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Here's a sentence describing a tv show episode:

Chapelier s’étant lancé dans la fabrication d'un lance-Chapelier pour son usage exclusif, Alix et Lapin aident Coco à construire sa propre machine à voler.

"s'étant lancé" confuses me. The following are my two attempts to deduce the puzzle, but they both fail:

  • The first part of the sentence up until the comma ("Chapelier s’étant lancé dans la fabrication d'un lance-Chapelier pour son usage exclusif") can be removed, making me think that "s'étant lancé" acts like a present participle. (That is, the first part of a sentence sounds similar to a typical use of a present participle, such as the italicized parts of these sentences: "Having not done my homework last night, I felt helpless when writing the test today", or "Wanting to make my boss like me, I offered to get her a Starbucks coffee").

    But I would have guessed that "Chapelier s'étant lancé .." would instead be "Chapelier étant se lancer". Additionally, I notice that the sentence has "lancé" (a past participle?) instead of "lancer", which makes me question whether there is a present partciple here or not.

  • I noticed that, for the above point, in the typical uses of a present partciple that I was thinking of, there is no subject; that is, the word "Chapalier" would not be there. So then I wondered if "s'étant lancé" is some sort of compound past tense, similar to "Chapelier s'est lancé". But why would "est" be instead "étant"? I know that "s'est lancé" is in the passé composé, and that there are other more unusual compound past tense forms that might not use "est" (ie, the present tense conjugation of the auxillary verb être) but maybe instead "étais" (ie, the imperfect tense conjugation of être). But looking at the conjugtion table, "étant" isn't any conjugation of être: it's only a present participle! So why is the present partciple "étant" doing in between "se" and "lancé" !?

Questions:

  1. What is "s'étant lancé"? How is it formed? How is it used here?
  2. This website says that "s'étant lancé" is a "participe passé" ("past participle"?), but this website says that it is a "participe passé composé" ("compound past partciple"?) and it has a different word ("lancé(e)(s)") under the entry for "participe passé". Which website is correct?

Edit: Insights for my future self, and for any others reading this question :

  1. This is a use of the past participle to make clauses that I normally associate with the present participle (as I talked about in my first bullet point above) is indeed use of the past participle that I didn't know of before. [The typical use I associate with past participles, is using past participles as an adjective, eg "This burned toast is disgusting.", "Ce toast brûlé est dégoutant." .]

    For more information, I might wish to read Chapter 17 Section 5 ("Absolute participles and participle clauses") of "Advanced French Grammar" by Monique L'Huillier, and Section 10.2.3.1 ("The functions of past participle clauses > Verbal Use") in "The structure of Modern Standard French" by Maj-Britt Mosegaard Hansen.

    (Still, none of the examples of the above two sections of the books has a past participle with "étant" in it, so I still have more investigation to do about this).

  2. The second conjugation website said that the "participe passé composé" for "se lancer" is "s'étant lancé". One English translation for "partciple passé composé" is "perfect partciple". (I didn't know that this existed, before today). One website that briefly explains this is here. Websites that explain this more deeply are here and here, the second of which is wonderful because it has a section specifically talking about pronomial verbs.

  3. By carefully considering the "two parts of a compound conjugation" part of the section "Conjugations" of the last website in the above point, it seems that it might be non-sensical to ask "what is the past particple of the verb se lancer?". (Even though we often talk of "se lancer" as being a verb, maybe it is true that, strictly speaking, it is only "lancer" that is the verb. "se lancer" is a reflexive pronoun, plus a verb). In other words, "lancer" is a verb, and its past participle is "lancé", and maybe asking what the past participle of "se lancer" is non-sensical, because only verbs have past participles, and "se lancer" is not a verb, strictly speaking.

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I a) This form is the "participe passé composé" for the verb "lancer". As "lancer" is a verb that you conjugate with "avoir" it is formed with the "participe présent" of "avoir" and the "participe passé" of "lancer". For verbs conjugated with "être" the form starts with "étant". (You'll have to brush up on that point (conjugation of complex tenses).)

  • ayant vu, ayant parlé, ayant compris, ayant couru, … (most verbs)
  • étant arrivé, étant parvenu, étant monté, étant parti

b) Whereas the use of the "participe présent" indicates an action that perdures in the past, present, or future while an other action takes place in the same past, present, or future, the use of the "participe passé composé" indicates an action that does not take place in the same time but instead that took place before that time (whether in the past, present or future).

