3

The question is on the highlighted clause in this passage from Perrault's Barbe-Bleue.

Elle fut si pressée de sa curiosité, que sans considérer qu’il était malhonnête de quitter sa compagnie, elle y descendit par un petit escalier dérobé, et avec tant de précipitation, qu’elle pensa se rompre le cou deux ou trois fois. Étant arrivée à la porte du cabinet, elle s’y arrêta quelque temps, songeant à la défense que son mari lui avait faite, et considérant qu’il pourrait lui arriver malheur d’avoir été désobéissante ; mais la tentation était si forte qu’elle ne put la surmonter : elle prit donc la petite clef, et ouvrit en tremblant la porte du cabinet.

Question

  1. What is the subject of the clause? Is it il or malheur?

  2. Do we say, il pourrait lui arriver joie de... or elle pourrait lui arriver joie de...?

Background

For 1: In il pleut one might be more inclined to say il was the subject because there is no obvious conspicuous alternative although one could also say il pleut does not have a subject.

For 2: I am wondering whether the dummy placeholder has any obligation to track the gender of the real substantive to come.

2

You are correct in suspecting that there is no real subject. The construction "Il pourrait arriver [quelque chose]" is similar to "il pleut", "il y a", in that the subject "il" exists only to satisfy the grammatical need for a subject.

This dummy placeholder is always "il"; never feminine, never plural.

"Il pourrait [lui] arriver" can be followed by a number of objects, such as "malheur", "une bricole" (meaning something minor but annoying), "quelque chose {de bien, de désagréable, ...}", and even "une bonne chose" but "joie" and even "bonheur" seem very strange. I think the construction is very set and does not admit much variation. Any variation would depend on "quelque chose": "quelque chose de ..." or "quelque chose qui ..."

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.