French verbs

VERBS, WHICH CAUSE CONFUSION

VERBS, WHICH CAUSE CONFUSION

The French have a verb for everything. Their use of language is so articulate, that they simply have to use the correct verb in the correct context. When students are learning to write in French, they often use the correct verb, but then it is marked “incorrect” by the teacher and this leaves the student frustrated. A lot of students contact me via various social platforms asking me why such and such a verb was incorrect. The reason why must students get certain verbs wrong, is because they are using the verb out of context.

Context is the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood. In other words, if I want to say he upset the jug of milk, I don’t mean that he made the jug of milk cry. I mean that he overturned the jug. Generally in English, the same verb has several meanings, but in French, the language is so precise that each verb has a particular meaning. There are of course verbs which are the same but have different meanings, such as “Porter” which is to wear or to carry.

Here are two examples of verbs that students get confused about:

THE VERB TO WORK

TRAVAILLER – TO WORK

This verb is used to describe what a person does.

Ma mère travaille à la banque – My mother works in a bank

FONCTIONNER – TO WORK/TO FUNCTION

This verb is used to describe what a machine does

Mon portable fonctionne de nouveau – My mobile phone works again

L’appareil est connecté et prêt à fonctionner – the device is connected and ready to go (function/work)

MARCHER – TO WORK/TO WALK

This verb, when used in the context of work, means to function. It can also be used to express how well or not, a business is doing.

La machine ne marche plus – The machine is no longer working

Les affaires marchent bien – business is going well (working well)

THE VERB TO LEAVE

PARTIR – TO LEAVE/TO DEPART

Je dois partir – I must leave

Je dois partir + time or approximate time frame

Je dois partir à 15h – I must leave at 3 o’clock in the afternoon

To depart or leave to a specific place

Il est parti à la plage – He went to the beach (He left for the beach)

It is also used to say that you must go when something happens.

Je dois partir quand la cloche sonne – I will have to leave when the bell rings.

QUITTER – TO LEAVE

To leave a place or a person

J’ai quitté la maison à 7 heures ce matin – I left the house at 7 o’clock this morning

Le train a quitté la gare – The train left the station

Quitter – to leave someone

Monsieur Moreau a quitté sa femme – Mr. Moreau left his wife

LAISSER – TO LEAVE

To leave something behind you

Elle a laissé ses lunettes dans le train – She left her glasses on the train

To leave someone with someone

Ils ont laissé les enfants avec leur tante. – They left the children with their aunt

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