What’s making us sound stupid today

say tray sheek
“Carine says, ‘thinking: c’est très chic.’ Picture source: https://www.pinterest.com/coffee_fiend/finishing-french-a-scavenger-hunt/
One of the really frustrating things about French for me is being able to do obscure things like read about the semantics of agentive verbs in French, but not being able to use !@#%$ pronouns correctly.

Here’s something that I got wrong on an assessment test on the Lawless French web site.  It turns out that if a pro-form (a cover term for pronouns, pro-verbs, etc.) is replacing an infinitive or a relative clause, you are probably going to replace it with le or l’.   The way that Laura Lawless puts it is that you’re using the pro-form to stand in for a “previously mentioned complete idea.”  If I understood Laura’s lesson correctly, replacement of an infinitive with a pro-form works like this:

  • Ils veulent frapper le quartier général?  Do they want to strike the headquarters?  Oui, je le pense.  Yes, I think so.

Replacement of a relative clause works like this:

  • Tu veux que Daech soit puni?  Do you want Islamic State to be punished?  Oui, je le souhaite bien.  Yes, I really want it.

So, let’s memorize this:

  • Infinitives can be replaced with a pro-form.
  • Relative clauses can be replaced with a pro-form.
  • The pro-form should be le/l’.

Who knew?  I sure didn’t.  See the Lawless French web site for more.

5 thoughts on “What’s making us sound stupid today”

  1. To me, the le/l’ seem so logical 🙂 that I’m curious to know what you got wrong? (I’m serious, this is to understand possible student errors from their own logic – can you help?)


  2. Bonjour – thanks for linking to my site. 🙂

    I wouldn’t say that le is replacing the infinitive in your first example – it’s replacing an implied relative clause, just like your second example.

    Ils veulent frapper le quartier général? Oui, je le pense. –> Oui, je pense qu’il veulent frapper…

    Tu veux que Daech soit puni? Oui, je le souhaite bien. –> Oui, je souhaite bien que Daech soit puni.


    1. Hmmmm…I’m trying to find your lesson about this, but can’t seem to get to it on the web site. I had a link to it off of my CEFR results, but it doesn’t seem to be working now (I took the quiz a couple days ago)…


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