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I just read the following sentence

Il rentre bient­ot.

Google translate says it means “He returned soon”. But I do not understand how is the conjugation done. I saw the rules as given here, but I can't figure it out.

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

Google Translate is (as often!) wrong. The sentence means:

He comes back soon. / He returns soon.

The verb rentrer is conjugated at the indicatif présent.

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The French verb is indeed in the present, but in this case, I think Google translate is even more wrong than you make it out to be. IMO, the better translation would be in a different construction: "He'll be coming home soon." – Circeus Aug 22 '13 at 14:17

In French as in English, the present tense may have the meaning of a near future.

  • The proximity depends on the context.

"Il rentre bientôt" suggests, a priori, minutes or hours.

"Je vais au restaurant ce soir" could be said in the morning, and of course I am not already going there.

But : "L'armistice est signé, les soldats rentrent bientôt" suggests some weeks.

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