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Thread: FR: depuis + temps du verbe

  1. #1
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    FR: depuis + temps du verbe

    Greetings all,

    I am having great problems with the correct usage of "depuis". Here is what I learned about a year ago:
    • If the event being described has ended, then speak in the past tense (not sure whether passé composé or imparfait)
    • If not, use the present

    So, I must say j'ai des cheveux bouclés depuis que j'avais 16 ans if I still have curly hair. If not, then I must use a past tense.

    But my French penpal, with whom I talk every day via Skype, often uses the passé composé with depuis to talk about events which are still occurring! For instance, today I was telling him that Auckland (in New Zealand, where I live) is built on active volcanoes and that we will certainly have an eruption at some point in the future. I said il n'arrive pas depuis longtemps to say that an eruption hasn't happened for a long time. He corrected me with the passé composé!!

    I am wondering whether this is one of those things where what is learned by foreign language learners is different from the current usage of the language? In which case what on earth am I supposed to do?

    Can you kind folks please help a thoroughly confused débutante?

    Moderator note: Multiple threads have been merged to create this one.
    Last edited by Maître Capello; 27th November 2011 at 5:28 PM. Reason: note

  2. #2
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    Re: Problems with "depuis"

    I have noticed that, in French, you often use the passé composé with "depuis" when the sentence is negative or interrogative.
    Je l'attends depuis 2 heures/depuis le déjeûner (I've been waiting for him for 2 hours/since lunch)
    BUT
    Je ne l'ai pas vu depuis 3 semaines/depuis la semaine dernière (I haven't seen him for 3 weeks/since last week)
    Est-ce qu'il t'a téléphoné depuis la soirée? (Has he phoned you since the party?)

    Alas, there are exceptions...
    I'm still hoping yesterday will get better... (Schulz)

  3. #3
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    Re: Problems with "depuis"

    Just a quick answer to the limited part of the issue you raise.
    Depuis can be used with the passé composé in the negative (in particular) to express a continuing state. Thus, the volcano in question n'est pas entré en activité depuis 19xx.
    This is actually quite familiar to anglophones; it is exactly the way we use the present perfect in English: The volcano has not erupted since 19xx. You are not talking about an event that ended in the past, but rather a situation or a state which still exists.

    The problem, as it were, in French, is that the passé composé can serve as both preterite and present perfect. Note this distinction:
    Je n'ai rien fait depuis hier I HAVEN"T done anything SINCE yesterday
    Je n'ai rien fait pendant les vacances I DIDN"T do a thing over vacation

    The first of these, because of "depuis," indicates an on-going state, presented in the negative.
    Hope that helps a little

  4. #4
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    Re: Problems with "depuis"

    Many thanks pieanne and harrythelm. I'm starting to see why my penpal corrects me sometimes but not others.

    So, if I've understood correctly, the following are good:
    - mes cheveux n'ont pas été bouclés depuis 2006 - expresses the fact that my hair has been straight since 2006
    - mes cheveux sont raides depuis 2006 - expresses the same thing

    Is this right?

  5. #5
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    Re: Problems with "depuis"

    Yes, but we'd rather say "je n'ai plus les cheveux bouclés depuis ..."
    I'm still hoping yesterday will get better... (Schulz)

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    Re: Problems with "depuis"

    Quote Originally Posted by pieanne View Post
    Yes, but we'd rather say "je n'ai plus les cheveux bouclés depuis ..."
    Pour moi, ce thread a beaucoup l'intérêt. Merci beaucoup.

    Qu'est-ce que la différence entre
    "mes cheveux n'ont pas été bouclés depuis 2006"
    et
    "je n'ai plus les cheveux bouclés depuis ."

  7. #7
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    Re: Problems with "depuis"

    Quote Originally Posted by pieanne View Post
    Yes, but we'd rather say "je n'ai plus les cheveux bouclés depuis ..."
    OK, but that's using the present tense with a negative...

  8. #8
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    Re: Problems with "depuis"

    Hello debutant,

    Your question have been aswered by pieanne, but I suggest you've done a mistake in your first post.

    When you said :
    I must say j'ai des cheveux bouclés depuis que j'avais 16 ans if I still have curly hair. If not, then I must use a past tense.
    If you still have curly hair, you should say "j'ai des cheveux bouclés depuis que j'ai 16 ans" because "j'avais" is a past tense

    You're welcome to correct my mistakes too
    Alex - Feel free to correct my mistakes ! ;-)

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    Re: Problems with "depuis"

    It's very complicated...

    When you say "mes cheveux n'ont pas été bouclés depuis 2006" it could mean that you haven't had your hair curled once since 2006, or that your hair haven't been curled a single time since 2006, which is a bit weird.
    When you say "je n'ai plus les cheveux bouclés depuis ..." "bouclé" is an adjective, and yes, "depuis" is used with the present tense, because you hair's still straight.

    There's a difference between
    1- travailles-tu depuis que je suis parti?
    and
    2- as-tu travaillé depuis que je suis parti?

    1- the person is working (have you been working since I left?)
    2- the person is not working (have you spent any time working since I left?)
    I'm still hoping yesterday will get better... (Schulz)

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    Re: Problems with "depuis"

    The reason — and there are surely exceptions here as well — that we would use a present tense rather than the passé composé in this case is that "bouclé," although a past participle, is actually functioning as an adjective. It is describing your hair rather than expressing an action, something done to it. Setting aside for the moment the fact that one does not say mes cheveux but rather les cheveux — that's another story — the sentence "Mes cheveux n'ont pas été bouclés depuis…" would mean curled by someone as we might say that "Cette porte n'a pas été ouverte depuis des siècles" — this door hasn't been opened for ages/centuries.

