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(a) Il a refusé de venir avec nous, disant que le billet est trop cher.

(b) Il a refusé de venir avec nous en disant que le billet est trop cher.

Are both sentences correct? (I believe they both are.) If so, is there any difference between the two?

Is putting disant at the beginning also correct?

(c) Disant que le billet est trop cher, il a refusé de venir avec nous.

Whereas putting en disant at the beginning should be wrong?

(d) En disant que le billet est trop cher, il a refusé de venir avec nous.

  • I feel like you want to use them a little too much. Gerunds are direct equivalents to "-ing" verbs in English, but it's not used in the same proportions at all. "-ing" verbs are everywhere in English, but gerunds are pretty rare in spoken language. We'll often use something else, another construction. – Teleporting Goat Jan 23 '17 at 9:31
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Yes, I think all those sentences are basically correct, but I would add that they sound uncommon to me. You would probably hear (or read) instead:

Il a refusé de venir avec nous, sous prétexte que le billet est trop cher.

sous prétexte implies that the person said something, as an excuse, so it should be pretty close to the original en disant.

Also - I find en disant in your examples a bit ambiguous, in the sense that I can oscillate between a meaning like "while he was saying" and "having said". Or maybe that he said the ticket was too expensive, and in the same conversation, refused to come. Actually, this meaning might be stronger in (d), which is a bit of a drift from (a) and (b).

Other examples that sound good to me:

Venant d'Australie, il n'avait jamais vu la Tour Eiffel.

En venant d'Australie, il a fait un stop en Afrique du Sud (note the difference - this is not a reason).

Etant ivre, il a eu un accident de voiture.

En agissant sans autorisation, il a fait une erreur.

I'm noticing I have a tendency to use forms like your (c) and (d), so that the reason comes first.

  • Do you think (d) is also correct? – user11550 Jan 23 '17 at 4:25
  • Yes - but it goes back to the same ambiguity - it's like those 3D stairs you can see one way or the other. I can oscillate between the meaning of "while he was saying", and the meaning of "as an excuse he said...". – Frank Jan 23 '17 at 4:27
  • @user11550 By "correct" do you mean "is it grammatical" or "should I say that" ? Because the answers are receptively yes and no. I can't say it's grammatically incorrect, but that's not how anyone would say it. Gerunds (en + present participle) indicates simultaneous action (for example, when you'd use "while" in English), but you can't say two things at the same time (that the ticket is too expensive and refuse to come with them.) – Teleporting Goat Jan 23 '17 at 9:47
  • @TeleportingGoat - IMHO, (d) could be said, but the meaning slides, it becomes simultaneity rather than reason - and yes, we would probably not say that usually. – Frank Jan 23 '17 at 14:52
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Here's a quick recap about gerunds and present participles :

Gerund:

The subject of the two verbs has to be the same. It is always invariable. It an express:

  • Simultaneity: "I'm eating and watching television"

    Je mange en regardant la télévision.

  • Condition: "If he arrives early, he will be able to assist the concert"

    En arrivant tôt il pourra assister au concert.

  • Cause: Answers "Why ?"

    Elle s'est blessée en grimpant sur une chaise.

  • Mean: Answers "How ?"

    En feuilletant mes livres j'ai trouvé d'anciennes photos.

  • Time: Answers "When ?"

    En sortant de chez moi j'ai rencontré Juliette.

  • Opposition, with "tout":

    Tout en comprenant votre problème, je ne peux pas vous aider.

Present participle:

The two subjects can be different.

  • When the participle can be replaced with "qui + verb":

    La personne arrivant est ma fille = la personne qui arrive est ma fille.

  • In formal language, it can be used to express cause:

    Étant malade, elle n'a pu aller au travail.
    Disant que le billet est trop cher, il a refusé de venir avec nous.

Sources: ugly but informative, a little less ugly, plus bonus point with English expressions that do not translate with a gerund or present participle.

The second links also give information about verbal adjectives. There's pretty rare, but look like present participle and are often confused with them, it's good to know the difference.

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(a) Il a refusé de venir avec nous, disant que le billet est trop cher.

There is a slight sequence of tenses issue here, that would be better that way:

Il a refusé de venir avec nous, disant que le billet était trop cher.

Otherwise, the sentence sounds good.


(b) Il a refusé de venir avec nous en disant que le billet est trop cher.

Same sequence of tense issue but less idiomatic than the previous one:

Il a refusé de venir avec nous en disant que le billet était trop cher.

He refused to join you not while telling the ticket was too expensive, but as a consequence of the ticket expensive price. A couple of sentences without this issue might be:

Il s'est plaint en disant que le billet était trop cher.

Il a refusé de venir avec nous car il trouvait que le billet était trop cher.


Is putting disant at the beginning also correct?

(c) Disant que le billet est trop cher, il a refusé de venir avec nous.

This is correct (with the imperfect):

Disant que le billet était trop cher, il a refusé de venir avec nous.


Whereas putting en disant at the beginning should be wrong?

(d) En disant que le billet est trop cher, il a refusé de venir avec nous.

Same issue that (b).

  • for the tenses, the form "disant que le billet était trop cher" does sound better, but if I'm wondering if keeping the present makes the cause continuously existing: "disant que le billet est trop cher" feels like "the ticket was and still is too expensive", whereas "était" leaves the door open to the ticket no longer being too expensive, to me. – Frank Jan 23 '17 at 14:54
  • @Frank Present would be possible (but still not mandatory) in a sentence like Il est parti vers l'ouest en disant que la Terre est ronde but a ticket price is hardly a "timeless truth". On the other hand, breaking the sequence of times is common in colloquial French. No big deal and no risk of being misunderstood here. – jlliagre Jan 23 '17 at 19:54
  • Agreed - no problem. But in any case, the past tense sounds better in the examples above. – Frank Jan 23 '17 at 19:57

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