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FR: futur pour parler du passé - future tense describing past events

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by mattbeckwith, Dec 20, 2007.

  1. mattbeckwith New Member

    I just read in a grammar book that in French, as in English, when you're referring to a future time in a past context, you use the conditional. Par example: Elle savait hier qu'elle irait au magazin aujourd'hui.

    In a book written in the historic present, however, I found the future used in the analogous situation. Is this correct? Par example: Pendant le cinquième siecle elle sait qu'elle ira au magazin le mois prochain.

    Merci.

    Moderator note: Multiple threads have been merged to create this one. See also this thread about the historical present in French.
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2011
  2. vessy New Member

    Switzerland-French
    I would say that's correct !!
     
  3. regal Senior Member

    French
    Bonjour,
    on dirait "Au cinquième siècle, des guerres éclatent..." et non "Pendant le cinquième siècle..."
    Pour ce qui concerne ta question, quel que soit le présent que tu utilises (présent de narration ou non), il faut respecter la concordance des temps qui veut que : présent/futur devienne passé/conditionnel.
    Donc, oui, on dirait "En l'an 800, Charlemagne est sacré empereur. Il mourra 14 ans plus tard."
     
  4. jann

    jann co-mod'

    English - USA
    Here are a few more threads on the French "historic present," also know as the présent historique or the présent de narration. Maybe you will find them helpful. :)
     
  5. kme

    kme Senior Member

    you can use as well the "futur antérieur" which as its call is the tense you use to express futur in a past story.

    so "Elle savait hier qu'elle irait au magazin aujourd'hui" (which i also think is absolutly correct) could be translated:

    Elle savait hier qu'elle allait allé au magazin aujourd'hui
     
  6. jann

    jann co-mod'

    English - USA
    You didn't mean that. ;) :p

    Elle savait hier qu'elle allait allé aller au magasin aujourd'hui
     
  7. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    Moreover allait aller is definitely not a futur antérieur; it is a futur proche du passé;)
     
  8. briti422 New Member

    British English
    Pourquoi est-ce que l'on emploie souvent le futur simple en parlant d'évènements historiques? En anglais on utiliserait plutôt le temps passé.
     
  9. Tazzler Senior Member

    Maryland
    American English
    I guess it's because the past events are viewed from an earlier point in time. I don't know how to explain myself, but let's wait for the native speakers.
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2009
  10. jann

    jann co-mod'

    English - USA
    It is not really accurate to say that we "often" use the future to talk about the past in French. Usually, we use a variety of past tenses to talk about the past, and we use the conditional to talk about "the future in the past."

    There is a narrative style where we write about the past using the present tense. It's called the historic present, or the present of narration... and it would let you use the future to talk about "the future in the past." This style is more common in French than it is in English... you can read about it in threads like these.

    FR: présent historique/de narration - historical/literary present

    […]

    If this information doesn't seem to answer your question, perhaps you could provide us with an example sentence where you think there's an odd-looking future tense being used to talk about the past. :)
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2011
  11. chuann6

    chuann6 Senior Member

    New Delhi
    English India
    I have a question about the use of the future in writing history: the future in the past for example :

    Une attention particulière sera peu à peu réservée au culte des morts, enterrés sous d'étranges assemblages de pierres parfois ornés de dessins géométriques.

    Special attention (will/would) be gradually paid to the cult of the dead... ?

    Then,

    Les prémisses des acquis accumulés au fil des millénaires précédents allaient se manifester sous forme d’objets, de céramiques, de sculptures, de reproductions pictographiques

    The premises of the achievements accumulated over the preceding millennia were to be manifested in the form of objects, ceramics, sculptures, pictorial reproductions.

    The principle is not very clear to me. Could someone just run me through the rules once again? Thank you for your help!
     
  12. J.F. de TROYES Senior Member

    francais-France
    I think the same if the second sentence immediately comes after the first ; strictly speaking, the future and the imperfect tense cannot match and the present vont se manifester is expected.
    But it would be quite possible, if the first sentence either starts a chapter or a paragraph or is used as a transition. In such cases the real future makes the past more present and it can be followed with past tenses or the present , called présent de narration .
     
  13. Catherien Junior Member

    French - Canada
    The future in the past is, litteraly, used to talk about an action that happened in the past (from the perspective of the storyteller) but in the future (from the perspective of the characters).

    In the two examples you give, it is pretty clear that you are talking about a period in the past. But what you say hasn't happened yet in that period (which constitutes the main line of the story), but it will.

