Verbes qui utilisent être aux temps du passé

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by sandman2, Sep 11, 2012.

  1. sandman2 Senior Member

    English - Canada
    J'enseigne français au Canada et on utilise un acronyme pour rappeler les verbes qui utilisent être, MRS VANDERTRAMP (M-Mourir, etc.)

    J'enseigne aussi que les verbes pronominaux l'utilisent.

    Ma question - quand j'étudiais l'espagnol, j'ai noté que mourir (morirse) pouvait être un verbe pronominal. Je me suis demandé si, en effet, toutes les verbes de MRS V (mourir, partir, etc.) étaient, en français ancien (ou peut-être en latin) des verbes pronominaux, et qu'on a enlevé les me/te/se plus tard pour abréger ou faciliter la communication.

    Est-ce qu'il y aurait un historien de la langue française qui pourrait m'aider?

    Merci en avance!
     
  2. CapnPrep Senior Member

    France
    AmE
    Hello, sandman2. Since your thread has been moved here from Français Seulement, and you're a native English speaker, I'll respond in English, in order to maximize participation. But feel free to switch back to French if you prefer.
    The short answer is "no" :). The être verbs are not a unified class, so no single reason can be given to explain why they all take être and why all other intransitive verbs take avoir. And in fact the choice between être and avoir is not always that clear, especially in older French. While a few of these verbs can/could be used reflexively, this was never the only or even the main construction, so it can't be used to motivate the use of the auxiliary être today.

    By the way, se mourir does exist in French, but it isn't used exactly in the same way as mourir by itself. (And the distinction in French is not the same as the distinction between morir and morirse in Spanish.) See the following threads for discussion of the French usage:
    se mourir

    mourir x se mourir

    mourir / se mourir
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2012
  3. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    I think there is one general rule you can state: Only intransitive and reflexive verbs can construct their active voice perfect tenses with être. This has to do with the semantics of the past participle which has passive meaning for transitive verbs end the construct être <ppl> has passive meaning.
     
  4. sandman2 Senior Member

    English - Canada
    Thank you!
     
  5. CapnPrep Senior Member

    France
    AmE
    This has to be stated as two separate rules:
    • Some intransitive verbs take être, but most take avoir.
    • All reflexive verbs take être, without exception, whether or not there is a direct object.
    And I'm not sure if there is a good semantic explanation for either of these statements.
     
  6. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    To expand just a little on what has already been said: In Latin and in other ancient Indo-European languages the form created by adding *-to- to the weak stem is, in the case of transitive verbs, a perfect passive participle, but in the case of intransitive verbs a perfect active participle. The Romance constructions of past participle with “to be” and “to have” continue Late Latin *essere + intransitive p.p. and habere + transitive p.p.p. Thus:


    1. elle est allée = she is (in the state of having) gone
    2. je l’ai vue = I have her (as one who has been) seen (by me)

    with the participle agreeing in gender with the subject in the former case and with the object in the latter case. At an idealised “proto-Romance” level one would imagine (1) being used with all intransitive verbs, and (2) with all transitive verbs, but there must have been a strong pressure in favour of (2), which eventually wins over the great majority of intransitive verbs as well.
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2012
  7. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    It doesn't "have" to be. There is no contradiction between what you said and I said.

    Probably not. That's why I formulated the the complementary statement (transitive verbs cannot construct there perfect tenses with être) because there is a semantic reason for that statement.
     
  8. CapnPrep Senior Member

    France
    AmE
    There doesn't have to be a contradiction for there to be an important difference. If you want to describe the facts fully and accurately, analyze them (historically, comparatively, or just within the grammar of current French), or teach them to students of French, you should treat intransitive verbs and reflexive verbs separately. Of course you don't "have" to, it's a free country :rolleyes:.
    But the statement is incorrect, unless you first assume some non-semantic restrictions. The verb in Il s'est acheté une maison is just as transitive as the one in Il a acheté une maison, and the two participles have the same (active) semantics.
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2012
  9. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    I described a certain aspect and that is only related to transitivity. Talking about other things just because they exist doesn't help. But never mind.
    No, the participle as such has a passive semantic (une maison acheté par M. Dupont). The sentence Il a acheté une maison receives its active meaning by the mechanism described by fdb: Il a une maison achetée (he has a house that was bought). A reflex of this original meaning is the object-agreement with pronominal objects: Il l'a achetée rather than *Il l'a acheté.

    Sentences like Il s'est acheté une maison by the overriding rule that reflexive verbs use être.
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2012
  10. CapnPrep Senior Member

    France
    AmE
    In the distant past, yes, the avoir construction involved a passive participle. The mechanism fdb described applies to the Late Latin/proto-Romance of 1500+ years ago, not to modern French. In modern French (and in Old French, for that matter), the participle in compound tenses has active meaning. The agreement in Il l'a achetée (or in Il se l'est achetée) is, exactly as you say, a case of object agreement (whereas passive participles agree with their subject).

    Anyway, my point with these two examples was that your explanation for the choice of avoir in Il a acheté une maison based on the semantics of the participle is invalidated by the fact that the participle in Il s'est acheté une maison has the same semantics (whatever you believe this semantics to be).
     
  11. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    We were asked for historical explanations and going back to the Late Latin/Proto-Romance origins of the mechanisms to construct perfect tenses is well within the scope of this thread.
    Participles, like any other other adjective, agree with the noun they pertain to. Predicative adjectives agree with the subject, attributive adjectives agree with the noun they attribute, in this case the object.
     
  12. CapnPrep Senior Member

    France
    AmE
    I didn't say it was out of the scope of the thread (although, now that you mention it, it really doesn't address sandman2's question), but I do maintain that it is irrelevant for the analysis of the pair of French examples I was discussing. In modern French you cannot say that in Il l'a achetée, the participle achetée is an attributive adjective and that the main verb of the sentence is avoir. The sentence does not mean "He has it that was bought" or "He has it, and it is bought" or anything of the sort.
    That was precisely my point: there is a specific rule for reflexive verbs, separate from the one for intransitive verbs.
     
  13. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Sandman2's question seems to have been motivated by the idea that the choice of être and avoir is intrinsically linked to reflexivity. As this is not the case we have no choice than to broaden the scope of the question slightly.
    I said this was a reflex of the original semantic, not that this was a valid semantic analysis in modern French.
     

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