FR: elle avait été demander

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robzuck

Senior Member
USA, English
This comes from a Russian novel translated into French: "Par trois fois déjà, elle avait été demander l'autorisation de voir Paul..."

I get the sense of the phrase, but could someone help me understand the construction with the infinitive <<demander>> here? Thanks in advance.
 
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  • Uncle Bob

    Senior Member
    British English
    Hello,
    For me it is mistaken and should be "elle est allé demander" (she went/has been to ask). I think the original "elle avait été..." is a direct "translation" of "she has been"!!
     

    jann

    co-mod'
    English - USA
    There is no mistake or mistranslation here, just a slightly colloquial usage. :)

    In the past tense, être can be used as a synonym for aller.

    elle a été demander = elle est allée demander (she went to ask...)
    elle avait été demander = elle était allée demander (she had gone to ask...)

    Demander is in the infinitive for the same reason that "to ask" appears in the infinitive in the English sentence.

    Does that help?
     
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    pointvirgule

    Senior Member
    langue française
    Elle avait été demander is grammatical. It's avoir été in the sense of être allé. The meaning is the same as elle était allée demander.

    This usage of avoir été is as old as French itself. Some purists may object that it has become familiar/colloquial, but I don't agree.
     

    jann

    co-mod'
    English - USA
    This usage of avoir été is as old as French itself. Some purists may object that it has become familiar/colloquial, but I don't think so.
    I was just thinking the same thing myself and searching for a reference or two on the topic... I'll update this post if I find any.

    Here's what the TLFi says in section B.1.d) of the entry for être. There are many examples and quotes, including one with il a été demander, but I have not reproduced them here.
    [Aux temps passés, dans le style dir. et le lang. fam. être, suivi d'un compl. ou d'un adv. de lieu, s'emploie comme substitut de aller] Il a été trop loin; elle a été hier au bal; Pierre a été à la porte et l'a ouverte.
     
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    Lacuzon

    Senior Member
    French - France
    Elle avait été demander is grammatical. It's avoir été in the sense of être allé. The meaning is the same as elle était allée demander.

    This usage of avoir été is as old as French itself. Some purists may object that it has become familiar/colloquial, but I don't agree.
    Bonsoir,

    In addition, some other grammarians see a slight difference of meaning :

    J'ai été : I went and came back.
    Je suis allé : I went. Maybe you came back maybe not.
     
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