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please sort out the tenses for me


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Les huiles que tu m'a envoyées sont de grande qualité; c'est incroyable que tu les aies eues à ce prix dérisoire.

Right, I get the meaning.  It's something along the lines of this:

The oils that you sent me (oils as in paintings in the story) are of good quality; it's unbelievable that you have got them at this derisory price.

I know that aies is the second person singular for avoir in the subjunctive.  So the eues must then be something like the past tense in the subjunctive?  Have I guessed correctly?

Do you have a simpler explanation?

From the little grammar I know, these are additional points that I have noted:

envoyées is the feminine plural and therefore huiles is a feminine word

I also know that qualité is feminine and that DE would have been placed in front of grande even if grande is in the plural because Angela (l'oisseau) has told me in the past that de is used in front of adjectives.  For example,vous avez de beaux yeux.  Merci, Angela!  And I have been assured by others that this way of speaking is très élégant

Any further explanations, examples, comments would be very welcome.  Especially from Chancer because it was he who mentioned the book from which the above extract is taken[:P]


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[quote user="mint"]Les huiles que tu m'a envoyées sont de grande qualité; c'est incroyable que tu les aies eues à ce prix dérisoire.

So the eues must then be something like the past tense in the subjunctive?  Have I guessed correctly?

Do you have a simpler explanation?[/quote]Well, I certainly have a simpler explanation of that bit.

No, eu is not subjunctive, it is nothing more exotic than the past participle of avoir.  It has +es because it is agreeing with the PDO, which is huiles.

Tu les as eues means simply you have had them.

incroyable que is an expression which demands the subjunctive in French, which turns tu les as eues into tu les aies eues.

≈  …incredible that you (should) have had them…

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[quote user="mint"]For opinions, doubts, etc, you use the subjunctive.

Now have I understood? [/quote]Yes, perfectly.

But, I have to admit to being slightly scandalized (despite being a committed libertarian) by your not knowing that eu is the pp of avoir.  This is an essential bit of knowledge.  Irregular verbs are everywhere, and there is no escaping them.

I make my English class learn them all.  In one go.  A little suffering is demanded, naturally enough   -   but that is nothing compared with the advantages of having them under one's belt.


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'eu' became 'eues' because the 'les'   (them) refers to the 'huiles' (feminine) and precedes the verb, so the past participle (eu)  has to agree with it (the preceding direct object), so adds an e for feminine and an s for plural.

the 'aies' is subjunctive after 'incroyable que'

'It is incredible that you should have got them so cheaply.'.

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I am reading probably about my 10th French book and as usual its hard going, the problem is my unfamiliarity with the past historic tense, too long between books and having to dial myself in to it again so that I can recognise the base verbs.

Mint read a childrens book that I recommended recently, I can see now why they are such good reading for learners of French because it, and presumably the others dont use too flowery or literal phraseology and more importantly no past historic.

Its quite weird that there is a tense that we never speak or hear and will never read in newspapers, magazines, instruction books etc, given that I have only met a handfull of French people in 10 years that read romans I can only conclude that many are not that familiar with it.

When I read my first French book I needed to consult the dictionary frequently, then less and less and eventually not at all, no doubt some words were just accepted and/or guessed at in context. Now I am having to use the E/F F/E dictionary more than ever, and the book is taking me 10 times longer than before, - why? Because having got to read and understand completely in French now I am forcing myself to translate in my head into English and I am finding probably 10 times per page there are words I know and understand well in French but have forgotten what they were in English, I have to look tem up each and every time, some are such familiar words to everyone else as they were once to me that it makes me realise just how much I am losing my English hence my forcing myself to translate again.

I have gone full circle, at first everything I heard or read I automatically translated (or tried to) into English in order to understand, now I am forcing myself to do so when reading to try and claw back some of my lost English vocabulary.

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I have been discussing french and how one learns it with a friend over the past few weeks.

They had lessons at school and believe that reading and writing and the speaking is the way to do it.


way was listening, having a go, reading and then writing, at which I am

not good, but perhaps no worse than some french people.


understood exactly what that phrase meant mint and if you or anyone

else, had simply asked what it meant, I would have been able to say.

However, I have not one clue about most of which you have discussed with

regards to the grammar, and conjugaisons.

I never worry about not knowing this stuff, I am lousy at it in english too [:D]

So my question mint, IF someone had just said that to you, you would have understood, wouldn't you? I'm sure you would[:)]. And how would you have known/realised that there were all those extra letters on 'aies eues', were there, which in fact are silent when we speak, I realise that there may be a liason between the 's' and 'eues', which is, for me, sort of negligible.

