Would it be grammatically correct to write

Le jour où elle quitte Paris Amélie veut vraiment maîtriser l'anglais.

instead of

Le jour où elle quittera Paris Amélie veut vraiment maîtriser l'anglais.

In my mother tongue this way of expressing the future works perfectly fine. However, I'm not sure this is the case in french...

Merci d'avance!

  • 1
    According to the Merriam Webster, To want has six different meanings as a transitive verb, including to lack, like, desire, require, suffer from the lack, wish, demand... Which one should we expect here?
    – jlliagre
    Jan 2, 2020 at 15:25
  • 1
    @jlliagre Perhaps the best (if not the only) way to clarify the issue would be for the OP to provide the exact Swedish version referred to at the end of the question with his/her English translation thereof. (One way that I see to capture in English what OP might be after [with both "leave/quitte" and "wants/veut" in the present tense] would be: "[On/By] The day she leaves Paris, Amelie wants/wishes/hopes to have mastered English.")
    – Papa Poule
    Jan 2, 2020 at 16:02
  • As I read the English, the wanting is in the present, so I'm not totally sure this is really a case of speaking about the future - her (present) wish is to have mastered English by the time she leaves Paris. If that's future than so is e.g. when I grow up I want to be an astronaut.
    – JD2000
    Jan 5, 2020 at 17:25

3 Answers 3


You can use the present in both clauses:

Le jour où elle quitte Paris, Amélie veut vraiment maîtriser l'anglais.

The sentence is however not idiomatic. Vouloir doesn't translate to want here. That should be something like:

Le jour où elle quitte Paris, Amélie doit vraiment maîtriser l'anglais.


Le jour où elle quitte Paris, il faut qu'Amélie maîtrise vraiment l'anglais.

Moreover, your reference sentence:

Le jour où elle quittera Paris, Amélie veut vraiment maîtriser l'anglais.

doesn't work. That should be:

Le jour où elle quittera Paris, Amélie devra vraiment maîtriser l'anglais.

Note that in French, you certainly can use the present instead of the future without breaking hypothetical "cross-language generic logical rules":

Demain, on rase gratis.

  • I think you misunderstood the meaning... Amélie will not leave Paris to learn English somewhere else, she will learn English in order to leave Paris. Your first exemple doesn't mean that.
    – Laurent S.
    Jan 1, 2020 at 17:46
  • @LaurentS. The OP sentence is unclear indeed. I guess the OP should clarify what that sentence exactly means.
    – jlliagre
    Jan 1, 2020 at 22:40
  • @LaurentS. Yes, you're right! What I'm trying to express is that Amélie wants to be fluent in english before she leaves Paris (that is "the days the leaves Paris"). As I wrote earlier this is a perfectly correct way of expressing oneself in my mother tongue (although somewhat poetic), but I understand that this might not be the case in french. Jan 2, 2020 at 12:49
  • Okay, I finally understand the meaning. Answer updated.
    – jlliagre
    Jan 2, 2020 at 13:19
  • Still I think the meaning of your answers is different from the OP's intention. Knowing English is not something Emilie is somehow "forced" to do, this is something she wants to do.
    – Laurent S.
    Jan 2, 2020 at 13:32

I'm not sure whether this is grammatical or not (the answer from jlliagre seems to indicate it is) but I (native - Belgium) understand the meaning of the sentence as it would be understood in your language I guess.

I can think of several examples I find idiomatic using the same pattern:

Le jour où je suis riche, je m'achète un penthouse à New-York.

Le jour ou j'ai des enfants, j'arrête de fumer.

Le jour où tu me rembourses toutes tes dettes, je te reparle volontiers.

That said, to convey the same meaning using the same words and look more idiomatic, I would rather say

Emilie veut maîtriser l'anglais pour le jour où elle quitte Paris


Emilie veut maîtriser l'anglais avant de quitter Paris

This should remove the misunderstanding that comes with your initial formulation that you can witness in the other answers


This sentence is not correct in any language on the count of logic, as the adverbial, whether "le jour où elle quitte Paris" or "le jour où elle quittera Paris" situates the action "vouloir" in the future. For instance, using actions of graded abstraction the impossibility is felt more clearly.

