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TNs, Extra: Personal and Impersonal constructions (Il est + adjective + À or De + Infinitive)

Aside from the typical "il faut" or "il pleut", more complex structures can use the dummy subject il with state verbs (être, paraître, sembler, devenir, demeurer, rester), various adjectives complemented by the preposition de + a verb in infinitive or a subordinate clause introduced by the conjunction que + a verb in the subjunctive mood.

One of the issues for learners is to distinguish the impersonal "il" as a dummy subject (= it) from the personal "il" as a real subject (= he or it).

NOTE: C'est + ADJ + de and C'est + ADJ + que, though used colloquially, are improper and should not be used in writing, because c', ceci, cela/ça are real subjects.

This is a list of examples using some adjectives able to build IMPersonal or PERSonal constructions.

Facile/Difficile:

  • IMP: Il est facile/difficile de faire un gâteau. — It is easy/difficult to make a cake.
  • IMP: Il est facile/difficile que tu te perdes dans la ville. — It is easy/difficult for you to get lost in the city.
  • PERS: (Le gâteau) Il est facile/difficile à faire. — (The cake) It is easy/difficult to make.
  • PERS: C'est facile/difficile à faire. — This/it is easy/difficult to make.

Possible/Impossible:

  • IMP: Il est possible/impossible de manger un gâteau. — It is possible/impossible to eat a cake.
  • IMP: Il est possible/impossible que tu manges un gâteau. — It is possible/impossible for you to eat a cake.
  • PERS: (Ce gâteau) Il semble possible/impossible à réussir. — (This cake) It seems possible/impossible to pull off.
  • PERS: Cela semble possible/impossible à réussir. — That seems possible/impossible to pull off.

Important:

  • IMP: Il est important de travailler. — It is important to work.
  • IMP: Il est important que tu travailles. — It is important that you work.
  • PERS: (Le délai) Il est important à considérer. — (The deadline) It is important to consider.
  • PERS: Ceci est important à considérer. — This is important to consider.

Evident:

  • IMP: Il paraît évident de regarder ici. — It seemed obvious to look here.
  • IMP: Il est évident que cet homme est riche. — It is obvious that this man is rich.
  • IMP: Il n'est pas évident que cet homme soit riche. — It isn't obvious that this man is rich.
  • PERS: (Le détail) Il ne paraît pas évident à trouver. — (The detail) It doesn't seem straightforward to find.
  • PERS: Ça ne paraît pas évident à trouver. — That doesn't seem straightforward to find.

Triste:

  • IMP: Il est triste de perdre ses cheveux. — It is sad to lose one's hair.
  • IMP: Il est triste que tu perdes tes cheveux. — It is sad that you are losing your hair.
  • PERS: (L'homme) Il reste triste à voir. — (The man) He is still sad to see.
  • PERS: Cela reste triste à voir. — That is still sad to see.

Utile/Inutile:

  • IMP: Il est utile/inutile de parler anglais. — It is useful/useless to speak English.
  • IMP: Il est utile/inutile que tu parles anglais. — It is useful/useless that you speak English.
  • PERS: (Le mot) Il est utile/inutile à connaître. — (The word) It is useful/useless to know.
  • PERS: Celui-ci est utile/inutile à connaître. — This one is useful/useless to know.

Simple/Compliqué:

  • IMP: Il est simple/compliqué de planter un arbre. — It is simple/complicated to plant a tree.
  • IMP: Il paraît simple/compliqué que tu partes seul. — It seems simple/complicated that you are leaving alone.
  • PERS: (Le jouet) Il est simple/compliqué à manoeuvrer. — (The toy) It is simple/complicated to maneuver.
  • PERS: C'est simple/compliquée à découvrir. — It's simple/complicated to discover.

Bon/Pas Bon:

  • IMP: Il est bon/n'est pas bon de sortir le soir. — It is/isn't good to go out in the evening.
  • IMP: Il est bon/n'est pas bon que tu sortes le soir. — It is/isn't good that you go out in the evening.
  • PERS: (L'argent) Il est/n'est pas toujours bon à prendre. — (Money) It is/isn't always good to take.
  • PERS: (La leçon) Elle est/n'est pas toujours bonne à recevoir. — (The lesson) It is/isn't always good to receive.

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