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It matters if you have to write French yourself, as I had to for work, although usually I would have avoided the most awkward potential traps.

I know the two 'rules' about when to use the subjunctive, and when to make sure endings agree, and would have had to double check

Grammar is just a useful way of summarising what is considered correct, but no more than that.

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Id, I am in partial agreement with you.  I, too, had to learn "on the hoof".  Did not have the luxury of learning anything formally because I had to deal with the day-to-day issues of living in France.  So it was, listen, understand, respond.....however it came out and whether grammatical or not.

And, yes, I do believe that I said I could work out the meaning.  I was just interested in finding out how the sentence was constructed.  I read a fair bit and I write often too.  Unlike Norman, I do not work and so I could afford to make all the mistakes going.

However, I have now come to the stage where I find the grammar fascinating and I am curious to find out more.  I am NOT embarrassed by mistakes and I can generally get myself understood, even on the phone.  I tend to ask French people if I have got something right and I have no end of help and suggestions but, as you yourself have pointed out, the French people often get things wrong too!

Chance, I don't agree with you that the historic past, as you call it, is not used in children's books.  Now I read some French most days and I have quite a collection of French books, in fact a shelf full.  Just to give an example off the top of my head and without checking, Pagnol's La gloire de mon père is dedicated to his young readers and the whole of that trilogy is sub-titled Souvenirs d'enfance.  Strangely enough, I don't find this tense particularly difficult; you just need to know all the endings and you are away because the radicals of the words stay the same[:D]

Speaking from experience, I would say that the best way of acquiring a wide vocabulary is to read a lot of good writing.

bonne lecture!  

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After last nights lecture I have decided that this author has gone out of his way to use as flowery a language as possible, he must have used a thesaurus to find obscure synonyms for every word he could, I am looking up some 15-20 unknown words per page as opposed to very few in the last book, I cant even skip or guess them as most of the time I cannot follow the context, when i look them up every time I think why didnt he just use "XYZ" like other authors do.


And yet these are both books in the same specialist series by a specialist French publishing house Transboréal, they publish the works of Young authors writing the biography of some remarkable adventure they have done, the first Le Grand hiver was the story of a Young couple who in the 70's sailed from France past Cape horn right into the furthest reaches of the antartic where they went deliberately to be frozen in like Captain Scott, the first ever self supported overwinter stay in the Antartic, she even gave birth to their first child there.


The one I'm currently reading Au Gré Du Yokon is the story of a couple who travelled the length of the Yukon in Canada and Alaska by canoë  unsupported in 84 days, the first book written by the woman of the couple, the second by the man, both from the same Publisher in the same series yet one is an easy read for me and the other is really really hard work and frankly I have to ask why, what is the point of using vocabulary that I never hear or read elsewhere, I'm not talking about the past historic tense as they both use it but one far more than the other.


Could the average French "Yoof" even be capable of writing a story in the past historic tense?


One difference in the above books is that the easier one was translated into French from English, the guy was French but his wife Tasmanian.



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That's interesting what you say about the easier read being the one translated into French from English, Chancer. I remember the first book I ever bought, and read, in French was an Agatha Christie whodunit and amazed myself by understanding almost everything. I guess it's to do with being based on English thought processes.

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Oh, Angela, snap!  One of my very first few reads was a Poirot called, I think, Poirot joue le jeu!

I love Philippe Delerm's description of Un roman D'Agatha Christie: He claims that you can recognise the genre straightaway..tant d'atmosphères!

Oui, la pluie sur la pelouse au-delà des bow-windows, le chintz à ramages vert canard des doubles rideaux, ces fauteuils aux courbes si moelleuses déferlant jusqu'au sol......and so on.  I giggled so much I could hardly read the rest!

I am not surprised you found difficulty reading those books, Chance, the vocabulary must be quite specialist?

If you like books based in foreign countries, read Jean Christophe Ruffin.  He was the ambassador to Senegal for a time and he has lots of tales of African countries as well as the Far and Near East; I suppose places where he'd worked.  In fact, in the summer, I sometimes get to walk with an ex colleague of his and HE tells me stories as well.

He writes like a true story teller and I learnt a lot of what shall I call them....compound nouns like futur-supposé pèlerin which you could change to futur-supposé président, chef, ministre, etc and je-m'en-foutisme for apathy.

Thank you, Cendrillon for introducing me to Ruffin.  She told me about his book Immortelle Randonnée about his walk on the compostelle.

You might also like to try a Fred Vargas, all polars usually based in Paris or at least in Northern France.  With slangy vocabulary and fast paced dialogue.  Euro Trash will bear me out as she's a huge fan.

