Why is 'de' needed? & Does alors = à l'époque?

DanielleC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Why is 'de' needed? & Does alors = à l'époque?

Why are the 'de's needed in this sentence? "Sa mission principale était de cultiver, d'informer et de divertir." Also, could 'à l'époque' have been used instead of alors in the phrase "qui était alors Président de la République française"? L'époque is used elsewhere throughout the text so I'm just wondering if alors and à l'epoque are synonymous.
Asked 9 months ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi everyone, 

Just wanted to add to this interesting discussion.

Firstly, you could say -

" sa mission était cultiver, informer et divertir "

So strictly speaking, the 'de' is not compulsory as in countless verbs which have to be followed by either 'de' or 'à'.

I haven't included être in my lists of verbs followed by 'de' as it is not always the case.

I believe this comes under the 'préposition vide' banner:

"Une préposition est dite "vide" quand elle n'introduit pas de complément mais offre simplement un confort à l'oral. Dans la phrase "mon intention est de gagner", la préposition "de" pourrait être supprimée, mais la phrase serait alors moins harmonieuse." [schoolmov.fr] 

Other examples given by Le petit Grevisse are -

J'aime à lire / à travailler /à chasser = I take real pleasure in reading/ working/ hunting

The use of 'à' is not mandatory but adds emphasis to the pleasure.

 

Danielle, yes, you could use alors (then) instead of  à l'époque ( at that time).

Hope this helps!

 

 

JimC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Hi Danielle,

"Sa mission principale était de cultiver, d'informer et de divertir."     Why "de" ?

I have tried to research this point that you raise but without success.

The only plausible reason that I can find is that of "syntax". The "de"s are there for syntactical reasons.

This has left me also perplexed, so I look forward to the comments of other contributors'

For the other points try here https://www.wordreference.com/fren/fran%C3%A7aise

Bonne journée

Jim

MaartenC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

The verb form is “être de infinitive”, never “être infinitive”, and in formal writing and speech, ‘d’/de’ is repeated before each and every infinitive in the series of infinitives - être de cultiver, (être) d’informer, (être) de divertir.   https://www.lawlessfrench.com/grammar/verbs-with-de/

JimC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

@ Maarten,

I had already accessed that link of Laura's, but remain unable to see "être de infinitive", so for me, the problem remains unresolved.

May I ask you to specifically link to where it shows this example of usage "être de infinitive"?

Merci et bonne journée

Jim

MaartenC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Jim - on that linked page under the section on verbs followed by de + infinitive. 

I find this a bit confusing as Laura Lawless has bracketed (adjective/past participle), following être in the list - commonly it will be 'être adjective/past participle de infinitive', but I don't think it is the adjective or past participle that calls for 'de'.  I have not found other sites that address this well either.

However, 'être' is never followed directly by an infinitive (to my knowledge/understanding) and I think the explanation for needing 'de' here is as mentioned in previous post. Very happy to have other's input in case this is a misunderstanding/mislearning on my part.

JimC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Bonjour de nouveau Maarten,

Can't find it  --  No matter, I don't doubt your understanding but remain curious for my own education.

We will just have to await the input from Cécile to move forward on this one.

Bonne journée

  Jim

AlanC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

I think you're correct, Maarten, the bit in brackets is intended to be optional.

Sometimes people get the mistaken idea that the bare infinitive in French, e.g. "cultiver", is the equivalent of "to cultivate" in English. It might seem that way if you only look at sentences with "vouloir" or verbs of motion or perception, but in general, French requires a preposition before an infinitive - usually either "à" or "de". If anything, you can think of "de" as the default, and you should use this unless you know that the infinitive can be used on its own, or that "à" is required.

There was an article in "The French Review" on how to teach this topic, which started out with this comment:

Whereas the typical French course spends the first semester emphasizing the fact that the infinitive does not require a preposition and the next three semesters explaining where to insert one, I shall point out the advantages of an analysis that considers the preposition to be part of the infinitive except where deleted by rule.

The conclusion was:

Students should be encouraged to use the complementizer "de" except where they can find a specific reason for deleting it or substituting "a". In so doing, they will be internalizing an important feature of French: the use of the neutral complementizer "de".

DanielleC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Thank you all for your efforts crafting these responses! It makes a lot more sense now.

Why is 'de' needed? & Does alors = à l'époque?

Why are the 'de's needed in this sentence? "Sa mission principale était de cultiver, d'informer et de divertir." Also, could 'à l'époque' have been used instead of alors in the phrase "qui était alors Président de la République française"? L'époque is used elsewhere throughout the text so I'm just wondering if alors and à l'epoque are synonymous.

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