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I discovered the following sentence in a book on French grammar. The sentence surprised me!

Elle regardle le bébé dormir.
She watches the baby sleep.

This sentence surprised me, because the object ("le bébé") itself looks like a subject, that takes a verb (as in "le bébé dormir") !

(The book says that verbs of perception can create these sentences; it says that the six most common verbs of perception are apercevoir, écouter, entendre, regarder, sentir, and voir).

The reason this sentence surprised me is that I had thought that object nouns couldn't themselves also take verbs. For example, I know that "Do you want me to speak French?" needs to be translated as if it was "Do you want that I speak French?" ("Est-ce que tu veux que je parle le français?").

Questions:
1. Is "Elle regarde le bébé parler le français?" a correct sentence?
2. How do I say "She watches me speak French"? (Is it "Elle regarde moi parler le français", or is "je" used instead of "moi"?)
3. Are there other examples of sentences in French where an object can take a verb?

  • Elle regarde le bébé parler le français is very dubious. I would expect Elle regarde / observe le bébé qui parle français or elle écoute le bébé parler français. – jlliagre Jul 6 '18 at 21:35
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Nice examples of a subordinate infinitive clause (proposition infinitive).

the object ("le bébé") itself looks like a subject, that takes a verb (as in "le bébé dormir") !

le bébé is indeed a subject ! It is that of the infinitive clause whose verb is dormir (which, like the name suggests, is in the infinitive mood). But then, the whole clause le bébé dormir is the object of regarde.

1 — yes, this is perfectly cromulent French. (edit : minus the question mark : Elle regarde le bébé parler le français.)

2 — Elle me regarde parler français. My guess is that me is used over je or moi because the subject of an infinitive clause was historically an accusative (in Latin), and me is the 'object' form of the first person pronoun - even though it is semantically a subject.

3 — If I understand your question right : since a clause can be an object, well yes - objects may very well comprise a verb !

On entend [les rames couper la vague]. (V. Hugo), infinitive clause

Je crois [qu'il est parti]. proposition complétive

There is also the infinitive group (groupe infinitif), which is distinct from an infinitive clause because it doesn't have its own subject (and therefore is not a clause).

Je regrette de l'avoir dit.

I realize this answer could probably be made clearer, but hopefully these articles can help :

I hope this helps!

  • 1
    It's pretty clear from pronominalisation and finite clause substitution that "le bébé" is the object of the first verb, and not a part of the subordinate clause: [Je regarde le bébé] [dormir] - [Je le regarde] [dormir] - [Je regarde le bébé] [qui dort] - [Je le regarde] [qui dort]. If the sub. clause was [le bébé dormir] you'd expect it to behave differently: [Je regarde] [le bébé dormir] - [Je regarde] [lui dormir] - [Je regarde] [que le bébé dort] - [Je regarde] [qu'il dort], which doesn't produce grammatical sentences – Eau qui dort Jul 6 '18 at 10:27

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