Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Allez vous-en

Allez vous-en!

This phrase comes from Cole Porter's song of the same name from the musical Can Can, written in 1953. The 1960 film of the musical starred Shirley MacLaine, Frank Sinatra, Louis Jourdan, Maurice Chevalier and introduced Juliet Prowse. Can Can, bien sur, is the French dance with high kicking women in skimpy outfits that was often performed in the night clubs of 1890 Montmartre on the outskirts of Paris.

The curious Francophile wonders why -en is attached to the pronoun vous. Normally -en is used as an adverbial pronoun meaning "some," "any," or "one," but here it must mean something a little different. Cole Porter writes the phrase to mean "Go Away!"


French Object Pronouns Word Order

Why, the curious reader wonders, is word order so darned important in French? In English we pretty much stick direct and indirect objects anywhere depending on how we want to make the point.

I gave him the ball.
I gave the ball to him.
I was standing in the middle of Yankee Stadium, and I gave him a ball signed by Babe Ruth while a crowd of thousands cheered on.

The French, it seems, are sticklers for word order, reminding me of the oft repeated phrase:
"It is not so much what you say in French, but how you say it."

The word order for French object pronouns, both direct and indirect, is as follows:

Subject, direct object, indirect object, verb.

  Je le lui donne, Je le lui donnais, Je le lui ai donné -
  I am giving it to him, I gave it to him, I gave it to him.

With dual construction verbs, put the object pronouns before the second verb.

Je dois lui parler. - I have to talk to him/her.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Direct Objects & Indirect Objects

"Why," the curious reader asks, "do we have direct and indirect object pronouns?"

To avoid repetition, to get to the point faster, to simplify life. Direct and indirect pronouns shorten our sentences like a text message by referring to previously stated people and things as objects.

I ate the cake. I ate it at once, quickly and greedily, not wanting to share it with my friends.

Direct Objects

Direct objects receive the action of the verb. Thus, I hit the ball. I is the subject, hit the verb, and the ball, the direct object which receives the action.

The direct object can be a person or thing.

I hit Bob with the ball.

But, fait attention, mes enfants, if you change the action slightly, a direct object becomes an indirect object.

I hit the ball to Bob. Bob is now the indirect object, the ball the direct object. And, notice that in English, we don't always let you know that Bob is an indirect object. We delete the preposition "to".

I hit Bob The ball.

 Oh, gentle reader, don't we love grammar?

Ne pense pas trop de la grammaire, juste di la.

Direct objects in French are me / m', te / t', le, la, nous, vous, les.

Direct objects precede the verb in a sentence.

I drink beer, Je bois

I drank it, Je la bois.

In a compound verb sentence such as passe compose, the verb agrees with the gender of the direct object.

He saw Marie.  Il a vu Marie.

He saw her. Il l'a vue.

Indirect Objects

French indirect objects are me / m', te / t', lui,  nos,  vous, leur. 

Indirect objects are people or things for whom the action occurs. Thankfully, in French the preposition à is always used before an indirect object.
don't think about grammar too much just say it.
I gave (to) Paul the book. J'ai donné à Paul le livre.
I gave him the book. Je lui ai donné le livre.

If there is both a direct object and indirect object pronoun, the direct object pronoun precedes the indirect object pronoun. It is the same as in English, if that helps.

 Je le lui ai donné. I gave it to him.

Note. Unlike the direct object, the past participle does not agree in number and gender with the indirect object.

In negative sentences, the ne comes after the subject, and the indirect object precedes the verb whether singular or compound.

Elle ne m'a pas téléphoné.

If there is an infinitive, then the indirect object is placed before the infinitive.

Je ne vais pas lui écrire. I am not going to write her.