Dead from hunger and full of… Adjectives with prepositional complements

Adjectives, prepositions, and interruptions at crucial moments

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I found this image when Googling for DELF/DALF-related images and had to laugh, as we were most definitely not walking out of the room looking like this afterwards. Picture source: http://delf-dalf.ambafrance-ca.org/en/

I am so relieved that my first two days of DELF/DALF testing are over!  The recordings for the C1 oral comprehension test were laughably hard to understand, and by the end of the day’s testing I was drained from the exertion.  The C1 written production test was actually kinda fun for me, though, and it felt very satisfying to have tried, no matter what the outcome is.

I am so relieved that my first two days of DELF/DALF testing are over!  The recordings for the C1 oral comprehension test were laughably hard to understand, and by the end of the day’s testing I was drained from the exertion.  The C1 written production test was actually kinda fun for me, though, and it felt very satisfying to have tried, no matter what the outcome is.

Relieved that…  Hard to…. Drained from…. Fun for…  Satisfying toHmmmm…

One of the things that I’ve had the most trouble finding in terms of French-language resources is a guide to adjectives that take prepositional complements.  What that means: consider that in English, there are adjectives that have to be followed by a preposition, and you have to have the right one, or it’s not English:

  • I am happy to see you.
  • He is full of shit.
  • We are sad about your loss.
  • I was dead from hunger.

I’ve long wanted a list of French adjectives with their associated prepositions–when they have one.  I finally found one today.  Not surprisingly, it was on the Lawless French web site.  Go there for the full list–I’m just going to give you some examples.

The nice thing about the Lawless French web page is that it groups the adjectives semantically.  For example, adjectives related to feelings or states of mind typically take de as their preposition:

  • être content de: to be happy to.
  • être dêçu de: to be disappointed to.
  • être fier de: to be proud to.
  • être mécontent de: to be unhappy about.

In contrast, adjectives related to abilities tend to take à:

  • être apte à: to be capable of.
  • être habile à: to be good at.
  • être inapte à: to be incapable of.
  • être ingénieux à: to be clever at.

Notice that in the English translations, we have two prepositions for the state-of-mind adjectives (to and about), and two prepositions for the ability adjectives (of and at).  So, this isn’t just a French thing.  The problem with French is finding a place that will tell you this stuff–dictionaries generally don’t.

OPUS2: a parallel corpus, meaning that it contains the same texts in multiple languages.  The data come from many sources, including movie subtitles, European Parliament proceedings, Wikipedia, and UNIX operating system localization files.  The French section has a bit over 765 million words.  See http://opus.lingfil.uu.se/ for details.

Lawless French to the rescue!  To help myself memorize these before my oral exams next week, here are some example sentences for you (and for me).  We’ll go a bit beyond Laura Lawless’s goal, which is to give you the prepositions for when the adjective is followed by an infinitive.  I’ll include some other kinds of complements.  To find them, I’ll use the Sketch Engine web site to search the OPUS2 corpus.

Être fier de is a nice one to start with, because in both English and in French, one can be proud of something (He is proud of his voice) or proud about some action or event (He is proud to be there). In this case, I searched with the string fier de.   I’ve separated out the nominal (noun) and verbal (infinitive, specifically) complements:

Nominal:

  • Vous avez toutes les raisons du monde d’ être fiers de ce que vous avez réalisé You have all the reasons in the world to be proud of your achievements.
  • Je voulais que tu sois fier de moi.  I only wanted you to be proud of me.
  • Est-ce que vous êtes fiers de vous?  Are you proud of yourselves?
  • Je suis si fière de toi! I’ m so proud of you!
  • Israël était fier de son dispositif en matière de droits sociaux.  Israel is proud of its social rights system.
  • Mon pays est fier de ce que l’on ait pu contribuer à mener le Timor-Leste à l’indépendance.  (Note the subjunctive.)  My country is proud that we were able to make a contribution along Timor-Leste’s way to independence.

