I was just looking up the verb meaning to hatch and found that apparently it's the highly defective éclore. I'm not surprised it's defective since clore is as well, but I am unsure what to use instead. There are other more common words in modern usage that have replaced clore, like fermer, but what do you use instead of éclore? Or is it still used much?

Upon further consideration though, I suppose as human beings we only ever really say "it is hatching" or "they are hatching" - the two forms that survive for the verb in the present tense. And in a children's story with a duck for a narrator they might say "I hatched" but then the passé composé tense is perfectly non-defective for éclore so that's no problem either.

I suppose the problem only arises if, let's say in a science fiction novel, an alien species were explaining to humans their biological process and were to say "We hatch after 27 days." How would that be said?

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    We have an unwritten law that all egg-laying species are forbidden to speak, write, sing, chirp or whatever, in French. Should aliens invade, we just make it written law. Problem solved. Commented May 12 at 9:15
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    Pour répondre à votre dernière question : « Nous éclosons après 27 jours. », selon Usito et Larousse.
    – gdupras
    Commented May 12 at 11:14

1 Answer 1


Not only is éclore very commonly used in French, but it seems to have more meanings than to hatch in English. Namely, it conveys an existence start/new appearance for some event, feeling, or biological element not related to oviparous animals. I literally titled one of my poems Eclosion.

As for ideas to use this intricate verb:

  • The duck in a children's story would e.g. say the following:

Je suis né dans une prairie verte. Mon œuf a éclos à la fin du printemps.

Indeed, children's books are usually told in present tense, so you wouldn't need the non-existent ones.

  • As for the science-fiction example (past tense this time for the intricate side, although your setting would call more for a present-tense dialogue) :

Cette espèce était particulière. Après conception, chacun de ses futurs représentants passait par une période d'incubation. Il était éclos après 27 jours.

You can always twist your sentences to avoid using the "ghost tenses". With practice, you will realize the latter are actually not required most of the time, hence their absence (but sometimes I admit it is annoying).

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