FR: by + gerund (V-ing)


Senior Member
English (USA), Cantonese (Hong Kong)
My professor corrected my essay and I'm not sure what she wants. I was trying to say "In addition, Xavier separates himself from racist sentiments by parting with his girl, his mother, his country, and also his language."

Here is what I attempted in my essay:

D'autre part, Xavier se sépare des sentiments racistes par rompre avec sa femme, sa mère, son pays, et aussi sa langue.

The circled the part that I put in bold, and she wrote "syntaxe" next to it. I'm not sure what she is looking for. Any ideas?
  • Hi
    The form is similar as in English, par rompre is not correct you should have written en rompant.
    'Xavier se [dissocie de tous] sentiments racistes en rompant avec sa femme, sa mère, son pays, et aussi sa langue.'
    But 'se sépare' works just as well.
    That verb tense is called 'le participe présent', and this is the one you want to use everytime you want to say something like 'by'.

    by using: en utilisant
    by playing: en jouant
    by parting: en rompant, etc.
    What is the difference between par rompre and en rompant? Is there any situation when you would use par rompre?
    No, I can't think of any situation in which that would work...

    'Par rompre' is a litteral translation from English, and I know it probably sounds better in your head, but I can assure you that 'en rompant' conveys exactly the meaning you want 'par rompre' to have.

    'En rompant' it is!
    Wow! Am impressed! :)
    So, using ' le participe présent' has in fact little to do with with the verb you're using, and a lot to do with the verb preceeding it? That's interesting!
    Is 'finir' an exception, or there are other verbs like that?
    How clever, Zoe!

    Thanks to everyone for the help. I make that mistake a lot and I never understood it until now.
    Il a fini par rompre!
    This is a very good example but which is different from what was asked. Here, we are dealing with finir par which is very correct and will work with any verb : finir par manger, finir par dormir, finir par arriver.
    In english it will be : to end(ended) by + ing.
    Can you ever do par en (verbe) or must it always be en (verbe)

    For example, I want to say, "... by imposing a tax" so could I say "par en imposant une taxe" or would it have to be "en imposant une taxe" ?
    The latter, I think; in Nullomore's OP from a dozen years ago it'd have to be en rompant. I also think finir (and commencer) par + infinitif are different in that they indicate the final/initial action, and the en + ----ant structure indicates the means of doing something.

    But, as always, WFN (Wait For Natives) — I'm a native English speaker!
    Last edited by a moderator:
    Can you ever do par en (verbe)
    You can, but only in a totally different construction if en is a pronoun and the verb is in the infinitive. For example:

    Il aimait trop le pouvoir et il a fini par en abuser. :tick:

    could I say "par en imposant une taxe"
    The preposition par cannot be followed by a "gérondif", i.e., a form constructed with the preposition en and the present participle:

    par en <verb>ant :cross:, e.g., par en imposant :cross:

    In a nutshell…

    When the English gerund is the complement of another verb (e.g., "to end up (by) doing something") and the corresponding verb in French has a similar construction using preposition par (essentially finir or commencer: finir/commencer par faire qqch), par is linked to that verb – it can be followed by any verb in the infinitive. For example:

    Il a commencé par crier.
    Elle a commencé par se taire.
    Il a fini par dormir.
    Elle a fini par avouer son crime.

    Otherwise, the English gerund used after "by" should never be translated using par followed by an infinitive in French. You should use the "gérondif":

    by parting → en rompant
    by imposing a tax → en imposant une taxe