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Thinking about Penser - Part 2

In our last lesson, we learned that penser à means “to think about” or "have in mind" and that penser de means "to think of" in the sense of giving an opinion.  We also learned that penser à + infinitive means “to consider doing,” while penser + infinitive emphasizes planning an action. In this lesson, we will discuss which pronouns replace the de and à in penser de/à and what happens when penser is followed by a relative clause (penser que).



As you may know, à + a noun can be replaced by the pronoun y, and de + a noun by the pronoun en. (You can learn more about that here and here.) So, penser à + noun becomes y penser (to think about it), and penser de + noun becomes en penser (to think of it, to feel about it). Remember that the pronouns and en are placed before the verb. 


Elisa is interested in what her mother pense de la techonologie (thinks of technology). She asks her:


Qu'est-ce que tu en penses ?

What do you think of that?

Caption 12, Elisa et sa maman La technologie

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In the video below, en refers to what people thought about the confinement protocols during the pandemic:  


Globalement, malgré ce que les gens peuvent en penser, les mesures de restriction sont plutôt respectées.

Overall, despite what some people may think of them, the restriction measures are rather well respected.

Captions 33-34, Lionel L Le déconfinement

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Now let's see some examples with y penser (to think about it). In the video below, the speaker asks her friend to consider hiring help, as she will no longer be available:


Ben essaye d'y penser.

Well, try to think about it.

Caption 73, Le Jour où tout a basculé J'ai escroqué mon assurance ! - Part 2

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The speaker could have said the same thing in a more succinct way:



Think about it.


(Notice that in the imperative mood, prepositions are tacked onto the end of the verb with a hyphen.) 


Or, the speaker could have been even more succinct:



Think about it.


(Réfléchis-y is more correct, but the pronoun y is often dropped from it in casual conversation.)


Sometimes we're reluctant to think about certain situations. In his song "Pocahontas," Grand Corps Malade mentions how some parents don’t dare think about the prospect of their children flying the nest for the first time: 


Ils reviendront vider leur chambre, ça j'ose même pas y penser

They'll come back to empty their room, I don't even dare think about that

Caption 32, Grand Corps Malade Pocahontas

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Speaking of thinking about people, and en are NOT the right pronouns to use when thinking about a person. Y and en can replace an object, a thought, an idea, an action, a place, a situation, etc., but never a person or living being. In the latter case, we simply keep the prepositions à and de and use the construction penser à/penser de + disjunctive pronoun, as in penser à eux (to think about them), just as we do in English. For example, we say:


Je pense à mes parents. Je pense à eux.

I think about my parents. I think about them.


The same rule applies with penser de, when giving an opinion about people:


Alors, qu'est-ce que les Québécois pensent de nous ?

So, what do the Québécois think of us?

Caption 42, Le Québec parle aux Français - Part 11

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We’re not quite done with penser! There's one more important thing to know that has to do not with pronouns, but with tenses. When you use the negative relative clause ne pas penser que (to not think that), you must conjugate the following verb in the subjunctive, since you're expressing doubt or skepticism. The speaker in this video doubts that the common quail is endangered:


Personnellement, je ne pense pas qu'elles soient menacées.

Personally, I do not think they are endangered.

Caption 31, Canal 32 Les secrets des cailles des blés

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However, in the affirmative (penser que), the verb is conjugated in the indicative. If the speaker did think they were endangered, he would have said:


Personnellement, je pense qu'elles sont menacées.

Personally, I think they are endangered.


The subjunctive mood is also required when you use penser que in a question:


Pensez-vous qu’il soit trop tard ?

Do you think it’s too late?


As you can see, there are many rules to consider when it comes to penser! We hope this lesson will help you y penser (think about them). Thank you for reading!


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