Le Futur vs l'Imparfait.

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David

Kwiziq community member

10 October 2018

20 replies

Le Futur vs l'Imparfait.

In the writing challenge "My post-university plans" the sentence "I've heard that Isabelle is also going to try her luck in Paris." is translated as "J'ai entendu dire qu'Isabelle allait aussi tenter sa chance à Paris."

Why is "allait" used rather than "ira" or "va"?

"allait" seems to be translation for "was going", not "will be going" or "is going", yet the most likely meaning of the sentence is that Isabelle's action will occur in the future.

It seems that the explantion has to do with the fact that the sentence describes something already heard and therefore belongs to the past but the result is not intuitive.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

10 October 2018

10/10/18

Hi David,

this is so-called reported speach, a separate grammar topic which isn't yet covered by dedicated lessons on kwiziq.

It is actually similar in English:

He said: "I am going to eat." -- Il dit "Je vais manger."
He said that he was going to eat. -- Il a dit qu'il allait manger.

Present tense in the direct speeach (I am going to eat) becomes imperfect in reported speach (he was going to eat).

Chris

Kwiziq community member

10 October 2018

10/10/18

Sorry, it shouls be "speech". I actually managed to misspell all three occurrances in my previous post. ;)

David

Kwiziq community member

11 October 2018

11/10/18

I have now read the discussion of this topic at https://www.thoughtco.com/french-grammar-direct-indirect-speech-4080554.

But I see a difference here. The nearest rule says present becomes imperfect but here we have a case of future proche (is going to, i.e. will) and that rule does not say anything about that.

So then I read https://www.talkinfrench.com/french-direct-indirect-speech/ which has a more complete set of rules.

There it states: If the verb is in the future or conditional tense in the direct speech, it will be in the conditional tense in the indirect speech. (future/conditional à conditional).

That seems applicable to our sentence. Since the conditional (present) of aller is irait I think the correct translation of the entire sentence ought to be: "J'ai entendu dire qu'Isabelle irait aussi tenter sa chance à Paris."

Chris

Kwiziq community member

11 October 2018

11/10/18

Unfortunately not, David.

Il va manger --> Il allait manger. 

He is going to eat --> He was going to eat..

David

Kwiziq community member

11 October 2018

11/10/18

I suppose you must be right. So how would we translate this: "I've heard that Isabelle was also going to try her luck in Paris. How did she go?"?

Alan

Kwiziq community member

11 October 2018

11/10/18

I am not sure why this discussion is being framed as a difference between direct and reported speech. There is one sentence which is translated from English to French - if it's reported speech it's reported speech in both cases. I don't see why the tense should change.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

11 October 2018

11/10/18

@Alan: reported speech uses tenses in a specific way which not always corresponds to English, although in this case it does. I wanted to point out the fact that this specific example is part of a larger grammatical topic which is not yet covered on kwiziq.

If you're interested, there are many references to it on the internet, e.g., this  one:

https://www.thoughtco.com/french-grammar-direct-indirect-speech-4080554

Alan

Kwiziq community member

11 October 2018

11/10/18

But in this case it doesn't seem to correspond to English. If you look at David's original question he asks why "is also going to try her luck" is translated as "allait aussi tenter sa chance". These are not the same tenses. Of course there could be a subtle difference between English and French usage of reported speech, but that would need to be explained,

Chris

Kwiziq community member

11 October 2018

11/10/18

Strictly speaking you would also need the imperfect in English:

Direct speech: Someone said, "Isabelle is going to try her luck."
Indirect speech: Someone said that Isabelle was also going to try her luck.

Alan

Kwiziq community member

11 October 2018

11/10/18

I think you could actually use either the present or the imperfect in English, depending on whether you thought the action was still in the future. I would write either:

I've heard that Isabelle is also going to try her luck in Paris.

or

I heard that Isabelle was also going to try her luck in Paris.

