FR: conditionnel passé 2e forme - Il eût dû/pu/été, etc.

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by englishman, Jun 19, 2006.

  1. englishman Senior Member

    English England
    "il pensait avec humeur que celui qui héritait d'un trône eût bien dû hériter aussi la force de s'y tenir droit"

    I'm having diffilculty in translating the subjunctive bit in the sentence above.
    How does this sound ?

    "he thought wryly that those who inherit a throne really ought to inherit the strength to maintain it properly, as well"

    Is "ought to" a good translation here ?

    Moderator note: Multiple threads have been merged to create this one.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 2, 2011
  2. mapping Senior Member

    Lille, France
    France, French
    I'd say : ... that those who inherited a throne also inherited the strength to sit up straight (on/in it?).

    Basically the author says he thinks that when one inherits a throne one also inherits the strength to "maintain it" as you rightly said, that both things go together.
  3. babyburns Senior Member

    London, England
    French, lives in the UK
    Yes, I definitely think Ought to in this sentence/context works perfectly.
  4. Gardefeu Senior Member

    French (France)
    That's because it's not a subjunctive at all.
    Although many French people wouldn't be aware of it, this is actually a conditonnel form, what we call le conditionnel passé 2° forme.
    Actually, it works exactly the same way condiotnnel passé 1° forme does:

    Il aurait dû hériter = il eût dû héritéer
    Elle serait venue = elle fût venue
    Il aurait pris = il eût pris

    S'il avait su que le voyage serait si long, il eût pris le temps de choisir son horaire = il aurait pris le temps...

  5. englishman Senior Member

    English England
    Are you sure ?

    "il eût pris" looks to me like the subjunctive pluperfect of prendre, the
    indicative pluperfect being "il avait pris".

    If this isn't the subjunctive, why are the subjunctive verb forms being used ?
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 2, 2011
  6. zaby

    zaby Senior Member

    Gardefeu is right, as you can see here, "conditionel passé 2e forme" has the same conjugation form than "subjonctif plus que parfait".
  7. englishman Senior Member

    English England
    OK, this is depressing. So you're telling me that even though I first started learning French more than 30 years ago, there are *still* verb forms that I've never even heard of ? Go to the back of the class, englishman, and weep, weep in your ignorance.

    However, I have to say that you French people are being a little tricky here, because this "conditionel passé 2e forme" looks exactly like the subjunctive pluperfect, no ? So I guess I shouldn't be too ashamed.

    The next question is: why, given the original sentence that I posted, is it not a true subjunctive ? The sentence was:

    ""il pensait avec humeur que celui qui héritait d'un trône eût bien dû hériter aussi la force de s'y tenir droit"

    and that "que" usually throws the rest of the sentence into the subjunctive in French - so why not here ?

    And finally, how does one translate the verb forms in the "conditionel passé 2e forme": what would be the usual translation of "il eût dû" ?
  8. Gardefeu Senior Member

    French (France)
    Don't be too depressed, englishman, because as I said in my post # 5, most French people have never heard of this tense either, and will also take it for a subjunctive form. In fact, it's probably the less useful tense (and therefore the less used) in French, as there really is no difference with the passé première forme (except that it's more tricky!). Don't even bother to learn it, it's only nice to recognize it for what is, when you meet it in a very literary text. Otherwise...

    In your original sentence, que is une conjonction de coordination, linking both sentences, not a subjunctive que.
    It's often helpful to try with other tenses;try it in the present, for example:

    Il pense que cet homme devrait hériter
    (see? present, conditionnel, and the que is still there though there's no subjunctive in sight!)
    Il pensait que cet homme aurait dû hériter
    or: il pensait que cet homme eût dû hériter

    The que remains throughout, because that's its grammatical function, linking both sentences...
  9. englishman Senior Member

    English England
    It's from Le Reine Etranglée by Maurice Druon - does he count as "literary" ? He certainly stretches my knowledge of French, but then Tintin stretches my knowledge of French ...

    Right. Good point. "que" is a conjunction here. To get a subjunctive, the first part of the sentence has to express doubt, possibility, desire, etc, and I agree that we don't have that in my example. But that makes me doubly innocent, since there *was* a "que", and there *was* a subjunctive form. So I think blame must be shared between me, englishman, for out-and-out ignorance, and the French language, for out-and-out trickiness.

    But you didn't answer my final question: how would one translate, say,

    "il eût dû"

    if it's in the conditionel passe 2e forme ?
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 2, 2011
  10. Gardefeu Senior Member

    French (France)
    Same way as you would translate "il aurait dû", as the tense is only a duplicate of the 1° forme...
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 2, 2011
  11. englishman Senior Member

    English England
    When you say it's a duplicate, do you mean that it can be used in precisely the same places as the 1° forme ? If that is true, how does one decide to use it ? To express great knowledge of French grammar ?
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 2, 2011
  12. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    Spot on ! :D
    Seriously I'm not sure. I think nobody uses it except some writers who like to sound more "literary" or distinguished-like* than others. I also believe it was used much more often a century ago.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 2, 2011
  13. Gardefeu Senior Member

    French (France)
    I'm sorry, I thought I had made that point clear. Yes, both tenses are absolutely interchangeables.

