In conversation with my colleague while riding on a Shinkansen (TGV), I said the following:

Regarder mon téléphone dans le train rien qu’une minute, et je ne manquerai pas de souffrir du mal des transports. Alors que toi, tu peux en faire autant, voire même lire, sans en faire les frais ! Comme quoi certains y sont sensibles, d'autres nettement moins...

In English, it is quite common to use the sentence construction "Do {infinitive} X, and Y will happen" to express the idea of "If you do X, Y will happen". I wasn't sure if I could do the same in French, placing the infinitive form of the verb "regarder" at the beginning and having it followed by "et".

And what about if the subject in the first part of this construction differs from the one in the second?

Mes yeux fixés sur mon smartphone dans le train rien qu’une minute, et je ne manquerai ...

4 Answers 4


You can use the same construction in French. But it requires an imperative.

Regarde ton téléphone dans le train rien qu’une minute, et tu ne manqueras pas de souffrir du mal des transports.

Like in English, “et” can be omitted but usually isn't (the construction is hard enough to parse as it is).

This doesn't work in your context. You can use the second person imperative either to refer to the person you're speaking to, or sometimes to refer to people in general. It doesn't work if you don't want the statement to apply to the person you're talking to. There's no imperative first person.

You can use a subjunctive to work around the lack of imperative. It's rather literary, and it doesn't sound natural at all with this sentence.

Que je regarde ton téléphone dans le train rien qu’une minute, et je ne manquerai pas de souffrir du mal des transports.

The way I naturally express what you wanted to say is

Il suffit que je regarde mon téléphone une minute, et je souffre du mal des transports.   (or: … et je me sens mal dans les transports.)

This is everyday spoken French. A more formal way of saying it, which would be more natural in writing, is

Il suffit que je regarde mon téléphone une minute pour que je commence à souffrir du mal des transports.

In all of these constructions, the subject of the second clause doesn't have to be the same as the first.

Parle trop fort au téléphone dans le train, et les autres passagers vont te demander de te taire.
Il suffit que mes yeux soient fixés sur mon smartphone dans le train rien qu’une minute, et je ne manquerai pas de souffrir du mal des transports.

That last sentence isn't very natural, though. In French, when referring to a body part, it's common to say “j'ai le/la … ” (or “tu as le/la …”, “il/elle a le/la …”, etc.) rather than making the body part the subject of the sentence.

Il suffit que j'aie les yeux fixés sur mon smartphone dans le train rien qu’une minute, et je ne manquerai pas de souffrir du mal des transports.

  • Gilles, the English is imperative, so the OP didn't realize that.
    – Lambie
    Aug 7, 2017 at 21:38
  • 2
    Thanks. The one with "il suffit" was exactly what I was looking for! I wanted to express my sentence without a "si/quand" clause, but couldn't come up with one, so I had to resort to this first-person sloppy variant of the "(You) Do {infinitive/imperative} that, and X will happen as a consequence" construction to get my message across in the middle of the conversation. Aug 8, 2017 at 1:19

It works in French as well, using the imperative mood.

Regarde ton téléphone rien qu'une minute, et tu souffriras du mal des transports.

Even though you can sometimes use the second person like this to refer to yourself, in this case it wouldn't sound quite right. I think the reason is that it cannot be generalized.

  • Hi. This sentence is about "je", not "tu/vous", so can I only construct the sentence with the usual "si" clause like "si/quand je regarde ..., je ne manquerai pas ..."? Aug 6, 2017 at 15:26
  • When a general tu doesn't work, I can't see any other way than using a si clause. And by the way I can't see how this would be different in English. Aug 6, 2017 at 16:43
  • @Alone-zee What do you mean by "this sentence is about je"? Can you give an example in English of "Do X, and ..." involving a first person subject? Aug 7, 2017 at 9:34
  • @guillaume31 I think Alone-zee means sentences like "Sit down to watch one episode and I end up spending the evening in front of the screen!" But I think that isn't really one of those general dictums ("Drink a little too much and the room will start to spin") but an elided subject: "I sit down to watch... and I end up..." So I wonder how best to express the latter in French?
    – Luke Sawczak
    Aug 7, 2017 at 20:36
  • 1
    @guillaume31 Depuis quelques années je n'en suis plus trop certain ! But in any case, in my view replicating grammar isn't the aim of translation anyway. I think transferring a semantically questionable construction is the hard thing. And the sentence doesn't seem too ambiguous to me in that regard.
    – Luke Sawczak
    Aug 8, 2017 at 13:39

En général, vous pouvez toujours simplement remplacer "Do X" par l'impératif à la seconde personne du singulier ou du pluriel, selon le sens.

Mais dans ce cas précis, en anglais, vous utilisez la seconde personne, alors que vous parlez de vous-même à quelqu'un d'autre, ce qui est incorrect en français (alors qu'il est possible de se parler soi-même en disant "tu" : dans ce cas, on se parle comme à un autre). Il faudrait donc remplacer par l'impératif présent à la première personne du singulier, mais comme le français ne le permet pas plus que l'anglais, vous devez la remplacer par "Que + subjonctif" : "Que je regarde mon téléphone...".

Il faut noter que cette construction relève tout de même d'une langue plus soutenue que l'impératif employé simplement, mais elle s'accorde parfaitement avec le beau français que vous parlez.

  • 1
    L'impératif n'existe pas en anglais non plus à la prémière: Do x, es un imperatif. Le do est troisième personne dans la phrase en anglais.
    – Lambie
    Aug 7, 2017 at 21:40
  • Isn't it second person, while first and third person imperatives are formed with let? Aug 8, 2017 at 7:10
  • I hope my edit is answering your comments.
    – Distic
    Aug 8, 2017 at 9:47

French also use an equivalent idiom to express implication (if X, then Y) :

if X then Y

equals to

not X or Y

In french, you can translate an implication using both idioms. The first has been quoted by Stéphane, the second is :

Ne regarde pas ton portable ou tu souffriras du mal des transports.

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