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This question is on the sentence as highlighted in this passage from chapter 7 of La porte étroite by André Gide.

     Le soir, entrant dans le salon, je m’étonnai de ne plus retrouver le piano à sa place accoutumée ; à mon exclamation désappointée :
      – Le piano est à regarnir, mon ami, répondit Alissa, et de sa voix la plus tranquille.
      – Je te l’ai pourtant répété, mon enfant, dit mon oncle sur un ton de reproche presque sévère : puisqu’il t’avait suffi jusqu’à présent, tu aurais pu attendre le départ de Jérôme pour l’expédier ; ta hâte nous prive d’un grand plaisir…
      – Mais, père, dit-elle en se détournant pour rougir, je t’assure que, ces derniers temps, il était devenu si creux que Jérôme lui-même n’aurait pu rien en tirer.

QUESTION

  1. If I should turn it back to direct speech (i.e. the probable thing 'my uncle' said to Alissa in the past) would that be the following?

    (A) puisqu’il t’a suffi jusqu’à présent, tu pourrais attendre le départ de Jérôme pour l’expédier

    (For a suffi, I am relying on the rule that passé composé or plus-que-parfait as spoken in the past becomes plus-que-parfait when indirectly reported.)

  2. If the uncle said to Alissa,

    (B) puisqu’il te suffit jusqu’à présent, tu pourrais attendre le départ de Jérôme pour l’expédier

    would that be reported as:

    (C) puisqu’il te suffisait jusqu’à présent, tu aurais pu attendre le départ de Jérôme pour l’expédier

  3. For this question, I am assuming that the answers to both 1 and 2 were yes. Why would the uncle say (A) instead of (B)?

  4. Can he have said (B)--i.e. without it being ungrammatical or awkward?

BACKGROUND

My question is about the idea that in French a duration that starts somewhere in the past and continues to the present (either there to terminate or to continue into the future) is expressed by the present tense. For example:

Je suis ici depuis deux jours.

That's what I have done, starting somewhere in the past and continuing to this very moment.

It would appear that the piano has done the same sort of thing as regards time. It has begun sufficing somewhere in the past and continued to the present moment (as of when 'my uncle' spoke to Alissa about it). Uncle moreover seems to expect that it would continue sufficing some time into the future.

So why a suffi instead of suffit?

I would say that Gide's original is behaving like an English sentence.

  • /"If I should turn it back to direct speech (i.e. the probable thing 'my uncle' said to Alissa in the past) would that be the following?"/ What do you mean "turn back"? It's already in direct speech. To switch it into reported speech, you have to get rid of the TU, second person plural. You of direct speech has to become he or she in reported speech. So, your entire question needs to be revised to reflect actual reported speech. – Lambie Feb 7 '17 at 15:35
  • Direct speech (as in the Gide novel quoted by you)=/puisqu’il t’a suffi jusqu’à présent, tu pourrais attendre le départ de Jérôme pour l’expédier/, becomes reported speech by starting with something like: L'oncle dit [historical present] que puisque le piano etc. – Lambie Feb 7 '17 at 15:39
  • @Lambie. There are two layers of reporting. The narrator is directly reporting the uncle's speech at some point after the sending of the piano--that's true, but I am not interested in it. Within that speech, the uncle indirectly reports his own words spoken before the sending of the piano--that is what I am interested in. Now it's true there is a colon there. So one may make the argument that there are two layers of direct reporting. But that would seem to go against avait suffi. It may come out either way. But I am satisfied with my own interpretation as have been the others. Thanks. – Catomic Feb 7 '17 at 15:48
  • To no one particular: After more thought, it now seems to me that the bit after the colon (i.e. ‘pisqu’il… l’expédier’) may be neither direct nor indirect reporting, but what the uncle now thinks. It's a form of thought that would not have been available in the past. (True, from this form we may infer that other form which was available in the past, for thinking and uttering; but that's not the same thing.)--If this doesn't make sense, please never mind. – Catomic Feb 7 '17 at 16:32
  • The sentence is a dialogue from the book. By using the term "reported speech", I simply do understand what you mean. There is no reporting of anything at all. There is what the uncle says. I think you need to ask the question some other way. – Lambie Feb 7 '17 at 16:38
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  1. A is good.

  2. B doesn't work with jusqu'à présent. But this works:

    puisqu’il te suffit, tu pourrais attendre le départ de Jérôme pour l’expédier

    Or maybe more precise:

    puisqu’il te suffit, tu aurais pu attendre le départ de Jérôme pour l’expédier

    Because in the original, I think the piano is already sent out: l'expédier was done in the past, iMHO, even if the piano is still suffisant.

    C probably works, but I believe Gide's original is more natural.

  3. I would have to think hard to figure out when to use Gide's original or C.

  4. To use the present tense in B, I believe you have to remove jusqu'à présent, or it feels somehow broken.

  • Frank, I edit the formatting and replaced the reference to "1" with "Gide's original sentence." Please see if it is still as you would have intended it. – Catomic Feb 7 '17 at 1:04
  • I can see that this was tricky. For instance you want to remove jusqu’à présent from B, but are ('probably') OK to leave it in C? / Also the piano is already sent out when the uncle is severely reproaching Alissa, but not when he at first suggested the idea of keeping it a little longer. So, in direct speech, the sent-out status cannot be favoring a suffi over suffit. It does that (avait suffi over suffisait) only when the remark is indirectly reported later. I.e., events subsequent to original speech can influence how we may want to report it. How complex and subtle! – Catomic Feb 7 '17 at 1:19
  • Yes, you can leave jusqu'à présent in C, since it's a past tense. Note that it's not only a personal preference that I want to remove that jusqu'à présent, but rather than the sentence includes an unpleasant "surprise factor" if you leave it and use the present tense. jusqu'à présent demands a past tense just before. Indeed, B retains the possibility that the piano is not sent out yet, whereas in C, it has been sent, and it continues to be suffisant... – Frank Feb 7 '17 at 1:41

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