Using “de” with French Verbs Posted by Josh Dougherty on May 29, 2015 in Grammar
One of my biggest problems when I started learning French was prepositions (quoi?? a preposition is a word showing relation to another word in the clause. Par exemple: I always color outside the lines.). They can be very tricky because new learners will always want to translate their native language into French, and it just doesn’t always work. They don’t always seem to be logial, so prepositions need to be learned in context.
– Mad at someone? In French, you’re mad against someone. (fâché contre quelqu’un)
– Eating out of someone’s hand? Try again. In French, it’s manger dans (in!) la main de quelqu’un!
– Listening to the radio? Tu écoutes la radio, not Tu écoutes à la radio. The “to” preposition we use in English is ‘already included’ in the verb. Écouter = to listen to, so there’s no reason to translate “to” in your sentence.
– Want to buy me a drink? Great! Tu me payes un verre. No need to say payer pour: payer already means to pay for!
It’s just as tough for English learners, too. Do you know what a phrasal verb is? It’s using a preposition with a verb, and depending on the preposition, the verb’s meaning can change. Just look at the image at the top. Look on, look ahead, look back, look through – they all mean different things! Now try translating them into French. Not so easy.
Today we’re going to look at the preposition “de” in 2 different contexts: verb + de + infinitive and verb + de + direct object.
Verb + de + infinitive
It’s very common in French that if you want to use verbs in a row, they may need to be separated with a preposition (de or à – we’ll get to à another time).
J’ai essayé d’appeler ma mère, mais la ligne était occupée.
I tried calling my mother, but the line was busy.
Note the usage of de between essayer and appeler!
Essayer is one of those verbs that takes de if there’s another verb following it.
The bad news? There are no rules. The good news? I’m giving you a list! Memorize these verbs and use de with them! There are more, but here’s a list of common ones:
|accepter de||to accept or agree to|
|achever de||to finish ___-ing|
|s’agir de||to be a question of ___-ing|
|avoir peur de||to be scared of ___-ing|
|cesser de||to stop ___-ing|
|se contenter de||to be happy ___-ing|
|continuer de||to continue ___-ing|
|décider de||to decide to|
|demander (à quelqu’un) de||to ask someone to|
|dire (à quelqu’un) de||to tell (someone) to do something|
|empecher de||to keep from ___-ing|
|essayer de||to try to|
|s’excuser de||to apologize for ___-ing|
|finir de||to finish ___-ing|
|offrir de||to offer to|
|oublier de||to forget to|
|promettre de||to promise to|
|refuser de||to refuse to|
|se souvenir de||to remember|
Verb + de + direct object
Un complement d’objet direct (a direct object) is the person or thing that receives the action of the verb.
J’ai mangé une pomme.
I ate an apple.
What did I eat? Une pomme. This is the direct object.
Certain verbs in French require you to put de between the verb and the direct object. This is especially tricky because it’s not always the case for English. Below I’m giving you a list of some of these verbs. Just as with the previous bunch, there aren’t any rules, so they must be memorized.
J’ai besoin de la clé.
I need the key.
Note the de between the verb phrase and the direct object.
Here are some verbs that require de before a direct object. It’s especially helpful to know these when learning the relative pronoun dont! It’s “la clé dont j’ai besoin,” and not “la clé que j’ai besoin.” Why? The verb is avoir besoin de, and the de becomes dont when using a relative pronoun.
|s’agir de||to be a question|
|s’approcher de||to approach|
|avoir besoin de||to need|
|avoir envie de||to want|
|changer de||to change|
|féliciter de||to congratulate|
|jouer de||to play (an instrument)|
|manquer de||to lack|
|se méfier de||to distrust|
|se moquer de||to make fun of|
|s’occuper de||to be busy with|
|se plaindre de||to complain about|
|profiter de||to take advantage of|
|se rendre compte de||to realize|
|se souvenir de||to remember|
|tenir de||to resemble/take after|
|se tromper de||to mistake|
Any tips to help memorization or use easier? It’s different for everyone, of course, but here are some suggestions:
- When I was learning these, I asked a native French speaker to record the list of verbs for me. Then, I would listen to it often until knowing that se souvenir needs de with it. If you learn best through listening, this is an easy way to make this second nature to you.
- Want to see these words in action? The verbs in the list that require de with the direct object can all be used with the relative pronoun dont. Go to Google and type together a string of words using dont so you can see the words used in context. For example, earlier I mentioned ‘la clé don’t j’ai besoin‘ – try typing in “dont j’ai besoin” in Google and check it out in.
- Similar to the method above, give it a shot using the verb without a relative pronoun. Use other tenses and different subjects and see what you can find. For example: “Jimi Hendrix joue de” or “il s’est moqué de” or “elle veut que tu t’occupes de” You don’t need to be advanced to do this. Just type in what you can do to see what you do know to see how you can use these words in real language (not just what you learn in class).
Do you have any other memorization tips?