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    Re: Problems with "depuis"

    Hi everybody !
    Michel, if you say : "mes cheveux n'ont pas été bouclés depuis .....", you mean that you used to get them curled by someone else (a hairdresser, your mother or any other person).
    If they were naturally curled, and they no longer are, you should say : "je n'ai plus les cheveux bouclés depuis....".
    Hope it helps ?

  12. #12
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    Re: Problems with "depuis"

    Quote Originally Posted by Alex_R View Post
    If you still have curly hair, you should say "j'ai des cheveux bouclés depuis que j'ai 16 ans" because "j'avais" is a past tense
    Thanks, I hadn't realised that I must use the present tense throughout the phrase. I used "j'avais" because, well, I'm no longer 16, so that's in the past!

    [...]
    Last edited by pyan; 3rd October 2008 at 8:18 PM. Reason: Off-topic comment removed

  13. #13
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    Re: Problems with "depuis"

    Quote Originally Posted by pieanne View Post
    I have noticed that, in French, you often use the passé composé with "depuis" when the sentence is negative or interrogative.
    Je l'attends depuis 2 heures/depuis le déjeûner (I've been waiting for him for 2 hours/since lunch)
    BUT
    Je ne l'ai pas vu depuis 3 semaines/depuis la semaine dernière (I haven't seen him for 3 weeks/since last week)
    Est-ce qu'il t'a téléphoné depuis la soirée? (Has he phoned you since the party?)

    Alas, there are exceptions...
    Hi Pieanne

    I’m a little confused at your use of “depuis”. I would have said:
    Je l'attends depuis 2 heures” = I've been waiting for him since 2 o’clock
    Ça fait 2 heures que je l’attends = I've been waiting for him for 2 hours

    Depuis = since, pour = for

    Am I missing something?

  14. #14
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    FR: Depuis + temps

    Bonjour,

    I was wondering if someone could tell me if I can use the perfect tense with depuis, as in the following sentence, or whether the present tense is correct.

    "Depuis une quinzaine d'annees, une nouvelle question politique a attire l'attention."

    "For the last 15 years a new issue has been catching people's attention."

    Thanks in advance

  15. #15
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    Re: Depuis + Perfect tense.

    Since the act is going on I'd prefer the present. The passé composé sound odd because it means thats the action is over now and it doesn't fit with "depuis".

    "Depuis une quinzaine d'années, une nouvelle question politique attire
    l'attention."


  16. #16
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    Depuis

    Est-ce qu'on dit: j'etudie le francais depuis 20 ans ou j'ai etudie le francais depuis 20 ans?

  17. #17
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    Re: Depuis

    "J'étudie le français depuis vingt ans" as you're still learning french... otherwise you cannot use "depuis".


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    Re: Depuis

    Merci beaucoup, Itka! Mais j'ai lu des articles francais utilisant "depuis" associe avec le passe compose, ce qui me rend confondu. J'ai imprime des articles de France 2. On en trouve les examples de temps en temps.

  19. #19
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    Re: Depuis

    Mmmm...Yes.

    First, don't forget we never speak "perfectly". We often use tenses or words not exactly correct. That's no explanation (!) but ...it often happens !

    With depuis, you can express two different things : 1)- a duration, 2)- a starting point.

    If the action is still performing, it doesn't matter wether depuis indicates a duration or a starting point, you can only use the present tense (since the passé composé is expressing an action completely finished)
    Depuis trois jours, il pleut sans arrêt.(duration)
    Depuis Noël, il pleut sans arrêt.(starting point)

    Or, if the action was still performing at the moment you consider in the past, use the imparfait :
    Depuis trois jours, il pleuvait sans arrêt...(quand nos amis sont arrivés).
    Depuis Noël, il pleuvait sans arrêt (et nous n'avions pas pu sortir...).


    But, if the action is now completely finished, you have to distinguish the two occurrences of depuis :
    - duration:
    The passé composé doesn't fit with depuis, you have to use "pendant":
    Depuis trois jours, il a plu sans arrêt ---> Pendant trois jours, il a plu sans arrêt et nous n'avons pas pu sortir.

    - starting point:
    This starting point has nothing to do with the tense of the verb, it only gives an information. So you can perfectly use the passé composé (as well as present)
    Depuis que j'ai lu ce livre, j'ai compris cette théorie.(je ne cherche plus à la comprendre, c'est fait, j'ai compris)
    Depuis Noël, il a plu sans arrêt et nous n'avons pas pu sortir.

    If you're telling a story in the past, then you must use the plus-que-parfait:
    Depuis Noël, il avait plu sans arrêt et nous n'avions pas pu sortir.

    I know it seems quite difficult to understand, but look at your first sentence :
    Are you still learning french ?
    Yes. ---> present time. j'étudie le français depuis 20 ans. (and I'm still learning it)
    No ---> j'ai étudié le français pendant 20 ans.(and I no longer learn it)

    That's quite difficult for me to explain (especially in english !) so I hope I'm not wrong, I forgot nothing and it's clear enough !


  20. #20
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    Re: FR: depuis + temps du verbe

    I'll just add this paragraph from a grammar text I was weaned on in younger days.

    "When the verb is in the negative, there are two forms: the present tense with ne...plus and the passé composé with ne...pas. (With the passé composé, ne...plus may also be found, especially with verbs beginning with re-, such as revoir and refaire.) The meaning is essentially the same; the difference being that the present stresses some continuing aspect of the situation, whereas the passé composé stresses s0me completed aspct of it."

    An example of the verbs beginning with re- is:

    Je ne l'ai plus revue depuis qu'elle a déménagé.

    Cheers!

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