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2 With a negative imperative, the pronouns precede the verb and occur in the
order outlined in 211 “
Pour les petites retouches en cours de journ´ e, tamponnez l´ g` rement
e ee
votre visage avec un kleenex “ mais ne le faites pas trop souvent = for those
minor touch-ups during the day, dab your face with a tissue “ but don™t do it too often
Ne me posez pas de questions de ce type = don™t ask me that sort of question
Si tu penses que ca peut etre embˆ tant pour l™amiti´ , ne le fais pas = if you
ˆ
¸ e e
think that might put a strain on your friendship, then don™t do it
Ne te laisse pas abattre = don™t allow yourself to be depressed


213 Position of pronouns with an in¬nitive and the
presentatives voici and voila
`
Position of pronouns with an in¬nitive
When an in¬nitive is governed by a modal verb or verb with a similar function, the
pronoun precedes the in¬nitive and not the modal verb “
ˆe
L™´ t´ s™annonce chaud “ si vous voulez le terminer bronz´ e et pas brul´ e,
ee e
prenez de bonnes r´ solutions = it™s going to be a hot summer “ if you want to ¬nish it
e
tanned and not burnt, make some wise resolutions
Mieux vaut ne pas y aller avec un homme = better not to go with a man
´
Personne ne semble pouvoir nous eclairer sur le rapport entre la coupe de
cheveux et le nom d™un poisson (la morue) = nobody seems able to enlighten us on the
connection between the hairstyle and the name of a ¬sh (mullet)


166
215 First person personal pronouns



`
Position of pronouns with voici, voila
`
The unstressed pronoun forms are used before voici and voila “
Me voici, prˆ te a sortir = here I am, ready to go out
e`
`
La voila, dans le bar “ there she is, in the bar
Nouns are placed after the presentatives “
Voici ma nouvelle veste en velours = here™s my new velvet jacket
Voila le type dont je te parlais hier = there™s the guy I was talking to you about
`
yesterday


214 Agreement of past participles with a preceding
direct object
The agreement of past participles with the pronouns of pronominal verbs is discussed in
105“108.
Another scenario involves a preceding direct object and the agreement of a past
participle. The gender and number of the preceding direct object are re¬‚ected in the
form of the past participle.
If the preceding direct object is a noun, it will be repeated before the verb by an object
pronoun “
Cette chemise, je l™ai achet´ e a Clermont = I bought this shirt in Clermont
e`
Les ¬lles, il les a dragu´ es depuis l™age de 15 ans = he™s chatted up girls since he
ˆ
e
was 15
Les concombres, je ne les ai jamais aim´ s = I™ve never liked cucumbers
e
The preceding direct object may also be a relative pronoun, referring back to a noun
in a previous clause “
J™aime bien cette chemise que j™ai achet´ e a Clermont = I like this shirt that I
e`
bought in Clermont very much
Cette histoire qu™il n™a jamais partag´ e avec qui que ce soit est digne d™ˆ tre
e e
mieux connue = this story which he™s never shared with anyone is worthy of being better known
Les sports qu™il a pratiqu´ s sont tous traumatisants pour le corps = the
e
sports he™s indulged in all take it out of the body big time


215 First person personal pronouns
If the person using the ¬rst person pronoun is female, then any adjectives or past parti-
ciples relating to it must be in the feminine form “

First person singular
J™ai toujours et´ prˆ te a toutes les aventures = I™ve always been up for any
´e e `
adventure
Pauvre idiote que j™´ tais! = What a fool I was!
e


167
A STUDENT GUIDE TO FRENCH GRAMMAR



Le mec a voulu m™embrasser et je l™ai repouss´ , choqu´ e qu™il ait eu cette
e e
pens´ e! = the guy tried to kiss me and I pushed him away, shocked that he could think like that
e
J™ai perdu la trace de mes parents. Ou peut-ˆ tre devrais-je dire que ce sont
e
eux qui m™ont perdue = I lost track of my parents. Or perhaps I should say they lost track
of me


First person plural
´
Nous etions vraiment d™une inconscience atroce et je ne sais pas comment
nous nous en sommes sorties vivantes! = We were unbelievably unaware of what we
were doing and I don™t know how we managed to get out of it in one piece!
Nous sommes all´ s au meilleur restaurant de la ville = we went to the best
e
restaurant in town


216 Second person personal pronouns
Whereas English uses you to address any interlocutor, whether known or unknown to the
speaker, whether one or more than one person is involved and whatever the circumstances,
French has a choice between tu and vous in the singular. Consequently, vous resembles
you in that it is used as both a singular and plural pronoun, but is different in that it is not
used in certain circumstances in the singular.
The general principle is that tu is used among friends and work colleagues of the same
or similar status, within the family and when an older person talks to a younger one, ie a
child “ in other words in informal, relaxed, domestic situations. Otherwise vous is used.
Because deciding when to switch from vous to tu as one gets to know someone better
is a dif¬cult decision for a non-native French speaker, it is advisable to be led by the person
you are talking to “ don™t switch until they do. To use tu too soon may be interpreted as
being presumptuous and possibly offensive; to use it too late may make you seem priggish
and distant!
The following examples are taken from a girls™ magazine. Comments are made at the
end of the section.

1 Garcon de 13 ans qui se r´ volte contre la m` re poule “ « Tu m™empˆ ches
¸ e e e
d™exister, j™suis pas une gonzesse » = 13-year-old boy rebelling against his
over-protective mother “ ˜You™re suffocating me, I™m not a girl™
ˆ ` `
2 Vous etes convaincue? Reste a trouver le rouge qui convient a vos
babines = you™re convinced? The next thing is to ¬nd a lipstick that suits your mouth
` ˆ
3 Ont-ils le droit de vous mettre a la porte? “ Si vous etes mari´ e, l™odieux
e
ne peut d´ cemment pas vous mettre a la porte = have they the right to ban you
`
e
from the house? “ If you™re married the blighter can™t decently do that
4 Chez des copains, vous vous sentez moins seule; pour les remercier de
leur hospitalit´ vous vous sentez oblig´ e de coucher avec le c´ libataire du
e e e
lot = staying with mates, you feel less lonely; to thank them for their hospitality, you feel obliged to
sleep with the one in the group who hasn™t got a partner
5 Deux ou trois choses que je sais d™elle et qui m™´ nervent “ Sophie s™est
e
encore trouv´ un beau mec, c™est louche, tu trouves pas? = two or three things
e

168
217 Third person personal pronouns



that I know about her which drive me mad “ Sophie™s found another good-looking guy, it™s the pits,
don™t you think?
6 Pas la mˆ me notion du temps, ni celle de l™argent “ quand on la voit
e
revenir des magasins, les bras charg´ s de douze paires de pompes
e
tellement pas ch` res, regarde celles-ci, tu devineras jamais le prix = you
e
haven™t got the same notion of time or money “ when you see her coming back from the shops with her
arms laden with a dozen pairs of shoes, so cheap, look at these, you™ll never guess the price
7 Je t™appelle car j™ai un probl` me et il est stipul´ que tu r´ pondes quand
e e e
on t™appelle = I™m calling you because I™ve got a problem and it™s stipulated that you reply when
you™re called
8 Je suis formelle, tu n™as aucune raison de culpabiliser ou de trouver ca ¸
honteux de ta part = I am absolutely de¬nite “ you haven™t got any reason to feel guilty or to
¬nd that shameful on your part
9 Que tu aies des gouts bizarres, je ne vois pas tellement le probl` me = that
ˆ e
you™ve got some weird tastes, I can™t see the dif¬culty

In example 1 a young boy is talking (crossly) to his mother and uses tu. In examples
2, 3 and 4, the reader is addressed as vous feminine singular “ the writer does not know
her audience personally but writes for a female reader. The alternation between vous
and tu in these examples and examples 5 and 6 illustrates well the difference in tone
and value of the two pronouns “ vous is used by the writer to address the young female
readership, whom she doesn™t know and who are probably younger than her, whereas
tu is used in those circumstances where two girls are imagined talking to or reacting to
each other. In example 7, the reader is using tu to address the ˜agony aunt™, which is
presumably done to achieve a sense of complicity, but seems impertinent. In examples 8
and 9, the ˜agony aunt™ uses the tu form to create a feeling of trust and intimacy between
her and her correspondents. The contrast between examples 2, 3, 4 and examples 8 and
9 highlights well the delicacy and subtlety of the decision.