Maybe it's different in French, but it seems like the translation was not quite accurate.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

11 October 2018

11/10/18

What can I say, Alan? It is how it is. One gets lost in the cracks of a language. It is easy to confuse what may be acceptable in the spoken language with what actually is proper English or French.

To me, the sentence "I heard that Isabelle is also going to try her luck", is actually improper English, although I concede that people may actually use it that way.

In French and English the relationship between direct and reported speech in this case is very similar:

He said: "I am going to eat." --> He said that he was going to eat.
Il a dit: "Je vais manger." --> Il a dit qu'il allait manger.

Using future tense:

He said: "I will eat tomorrow." --> He said that he would eat the next day.
Il a dit: "Je mangerai demain." --> Il a dit qu'il mangerais le lendemain.

Or past tense:

He said: "I ate yesterday." --> He said that he had eaten the previous day.
Il a dit: "J'ai mangé hier." --> Il a dit qu'il avait mangé la veille.

Alan

Kwiziq community member

11 October 2018

11/10/18

> To me, the sentence "I heard that Isabelle is also going to try her luck", is actually improper English
Possibly, which is why I preferred "I've heard", as in the original question.

> In French and English the relationship between direct and reported speech in this case is very similar.
But to answer David's question you have to find a difference between French and English.

David

Kwiziq community member

11 October 2018

11/10/18

So Chris, would you mind giving me the answer to the supplementary question that I asked above?

>I suppose you must be right. So how would we translate this: "I've heard that Isabelle was also going to try her luck in Paris. How did she go?"?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

12 October 2018

12/10/18

You yourself posted the correct answer right in your question. 

J'ai entendu dire qu' Isabelle allait aussi tenter sa chance à Paris. 

David

Kwiziq community member

12 October 2018

12/10/18

But if that is the case then both of these English sentences translate to the same French sentence.

1. "I've heard that Isabelle is also going to try her luck in Paris."

2. "I've heard that Isabelle was also going to try her luck in Paris."

How can one tell what is meant?
1. Isabelle will try her luck at some future time.

2. Isabelle may already have tried her luck.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

12 October 2018

12/10/18

I would differentiate thus in French:

J'ai entendu dire qu'Isabelle irait aussi tenter sa chance à Paris. -- (conditionel: at a future time)
J'ai entendu dire qu'Isabelle allait aussi tenter sa chance à Paris. -- (imparfait: in the past)

David

Kwiziq community member

12 October 2018

12/10/18

If that is the case then you agree with me that the answer required by Kwiziq in the writing challenge was wrong and that "allait" should have been "irait".

Chris

Kwiziq community member

12 October 2018

12/10/18

To me, the English seems incorrect. If you wanted to express the future in indirect speech, you'd need tu resort to conditional in English as well:

...that Isabelle would be going to Paris. 

David

Kwiziq community member

12 October 2018

12/10/18

The English sentence is quoted directly from the Kwiziq Writing Challenge exercise.

And it sounds quite correct to me. Here is the sentence in its full context

MY POST-UNIVERSITY PLANS

What will you do after your studies? - I'll start by moving to Paris. My best friend Léa and I will rent a flat there together, and I'll start looking for a job. My parents told me they would help me in the beginning but I hope I'll soon get by on my own ! It should be easier to find a job in the capital. And I'll finally go and visit all the museums that I've always wanted to see ! I've heard that Isabelle is also going to try her luck in Paris. Maybe I'll be able to spend more time with her, I'd love to know her better. In any case, I'll invite her to our housewarming party !

Alan

Kwiziq community member

12 October 2018

12/10/18

The English sentence is certainly correct. It seems that it is also possible to use the future tense in French. I found the following explanation in Advanced French Grammar by Monique L'Huillier. (IRS is "indirect reported speech")
If the verb of the IRS expresses a process in the future (or present or past) which is still in the future (or present or past) at the time of speaking, the future is possible (as well as the form in -ait).
Ex: Patrick a dit qu'il sera/serait ici dans une semaine.Patrick a dit qu'il prendra/prendrait le train de six heures.

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