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Conjugate devoir in Le Plus-que-parfait (pluperfect tense)

Le Plus-que-parfait in French is the direct equivalent of the Pluperfect in English. It could be described as "the past of the past":

e.g. After I had had to do my homework, I went for a walk.

Of course, English speakers are likely to make contractions: I'd had to, etc.

Look at these examples of "devoir" in the Plus-que-parfait :

J'avais en racheter un nouveau après que Patrick avait cassé le mien.
I'd had to buy a new one after Patrick had broken mine.

Tu avais  le licencier finalement.
You'd had to let him go in the end.

Si elle avait le faire, vous auriez eu des problèmes.
If she'd had to do it, you would have been in trouble.

Nous avions nettoyer la maison avant que mes parents ne vissent le désordre.
We'd had to clean the house before my parents saw the mess.

Si vous aviez , l'auriez-vous fait?
If you'd had to, would you have done it?

Elles avaient  repasser l'examen, après qu'elles avaient échoué les trois premières fois!
They'd had to take the exam again, after they'd failed the first three times!

Notice that the Plus-que-parfait of "devoir" follows this construction:

Verb avoir in the Imparfait + (past participle of devoir)

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

J'avais en racheter un nouveau après que Patrick avait cassé le mien.
I'd had to buy a new one after Patrick had broken mine.


Si elle avait le faire, vous auriez eu des problèmes.
If she'd had to do it, you would have been in trouble.


Nous avions nettoyer la maison avant que mes parents ne vissent le désordre.
We'd had to clean the house before my parents saw the mess.


Elles avaient  repasser l'examen, après qu'elles avaient échoué les trois premières fois!
They'd had to take the exam again, after they'd failed the first three times!


Si vous aviez , l'auriez-vous fait?
If you'd had to, would you have done it?


Tu avais  le licencier finalement.
You'd had to let him go in the end.



Q&A

Alan

Kwiziq community member

27 June 2017

4 replies

No-one would use " They had had to retake the exam," in written or spoken English.

One would possibly say "They'd had to retake the exam", but the simplest form "They had to retake the exam", is the commonest usage.

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

27 June 2017

27/06/17

Hi Alan

We do use the pluperfect form in English when referring to events further back in time than a time in the past already referred to (usually when relating a story, verbally or in writing). We try to keep the questions short and so that extra context may not be apparent here so I understand why you'd suggest "they had to" but it isn't equivalent. The example would make more sense in a wider context, and so it does feel contrived because that's missing.

E.g. consider:
"It was revealed that they had had to retake the exam."
This has a very different nuance to:
"It was revealed that they had to retake the exam."

This example is also complicated slightly by the fact the verb is "have to" and so you have the auxiliary "had" (needed to form the pluperfect) along with the past of "have to" which can get a little clunky.

Alan

Kwiziq community member

29 June 2017

29/06/17

I understand what you say but whilst the use of " had had" may be grammatically correct it just isn't said. Consider; "They had to retake the exam because they needed a pass to attend university", compared with "They had had to retake the exam because they needed a pass to attend university". There is perhaps a slight difference in meaning in that the latter suggests some compulsion but the sense is the same and the former is more elegant which is why everyone I have asked would use it.

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

29 June 2017

29/06/17

Bonjour Alan !

I agree that you will more commonly use "I'd had" (which is simply the contracted form of had had) or even simply "I had", though the second one is losing the anteriority contained in the use of the Pluperfect = I'd had took place before I had :)

I've now updated the example to "I'd had" :)

Merci et à bientôt !

Beverley

Kwiziq community member

2 July 2017

2/07/17

I would use it. For example "I had had to retake the exam twice before I could apply for the course. Or "I had already had to retake the driving test twice before I bought my car".

Gretta

Kwiziq community member

18 October 2016

1 reply

Le mot "vissent"

Je ne comprends pas le mot "vissent" dans la phrase "Nous avions dû nettoyer la maison avant que mes parents ne vissent le désordre." Je pensais que ce serait le subjonctif du verbe "voir" mais je l'ai trouvé sous le mot "visser".

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

18 October 2016

18/10/16

Bonjour Greta !

It is indeed the verb "voir" in Le Subjonctif Imparfait, which is used very rarely nowadays but perfectly correct in this sentence, regarding the Sequence of tenses.
However, people would tend to use Le Subjonctif Présent nowadays, as such:
"Nous avions dû nettoyer la maison avant que mes parents ne VOIENT le désordre."

Both sentences are perfectly valid :)
I hope that's helpful!
À bientôt !
Thinking...