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Disregard SVP in the sign above. The imperative requires assieds-toi/asseois-toi! or asseyez-vous! But here, I ask about using infinitive as imperative, not the imperative itself.

Then why flip order of the infinitive and pronoun? Why vous asseoir? For consistency, why NOT asseoir vous?

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  • Bonne observation ! Related : french.stackexchange.com/a/30447/1893
    – livresque
    Apr 1, 2023 at 9:18
  • 3
    You are wrong to put an exclamation mark after "vous asseoir" like that. The whole point of using the infinitive instead of the imperative is to make it sound more like a request than a command. So definitely no exclamation mark!
    – TonyK
    Apr 2, 2023 at 1:24
  • Encore un manufacturier qui fait confiance au Gogol 2023 … proposez-lui Deepl
    – Personne
    Apr 5, 2023 at 19:00

4 Answers 4

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To add the excellent answer Toto gave, the reason that vous precedes the verb is that this is a verbe pronominal. Notice that on the conjugation of the verb that the verb is preceeded by the pronoun in all the modes except the imperative, where it follows the verb (typical of verbes pronominaux).

This raises an interesting question: why does the imperative "break the rule"? While I couldn't trace the origins of the actual rule, it would seem that in French we simply don't like starting the sentence with a direct object pronoun. In fact, notice that the pronoun reverts to before the verb as soon as we negate the clause :

Ne vous asseyez pas là !

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C'est une traduction erronée. Ce devrait être :

Veuillez vous assoir ici.

Voire, éventuellement :

Asseyez-vous ici.

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  • 6
    An ellipsis of Veuillez, possibly due to lack of space, might also explain the formulation: Veuillez s'il vous plait vous asseoir ici.
    – jlliagre
    Apr 1, 2023 at 12:23
  • @jlliagre D'accord ! ça vaut mieux que les commentaires, non ?
    – livresque
    Apr 2, 2023 at 6:46
  • @jlliagre: Ce n'est pas sûr, si on regarde le site qui vend cet autocollant on y lit « Eddie's - Veuillez vous asseoir ici - autocollant de distanciation sociale, 7,50 po de diamètre, vinyle, vert ». Par ailleurs ce pourrait être une mauvaise traduction de « Please, sit down here. »
    – Toto
    Apr 2, 2023 at 8:46
  • @Toto pourquoi une "traduction erronée" ? Apr 3, 2023 at 7:05
  • @Toto je suis d'accord que cela ne sonne pas tout à fait naturel, mais quelle justification grammaticale ? D'autre part l'infinitif est bien utilisé dans des prescriptions ou des recommandations : "s'asseoir ici", "jeter ses déchets ici", etc. Apr 3, 2023 at 7:09
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I suspect a lot of the uneasiness people are feeling at the wording in this sign isn't because of its syntax, but of the person chosen: infinitives of injunction typically are fairly impersonal and as such use the third person.

Switch the sign to "S'asseoir ici" and the awkwardness disappears.

As for the core of your question, object pronoun position in French is fixed (unlike say Spanish): they're always are placed before the verb unless that verb is a positive imperative (and sometimes a negative imperative too, in everyday speech)

Since the verb in the sign isn't in its imperative form, there's nothing surprising to the placement of its pronoun.

That the verb is an injunction is irrelevant: it is not verbal semantics that decide pronoun-verb or verb-pronoun order, but the formal characteristics of the verb

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  • You wrote "S'asseoir ici". But why not "Vous asseoir ici" ?
    – user32314
    Apr 5, 2023 at 0:35
  • @user1147844 because "vous asseoir ici" is explicitly addressed to the reader and that's just not how those infinitive work. "S'asseoir" is formally third person, but that's how impersonal verbs work in French: impersonal "Il faut s'asseoir" (it's necessary to sit) is very different from personal 3rd person "il faut qu'il s'asseye" (he needs to sit, he must sit). Apr 5, 2023 at 19:58
  • Another way to word it is that the imperative is used to give orders to a specific person (asseyez-vous ici = you, the person reading this, must sit here) while the infinitive gives directions to anyone that's interested in reading them (s'asseoir ici = here is the place where someone who wants to sit should do so). It's a much softer and indirect way to give orders, which is why the infinitive is preferred in instruction manuals and public signage. Recipes can go either way, depending on whether the writer wants to appear clinical (infinitive) or a chum showing you how to cook (imperative) Apr 5, 2023 at 20:02
  • "Vous asseoir ici" sounds weird because it's using this indirect way of showing the public what to do but directing it toward you personally Apr 5, 2023 at 20:05
  • I agree that vous asseoir ici is infelicitous. But is it grammatically correct?
    – user32314
    Apr 6, 2023 at 0:15
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It's due to pronomial or reflexive verbs. The sign is missing something grammatical for the word order. However wrong it may be in syntax, @jlliagre added in a comment a potential reason for the error:

"An ellipsis of Veuillez, possibly due to lack of space, might also explain the formulation:

Veuillez s'il vous plait vous asseoir ici."

That would make it grammatical. Wanting to keep SVP took up a lot of space. One word could make the difference but since it's a sign, paucity of space could lead to poverty of syntax. The register also differs between "asseyez-vous"/"assoyez-vous" and "veuillez vous assoir."

Since it's a pronominal verb, the reflexive pronoun is in effect a part of the infinitive.

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