2

Suppose someone says:

  • I have been in Paris (for) two days when I meet Tom; or
  • I have been working on the project for two years when I find the solution.

It might be voice-over narration in a movie using what is called the historical present.

For example: A dreamy voice at the start of a movie, belonging to a character who is in a coma, to whom everything is the present. He recounts to you the events leading to his accident, starting: "I have been in Paris two days when I meet Tom. At first I don't recognize him. He is with a woman. . ."; or "I have been working on the project for two years when I find the solution. Everyone is there in the lab to congratulate me. No one notices the [warning signs]. . ."

QUESTION

  1. Would this be the correct French for the historical present form of narration:

    • Je suis à Paris depuis deux jours lorsque je rencontre Tom.
    • Je travaille sur le projet depuis deux ans lorsque je trouve la solution.
  2. If I then wanted to turn it around to say, "I meet him after being two days in Paris," or "After working on the project for two years I find the solution" (still in the historical present), should I say:

    • Après avoir été à Paris depuis deux jours, je rencontre Tom.
    • Après avoir travaillé sur le projet depuis deux ans, je trouve la solution.

Please note that I am not asking for the best way to say these things. I am trying to resolve a grammatical issue for my owning understanding. I need a sentence that embeds an infinitive about a preceding time period into a main clause in historical present. Thank you.

BACKGROUND

I also asked this and this related question.


AFTER READING THE ANSWERS AND COMMENTS

This question is part of my trying to understand why one has to say:

Je suis ici depuis deux jours

to mean

I have been here (for) two days.

(Native French speakers may not see just how mystifying that is.)

Today I seem to have learned that they don't exactly mean the same thing.

Je suis ici depuis deux jours means, it would appear,

I am here, and this my-being-here is two days old so far, and I say nothing about when it might end.

In other words, the same suis that began two days ago is still on-going.

But I have been here two days means

I have completed a two-day segment of being here.

The segment ended. Yes, I may still be here on a new segment of time that met end-to-end with the old, but that's not what I'm talking about. I am talking about the old one that already ended.

It seems this critical difference is what makes Teleporting Goat not like

Je travaille sur le projet depuis deux ans lorsque je trouve la solution

because a solution naturally suggests the end of the project, but travaille suggests the same work as still on-going.

  • Are you sure your English sentence is correct? – Destal Jan 24 '17 at 12:02
  • @SimonDéchamps. I tried to respond to your thought with an edit to the question. Thank you. – Catomic Jan 24 '17 at 12:08
  • Honestly I don't understand you first sentence in English, I didn't know that form, I would have written "for two days" and would have used "met". This being said, your first French sentence is totally correct if you want someone talking in present tense about something that happened in the past because he wants to tell his story. – Destal Jan 24 '17 at 12:19
  • @SimonDéchamps. And the second French sentence? Is it correct too, ignoring whether it sounds good or bad? – Catomic Jan 24 '17 at 12:24
  • I don't know if it's correct or not, but what sounds strange is that "avoir été" sounds like you are not in Paris anymore, but "depuis" means you still are. "Après avoir été malade pendant deux jours, je me sens mieux" is correct but it means you are not sick anymore. – Destal Jan 24 '17 at 12:51
2

Present tense for narration is a little special there are a few quirks you should know.

1st question:

Je suis à Paris depuis deux jours lorsque je rencontre Tom.

That's correct. You meet Tom in Paris.

Je travaille sur le projet depuis deux ans lorsque je trouve la solution.

A bit weird, because finding the solution often implies you stop working on the project. Your second option is much better.

2nd question:

Après avoir été à Paris depuis deux jours, je rencontre Tom.

This one sounds a little weird. I'm not 100% sure it's not correct, but I wouldn't use it. I'd say the tenses are not consistent with what you mean. It's either :

Après avoir été à Paris pendant deux jours, je rencontre Tom à Londres

You're back from Paris. J'ai été translates well with "I went", it's over, you're back. Or:

Après avoir passé deux jours à Paris, je rencontre Tom

Probably in Paris. You could also mean in a different place, but with no indication we'll understand you met him in Paris.

Après avoir travaillé sur le projet depuis deux ans, je trouve la solution.

Perfectly good sentence. It doesn't mean you found the solution after you stopped working on your project, rather that the sum of two years of efforts lead you to finding the solution.


About your comment, "Je passe deux jours à Paris lorsque je rencontre Tom" means you're in the middle of spending two days in Paris when you meet him. You could be there for the weekend and meet him on Saturday night. Lorsque plays an important role here.

Kind of like when you say "Je mange", it means "I'm eating", so "Je passe deux jours à Paris" means "I'm (in the middle of) spending two days in Paris" (when you're telling a story, not when you say "Je mange tard le week-end". That's related to the values of the present tense (see here)


Bonus: (I figured you'd like some sample narration in present tense. If you have further questions, feel free to ask.)

