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Use of the gerund

Good day

Hopefully someone can help me with this topic.

I've heard in one song (Maître Gims - Tu vas me manquer) two sentences:

Encore une matinée à me demander

Je passe mon temps à regarder par la fenêtre

which translate, "à me demander " à regarder" as wondering and looking respectively.

My question is, when is this form used for the gerund (á + infinitif) and when is it used en + participe présent (Elle aime lire en voyageant)? And what is the difference between these two uses?

Thank you

April 18, 2020



Je passe mon temps à regarder par la fenêtre

This is not the gerund. It's a fixed expression passer son temps à + infinitive. ( to spend one's time + verbing)
The same goes for the other sentence, except the verb is only implied.

It doesn't have the same meaning as the gerund (en + verbant), which is usually used for the simultaneity of two actions or states.


Many thanks, Jojo, for exposing us to this fixed phrase! A Lingot for your trouble.


That's a peculiarity of the English language. You can usually spot when a foreigner wrote something. They will say something like "He spends his time to look through the window". Not just French. I've heard this from Germans, Guatemalans, Chinese, and Italians. We use words ending in -ing where most others use an infinitive form. I like to go walking in the park. I spend most of my days surfing the internet. My daughter is fond of playing the flute. In most languages you would not use the equivalent of the ing ending for these sorts of sentences. You don't necessarily have to in English either, but that is the most natural for native anglophones.

I think it gives foreigners a hard time. I've had conversations with several people about this. Also, you can google "le gérondif en anglais" or "los gerundios en inglés" or "das gerundium im englisch" and you will find many blogs, webpages, videos, and bits of advice. They all say things like "En français, on va souvent traduire le gérondif par un verbe à l’infinitif...."

Better to accept that English is the odd man out here, and that most of the languages you will find on duolingo don't express themselves in this way.

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