FR: je peux / je puis / puis-je

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by Welshie, Aug 19, 2005.

  1. Welshie

    Welshie Senior Member

    England, English
    I've seen sentences with "Je puis" in a book I was reading the other day...I thought the only time you ever use "puis" (as a verb) is "Puis-je", is there some sort of other use?


    Moderator note: multiple threads merged to create this one
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 19, 2011
  2. la grive solitaire

    la grive solitaire Senior Member

    United States, English
    As far as I know, "je puis" is just a variant of "je peux" unless it's a set expression like "si je puis dire". Here's what Le Trésor de la langue française has to say:

    En incise. Si l'on peut dire, si je puis dire. Synon. pour ainsi dire (v. dire1). Des Ítres sonores indiscutables, remplissant tout l'espace, tout l'abÓme pourrait-on dire entre l'explicite musical et l'explicite dramatique (SCHAEFFER, Rech. mus. concr., 1952, p.145).
    Prononc. et Orth.: []. Att. ds Ac. dep. 1694. Conjug. Ind. prÈs.: je peux ou je puis (quand je suit le verbe toujours puis-je: puis-je vous aider?), tu peux, il peut, nous pouvons, vous pouvez, ils peuvent;s=852301545;cat=1;m=je+puis;

    I think that "je puis" is sometimes preferred in writing, especially poetry.
  3. bluesky74656 New Member

    English, USA

    Est-ce que il y a une difference entre "Je puis" et "Je peux"?

    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 19, 2011
  4. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    The "puis" form is a bit more formal I believe, but the only one allowed for inversion eg "puis-je" not "peux-je" (which makes sense since inversion itself is quite formal).
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 20, 2012
  5. emma42 Senior Member

    North East USA
    British English

    I see from other threads on the subject that "puis" is an old-fashioned form of "peux" and there is some argument between native speakers as to whether it sounds too archaic now. I think it might be a generational thing, although everyone agrees it's used in the interrogative.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 18, 2009
  6. annie_a New Member

    quand on pose une question, on peut dire puis-je mais pas peux-je... habituellement quand on ecrit une phrase on ecrit je peux...

    exemple: puis-je avoir un verre d'eau?
    je peux reussir si je veux

  7. la_cavalière Senior Member

    St. Louis, MO
    anglais États-Unis
    You hear "puis" often when you enter a store and are greeted with:

    "Puis-je vous aider?"

    "May I help you?"
  8. Grégoire Senior Member

    Los Angeles
    United States
    J'ai regarde un film que utilise "je puis" dans les sous-titres. Quand est-ce qu'on emploie "je puis" au lieu de "je peux"?

  9. Gardefeu Senior Member

    Jamais dans la vie courante.
    C'est d'un style très littéraire, ou ancien.
  10. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    仏(佛)法語צרפתית Clodoaldien
    Plutôt un niveau de politesse. Je puis étant plus poli. Cf.: puis-je vous aider/est-ce que je peux vous aider.
  11. Grégoire Senior Member

    Los Angeles
    United States
    Mais, jamais dans la vie courante--comme Gardefeu a dit?
  12. DearPrudence

    DearPrudence Dépêche Mod

    French (lower Normandy)
    Wow, I've just noticed that you can't say:
    "peux-je avoir" :cross:
    (you're obliged to say: "puis-je avoir ?")
    but that you can say: "Est-ce que je peux avoir ?"

    Otherwise, using "puis" in a positive context is very rare and formal (never said maybe):
    "Je puis affirmer que ce que vous dites est faux"

    And if you use it in a negative sentence, I don't think you must use the "pas" after:
    "Je ne puis vous répondre"
    while "je ne puis pas vous répondre" sounds weird (but maybe you can say it, I don't know).

    Hope it helps.
  13. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    仏(佛)法語צרפתית Clodoaldien
    SI, mais généralement limité à la phrase "puis-je vous aider/être utile/vous demander", comme en anglais "may I (help you)" vs "can I ...".
  14. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    仏(佛)法語צרפתית Clodoaldien
    Comments by DearPrudence are right and precious, though usage is NOT
    very rare, just formal and "sustained".
    "Je puis affirmer que ce que vous dites est faux" is quite possible, though a wee bit pedantic ...
  15. Grégoire Senior Member

    Los Angeles
    United States
    Est-ce que "puis-je vous aider," comme en anglais "may I help you," a employe beaucoup?
  16. DearPrudence

    DearPrudence Dépêche Mod

    French (lower Normandy)
    My very personal opinion
    Hum, I would be tempted to say that youngsters use it less and less (maybe not at all actually).
    Some will even say:
    "J'peux vous emprunter votre gomme ?"

