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Here are two short fragments from Disney Cinderella which contain sentences, whose structure is rather obscure:

(1) Elle (poussiére) retombe d'abord sur les souris, qui se changent en quatre superbes chevaux, puis sur la citrouille, qui se transforme en carrosse, et enfin sur le cheval, qui devient un élégant cocher. Quant à Pataud, le chien, le voici transformé en laquais.

The second sentence in the fragment seems to lack the finite verb form. Transformé looks like participe passe, but where is the auxiliary? Or shouldn't there be one in this case?

(2) Elle arrête les fuyards d'un coup de baguette magique. "Voyons... la formule magique à présent", s'exclame la fée.

The highlighted sentence in the second fragment seems to lack a finite verb as well.

Can anyone shed some light on the structure of these sentences?

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  • Well, the second sentence is clear now. But what would be the full version of the first sentence in French. Il a voici transformé .....? In this case why do we see LE in the original?
    – Val
    Jun 10, 2023 at 21:57
  • A translation of the first sentence may be "Meanwhile, here is Pataud the dog changed to a lackey". For the second sentence, similar structures without a verb are also used in spoken language, e.g. Okay, well, time to go.
    – Graffito
    Jun 10, 2023 at 23:56
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    SVP don't answer in comments @Frank and Graffito, just write an answer. You have good ones. Comments are intended for clarification of the question and aren't searchable or durable information.
    – livresque
    Jun 11, 2023 at 1:14
  • @livresque the comments were more of remarks: "there are verbless sentences in English too" than complete answers... People will typically comment to point out a false assumption in the question, nothing wrong with that. Jun 12, 2023 at 6:58
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    It's difficult to translate the first sentence into English without a verb. But maybe: "Lo and behold, the dog Pataud, changed into a footman." Jun 12, 2023 at 14:44

3 Answers 3

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Don't expect French to follow English rules, if any.

A sentence doesn't require a conjugated verb in either language but these sentences are more common in French. They are called phrases nominales or phrases averbales.

The first one is clearly of this kind even while there is definitely a hidden verb in it, le voici (etymologically: see it there).

The second sentence is not because it contains the verb voyons.

Now, let's see... the magic formula.

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@Frank a répondu dans les commentaires :

These sentences don't have explicit, conjugated verbs. First one: "As for Pataud, the dog, (he is) thereby transformed into a servant" - doesn't work too well in English, le voici seems to be operative in French. Second one: "Let's see... and now, the magic formula" - that works in English too, no verb either.

Le voici is what makes that sentence work. If you want a verb, I think you have to do: quant à Pataud, voici qu'il est transformé en laquais.

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  • Merci, livresque!
    – Frank
    Jun 11, 2023 at 3:02
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I Quant à Pataud, le chien, le voici transformé en laquais.

There is no finite verb because use is made in the sentence of what is called in French a "présentatif"; there are two sorts of "présentatif", those that include a verb as part of the expression they constitute and those that do not.

  1. contains a verb
  • c'est, ce sont, il y a, c'était, il y avait, il y a eu, etc.

a/ introduces a noun phrase

C'est un arbuste, mais ça c'est une herbe. — Ce sont des lignes droites. — Il y a des oiseaux dans le ciel.

  1. contains no verb
  • Voilà, voici

a/ introduce a noun phrase (if this NP is a pronoun it must precede "voilà" and "voici")

Voilà Jeannot ! — Le voilà. (If you don't want to use the name "Jeannot" you can replace it with the pronoun "le", but it must precede "voilà") — Voilà la maison de Jeannot sur la droite. — Voici le montant à payer, c'est 30 francs. — Ah, vous voilà ! — Te voilà enfin, c'est pas trop tôt… — Nous voilà.

b/ introduce a past participle and its subject in the order "V-S" (the subject is not a pronoun, a pronoun has to precede the "présentatif").

Voilà fini le travail de maçonnerie. — (not wanting to name explicitly what has been finished) Le voilà fini.

In the OP "le" is "Pataud, le chien". Since the name of the dog has just been mentioned in what precedes, a pronoun is used to refer to it.

c/ introduce a conjunctive subordinate clause headed by "que" (used very little in spoken French, literary); "voilà que", "voici que"

Voilà que le ciel se couvre. — Mais voici que le cornet à piston dans l'orchestre manquait une note. (this last example is taken from the literature)

d/ enter into the constructions "Voilà < NP (no pronoun) > qui", "le/la/les/… voilà qui", "voici < subject, no pronoun > qui", "le/la/les/… voici qui; "qui" is a relative pronoun heading a subordinate clause; the antecedent is the NP.

Voilà le facteur qui repasse. — Le voilà qui revient des courses. — La voici qui se met à tricoter.

e/ introduce a past participle clause or a present participle clause;

Voilà le travail terminé. — La voilà partie au théâtre. — Les voilà faisant des cercles dans le ciel. — Le voici ! C'est l'édition que vous cherchez, un livre rare.

f/ introduce the construction "noun phrase - prepositional phrase"

Voilà les enseignants en grève de nouveau. — Le voilà en rage. — Les voilà de retour. — Voici une citation de plus.

II "Voyons... la formule magique à présent"

This is merely text that is being quoted as it has been uttered, that is, as sentence fragments. It could be translated by "Now… to the magic formula".

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  • I would like to thank everybody for your help! I had searched high and low for an answer which would satisfy me before posting my question here. All in vain. Therefore, I would like you to know that your time and generosity are highly appreciated.
    – Val
    Jun 11, 2023 at 9:52
  • @Val Any time …
    – LPH
    Jun 11, 2023 at 11:40

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