217 Third person personal pronouns
Not only do il = he and elle = she, both the pronouns also = it when they refer to or
take the place of a masculine or feminine noun respectively. The same point applies to
the plural forms too; ils, elles = they (the plural of it).
Le troisi` me type de vieillissement c™est le vieillissement hormonal “ il
e
d´ marre vers 35 ans par une baisse de taux d™oestrog` ne = the third type of
e e
ageing is hormonal ageing “ it™s triggered at about 35 by a reduction in oestrogen levels
Apr` s une semaine, la transformation est radicale; visiblement forti¬´ e,
e e
la peau recouvre fraˆcheur et luminosit´ ; elle revit = after a week, the
± e
transformation is radical; your skin, which is visibly strengthened, recovers its freshness and luminosity;
it comes back to life.
Les propositions de l™opposition feraient davantage avancer le pays. Mais
elles ne diff` rent pas fondamentalement des projets gouvernementaux =
e
the opposition™s proposals would bene¬t the country more. But they don™t differ fundamentally from the
government™s projects

169
A STUDENT GUIDE TO FRENCH GRAMMAR



Les projets europ´ ens les plus strat´ giques, les entreprises francaises et
e e ¸
europ´ ennes les plus sensibles ont un point commun “ ils font appel aux
e
cranes d™oeuf d™Altran = the most strategic European projects and the most sensitive French
ˆ
and European businesses have a point in common “ they appeal to Altran™s eggheads
In the last example, it should be noted that when a masculine noun (projets) and a
feminine noun (entreprises) form a compound subject, the pronoun used to refer back
to them is always masculine.

218 Different usages in French and English
Collective nouns referring to groups of people in British English “ team, government, political
party, committee “ tend to be treated as plurals.
The government have decided to support a federalist stance
In French, the rule of grammar, rather than (perhaps) logic, prevails, and such nouns
are treated as third person singulars and are followed by a singular verb “
´
En demi-¬nales, l™´ quipe a elimin´ le Celtic Glasgow, ¬naliste la saison
e e
pass´ e = in the semi-¬nal the team eliminated Glasgow Celtic, who were ¬nalists last season
e
L™opposition a vivement contest´ le rapport de la mission d™´ valuation sur
e e
les 35 heures = the opposition have sharply contested the report of the committee which scrutinised
the 35-hour week
`
Mais si nous en sommes la, c™est parce que le gouvernement Jospin a fait
voter en 2001 une loi pr´ voyant le transfert des impots = but if that™s the
ˆ
e
predicament we™re in, it™s because the Jospin government put through a vote in 2001 on the transfer of
taxes

219 Ce and il with reference to persons
Although in the table of pronouns above, ce is classi¬ed as a neuter subject pronoun, there
is one set of circumstances where it is used as the equivalent of the personal pronouns
subject il / elle / ils / elles to mean he / she / they. This is with names of professions,
nationality and social status.
The rule is

1 il / elle / ils / elles are used when the name is used without a determiner (un /
une / des, le / la / les) “
Elle est francaise = she™s French
¸
Il est professeur = he™s a teacher
Elle est actrice = she™s an actress
Il est devenu pr´ sident en 2004 = he became president in 2004
e
Elles sont couturi` res = they™re dress designers
e
2 ce is used when a determiner is involved and when the noun is modi¬ed in some
way “
C™est la ¬lle d™une architecte = she™s the daughter of an architect

170
221 Ce or il?



Que pensez-vous des mannequins dans les magazines! “ Ce sont des sacs
d™os = what do you think of the models in magazines? They™re bags of bones
`
Les stars se remettent a manger. Leur point commun: ce sont des
femmes d™affaires bourr´ es d™ambition et de talent = the stars are beginning to
e
eat again. They have one point in common “ they™re business women full of ambition and talent
Vous refusez obstin´ ment de fr´ quenter nos bandes de potes, alors que ce
e e
sont des mecs sensibles, je te jure = you stubbornly refuse to have anything to do with
our mates, whereas, I assure you, they™re a sensitive bunch
Dominique? “ c™est un garcon = Dominique? “ he™s a boy
¸

220 Neuter subject pronouns
Apart from the situation described in the previous section, there are others where ce and
il function as neuter subject pronouns in French. In practically all the situations where
ˆ
the two pronouns ˜compete™, it is the verb etre that is involved.
In terms of agreement, ce is treated in exactly the same way as il; it is neuter “ therefore,
any adjective or past participle referring to it always occurs in the masculine, never the
feminine. Unlike il, it is followed by a plural verb (for example sont) when it refers to a
plural noun (in standard French “ in informal French, the singular also appears) “
Ce sont mes CDs pr´ f´ r´ s = they™re my favourite CDs
ee e
´e `e
Ce sont les journalistes francais qui ont et´ les premiers a d´ voiler le
¸
scandale = it was French journalists who were the ¬rst to uncover the scandal


221 Ce or il? 1 “ 1: when followed by an adjective; 2: followed
by adjective + in¬nitive; 3: followed by adjective + clause
It is a perennial problem knowing when to use which pronoun. In general, ce has a
wider application than il. However, since in English there is only one pronoun to ¬t
all cases, it is important to know in French when to use one pronoun rather than the
other. The situation in French is even more complicated because il = he and personal
it (with reference to masculine items), as well as neuter it. Generally speaking, ce has a
very vague, general value, referring to a context, an effect, an impression, rather than to
a speci¬c referent.
What follows is a series of categories that require one pronoun rather than the other
or, in some cases, that admit both.

1 When it is / was is followed by an adjective alone
It is always ce that is used to = it, when the expression with the adjective forms a complete
statement. If il is used, it = he. In translating ce different strategies may be used, as the
examples below illustrate.
Ce sera dur, mais nous avons remport´ des matches aussi durs = it™ll be
e
tough, but we™ve already won equally tough matches (= playing the game)
ˆe `
Si vous n™avez jamais gout´ le chocolat a la tomate, tentez le coup “ c™est
d´ licieux = if you™ve never tasted tomato-¬‚avoured chocolate, give it a try “ it™s delicious
e
Cela a donn´ des r´ sultats. C™est clair = that™s produced results “ that™s for sure
e e

171
A STUDENT GUIDE TO FRENCH GRAMMAR



Des m´ langes d™imprim´ s “ c™est tr` s british = mixtures of print patterns “ very
e e e
British (= these patterns evoke an impression associated with the UK)
La neige, le soleil, l™aventure, la culture “ c™est incroyable = snow, sun, adventure
and culture “ unbelievable
Misez sur une minijupe. Avec vos jambes de gazelle, ce sera parfait = go for a
miniskirt. With gazelle-like legs like yours, it™ll be perfect
Sophie s™est encore trouv´ un beau mec, c™est louche, tu trouves pas? =
e
Sophie™s found another good-looking guy, it™s the pits, don™t you think?
Il est dur / d´ licieux / clair / incroyable / parfait / louche would = he is
e
tough / delicious / clear / unbelievable / perfect / seedy


