For example, if I want to stay "Running is very tiresome.", would I say:

Courir est très ennuyeux.


Courant est très ennuyeux.

Why? Is there a specific rule that allows you to discern when to use the regular verb instead of the gerund? Or do you just have to memorize when you're supposed to use each one through repitition?

Also, if I wanted to say "This plan provides many benefits while minimizing loss of assets.", would I say:

Ce plan offre de nombreux avantages tout en minimiser la perte d'actifs.


Ce plan offre de nombreux avantages tout en minimisant la perte d'actifs.

Note that in this second example, "minimiser" is being used as an adjective, whereas "courir" was a noun in the first example. Would that change the choice between gerund and the regular verb either?

3 Answers 3


Easy trick that work most of the times : If you can replace your -ing verb with "to [verb]", you'll use an infinitive.

Note that there are other possibilities than the two you mention. Here's how it works :

Running is very timesome.

To run is very tiresome

(It's not the best way to say it but you get it)

-> Courir est ennuyeux

He likes to drink while he is running

He likes to drink while he is to run

It doesn't work, you can't translate with an infinitive. In that case you need a gerund :

Il aime boire en courant

But more generally, you typically use a gerund when you're using "while" or "when".

The other cases I can think of is "running" being translated to "en train de courir", or when it's an adjective or a noun it's also different ("a running session",...)


It all depends on the sentence's construction. Here in your first sentence

Courir est très ennuyeux

you could rephrase it as

Il est très ennuyeux de courir

So the use of the use of the verbal form is just because you switch words in the sentence.

In your second sentence, the correct form is the second one, and it all comes from the en meaning that you have to use the gerund form.

Ce plan offre de nombreux avantages tout en minimisant la perte d'actifs.

Edit : as @MorganFR said, watch out for some sentences where 'en' can have a different meaning

J'ai trop de bonbons, j'aimerais en donner.

Double check if you can change the 'en' with another word, like here

J'ai trop de bonbons, j'aimerais donner [ces bonbons].

  • Watch out for sentences like "j'ai trop de pertes d'actifs, j'aimerais en minimiser certaines", where "en" is a reference to "les pertes".
    – MorganFR
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 14:06
  • So when using "en" to mean "while", verbs acting as nouns are in gerund form (e.g: courant). But in all other cases where "en" is not present, verbs acting as nouns remain in their regular verb form (e.g: courir). Would you say that is correct for the most part?
    – orangebull
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 20:28
  • Yeah, at the moment I can't think of a counter-example so I think it covers most of cases, but stay careful as French is sometimes quite tricky Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 8:00

The simplest way is to go by your Dutch or German intuition and to forget all about English. Kidding aside (unless you happen to speak Dutch), you would always say courir est très ennuyeux, because the other construction just isn't a thing.

As an aside, do you mean tiresome as in boring and tedious (which I'm quite sure is the primary meaning of ennuyeux) or tiresome as in physically wearying (probably fatiguant)? With that, on to the question:

  • You use the gérondif to express an action that takes place at the same time as the principal verb. (I am working while listening to a symphony = Je travaille en écoutant une symphonie.) In this usage the subject of the gérondif has to be the same as that of the principal verb.
  • It can be used adverbially[1] as a complément circonstantiel (CC) when preceded by en:
    • simultaneity. In this usage the CC is often preceded by tout, as in "Ce plan offre de nombreux avantages tout en minimisant la perte d'actifs."
    • cause
    • manner
    • hypothesis
    • concession
  • periphrastic aller + gérondif (without en)
    • Son mal va s'aggravant (= continue de s'aggraver).

Source: Anne Struve-Debeaux, Maîtriser la Grammaire française, 2010, 3.III.2, p. 217.

Also see: http://french.about.com/od/grammar/a/presentparticiple.htm

[1] While minimizing loss of assets is an adverbial clause. Just picking a tiny nit. ;)

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