  • Travaillant avec plus d'ardeur, Jean avait de meilleurs résultats. (in the past)
  • Travaillant avec plus d'ardeur, Jean a de meilleurs résultats. (in the present)
  • Les enfants, travaillant plus librement, auront de meilleurs résultats. (in the future)

The name "présent" is rather the expression of the simultaneity of two actions (or states).

From LBU § 925, p. 1152

Le participe passé composé s'emploie pour marquer l'antériorité par rapport à un autre fait. (paraphrase of what can be read in the second part of the first sentence in "b)" above)

  • Ayant fini mes exercices, je dois commencer à apprendre une leçon de géographie. (in the present)
  • Ayant fini son repas, il se mit au lit et dormit longtemps. (in the past)
  • Ayant fini ses études, il ne lui restait qu'à chercher un travail. (in the past)
  • Ayant bien étudié les base de son sujet, il pourra alors s'intéresser à des choses plus compliquées. (in the future)

c) The action "to engage in the manufacture of a Lance-Chapelier" precedes the second action (to construct a flying machine).

II Go by the terminology on the second site; it is the terminology that can be found in LBU, which is a dependable source.

PARTICIPE
Présent                 Passé                            Passé composé

se lançant             masc.sg.: lancé             s'étant lancé
                             masc.pl.: lancés
                             fém.sg.: lancée
                             fém.pl.: lancées

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  • aha, your three example sentences of the present partciple being used in the past, present, and future, juxtaposed by your paragraph about the participe passé composé, clarifies much of my confusion. Also helpful was that your examples used lancer (instead of se lancer). I see that the verb being pronomial (eg se lancer) in the original sentence that I was confused about isn't very important, other than the auxillary verb is être for creating the participe passé composé.
    – silph
    Dec 8 '20 at 12:42
  • Finally, i see now that the first conjugation website saying that the "Participe Passé" of se lancer is "s'etant lancé" was confusing me; it should have instead said that the "Participe Passé Composé" of se lancer is "s'étant lancé"; I think i undertand now that the "Participe Passé" of "se lancer" is "se lancé" (although i'm still not 100% clear on this, nor clear on how "se lancé" might be used, if it even exists at all)
    – silph
    Dec 8 '20 at 12:42
  • Update: I see that according to your LBU source, the Participe Passé of "se lancer" is lancé / lancés / lancée / lancées . I guess my confusion now is why is there no se in any of these participes passés? And, how is the participe passé of se lancer used (given that it looks like it's the same as the partcipe passé of lancer)?
    – silph
    Dec 8 '20 at 12:50
  • @silph The "participe passé" of a pronominal verb is not used by itself, as is the "participe présent", so you can't find "se" (s') because it precedes the auxiliary (s'est lancé, s'étaient lancées, se sont lancé, etc.). Therefore, do not get confused, the pronominal form is important.
    – LPH
    Dec 8 '20 at 13:09
  • @silph My preceding comment should answer your second one: you can't find (you never used) "se lancé".
    – LPH
    Dec 8 '20 at 13:11
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Yes, the structure is a bit complex as it merges several French grammatical concepts.

  1. First step, the structure uses the verb "lancer" in its reflexiv form, i.e. "se lancer". For instance the present tense would give:
  • je me lance (I throw myself, or more precisely there: I engage myself into)
  • tu te lances
  • il se lance
  • nous nous lançons
  • vous vous lancez
  • ils se lancent
  1. Second step, this verb is used at the "passé composé", i.e. the most usual past tense in the French language. As this is a reflexiv verb, it uses the "être" auxiliary verb. Thus the "passé composé" is:
  • je me suis lancé
  • tu t'es lancé
  • il s'est lancé
  • nous nous sommes lancés
  • vous vous êtes lancés
  • ils se sont lancés
  1. Third step, the first part of the sentence is here to give an beforehand explanation for the second part of the sentence. So the easiest way to convey that would be to say: "Comme Chapelier s'est lancé dans [...], Alix et Lapin [...]" : "Since Chapelier has thrown himself in the creation of [...], Alix et Lapin [...]". There is a strong link cause/consequence in the structure.

