Questions from Brickman (A Short Course in Reading French)

Callaina

Feles Curiosissima
By the way, I love how clauses of fearing are pretty well preserved with their entire syntax intact from Latin.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member

Callaina

Feles Curiosissima
By the way, how does one express in French a fear that something won't happen (i.e. an ut clause of fearing in Latin)?

e.g. "I am afraid that he won't come."
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
Just add "pas": "J'ai peur qu'il ne vienne pas."
 

Callaina

Feles Curiosissima
Incidentally, I've been told that in colloquial French, the ne generally gets dropped. So how does one express fear clauses in colloquial French (or does the ne just get left out there as well)?
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
Incidentally, I've been told that in colloquial French, the ne generally gets dropped.
The ne often gets dropped. I'm not sure I would say "generally" because it's still not so rare to hear ne in colloquial speech. Let's just say it's optional.
So how does one express fear clauses in colloquial French (or does the ne just get left out there as well)?
You can (but don't have to) just leave out the ne, yes.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
There are a few novelties, but many uses are just like in Latin.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
And even the novelties can be taken as some sort of "extensions" of the Latin principles, I think.
 

Clemens

Member
I'm now tackling le subjonctif. Though most uses of it are pretty familiar from Latin, its use in clauses that depend on superlative adjectives or seul/premier/dernier is new to me (e.g. Marie est la plus jolie demoiselle que je connaisse). I suppose it must be an extension of Latin clauses of characteristic, but is the precise reasoning behind this known?
Grevisse gives the use of the subjunctive in this kind of sentence as "souvent" but also gives counter-examples in the indicative. I suspect there is a nuance of difference between the two. I'm not a native speaker of French, but la plus jolie que je connaisse sounds at once less certain but also that there's some emotional engagement with the statement, like the speaker is amazed or feels affection. La plus jolie que je connais seems like a statement of fact and less subjective. Thoughts?
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
I'm not sure. I would have said that "la plus jolie que je connais" was just a careless equivalent of "la plus jolie que je connaisse", without any difference in meaning, but I could be wrong.
 

Bitmap

Civis Illustris
'Let's use the subjunctive with superlatives. Foreigners will get it wrong, like the Spanish cows they are, & we might even catch out a few native speakers. Hours of fun, I promise you.'

'You're on.'
I wouldn't be surprised if that's how it came about.

How often do you even hear a difference between the indicative and the subjunctive?
 

Clemens

Member
How often do you even hear a difference between the indicative and the subjunctive?
It's true that the present subjunctive is nearly the same as the indicative for most verbs, but it's very different for some of the most common verbs (être, avoir, faire, venir, aller), and the past subjunctive is always different from the passé composé because of the auxiliaries.
 

Quintilianus

Active Member
It's true that the present subjunctive is nearly the same as the indicative for most verbs, but it's very different for some of the most common verbs (être, avoir, faire, venir, aller), and the past subjunctive is always different from the passé composé because of the auxiliaries.
All regular verbs of the first group are the same in both present indicative and subjunctive.
Even 'venir' (and others presumably) for the third person plural : 'ils viennent' in both cases. If you want to emphasize the subjunctive and it's the same present tense forms you may sometimes use the imperfect subjunctive instead (there's something similar in german I think). I'd have to check the exact cases when you can but I'm off to work just now and anyhow 'Le bon usage' must list them if anyone here has got it and would care to check.
 
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Callaina

Feles Curiosissima
So, I've been doing some digging, and it seems that superlatives can use either indicative or subjunctive, though nobody seems to be able to give a hard and fast rule as to when. The general consensus appears to be that when the relative clause involves an element of uncertainty/doubt/personal judgment, the subjunctive is appropriate, but when it's simply an unemotional statement of fact, the indicative should be used. E.g. this page gives as examples:

Azay-le-Rideau doit être le plus grand château que nous ayons visité.Azay-le-Rideau must be the biggest château we visited.
(Assumption. I’m not sure this is true, because we visited more than 20.)
vs
Azay-le-Rideau est le plus grand château que nous avons visité.Azay-le-Rideau is the biggest château we visited.
(Fact. We only visited three, and this was definitely the biggest.)
C’est le meilleur restaurant qui puisse exister !
(Hyperbole)
This is the best restaurant that could possibly exist!
vs
C’est le meilleur restaurant que je connais.This is the best restaurant that I know.

@Pacifica , does this seem right to you?
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
That's basically what Clemens was saying, isn't it? It could be true; I don't know.
 

Callaina

Feles Curiosissima
That's basically what Clemens was saying, isn't it? It could be true; I don't know.
Yes, essentially.

On another topic, I was trying to look up how many principal parts French verbs have today, so that I could write out some verb charts (as I've done all the moods/tenses now.) It turns out that they have either:
1) one (for entirely regular verbs)
2) seven (for slightly more irregular verbs)
3) eleven (!!!) (for those verbs that are even less regular), or
4) an uncountable (or essentially so) number (for verbs like avoir/être).

:hissyfit: :bawling:
 

Bitmap

Civis Illustris
While I can't say that I'm particularly good at conjugating French verbs, it never felt to me like it was particularly hard to learn them if you spend enough time on writing a few bits in French and maybe doing a few exercises.

Apart from that, you don't seem to need French for actual conversations in French, but just for academic references (i.e. clown jobs) ... so you don't need to overdo it.
 

Callaina

Feles Curiosissima
While I can't say that I'm particularly good at conjugating French verbs, it never felt to me like it was particularly hard to learn them if you spend enough time on writing a few bits in French and maybe doing a few exercises.

Apart from that, you don't seem to need French for actual conversations in French, but just for academic references (i.e. clown jobs) ... so you don't need to overdo it.
True, but I would like to have a decent working knowledge of French, at the very least so I can read literature (not just scholarly papers but novels, poetry, etc.) and get something of the feel it would have for a native speaker, and if possible, so that I can converse with French speakers on at least basic topics.
 
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