Reading time: 3 minutes Difficulty:Intermediate
Before we go any further with this, let’s try to address this question that I’m pretty sure is in your mind right now.
The French’s participe présent does not form any tense itself, that’s why it is far less common than its English counterpart, and even less common than its brother participe passé. But without this little thing, the French language will no longer be the same.
They say that the forgotten one, if it does not want to be forgotten, it should act strong and be flexible. This is undoubtedly true for the case of the French participe présent here. This participle could be used either as a gerund, a noun, a verb or an adjective. Employing it properly will make your sentence light but beautiful.
Ready to start learning about it? Let’s go!
Some of you may already know the rule to form the present participle of a verb, but let’s review it one more time here.
The good news is that the rule is pretty straightforward and there are very few exceptions. For regular and all but three irregular verbs, the present participle is formed by dropping -ons from the form of the first person in plural (nous) of the present tense and adding -ant.
|Manger||-> Nous mangeons||-> mangeant|
|Parler||-> Nous parlons||-> parlant|
|Finir||-> Nous finissons||-> finissant|
|Sortir||-> Nous sortons||-> sortant|
We have only 3 exceptions, 2 of them are verbs that always appear in the list of exceptions for all tenses in French: avoir et être. The 3rd one is also a well-known verb: savoir (to know).
In case you really need to emphasize that this is an ongoing action, add the structure “être en train de”, so we have “je suis en train de faire”. The practical structure of “je suis faisant” unfortunately does not exist in French.
It might not catch your eye at the first sign, but the French present participle could be found in many sentence structures, as detailed below:
|Il s'est foulé la cheville en jouant au foot|
|He sprained his ankle while playing football.|
|Elle écoute la musique en conduisant|
|She listens to music while driving|
Without present participle: Il n’a pas pu jouer parce qu’il est blessé au genou. (subordinating conjunction) He couldn’t play because he has a knee injury
With present participle:Étant blessé au genou, il n’a pas pu jouer. (present participle) Having a knee injury, he couldn’t play.
Some present participles can be used as a noun. And as a noun, the participle can change its gender and number.
|un gagnant||a winner||une gagnante||a winner (feminine)|
|un perdant||a loser||une perdante||a loser (feminine)|
|un assistant||an assistant||une assistante||an assistant (feminine)|
|un commerçant||a shopkeeper||une commerçante||a shopkeeper (feminine)|
|un enseignant||a teacher||une enseignante||a teacher (feminine)|
|un étudiant||a student||une étudiante||a student (feminine)|
|un fabricant||a manufacturer||une fabricante||a manufacturer (feminine)|
Many present participles can be used as adjectives. Here also, the participle agrees with the noun it modifies. For example:
des matchs épuisants exhausting games
un sport exigeant a demanding sport
The past gerund (passé composé du participe présent) is a special structure in French.
This is formed with the auxiliary avoir/être in present participle mood + the past participle of the verb (similar to the passé composé).
Ayant accepté la défaite, les joueurs sont rentrés chez eux.
Having accepted the defeat, the players went home.
The rule of choosing the auxiliary (avoir/être) is similar to other compound tense in French (e.g: passé composé).
This structure is used to describe an action that took place right before another action. It is nearly similar to the structure après avoir/ être + participe passé
I hope you found this article helpful and I am looking forward to your comments.
If you want more simplified (and not boring) grammar lessons, check out the Talk in French grammar book for beginners and for intermediate learners. Or you can get both at a lower price by clicking the image below.
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Frederic Bibard is the founder of Talk in French, a company that helps french learners to practice and improve their french. Macaron addict. Jacques Audiard fan. You can contact him on Twitter and Google +
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