2 When it is / was is followed by an adjective + in¬nitive
In this case, il is the required pronoun in standard French if the in¬nitive is followed by
a complement, direct object or any further information.
Il est important de passer du temps ensemble = it™s important to spend time together
`
Si vos vergetures sont rosac´ es, il est encore temps de demander a un
e
dermatologue de vous prescrire une cr` me = If your stretch marks are rosy-coloured,
e
there™s still time to ask a dermatologist to prescribe you a cream
` ´
Il est dif¬cile d™aller a la bataille electorale avec un tel r´ sultat dans les
e
sondages = it™s dif¬cult to go into the elections with such a result in the polls
´
Il etait logique de faire appel aux propri´ t´ s de ce bijou des mers chaudes
ee
= it was logical to appeal to the properties of this jewel from the warm seas
Est-il utile de le r´ p´ ter? = is it useful to do it again?
ee
However, in less formal French, ce may also be used “
Ce serait dur d™aller vivre ailleurs = it™d be hard to go and live somewhere else
The following example shows how even this distinction of formality/informality is not
always respected and the two constructions may occur even in the same sentence “
Maintenant il est impossible de doubler aux Jeux, mais c™est agr´ able e
d™avoir une alternative avec le marathon et le 10 000 m = now it™s not possible
to enter for two events in the Games, but it™s nice to have an alternative with the marathon and the
10 000 metres
If the in¬nitive is not followed by a complement, direct object or any other information,
`
ce is used, and the preposition before the in¬nitive is a rather than de “
En mati` re de drague, il s™agit avant tout de se faire remarquer. Ce n™est
e
pas toujours facile a faire = when you™re on the pull, it™s essential to get yourself noticed. It™s
`
not always easy to do
` `
On devrait faire con¬ance a ses amis. Malheureusement, c™est dif¬cile a
faire = you should trust your friends. Unfortunately it™s dif¬cult to do


172
222 Distinguishing il and ce: 2



3 When it is / was is followed by an adjective + clause
Again, it is il that is used in standard French, ce in less formal French “
Il est universellement reconnu qu™en cent ans le thermom` tre mondial a e
d´ ja gagn´ 0,6 degr´ C = it™s widely accepted that in a hundred years the earth™s thermometer
e` e e
has already risen by 0.6 degrees C
Toujours est-il que je ne peux effectivement m™endormir sans passer par la
salle de bains = the fact remains that in effect I can™t go to sleep without paying a visit to the
bathroom
Il est conseill´ que si vous voulez vous exposez au soleil, vous le faites
e
toujours avec mod´ ration = it™s advisable that, if you want to sunbathe, you always do it
e
with moderation
Ce n™est pas juste que tu aies eu la mˆ me note que moi “ j™ai travaill´
e e
beaucoup plus dur que toi = it™s not fair that you got the same mark as me “ I worked a lot
harder than you
The following example shows a change of construction “
C™est vrai que vous, il ne suf¬t pas d™appuyer sur un bouton pour vous
faire r´ agir = it™s true that you, it isn™t enough to press a button to make you react
e
It should be noted that in a number of situations in informal French ce is encroaching
upon the ground previously occupied by il. This is presumably due to the numerical
ˆ
supremacy of ce preceding etre in these constructions and probably also due to the
in¬‚uence of ca “ see 239.
¸



222 Distinguishing il and ce: 2
When it is / was is followed by another part of speech
Here it is always ce that is used, and again the value of ce is dif¬cult to de¬ne “ it usually
refers to a following scenario “
Ma m` re me tape de plus en plus sur le syst` me. R´ sultat “ c™est disputes
e e e
sur disputes = my mother is getting on my nerves more and more. The result, argument after
argument
Sa strat´ gie, c™´ tait de prendre a chaque coup une d´ cision claire = his
`
e e e
strategy was to make a clear decision at each stroke (in golf)
ˆ ` `
Vous etes pourvue des qualit´ s indispensables a qui veut se lancer a
e
l™assaut des planches? Foncez, c™est pour vous! = you™ve got the indispensable
qualities for someone who is keen to tread the boards? Go for it “ it™s there for you
C™est une attitude plutot saine de vouloir s™isoler de temps en temps = it™s a
ˆ
fairly healthy attitude to want to spend time alone once in a while
C™est bien simple: Julot sans sa troupe de copains, c™est comme un banana
split sans la banane = it™s very simple “ Fred without his troop of mates is like a banana split
minus the banana


173
A STUDENT GUIDE TO FRENCH GRAMMAR



223 The use of c™est to highlight a section of an utterance
The normal word order in French is Subject “ Verb “ Complement (adjective, object,
etc). However, quite regularly in writing and even more so in speech, the speaker / writer
wishes to emphasise a particular section of what he or she is sayng or writing. This can
be done by taking the section in question and preceding it by c™est. Il est is never used
in this way. The following examples illustrate the ways in which various sections can be
highlighted. Note that c™est is almost invariable “ and is used with reference to events
in the past as well as in the present.
`
C™est a leur hotel que l™´ quipe a fˆ t´ sa quali¬cation pour les demi-¬nales
e ee
= it was in their hotel that the team celebrated qualifying for the semi-¬nal
`
Normal order “ l™´ quipe a fˆ t´ sa quali¬cation pour les demi-¬nales a leur
e ee
ˆ
hotel
Mais a la maison, c™est de l™ordre que vous exigez = but in the house, it™s tidiness
`
that you demand
`
Normal order “ vous exigez de l™ordre a la maison
Ce n™est qu™apr` s avoir sirot´ une bonne douzaine de verres qu™il se d´ cide
e e e
en¬n a vous suivre = it™s only after downing a good dozen glasses that he at last makes up his
`
mind to follow you
`
Normal order “ il se d´ cide en¬n a vous suivre apr` s avoir sirot´ une bonne
e e e
douzaine de verres
C™´ tait qui au bout du ¬l? = who was it on the phone?
e
´
Normal order “ qui etait au bout du ¬l?
Sur les tapis rouges de Hollywood, c™est a celle qui p` sera le moins lourd =
` e
on the red carpets of Hollywood it™s the one who™ll weigh the least who wins
C™est a l™acteur de relever ce d´ ¬ = it™s up to the actor to meet the challenge
` e
C™est pas une petite nana comme vous qui allez lui faire perdre la face
devant ses durs a cuire de potes = it™s not going to be a little tart like you who™ll make him
`
lose face in front of his hard mates
See 463 for more discussion of highlighting.


224 Use of on
On is a widely used third person pronoun and covers a range of usages that would
be served by a number of pronouns in English. Translating on into English, therefore,
presents problems and choosing the most appropriate corresponding pronoun requires
careful thought. A number of points will emerge from an examination of the following
examples “

1 that on can be equivalent of almost any other pronoun,
2 that, just because it is used on a number of occasions in a single passage, that does
not necessarily mean that it retains the same value throughout the passage; it is quite
likely to change values from one occurrence to the next.

