Lesson 6: Adolescence

Pop Culture

un Adolescent(m.)teenager
un pré-adolescent(m.)preteen
la paresse(f.)lazyness
Faire l’école buissonnièreSkip classes
Flâner avec les copainsHang out with friends
policiers, gendarmespolice officers
copain(m.), copine(f.)boyfriend, girlfriend
petit ami(m.), petite amie(f.)boyfriend, girlfriend
magasinerdo some shopping
centre d’achats(m.)shopping mall

Pronominal Verbs Review

Pronominal verbs are verbs that, put simply, include pronouns. These pronouns are me, te, se, nous, and vous and are used as either direct objects or indirect objects, depending on the verb that they modify. When proniminal verbs are conjugated in perfect tenses, être is used as the auxiliary verb. There are three types of pronominal verbs: reflexive verbs, reciprocal verbs, and naturally pronominal verbs.

Reflexive Verbs

Reflexive verbs reflect the action on the subject.

  • Je me lave. – I wash myself.
  • Nous nous lavons. – We wash ourselves.
  • Ils se lavent. – They wash themselves.

Reflexive verbs can also be used as infinitives.

  • Je vais me laver. – I’m going to wash myself.

Either the conjugated verb or the infinitive can be negated each with slightly different meanings.

  • Je ne vais pas me laver. – I’m not going to wash myself.

In perfect tenses, the past participles agree with the direct object pronoun, but not the indirect object pronoun, in gender and plurality. Therefore it would only agree when the reflexive pronoun is the direct object. Also remember that the past participle does not agree with the direct object if it goes after the verb.

  • Elle s’est lavée. – She washes herself.
  • Nous nous sommes lavé(e)s. – We wash ourselves.
  • Elle s’est lavé les mains. – She washed her hands.
  • Nous nous sommes lavé les mains. – We washed our hands.

Reciprocal Verbs

With reciprocal verbs, people perform actions to each other.

  • Nous nous aimons. – We like each other.

Like reflexive verbs, the past participle of reciprocal verbs agrees in number and gender with the direct object if it goes before the verb. It therefore agrees with all reciprocal pronouns that function as direct objects.

  • Nous nous sommes aimé(e)s. – We liked each other.

The reciprocal pronoun can also function as an indirect object without a direct object pronoun.

  • Nous nous sommes parlé. – We spoke to each other.
  • Elles se sont téléphoné. – They called to one another.
  • Vous vous êtes écrit souvent? – You write to each other often?

Naturally Pronominal Verbs

Some verbs are pronominal without performing a reflexive or reciprocal action. Tu te souviens? – You remember?

  • In perfect tenses, these verbs agree with the direct object if it goes before the verb. Otherwise, the past participle agrees with the subject.
  • Elle s’est souvenue. – She remembered.

Some verbs have different meanings as pronominal verbs.

  • rendre – to return, to give back
  • se rendre (à) – to go (to)

Imparfait vs. Passé Composé

The difference between the passe compose and l’imparfait can be difficult to master. The imperfect is used for past habitual actions (Quand j’etais petite, je jouais au foot.), to set the scene (C’etait samedi. La lune brillait.). The passé composé, as well as the passé simple, are used to express punctual actions. (Hier, j’ai joué à Colin Maillard. La lune a brillé pendant trois nuits). This does not mean that the action had to happen over a very short time, but that it is understood as a single punctual event, now finished. The imparfait will express a more general statement while the passé composé will express a more precise action.

Les singes criaient violemment lors de ma visite du zooWhen I visited the zoo, the monkeys were loud.
Lorsque je suis passé devant leur cage, les singes ont crié violemmentWhen I walked by their cage, the monkeys shouted violently


The plus-que-parfait is used when there are two occurrences in the past and one wants to symbolise that one occurrence happened before the other. In English, this is used in a phrase like “I had given him the toy before he went to sleep.” In this example, there are two past tenses, but they occur at different times. The plus-que-parfait can be used to indicate the occurrence of one before the other. Essentially, the past before the past.
In French, the plus-que-parfait is formed by conjugating the auxiliary verb in the imparfait and adding the past participle. So to conjugate je mange (I eat) in the plus-que-parfait, one finds the appropriate auxiliary verb (avoir), conjugates it (avais) and finds the past participle of manger (mangé). So, the conjugation of Je mange in the plus-que-parfait becomes j’avais mangé or, in English, I had eaten.

À ce moment, j’ai mangé le pain que tu m’avais donné.At that moment, I ate the bread that you had given me
Tu m’avais déjà appelé, lorsque je suis parti.When I left, you had already called me

General Examples

J’ai parlé français.I spoke French (on one particular occasion).
Je parlais français.I spoke French (during a period of time, and I don’t speak French any more).
Nous avons réussi à l’examen.We passed the test.
Il a été mon ami.He was my friend (and he is not my friend any more)
Il était mon ami lorsque…He was my friend when . . .
Ils ont fait leurs devoirs.They did their homework.
Il est venu.He came (and I don’t need to say when)
Il vint le lendemain.He came the day after. (this is the passé simple)
Il venait tous les jours.He came/used to come every day.
Il était déjà venu.He had already come.

It should be noted that these examples are making use of all the possible past tenses; not just the plus-que-parfait.

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