"Il parle alors qu'il lit."

Translation:He is talking while he is reading.

January 8, 2013

This discussion is locked.


what's wrong with 'he is talking whilst he is reading' are those terms not usually interchangeable?


@alinarosemary and LiviaFitz. It's for the purists really: While= During The Time another action takes place. Whilst=Whereas/Although/However.


while = during, this is part of it , it might means whereas as well. I like coffee while you don't. Don't break in while I'm talking.


No. Whilst just means Whereas/However. While=more than one action happening simultaneously. It also can mean more than one moment. The twain do not meet. While does not mean Whereas.


Here are the different meanings of while: A. Noun 1. A period of time. ex. We watched for a while. 2. At the same time (meanwhile). ex. He starts to draw, talking the while. B. Conjunction 1. During the time that, at the same time as. ex. Nothing much changed while he was away. 2. Whereas(indicating a contrast) ex. One person wants out, while the other wants the relationship to continue.


My question too!


Well strictly speaking, isn't "talking" dire and "speaking" parler?


No, "to say" = "dire".

"to talk" and "to speak" = parler/discuter (there are several other meanings)


For this sentence, I would rather use "lorsque " or "pendant que ", but that's just me. The sentence feels weird this way, even if it's proper French.


Indeed, "alors que" has the conotation of "bien que", i.e. "although", "whereas" (= the best translation to "alors que", theoratically).


  • Il parle alors qu'il m'avait dit qu'il lirait = He's talking whereas he'd told me he'd be reading

  • Il parle alors qu'il n'a même pas un an! = He talks whereas he's not even one year old!


I also prefer pendant que, but forgot it when this question came up.


Is it true in French as it is in English that the French sentence can be interpreted two ways (some of the "il"s/"he"s have been changed to names to get my point across more easily):

1) John is talking while he is reading


2) John is talking while Matthew is reading

Please clarify for me!


John is talking while/at the time he is reading: temporal, the 2 actions work in parallel with no interaction

John is talking even though / although / despite that Matthew is reading: there is a contradiction/conflict between the two actions, meaning that John should not be talking at the same time as Matthew is reading.


Maybe you could clarify a little bit further here - particularly in terms of your use of the word "whereas" in your reply to Jassycats.

I had thought that "alors que" translates as "whereas" and only translates as "while" when "whereas" is implied. Although this example seems to contradict that.

Taking Jassycats very useful question as a starting point.

Option 1 means John is talking at the same time as he (John) is reading. We can't use "whereas" in that case it has to be "while".

Option 2 is ambigious - it could mean that there is a simple temporal coincidence between John talking and Matthew reading. Each happily doing his own thing (while - not whereas).

Alternatively option 2 could mean that the opposition is important in the sentence - although/despite - (whereas - or while - implying whereas)

Obviously "alors que" is used when opposition is important (whereas). But can "alors que" also be used where only time is an issue? ie cases where we could legimately use "pendant que" (while).


I edited my previous post to exclude "whereas" form the 1st example. My mistake.

There are nuances in the meaning of "alors que" depending on who is doing each action: talking and/or reading.

Also some other nuances would express:

  • your disapproving of the simultaneity of the two actions (il parle alors qu'il mange (en mangeant) / he speaks while eating = he should not).
  • your admiration of a performance or surprise faced with a weird phenomenon

So "alors que" is versatile: neutral in its temporal meaning but judgmental in its other meanings.


Thanks Sitesurf that is really useful.

I don't want to drag it on too much but just to really pin it down let me ask another question. It might be useful to others also.

First, just to state the obvious, I am assuming the original sentence at the top of the page means one single individual is doing the reading and the talking.

If we had started from the English sentence we could have translated that as "il parle pendant qu'il lit" (temporal only).

Should we read the fact that the original French uses "alors que" instead of "pendant que" to mean that this sentence carries some nuance of oppostion. A bit like "he is talking although he is reading" (this might be admiring or disapproving we don't know but we are alerted to the fact that there is an issue and that it is not just temporal).

Or alternatively does the use of "alors que" in this particular case not carry any hints and could really mean just temporal concurrence. So that in this particular case the choice between "alors que" and "pendant que" is totally arbitrary?


First, just to state the obvious, I am assuming the original sentence at the top of the page means one single individual is doing the reading and the talking.

  • Not that obvious. Ambiguous, I would say. If you want to make sure that "he" and "he" is the same person, you ought to use "il parle en lisant" (while reading).

If we had started from the English sentence we could have translated that as "il parle pendant qu'il lit" (temporal only).

  • Yes!

Should we read the fact that the original French uses "alors que" instead of "pendant que" to mean that this sentence carries some nuance of oppostion.

  • That's is probable. (Not here, because Duo is not sadistic, or I've been mistaken all the way...). Someone may want to "alert" you indeed with a double-entendre, and expect a reaction from you.

