enter image description here

This is from a book called Practice Makes Perfect Complete French Grammar from page 117 and here's its link : (https://archive.org/details/practice-makes-perfect-complete-french-grammar/page/n33)

I wonder why J'ai fait tremper les pruneaux is translated as I soaked the prunes and not as sth like : I'm having the prunes soaked, I'm causing the prunes to be soaked or I'm getting the prunes soaked instead, and the same of course applies for the other sentences. Is it just a mistake or am I missing sth about the causative in French? I checked an advanced resource : (https://www.lawlessfrench.com/grammar/faire-causative/) but still found nothing though.

1 Answer 1


J'ai fait tremper les pruneaux. doesn't mean you had someone doing it for you but that you had something doing it for you:

I put the prunes into water for them to be soaked.

Similarly, j'ai fait griller le pain means:

I put the bread in a toaster which toasted the bread.

The most natural translation of these sentences seems to be:

I soaked the prunes

I toasted the bread

Unless it would have been done by someone else, I don't think it would be idiomatic English to say:

I had the bread toasted (by the toaster).

I had the chicken roasted (by the oven).

while in French, it is usual.

We are probably less likely to say the following sentences, but they are fine too:

J'ai rôti le poulet.

J'ai grillé le pain.

Moreover, your suggestions do not match the French sentences tense. Both

I'm having the prunes soaked

I'm getting the prunes soaked

are taking place in the (continuous) present while "j'ai fait something" happened in the past and is done now.

  • 3
    I also understood that it was because the natural use of the verb is intransitive -- the something you're causing to griller is the bread itself. What do you think?
    – Luke Sawczak
    Jun 9, 2019 at 2:55
  • 4
    @Luke A good reason too indeed. With purely intransitive verbs, that's the only option: j'ai fait disparaître le lapin and not j'ai disparu le lapin ;-)
    – jlliagre
    Jun 9, 2019 at 7:34

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.