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I'm just starting my second year of French at A-Level and I have just been reintroduced to the subjunctive after many years! We have had to translate many sentences from English into French and there's 10 which I am quite clueless upon.

1) I am ashamed that he is not here today (here = là)

2) It is a pity that she can't come with us

3) It is better for him to know it

4) It's time for them to go to school

5) We are happy that the animals have some freedom

6) They were surprised that the shops were closed

7) Her mother is sad that Marie does not do the work

8) I'm really sorry you (vous) have been waiting

9) It is a pity you didn't arrive earlier (you = one lady [vous])

10) It's better for us to stay here


Simple sentences I know but if anyone could help that would be fab!


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Perhaps you could explain which specific bits you're not sure about? Is it just the formation of the subjunctive? Have you got a first attempt of any of the sentences?

It's just the formation in general, subjunctive just really confuses me. For the first one at first glance I thought:

J'ai honte qu'il n'est pas là aujourd'hui. But that is not even subjunctive. I know the basic formations but putting them in sentences like these (especially number 10) is really tricky for me.

You need to put the main verb that follows the 'que' into the subjunctive. In this sentence the verb is etre, so where you've used the present tense (il n'est pas) you need to use the subjunctive (il ne soit pas).

OK, it sounds like you're OK with the overall sentence, it's just specifically the subjunctive.


So... basically as Clare says, the "second" verb in each of your sentences will be in the subjunctive.


If you think about these sentences:


(a) John says that Mary is ill.

(b) John is surprised that Mary is ill.


Now, if you imagine re-arranging them, you actually discover that we have two types of sentence here:


(a)' Mary is ill, John says.

(b) *Mary is ill, John is surprised.


You'll probably agree that (a) sounds OK, but that sentence (b) sounds quite odd. As a general rule of thumb, where you have a sentence like (b) that can't be "switched round" in this way, French tends to use the subjunctive in the subordinate clause (in other words, the bit before the comma in the switched-round version). It's not a perfect rule of thumb, but it gives you a rough idea. As it turns out, all of your sentences are essentially of the (b) type, so they'll need a subjunctive.


Or in other words: the subjunctive marks a clause that isn't an assertion. Sentence (b) isn't assering that Mary is ill, but rather describing a reaction to the "imagined" or "snapshotted" situation of Mary being ill. I hope that makes some sense!


You may also find the section on the subjunctive that I have on the web site helpful:

Brill thanks a lot!  


I had a look on that link and I think I understand now


2) C'est dommage qu'elle ne puisse pas venir avec nous

3) Il vaut mieux qu'il le connaisse

4) Il est temps qu'ils aillent à l'école

5) Nous sommes heureux que les animaux aient peu de liberté




10) Il vaut mieux que nous restions là


Think that's right :)

Here are some small things concerning your translation:


2) I would rather say ... qu'elle ne puisse venir avec nous

5) I think you want to say un peu de liberté

10) Il vaut mieux que nous en restions là

Erwan -- I wonder if in (2), though, the meaning is a bit clearer if you keep the "pas". The problem is that there are some sentences of this type, e.g. "Je crains qu'elle ne puisse venir" where having the "ne" isn't interpreted as a negative as such (and so "Je crains qu'elle ne puisse pas venir" means the opposite). So although this doesn't strictly apply in this case, I wonder if for clarity's sake it's better to keep the "pas".


(5), yes -- this is what is intended by the English. (Note to the original poster: "un peu de ..." and "peu de ..." mean essentially the opposite of one another, in a similar way to "a little freedom" and "little freedom" in English.)


(10) -- I think the original English is closer to the version without the "en", isn't it? The idea is for us to remain "physically in this place". If you add the "en", doesn't it mean something more like "for us to stay in this place in the book/discussion" etc, i.e. a more figurative meaning?

(2) It's may be clearer to keep the "pas". But in your example, I understand the same thing with or without the "pas".

But in this sentence "Je crains qu'il ne vienne", there isn't actually any negation.

The difference, I think, is that the verb "pouvoir" is used as an English modal verb and the "ne" is therefore a real negation. The kind of construction in my example  is seldom used. You'll more likely see it in books than in a conversation.

(10) My mistake. You're right with the "en" you've got a kind of figurative meaning.

10) Wouldn't it be better to use 'ici' rather than 'la' as the Eng was 'here' not 'there? 'La' (with grave) gives the impression the speaker is talking about a place elsewhere.

There is always a small doubt with "là" to understand it correctly in a sentence (here or there). In a conversation it's often followed by a sign which makes the doubt vanish.


Yes, in speech it would be made clearer. But in writing, do you think it would be safer to go with 'ici', or does that sound less fluent?

It's may be more accurate to go with "ici".



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