    It's more something adults would say, in a quite formal context (I can't image good friends saying: "Puis-je avoir le pain". They would rather say "Je peux avoir le pain, s'il te plait ?" / "Tu peux me passer le pain, s'il te plait ?").

    And if you talk to an employee, maybe you'd rather use something like:
    "Est-ce que je pourrais avoir les horaires de train pour Caen ?
    "Pourrais-je avoir les horaires de train pour Caen ?"
    which is very polite as well.

    Not sure I have heard "puis-je" much or said it much (oh just for fun when I say to my father: "Puis-je sortir de table, père ?", as they may still say in very posh families).
  17. melancolique

    melancolique Senior Member

    donc, on ne peut pas dire "peux-je"?? c'est toujours "puis-je"?
  18. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    仏(佛)法語צרפתית Clodoaldien
    Toujours PUIS-JE, pour des raisons euphoniques, comme aussi : aimè-je (est-ce que j'aime), le e devient è pour les verbes du 1er groupe. Rare ou par plaisanterie mais correct .
  19. Lezert

    Lezert Senior Member

    french, France
    Il y a aussi quelques expressions toutes faites, ou on emploie "puis":
    si je puis dire
    si je puis me permettre
  20. katiek Senior Member

    A friend and I were recently discussing the use of this inversion - why does it take this form and is it in common usage or obsolete?
  21. Gil Senior Member

    Français, Canada
    Est-ce que je peux...?
    That's what I use.
    If I want to make my friends smile, I say "Puis-je?"
    Source: there
  22. Yann-K New Member

    Français - Canada
    Not obsolete, but graceful, although appropriate, highly advisable.

    Puis-je ? = may I ?

    Pouvoir have two verbal forms in the present tense : je peux, je puis. You can say : je peux (common), or je puis (graceful), but peux-je ? is not correct.
  23. Dutchman Senior Member

    Canada, English
    In the conjugation of "pouvoir" it shows that one can say "je puis" or "je peux".
    Je puis parler Français ou Je peux parler Français ?

    When does one use the one or the other?
  24. Ayoup Senior Member

    France, Français
    "Je puis" is an old fashioned alternative form of "Je peux".
  25. orlando09 Senior Member

    France, PACA
    English (England)
    One time you use "puis" is if the verb is inverted -- puis-je...
  26. zanzi

    zanzi Senior Member

    in South Africa
    French from France
    "puis" is archaic, I think you will find it in Molière and the like !

    You should definitely stick to "peux"
  27. jjjbec Senior Member

    England/ English
    Like the shop assistants in Carrefour who have written on the back of their uniforms 'puis-je vous aider' . That's the only time I've ever seen it in modern everyday French I think
  28. ghostmoon Member

    Evreux, France
    English - UK
    Hey guys, I wasn't sure if this came under grammar or vocab, but I thought probably vocab. What's the difference between puis-je and, say, je peux in questions and so on? For example, when I was at school, we were always taught to ask 'puis-je enlever ma veste, s'il vous plaît?' I just wondered why this is - I would have thought you could ask 'je peux enlever ma veste?' Is it just that puis-je is more polite? Thanks in advance. gm :)
  29. butch from waco

    butch from waco Senior Member

    USA Illinois
    France // French
    Yes, "puis-je" is definitely more formal...
  30. Conchita57

    Conchita57 Senior Member

    Madrid, Spain
    Spanish - Spain/French - Switzerland
    The difference lies in the register. 'Puis-je... ?' is very formal, whilst '(Est-ce que) je peux... ?' is informal, everyday speech.
  31. Micia93

    Micia93 Senior Member

    in the center of France

    please, also note that, even if formal, there is no other way :
    "peux-je" doesn't exist at all
    "est-ce que je peux enlever ma veste" or "je peux enlever ma veste" are OK
    In old french, a very formal use was also in the affirmative, like :
    "je puis vous dire que ..."
    but, now, it has become obsolete :)
  32. Conchita57

    Conchita57 Senior Member

    Madrid, Spain
    Spanish - Spain/French - Switzerland
    There is, actually:

    Pourrais-je... ?

    Which, of course, sounds even more formal!
  33. ACT Banned


    when should we say

    Je puis dire...

    and when shoudl we say

    ou je peux dire?
  34. melu85 Senior Member

    "je peux dire" is the most common one.
    "je puis dire" adds an old-fashioned/formal tone to it.
  35. JeanDeSponde

    JeanDeSponde Senior Member

    France, Lyon area
    France, Français
    Stlye, only style...
    Je puis is old fashioned, or formal, or high-level. Like saying I beg your pardon rather than excuse me...
  36. Asr

    Asr Senior Member

    Turquie :)
    But in the question form you should use puis, I believe...

    i.e. Puis-je dire...?
  37. Rory Melough

    Rory Melough Senior Member

    Birmingham, UK
    British English
    I would never say "je puis" in spoken French, or written French for that matter! :) However, Asr is right to say "puis-je...."