Sometimes I go to a Café Litteraire near me.  You read a book in about a fortnight and then you discuss it.  Sometimes we watch a film and talk about it afterwards. 

Of course, you have a business to run but for me, I have as much time as I care to make to enjoy these sorts of things. 

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I have read a Fred Vargas and really enjoyed it, it was just an Emmaus read and I didnt realise that she (Fred is a she isnt she?) was famous, isnt there a film or TV series of her books?

Cant even recall what the book was, something about a body found in a railway tunnel on the South downs or was that something completely different?

Maybe something about the undead?????

Give me some names of the books and it will come to me, I know the character featured in several other books, a retired police chief perhaps?

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That's the one, Chance, and yes, it's a she.  She also has a sister who is a painter called Jo Vargas.  My polars are downstairs in the sous sol and it's rather dark to find my way down there now.  But I do have a nice little book of hers, amongst others, called Coule la Seine with 4 or 5 short stories all based in Paris.  The story I remember most there is called Cinq francs pièce.  It's about a man, a down-and-out, who sells sponges (at 5 francs each) from a supermarket trolley and sleeps somewhere below ground at the métro.  Naturally, he witnessed a murder one night......!

The inspectors's name is Adamsberg and his sidekick is called Danglard.  Hope that reawakens your memory?

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See if you can make sense of this from the book.


Maintenant déserté Big Salmon avait été un centre de commerce. Autour d'un poste de traite (2) s'était rassemblée une communauté indienne.


I understood poste de traite to mean "trading post" but if you read the footnote 2 it says:


En depit de sa connotation Africaine, ce terme traduit bien le mot Américain "bush" qui désigne tout buisson, tout arbrisseau, tout arbuste et, par extension les contrées sauvages où ces dernières abondent.

The African connotation I'm pretty sure is  la traite the slave trade,  but what is all that about the bush? It goes on to say De la sorte, les "bush" pilots de la toundra ou de la taiga d'Alaska sont les pilotes de brousse!


Was the author on drugs or am I missing something here?


Also the words en depit de are a good example of why its so hard to read, why did he not simply use malgré ? Would it have been any the worse for using the common term or does en depit de add more meaning? there are probably 15 more like that on each page.

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Yes, Chance, I see what you mean.

Mind you, having lived in Wales for over a decade, whose inhabitants are also of the school of why-use-just-the-one word when 10 or 12 would do. 

BTW, I did answer your questions re Fred Vargas.  My post is the last one on the previous page. 

I wouldn't like you to miss it as you might like the book I mention there.

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Do you think the footnotes were written by somebody more pretentious than the author, Chancer? ?. That's how it reads to me...

Based where you are, in this centenary period for WWI, you ought to read "Les Croix de Bois" by Roland Dorgelès. He was a journalist, who joined up as an infantryman, and describes first-hand the life in the French trenches, the camaraderie, the food (of course!), the tolerance of the ghastly conditions, and the resentment towards their officers who seem to have been much more aloof and distant that their British counterparts.

You'd probably be up to the slang: "boyau", for a communication trench (at least, that's what I guessed); "cuistot" for the cook; etc.

It's set around Souchez, so not exactly your patch; more the Notre Dame de Lorette area.

It's a book that has really stayed with me, and not a difficult read. It's a classic, in Livre de Poche; or perhaps in Emmaus if you are lucky! (I just checked out Amazon.fr; you can get a second-hand copy "from 0.01 euro" !)

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Cinq francs pièce, that reminds me of the 4 word vocabulary that the female Romanians in Paris and Amiens have.


Pipe deux cent francs [6]

Angela, many people around here say cuistot and I have heard boyau used in many senses, its a very good way of describing the serpentine nature of the trenches.




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I still cannot comprehend how poste de traite can be thought to be the French translation of the American (huh?) word "bush",

The definition of post de traite is Endroit aménagé pour faire la traite des fourrures avec les Amérindiens et le commerce de ce denrées importées (fusils, parties de fusils, hachettes, couteaux,

Trading post yes, maybe they were told it was a bush trading post, but why are they even bothering to make inférences to the slave trade and talk about bush pilots?

Can anyone make any sense out of it?

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That is the only bit that I sort of can understand as the slave trade is, or was known as la traite although that info has no place in the book, its the bush reference that i dont get and saying that traite is a direct translation of "bush" when there was not even any mention of bush in the first place.

I'm getting quite cross reading the book, I never need a dictionary these days when reading anything, it is so rare in conversation for me to have to ask someone to define a word they used, the last book was a pleasure to read and I wish this mysogenistic Frenchman had allowed his wife to write the book.

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