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Bad idea to use interchangeable words in new lesson set?

I am currently going through the French conjunction set of lessons, and telling my quand from my lorsque and my depuis que from my puisque, and my alors que from my tandis que is extremely difficult.

I wonder whether this is conducive to introducing people to conjunctions, when the approach thus far in my lessons has been to introduce words and phrases that aren’t interchangeable.

It seems like a lot to ask students to surmise the meaning and differences between the aforementioned conjunctions and conjunctive.

I see where you are coming from, but on the other hand, regardless of how far I may progress, I don’t see how I will ever understand the difference between the words and phrases, so it seems necessary to take a break and use another teaching format to explain how these seemingly interchangeable phrases compare.

Or, at least acknowledge the situation and tell students that this is a known issue, and that they should just proceed to use and understand them interchangeably for the time being.

Thoughts? Both from a student and teaching perspective, because I understand that while there is no easy solution, it is something that needs to be addressed.

January 27, 2013

1 Comment


This is a brief explanation on the conjunctions you listed:

  • quand and lorsque are interchangeable, except in interrogative sentences -- quand mangez-vous ? (when do you eat?) -- je mange quand j'ai faim = je mange lorsque j'ai faim (I eat when I am hungry)

  • depuis que implies a notion of time, specifically the start of an action in the past: -- je suis heureux depuis que j'ai mangé (I have been happy since I ate)

  • puisque implies a cause -- je mange puisque j'ai faim (I eat since I am hungry)

  • alors que implies a continuous action in time OR a contradiction: -- je mange alors que tu me regardes (I am eating while you are watching me) -- Je mange alors que je n'ai pas faim (I am eating although I am not hungry)

  • tandis que is similar to alors que, ie time OR contradiction (rare) -- je mange tandis que tu me regardes (I am eating while you are watching me) -- je mange tandis que je n'ai pas faim (again, this is rare)

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