The present participle and the gerund

Le participe présent

You have used the participe passé (past participle) many times with the compound tenses. Another participle is the participe présent (present participle). It is formed by dropping the -ons ending from the present tense nous form and adding-ant.

chanter  - to sing

nous chantons  - we sing

chantant  - singing

partir -  to leave

nous partons  - we leave

partant  - leaving

choisir  - to choose

nous choisissons -  we choose

choisissant -  choosing

boire  - to drink

nous buvons -  we drink

buvant  - drinking

voir  - to see

nous voyons -  we see

voyant  - seeing

répondre -  to answer

nous répondons  - we answer

répondant -  answering

Some spelling changes occur with some -cer and -ger verbs:

commencer  - to start

nous commençons -  we start

commençant -  starting

influencer -  to influence

nous influençons -  we infl uence

influençant -  influencing

manger  - to eat

nous mangeons -  we eat

mangeant  - eating

nager  - to swim

nous nageons -  we swim

nageant  - swimming

Pronominal verbs follow the same pattern. Do not forget the pronoun corresponding to the subject. Let’s look at the present participle of se promener (to take a walk):

me promenant -  walking

nous promenant -  walking

te promenant  - walking

vous promenant -  walking

se promenant -  walking

se promenant  - walking

Three verbs have an irregular present participle:

être  - to be

étant -  being

avoir -  to have

ayant -  having

savoir  - to know

sachant -  knowing

Some participes présents can be used as nouns. When used as a noun, the present participle changes according to gender and number. For example:

un gagnant  - a winner (masculine)

une gagnante  - a winner (féminine)

un perdant -  a loser (masculine)

une perdante -  a loser (féminine)

Many participes présents  can be used as adjectives. When used as an adjective, the participe présent agrees with the noun it modifies. For example:

des matchs épuisants

exhausting games

un commentateur fascinant

a fascinating commentator

un sport exigeant

a demanding sport

une pièce amusantean amusing play

The participe présent can also be used as a verb. Note that when used as a verb, the present participle is invariable.

La police l’a aperçu entrant dans un laboratoire médical.

The police saw him entering (as he was entering) a medical lab.

Étant blessé au genou, il n’a pas pu jouer.

Since he has a knee injury, he was not able to play.

Ne sachant pas comment nous excuser nous lui avons offert des fleurs.,

Not knowing how to apologize, we gave her some flowers.

Traversant la rue, elle a perdu son chapeau.

Crossing (As she crossed) the street, she lost her hat.

When an action precedes another one, avoir and être in the participe présent can be combined with a participe passé. Note that the past participle agrees with the subject of the sentence if the verb is conjugated with être.

ayant vu -  having seen

ayant compris -  having understood

ayant joué -  having played

ayant traverse -  having crossed

étant allé(e)(s)  - having gone

étant parti(e)(s)  - having left

nous étant promené(e)s -  having walked

nous étant retrouvé(e)s -  having met

Ayant accepté la défaite, les joueurs sont rentrés chez eux.

Having accepted the defeat, the players went home.

Étant partis très tôt, nous sommes arrivés les premiers.

Having left very early, we were the first to arrive.

Nous étant promenés toute la journée, nous étions fatigués.

Having walked all day, we were tired.

M’étant couchée à l’aube, j’ai fait la grasse matinée.

Having gone to bed at dawn, I slept late.

N’ayant pas dormi de la nuit, il était de mauvaise humeur.

Not having slept all night, he was in a bad mood.

The gerund

When the present participle is introduced by en, it is referred to as the gérondif (gerund). It is formed with en + the present participle. It describes the relationship between two actions.It can express simultaneity, manner, condition, or causality.

Il s’est foulé la cheville en jouant au foot.

He sprained his ankle while playing football.

Elle écoute de la musique en conduisant.

She listens to music while driving.

M. Vincent a gagné beaucoup d’argent en achetant ces toiles.

Mr. Vincent made a lot of money buying (when he bought) these paintings.

En renvoyant ce joueur, vous feriez une grosse erreur.

If you fired this player, you would make a big mistake.

When tout precedes the gerund, it underscores a tension, a contradiction between two actions. For example:

Tout en étant un bon joueur, il ne marquait jamais de but.

While being (Even though he was) a good player, he never scored a goal.

Tout en faisant semblant d’écouter le professeur, il jouait avec son iPod.

While pretending to listen to the teacher, he was playing with his iPod.

Tout en pleurant, il riait.While crying, he was laughing.

Tout en prétendant le contraire, elle voulait être élue.

While claiming otherwise, she wanted to be elected.