Verbal:

  • Je suis dipsomaniaque et fière de l’étre.  I’ m a dipsomaniac and i’ m proud of it. (Note that this is a noun in English (it), but an infinitive verb in French (être).  Also  note that we got the feminine form fière in this example, which tells us that Sketch Engine is doing some analysis behind the scenes.)
  • Fier de braquer des coffres-forts et de tricher aux cartes?  Proud of breaking safes or cheating at cards?  (Again, we have a clearly verbal form in the French, but a noun in the English.)
  • Je suis un peu fier de l’ avoir supporté et d’ y avoir contribué presque depuis le début.  (Notice also the repetition of de.I am a little bit proud to have supported and contributed to this from near the beginning.
  • M. Nkou (Cameroun) dit que le Cameroun est fier de prodiguer une éducation à la fois aux hommes et aux femmes.  Mr. Nkou (Cameroon) said that Cameroon was proud of the fact that it provided education to both men and women.
  • Le Canada est fier de jouer un rôle de soutien, de concert avec ses partenaires internationaux, dans le cadre de ce processus historique.  Canada is proud to be playing a supporting role, alongside our international partners, in this historic process.

Now let’s search with the string content de.  This one surprised me: it turns out that content de can take a verb, but also a noun, which I hadn’t expected.  I love it when language surprises me!  Again, I’ll split the examples into nominal and verbal.

Nominal:

Quand vous êtes content de votre modèle, cliquez sur Fichier dans la barre de menus et choisissez Gestionnaire de modèles.  (I don’t know why être is not in the future tense, seeing as how it follows quand.  I checked this one with a native speaker, who thought that it was OK.)

  • Les gens ne sont jamais contents de leur sort People are never happy with what they have.
  • Je suis content de mon nom.  I’ m satisfied with my name.
  • Vous êtes contente de la façon dont ils sont traités?  Are you happy with how they’ re cared for?
  • On est simplement … content de ce que l’on a.  You just … are glad for what you have.
  • Il est content de lui, avec sa grosse tête!  Self- righteous Rory, with his big thick head on him. 

Verbal:

  • Crois moi, je … je suis content de me tromper.  Believe me, I’ m–I’ m glad to be wrong.
  • J’ aurais été content de rester à la maison pour regarder le match.  I would’ve been happy to stay home and watch the game.
  • Content de voir que vous urinez régulièrement.  Good to see you are peeing regulary, mylady.
  • Je suis si contente de ne jamais avoir couché avec lui.  I’ m so glad I never slept with him.
  • C’ est dans ces moments-la que je suis content de ne rien ressentir.  This is the kind of thing that makes me glad I have no feelings.

OK, cool!  Let’s try the synonym heureux de… And everything quickly changes.  I went through pages of results, but only saw one example with heureux de followed by a noun.  I did find other prepositions with a noun–heureux pour toi, heureux avec moi.  The last example on the list is the only one that I found with heureux de plus a noun.  I did check it with a native speaker, and she thought that it was OK.

  • Ils sont heureux de jouer.  They are happy to act.
  • Ils sont heureux de le faire.  Oh, but they’ re glad to do it.
  • J’ suis heureux de ne pas être né paysan.  I’ m glad I wasn’ t born a farmer!
  • Il fut un temps où tu étais heureux de m’avoir épousée.  There was a time when you were glad to be married to me.
  • Aussi sommes- nous très heureux de partager votre joie.  Likewise are we so very happy to partake in your joy.
  • Pétunia, mes anges jouent une très belle musique parce qu’ ils sont heureux pour toi.  Petunia … … all my angels are playing beautiful music … … because they feel so happy for you.
  • Ils sont heureux avec moi.   They’ re happy with me.  (I’m told that this doesn’t mean the same as in English.)
  • Ils sont heureux de ce qui leur est arrivé.  They are happy of what arrived to them.  (This has to be a crappy translation–probably “they’re happy about what happened to them.”)

