Translation:I have to have informed my parents.
It's a bit unusual, but I think the tense is usable. It can be expressing a requirement (an action that should have been performed in the past) for something happening now. For instance: "It's necessary that you have informed your parents if you want to come on the excursion".
There's probably better ways to express the same though.
No, the past subjunctive has the same form as the past perfect. The present subjunctive has the same form as the simple past (with a couple of exceptions).
"If I were in charge of the Autoroutes, they would be free" [present time, i am not in charge, so subjunctive]
"If I had been in charge of the Autoroutes, they would have been free." [past time, I wasn't in charge, so subjunctive] or "they would be free today." [past in the first clause, modulated to present conditional in the second.'
Exception: "I were"[subjunctive] instead of "I was" [indicative]
There is another subjunctive that is identical to the present infinitive that turns up in other situations.
"It is important that you be at the courthouse tomorrow for the arraignment." Cf German Konjunktiv 1 and Konjunktiv 2.
"The subjunctive forms look like ordinary past and present verb forms; thus, they are often called the past subjunctive and present subjunctive. These differ from the simple past and simple present in only two ways: (1) In the present subjunctive, there is no -s at the end of the third-person singular. (2) The verb be has only two subjunctive forms: be for the present subjunctive and were for the past subjunctive." (MERRIAM-WEBSTER'S Advanced Learner's English Dictionary, Stephen J. Perrault, 2008).
Again, it is an error to call the "were" subjunctive past. It has present (or at least non-past) meaning. If the sentence is in past time, the subjuntive of be is "had been." The other subjunctive (identical to the base form) in invariable and can function in present or past sentences: "The teacher insists that everyone always be prepared to tell a brief story." "When I was in third grade, the teacher insisted that everyone always be prepared to tell a story." I'm sorry, but whoever wrote this explanation for Merriam-Webster is confused.
There is an imbalance in the sequence of tenses, between "il faut" and "j'aie informé".
To be 100% correct (and meaningful), I would say:
- il faudra que j'aie informé mes parents [avant ce soir] (future, with optional time target for action completion) = I will have/need to inform my parents before tonight or I will have/need to have informed by parents tonight (my simplified English versions)
(oh la la! thanks).
So, yes, that was my message for I felt uncomfortable with the present tense, which (again in my opinion) would prompt a present tense in the subordinate clause:
il faut que j'informe
or: il fallait que j'informe / que j'aie informé / que j'informasse (subj imparfait: never used, just for fun)
In other words, with no context to cling to, the sequence of actions is blurred: you don't know when the need is felt (faut) vs when the information has to be given (aie informé).
"Il faut que" requires the subjonctif. In this case it's just a matter of spelling, but e.g. in "Il faut que je fasse" (as opposed to "Il faut que je fais", which is wrong) it is also recognisable by the pronunciation.
The subjonctif is getting rarer in colloquial spoken French due to natural language change, but is artificially kept alive in standard French by the very conservative French speaker community. It's tricky business also for native speakers, which is why you cannot always rely on what they tell you about it. Your guest may be right concerning modern colloquial French, but is simply wrong concerning standard French. Most educated French speakers try to speak standard French most of the time.
Colloquial French is not losing the subjunctive due to natural language change but to the regular degradation of the French education system. French as spoken on the streets or transcribed on social networks is not standard French and it is not what is taught here.
I don't know whom you are alluding to with "the very conservative French speaker community" as if it were a sect or something but I can assure you that every single person raised in France has heard, repeated and used the subjunctive as early as their first attempts to speak their native language. Now, they may not even realize it is the subjunctive mood and they may well be unable to write it properly, for lack of intellectual effort in their school years.
I agree that you cannot always rely on what native speakers tell you as long as you cannot appreciate their level of proficiency, and MicheleCo996809's guest is wrong. You should not doubt about it.
There is nothing modern in the positive sense of the word in butchering one's language, whichever it is, only a harmful loss in the quality of communications between human beings.
With "very conservative French speaker community" I was actually referring to statements such as the following:
- "Colloquial French is not losing the subjunctive due to natural language change but to the regular degradation of the French education system."
You seem to be assuming that loss of the subjunctive is an anomality, or a problem, or something like that. Also that it is the purpose of the education system to prevent that. And that its failure to do so is a failure of the education system.
Not all speaker communities work like that. There are strong tendencies in this direction in my native German. There are slightly weaker such tendencies in American English, and (I think) significantly weaker ones in British English. In Dutch they are even weaker. And in languages without a written standard they tend to be completely absent. As a result, the rate with which languages change differs.
- "There is nothing modern in the positive sense of the word in butchering one's language, whichever it is, only a harmful loss in the quality of communications between human beings."
Actually, French has been butchering itself for centuries by reducing the ends of words to the point that nowadays they are no longer pronounced at all. In some cases that's a real problem for the quality of spoken communication. But modern French speakers are barely aware of the problem because spelling barely changed since the 17th century, and so we tend to pronounce old texts as if they were modern. (Except sometimes when singing renaissance music, reciting old poems or perhaps sometimes in theatre.)
What isn't a problem is loss of the subjunctive. It has been formalised in such a way that in most cases a computer can replace incorrect indicatives by the appropriate subjunctives without any need for artificial intelligence to 'understand' the text. It's just boring pattern matching. This proves that the subjunctive doesn't aid communication. It's just a remnant of an earlier stage of the language that would long have been gone if the speaker community didn't artificially prolong its life.
Here is an example of a similar phenomenon in American English typography:
In traditional English typography, whenever a comma or period followed a quotation, as in the following example, there was a problem:
Here is a quotation: "quotation".