174
222 Distinguishing il and ce: 2



Aurions-nous oubli´ ces serpents sif¬‚ant sur la tˆ te de Pompidou dans
e e
l™affaire Marcovic? Doit-on rappeler les fantasmagories sexuelles et
d´ lirantes dont les tricoteuses de la R´ volution assaisonnaient Marie-
e e
´
Antoinette. On aura vu, convoqu´ s sans vergogne et sur ecran, des t´ moins
e e
douteux “ mais r´ tribu´ s “ a¬n qu™ils d´ bitent des insanit´ s sans preuves
e e e e
= could we possibly have forgotten those serpents hissing on Pompidou™s head in the Marcovic affair?
Must we remind ourselves of the sexual and outrageous fantasies with which the tricoteuses of the
Revolution [a group of staunchly revolutionary women] spiced up Marie-Antoinette™s
reputation. We have undoubtedly seen dubious witnesses shamelessly assembled on television “ but
rewarded “ to dish up loads of nonsense without any proof
In this example, the alternation between nous and on shows how they can be used
interchangeably in a context where the referent of the pronouns is not de¬ned.
`
On me sollicite parfois pour que je donne un coup de main a l™occasion
d™une affectation = I™m sometimes asked to give a hand when an appointment is being made
Here the best way to translate the on is by a passive construction “ it is not at all clear
who is asking for help.
On dit « c™est du Murat » comme on dit « c™est du Miossec / du Dominique
A ». Des auteurs-compositeurs avec une vraie estampille, on n™en a pas
tant que ca. On tombe sous le charme de ses yeux bleus d™amoureux.
¸
Ensuite, on remarque le mec, pas mal du tout = they say ˜that™s pure Murat™ just as
they say ˜that™s pure Miossec or Dominique A™. We haven™t got that many singer“songwriters with a
genuine trademark. We fall under the charm of his blue love-smitten eyes. Then we notice the guy, not
bad at all
In this example, on seems to have a number of values “ very vague in the ¬rst two
instances; the third could refer to the French nation as a whole; the fourth and ¬fth, those
attending his concerts.
´ `
Ce type etait compl` tement dingue et s™est mis a me poser des questions
e
`e
d™un ton tr` s pervers: « Alors on va a l™´ cole? »; «Et on a des bonnes notes
e
`e `
a l™´ cole, on est une bonne ¬¬lle a sa maman? » Et dans ce genre de
situation, l™emploi de la troisi` me personne du singulier augure quelque
e
chose de terri¬ant = this guy was completely off his rocker and began to ask me questions in a
very perverted way: ˜So she goes to school?™; ˜Does she get good marks at school, is she a good little girl
for mummy?™ In this type of situation, using the third person singular pronoun suggested something
terrifying
Here, as the girl indicates, on is being used in a disturbing way “ an inde¬nite pronoun
used in a highly personal situation, depersonalising the girl.
ˆ
On veut que les gens nous aiment je suppose. Mais ca ne peut etre la raison
¸
´ ´
pour laquelle on ecrit. On ecrit un livre car on ressent l™absolue n´ cessit´ e e
de le faire. Et non pas parce qu™on veut du fric, ou trouver une petite amie
= we/I want people to like us/me I suppose. But that can™t be the reason for writing. We/I write a
book because we/I feel absolutely constrained to do it “ and not because we/I want some money, or to
¬nd a girlfriend
In this example, as the translation implies, on becomes very close to being a substitute
for je “ it teeters between a personal reference and a more general one.

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A STUDENT GUIDE TO FRENCH GRAMMAR



225 Agreement of adjectives and past participles with on
Because on bears so many values, this is brought out in the matter of agreement with
adjectives and past participles (however, the verb never takes anything but the third
person singular form) “ see 197. Of course, this is more obvious in written French than
in spoken French, where agreements are often not noticeable.
Ca devait etre un plan d™une nuit, mais on est rest´ s ensemble six mois = it
ˆ
¸ e
was meant to be a one-night stand, but we stayed together for six months
Tu nous imagines comme ca “ couch´ s, debout, assis? On est aussi
¸ e
vulgaires? = can you see us like that “ in bed, standing up, sitting down? Are we as common as that?
´e
Dans toutes les Cara¨bes, les Cubains ont toujours et´ les plus bosseurs.
±
Ma m` re etait institutrice, on n™´ tait pas des privil´ gi´ s = in all the Caribbean,
e´ e ee
the Cubans have always been the hardest working. My mother was an infant-school teacher; we didn™t
have any privileges
C™est la femme qui a envie d™un enfant la premi` re, surtout quand elle
e
approche la quarantaine. La, on devient mˆ me insistante = it™s the woman
` e
who™s the ¬rst to want a baby, especially when she™s getting close to forty. Then she even insists.
Certains se lavent le nez sous la douche. Quand on est enrhum´ e, c™est e
diff´ rent = some people wash their nose under the shower. When you™ve got a cold, that™s different
e
`
Quand on se croit seul(e) ou a l™abri des repr´ sailles, il arrive qu™on se
e
ˆ
lache un peu ou carr´ ment “ when you think you™re alone or out of danger of reprisals, it
e
happens that you let yourself go “ a little bit or a lot
In the ¬rst two examples, because on refers to a couple, the past participle and adjective
have a masculine plural ending “ but the verb remains in the third person singular. In
the next example, on covers the whole family and not just the mother. In the fourth
example, the person referred to is a woman, consequently insistante. In the second-
last example, the use of the feminine past participle seems odd after the masculine
pronoun certains, but is probably to be explained by reference to the fact that the
example is taken from a women™s magazine. In the last example, the author covers the
possibility that the pronoun may refer to a girl or a guy by presenting the adjective in both
genders.

226 on and its other forms
When it is necessary to refer to the subject pronoun on as a direct or indirect object or
after a preposition, the re¬‚exive forms are used “
Si on n™aime pas le cadeau, on peut le revendre et s™offrir un autre = if you
don™t like the present, you can sell it and buy yourself another one
Tu crois que c™est dangereux de se percer le nombril soi-mˆ me? = do you think
e
it™s dangerous to pierce your navel yourself?
On prend trois comprim´ s qui vont arrˆ ter la grossesse en
e e
court-circuitant les s´ cr´ tions de progest´ rone. C™est indolore et on repart
ee e
tranquillement chez soi = you take three pills which will stop the pregnancy by short-circuiting
the secretion of progesterone. It doesn™t hurt and you can go home without a problem

176
227 Personal pronouns “ object



227 Personal pronouns “ object
The following examples illustrate the use of the personal pronouns as direct and indirect
objects “

First person singular
`
Je n™ai personne a qui me con¬er, j™esp` re que tu sauras m™´ couter et
e e
peut-ˆ tre m™aider = I haven™t got anyone to con¬de in. I hope you™ll be able to listen to me and
e
perhaps help me
`
Je ne sais plus comment me coiffer “ mes cheveux m™abandonnent peu a
peu. Je ne peux plus rien faire des quelques cheveux me restant. Je devrai
porter une perruque, ce qui ne m™enchante gu` re = I don™t know how to do my hair
e
any more “ my hair is gradually dropping out. I can™t do anything with my few remaining hairs. I™ll
have to wear a wig, and that doesn™t appeal to me at all

Second person singular
Je t™ai reconnue, autant te dire qu™au milieu de mes lettres pas super-super
tordantes du mois, la tienne m™a fait grand bien = I picked you out “ that™s to say
that in the middle of my not-so-very funny letters this month, yours has done me a lot of good
Si tu veux te faire percer, va dans un lieu sp´ cialis´ = if you want to have a
e e
piercing, go to a place that specialises in it
J™ai h´ sit´ longtemps avant de t™´ crire = I kept hesitating before writing to you
ee e
Je t™appelle car j™ai un probl` me = I™m calling you because I™ve got a problem
e

Third person singular
Je pense que c™est bien de le prendre dans les mains au d´ but = I think it™s ¬ne
e
to take hold of it in your hands at the beginning
Il me reproche de ne pas lui parler = he accuses me of not talking to him
Comment savoir si ca lui fait plaisir? = how can I know if it gives her pleasure?
¸
´ `
J™ai un probl` me qui me tient enorm´ ment au coeur et je n™arrive pas a le
e e
r´ soudre = I™ve got a problem that is very close to my heart and I can™t sort it out
e
Il n™arrive pas a le comprendre = he can™t manage to understand it / him
`

Third person re¬‚exive/reciprocal
Il faut se faire pousser les poils = you™ll need to grow hair
C™est la deuxi` me fois qu™on se s´ pare = it™s the second time we™ve split up
e e
ˆ
Entre etres humains sentimentalement li´ s, il faut beaucoup se parler, se
e
dire des choses = Between human beings with a sentimental attachment, you have to talk a lot,
tell each other things

First person plural
Y a-t-il des risques que nous nous fassions arrˆ ter par la police? = is there a
e
risk that we™ll get ourselves arrested by the police?

