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Present Participles Part 2 - Le Gérondif

In our previous lesson on present participles, we discussed how they can be used as verbs or as adjectives. In this lesson, we’ll focus on present participles used as verbs, known as le gérondif.

 

Basically, the gérondif is the construction "en + present participle," as in en faisant (while doing). Like all present participles used as verbs, present participles in the gérondif don’t take agreement. 

 

In addition, the gérondif construction "en + present particple" never changes in French, but it will translate differently in English depending on context and function.

 

The gérondif usually indicates simultaneity and causation, and can be translated as "while x-ing," "by x-ing," or "as x."

 

When the gérondif is used to emphasize two actions taking place at about the same time, it usually translates as "while x-ing," as in en attendant (while waiting):

 

Bon... en attendant que notre pâte lève, on s'attaque au bredele?

Good... while waiting for our dough to rise, shall we tackle the bredele?

Caption 35, Alsace 20 - Grain de Sel: le Lycée hôtelier Alexandre Dumas

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En attendant can also be used on its own as an idiomatic expression ("in the meantime/meanwhile"):

 

En attendant, les communes doivent payer des ramassages quotidiens

In the meantime, towns must pay for daily collection

Caption 31, Le Journal - Marée verte en Bretagne

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The construction "en + present participle" can also be equivalent to "as + verb" in English when indicating simultaneity:

 

Mais... en partant, elle m'a donné son numéro de téléphone.

But... as she left, she gave me her phone number.

Captions 35-36, Extr@ - Ep. 6 - Le jour du loto - Part 3

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To further emphasize simultaneity between two actions or to indicate opposing actions in French, you can use the construction "tout en + present participle" (all while x-ing), as in tout en parlant (all while speaking). This construction is especially useful when you're talking about multitasking:

 

Je joue sur mon téléphone et parle avec mes amis tout en regardant la télé.

I play on my phone and talk to my friends, all while watching TV.

 

The gérondif can also indicate a means to achieve something, equivalent to the construction "by x-ing" in English:

 

Parents, veuillez surveiller bien vos enfants en leur apprenant à respecter les animaux.

Parents, please supervise your children well by teaching them to respect the animals.

Caption 12, Voyage en France - Chantilly - Part 3

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The gérondif can also describe the way an action is performed:

 

Est-elle rentrée en chantant?

Did she come in singing?

Caption 58, Le saviez-vous? - Les différentes négations - Part 3

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Here, the translation is straightforward. En chantant simply means "singing."

 

However, when that sentence is put in the negative form, you must use the infinitive and not the present participle. As Patricia explains in her video, en chantant (singing) becomes sans chanter (without singing). The preposition sans (without) must be followed by the infinitive:

 

Non, elle est rentrée sans chanter.

No, she came in without singing [she didn't come in singing].

Caption 59, Le saviez-vous? - Les différentes négations - Part 3

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The present participle is much more prevalent in English, whereas French favors the infinitive instead. In English you can follow a conjugated verb by an infinitive or a present participle. In French, it’s preferable to use the infinitive. For example, when talking about something you like doing or like to do, you cannot say j’aime faisant (I like doing). You have to say j’aime faire (I like to do):

 

J’aime faire des dessins.

I like drawing./I like to draw. 

 

Similarly, when a person witnesses someone doing something, it’s better to use the infinitive after a conjugated verb:

 

Je les ai vues chanter.

I saw them sing./I saw them singing. 

 

Another word of caution: the present participle is never used to form a progressive tense, simply because there is no such tense in French. You must use the present indicative instead. For example, "I am thinking" (present progressive) and "I think" (present indicative) both translate as je pense.

 

The construction je suis pensantthe literal translation of "I am thinking," simply does not exist! The only option is the present indicative: je pense (I think).

 

If you really want to emphasize an action in progress in French, you can use the expression être en train de (to be in the process/in the middle of):

 

On est en train de réchauffer la pâte en fin de compte.

We are in the process of warming up the dough in the end.

Caption 12, Cap 24 Alessandro di Sarno se met au point de croix

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To sum up, French uses the infinitive in many instances where English uses the present participle, and the gérondif construction "en + present participle" can take various forms in English. 