So that in this particular case the choice between "alors que" and "pendant que" is totally arbitrary?

  • Yes, it is. I assume the intention was to show a synonym of "pendant que", while pointing to the fact that "alors que" can be interpreted in a different way.

Bottom line: don't use "alors que" if you only mean simultaneity...


1st one, if John is talking at the same time as he is reading. If John is talking while Matthew is reading the names need to be shown, unless in an unmistakable context: "Mathew loves to read all the time, but right now John is talking while he is reading". (And the same concept applies to French). Beware of the "While/Whilst" trip-up though. "John is talking while Mathew is eating= John is talking at the same time as Mathew is reading". But; "John is talking, whilst Mathew is reading=John is talking, however/although Mathew is reading".


Ok, so "alors que" can be used like he is talking and reading at the same time?


Can we have this as "He is talking while reading"?


alors que vs lors que??


"alors que" is both (word for word) "during the time that" and "in spite of the fact that". "lorsque" (in one word) is only "during the time that".


Not exactly. "Lorsque" can be both translated by "When" or "While".

Ex : "Lorsqu'il y goûta, il le recracha immédiatement." = "When he tasted it, he spat it out immediately. "

"Nous sommes arrivés lorsqu'il travaillait." = "We arrived while he was working."


You're quite right on that nuance.

Though I don't think that "lorsque" cannot be used to mean "in spite of the fact that" - in other words, "lorsque" is always a matter of time., whereas "alors que" can mean both. Don't you agree?


"alors que" vs "tandis"??


alors que = tandis que


There is a nuance: "alors que" means while and "in spite of the fact that" or "even though"

Tandis is only about time: "while" only.


They both can be used the same way. As a time conjunction or as an opposition conjunction. Even if you'll find various ways to translate both of them, they are pretty much the same when it comes to the meaning.

Here are examples for both cases :

  • "Le facteur arriva alors qu'il fermait la porte." = "The mailman arrived while he was closing the door."
  • "Il rentra immédiatement à la maison, alors qu'il travaillait ce jour là." = "He went back home immediately, even though he was working this day."


  • "Tandis que tu étais parti, nous avons rangé ta chambre." = "While you were gone we cleaned your room."
  • "Tu es allé au cinéma, tandis que tu devais rester dans ta chambre !" = "You went to the cinema, even though you should have stayed in your room !"


I do not contest your examples, which are perfectly correct, but:

First part : No one would say such sentences in oral (particularly with the use of the lovely passé simple !...)

The second part sounds weird... unusual... literary. I would have written : "Pendant que tu étais parti..." (while) and "tu es allé au cinéma, alors que tu devais... (even though)".


It sounds literary because it's exactly what it is. "Tandis que" is very rarely used in common French, but you'll see it quite often in books, so it shouldn't be overlooked.

As for the first part, if you want common versions :

  • "Il a été servi alors que c'était pas son tour !" = "He was served even though it wasn't his turn !"
  • "Ouais, je l'ai pris alors que t'étais en train de manger." = "Yeah, I took it while you were eating."

While speaking we would use more "Pendant que" most of the time anyway (at least I do).


So "lorsque" and "tandis que" are 100% interchangeable?

And "alors que" is a broader conjugation that could mean the same as "lorsque" or "tandis que", but could also mean "although/despite that"?


Only context will tell you, by the meaning of the whole sentence, which subordinating conjunction you have to use:


  • au moment où / at the moment when;
  • en même temps que / at the same time that;
  • pendant que / while;
  • tandis que / while;
  • alors que / while, whereas;
  • lorsque / when;
  • quand / when

Alternative restriction:

  • tandis que / while, whereas;
  • alors que / while, whereas.

Overview here: Subordinating conjunctions


Why does there have to be the qu' after the alors?


The expression is a whole : "alors que" or "alors qu' ", to mean "while".

"Alors" can also be a single word, as well as "que" or "qu' ". Then they are used differently. It's simply not the case here.


Why is it necessary to put "qu" in the sentence


"alors que","tandis que" or "avant que", etc. are conjunctive locutions, made of two words, so "que" is compulsory to introduce the subordinate clause.

when "que" is placed in front of a word starting with a vowel, it is elided (skipping the ending vowel and replacing it by an apostrophe) to ease pronunciation :

  • "alors qu'il", "tandis qu'elle", "avant qu'on"...


I'm so confused as to why some are past tense and some are present in this lesson


There is no past tense in this sentence.


I put he is talking while it reads. such as in the case of an audio book "it" is reading to me. shouldn't this be correct?


"it" cannot represent a human being. Only human beings can read. So "il" has to be a human being and therefore has to translate to "he".


Is there a reason this can't be interpreted as "he reads (or is reading) aloud? Or do we have to allow for the possibility that he is somehow saying something independent of what he is reading?


