Questions from Brickman (A Short Course in Reading French)

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
Regarding the imperfect subjunctive in general: most of its uses are now, in everyday language, distributed over the present subjunctive and the present conditional, though in that specific sentence there's one phrase where the natural option nowadays is really the infinitive with de (attendu d'avoir atteint).
 

Callaina

Feles Curiosissima
So here's another question. Taking that passage:

Mais cette entreprise me semblant être fort grande, j’ai attendu que j’eusse atteint un âge qui fût si mûr, que je n’en pusse espérer d’autre après lui, auquel je fusse plus propre à l’exécuter...

The first subjunctive seems quite clear-cut -- it's an intention in the speaker's mind which depends upon the j'ai attendu. But what about the second and third? Would you say that they're more like clauses of characteristic (particularly the third which is describing a non-existent thing)? Or do they just take subjunctive because they're subordinate to the j'eusse... clause? Or is it a bit of both?
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
though in that specific sentence there's one phrase where the natural option nowadays is really the infinitive with de (attendu d'avoir atteint).
There's a general rule here: usually, when the subject of the main verb and that of what is waited for/wished for/whatever are the same, you use the infinitive, whereas you use a subjunctive clause if they're different. Cf.:

J'attends d'avoir de ses nouvelles.
J'attends que tu aies de ses nouvelles.

J'aimerais être riche.
J'aimerais que tu sois riche.

J'attends que j'aie de ses nouvelles
and j'aimerais que je sois riche are awkward and would even be marked wrong by a French teacher, I think.
 
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Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
So here's another question. Taking that passage:

Mais cette entreprise me semblant être fort grande, j’ai attendu que j’eusse atteint un âge qui fût si mûr, que je n’en pusse espérer d’autre après lui, auquel je fusse plus propre à l’exécuter...

The first subjunctive seems quite clear-cut -- it's an intention in the speaker's mind which depends upon the j'ai attendu. But what about the second and third? Would you say that they're more like clauses of characteristic (particularly the third which is describing a non-existent thing)? Or do they just take subjunctive because they're subordinate to the j'eusse... clause? Or is it a bit of both?
Could be both, to my mind...
 

Callaina

Feles Curiosissima
There's a general rule here: usually, when the subject of the main verb and that of what is waited for/wished for/whatever are the same, you use the infinitive, whereas you use a subjunctive clause if they're different.
Reminds me of nom. + inf. in Greek.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
Reminds me of nom. + inf. in Greek.
That construction with verbs of saying or thinking exists in French too, e.g. Il dit/pense/croit être le meilleur. But you can also, and in colloquial speech more frequently do, use a que clause (with the indicative): Il dit/pense/croit qu'il est le meilleur.
 

Callaina

Feles Curiosissima
That construction with verbs of saying or thinking exists in French too, e.g. Il dit/pense/croit être le meilleur. But you can also, and in colloquial speech more frequently do, use a que clause (with the indicative): Il dit/pense/croit qu'il est le meilleur.
That actually came up in the Descartes passage (que désormais je croirais commettre une faute) and it confused me momentarily since my textbook didn't mention that construction at all, but I figured that it had to translate as you say.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
Ah, I had forgotten about that bit.
 

Callaina

Feles Curiosissima
Here's something I'm not sure about (just a sentence for translation):

Même si les recherches ne sont pas achevées, il nous reste à travailler l'analyse politique.

Shouldn't it be "... à l'analyse politique"? Can travailler take a direct object like that?
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
Yes, but it doesn't feel quite the same. I think that while the version with à matches pretty much exactly the English expression "work on smth", the transitive version has a stronger connotation of improving or giving a better shape to smth, much as in "working a dough" but, in this case, figuratively.
 

Callaina

Feles Curiosissima
Having some trouble with this passage from Simone Weil.

L’honneur est un besoin vital de l’âme humaine. Le respect dû à chaque être humain comme tel, même s’il est effectivement accordé, ne suffit pas à satisfaire ce besoin ; car il est identique pour tous et immuable ; au lieu que l’honneur a rapport à un être humain considéré, non pas simplement comme tel, mais dans son entourage social. Ce besoin est pleinement satisfait, si chacune des collectivités dont un être humain est membre lui offre une part à une tradition de grandeur enfermée dans son passé et publiquement reconnue au-dehors.

Honor is a vital need of the human soul. The respect due to each human being as such, even if it is effectively granted, does not suffice to satisfy this need; because it (i.e. this respect) is identical for all and immutable; in place of which [?] honor concerns the human being considered, not simply as such, but within their social circle. This need is plainly satisfied, if each of the groups of which the human being is a member offers to them a share in a tradition of greatness, contained within [?] its past [the human being's past? the group's past? the tradition's past?] and publicly recognized outside.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
au lieu que
I wasn't familiar with this usage, but I can see from the context that it means "whereas".
the human being
Why the definiteness while the French is indefinite?
Looks like you fell for a false friend. Pleinement means "fully" (from Latin plenus).
contained within [?] its past [the human being's past? the group's past? the tradition's past?]
I am not sure... Perhaps it makes more sense to take it as the group's past, because if the tradition of greatness were entirely the person's, they wouldn't need to be given a share in it.
 
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