Updated: Nov 29, 2022
The Gerund (in French: le gérondif) is used to describe a link between two actions. It can be used to express simultaneity (i.e: while doing something) or causation (i.e: by doing something).
The structure of the Gerund in French:
"en" + Present participle of the verb
- "en" is the preposition corresponding to "while" or "by" in English.
- the present participle corresponds to your verb in -ing in English.
How to form the present participle:
In French, the present participle is formed using the steps below:
Take the "nous" form of the verb in the present tense
Drop the -ons ending
add the -ant ending
Phrases such as "I am eating" are in the present continuous.
In this instance the present tense will be used in French (NOT the present participle).
In French, you will say "je mange", NOT "je suis mangeant"; which is completely WRONG!
The present participle with reflexive verbs:
To form the present participle of reflexive verbs, you simply need to add the reflexive pronoun as shown in the table below.
Example: se lever- to get up
The present participle of irregular verbs:
There are only 3 irregular verbs for the present participle.
The Gerund in context:
1. Simultaneous actions
Elle écoute de la musique en faisant ses devoirs.
She listens to music while doing her homework.
Nous mangeons en nous promenant.
We are eating while walking.
Note that in Example 2: the first part is the present continuous (action that we are in the process of doing), whilst the second part uses the present participle (action which is done simultaneously).
Je me suis fait mal en tombant.
I hurt myself by falling.
Ils ont fait une erreur en achetant cette maison.
They made a mistake (by) buying this house.
Note that the gerund (en + present participle) can be used in any tenses and that its form remains the same.
Continue reading if you want to learn something else
To emphasis a tension or a contradiction, you can replace "en" with "tout en".
Tu parles tout en mangeant.
You are speaking (even) while eating.
Elle pleure tout en riant.
She is crying while laughing.
For French A-Level students with any exam board:
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