177
A STUDENT GUIDE TO FRENCH GRAMMAR



Faire fondre quelques rondeurs super¬‚ues sans nous priver = How to get rid of
a few excess bulges without depriving ourselves

Second person plural
Oui, il y a des risques que vous vous fassiez arrˆ ter par la police, mais ce
e
n™est pas le pire qui puisse vous arriver = yes, there is the risk that you™ll get yourselves
arrested by the police, but that™s not the worst that might happen to you
Pour tranformer vos petits kilos mous en muscles, nul besoin de vous
imposer des kilom` tres de footing ou des heures dans les salles de gym. Il
e
vous suf¬t simplement d™opter pour la marche = in order to transform your wee soft
kilos into muscle, no need to impose kilometres of jogging on yourself or hours in the gym. All you need is
simply to opt for walking

Third person plural
Ca va bien les d´ boussoler, les autres, ca va bien les faire ruminer,
¸ e ¸
m´ dire, mais ca va leur faire clouer le bec = that™ll confuse them very nicely, it™ll give
e ¸
them food for thought, make them curse, but it™ll make them shut their gobs
Je suis une ¬lle bizarre, il ne m™arrive que des choses nulles, je les
collectionne = I™m a weird girl, only boring things happen to me, I collect them
Le mieux serait de leur dire que pour moi c™est juste histoire de voir ce
qu™ils valent au disco = the best thing to do would be to tell them that for me it™s just a matter
of ¬nding out how good they are at discoing
`
A l™heure ou tu liras ces lignes “ grosso modo trois ou quatre semaines
apr` s que je les ai ecrites = when you read these lines “ about three or four weeks after I™ve
´
e
written them


228 The various values of the re¬‚exive pronouns me, te, se,
nous, vous
1 to refer back to the subject
Belle et mince mˆ me sans se ruiner = beautiful and slim even without ruining
e
yourself
Pas la peine de vous punir avec une di` te compl` te de trois jours apr` s
e e e
une crise de chocolat = not worth punishing yourself by not eating anything for three full
days after a chocolate crisis
2 to mark a reciprocal relationship
Nous nous aimons mais nos parents sont compl` tement contre = we love
e
each other but our parents are completely against it
Soyez tr` s clair avec votre petite amie “ il faut surveiller vos paroles, vos
e
actes pour vous prot´ ger contre l™incompr´ hension = be very honest with your
e e
girlfriend “ you need to watch what you say and do to protect yourself from misunderstanding
3 idiomatic usage with no corresponding value in English


178
230 Anticipatory it of English



Vous avez pris quelques kilos sans vous en rendre compte? = you™ve put on a
few kilos without realising it
Sans me vanter je suis l™homme qui supporte le moins au monde « La
Guerre des etoiles » = without boasting I™m the bloke who likes ˜Star Wars™ the least of
´
anybody

229 le referring to a previously expressed concept
Quite often le is used to refer not to a previously expressed or understood noun but to
a concept expressed in a preceding (or subsequent) statement or question. English tends
not to pick up the concept in this way.
J™ai d´ cid´ de vous proposer quelques sujets de r´ dac que je corrigerai
ee e
dans ces pages, si le temps le permet = I™ve decided to suggest a few essay questions
which I™ll mark in these pages, if time allows
Personne ne vous reprochera d™avoir tent´ m´ decine avant de vous
ee
orienter sur la gestion. Le tout est de le justi¬er sans fausse honte = no one
will criticise you for having attempted medicine before having a go at business. What counts is to justify
it without false modesty
´ `
Il evoque l™affaire comme « l™accident qui a mis ¬n » a sa carri` re au e
journal « de la mˆ me mani` re impr´ visible que l™aurait fait une attaque
e e e
cardiaque ou un accident d™avion » = he describes the affair as ˜the accident which put an
end™ to his career in the paper ˜in the same unforeseeable way as a heart attack or plane accident would
have done™
Le message est clair: comme le montre l™histoire europ´ enne, e
l™antis´ mitisme ne touche pas que les juifs, mais concerne les libert´ s de
e e
tous = the message is clear: as the history of Europe demonstrates, anti-Semitism doesn™t affect just
the Jews, but concerns everyone™s liberties
In the ¬rst three examples, the le refers back to a previous concept “ in the ¬rst example
= to mark the essays; in the second = the change of career ambitions; in the third = the end to his
career. In the last example, it anticipates the idea that follows. Note that only in example
2 does the English translation use an it.

230 Dealing with the anticipatory it of English
Whereas English uses an anticipatory it to introduce a following idea, French does not:
therefore, it should not be rendered into French.
Les m´ decins consid` rent essentiel de suivre un programme d™exercices =
e e
doctors consider it essential to follow a programme of exercises
Je trouve dif¬cile de ne pas etre paresseux = I ¬nd it dif¬cult not to be lazy
ˆ
Elle estime important que les parents ne voient pas dans la garde altern´ e e
des enfants une facon de r´ gler leur comptes entre eux = she thinks it important
¸ e
for parents not to see in alternating looking after their children a way of settling scores between them
Je trouve choquant qu™il s™est servi de propos tellement obsc` nes = I ¬nd it
e
shocking that he used such obscene language

179
A STUDENT GUIDE TO FRENCH GRAMMAR



231 Stressed personal pronouns: 1
The stressed forms may occur alone or combined with mˆ me. They are used for empha-
e
sis, when the pronoun is separated from the verb or follows a preposition, and in sentences
without a verb.

First person singular
Moi qui suis une ¬lle et qui aimerais etre un garcon = me a girl who™d love to be a
ˆ ¸
boy
Je suis un traitement, mais il reste inef¬cace sur moi = I™ve been following a
course of treatment but it hasn™t had any effect on me
´ ´e
Je comprends bien evidemment ton d´ sarroi, ayant et´ fascin´ moi-mˆ me
e e e
par la joliesse de Sin´ ad O™Connor = I can certainly understand your confusion, because I
e
myself have been fascinated by Sin´ad O™Connor™s good looks
e
Qui c™est? “ Moi = who is it? “ Me
Il ne sait pas comment le faire “ Ni moi non plus = he doesn™t know how to do it “
Nor do I

Second person singular
Quoi que tu puisses r´ pondre, je pense a toi = whatever you may say in reply, I keep
`
e
thinking of you
Dans la s´ rie « toi aussi joue avec Kylie », voici la poup´ e Kylie Minogue =
e e
in the series ˜you too can play with Kylie™, here™s the KM doll
De qui est-ce qu™il parlait? “ Toi = who was he talking about? “ You

Third person singular
Il ne cesse de faire parler de lui = he™s always making himself talked about
J™avais un perroquet, mais mon premier mari m™a dit: « C™est lui ou moi »
= I had a parrot, but my ¬rst husband said to me: ˜It™s either him or me™
Cet animal m™´ voque mon p` re. Je ne sais pas trop pourquoi, mais c™est
e e
tout a fait lui = this animal makes me think of my dad. I don™t know why, but it™s him to a tee.
`
Merci a Dido, qui, elle, nous a offert un vrai spectacle = thanks to Dido who gave
`
us a real show
Elle explique qu™elle n™avait jamais dit du mal d™elle = she explains that she had
never spoken ill of her
Cette p´ riode houleuse s™arrange g´ n´ ralement d™elle-mˆ me vers 18“20
e ee e
ans = this stormy period normally sorts itself out when you™re between 18 and 20 years old