    One doesn't. I thought I'm made that clear too: the tense is never ever used, except perhaps by monsieur Maurice Druon (de l'Académie Française, I believe), but I'll bet you won't find a conditionnel passé deuxième forme in Tintin!
  14. verbivore Banned

    USA, English
    I've seen this in some lists of verb conjugations, but not all. It seems rather esoteric, and I'm not sure what use it really serves. In what genres of texts might one find this? It is in current usage? Thank you.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 2, 2011
  15. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    Ah ! It's quite literary and you'll most probably never hear it. It's an alternative to the conditionnel passé.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2010
  16. itka Senior Member

    Nice, France
    Verbivore, you're asking your questions in english and I don't know what is your level in french. It would be as well useful to know what use is french to you, before trying to explain such a complicate and useless tense !

    Of course, if you're studying to become a teacher in french, you have to learn it... Otherwise...You'll never have to use it neither to write nor to speak french. When you read old texts, I assume you can understand the meaning since you know it's conditional...

    My advice is : forget it ! There are a lot of things much much more important in french grammar. imho. :)
  17. englishman Senior Member

    English England
    Take a look at this threads:
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 2, 2011
  18. trancexaddict New Member

    (San Francisco) USA - English
    There's an example of this in Le Petit Prince...

    "J'aurais d
    û ne pas l'écouter, me confia-t-il un jour...Cette histoire de griffes, qui m'avait tellement agacé, eût dû m'attendrir..." (25).

    I'm having trouble translating that last part.....

    -This story of claws, which had really aggravated me, should have softened/touched me?

    -And if I'm reading all your posts right, "J'aurais
    dû" is similar to "eût dû"?
  19. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    :thumbsup: You got it. :)
  20. hungerfordjustice New Member

    Je lis en ce moment Le Rouge et le Noir de Stendhal, et je m'aperçois souvent des phrases qui semblent se servir du plus-que-parfait subjonctif au lieu du conditionnel passé. Par exemple:

    La seule traduction qui me semble possible est: "She would have sacrificed her own life ... if she had seen him in danger." Mais pourquoi la forme "eût sacrificié" fonctionne-t-elle comme le conditionnel passé?

    Je ne connais point l'usage du conditionnel au plus-que-parfait, et au début je pensais que c'était le passé antérieur jusqu'à ce que j'ai vu le circonflexe sur le "û". De toute façon, est-ce que c'est normal? Peut-être un usage littéraire?
  21. djweaverbeaver Senior Member

    English Atlanta, GA USA
    C'est bien l'équivalent littéraire du conditionnel passé. Le subjonctif plus-que-parfait (ex : j'eusse parlé), est parfois appelé « conditionnel passé 2e forme », qui peut apparaître comme expression du mode conditionnel dans des textes anciens ou littéraires. A l'oral, on peut l'entendre très rarement pour ne pas dire jamais, mais je l'entends de temps à autre dans la phrase «Qui l'eût cru?» pour dire «Qui l'aurait cru?»
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2010
  22. Little Star Senior Member


    Est-ce que c'est juste si on dirait qu'elle ne s'utilise jamais dans les conversations? (j'aimerais déduire de la mettre à côté maintenant que je suis encore au début!)

    Merci d'avance
  23. Zabuha41 New Member

    Le conditionnel passé deuxième forme utilise les mêmes formes que le subjonctif plus-que-parfait (certains disent même qu'ils s'agit du même temps, ça se discute).
    Il est également vrai que les deux sont rarement utilisés à l'écrit et presque jamais à l'oral (comme le subjonctif imparfait, ils prètent à sourire). Petite exception : "Le nez de Cléopâtre : s'il eût été plus court, toute la face de la terre aurait changé".
    Cela dit, il est toujours bon de les connaître ;-)
  24. Einhard Senior Member


    Is eût peut-être été oublié the passive form of the passé antérieur?

  25. jann

    jann co-mod'

    English - USA
    Very close. :) Actually, it's the passive form of the pluperfect subjunctive (or the conditionnel passé 2e forme).

    It would have been the passive form of the passé antérieur if there had not been an accent circonflexe on U of eût. Here's the complete conjugation of être, if you want to compare forms...
  26. Lacuzon

    Lacuzon Senior Member

    French - France

    Jann is right, what is the whole sentence?
  27. Einhard Senior Member

    Thanks for the response. Am I correct in thinking that, in this instance, the difference between the two forms, doesn't have an effect on the translation?

    The full sentence is:

    Ce fait, extrêmement grave em lui-même, eût peut-être été oublié comme tant d'autres, si, trois semaines après, il ne se fût reproduit dans des conditions identiques.

    I think I'm correct in translating eût peut-être été oublié as "would have been forgotten", but I don't see why this tense is used rather than the past conditional? Any ideas.

    Merci encore.
  28. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    It is indeed the past conditional II tense as suggested by Jann. It is just a literary way to say the same thing as the standard past conditional.

    Anyway, your translation of that tense is correct: eût été oublié = would have been forgotten.
  29. djamal 2008 Senior Member



    Moi ce qui m'intrigue c'est l'emploi du subjonctif dans la deuxième partie de la phrase; je pense que le passé simple plus approprié.
    Parce que trois semaines plus tard nous sommes certains de la reproduction du fait,donc l'indicatif.

  30. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    Il s'agit en fait d'un tour littéraire où le subjonctif plus-que-parfait est employé au lieu de l'indicatif plus-que-parfait. Toutes les phrases ci-après sont donc équivalentes du point de vue du sens:

    Ce fait eût été oublié s'il ne se fût reproduit.
    Ce fait aurait été oublié s'il ne se fût reproduit.
    Ce fait eût été oublié s'il ne s'était reproduit.
    Ce fait aurait été oublié s'il ne s'était reproduit.
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2011

Share This Page