Verb Misconjugation

French verb misconjugation
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Mauvaise conjugaison

In verb tables, the subject is conveniently placed right in front of the verb, as in Je parle français (I speak French), which makes figuring out the correct conjugation very straightforward. But it doesn’t take long to discover that other words sometimes come between them.

Par exemple…

Je le parle.   I speak it.
Je ne parle pas français.   I don’t speak French.

In most cases, this intruder doesn’t cause any conjugation problems – le and ne don’t resemble subject pronouns, so there’s no reason they should cause confusion. But with some words, it’s a little more complicated.

Intrusive qui

The relative pronoun qui can be placed between the subject and its verb, and it’s not uncommon for students to conjugate the verb in the third person singular in order to agree with qui. But qui is not the subject in these constructions: the subject is the noun or pronoun that qui follows and replaces.

1) Noun + qui

Les enfants qui sait nager ….
Les enfants qui savent nager ….
  Children who know how to swim ….
Ce sont nos chiens qui a tout mangé.
Ce sont nos chiens qui ont tout mangé.
  It’s our dogs that ate everything.

2) Subject or stressed pronoun + qui

Vous qui sait la réponse ….
Vous qui savez la réponse ….
  Those of you who know the answer ….
Il n’y a que moi qui est prêt.
Il n’y a que moi qui suis prêt.
  I’m the only one who’s ready.
C’est nous qui est parti tôt.
C’est nous qui sommes partis tôt.
  We’re the ones who left early.

 Note how the subject can be emphasized by putting c’est or ce sont in front of it – this is called the tonic accent.

3) Demonstrative pronoun + qui

Ceux qui sait la réponse ….
Ceux qui savent la réponse ….
  The ones who know the answer ….
Je ne connais pas celles qui a gagné.
Je ne connais pas celles qui ont gagné.
  I don’t know the ones who won.

Disruptive d’entre

The modifying phrase d’entre can be followed by a stressed pronoun, giving the impression that the verb should be conjugated for the latter. Once again, this is incorrect: the verb has to match whatever precedes d’entre.

1) Adverb of quantity + d’entre + stressed pronoun

Beaucoup d’entre vous avez raison.
Beaucoup d’entre vous ont raison.
  Many of you are right.
Combien d’entre nous savons la vérité ?
Combien d’entre nous savent la vérité ?
  How many of us know the truth?

2) Indefinite pronoun + d’entre + stressed pronoun

Chacun d’entre nous devons le signer.
Chacun d’entre nous doit le signer.
  Each of us must sign it.
Plusieurs d’entre vous savez déjà.
Plusieurs d’entre vous savent déja.
  Several of you already know.
L’un d’entre eux peuvent partir.
L’un d’entre eux peut partir.
  One of them can leave.

Influential object pronoun

Direct and indirect object pronouns go in front of the verb, and usually this isn’t a problem.

Par exemple…

Il me parle.   He’s talking to me.
Nous te voyons.   We see you.

However, when the object is nous or vous, a careless mistake sometimes occurs. Because the subject and object pronouns are identical, it’s not uncommon for a sort of automatic instinct to take over, recalling the formulas

  • nous + –ons
  • vous + –ez

that are drilled into your head when you memorize verb tables. In short, because the object pronoun directly precedes the verb, you may automatically conjugate for it, rather than for the more distant subject. This mainly happens when speaking, and it’s just something to make a bit of extra effort to avoid.

Par exemple…

Il nous parlons.
Il nous parle.
  He’s talking to us.
Nous vous voyez.
Nous vous voyons.
  We see you.

 Related lessons

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French wrong conjugation

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