considerable portions, sometimes summarizing them.
 Chance, the master of us all, caused the soul of Napoleon to appear in the full light of day. —One day, it was perhaps the single day of his life, he met someone stronger than he and retreated before a power greater than his. —I was a witness of it. Here is what happened:
 We were at Fontainebleau. The Pope had just arrived. The Emperor had waited for him impatiently for the coronation and had received him in his carriage.4 He was coming back to the chateau. I had left several officers in the room preceding the emperor’s, and I had remained alone in his.  I was looking at some letters when the noise of drums beating the salute informed me of the sudden arrival of the Emperor.5 I barely had the time to dash into an alcove protected by curtains.
 The Emperor was very agitated. He walked alone in the room like somebody waiting for something impatiently. He approached the window and began drumming out a march with his nails. A carriage rolled into the courtyard. He stopped drumming, stamped his feet as though made impatient by the sight of something proceeding slowly, then went suddenly to the door and opened it for the Pope.
 Pope VII came in unaccompanied. Bonaparte hastened to close the door behind him, with the promptness of a jailer. I felt a great terror, I must admit, in seeing me as the third of their party.6 However, I remained utterly still and silent, looking and listening with every ounce of my attention.
 The Pope was tall; he had a long, narrow face, yellow, in pain, but full of a holy nobility and unlimited benevolence. He entered slowly, with the calm and prudent steps of an elderly woman. He came and sat down, with his eyes lowered, on one of the large Roman armchairs, gilded and loaded with eagles, and waited for what the other Italian was going to say to him.
 Napoleon did not stop walking [up and down] in the room once the Pope had come in; he began to prowl around the armchair like a wary hunter. Then he began to speak, walking in a circle and casting piercing looks at the mirrors of the apartment, where the grave visage of the Holy Father was reflected, and looking at him in profile (i.e., from the side) when he passed in front of him, but never straight on, for fear of seeming too worried about the impression his words would make.
 “There is something,” he said, “that still bothers me, Holy Father; it’s that you consent to the coronation in the same way you did the other time to the concordat,7 as though you were forced to do it. You sit there looking like a martyr,8 , like someone utterly resigned, like someone offering up his sufferings to heaven. But, in fact, that is not your situation, you are not a prisoner, by God; you are free as a bird.”
 Pius VII gave a sad smile and looked him straight in the face.
“Yes,” Bonaparte continued more forcefully, you are perfectly free; you can leave here and go back to Rome, the way is open to you, nobody is keeping you here.”
The Pope sighed and raised his right hand and his eyes to heaven without answering; then very slowly he lowered his wrinkled brow once more and began studying the gold cross hanging from his neck.
 “Frankly, I don’t know,” Napoleon went on, “why you would resist the idea of having your seat in Paris forever. I’d leave you, good heavens, the Tuileries, if you wanted. Don’t you see, Padre, that Paris is the true capital of the world? I would do anything you wanted9 ; and then I would place in your hands the real keys of the world, and, as Our Lord said, ‘I have come with the sword,’ I would keep the sword; I would bring it back to you only to have you bless it after each of our conquests.”
 He bowed slightly as he said these last words.
The Pope, who up until then had remained utterly still, like an Egyptian statue, lifted his head slowly, gave a melancholy smile, raised his eyes heavenward and said, with a peaceful sigh, as though he had confided his thought to his invisible guardian angel:
 Bonaparte jumped from his chair and bounded like a wounded leopard. A real anger took hold of him. It seemed to me some great and terrible thing was about to happen.
 The bomb exploded all of a sudden.
“Comedian! Me! Oh, I will give you comedies to make you all weep like women and children. My theater is the world; the rôle I play there is that of the master and author; for actors, I’ve got you all, pope, kings, peoples!  Comedian! Ah, it would take more stature than you’ve got to dare applaud or boo me, signor Chiaramonti! Do you realize that you would be nothing but a miserable parish priest, if I wanted? You and your tiara, France would laugh in your face, if I didn’t maintain a grave air when I greeted you.”
 He fell silent. I didn’t dare breathe. I moved my head forward to see if the poor old man had died of fright. The same calm in his attitude, the same calm in his face. A second time he lifted his eyes to heaven and, after producing another deep sigh, smiled bitterly and said:
 Bonaparte, at that moment, was at the other end of the room, leaning on a marble chimney piece as tall as he was. He shot off like a bullet,10 running at the old man; I though he was going to kill him. But he stopped short, picked up a vase of Sèvres porcelain from the table and, throwing it on the floor, ground it to pieces under his feet.  Then, suddenly, he sat down and remained in a profound silence and a frightful immobility. He grew sad and, his voice was muffled and melancholy, and, from his very first word, I realized that this Proteus, vanquished by two words, was now showing himself as he really was.
 “It’s true! Tragedian or comedian. –Everything is a rôle, everything is a costume for me–has been for a long time and always will be. What weariness! What pettiness! Posing! Always posing!”
Professional Orientation and Selection p144
 How are the results of orientation and selection tests currently being used?
When an individual comes and asks for advice on career paths from a specialist, the latter can use several tests appropriate for his case.  After comparing the results of his subject with those of other subjects who have served to validate the tests, the career counselor can say: “You are sufficiently intelligent to be a success in one of the fields that interest you, but here is what seems to me to interest you the most. This field requires a very great mechanical aptitude and your results show that you have it.  It is possible therefore that, if you apply yourself, you will do very well.” On the other hand,11 he may be obliged to say: “Your answers to certain questions on this (intelligence) test do not exactly suggest that you’re a shoo-in as a doctor,12 but the other (mechanical aptitude) tests indicate that you are exceptionally gifted for technical things and that you will probably do very well in an industry that requires these skills.” [Literally, dons = “gifts”]
 The guidance counselor does not say to the individual that he will do well or not do well in a certain field, for there are many other conditions that contribute to success or failure in each kind of job, in addition to those measured by the tests.
 The prognosis is easier when it is a question of selection rather than of career choice. The psychologist can say, for example, with great certitude that, of those who got bad results on the aptitude tests, not more than 20% of those who continue pilot training will do well and that 90% of those who did do well on these test will be pilots.
 What those who use the selection tests must do, is determine the critical score (the score below which a person cannot be accepted to exercise the given occupation), which eliminates the majority of potential failures, even while it eliminates as few persons as possible who seem capable of doing well.
- Equivalent expression for a young woman: “une jeune personne.”
- Literally, devant la boutique = “before the shop.”
- Another famous literary piece imagining the pope as prisoner of the French is the play l’Otage by Paul Claudel (first published 1911).
- What? Napoleon is sitting in a carriage, and the Pope has to go see him there? Not quite; Vigny’s complete text explains that this meeting between the soldier and the pope did take place in a carriage, but that they both entered it at the same time.
- In spite of the earlier words “Le Pape venait d’arriver,” it appears that the Pope and the Emperor were both in the carriage, but that the Emperor left it to come on horseback and that he arrived before the Pope did.
- Literally, en tiers avec de telles gens = “as a third with such people.”
- Literally, “You look like a martyr (= You have a martyr’s air) before me”
- The verb voudriez is in the conditional though “tense harmony” (with the main verb ferais).
- Literally, trait = “arrow.”
- Usually par ailleurs means: “In addition, Moreover, Furthermore.”
- Literally, “that you will be able to obtain a medical license”