Let's say you are telling a story using past narration. Is it common to use the historical present in order to make an event more vivid?

An example might be,

Malheureusement, le vol était complet. J'ai demandé tous les gens à la porte pour leur billet. Finalement, un fil me donne son billet gratuitement.

In this example, the last sentence uses the present tense, even though it is narrating an event in the past. Is this a common technique in French?

1 Answer 1


Yes, the historical present can be used that way in French too.

I tried to rephrase the last sentences but cannot make sense about fil (thread/wire?).

J'ai demandé à tous les gens présents à la porte d'embarquement s'ils pouvaient me procurer un billet. Finalement, un ??? m'offre son billet gratuitement.

Note that donner gratuitement is avoided being a pleonasm, but offrir gratuitement is not.

  • I meant to say "boy" (garçon?) He was an adolescent of maybe 16 or 17 years. I would actually be interested to know what word you would use to describe an adolescent male of this age.
    – ktm5124
    Commented Oct 29, 2017 at 8:09
  • 1
    Ha, you meant fils. You can use un jeune homme or un garçon.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Oct 29, 2017 at 8:12
  • Would fils be the wrong word? Is that reserved for a child?
    – ktm5124
    Commented Oct 29, 2017 at 8:13
  • Yes fils would be very odd here.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Oct 29, 2017 at 8:48
  • 1
    @ktm5124 "Fils" only means "son", and can't be used without a relation to a parent (as opposed to "fille" that means both "girl" and "daughter") Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 16:10

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