"Je doute que le serveur nous serve rapidement."

Translation:I doubt the server will serve us quickly.

July 1, 2020

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This section of Duo is full of weirdness in the English vocab and sentence structure - sentences are often more like a literal translation. Who ever is responsible for this at Duo is either not a native English speaker or is just careless. Apparently there is no use drawing attention - nothing happens. Duo has been great in getting me from rusty school level French to this level but maybe it's time to go elsewhere.


I don't know if I'm on a plateau but tbh most of the lessons where I fail is trying to translate to English.


What specifically is wrong with this lesson? How do you think the subjunctive should be translated and taught?


Roody-Roo, have you completed "Subjunctive 1" ? That whole set of lessons teaches the format of verbs in subjunctive. There's a nice progression of using the subjunctive verb form. When expressing doubt, possibility or desire, the subjunctive verb form follows "que" — Duo does a good job contrasting when to use the subjunctive verb form with other verb tenses. For someone who knows French and is doing Duo as a grammar brush-up, the Subjunctive 1 "bubble" is helpful.


Yes, I think the only problem with these lessons is their order, it would be helpful to have the subjunctive bubble slightly earlier in the tree as there seem to be a few people in this section that haven't encountered it yet.


Good point! Agreed! (I just read your comment.)


why is the verb (server) in the present when the translation is in the future?


Yes, good point. I think Je doute que le serveur nous serve rapidement would be (literally) "I doubt that the server serves us quickly." While to say "I doubt the server will serve us quickly," it would be Je doute que le serveur nous servira rapidement.

The two translations basically mean the same thing, so not to quibble, but -- yes -- I noticed that, too.

Maybe someone else can explain whether there's actually a reason for this, or if it's just a little stylistic liberty in the translation.

P.S. The French verb is servir, not "server." I hope this is helpful. Bonne chance!


No... there is no future subjunctive in French, so the present subjunctive is used for both tenses. Your suggested translation with "servira" is ungrammatical. Only "serve" is correct.


Evidently, what I said was either misunderstood or misinterpreted. Of course there is no "future subjunctive" in French, and I don't think I suggested that there is. I only know the present subjunctive and the perfect subjunctive, and I believe those are the only two.

My main point was that there is no need in the English translation here for the word "will," which puts the English sentence into the future mood. That only adds unnecessary confusion for learners. The English sentence "I doubt that the server serves us quickly" is a perfectly correct (and far less confusing) English translation of the French sentence.

In English, the subjunctive mood would be "that he serve," as in, "It's important that he serve us quickly." But it would obviously be incorrect to translate the French sentence as: "I doubt that he serve us quickly." This is one of those instances where an "apples-to-apples" literal translation is not really useful.

For what it's worth, 40 years ago when I was living in French-speaking Belgium and France, my French friends told me not to worry about the subjonctif as none of them were using it, even then. They told me it sounded stilted to them, like a foreigner straining to speak perfect French. I found it was not terribly conversational, but I had already learned it and still use it today when needed.

In any event, I stand by my earlier comment.

P.S. I'm an old man with a tough hide and am very confident in my ability to speak French fluently, so I'm not fazed by a patronizing "no, no, no." But this is a forum for people trying to help each other learn a language, and tsk-tsking someone in that tone is not helpful. Please don't do that to others.


The simple present in English is often colloquially used to talk about the near future, e.g., "We land at ten o'clock." So, I concede that it's acceptable to translate this as "I doubt (that) the server serves us quickly," but the future tense is implied -- how can you possibly doubt how the server will serve if he's already serving you? Even if you drop "will", this is clearly expressing doubt about a future possibility, both in French and in English. It's just that, grammatically, French douter que triggers the subjunctive mood even though it's referring to the future, while in English, the future tense uses a modal auxiliary, and modal verbs have no subjunctive form. Translating as "will serve" doesn't add any unnecessary confusion because it's the standard future tense construction... and this is by necessity semantically future tense.


ScottHuch, I don't believe the "no, no, no" was meant to be patronizing. sean.mullen, is however, correct in his assessment of grammar here.


I should've made a note about that. I'm sorry if it came across as patronizing -- my three noes were for intensity, to express my strong disagreement. Thanks.


Sean.Mullen, yes, well said. And throughout the subjective exercises, through repetition, the future translation in English is the correct response. And yes, the subjunctive has no future tense & therefore the present form does "double-duty" to express present and future.


My two centimes: there is no future tense in subjunctive. So I doubt that Je doute que le serveur nous servira rapidement. is possible at all.

In my opinion Je doute que le serveur nous serve rapidement represents the future, which is reflected in an English translation.


I respectfully disagree. If I'm talking about going to a very busy restaurant a week from now, I might very well say Je doute que le serveur nous servira rapidement using the future tense to describe action taking place in the future. I don't think there's anything incorrect about that French sentence in the proper context.

And the problem I see here has nothing to do with whether the French sentence in this example is correct. I believe it is.