Yes there is a reason : the presence of "alors que", which clearly indicates a sort of contradiction. If that person was saying out loud what he is reading, then there would be no reason to use "alors que" (which to me, as a native, is closer to "whereas" than "while").

"He's reading aloud" would be "Il lit à haute voix" or "Il lit tout haut".


Thank you, I think I get it now. In English we can use the word "while" to express contradiction/irony or simultaneity, but French appears to have separate words for these two usages. In the French sentence in question, would "and yet" be a good translation for "alors que"? "While" seems extremely awkward for what I now gather to be the meaning.


"alors que" and "tandis que" have exactly the same "ambiguous" meanings as "while".


fizzycyst : it is the case too in French indeed... theoretically. In practice, in everday language, nobody uses "alors que" to express simultaneity ; that use if definitely literary. To express simultaneity in everyday French, we'd use "pendant que".

This being said, "alors que" is de facto used for simultaneous events (e.g. in this exercise, he's reading and talking at the same time), and sometimes also even without a proper "contradiction" ; but then still with an idea of contrast:

  • "Tu étais tranquille à la maison alors que moi, je t'attendais sous la pluie!" = "You were relaxed at home while I was waiting for you in the rain!".

You see, you couldn't say here "and yet I was waiting for you". But in this very exercise here, you could indeed (note that "and yet" is literally "et pourtant"), only you'd express more an idea of astnonishment, like "wow, I didn't know he was able to read AND talk at the same time!" lol.

Anyway, out of context and for oral French, this example will 100% mean that what he reads and what he says are different things.


So, do I take it that the first "He" is the same person as the second "He" and that they are not two different people? Any body pondered that as a possibility? If that were so, would the French sentence be differently structured?


Of course, they could be two different "he". Here we assume, out of context, that it's about the same person.

"François Hollande est à Paris, alors que son Premier Ministre est à Londres": in a formal context (e.g. on the news), this probably just expresses simultaneity.

"Le Premier Ministre soutient le monde de la finance alors qu'il est socialiste / alors que son gouvernement est socialiste" : here, whatever the language type (formal/informal), it clearly expresses a sort of contradiction.

The "contradiction" aspect will generally appears more when it's the same subject. So, in this exercise here, if the he's are two different persons, it rather shows what they're doing simultaneously (in quite a formal form).


Just read through these comments and am surprised that no one has commented that the sentence doesn't make any sense. Unless he is reading out loud, who talks and reads at the same time?


@Cyndiluwho. You said it. He is reading aloud. Owzzat?


You just answered your own question.

Also, our brain allows us to do two different tasks at the same time, by switching between them fast enough so that both can be stopped and resumed without breaking our flow of thought. It doesn't mean that you can necessarily read and process a written sentence while speaking to someone properly, most people would need to pause between the two, but it's still considered doing two things at the same time. So we don't need to be reading out loud to be able to "talk while reading".

Finally, this sentence doesn't have to be used in our world, so we could for example imagine a fictive character being able to read correctly while talking at the exact same time, not being limited by human nature as we are.


My father used to do that a lot when we were young : reading the newspaper while telling us to hurry up and finish our breakfast, go get dressed or pack our bag - all of it keeping his eyes on the article he was reading (or ok, maybe just looking at - but to our point of view "he was talking while he was reading).


I typed in "Ils parlent alors qu'il lit" and it was marked right; but that doesn't match with the singular "he is talking".


"Ils parlent" and "il parle" sound exactly the same, so if it was the listening exercise, it's normal that plural was accepted.


Ok I post this question just because the comments are so many I don't have time to read through... Hope somebody help me out!

How do people you are speaking to know whether it means "while" or "whereas?" So we can only get it from the context? Like "however" in English can mean both "in contrast" and "the way one does something doesn't matter?" Thanks to whoever reply my comment.


Well learning takes time. Or did you mean to say Patience? I'm very nearly 70 and so compared to a 20 year old, don't have much "Time". I've read through the posts and it took me just over 35 minutes to read through them all and go off Duo to research relevant other sites. I am happy to take the time to help if I can. For me Duo doesn't differentiate between While and Whilst but I do. While=Taking place at the same time as another event, plus very many other usages and grammatical placements. Whilst=However/Whereas/Although. I await correction here but I suggest that Alors Que tends toward Whilst, and While tends toward Tandis Que/Pendant Que. (As conjunctions only.) Cordial.


Wow nearly 70? Still learning languages? That's impressive! I'll take times to read through lol merci beaucoup.


Is this sentence refering to two people or one person multitasking?


Good point. In ancient times the latter would be the case because one never read silently. One Recited. Read is a comparatively recent word of Germanic origin meaning Advise or Interpret (a riddle or dream); as in Reading the Oracle or the Tarot. Nowthen, if the translation used "Whilst" rather than "While", I would understand that two people are involved, one reading however the other is talking. I'm only a learner, maybe that sense would be written differently in French.

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