French Near Time and English Present Perfect Continuous

Thank you to the French team for adding the "Near Time" skill to the new tree!

I have a follow-up question.

How does the English Present Perfect Continuous translate into French?

For example: "I have been walking".

Does it become "Je viens de marcher" as well?

(A rather famous online translation tool translates it to the passé composé, but I prefer to get your input.)

My reason for asking is that one of my ongoing projects has been mapping English-to-French verb tenses. The new skill helped me fill in a few gaps.


It seems that in French, the "continuous" concept really doesn't exist ... except for our friend l'Imparfait. Hence my question.

Again, thanks for the new tree and all of your efforts!

(Edited to add the direct link to the map.)

April 5, 2018


I am sorry this is not an answer to your question, so please feel free to disregard my comment/ unsolicited advice... but if I were you I would abandon the idea of trying to map English tenses to French tenses, altogether. There are just too many instances where they don’t line up.. and you might use one tense to talk about something in English and another in French. The sooner you let go of the idea of having them line up.. the less frustration long term. In my experience at least. As you read and listen to more french, just make a mental note of how/ when each tense is used you will come to learn their uses by context.

April 5, 2018

Examples would help.

And I'm well aware that languages don't map 1:1. It might help to think of the above as a guide book, not an algorithm.

April 5, 2018

Examples would help.

"I am drinking milk."

In English, that's a present progressive, but in French, present progressives and simple present are represented as one unless for emphasis.

What do I mean?

In french that's « Je bois du lait. »

Meanwhile, if you're going to translate « Je bois du lait. » back to English, it's either "I drink milk" or "I am drinking milk." (any of them is acceptable.)

You could see that as the French Present Indicative or French Simple Present, however there's a word order « être en train de +inf. » which signifies that an action is currently happening at this moment, right now, at this moment of speaking.

Saying « Je suis en train de boire du lait. » is an acceptable translation for "I AM drinking milk." (and not "I drink milk"), I am drinking milk while I'm typing this thing, then that would be an acceptable use of « Je suis en train de boire du lait. »

Another example:
My friend asked me why I often code switch? My response could be, "I'm using Duolingo", but at that time, I am not holding a device and using duolingo while talking to her, so I'd use « J'utilise le duolingo »

But when a friend was chatting me and it took too long for me to give a reply and that notification is bugging me. I paused, then replied to him, "I'm using Duolingo"(slr), but in this instant, at the time I said that, I was using Duolingo, so I'd use « Je suis en train d'utiliser le duolingo »

There, to sum it up, although the two ideas line with the present tense and the present continuous, as SilviaSpells have said, don't try to map English tenses with French tenses, because there are multiple contexts that are a single thought in English, and nevertheless, making translations the same. Only if you look at the context, the soul of a sentence, you could differentiate what they are. As brown eggs and white eggs both have yellow yolks.

P.S: Sorry if I used present tenses rather than what you were asking, I found explaining present tenses easier.

April 6, 2018

D'oh!! (Said in my best Homer Simpson voice...)

Yup. Once I added that line which contains the "Je viens de", I should have also added "Je suis en train de"!

Chances are there are other French constructions which serve the same general purpose. It will be fun to learn them.

Thanks for the examples. Very helpful!

EDIT: Should anyone think/suggest that I'm using the above programmatically, please realize that I'm well aware of the challenges. The last section of the passé composé notes, for example.

April 6, 2018

The difficulty lies in the fact that because the tenses don’t line up, generally, it is really difficult to give examples without context. Think of it like a vend diagram, where there is the English tense, the French tense... and everything in the middle is dependant on context. However, I hope someone with more expertise in grammer comes along and can give you an answer to your question.

April 5, 2018

Ah. I think I see where you are saying. I consider that to be the application of tense, not tense.

I suspect that for sentences w/very little context (no subordinate clauses, etc, look at the sentences I'm using as examples), the above guidebook idea is possible.

Hopefully a moderator will swing by.

April 5, 2018

Hope so, I upvote you in the hopes someone will see, mods are great at explaining all grammar things! I also highly recommend the site, if you are not yet familiar with it, for clear grammar explanations of all the tenses and their applications... and all sorts of other queries.

April 5, 2018

Use it all the time.

Have a great day/afternoon/evening, wherever you are!

April 5, 2018

I have gone all in with Krashen's language acquisition approach. I am much happier working on comprehension and not trying to understand the grammer. The theory says that good grammer will result without working for it. We will see. Of course for people who enjoy studying grammer, have fun.

April 5, 2018

I suspect it varies upon the individual's learning style.

There's just something about my brain that prefers/needs more grammar structure. It's a quirk I learned about myself aeons ago.

Just because it works for me doesn't mean everyone has to follow the same path! That would make life incredibly boring.

April 5, 2018

I have just realized that ("I have been walking since noon" - "Je marche depuis midi").

So maybe the answer is:

  • For English Present Perfect, one uses the French present tense, with a specific construction (venir de).
  • For English Present Perfect Continuous, one uses the French present tense, with a specific construction (depuis).

"I have been walking" is still a bit of a mystery. It doesn't give a time frame, so the depuis construction is a no-go.

All of this maps back to what SilviaSpells was discussing, that the English and French verb tenses don't map directly. English has many more sub-types, so one must look at French construction and the context to determine the English tense equivalent. (This is buried in my map/graphic, but it may not jump out.)

(And somewhere in the universe, my high school English teachers are grinning. I still have/use the Warriner's grammar books they put on my desk. Sentence diagramming anyone??)

April 5, 2018

Without "since", I agree with your online translation tool, but a context would help to decide.

"I've been walking a lot recently, so I'm quite fit" = "J'ai beaucoup marché récemment, donc j'ai une assez bonne forme"

April 5, 2018

Another possibility:

"I've been walking to get fit" = "Je marche pour me mettre en forme".

April 5, 2018

Thank you. Follow-up question to make sure I'm hearing you correctly:

Going from French-to-English. "Je marche pour me mettre en forme" can translate to:

  • I have been walking to get fit.
  • I am walking to get fit.
  • I walk to get fit.

As SilviaSpells mentioned, one needs context to determine the correct English tense sub-type to use.

(Gads, I have tons of respect for the folks who build/manage these translation trees! So many of the sentences we are given lack context. This is not a complaint! I'm just in awe of how may variables they take into account....

April 5, 2018

Yes, your translations are right.

April 6, 2018
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