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For example, I would like to inform my friend of a goal that I want to do today, and so I say, "My goal for today is to read about animals."

Using Google Translate and DeepL Translator yields the same result, « Mon objectif pour aujourd'hui est de lire sur les animaux ».

With that, I ask, why is de used here? At first I thought that it's part of être but when I checked WordReference, it didn't give me anything useful. Now I have a stinking feeling that the passive voice is involved here. And if so, are there any situations where you'd use à instead of de as well?

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  • stinking feeling??
    – Lambie
    Jan 31 at 15:03
  • Using those programs are shortcuts. They only work if you already know the language in question. They do not show the proper form: Mon but aujourd'hui, c'est de lire etc.. L'important, c'est de [faire je-ne-sais quoi]. Remember Louis XIV who said; L'état, c'est moi. And not "est moi".
    – Lambie
    Jan 31 at 15:11

1 Answer 1

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De plays a role similar to what to does before an English infinitive.

In French the infinitive is often introduced by the word de (il a décidé de partir). French grammars usually define this de as a preposition whereas it can easily be analyzed as the same infinitive marker as the one used in Germanic languages (to, att, zu) and must therefore be considered as an element of the infinitive rather than a preposition. Incorporating the grammatical category of the infinitive marker in French grammar is not only a theoretical necessity; it would also greatly help learners to understand better several seemingly complicated rules regarding infinitive constructions and pronominalization. Jean-Michel Kalmbach, Intégrer les marqueurs d’infinitif dans la grammaire française, 2008.

You don't really omit it:

Mon objectif pour aujourd'hui est lire sur les animaux.

If you really want to, you either insert a pause before est:

Mon objectif pour aujourd'hui est : lire sur les animaux.

but then, dropping est would be also usually done:

Mon objectif pour aujourd'hui : lire sur les animaux.

The sentence DeepL provided is not bad:

Mon objectif pour aujourd'hui est de lire sur les animaux.

You might also say:

Mon objectif pour aujourd'hui, c'est de lire sur les animaux.

With c'est, the de might be dropped:

Mon objectif pour aujourd'hui, c'est lire sur les animaux.

e.g.:

Mon truc, ce ne sont ni les livres, ni les rencontres, c'est lire sur Internet, dit Biscotte. La toile, ça me fait kiffer ! Françoise DORN, Graines de bonheur, 2014

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  • I see, I think it's starting to make sense now! In that case then, will it always be "de" that will be used to introduce an infinitive in this context, not "à"?
    – Xavier
    Jan 31 at 18:02
  • Yes, you can't use à here. It can't play the same role.
    – jlliagre
    Jan 31 at 19:14
  • So with that, could I also say this? De lire sur les animaux, c'est mon objectif pour aujourd'hui. rather than, À lire...?
    – Xavier
    Feb 1 at 11:13
  • Technically, that seems possible but it really doesn't sound idiomatic.
    – jlliagre
    Feb 1 at 11:35
  • 1
    Oh so it's the sixth sense on language then ;D. And yeah, À lire does sound does sound a little bit weird now that I've given it much thought. Anyway, are there some reading materials about "the de that acts like to before an infinitive?" I'd like to explore more about it.
    – Xavier
    Feb 6 at 2:21

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