In expressing the following idea in French, I got stuck on the correct word order. I waver back and forth between:

  1. Passé, Présent, then Futur:

Peu m’importe ce qu'ils ont fait, font ou feront. La seule chose qui compte, ce sont les résultats.

  1. {or}: Présent, Passé, then Futur:

Peu m’importe ce qu'ils font, ont fait ou feront. ...

Incidentally, {Présent, Passé, then Futur} is how it works in German. Much as I'm tempted to go with the same order and plump for the 2nd construction, I somehow prefer the flow of the 1st option.

Es ist mir einerlei, woran sie arbeiten, gearbeitet haben oder noch arbeiten werden. ...

  • 2
    I'd go for the first option as well but I can see both are returned in nearly equal numbers by a google search.
    – None
    Apr 28, 2017 at 16:37
  • 1
    FWIW, the apostle John writing in Koine Greek preferred option 2, and it didn't strike the translators as odd enough to warrant rearranging. ;) Yet in spontaneous conversation I'd probably choose option 1 in both English and French... Anyhow, I have nothing definite enough to contribute for an answer.
    – Luke Sawczak
    Apr 28, 2017 at 17:02
  • For euphony, I personally like option 2 better, simply because font seems left alone with its present declination that adds a grand total of zero syllables to the verb. It seems easier to make sense of its quick appearance when it immediately follows the pronoun than when it stands between its longer neighbours. Even a longer verb gives me the same feeling («ce qu'ils apportent, ont apporté ou apporteront» sounds better to me than «ce qu'ils ont apporté, apportent ou apporteront»). The past/present/future sequence seems to make sense too, just not as easy for me to understand quickly. Apr 28, 2017 at 17:37
  • 2
    To add to the previous, I could also say that the present/past/future sequence also makes what's currently observable the first item, and centred on this very moment, it moves back, then forward from it. It could make it more graspable in the sense that it clearly states from the get go that we're talking about something happening right now, not some past event for which you learn only after that is still ongoing. I'm sure both sides can come up with good arguments, though, so it might be difficult to get a "right" answer. Apr 28, 2017 at 17:46
  • This shouldn't really rate an answer, as it has nothing to do with French but all to do with your tastes in writing.. I'd probably go with your first option myself, as there's something more satisfactory with sticking to chronological order. But sure other people would have different opinions. Opinions, not rules.
    – user13512
    Apr 28, 2017 at 18:15

1 Answer 1


I find the order (past, present, future) more natural, but I think any order is ok. Choosing a different order puts a slightly different emphasis: if chronological order is not used, then the first time period is the focus of the sentence.

Peu importe ce qu'ils ont fait, font ou feront. → treats all time periods equally, which emphasizes the untimeliness of the claim.
Peu importe ce qu'ils font, ont fait ou feront. → this is about what they habitually do; they started this habit in the past and will continue in the future but the sentence is centered on the present.
Peu importe ce qu'ils feront, ou font ou ont fait. → the sentence is about the future, and anecdotically what they did before that future moment is also unimportant.
Peu importe ce qu'ils ont fait, ou feront ou font. → the sentence is about the past, and anecdotically what they did after that past moment is also unimportant.

(The other two orders are also possible, but sound a bit weirder.)

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