Third person re¬‚exive
Soi is used with reference to an inde¬nite or unexpressed antecedent and in the expression
estime de soi = self-esteem.
Il faut se sentir tr` s a l™aise avec soi-mˆ me et son partenaire = you have to feel
e` e
completely relaxed with yourself and your partner

180
232 Stressed personal pronouns: 2



J™aide les femmes a se sentir belles, a entretenir leur estime de soi = I help
` `
women to feel beautiful, to maintain their self-esteem

First person plural
Il y a un risque qu™entre nous ce ne soit plus pareil = there™s the danger that between
ourselves it may not work out like that
Aujourd™hui, nous, on a la guerre d™Irak, la mondialisation et
l™alimentation bio = today we™ve got the war in Iraq, globalisation and bio foods

Second person plural
Apprenez a vous imposer. Ne comptez que sur vous = learn to impose yourself.
`
Don™t rely on anyone except yourself
ˆ
Il y en aura pour tous les gouts et toutes les formes pr` s de chez vous =
e
there™ll be one for all tastes and shapes near you

Third person plural
Tous mes amis me disent de garder le moral, mais c™est facile pour eux =
all my mates tell me to keep a stiff upper lip, but that™s easy for them
Je sais que pour eux c™est juste histoire de se d´ fouler = I know that for them it™s
e
just a matter of letting off steam
J™ai peur d™´ prouver quelque chose pour l™un d™eux = I™m afraid of having a feeling
e
for one of them
Au ¬l des mois, ces ¬nes rayures vont blanchir et donc s™estomper
d™elles-mˆ mes = as the months go by, these ¬ne lines will turn pale and therefore blend in by
e
themselves
` ´
Un marathon du baiser a eu lieu a Manille aux Philippines. Il etait r´ serv´ e e
aux amoureux mari´ s ou ¬anc´ s, mais selon les participants, beaucoup
e e
d™entre eux ne l™´ taient pas = a kissing marathon was held in Manila in the Philippines. It
e
was restricted to lovers who were married or engaged, but according to the participants not everyone was


232 Stressed personal pronouns: 2
The third person pronoun, singular and plural, can be used as the direct subject of the
verb, whereas for the other persons the unstressed pronouns need to be used as well “
Il voudrait faire l™amour deux ou trois fois par jour. Si je le repousse, il est
abattu. Lui pr´ tend que je ne suis pas normale, donc c™est l™impasse = he™d
e
like to make love two or three times a day. If I reject him, he gets depressed. He claims I™m not normal,
so we™ve reached an impasse
Mon copain critique mon anatomie et cela me blesse. Lui dit que mes
seins sont trop petits, mais moi, j™en suis contente = my boyfriend keeps criticising
my body. He says that my breasts are too small, but I™m happy with them
ˆe
Un homme ag´ , lui, trouve au contraire valorisant de conqu´ rir une e
partenaire moins ag´ e que lui = a older man on the other hand ¬nds it enhances his prestige
ˆe
if he conquers a partner younger than himself

181
A STUDENT GUIDE TO FRENCH GRAMMAR



`
Il arrive a mon p` re de m™accompagner jusqu™aux cabinets d™essayage.
e
Est-ce choquant? Moi, j™y suis habitu´ e et ca ne me gˆ ne pas = it happens that
e ¸ e
my dad goes with me to the ¬tting rooms. Is that shocking? I™m used to it and it doesn™t worry me
La question est de savoir si toi tu as les qualit´ s pour r´ veiller ce groupe =
e e
the question is to know if you™ve got the qualities needed to shake this group up
Devenue r´ dactrice en chef, le Guide, c™´ tait elle, les billets pleins
e e
d™humour et de rosserie parfois, elle encore = having become editor in chief, she was
the guide, notes full of humour, sometimes of nastiness too, that was her again
La mauvaise humeur du matin, le match du foot, vous, vous y echappez = ´
the bad mood in the morning, the football match, you can escape all that
It is also possible for the third person pronoun to be repeated as with the other persons
Il faut dire qu™elle, elle ne pose pas de questions = it has to be said that she doesn™t
ask questions


233 Stressed personal pronouns: 3
With certain verbs stressed pronouns are used to express to me, you, him, her, etc, rather
than the regular pronouns (me, lui, en, etc):
With faire attention a = to pay attention to, s™habituer a = to get used to, penser a
` ` `
= to think of, avoir recours a = to have recourse to, rˆ ver a = to dream of, songer a = to
` ` `
e
think of, tenir a = to be fond of
`
Je suis folle amoureuse d™un mec, je rˆ ve a lui tout le temps = I™m madly in love
e`
with a guy; I dream about him all the time
`e `
M´ nager sa colonne vert´ brale contribue a pr´ venir les maux “ pense a elle
e e
avant de faire des mouvements trop brusques = managing your spinal column will
help avoid problems “ think about it before making too sudden movements
With verbs of movement
Elle a couru a moi les larmes aux yeux = she ran to me with tears in her eyes
`
Mon petit ami m™a quitt´ e “ je ne sais pas comment m™y prendre pour
e
qu™il revienne a moi = my boyfriend has left me “ I don™t what to do to make him come back
`
However, if the ˜movement™ is intellectual, the unstressed pronouns are used “
`
Il me vient a l™esprit que l™important n™est pas le commentaire mais l™acte
= it occurs to me that the important thing is not so much talk as action


234 en and y
En and y are like the personal pronouns dealt with earlier in that “
1 they are placed between the subject and the verb when there is a subject,
and 2 they are used in exactly the same way with the imperative.


235 en
En is a pronoun which

182
235 en



1 is the equivalent of de + a noun or the idea contained in a phrase and = of, about,
from + it / they; very often it is a matter of a verb with a prepositional object, eg
se servir de, se moquer de, se d´ barrasser de
e
2 is used in partitive constructions = some / any of it / them;
3 is the equivalent of the possessive determiner in English in certain circumstances;
4 is part of certain verbal expressions.


1 the equivalent of de + noun
J™adore ce t-shirt avec ces longues manches fendues aux coudes. Qu™est-ce
que tu en penses? = I adore this t-shirt with its long sleeves, split at the elbows. What do you
think of it?
Les lentilles les plus connues sont vertes ou rouges, mais il en existe
d™autres vari´ t´ s = the best known lentils are green or red, but other varieties exist
ee
´ `
Son epouse reprochait a l™entourage du pr´ sident d™avoir accapar´ les
e e
voitures de son mari et au pr´ sident d™en avoir eu connaissance = his wife
e
accused the president™s entourage of having seized her husband™s cars and the president of being aware of it
Si la rose est la reine des ¬‚eurs, le jasmin en est le roi = if the rose is the queen of
the ¬‚owers, jasmine is the king
J™avais l™air d™un nain travesti entour´ de gazelles. Tout le monde s™en
e
marrait = I looked like a dressed-up gnome surrounded by gazelles. Everybody took the mickey
`
Le diagnostic d™un m´ decin reste indispensable. N™h´ sitez pas a vous en
e e
servir = a doctor™s diagnosis is indispensable. Don™t hesitate to use it
Ces photos, personne n™en conteste l™authenticit´ = no one disputes the authenticity
e
of these photos
Quand il y a des informations sur la torture des prisonniers, des sanctions
ˆ
doivent etre prises tr` s vite; cela responsabilise les personnes qui en ont la
e
charge = when there™s information about the torture of prisoners, sanctions must be taken very
quickly; that makes the people who are in charge of them responsible