The problem was that the quotation mark separated the period from the last letter of the quotation, and was followed by a space. In other words, it was a tiny dot, completely on its own and not supported by any other piece of typography in the vicinity. As a result, during the first few printings of a book, such periods completely disappeared.
In order to solve this problem, printers swapped the period and the quotation mark. The resulting order was illogical, but it made sure that the period was supported by the last letter of the quotation as in this example:
Here is another quotation: "quotation."
Of course this makes absolutely no sense today, in the age of offset printing and laser printing. The advantage of this trick being gone, the disadvantages dominate: It's an extra rule to learn, the order is illogical, and in some technical literature (e.g. in linguistics) real ambiguity may arise. Therefore the rule has been abandoned in British English. But not in American English, which has a more conservative speaker community.
The French subjunctive is very similar to this example, not just in the ways that I already explained, but also in that the willingness and ability to follow a rule that long stopped serving its original purpose is a factor in determining social status.
It is not the same tense, so your translation should match the French tense. However, the tense sequencing here is not right in French. This is how it should work:
"il faut que j'informe mes parents" (present indicative-present subjunctive) "il fallait que j'informe mes parents" (imperfect indicative-present subjunctive***) "il fallait que j'aie informé mes parents" (imperfect indicative-past subjunctive)
*** pls note that this is a simplification of the rule ; you should have "il fallait que j'informasse mes parents" = imperfect indicative-imperfect subjunctive.
Well, either the tense sequence is wrong in both sentences, or they express something unusual. I think the following is a suitable context:
"Let's make sure to get the story absolutely right to achieve what we want. It is necessary that I have informed my parents. At least I must have thought I did. If I can't prove this to the headmaster, I'll be in deep trouble. How about this: Maybe I left a note about it in the kitchen. Then, you used the other side of the paper to sketch your homework on, and forgot to return it. That's why my mother never saw it. I think we can come up with a convincing document to prove this."
Not completely consistent yet, but I think you can get the picture.
To me, the most logical English translation of the French would be simply, "I had to inform my parents/relatives". Or more awkwardly but more literally, " It was necessary that I inform my parents/relatives." Definitely not the "I have got to have informed my parents" that i was told was right...
With your translations you have changed the meaning. According to your English sentences, the necessity that you informed your parents in the past arose in the past. According to the French sentence, it wasn't necessary in the past. It has become necessary now. Even without a time machine there are situations in which this makes sense. When people can change the perception of the past, they often speak as if they could change the past itself.
Many native English speakers have a tendency to avoid expressing such nuances correctly, changing the tense sequence so that they say something different instead just because it sounds nicer. But sometimes these nuances are critical and then they have to express them.
Ultimately, a tense sequence that is extremely rare just because it is almost (but not quite) impossible to make sense in the real world shouldn't be treated differently than any other odd but formally correct combination of words or grammatical features that's hard to make sense of. After all, if you had to translate "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously" to French you shouldn't freely associate over the sentence until you have found something that sounds more normal and could mean more or less the same thing - such as: "Ecology isn't considered very appealing yet, but is already secretly preparing to become the next big thing".
It's a problem of today's machine translation systems that they 'translate' strange sentences in one language by normal ones in the other language, even if the 'translation' says something completely different with similar words. Humans don't have to do that.
Back translation: j'aurais dû informer mes parents / il aurait fallu que j'informe mes parents. Both are in another tense and time. In "I should have informed my parents", you are saying that in the past, you had to inform your parents but you haven't (regret).
The sentence here is saying that right now, I feel the need to inform my parents in the future, once something else has been done in the meantime.
I am not necessarily reading il faut as referring to the future, but if it does, the official translation is wrong because in English you can't use simple present to express futurity. It would have to be "I'll have to have informed my parents".
For the possible (though perhaps less likely) meaning without futurity I think chrisriley's translation is correct for the simple reason that neither the officially correct translation nor any other translation capturing the same nuances is something a native speaker would normally produce. Just like English is pedantic about using the future and the progressive aspect and French generally doesn't care, English is very negligent when it comes to tense sequence and generally prefers elegant expression to logically correct expression.
It’s largely a matter of level of formality. It is never wrong to include it, but it is often omitted (or understood) in speaking. So you want to keep it when using rather formal expressions such a “it is imperative that . . .” or “it is impossible that. . .” where in ordinary speech we would probably substitute an infinitive construction. But you can drop it in indirect commands: “I told him [that] he should be more careful next time.” The longer the sentence, the more likely you want to keep it for clarity. In other situations it is required. When it is the subject of a relative clause or introducing a Nominal clause in apposition such as “The fact that...” or “the idea that” or at the beginning of a sentence: “That he was a habitual liar was well known.”
How about this scenario? In order for me to be allowed to go on the school outing today “I have [need] to have informed my parents.” That satisfies tense sequence and the sense of the subjunctive, i.e., I am not saying whether the parents actually have been informed. In this reading both the French and the translation make sense.
Perhaps I am repeating what others have already said, and I am sorry. Could it be that we are talking about two sentences that have a slightly different meaning? I think the french phrase means "I have to have my parents informed" meaning... I have to let them know... rather than "I have to have informed my parents" trying hard to mean I should have informed my parents. Am I right? English is not my native language either. Cheers!
No. Your English sentence is about the future. The French sentence is very unambiguously about the past ("j'aie informé").
Your English sentence uses a construction ("to have something done" as opposed to "to have done something") that looks very similar to past tense but is really about the future. There is no equivalent French construction that looks like past tense.