plus-que-parfait du subjonctif

Discussion in 'French-English Vocabulary / Vocabulaire Français-Anglais' started by Charlie Parker, Dec 10, 2006.

  1. Charlie Parker

    Charlie Parker Senior Member

    English Canada
    I have seen this tense used in principal clauses many times, but I am not certain of its precise meaning. I saw it frequently in Albert Camus. Here is a passage from Le Petit Prince:

    "Cette histoire de griffes, qui m'avait tellement agaçé, eût dû m'attendrir..." Could the author also have written, "...aurait dû m'attendrir...?" If so, what is the difference in meaning. I would be grateful for any explanation, especially if one could direct me to a grammar site that deals with this construction. Many thanks.
     
  2. catay Senior Member

    Canada anglais
  3. Punky Zoé

    Punky Zoé Senior Member

    Pau
    France - français
    Hi
    L'imparfait et le plus-que-parfait du subjonctif are only used in literary texts. In speech we do simplify it as you've mentionned it. Your example is probably grammatically incorrect but usually correct.
    http://french.about.com/library/weekly/aa120100.htm
     
  4. Charlie Parker

    Charlie Parker Senior Member

    English Canada
    Thank you very much Punky Zoé and Catay, but I'm still not entirely clear. Catay, that is an excellent site, but I think it only discusses the subjunctive in subordinate clauses. In my quotation, the pluperfect subjunctive is the main verb. Punky Zoé, I had seen that site earlier, but I'm not sure it explains why, in literary texts, the subjunctive is so used. Does it mean the same thing as the conditional?
     
  5. Punky Zoé

    Punky Zoé Senior Member

    Pau
    France - français
    Sorry, can't explain further, except that it's an equivalent to a conditionnal and that's old-fashioned (even in literature).
     
  6. catay Senior Member

    Canada anglais
    I’m trying to figure this out,too, because I have encountered a variety of verb constructions while reading.
    Your principal action could be the one in the imparfait. There is also the grammatical construction of apposition of subordinate clauses. They don’t always have to be joined by a « que ». In other words, eût dû m'attendrir, could be a subordinate clause in apposition (between two commas. )
    Then according to the link I referred you to if the principal action is in the imparfait the action subordonnée antérieure à l’action principale requires the plus-que-parfait du subjonctif.

    One possible translation in English of what the plus-que-parfait du subjonctif means here: – ….might have moved me
     
  7. Qcumber Senior Member

    UK English
    Yes because eût dû is in le conditionnel passé deuxième forme in this sentence. This tense is the equivalent of le conditionnel passé première forme (aurait dû), and its value is merely stylistic.
    Although le conditionnel passé deuxième forme looks like le subjonctif plus-que-parfait, their uses are different.
    Of course, CAMUS's sentence is flawless.

    P.S. No ç in agacé. :)
     
  8. geostan

    geostan Senior Member

    English Canada
    Yes, the literary subjunctive tenses may be used as conditionals. Consider a conditional sentence:

    S'il me l'eût dit, je l'en eusse remercié. (awful sounding isn't?)
    If he had told me so, I would have thanked him.

    Even in literary contexts, these tenses are becoming less frequent, except in very formal or jocular situations.

    Cheers!
     
  9. catay Senior Member

    Canada anglais
    Thanks geostan and Qcumber!. But does this mean that it is a past conditional wearing the clothes of a literary subjunctive? The construction I have in my verb guide for the past conditional is "aurait dû" and the subjunctive as "eût dû"...This is a great explanation and has taught me something new.
     
  10. geostan

    geostan Senior Member

    English Canada
    aurait dû is called the conditional anterior
    eût dû is the pluperfect subjunctive (which may be used as a literary equivalent of a conditional anterior).

    The imperfect subjunctive may also be used as an equivalent for the conditional. Here's another absurd example:

    s'il vînt me voir, je fusse très content.
    (If he were to come and see me, I would be very happy.)


    Again these are unsual nowadays, best remembered for understanding the written language than for actually using them..
     
  11. catay Senior Member

    Canada anglais
    ).

    Yes my verb guide calls it the pluperfect subjunctive, but uses "conditionnel passé" as a term for the conditionnel antérieur.
    This has been very enlightening.
    The link I gave earlier to La Concordance des temps would then be an explanation of how these tenses are used in literature.

    Thanks!
     
  12. Qcumber Senior Member

    UK English
    I don't think so. These are two different tenses that look the same.
    I always use the Bescherelle book on the conjugation of French verbs when I have a doubt. I can assure you that every French verb has a conditionnel passé deuxième forme.

    What is striking is that French grammarians do distinguish le conditionel deuxième passé forme from le subjonctif plus-que-parfait, although they look exactly the same, but fail to open a mode that could be called l'irréel and whose present would be similar to l'imparfait de l'indicatif and the past to le plus-que-parfait de l'indicatif. Why they never made this distinction, that is more important than the one above, just beats me.

    INDICATIF
    imparfait: Il savait que c'était gratuit, mais il n'en prit aucun pour autant.
    plus-que-parfait: Il avait su que c'était gratuit, mais il n'en avait pris aucun pour autant.

    IRRÉEL [an unindentified mode]
    présent: il faisait
    passé: il avait fait
    e.g.
    présent: S'il savait que c'est gratuit, il en prendrait un.
    passé: S'il avait su que c'était gratuit, il en aurait pris un.
     
  13. Punky Zoé

    Punky Zoé Senior Member

    Pau
    France - français
    Thanks for your explanation, also very useful to native speakers who forgot the grammar rules, especially about subjonctive (no more) use(d)!
    But your example sounds weird to me, and I think it's rather "s'il était venu (vînt) me voir j'eusse été très content".

    I'm so impressed by your skills at plusperfect subjonctive that I can't speak my mother tongue anymore!
     
  14. catay Senior Member

    Canada anglais
    Thank you! :)
    This has been a very informative discussion. You're all so knowledgeable.
    (just found it in the Bescherelle ...there it is, but I hadn't thought of it in this context before.)
     
  15. Qcumber Senior Member

    UK English
    I'm afraid this sounds quite wrong to me.

    1) present: S'il venait me voir, je serais très content.
    = If he were to come and see me, I should be very happy.
    imparfait de l'indicatif + conditionnel présent

    past:
    2a) S'il était venu me voir, j'aurais été très content.
    plus-que-parfait de l'indicatif + conditionnel passé première forme
    /
    2b) S'il était venu me voir, j'eusse été très content.
    plus-que-parfait de l'indicatif + conditionnel passé deuxième forme
    = If had been to come and see me, I should have been very happy.
     
  16. Charlie Parker

    Charlie Parker Senior Member

    English Canada
    Thank you all. Most interesting and helpful.
     

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