    I'm not sure I'm clear, neither if it's exactly what you were asking...
     
  14. chuann6

    chuann6 Senior Member

    New Delhi
    English India
    Thank you both J.F and catherien!

    In general, I dont mix the future and imperfect,if i understand right.

    so will be would be more suitable in both cases.?
     
  15. Catherien Junior Member

    French - Canada
    I would say so, but just to be sure, could you give us what comes before those two sentences? The tense you will use will depend on how you translate the rest.
     
  16. chuann6

    chuann6 Senior Member

    New Delhi
    English India
    Thank you all for the inputs :

    The author is speaking of the transition from the Neolithic Stone Age to the Modern era.

    The text reads :
    Des relations commerciales sont instaurées grâce à l'usage de signes qui annoncent l'ébauche de l'écriture, laquelle deviendra le véhicule majeur de compréhension entre les peuples, mais aussi de leurs dissensions.
    Les prémisses des acquis accumulés au fil des millénaires précédents allaient se manifester sous forme d’objets, de céramiques, de sculptures, de reproductions pictographiques de la vie courante et religieuse. L'art atteint une maîtrise étonnante.
    Une attention particulière sera peu à peu réservée au culte des morts, enterrés sous d'étranges assemblages de pierres parfois ornés de dessins géométriques.

    The last sentence ends the section.Voilà

    Thank you for the feedback!
    point taken about se manifester, the question now is the use of the conditionnel or futur simple.
    This has often bothered me while translating French texts, i only recently discovered this Forum has a grammar section...!
     
  17. janpol

    janpol Senior Member

    France
    France - français
    Dans le texte qui précède, le choix du présent de narration a été fait (sont instaurées, annoncent, atteint). Des verbes expriment logiquement des actions futures par rapport à ce présent (futur simple : deviendra, sera réservée). Un seul temps me semble ne pas convenir : le "futur immédiat dans le passé" de "allaient se manifester" qui correspond au "futur dans le passé" "se manifesteraient" alors que c'est le "futur simple" qui est utilisé par ailleurs. Il me semble donc que le "futur immédiat" "vont se manifester" (correspondant à "se manifesteront") est le temps qui convient ici.
     
  18. jesnajo

    jesnajo Senior Member

    India
    English and Malayalum - India
    Bonjour au tous,
    J'ai un grand doubt ... quelle est le sense de le phrase au-dessous.
    M. X intègre en 1960 la Banque de France, où il sera nommé Inspecteur (1965) puis Chef de mission de la Commission bancaire (1974)."

    Celui s'agit d'une evenement dans le passé mais le temps utilisé c'est le futur.. ça me confonde beucoup...:(

    S'il vous plait , pourriez - vous m'expliqer cette utlisation de le temps.
    Merci
     
  19. b1947420 Senior Member

    Are you looking at a report or something from around about the 1960's?
    What is important is to read the text from the point of view of the writer at the time. Thinking as at the 1960's, then it would make sense to me.
    Am I understanding this correctly?
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2011
  20. jesnajo

    jesnajo Senior Member

    India
    English and Malayalum - India
    Actually, this is pretty recent report, and I found this in the Profile of a person...
    My question is in English we express the sentence in sepecific tense...
    But this usage of many tenses in a single sentence confuses me.
    I am still learning the French language... so I want to understand what is the use and meaning of the above given tense.
    Please note:-
    That author who wrote this is new ...
    and that I just want to know why it is used and when such type of tense in french can be used
    Thank you,
    Jesna
     
  21. quinoa Senior Member

    french
    Keep in mind that in French you can use simple present as historical present, as you would do it in the preterite in English, even if you can also use simple present as historical present in English.
    So on that basis if the speaker/writer begins in 1960 in the pesent, it turns out to be logical to use the future when speaking about things happening later.

    Doest it help?
     
  22. b1947420 Senior Member

    "M. X intègre (présent de intégrer) en 1960 la Banque de France, où il sera nommé (futur antérieur de nommer) Inspecteur (1965) puis Chef de mission de la Commission bancaire (1974)."

    I don't understand the use of être with nommer it should be avoir "Il aura nommé"

    Does this answer your query?
     
  23. quinoa Senior Member

    french
    Be careful with "sera nommé", it's not futur antérieur but a passive future.
    Il sera nommé par ses supérieurs ou son administration, coming from "son administration le nommera Inspecteur".
     
  24. b1947420 Senior Member

    Yes! I agree, I overlooked the passive voice aspect. :eek:

    But then should it not be "Il aura été nommé?"
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2009
  25. silaya Senior Member

    French
    It is a French Conjugation rule.

