FR: Verbs taking direct object or requiring a preposition

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by Greek2me, Jan 21, 2008.

  1. Greek2me New Member

    Is there a general method for determining whether a French verb takes a direct object or requires a preposition such as à or de to introduce an indirect object? I know it changes depending on the context, and sometimes they can do both. There must be some way to hazard an educated guess! Thanks!
  2. jann

    jann co-mod'

    English - USA
    Hello Greek2me,

    The vast majority of English verbs with direct objects are expressed in French by a verb with a direct object. And the same is true for verbs with indirect objects.

    eg. to write a letter (direct object) to someone (indirect object)
    écrire une lettre (objet direct) à quelqu'un (objet indirect)

    You need only pay special attention to those minority cases where French and English are different... and no, there is no rhyme or reason to it, you just need to memorize them. So when you learn a new verb, look in the dictionary example sentences to see what kind of objects it takes, and if they are different from English, make yourself a note of it somewhere.

    eg., to please someone (direct object)
    plaire à quelqu'un (objet indirect)

    Note, however, that you should be alert to the possibility that a French verb that differs in structure from its English equivalent could also differ with regards to the type of object it takes.

    eg., to hurt someone (direct object)
    faire mal à quelqu'un (objet indirect)

    If you look at it, it's no great surprise that the French expression faire mal takes an indirect object, because the direct object is right there in the sentence: mal. When you say "to hurt someone" in French, you are really saying "to do hurt (direct object) to someone (indirect object)."

    If you already know that a particular French verb requires an indirect object, but you are simply wondering which preposition (à or de) to use to introduce that indirect object, you can again depend on similarities with English to guide you. In general, verbs that would require the indirect object to be introduced with "to" will use à in French, and those that would require the indirect object to be introduced with "of/from" or "for" will use de or pour in French, respectively. These guidelines only apply to [verb] + [preposition] + [indirect object]. Again, check the dictionary example sentences when you learn a new verb, and make a mental note of it if that verb does not follow the same pattern as you expected based on English.
  3. Montaigne Senior Member

    French, France
    Depending on the context "to hurt someone" will be "faire du mal à quelqu'un" or "blesser quelqu'un".
  4. Greek2me New Member

    That does help! Since the few verbs that were different to English were among the first ones I learned, I didn't trust many of them to be similar. Now I can at least make a more educated guess when I come across a new case. Thanks!
  5. jann

    jann co-mod'

    English - USA
    Hello Montaigne,

    Certainly your two translations of "to hurt someone" are also correct, perhaps even "more" correct in that they are less colloquial.... but don't they have more of an emotional aspect to them (as opposed to physical pain)? I don't mean to turn this grammar thread into a vocab discussion, but certainly "Aïe, tu m'as fait mal !" (without de) is a very standard thing to say if someone steps on your toe! :p

    Regardless, the grammatical example is in no way affected. It makes sense that quelqu'un must be the indirect object, since the direct object must be what gets done by the verb faire and that is (du) mal = (some) hurt/injury. In short, the French construction with faire (du) mal, is not parallel to the English "to hurt someone."
  6. DearPrudence

    DearPrudence Dépêche Mod (AL mod)

    French (lower Normandy)
    Hello everyone :)

    Let me gently remind you that this is the Grammar forum. Please let's stay on topic and focus on the grammar question from post #1 rather than discussing meaning and vocabulary from one of the examples ;) :)

    Thanks for your understanding



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