2 = some / any of it / them
ˆ ` `
Vous etes exigeantes avec vous-mˆ me “ voila pourquoi vous conseillez a
e
celles qui n™ont pas de tenue ASICS d™en avoir une = you™re demanding with
yourself, that™s why you advise those who haven™t got an ASICS out¬t to get one
Je lis des textes sur l™´ conomie d™Afrique. J™en ai un tas = I read texts on the
e
economy of Africa. I™ve got stacks of them
Pour ne garder que l™essentiel du caf´ , la compagnie retire le marc au
e
moment de l™´ laboration. Mais si vous y tenez, on peut vous en envoyer =
e
in order to preserve nothing but the essentials of the coffee, the company removes the grounds when it is
being produced. But if you want, they can send you some
Coupez les oranges en lamelles; sucrez-en la moiti´ = slice the oranges thinly;
e
sprinkle sugar on half of them

183
A STUDENT GUIDE TO FRENCH GRAMMAR



Le succ` s des l´ gumes secs s™explique en partie par leur richesse en
e e
`
prot´ ines. Crus, ils en contiennent jusqu™a 25%, et environ 10% apr` s
e e
cuisson = the success of dried vegetables may in part be explained by their richness in proteins.
Uncooked they contain up to 25%, and about 10% after cooking

3 = English possessive determiner
Seul un interrogatoire d´ taill´ de l™enfant et de ses parents permettra d™en
e e
d´ pister la cause [de sa maladie] = only a detailed interrogation of the child and its
e
parents will allow its cause to be traced
« Les photos sont choquantes mais nos rapports sont pires » dit Mme
Notari mais qui refuse d™en pr´ ciser le contenu = ˜the photos are shocking but our
e
reports are worse™, said Mme Notari, who, however, refused to give details of their contents

4 There are also a number of verbal expressions involving en, where
the en seems to have little particular value “
Il en va de mˆ me avec les soutiens-gorges en mati` re elastique = it™s the same

e
with elasticated bras
Je lui en veux de m™avoir l´ gu´ son nez en patate = I hold it against him for having
ee
bequeathed me his nose like a potato
J™ai vu Fabien, pli´ en deux, se tenant le ventre, mort de rire “ il n™en
e
pouvait plus = I saw Fabien, doubled up, holding his stomach, laughing as if he was about to give
up the ghost “ he couldn™t help it
Le clown revient. Mais il n™en peut plus, le clown = the clown has come back. But
he can™t help it, the clown
Je suis seule. Je fais rire tout le monde, et je suis seule. J™en ai marre = I™m
all alone. I make everybody laugh, and I™m all alone. I™m fed up with it
J™en ai assez qu™on me telephone pour m™inviter a les faire rigoler = it gets on
`
my nerves when they ring me up to invite me to make them laugh
Personne n™en veut de mes soucis = no one wants to hear about my problems

236 y
Y is a pronoun which
1 is the equivalent of a + a noun or the idea contained in a phrase and = at, about +
`
it / they; very often it is a matter of a verb with a prepositional object
` ` `
eg faire attention a, penser a, renoncer a
2 = there

1 Equivalent of a + noun
`
Que l™on ait arrˆ t´ de fumer au d´ but d™ann´ e ou depuis quelques ann´ es,
ee e e e
le spectre de la rechute rode. On n™ose pas ne pas y faire attention = whether
you stopped smoking at the beginning of the year or some years ago, the spectre of starting again is ever
present. You dare not not pay attention to it


184
237 Demonstrative pronouns



J™y ai renonc´ il y a trois mois = I gave up three months ago
e
Si vous n™y tenez pas, vous pouvez les supprimer = if you don™t like them, you can
get rid of them
Une fois que vous y aurez pris gout = once you™ve got a taste for them
ˆ

2 = there
J™y ai rencontr´ celui qui allait devenir mon mari = I met the man there who was to
e
become my husband
Sous un chapiteau bleu magique on rit de bon coeur “ clowns,
contortionnistes, trap´ zistes, acrobates “ tout y est = in a magic blue big top
e
everyone has a good laugh “ clowns, contortionists, trapeze artists, acrobats “ everything is there
Nous n™avons pas besoin de photos pour savoir ce qui s™y est pass´ et c™est e
inacceptable = we don™t need photos to know what happened there “ it™s unacceptable



Demonstrative pronouns

237 Demonstrative pronouns
These are equivalent to English the one, this one, that one, those.

The forms

the one
masculine singular celui
the ones
masculine plural ceux
the one
feminine singular celle
the ones
feminine plural celles


The pronouns are very often combined with a relative pronoun.
`
On many other occasions the pronouns are combined with “ci, “la to indicate prox-
imity or remoteness.


this one, the latter
masculine singular celui-ci
` that one, the former
celui-la
these ones, the latter
masculine plural ceux-ci
` those ones, the former
ceux-la
this one, the latter
feminine singular celle-ci
` that one, the former
celle-la
these ones, the latter
feminine plural celles-ci
` those ones, the former
celles-la


The former, the latter sound rather pompous and formal in English “ note the way forms
`
with -ci /-la are translated in the following examples.
For demonstrative adjectives, see 265“266.


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238 Examples of demonstrative pronouns
+ relative pronoun
Voici celui qui a gagn´ le jackpot = here™s the one who™s won the jackpot
e
Ceux qui la connaissaient savaient qu™elle etait aussi pleine de larmes =
´
those who knew her knew that she was also full of tears
` e` `
Quand on commence a conduire on n™est jamais tr` s a l™aise et la vitesse a
e`
laquelle roulent certains peut effrayer. Celles qui ont d´ ja conduit
comprennent ce que je veux dire = when you begin to drive, you are never completely
comfortable and the speed at which some drivers drive can be frightening. Those (women) who already
know how to drive understand what I mean
Vous ne voulez causer probl` me a ceux qui vous ont invit´ e = you don™t want to
`
e e
be a nuisance to those who have invited you
Surtout tous ceux qui murmurent que « la vie, c™est bien compliqu´ », il e
les d´ teste = he especially detests those who murmur that ˜life™s jolly complicated™
e
ˆ
Comment etre celle que l™on raccompagne . . . et pas celle qui
raccompagne = how to be the one taken home . . . and not the one who takes home
Il y a celles et ceux qui en parlent beaucoup mais qui ne font pas
grand-chose, et ceux qui restent plus discrets sur le sujet = there are those of
both sexes who talk a lot about it but don™t do anything, and those who remain more discreet on the
subject
In the following case the relative clause is reduced to a past participle “
ˆ
Des distributeurs automatiques de pommes verront bientot le jour. Ce
e`
syst` me est d´ ja en place en Belgique “ mais le sien diff` re de celui pr´ vu
e e e
pour la France = automatic apple dispensers will soon be on the market. This system is already in
operation in Belgium, but it differs from the one envisaged for France


+ de + in¬nitive / noun
e` ` ˆ
L™incapacit´ a dire non renvoie a une peur infantile. Celle de ne pas etre
aim´ si l™on dit non a ses parents = the inability to say no evokes a childhood fear “ that of
`
e
not being loved if you say no to your parents
C™est le mˆ me message “ celui de vous diriger vers le but de l™harmonie
e
du couple = it™s the same message “ that of aiming towards achieving harmony for your
twosome