    The "action" does take place in the past. M.X were nominated in 1960.

    But the action is related in the present.

    M.X intègre = the present is often used for a biography for instance, as it is the case here.

    In that case, the future perfect tense (futur antérieur) has a retrospective value (summary or synthesis)
     
  26. jesnajo

    jesnajo Senior Member

    India
    English and Malayalum - India
    This juggling between the tenses seem uniquely french. But I get it now..
    Can i also rewrite the sentence as follows
    M. X avait eu intègre en 1960 chez la Banque de France, où il etais nommé Inspecteur (1965) puis Chef de mission de la Commission bancaire (1974)."
    Is that correct ?
     
  27. silaya Senior Member

    French
    Nop. In the past, you can say:

    M. X intégra la Banque de France en 1960, où il fut nommé Inspecteur (1965) puis Chef de mission de la commission bancaire (1974).

    "intégra" is passé simple and "fut nommé" is passé anterieur
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2009
  28. quinoa Senior Member

    french
    be careful, "fut nommé" is not passé antérieur but passé simple passif.
     
  29. Bonehead Junior Member

    English - American
    In English we would of course say "...where he would be named xxx in 1965..."

    Would "il serait nommé" work here?
     
  30. quinoa Senior Member

    french
    However I think that "il serait nommé" would be closely linked to "il intégrait", through another tense agreement.
     
  31. Bonehead Junior Member

    English - American
    In English we would say something like "he started working at company X in 1960, where he would be named president in 1965...". That's what I was thinking...would a parallel construct work in French?
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2009
  32. quinoa Senior Member

    french
    I do think so!
     
  33. Bonehead Junior Member

    English - American
    Ca va bien?
     
  34. quinoa Senior Member

    french
    Here you have to say "où il sera nommé" because you have said "il intègre" in the present tense.
    That is the tense agreement required : présent simple/ futur or imparfait / conditionnel.
     
  35. jann

    jann co-mod'

    English - USA
    Jesnajo, I have merged your question into an existing discussion on the topic, and I think you will find it helpful to read back through the previous posts. :)

    To summarize:

    As you realize, we don't usually use a present frame of reference to talk about the past in English. Saying "he joins the firm where he will become director" is very strange if it all happened 40 years ago! But French is different than English, and we can do this in French. When we do, we're using the "historic present." You may also be interested in this separate thread: FR: présent historique/de narration - historical/literary present.

    So we could write three versions of Mr. X's profile:

    1. Normal past tense, such as you would use when speaking. To talk about the "future in the past," we use the present conditional (just like English).
      M. X a intégré [passé composé] la Banque en 1960, où il serait nommé [conditionnel présent, passive voice] Inspecteur en 1965.
      Mr. X joined the Bank in 1960, where he would be named Inspector in 1965.
      .
    2. Literary past tense, with the passé simple.
      M. X intégra [passé simple] la Banque en 1960, où il fut nommé [passé simple, passive voice] Inspecteur en 1965.
      Mr. X joined the Bank in 1960, where he was named Inspector in 1965.
      .
    3. Present historic, as if it were all happening now, in which case we use the future to talk about the "future in the past."
      M. X intègre [présent] la Banque en 1960, où il sera nommé [futur, passive voice] Inspecteur en 1965.
      Mr. X joins the bank in 1960, where he will be named Inspector in 1965.
    I hope it helps!

    Jann
    member and moderator
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2011
  36. quinoa Senior Member

    french
    A last one can be : (and it conveys another point of view):
    MrX intégrait (imparfait) la Banque en 1960, où il serait nommé (conditionnel, passive voice)
     
  37. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    Hi Jann, I agree with your last two versions, but not with the 1st one—I would not use a conditionnal but a future. Moreover, I don't like being separated from banque, so I would put the year at the begining of the sentence…

    4. En 1960, Mr X a intégré la banque où il sera nommé inspecteur en 1965.

    Moreover, as the posteriority is not needed, there is yet another version:

    5. En 1960, Mr X intègre la banque où il est nommé inspecteur en 1965.
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2009
  38. itka Senior Member

    France
    français
    I totally agree with you, Maître ! :thumbsup:
     
  39. jann

    jann co-mod'

    English - USA
    Thanks, MC. I felt it was important to point out that the standard way to refer to the "future in the past" is using the conditional (e.g., je pense qu'il viendra --> je pensais qu'il viendrait), but I was so focused on mentioning it that I did not take a careful look at the particular sentence in question... where the conditionnal is indeed inappropriate.
     
