If I were referring to a enclosed moment in the past, can I use the latter construction? For example if I wanted to say: “It had only been three days since I started taking orders”, would I say: “Ça ne faisait que trois jours que j'avais commencé à prendre les commandes”?

I have never attempted the ça fait construction this way, so it's likely this is completely off base so please let me know of other options.


Your sentence is correct outside prendre les commandes which more often means "taking control" in French.

What you want to say can be written unambiguously:

Ça ne faisait que trois jours que j'avais commencé à prendre/accepter des commandes.

Ça fait becomes, with changing the tense, ça faisait, ça fera, ça ferait, ça aurait fait...

  • It depends on the context really. "Prendre les commandes" can really be understood as "Prendre les commandes (des clients)" – Laurent S. Oct 17 '18 at 13:27
  • @LaurentS. Correct, prendre les commandes is ambiguous, the reason why I replaced it by a non ambiguous phrase. – jlliagre Oct 17 '18 at 15:47

The only thing wrong with your translation is the rendering of "taking orders"; it's "recevoir des ordres". However, that's not the only possibility; in particular you can keep the word "since".

  • Trois jours seulement avaient passé depuis que j'avais commencé à recevoir des ordres.


There has been an oversight from my part; it has been caught by mcadorel (see the comments); the OP's translation is also a possibility.

  • It looks like 'taking orders' could mean both (1/ prendre des commandes and 2/ recevoir des ordres), or even 'prendre les ordres' (en religion). OP's translation sounds legit to me! – mcadorel Oct 17 '18 at 9:56
  • @mcadorel It's true for "1/" and "2/" and also for "3/" except that in French you do not say "prendre" but "entrer dans" (entrer dans les ordres). The problem is just a little word, "les"; if he would have had "des" instead, it would have been unmistakably the case that "taking orders" meant "accepting verbal or written demands for goods or services etc."; there would have been a rightful correspondence but it happens he used "les" and in French that makes for a meaningful phrase, but with a quite different meaning: "to get possession of the means of control"; how do you say that in English? – LPH Oct 17 '18 at 10:18
  • @mcadorel Note that two cases are included in my translation, "execute orders" and "accept demands for goods", that because I chose the word "order", which means "injunction to do something" as well as "a demand for goods or a service" (a somewhat quaint coincidence). With "commande" this is not possible, only the option "a demand for goods or a service" is possible. – LPH Oct 17 '18 at 10:33
  • Oh, right, prendre les commandes ≠ prendre des commandes. You nailed it! – mcadorel Oct 17 '18 at 12:30
  • @mcadorel I think there is been an oversight from my part, which makes you also altogether right! It 's a matter of interpretation apparently, which the context, when stated, makes clear: orders as meaning "some orders" (des ordres (tels que d'un supérieur hiérachique)) versus "orders" (zero article) (les commandes, les ordres (demandes de marchandise, etc.)); I'm sorry for overlooking this possibility. – LPH Oct 19 '18 at 16:49

Yes, "ça fait" can become "ça faisait" if you want to speak about the past.

The part "que j'avais commencé à prendre les commandes” sounds a little bit weird. Maybe use "ça ne faisait que trois jours que j'avais pris les commandes" because in french we understand that you started 3 days ago.

I just want to add one thing : "ça fait" and family ("ça fera", "ça faisait"..) are speaking language. Do not write it down. Instead you should use the 'full' word for "ça" wich is "cela". Like this sentence : "ça fait trois jours que je marche" becomes "cela fait trois jours que je marche". However it doesn't work everytime if you want to use "cela" instead of "ça". For instance, "ça va?" (How are you?) can't be "cela va?" because if you uppgrade the "ça" to "cela" you also have to upgrade the "va" to "va-t-il" and add a "Comment". So "ça va?" becomes "Comment cela va-t-il?"

  • 1
    "derivate" is not a proper term; that is because there is no reason to choose the present form as a root, it is merely a radical associated to a tense as any other of the three forms, and in fact those forms coexist; you might say, a bit jocularly though, "and family" or more seriously "and associated forms", which is not the technical term as I don't know that term, but which describes the principle correctly enough for a start. – LPH Oct 17 '18 at 15:31
  • I don't get you statement about ça fait and ça va. When you write down speaking language, there is no requirement to rephrase the sentence and thus misrepresent its formality level. You'll definitely find some ça fait and ça va in prominent French authors books. – jlliagre Oct 19 '18 at 23:09
  • "ça fait" and "ça va" can be used but are unformal. You can write them down, of course but it's unpleasant to read in an email. In a book you can read it because it's spoken language who is writen. eg : << pierre a dit "ça fait rien" >>, what is written is meant to be spoken. But it's very unlikely to read it in a prominent French authors book elsewhere than in a sentence. – user189111 Oct 30 '18 at 12:46

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