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à + infinitive construction

TomC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

à + infinitive construction

The English text 'she lay daydreaming for hours' is translated 'elle restait allongée à rêvasser pendant des heures'.

Does this use of an 'à + infinitive' construction imply some element of purpose (she lay down to daydream) or can it really be used simply to imply simultaneous activity? For example, could you say 'je fait le repassage à écouter la radio...'?

Asked 2 months ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Tom,

For simultaneous actions you would use le gérondif:  

Je fais le repassage en écoutant la radio

 

Here is the link to the lesson -

Forming Le Gérondif: en + '-ant' (while/by + -ing)

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

That's a good question, particularly as this type of construction crops up frequently in French:

J'ai beaucoup à faire. -- I have a lot to do.
Il est occupé à nettoyer sa chambre. -- He is busy cleaning his room.
Pouvez-vous m'aider à le finir? -- Can you help me finish it?
Vous commencez à lire. -- You're starting to read.

In general, you can't infer an element of purpose ("in order to...") or simultaneity from it. Some verbs in French just go with the preposition à, while others go with de. 

Vous arrêtez de lire. -- You stop reading.
Comment éviter de devoir y aller? -- How to avoid having to go there?
Anne a décidé de ne pas terminer. -- Anne decided not to finish.

Since I'm unable to come up with a rule, I can only shrug my shoulders and suggest one simply learns the preposition along with the verb.

à + infinitive construction

The English text 'she lay daydreaming for hours' is translated 'elle restait allongée à rêvasser pendant des heures'.

Does this use of an 'à + infinitive' construction imply some element of purpose (she lay down to daydream) or can it really be used simply to imply simultaneous activity? For example, could you say 'je fait le repassage à écouter la radio...'?

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