Translation of English present participle

FrankC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Translation of English present participle

I am a bit confused about how to translate certain uses of the present participle of an English verb.  Sometimes the French use the construction, en + present participle, and and at other times they use à  + infinitive.  This story has two examples.  The first: "...was dragging on the ground while making a horrible rattling noise."   'While making' is translated as 'en faisant', i.e. en + present participle. The second example: "Michel and his dad had spent whole weekends fixing..."  This translation of the present participle 'fixing' (one could also think of while fixing to align with the first example) is 'à réparer', i.e. à + infinitive.  Are these two constructions simply options, i.e. one could use either, or is there some guidance as to when to use one or the other?  I hope my question is clear.  Thanks in advance.  BTW, I loved the theme for the workout as it has practical application since most of us drive.  Also, I was impressed that a native French person would know Americain slang like 'beater'.

Asked 6 months ago
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor Correct answer

There's a slight difference: en + verb is often "while doing (verb)".

Ils ont passé leur week-end en pêchant. -- They spent their weekend (while) fishing.
Ils ont passé leur week-end à pêcher. -- They spent their weekend fishing.

The difference is difficult to feel but with the present participle, you are looking at two equal activities: passing the weekend and fishing. With à pêcher, you tell someone how you spent your weekend. The fishing is, in a way, subordinate to spending the weekend. I don't know if that makes sense to you but that's how I feel the difference.

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor Correct answer

Hi Frank, I think the test interjecting the word "while" might still work in this case: the tailpipe dragging on the ground while making a horrible noise (en faisant...). But you couldn't say "they spent their weekend while fishing".

FrankC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Hi Chris!  I reviewed the two instances in the story after having read your comment.  In the first usage, "...traînait par terre en faisant un horrible bruit de ferraille", the usage is paranthetical, i.e. it adds something but is not necessary to the understanding that the tailpipe was dragging on the ground.  In the second case where we use the infinitive constuction, that part cannot be left out if one is to understand the sentence.  I am going to keep your suggestion in mind as well as my own distinction as I encounter future examples.  Thanks for your help.

CélineKwiziq team member

Bonjour Frank,

Here are links to lists of verbs followed by à or de: 

Verbs + à + [infinitive]: B1 - B2 - B1

Verbs + de + [infintive]: B1 - A2

Verbs followed by à or de

I hope this is helpful.

Bonne journée !

Translation of English present participle

I am a bit confused about how to translate certain uses of the present participle of an English verb.  Sometimes the French use the construction, en + present participle, and and at other times they use à  + infinitive.  This story has two examples.  The first: "...was dragging on the ground while making a horrible rattling noise."   'While making' is translated as 'en faisant', i.e. en + present participle. The second example: "Michel and his dad had spent whole weekends fixing..."  This translation of the present participle 'fixing' (one could also think of while fixing to align with the first example) is 'à réparer', i.e. à + infinitive.  Are these two constructions simply options, i.e. one could use either, or is there some guidance as to when to use one or the other?  I hope my question is clear.  Thanks in advance.  BTW, I loved the theme for the workout as it has practical application since most of us drive.  Also, I was impressed that a native French person would know Americain slang like 'beater'.

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