in general when you have the structure:
conjugation of être followed by an infinitive you need to use:
conjugation of être + de + infinitive (when the infinitive isn't acting as a passive infinitive)
conjugation of être + à + infinitive (when the infinitive is acting as a passive infinitive)
A test that seems to work to determine if the infinitive conveys a passive meaning is as follows:
if the English translation to be + past participle of verb makes sense then the infinitive conveys a passive sense
Ce dossier est à vérifier. – This file needs verifying
cette voiture est à vendre – This car is for sale
il est à souhaiter que - it is to be hoped that
toutes ces fenêtres sont à péparer - All these windows are to be repaired
Mon rêve est de devenir médecin – my dream is to become a doctor
son objectif est de renvoyer le President – Her aim is to sack the President.
Can you explain this further: "if the English translation to be + past participle of verb makes sense then the infinitive conveys a passive sense."? Can you give an example in French? I'm really having a tough time understanding when to use a or de. Thank you ahead of time for your help!
I am not sure if you are having problems with determining when to use the prepositions à or de before an infinitive or with the specific concept of passive infinitives. Let's start with the passive infinitive.
In English, the passive infinitive is formed using the constructs:
• to be + past participle
• be + past participle (typically after auxiliary verbs such as may, could, should, etc. )
The police are determined to catch the murderer. (active infinitive)
The police are confident that the murderer will be caught soon. (passive infinitive)
Let me help you. (active infinitive)
She doesn’t want to be helped. (passive infinitive)
She plans to invite them (active infinitive)
I am afraid to make mistakes (active infinitive)
They expect to be invited (passive infinitive)
We waited to be given instructions (passive infinitive)
She hopes to be elected. (passive infinitive)
These doors should be shut at night. (passive infinitive)
Now for the French equivalent (copied from section 428 of the book A Comprehensive French Grammar by Glanville Price)
After verbs such as être, y avoir, rester when English uses a passive infinitive to express a possible, desirable or necessary course of action, French uses à + infinitive
toutes ces fenêtres sont à péparer All these windows are to be repaired
in n’y a rien à faire There is nothing to be done
cela reste à decider That remains to be decided
In such sentences the grammatical subject is, according to the sense, the object of the infinitive. In other words the examples express:
one needs to repair these windows
one can do nothing
one has still to decide that
Ce dossier est à vérifier. This file needs verifying
cette voiture est à vendre This car is for sale
Mon rêve est de devenir médecin my dream is to become a doctor
son objectif est de renvoyer le President Her aim is to sack the President.
je suis de retour I am back
Thank you for this. I think I'm going to try to remember when to use "a" or "de" this way : If the subject isn't taking action for the verb -- Your example above: Ce dossier est a verifier. "Ce dossier" is not doing the verifying. Thus, use "a" before the infinitive.
If, on the other hand the subject IS taking action--"Mon reve est de devinir medecin -- "Mon reve" or roughly, me, wants to become a doctor.
I also saw somewhere that "de" is used in situations of obligation or feelings. "A" is more In situations reflecting attitude, function, ability or purpose.
The 'de' is because a lot of times you need a random 'de' or 'a' before a verb when you would think that the english 'to' would be implied by the verb itself, though I couldn't explain and don't know if there is a rule as to when you need to use 'de' vs 'a' vs no preposition at all.
Do not use a preposition if the infinitive if the verb follows a verb such as 'pouvoir' or 'vouloir' (just examples), otherwise use 'à' or 'de.' 'De' will be used n an impersonal (il = it or something similar), otherwise use 'à.' ex: Je veux courir, mon desir est à courir, il n'est pas enneyeux de courir)
Some lists of verbs+prepositions can be found here: http://french.about.com/library/prepositions/bl_prep_verbs.htm
I think the preposition ''de'' or ''à'' or none depends on the noun/adjective, but I'm not really sure. Sitesurf has shared something about this a lot but I still don't get it and I forgot the links he had shared. Urrgh, sorry.
I screwed up this exercise, but upon reflection, I think it's because of the "ne ... plus" construction. "Ne tuer plus" is "not to kill anymore" but the words get rearranged because it's an infinitive form that acts as... well, the object of "my desire." :P
EDIT: Wait, that didn't answer your question at all! I went astray from my original thinking. "Plus de" sort of means "more of" so that's what I think is being rearranged!
No, it's not about "plus de." "De" here goes with "désir." "Le désir de tuer" would be "the desire to kill." "Le désir de ne pas tuer" = "the desire not to kill." "Le désir de ne plus tuer" = "the desire not to kill any more."
I'm starting to feel like DL is trying to tell us they are some kind of a serial killers... Killing animals, people... Now they no longer want to kill. Repentant ?
Concur, I started keeping a list of the strange duo sentences. Of course this gives one the opportunity to use some other helpful expressions from DL, like:
Have you come to kill us? This is the main entrance of their prison. He is eating his last meal. He dies in prison.
The translation is odd and a bit ambiguous. If your desire is not to kill, then what IS your desire? I would have said
my desire is to no longer kill
I wrote "my desire is no longer to kill" to avoid the split infinitive and it was marked wrong... any ideas?
Yeah, same here. Ridiculous. "My desire is no longer to kill" is entirely correct.
Hm that sounds like it means "my desire is for no more murder" as opposed to "my desire is to no longer kill"
My 'my desire is never to kill again' Same meaning, isn't it? Lost a heart. I also thought about putting 'my desire is not to kill ever again."
I think you'd need "jamais" to be in there somewhere for that to work as a translation.
Infinitives cannot be in the middle of ''ne....pas/plus/jamais/etc'' construction, the middle should be a conjugated verb. Infinitives go after the ''pas/plus/jamais/rien/etc''
(Non-native english speaker) Why "will" doesn't work? "my will is not to kill anymore"
"Will" isn't used that way. "Un désir" is a wish or a desire. Your "will" is your determination, your power, strength of mind. (It is also a legal document stating what should be done with your assets after your death, but that's another thread - ha).
I said, My desire is for no more killing Rejected! one has a desire FOR something. no?
I think it's getting a bit far from the original. Not just the "for", but the "no more killing". That translation leaves the question of who is doing the killing quite unaddressed, whereas the French sentence clearly shows that it is the speaker who wishes not to kill any more. Quite different, really.
What is it that implies that the speaker does not want to do the killing? It seems to me that it is the speaker's DESIRE that there BE no more killing, not that he has been doing the killing. Where have I gone wrong again?
It's the verb, "tuer = "to kill" "Je veux tuer" = "I want to kill" It isn't "I want killing". "Killing" is a noun - in French, "un meutre", or "un assassinat", or perhaps "un massacre" or "la tuerie".
"It is my desire not to kil anymore" was rejected - any suggestions as to reason?
What is wrong with My desire is for no more killing? Or would the "de" be "pour" in that case?
As I understand the French sentence, it's implying that the speaker has killed, and that they no longer wish to kill. An odd sentence, I know! I guess it makes sense if the speaker is a soldier...
I thought it translated (literally as "my desire is of no more killing) and so, in English, what I wrote. Strange, eh?
Yeah, there's really no straightforward way to translate prepositions, which makes it a little tricky to figure out how they're all used.
I wonder how many you have killed? "My desire is for no more killing". Marked wrong, but I think it carries the nuance a lot better. Or is the phrase really from a psychopath that is trying to reign in his compulsions?