But Je doute que le serveur nous serve rapidement does not represent the future -- il serve is the present subjunctive. The subjunctive mood is used to describe a condition that is contrary to fact. But in English, we'd say, "I doubt that the server serves us quickly," the same as the present tense in this case.

Unfortunately, I think Duolingo has introduced needless confusion here by giving an English translation that talks about the future. I learned the subjunctive in French 40+ years ago without there ever being a reference to the future in the English translation. I'm not sure why Duolingo is teaching it this way now.

I guess I'll add it to my (now quite long and growing) list of things that Duolingo teaches in a way that doesn't seem to me to be the most effective pedagogy. C'est la vie.

Anyway, thanks for the interesting discussion. Bonne chance!


This sentence absolutely represents the future, because you can't doubt the possibility of an event if that event is ongoing. The required form of present subjunctive isn't the same as the meaning of future possibility, just as how the present indicative (form) is colloquially used to refer to the near future (meaning) in English.


Thanks, Sean. I think your posts have been accurate and the others can be skipped over.


ScottHuch, My response is to your comment (insistence?) on using the future form of servir. The first part of the sentence expresses "doubt, possibility or desire" (e.g., Je doute que. . .), a hallmark of indicating the use of the subjunctive verb form. Therefore, if you want to express the sentence using proper French grammar, the subjunctive verb form follows "que." A proficient French speaker will translate "servir" in the future tense.


Thanks for the correction (servir!) - I should know this!! The translations in this section have generally been very poor. I would hesitate to lay the blame for this one on 'stylistic liberty'.


If waiter isn't accepted and the rest of your sentence is grammatical, then please report it.


More to the point what is a "server"? I know it's a machine that you run a computer network on but has anyone ever been served in a public space by a "server"? One of the worst Duo-literal translations for a while IMO.


I find "server" pretty common for a waiter/waitress, and it's becoming increasingly common as more people are concerned about assuming gender identity, since it's a unisex word.


Think this may be a UK/Non-UK thing. In non-London UK it's certainly not really a thing but more than happy to accept that it is elsewhere! Thanks for the perspective though - it's all learning! I think Duo is becoming quite challenging for a Brit as there are more differences between the different "Englishes" than you'd imagine! Quite a lot of my time is trying to work out how to translate French into English English and then English English into American English. It may be time to find another more UK friendly medium as my understanding of French grows but the problem is with the translation into "American" rather than with the French.


What's the point? Duo appears to have stopped taking corrections.


shouldn't this be a waiter?


I presume that these exercises are primarily to demonstrate the use of the subjunctive when there is uncertainty. In English I would normally say "I doubt if" in order to express this uncertainty.


(Sorry, can't put in accents in the examples). The subjunctive is used in French after a verb that expresses doubt, fear, joy, sorrow, or some other emotion. It is used in French much more than in English and is, indeed, disappearing in English except to express commands or conditions that contrary to fact (if I were you, I would not do it). The subjunctive is also used after a verb that expresses some kind of insistence, preference or suggestion. (example: Je prefere qu'il fasse le travail maintenance. or, example: J'exige qu'il soit puni). It's also used after certain conjunctions, and after certain impersonal expressions showing a need, doubt, possibility or impossibility. (Il best urgent qu'il vienne. Il vaunt mieux qu'il vienne. Il est possible qu'il vienne. etc.). I'm just learning like the rest of you but I do suggest reading up somewhere about using the subjunctive tense which should alleviate the frustration of wondering why it's used here instead of the future tense.


I would have translated 'serveur' as waiter


Correction: Wrong: Il best urgent qu'il vienne. Il vaunt mieux qu'il vienne. It should have been: Il est urgent qu'il vienne. and: Il vaut mieux qu'il vienne. My American keyboard has a mind of its own.


Will is not only used for future tense. The following may help https://www.english-at-home.com/grammar-how-to-use-will/


I keep getting confused about this. Servir is an ir verb, so why isn't it being conjugated in the subjunctive with the isse ending. Ir verbs use isse, isses, isse, issions, issiez and issaient, ne c'est pas?


Not all -ir verbs use those endings. Servir is an irregular verb, so it doesn't follow the same rules as regular -ir verbs.


ok so this is the subjunctive conjugation of servir I guess? I think I saw the same thing happen with suivir. Is that irregular. I sure wish duolingo would bring the tips back!


Yes, le serveur nous sert would be present indicative; que le serveur nous serve uses the present/future subjunctive. The other verb is suivre though; there is no 'suivir'.


Oh la la. I have the same comment re: serves vs. will serve being the same in French as in English (American).


It's only the same form in the subjunctive mood because there is no future subjunctive in French. You have to say: « Je doute que ... nous serve » because the construction douter que triggers the subjunctive. Semantically, it refers to the future since you can only doubt how a waiter will serve you if he/she hasn't already done so -- that's why this translates to the future tense in English. But the form in French is the standard subjunctive form.


The statements in this lesson all start with, 'Je doute...' Is it common for the French to be so negative?

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