  40. cfareddollas Senior Member

    English (uk)
    Hi,
    I'm translating a medical report and am rather confused as a few paragraphs seem to be in the future tense although they appear to refer to past events and even the date given is in the past (before the report was written).
    The rest of the document is in the past tense.
    Can the future tense be used in French to express the past? (And no, I am not referring to the future perfect tense).
    Eg: "L'evolution sera progressivement favorable et le patient pourra donc etre secondairement pris en charge en secteur conventionnel".
    Merci!
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2011
  41. quinoa Senior Member

    french
    When you refer to past events using present, as it is possible, you may have to speak about events happening after another one using future (ant it does seem logical).
    Now, if you say your report is written in the past, it sounds strange. But your report is not really a piece of literaty writing and more a technical report.
    The writer speaking about a situation in the past may use a future in that case, letting be understood there is a change in the point of view so as to put the reader in a situation closer to that of the event and of the patient...
     
  42. triolet Junior Member

    Japanese
    Hello everyone!

    I have a grammar question with the following sentences.

    Non, Jacques Chirac n'a rien oublié, et surtout pas le premier discours de Nicolas Sarkozy, le soir de sa victoire. Pas une fois il ne citera le nom de Jacques Chirac.

    Things of the past are described in this context, but the second sentence is the simple future tense, which I don’t understand.
    Is there a usage of the simple future that serve as the passé compose? Otherwise, is this usage of the future simple something different from the past tense?

    Thank you in advance.
     
  43. lamy08 Senior Member

    il faut comprendre cette phrase comme étant un futur après un moment précis, peu importe si on rappelle un événement du passé. Je dirais même que ce futur a une valeur absolue. Comparons ce qu'on aurait pu trouver:

    Sarkozy n'a pas cité le nom de J.C = c'est un fait, une constatation.

    Jamais Sarkozy ne citera le nom de J.C. = il y a une emphase, un peu comme une promesse tenue. Il s'était juré de ne pas pronocer son nom et il s'en est tenu à cette ligne de conduite.
    C'est une phrase un peu littéraire, qu'on n'emploiera pas en langage de tous les jours, je pense.
     
  44. triolet Junior Member

    Japanese
    I think I understand your explanation. I guess the example sentence of the future tense has a nuance of “will (volition)” or “expectation” at a time in the past (non?).

    [FONT=&quot]>[/FONT] un futur après un moment précis

    Taken the same example into consideration...

    [FONT=&quot]《[/FONT]un moment précis[FONT=&quot]》[/FONT]
    - le premier discours de Nicolas Sarkozy, le soir de sa victoire

    - Il s'était juré de ne pas pronocer son nom

    [FONT=&quot]《[/FONT]un futur[FONT=&quot]》[/FONT]
    - Pas une fois il ne citera le nom de J.C.

    - il s'en est tenu à cette ligne de conduite.

    Besides, thanks to your explanation, I understand that it is rather a literary expression and a stylistic choice.

    Merci beaucoup, lamy08 !
     
  45. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    Let's note that there are several ways of rendering this in English:
    • He would never...
    • He was never to...
    • He never did...
    • (Not usually in the negative) He went on to...
    As far as I'm aware, we don't use the future tense in this context.
     
  46. triolet Junior Member

    Japanese
    Those English examples make it easier to understand.
    Yes, I thought there is not such a usage in English, and such things give me trouble in understanding, but maybe it is a part of fun in learning a language.

    Thank you, Mr. Bradford!
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2011
  47. Oddmania

    Oddmania Senior Member

    France
    French
    I think He would never could help foreigner speakers understand why we use the future tense. In English, you ususally use the simple past for past events and then go on with the conditionnal mood (= future in the past) to talk about "past upcoming" events. It works the same way in French, but as it's possible to use the Present tense instead of the simple past, it's also possible to use the future tense instead of the conditionnal "future-in-the-past" mood.
     
  48. triolet Junior Member

    Japanese
    That advice is easily comprehensible. I came to gain a good understanding of the question.

    I thought it is possible to say “the future tense” instead of “the simple past”, perhaps.

    [FONT=&quot]→[/FONT] It works the same way in French, but as it's possible to use the Present tense instead of the simple past (instead of the future tense), it's also possible to use the future tense instead of the conditionnal "future-in-the-past" mood.

    I will keep your advice in mind. Thank you Oddmania!
     

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