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TNs, U67: Verbs: Infinitive 3(Impers. Expr., Causative Faire, Past Participle Usage, Confusing Verbs

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As you learned before, an infinitive can act as a noun (where gerunds might be used in English).

  • Faire du café est facile. — Making coffee is easy.
  • Cuisiner et nettoyer sont ses responsabilités. — Cooking and cleaning are his responsibilities.

Impersonal Expressions

When you use the impersonal construction il est + adjective + de, keep in mind that il must be a dummy subject. If it's a real subject, you must use à instead of de.

  • Il est impossible de vivre sur cette île. — It is impossible to live on that island.
  • Il est facile de comprendre le livre. — It is easy to understand the book.
  • Ce problème est difficile à résoudre. — That problem is difficult to solve.
  • Écrire un livre ? Il est difficile à faire. — Writing a book? It is difficult to do.

In informal usage, c'est tends to replace the impersonal il est, but it is an improper use of ce/c’ which is indefinite but not impersonal.

  • C'est difficile de terminer ce travail en une journée. — It's hard to finish that work in one day.
  • C'est mieux d'éviter cette zone. — It's better to avoid that area.

You’ll find more about this in the following sections of the Tips & Notes: Extra: Personal & Impersonal constructions and Extra: C'est/Ce sont.

Causative Faire

Recall from "Verbs: Infinitive 1" that faire may precede a verb to indicate that the subject causes that action to happen. This is especially common when describing food preparation.

  • Il fait bouillir le thé. — He boils the tea.
  • J'aime faire griller du poulet. — I like grilling chicken.
  • Ils font pousser des fruits et des légumes. — They grow fruits and vegetables.

Past Participle Usage

As you learned in "Verbs: Compound Past 1 & 2", the passé composé is formed with an auxiliary verb (e.g. avoir) and a past participle (e.g. terminé).

  • Il a terminé son travail. — He finished his work.
  • Nous avons aimé ce repas. — We liked that meal.

As in English, a verb in the past infinitive appears in its past participle form after its auxiliary in the infinitive.

  • Manger (infinitive present) -> Avoir mangé (infinitive past). — To eat (infinitive present) -> To have eaten (infinitive past).
  • Aller (infinitive present) -> Être allé (infinitive past). — To go (infinitive present) -> To have gone (infinitive past).

Notably, the past infinitive is used after the verbs allowing a double-construction (e.g. aimer, vouloir, pouvoir, sembler, etc. re. Verbs: Present 1 Infinitives after conjugations and Infinitives and Verbs: Present 3 Verbs with À and De, when the action or state occurred before the action or state expressed by the main, conjugated verb.

  • Il aime avoir terminé son travail. — He likes to have finished his work.
  • Ils doivent être montés dans leur chambre. — They must have gone up in their rooms.
  • Ces lettres semblaient avoir confirmé nos craintes. — Those letters seemed to have confirmed our fears.

However, past participles can sometimes also act as adjectives in both French and English.

  • Elle est mariée. — She is married.
  • C'est du temps perdu. — It is lost time.
  • C'est ouvert au public. — It is open to the public.
  • Il est actuellement fermé. — It is currently closed.

Keep this in mind for the next unit, where you will learn the passive voice.

Confusing Verbs

Remember from "Verbs: Present 3" that manquer à means "to miss", but with flipped pronoun positions as compared to English. If it helps, you can think of manquer à as "to be missed by".

  • Vous me manquez. — I miss you.
  • Je vous manque. — You miss me.

Important: If you find any errors in the Tips and Notes, have questions related to the grammar points above, or would like to discuss the topic in depth, please feel free to comment below. We ask that you keep your comments on topic so that this post stays educational and everyone can benefit from them. Any spam or unrelated comments will be deleted.

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