Songeur, le chien rentre dans sa niche. Après avoir croisé précautionneusement ses pattes avant, il pose délicatement son menton dessus et se trouve bientôt plongé dans un abîme de réflexions. Il n’a pas aperçu le chat de toute la matinée. Au début, ça ne l’a pas gêné outre mesure, il se sentait même exceptionnellement guilleret, mais insensiblement un malaise l’a gagné. Il essaie de se rappeler si une absence aussi prolongée s’est déjà produite. Autour de la niche, les feuilles bruissent mais rien ne signale à son oreille fine la démarche d’un félin domestique. Il faudra voir en fin d’après-midi, quand le contenu de sa gamelle sera changé. Arrivé à ce point de ses réflexions, il s’endort.

(Source)

  • I'm glad we agree on almost every point. I'm just not sure "avoir été" necessarily means it's over, and it could be confusing because we often say "avoir été" instead of "être allé". But this point gives me headache. – Destal Jan 24 '17 at 14:41
  • Fantastic! I'll have to let this sink into my mind over a few days. I may return with questions. Thank you. – Catomic Jan 24 '17 at 14:50
  • 1
    @SimonDéchamps Yeah, me too. I can't tell for sure if it's correct or not. (But it sounds weird so I wouldn't say it anyway). But to me, using "après que" necessarily means the following action is over. If the action is "spending two days" it doesn't mean you can't spend a third, but if it's "being is Paris" you're probably not there anymore. By the way if you agree feel free to upvote :) – Teleporting Goat Jan 24 '17 at 14:50
  • "Je travaille sur le projet depuis deux ans lorsque je trouve la solution." sounds really good to me. It's just a style, all in the present tense. It could totally be written by a novelist, IMHO. – Frank Jan 24 '17 at 15:23
4

Après deux jours passés à Paris, je rencontre Tom.

Another more simple form:

Après deux jours à Paris, je rencontre Tom.

  • Thank you. I realize your sentences sound better. But I am trying to clarify a grammatical issue for my own understanding. I need an infinitive embedded in a present tense main clause. – Catomic Jan 24 '17 at 12:10
  • it seems difficult to embed infinitive form in present clause – sapienz Jan 24 '17 at 12:33
  • Thank you. Please see if the new example about a research project removes this particular difficulty. If it does, please see if the new sentences in both 1 and 2 are (grammatically) OK. – Catomic Jan 24 '17 at 13:33
  • @Catomic I don't see anything wrong with "Après avoir passé deux jours à Paris, je rencontre Tom". – Teleporting Goat Jan 24 '17 at 14:03
  • @TeleportingGoat. Thanks. And you'd also be OK with Je passe deux jours à Paris lorsque je rencontre Tom? And think they are equivalent? – Catomic Jan 24 '17 at 14:11
1

« Je suis ici depuis deux jours » may seem mystifying to English-speaking persons, as much as “I have been here (for) two days.” for francophones: just two approaches of the same idea, how interesting.

In fact, the present perfect is not perfect at all, that is to say the “action” of the verb is not yet terminated (non perfecta est): I'm still here. So the English-speaking locutor “stretches” the past tense up to the present, the action being still performed. In French, the présent or the imparfait (i.e.: non perfect, non definitely performed, not yet ended) is somewhat stretched into the past. Result is the same, technics are different, vive la diversité !

Now, nobody will say: « Je suis à Paris depuis deux jours lorsque je rencontre Tom. », except in some (rare?) cases of présent de narration. But are perfectly French: « J'habite à Paris depuis deux ans », or: « J'habitais en Île-de-France depuis deux ans lorsque je rencontrai Tom » (please, not: « rencontra » which is for il or elle, not je), or « J'étais à peine arrivé à Paris depuis deux jours que je rencontre Tom ».

Pas forcément évident, mais moins difficile que ça en a l'air … ;–)

0

I would place "lorsque" instead of "quand" in this sentence.

J'étais à Paris depuis deux jours lorsque je rencontra Tom

or

J'étais à Paris depuis deux jours lorsque j'ai rencontré Tom

  • I think it's clear that the OP wants to use present tense for narration. – Teleporting Goat Jan 24 '17 at 13:58
  • 1
    Je rencontra is not a form that exist in modern French conjugation. – Laure Jan 24 '17 at 14:48
-4

Both sentences in French sounds wrong to me. I'd rather say

J'étais à Paris depuis deux jours quand je rencontra Tom.

or

Après avoir été à Paris pendant deux jours, je rencontra Tom.

  • 7
    je rencontra Tom is wrong! – sapienz Jan 24 '17 at 12:11

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