  • Quand je serai en Chine je mange beaucoup de bon riz blanc. (Only "je mangerai")
  • Quand je serai en Chine je pense à un bon interprète. (Only "je penserai")
  • Quand je serai en Chine je veux un chapeau chinois. (Only "je voudrai" and even so a difficult prediction; one would rather say "Je crois que quand je serai en Chine je voudrai un chapeau chinois.".)

You can replace "Quand je serai en Chine" by "Le jour où je serai en Chine" and even by "Le jour où je suis en Chine", that makes no difference.

The action of "vouloir", considered rationally, can't be triggered by the action of going away; if the language has not been mastered there is no time left to justify a wish concerning a possible acquisition of mastery; there is a context only for regrets, or résolutions and wishes but not about the present inadequacy.

  • Le jour où elle quittera Paris Amélie regrettera de n'avoir pas maitrisé l'anglais.

If the action of leaving has been planned, that of wanting to obtain a mastery of the English language is logically anterior to the time when leaving takes place and can't be referred to as being associated with it. A different formulation is then needed, a formulation that rests on the basis of cause and effect relationship, more pertinent and realistic than the simple relashionship of mere coincidence in time.

  • En prévision du jour où elle quitte/quittera Paris, Amélie veut maitriser l'anglais.

A slight modification makes of the adverbial of time (when the action takes place) an adverbial of cause (What for ? So as to do what is necessary for a given happening).

Of course, one can choose the time in the future as a simple limit that Amélie imposes upon herself and one understands implicitly that the mastery of English is aimed at making her sojourn in foreign lands more profitable. However, another construction is needed.

  • Amélie veut vraiment avoir maîtrisé l'anglais avant le jour où elle quittera Paris.
  • By starting your answer with "This sentence is not correct in any language ..." are you calling into question OP's claim that "In [his/her] mother tongue this way of expressing the future works perfectly fine"?
    – Papa Poule
    Dec 31, 2019 at 17:43
  • @PapaPoule It's implicit. Unless the present tense should be taking on the value of the future, and that is not conceivable in a general context (otherwise we don't know any more what's what), this is inescapable: the adverbial situates the time of the action in the future ("on the day that will happen the leaving", that can't be but the future), but then the action of the verb or more precisely here the state that the verb confers is asserted as belonging to the present, the time when the enunciation is made. What do you think?
    – LPH
    Dec 31, 2019 at 18:45
  • 2
    I guess my point was that your use of "not correct in any language" implies that you are familiar enough with all languages (and with the logic behind all of them and their acceptable constructions) to be able to make such an unqualified claim. (as for me, I'm not even familiar enough with my own native language to see why the following would not be correct: "[On] the day I die, I want/hope to be at peace with my [-self/creator]. .... or even "[On] the day I leave New York [for Paris], I hope/want to be fluent in French.")
    – Papa Poule
    Dec 31, 2019 at 19:39
  • @PapaPoule No, my claim is made solely on the grounds that logical principles are the same for all and so when a language departs from one of those principles it introduces an anomalie in the thinking process, which must be the same for all (as far as fundamentals); the claim is made in total ignorance of the particular conventions adopted in the language. The pattern of your examples is exactly that of the example in the question and I make the same objection to them. To make things short: "The day I die, I hope…"="The day I die, I am not in bed…".
    – LPH
    Dec 31, 2019 at 20:20
  • 1
    Thank you for your detailed answer LPH, I appreciate it! I'm not going to question your reasoning about the sentence not being correct on the count of logic - you might very well be right about this! What I do know, however, is that the sentence, as I pointed out before, is considered perfectly correct in my mother tongue, swedish (although the construction might be seen as somewhat poetic). Jan 2, 2020 at 12:58

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.