Hmmmm… Maybe content and heureux are not quite so synonymous after all?  As you might recall from an earlier post (replete with graphs and funny stories about how much stupider I sound in languages other than my native one), if you define synonyms as words that can be replaced with each other in any context, there actually aren’t very many true synonyms.  I went to WordReference.com and dug through the definitions for each of them, and didn’t find much that was of help.  Towards the bottom of the page for heureux, I found an example of heureux de + noun: Il s’estime heureux de son travail.  All that I can really say at this point is that it is a hell of a lot easier to find examples of content de + noun than it is to find examples of heureux de + noun.   

…and, yes, I really am relieved as hell to have the first part of the exams behind me!  I’m a pretty high-energy guy, but the experience was nonetheless totally draining.  When I say that the C1 oral comprehension test was laughably difficult, I mean that quite literally–at some point, I just had to laugh and decide that I would do the best that I could, and whatever happens, happens.  Mind you, this is not the kind of test where at some point in the interview the speaker says that, say, Eugene is the capital of Oregon, and you’re asked What is the capital of Oregon?  Rather, it’s the kind of test where the speaker says that there’s a city in Oregon named Eugene, and the state legislature meets there for several weeks every year, and then you’re asked What is the capital of Oregon?  Keyword-spotting gets you nowhere–you need to be able to make inferences, and you need to be able to understand the statements from which you’re meant to infer things.  Having read my “how to prepare for the DELF/DALF” books, I was prepared for distorted sound systems, people speaking French with a foreign accent, and the like.  What I wasn’t prepared for was what I got: a guy speaking French with a foreign accent being interviewed on the radio and being interrupted by the interviewer at exactly the crucial moments in the interviewer when he was saying the things that we were supposed to be using to respond to the questions.  Looked at in the proper light, it’s funny.  Right?  I keep telling myself that.  I’m sure that my fellow test-takers wondered why I was laughing.

5 thoughts on “Dead from hunger and full of… Adjectives with prepositional complements”

  1. Many things and not all clear . For instance you say adjectives related to abilities are followed by “à” but you forget the main one : we say “être capable de ” . Il est capable de réussir, il est capable de tout, il est capable de ça .
    You have a problem with heureux, sometimes followed by different prepositions, but it is a false problem . We say heureux de when the subject is happy for himself, je suis heureux de ma vie, elle est heureuse d’avoir pu le faire . When the subject is happy for somebody else it’s normal to use “pour” : je suis heureux pour toi, happy for you . When the source of happiness needs to be explained you can find many prepositions : les enfants sont heureux avec leur grand-mère ( meaning they are happy when they are with their grandma) . Je suis toujours heureux dans la nature ( I’m always happy when I’m outside in the nature) .
    Note that all this is also true with “content” and any feeling or state adjective : je suis content pour toi, ils sont contents avec leur grand-mère, je suis content dans la nature .
    Beware : je suis heureux pour toi, but je suis heureux de ta réussite, just like je suis heureux de ma réussite .
    Now about tenses after “quand” . We can use the present when the sentence has a general value : Quand vous êtes fatigué vous allez dormir . In your example it is a general value for anyone , when you find something you like, just do this . We could say :”Quand vous serez content de votre modèle, cliquez” but in this case it would mean that you just have to do this once and as soon as you find something OK it will be over . If we say ” Quand vous êtes content de votre modèle, cliquez” it can be repeated many times, and it’s not only an advice for you but for anybody who can read this for the same reasons .
    Don’t give up, these things work through impregnation . I can’t be complete here, just trying to stop you when I see you making hazardous conclusions .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Prepositions are a huge deal in any language. When I manage to get students to get their verb tenses more or less right, and their prepositions, I feel I’ve launched them off pretty well. I’m impressed by how much you managed to cram into this post. You’ll do fine if you go to your orals having absorbed all of it!

    Liked by 2 people

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