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On avait déjà l’habitude de ne pas trop s’étendre sur son salaire auprès de ses amis. Voilà que dire ce sur quoi on travaille peut être compromettant. Bientôt, on ne dévoilera même plus le nom de son employeur.

Of the various "voilà" constructions that I'm familiar with, I can't nail the accurate usage of this one: "(et) voilà que ...":

  1. Does it always have the meaning "and now / at present ..." in relation to what has (just) happened in the (immediate) past which has been described in a previous sentence/clause? In this specific example, I assume it is connected with "déjà".

  2. Does it invariably express mild annoyance on the part of the speaker?

  3. Given its fundamental meaning "and now ...", do you need to consistently use the present tense around "voilà que ...", even if you are describing actions that have just taken place in the immediate past?

e.g.: Je mets un pied dans mon bain et voilà que le téléphone sonne.

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  1. Not always, it can convey the meaning of "(and) suddenly", especially when telling a story:

    Le chien trottinait tranquillement à côté de moi et voilà qu'il s'arrêta subitement, les oreilles et la queue dressées, en grognant légèrement.

  2. No. In your sentence, "(et) voilà que" is tightly bound to "déjà" (which, BTW, is often used colloquially as "Déjà que ..." in spoken French). This is "déjà" here that introduces that expression of annoyance and disapproval, and "voilà que" just adds to it.

    Usually "... déjà ... et voilà que ..." is used to emphasize that what we are saying is just surprising, not necessarily unpleasant. The first part with "déjà" is supposed to introduce something unusual/unexpected and "voilà que" something even more unusual/unexpected:

    Déjà, elle avait survécu (*) à trois accidents de voiture, et voilà qu'elle chute de dix mètres et qu'elle se relève sans une égratignure !

    (*) Or: "Elle avait déjà survécu ... et voilà qu'elle ...", or even: "Déjà qu'elle avait ..., voilà qu'elle ..." (without "et")

  3. No. That's just that, in spoken French, when you tell a past story, you often use the present tense so as to make things more vivid. You will find plenty of sentences in the past on Wikisource for example. I gave you one in 1., below are another three:

    Et voici qu’il se trouvait tout à coup échappé au tumulte et perdu sur ce golfe sombre, dont le morne silence et la paix immobile ajoutaient une épreuve nouvelle au supplice de l’effort physique.

    Nostromo by Joseph Conrad

    "(et) voici que" and "(et) voilà que" are exact synonyms. In the sentence above "Et voici que ... tout à coup" means "And then ... suddenly".

    Et voilà qu'il est arrivé à pas de loup derrière elle, un beau jour, dans l'église, et qu'il lui a dit à l'oreille : j'y serai.

    La Toile et le toc by Thomas Wolfe

    In the sentence above "et voilà que" expresses unexpectedness, mainly because of "un beau jour".

    Ses enfants étaient déjà suffisamment désaxés. Et voilà qu'il mettait le quatrième en route.

    Né un 16 Avril by Virginie Salvé

    This last example with "déjà ... et voilà" clearly expresses incredulity and disapproval, not annoyance.

  • Thank you. What you think of the combination of "déjà" and "et ensuite": "Déjà, il avait survécu à trois accidents de voiture, et ensuite il chute de dix mètres et se relève sans une égratignure !" – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Aug 17 '17 at 19:48
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    Well, that conveys roughly the same meaning. But "voilà" brings a kind of conclusion. You may end your story with "et ensuite", some do it and that would be understood, but without the proper pronunciation, you run the risk that your audience waits for something else to come. With "et ensuite", there is also a close proximity in time between the two events. – xhienne Aug 17 '17 at 20:06
  • Hi. Regarding your first example with "chien", how does the following variant compare? "Le chien trottinait tranquillement à côté de moi et le voilà qui s'arrête subitement ..." – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Aug 18 '17 at 4:03
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    @Alone-zee Your sentence is perfectly correct and both have the exact same meaning. Yours is more spoken French, and that explains why the second part is in the present tense (a past tense would probably be correct but sounds unnatural to my ears). – xhienne Aug 18 '17 at 8:52
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  1. Yes, "et voilà que" always does have the meaning "and now", "and then", as it links a succession of events.

  2. It often expresses mild annoyance/irritation, because following clause is often in a negative tone.

  3. Yes, we consistently use the present tense after "voilà que...", for the reason you pointed out.

Also see: "La concordance des temps".

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