FR: des gens à qui dire / qui disent

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by jamesjaime, Jan 20, 2013.

  1. jamesjaime Senior Member

    Northern England
    English - England
    I came across this phrase:

    Je suis à court de gens à qui dire "Tu as vu? Il neige!"

    I've never seen this construction before - I'm guessing it's an alternative way of saying:

    Je suis à court de gens qui disent "tu as vu?...."

    So I'm guessing the first one is Subject + à qui + infinitive, whereas the second one is Subject + qui + conjugation

    Am I right? could someone explain this (first) construction?

    And does it only work to describe people? How would you use it to describe things?

    Merci d'avance
  2. Oddmania

    Oddmania Senior Member


    It actually doesn't mean the same! :)

    For example, Quelqu'un à qui dire "au revoir" means Someone to say "Goodbye" to, whereas Quelqu'un qui dit "au revoir" means Someone saying "Goodbye".

    The preposition à comes with the verb dire (dire quelque chose à quelqu'un). But you could perfectly say Je suis à court de personnes sur qui compter (from the verb compter sur quelqu'un : to rely upon somebody).

    Got it?

    Quelqu'un à qui parler → Someone to talk to...
    Quelqu'un sur qui compter → Someone to rely upon...
    Quelqu'un avec qui jouer Someone to play with...
    Quelqu'un pour qui travailler Someone to work for...

    The first to is combined with a verb to make an infinitive (to talk → parler ; to play → jouer) whereas the final preposition is linked to the verb but depends on what you mean (to → à ; on → sur ; with → avec)

    It aounts to saying Someone to whom to talk, although it would probably sounds extremely awkward in English. But basically, this is how the Frecnh syntax works.

    Preposition (à, sur, avec,... → to, on, with,...) + relative pronoun (qui,... → whom,...) + infinitive (parler, jouer,... → to talk, to play).
  3. jamesjaime Senior Member

    Northern England
    English - England
    Thank you very much for your excellent explanation, Oddmania!! It's crystal clear now! :) That's actually one of the best explanations I've ever seen of a grammar point! :)

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