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French Present Participle - Le participe présent

Learn how and when to use the French present participle

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The French present participle is the verb form that ends in -ant. It is far less common than its English counterpart, which ends in -ing. The French present participle may be an adjective, gerund, noun, or verb. Before getting into specific uses of the present participle, there are four things that French students need to know in order to avoid very common mistakes:
  1. The French present participle can never be used to talk about what someone is doing. The construction "je suis mangeant" (the literal translation of "I am eating") simply does not exist in French - you must use the present tense: je mange. To emphasize the ongoing nature of an activity, you can use the French expression être en train de: je suis en train de manger - "I'm eating (right now).
     
  2. The French present participle cannot be used after another verb. "J'aime lisant" does not exist; to say "I like reading," you must use the infinitive: j'aime lire.
     
  3. The English usage of the present participle as a noun indicating an activity, as in "Seeing is believing," is another case in which the French translation requires the infinitive: Voir, c'est croire. Sometimes you can just use a noun; to translate "Reading is fun," you have two options: Lire est un plaisir, La lecture est un plaisir.
     
  4. As a verb or gerund, the present participle is invariable, except in the case of pronominal verbs, which keep the appropriate reflexive pronoun in front of the present participle: me coiffant (doing my hair), en nous levant (upon [us] getting up), etc.

Page 1 - Introduction
Page 2 - Present participle as a verb or gerund
Page 3 - Present participle as an adjective or noun
Page 4 - Present participle conjugations
Page 5 - Present participle quiz
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