But wait! you say: There is no Chapter 18 in the Author’s RFitAaS!
True. But there are some things the Author doesn’t talk about that I think you would be better off knowing, namely some of the more recondite (yet still important) functions of the subjunctive and conditional tenses. I introduce them below and refer you to the relevant French Language files.
In addition: when I taught this course in real time it was part of a two-semester sequence, the second half of which was mostly devoted to having the students translate a wide variety of texts. If you have diligently worked through the texts in Chapters 4 through 18 you may well be in shape to go on reading on your own. Nevertheless, I will give you point you towards a few additional texts here in order to give you a bit more in the way of encouragement, direction, instruction, or amusement.
Table of Contents
The Grammar They Didn’t Want You to Know
Or, at any rate, the grammar they felt you didn’t absolutely need. That might be true, if your field is in the hard sciences and you plan to limit your reading strictly to that field. However, if there is the slightest possibility you will occasionally want to refresh yourself with a dip into, say, history or current affairs or anything that might be referred to as belles lettres, you will do well to cast your net more widely. Meanwhile, if you are in a humanities line of research, I believe you will definitely find this additional information useful.
The Further Reaches of the Subjunctive Mood
The Author limits himself to presenting the forms of the present and past subjunctive and saying that “the present subjunctive is translated by the present or future” (p153) and that “the past subjunctive is identical to the passé composé” (p155). In my Commentary to §§82-84 I go into somewhat more detail about these tenses: formation, uses, and translation.
The Language Files I refer you to in the commentary to Chapter 16, which you may wish to consult again, are:
Here are other French Language files or topics involving the subjunctive that I recommend you become familiar with:
- Indefinite Expressions Using the Subjunctive
- Conjunctions Followed by the Subjunctive
- The So-Called (by Me) Third-Person Imperative
- “However” Expressions with the Subjunctive
When you have become fairly handy with these files, at least to the extent to knowing where to go when you decide you really need to learn what they deal with, you may be ready for the “higher” subjunctive grammar, which involves two other tenses (the imperfect and the pluperfect subjunctive) and at least one other, rather important, use (the pluperfect subjunctive used in either clause of a past contrary-to-fact conditional sentence).
Now consult these further files:
A Variation on Type-II Conditional Sentences: the conditionnel concessif
It is a notable fact that, in the standard form of the three kinds of conditional sentences, verbs in the conditional mood never occur in “the condition” (the protasis), but only in “the consequence” (the apodosis). You can see for yourself by examining this table, in which I have highlighted the word “conditional.”
|I. Simple Hypothesis||Present indicative||Future indicative|
|II. Present Unreal||Imperfect indicative||Present conditional|
|III. Past Unreal||Pluperfect indicative||Past conditional|
If you need to review conditional sentences, see these French Language files: Forms and Uses of the Conditional, and in particular Part II.B Conditional Sentences; also, Examples of Conditional Sentences.
But there is an alternative formulation for a “Type-II” (Past Unreal) protasis that does involve the present conditional (and also, occasionally, the imperfect subjunctive). For this construction, consult the Language topic:
You can gain practice with these literary variations on conditional sentences by consulting this file:
Additional Texts for Reading Practice
The Author also has supplementary readings (beginning on page 175), which I leave aside. I propose other ones which I consider, variously, a) good for beginners or for progredientes, b) illustrative of particular grammatical points, c) rich in content, or d) funny.
This section of this “Chapter 18” course file will continue to evolve for a while, as I go on posting new text files.
I. Reading French: 1st Level
I recommend your not beginning on these texts until you have finished at least chapter 10 of French for Reading Knowledge—unless, that is, you are feeling particularly adventurous. (And are willing to learn fresh grammar and vocabulary.)
There is no good translation for the French term moraliste. (On this and related terms, see this Language topic.) It is a person who writes aphorisms that sum up essential aspects of human behavior (French: mœurs). Here are selections from two notable moralistes, one from the 17th century and one from the 20th:
- La Rochefoucauld: Maximes
Pithy and elegant prose from the 17th century. The depressing content is more than counterbalanced by the brilliance of the form.
- Cioran: De l’inconvénient d’être né
You might not have thought it possible, but these aphorisms are even more negative than those of La Rochefoucauld.
B. Prose Poems of Baudelaire
Baudelaire was not only a great poet, he was also the first modern poet, and his œuvre is a notable contribution France has made to world literature. In addition, he wrote poetry that is fairly immediately appreciatable by the learner of French. Hence, I strongly recommend him to your attention.
His metrical poems are a good place to become familiar with the principles of French prosody, but before that I recommend cutting your teeth on some of his prose poems, of which formless form he was a principal early practitioner. I suggest your trying these three, in the order listed. These files include a translation; if you are using them for reading practice, you should put off looking at the English version until the very last. Read through the French text by itself first (Part II) and figure out what you can; then work through my gloss (Part III); look at the translation (Part IV) only when you are fairly satisfied with your understanding of the text.
Interview with a poet from another planet.
We are advised to get high and stay that way.
- Anywhere Out of The World
A quick trip around the globe ending at the North Pole.
II. Reading French: 2nd Level
Try these passages when you have mostly finished with French for Reading Knowledge. They may be less glossed than texts for the first level, or they may present special grammatical features, or they may be longer.
- Jules Verne: Vingt mille lieues sous les mers
Several paragraphs describing a walk on the ocean floor. You will need to be handy with your French tenses.
- Sophie Rostopchine: Le bon petit Henri
An uplifting story, told in language that a child (a well-educated French child of the 19th century) could understand. The entire story is presented.
- Une Visite médicale
A flood of excellent conversational French from the mouth of very garrulous doctor.
- Earliest Memories of Hector Berlioz
Music, mysticism, and eroticism (of a sort) combine in this childhood experience of the famous composer.
- The Pursuit of Berlioz by Luigi Cherubini
A rather amazing anecdote involving two major musical figures circa 1830.
III. Reading French: 3rd Level
Texts for when you are feeling courageous. Some are completely translated, some partially translated, and some not at all. Glossing is minimal; in some cases, it is entirely up to you to decide what expressions, etc., to cull and add to your permanent word-hoard.
- The Langue-et-Littérature Author: Une Visite médicale
A dialogue illustrating 20th-century conversational French, still fairly high-style (soutenu) however, and with many excellent expressions worth retaining.
- Voltaire: Le Siècle de Louis XIV
If you can read Voltaire with tolerable ease, I say you have achieved your goal.
- Simone Weil: Réflexions sur la barbarie and Letter to Georges Bernanos
Well-written French does not get much more difficult than these texts.
IV. French Verse
Some day I will put a file up on the rules of French prosody, which I will urge you to read. French verse texts that I have up at the moment are a little unusual in their provenance. More conventional ones will follow.
- Jacques Demy: Les Demoiselles de Rochefort
A scene from one of JD’s charming musical films written entirely (who knows why?) in alexandrine couplets.
- T.S. Eliot via the Professor: Mercredi des cendres
Part of a quixotic program to translate Eliot into classical French verse. Includes some very excellent illustrations.
Leave a Comment