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FR: I was afraid that he was dying

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by Corky Ringspot, Apr 24, 2013.

  1. Corky Ringspot Senior Member

    English - England
    Hello, I've looked through all relevant threads but can't see an answer to my query. I might have missed something, of course...

    The main clause/dependent clause relationship is generally clear to me, but I'm not sure how to translate a sentence such as:

    I was afraid that he was dying.

    My version would be:
    J'avais peur qu'il meure.


    But isn't this translation ambiguous? Does it convey only the idea that "he" was dying at the time the phrase was uttered, or could it also mean "I was afraid that he might die" (although he wasn't dying at the time it was uttered)?

    Perhaps if I want to convey specifically the idea that he was in the process of dying, I should say something like J'avais peur qu'il soit en train de mourir...?

    Thanks for any help.
     
  2. Oddmania

    Oddmania Senior Member

    France
    French
    Hi,

    Indeed you're right, J'avais peur qu'il meureI was afraid that he might die or perhaps that he would die.

    Adding qu'il soit en train de mourir wouldn't really change a thing. It would merely amount to saying ...that he might be dying or would be dying.

    I don't really know how we could translate this properly... Maybe Il était en train de mourir, et ça me faisait peur or something like Son état grabataire m'effrayait, but it really depends on the context (nothing says he's bedridden). Other people will hopefully come up with better suggestions!
     
  3. Corky Ringspot Senior Member

    English - England
    Many thanks. Very helpful.
     
  4. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    I disagree. J'avais peur qu'il meure is indeed ambiguous as it could mean "I was afraid that he would die", "I was afraid that he might die", or "I was afraid that he was dying", but saying J'avais peur qu'il soit en train de mourir unequivocally and accurately translates "I was afraid that he was dying."
     
  5. cougenv Senior Member

    paris
    french
    If the context is not ambiguous , you can use 'j'avais peur qu'il meure'
    if the context is ambiguous, '...qu'il soit en train de mourir' doesn't sound natural, you can say 'j'avais peur qu'il passe, qu'il rende l'âme'(lit. and ancient) or try to change : je le sentais/voyais mourir et cela me faisait peur ou bien 'je croyais/pensais qu'il allait mourir et j'avais peur'
     
  6. Corky Ringspot Senior Member

    English - England
    Cougenv, Indeed - thanks.
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2013
  7. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    I must disagree once again. To me, the other suggestions from Cougenv are less natural than J'avais peur qu'il soit en train de mourir
     
  8. tosamja Senior Member

    Serbian - Bosnia
    What about J'avais peur qu'il mourût ?
     
  9. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    The imperfect subjunctive is restricted to literary style as it has been discussed many times before on this forum. In modern everyday French, you should use the present or past subjunctive instead.

    J'avais peur qu'il mourût. (restricted to literary usage)
    J'avais peur qu'il meure / soit en train de mourir / ait été en train de mourir. (standard)
     

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