  2. Fourth step, instead of using the usual structure "Comme (put the cause here), (put the consequence here)", the sentence is using an equivalent but much more academic structure with a participle: "(put the cause here using a participle), (put the consequence here)".

So the full declination of this sentence structure, for instance, would be:

  • M'étant lancé, ...
  • T'étant lancé, ...
  • S'étant lancé, ...
  • Nous étant lancés, ...
  • Vous étant lancés, ...
  • S'étant lancés, ...

Please note how the subject is implicit in the above structures, only the self-reflexiv verb remains.

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  • 1
    thanks for trying to break it down. can you make the following clarifications to help me understand? 1) in step 2, can you give a translation of "comme Chapelier ... " to English? does it mean something like "since Chapelier ... " or "because Chapelier ..."? 2) i'm confused with step 2, which uses the se + auxillary of avoir + past partciple of lancer, but step 3 uses past partciple of "se lancer" ( which is "s'étant lancé") . why do you use the past partciple of lancer in step 2, but the past partciple of se lancer in step three?
    – silph
    Dec 8 '20 at 12:24
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    3) is step three only possible for pronomial verbs (ie, because non pronomial verbs do not have étant in their past partciple)?
    – silph
    Dec 8 '20 at 12:24
  • Sure ! 1) The structure "Comme Chapelier..." in English would be "As Chapelier engaged into the construction..." or even "Because Chapelier engaged into the construction..." or even "Since Chapelier engaged into the construction...". There is definitely the idea of cause -> consequence here. Dec 8 '20 at 15:46
  • 2) and 3) I heavily edited my answer to reflex your comment, please have a look and tell me if that is better. Dec 8 '20 at 15:58
  • 1
    The edits does make the system more clear, yes
    – silph
    Dec 8 '20 at 16:04
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Se lancer is a pronominal verb that means, in the se lancer dans idiom that means "to enter some activity", "to engage in sth", "to go into sth":

Chapelier having entered the lance-Chapelier business for its exclusive use, Alix and Lapin...

Here, the verb tense is the participe passé (past participle) which is composite for pronominal verbs, i.e. uses an auxiliary verb. Both sites are thus correct. The second one just shows both the masculine, feminine and plural agreement forms.

Être is the auxiliary verb used for pronominal verbs while a non pronominal lancer would have used avoir in its compound past participle form, e.g.:

Ayant lancé la fabrication d'un lance-Chapelier...

Having launched the manufacturing of a...

The participe présent doesn't use an auxiliary so the sentence would be:

Chapelier se lançant dans la fabrication d'un lance-Chapelier pour son usage exclusif, Alix et Lapin vont aider Coco à construire sa propre machine à voler.

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  • 1) i am surprised to see that "étant" (that is, the present participle of être) is literally part of a past participle. is it true that all pronomial verbs have "étant" in their past participle form? 2) can " s'étant lancé" (or any other past participle of a pronomial verb, that also has "étant" in it), be used as an adjective, the same way that the past participle "brûlé" can be used as an adjective, as in "toast brûlé"?
    – silph
    Dec 8 '20 at 11:08
  • 1. Yes être is the auxiliary verb used for pronominal verbs while a non pronominal lancer would have used avoir in its compound past participle form, e.g.: Ayant lancé la fabrication d'un lance-Chapelier... 2. Not sure if that reply to your question but you can say: la lumière s'étant éteinte... or les toasts s'étant consumés....
    – jlliagre
    Dec 8 '20 at 11:46
  • i think what i'm confused about is i don't know enough about "compound past partciple forms" (i never heard of the participe passé composé until today!). i probably need to understand this, to understand your answer. if a non-compound P.P form ("lancé") and a compound P.P. exists ("ayant lancé") for lancer, does a non-compound pronomial P.P. form exist for se lancer (for example, maybe "se lancé")? if so, then how could "se lancé" be used?
    – silph
    Dec 8 '20 at 12:28
  • if so, then how could "se lancé" be used? Could I say, for example, "Je me suis lancé mes devoirs"?
    – silph
    Dec 8 '20 at 12:35
  • Je me suis lancé mes devoirs is grammatically correct but is odd to say the least (I threw homework to myself ??). Here the idiom is se lancer dans so that gives Je me suis lancé dans mes devoirs, i.e. j'ai commencé à faire mes devoirs.
    – jlliagre
    Dec 8 '20 at 12:49

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