 

There you have it for present participles! En passant (incidentally), we hope this lesson will be useful to you!

 
Grammar

Inside and Outside

The preposition dans can mean "in," "inside," or "into," depending on context. For example, elle est dans la maison could either be "she is in the house" or "she is inside the house," and elle va dans la maison could be "she goes inside the house" or "she goes into the house." In this lesson, we'll focus on "inside" (and its opposite, "outside"), which has a few other translations besides dans.

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The first is dedans. Unlike dans, which is a preposition, dedans usually functions as an adverb. It can either mean "inside" or "indoors":

 

Là y'a nouveau jeu. Ils doivent deviner combien il y a de bonbons dedans.

There's a new game. They have to guess how many candies there are inside.

Caption 49, Actu Vingtième - Fête du quartier Python-Duvernois

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Je n'aime pas rester dedans toute la journée.
I don't like staying indoors all day.

 

Like "inside," dedans can also be used as a noun:

 

Le dedans de l'église est très sombre.
The inside of the church is very dark. 

 

We could also say l'intérieur de l'église est très sombre (the interior of the church is very dark), or simply il fait très sombre dans l'église (it's very dark inside the church). In fact, l'intérieur is the other word for "inside" in French. You'll often see it in the phrase à l'intérieur (de), which can also mean "within":

 

Maintenant, on va la laisser reposer

Now we are going to let it rest

pour que les levures à l'intérieur puissent permettre à notre pâte d'être aérée.

so that the yeast inside can allow our dough to be airy.

Captions 32-33, Alsace 20 - Grain de Sel: le Lycée hôtelier Alexandre Dumas

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Alors des maisons, c'est très rare d'en trouver, euh...

So [standalone] houses, it's very rare to find them, uh...

à l'intérieur de Paris, je vous le promets.

within Paris, I promise you.

Captions 19-20, Antoine - La Butte-aux-Cailles

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We could easily rewrite these two examples using dedans and dansles levures dedans (the yeast inside), en trouver dans Paris (find them in Paris).

 

Now let's move "outside." Though French has a general word for "in" (dans), it doesn't have one for "out." However, dedans and à l'intérieur (de) do have direct opposites: dehors and à l'extérieur (de)

 

Dehors functions in the exact same way as dedans, as an adverb or noun:

 

Dois-je payer pour ce qu'ils font dehors?

Should I pay for what they do outside?

Caption 20, Alain Etoundi - Allez tous vous faire enfilmer!

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Le dehors de la maison est plus joli que le dedans. 
The outside of the house is nicer than the inside. 

 

There's also the phrase en dehors de, which means "outside of" in both a literal and figurative sense:

 

Parce qu'il y a énormément de personnes qui vont travailler en dehors de Paris.

Because there are so many people who go to work outside of Paris.

Captions 47-48, Adrien - Le métro parisien

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En dehors de ça, je ne vois aucune autre solution. 
Outside of that, I don't see any other solution. 

 

Sometimes you'll see hors de rather than dehors de:

 

J'aurais du mal à vivre hors de Paris maintenant.

I'd have trouble living outside of Paris now.

Captions 38-39, Elisa et sa maman - Comment vas-tu?

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But hors (de) usually means "outside" figuratively, along the lines of "beyond," "without," or "excluding":

 

C'est hors de question!
That's out of the question!

 

Le loyer est de 600 euros hors charges. 
The rent is 600 euros excluding utilities. 

 

Finally, there's à l'extérieur, the opposite of à l'intérieur

 

Ce quartier-là, à l'extérieur, il a quand même une certaine réputation...

This neighborhood, on the outside, it has a certain reputation, nevertheless...

Caption 52, Actus Quartier - Fête de quartier Python-Duvernois

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Ça m'a permis d'aller travailler à l'extérieur de ce pays.

It's allowed me to work outside of this country.

Caption 24, Annie Chartrand - Grandir bilingue

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Il y a des gargouilles sur l'extérieur de la cathédrale.
There are gargoyles on the cathedral's exterior

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Now you know all the ways of saying "inside" and "outside" inside and out! 

Vocabulary

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