    Are there any other words that change their form like this?
  38. JeanDeSponde

    JeanDeSponde Senior Member

    France, Lyon area
    France, Français
    Another "frequent" use of puis is in Si je puis dire (If I might say). La traduction n'est pas une science exacte, si je puis dire.
  39. girl from rio de janeiro Banned

    Portuguese (Brazilian)
    Quand j'ai que faire des questions comme ici:
    est-ce que je peux aussi avoir une bouteille d'eau minérale, s'il vous plait?
    Peux-je faire la question avec "peux-je" ou est obligatoire utliser "est-ce que"? Merci beacoup!
  40. b1947420 Senior Member

    No you could say "puis-je avoir" "peux-je" is not used
  41. dan144556 Senior Member

    English - US
    Grammaticalement, oui, c'est possible. Mais on dit plus souvent "puis-je" (où on utilise le subjonctif)..."Puis-je aussi avoir..."

    Mais l'inversion dans les questions devient plus en plus rare dans le français parlé pense que "Est-ce que je peux aussi avoir..." est plus commun.

    Ou bien "Je peux aussi avoir une bouteille d'eau minérale?" Ca marche aussi.
  42. jann

    jann co-mod'

    English - USA
    No, I'm sorry, but this a common confusion. :)

    Peux-je is not grammatically possible. It is incorrect.

    The correct inverted form in the 1st person singular is puis-je... and it is still an indicative, not a subjunctive. (The 1st person singular present subjunctive conjugation is puisse, not puis).

  43. itka Senior Member

    Jann is right.
    There are two possibilities to conjugate "pouvoir" 1st person singular present indicative.
    Je peux = je puis
    The second one is very formal and rarely used in current french.
  44. trueleech Member

    French - France
    Pour résumer :

    "Puis-je" : indicatif présent, formel, utilisé de façon polie.
    "Pourrais-je" : conditionnel présent, utilisé de façon polie également.
    "Est-ce que je peux" : indicatif présent, mais tenant du langage courant et non pas du langage soutenu.
    "Est-ce que je pourrais" : conditionnel présent, langage courant.

    Attention à ne pas confondre "pourrai" (futur) et "pourrais" (conditionnel présent), par contre.
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2008
  45. Chrysalix

    Chrysalix Member

    Why does the verb "pouvoir" have to 1st person present tenses "Je peux" and "Je puis"? and how are they different in uses?
  46. Sleipnir New Member

    "Puis-je" is extremely pompous. "Est-ce que je peux" is just fine. If you want something more polite then use a conditional: est-ce que je pourrais
  47. Punky Zoé

    Punky Zoé Senior Member

    France - français

    You may find "puis" in some fixed expressions as in "qu'y puis-je" (qu'y peux-je :cross: doesn't exist) or "je n'en puis plus" instead of "je n'en peux plus".

    The "puis" form did exist in the past.

    "puis-je" is rather very polite than pompous.
  48. undergreenwoodtree Senior Member

    This post has no relation to any other 'je puis'/'puis-je' that has been discussed. Everyone agrees that 'je puis' is an archaic form of 'je peux' but what mode is it? Is it the 2nd present subjunctive, the archaic present indicative etc? If so, what are the tu, il, nous forms etc? It can't be puisses, puisse, puissions etc as we also have 'je puisse'.

    Je me demande s'il y a quelqu'un qui puisse y répondre.

  49. jann

    jann co-mod'

    English - USA
    Puis-je/je puis comes to modern French from a now-archaic spelling of the 1st person singular conjugation in the present tense indicative mode.

    You ask what the corresponding archaic tu, il, etc. forms were, but it's not that simple. Spelling was less fixed in the past, and has evolved over time. There is no single archaic conjugation for pouvoir, because the verb has been spelled differently at different times, and not necessarily consistently at any given time.

    This google book result shows you a multitude of archaic forms for pouvoir. Derived from Latin, the infinitive has evolved as well. On the book result page, the infinitive is listed as pooir, and the entry for this verb appears on the 8th line of pg 52 §268. Just to give you an idea, it includes:
    If you're interested in pursuing a discussion about the etymology, history, and evolution of the verb we now know as pouvoir, you should open a thread in the EHL forum. ;)
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2011
  50. lauracrh Member

    Merci a tous! Après avoir lu les 49 résultats, j´ai pu bien comprendre comment utiliser "puis" et "peux". (et quand les utiliser)

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