+ -ci / -la
`
ˆ
Le role parental, c™est de prot´ ger les enfants contre les trop grandes
e
souffrances et les trop grands exc` s. Celui-ci s™exerce naturellement = a
e
parent™s role is to protect their children against too much suffering and too much excess. It [the latter]
comes into play naturally
`
Kylie aurait pr´ sent´ son ¬anc´ Olivier Martinez a ses parents lors des
e e e
vacances de No¨ l. Ceux-ci seraient tomb´ s sous le charme du beau frenchy
e e

186
239 ceci, cela, ca
¸



= it™s reported that Kylie introduced her ¬anc´ O M to her parents during the Christmas vacation. The
e
latter are said to have fallen under the charm of the good-looking Frenchman
`
Ce spectacle de confusion ne va pas pr´ cipiter l™adh´ sion de Londres a
e e
l™euro. Celle-ci est remise a des calendes grecques = this confused spectacle isn™t
`
going to precipitate London joining the euro. This has been postponed inde¬nitely
Mais la grosse actualit´ du moment, c™est la margarine anticholest´ rol,
e e
commercialis´ e par Johnson & Johnson. Celle-ci fait un veritable tabac en
e
Finlande = but the hot news of the moment is anticholesterol margarine, put on the market by J&J.
This [the latter] is making a big hit in Finland
Les regards qui se d´ tournent, Toulouse qui ne parle « que de ca », les
e ¸
couloirs ou l™on chuchote. Ceux-la, tous ceux-la le mettent en rage = the looks
` ` `
that don™t meet your eye, Toulouse which speaks about nothing but ˜that™, the corridors where everyone is
whispering. These people, all such people, infuriate him
Il y a des parents qui n™ont pas su nous prot´ ger. Ceux-ci n™ont pas su nous
e
aimer non plus = there are some parents who didn™t know how to protect us. They [the latter]
didn™t know how to love us either
` `
Il faut apprendre a l™enfant a se m´ ¬er du « trop », des gens trop m´ chants
e e
tout comme des gens trop gentils. Il faut savoir comment mettre ceux-ci
comme ceux-la a l™´ cart = you must teach your child to be on their guard against ˜too much™,
`` e
people who are too nasty as well as people who are too nice. They need to know how to avoid both types
[the former as well as the latter]

239 The neuter demonstrative pronouns ceci, cela, ca
¸
The function of these pronouns is to refer to the general content of a statement “ ceci
to what has yet to be stated, and cela to what has already been stated “ or to some
unspeci¬ed object. Ceci normally = this, cela normally = that. Ca takes the place of
¸
both ceci and cela in informal French and is very common indeed.
Prenez / ecoutez ceci = take / listen to this [something about to be explained]
´
Ces r` gles automatiques pr´ voient ceci “ que si l™on anticipe sa succession,
e e
cela permet d™aider de son vivant ses enfants = these automatic rules foresee this “
that if you anticipate your succession, that allows you to help your children during your lifetime
Ne fais pas cela = don™t do that [something already mentioned]
L™association europhile souligne que le r´ f´ rendum sur la monnaie
ee
unique est une belle victoire. Cela ne trompe personne = the europhile
association keeps stressing that the referendum on the single currency is a splendid victory. That
deceives no one
` `
Quand ca empoisonne la vie a chaque cycle, il ne faut pas h´ siter a en
¸ e
parler a un gyn´ cologue = when that messes up your life every month, you mustn™t hesitate to
` e
speak about it to a gynaecologist
En amour, ca ne bouge pas assez, et vous aimeriez secouez votre coeur = in
¸
love things are not moving enough and you™d like to give your heart a good shake
Comme ca, au moins, c™est equitable = at least, like that it™s fair
´
¸

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A STUDENT GUIDE TO FRENCH GRAMMAR



Possessive pronouns

240 Possessive pronouns
These are the equivalent of English mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours, theirs.

The forms

ˆ
mine ours
¬rst person masculine singular le mien le notre
ˆ
mine ours
masculine plural les miens les notres
ˆ
mine ours
feminine singular la mienne la notre
ˆ
mine ours
feminine plural les miennes les notres
ˆ
yours yours
second person masculine singular le tien le votre
ˆ
yours yours
masculine plural les tiens les votres
ˆ
yours yours
feminine singular la tienne la votre
ˆ
yours yours
feminine plural les tiennes les votres
his, hers, its theirs
third person masculine singular le sien le leur
his, hers, its theirs
masculine plural les siens les leurs
his, hers, its theirs
feminine singular la sienne la leur
his, hers, its theirs
feminine plural les siennes les leurs

A reminder that, as with the personal pronouns, the gender of the possessive pronoun
depends upon the gender of the noun it refers to, not the gender/sex of the person who
˜possesses™ it. See 267“271 for possessive adjectives.

241 Examples of possessive pronouns
Sa famille habite en Italie, la mienne en Roumanie = his family lives in Italy, mine
in Romania
Je t™ai reconnue, autant te dire qu™au milieu de mes lettres pas super-super
tordantes du mois, la tienne m™a fait grand bien = I picked you out “ that™s to say
that in the middle of my not-so-very funny letters this month, yours has done me a lot of good
Ma m` re est institutrice “ la sienne l™´ tait aussi = my mum™s a primary school
e e
teacher, hers was too
ˆ
Des distributeurs automatiques de pommes verront bientot le jour. Ce
e`
syst` me est d´ ja en place en Belgique “ mais le sien diff` re de celui pr´ vu
e e e
pour la France = automatic apple dispensers will soon be on the market. This system is already in
operation in Belgium, but it differs from the one envisaged for France
Changez vos habitudes et les siennes par la mˆ me occasion car les
e
concessions r´ ciproques seront le ciment de votre couple = change your habits
e
and his on the same occasion because concessions you make to each other will cement your twosome
Il est possible qu™il ne comprenne pas votre malaise “ le sien est beaucoup
moins aigu = it™s possible that he won™t understand your misgivings “ his are a lot less serious
Un groupe d™´ tudiants am´ ricains est envoy´ au Moyen-Age en France et
e e e
` ´
n™a que six heures pour trouver le moyen de revenir a leur epoque (qui est
aussi la notre) = a group of American students has been sent back to the Middle Ages in France
ˆ
and has only got six hours to ¬nd a way of getting back to their time (which is also ours)

188
243 Examples of quantifying pronouns



ˆ
Les vergetures vont de pair avec la pubert´ . Si les votres sont rosac´ es, il
e e
`
est encore temps de demander a un dermatologue de vous prescrire une
cr` me = stretch marks go hand in hand with puberty. If yours are rosy-coloured, there™s still time to
e
ask a dermatologist to prescribe you a cream
´ ´
Nous etions tr` s ambitieux et les equipes que j™ai vues n™´ taient pas
e e
forc´ ment meilleures que la notre = we were very ambitious and the teams I saw weren™t
ˆ
e
necessarily better than ours

J™aime les vˆ tements cr´ es par les Japonais “ les leurs ont un look tr` s
e e
exotique = I like clothes designed by the Japanese “ theirs have a very exotic look
Je dois avouer que nous avons tous les deux des secrets “ le mien, je
n™oserai jamais le lui dire, le sien je le connais, mais il ne le sait pas = I must
confess that we™ve both got secrets “ I™ll never dare tell him mine; I know his, but he doesn™t know I know



Quantifying and inde¬nite pronouns

242 Quantifying pronouns
The main quantifying pronouns are “ beaucoup de = many, certains = a certain number,
la plupart de = most, un (grand / petit) nombre de = a (large / small) number of,
quantit´ de = lots of, la majorit´ de = the majority of, la minorit´ de = the minority
e e e
of, plus de = more than, moins de = less / fewer than, peu de = few. In these cases the
linking de remains de, unless it is combined with the de¬nite article “ as in the examples
below.

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