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Le Blog: Lingual Links

Here's a reminder about remembering in French...

By angelaluke, Apr 18 2020 11:46AM

The French conversation via Zoom last week about remembering the good old times, le bon vieux temps, threw up lots of questions about the two verbs in French for 'to remember'.


If you'd like to say you remember having done something, you can do this with both verbs: je me souviens d'avoir visité le Musée d’Orsay' or 'je me rappelle d'avoir visité le Musée d’Orsay.'


You can also use 'se rappeler' or 'se souvenir' with the relative 'que'. An example would be, 'je me rappelle que nous avons visité le Musée d’Orsay' or 'je me souviens que nous avons visité le Musée d’Orsay'.


The grammatical difficulté comes when we want to use the pronoun 'it'.


'Se rappeler' takes a direct object - it's not followed by a preposition. So, for example, 'I remember the film' translates as 'je me rappelle le film', and 'I remember it' ie le film, would be 'je me le rappelle'.


However, because 'se souvenir' is followed by the preposition 'de', you can't say, 'je me souviens de le' ; you have to say 'je m'en souviens' because 'de' + it (le/la) transforms into 'en'. The beauty of saying, 'je m'en souviens', when talking about it (an inanimate object) is that no-one can check the accuracy of your usage of gender in French, as 'en' can refer to a masculine 'it', such as 'le film' or a feminine 'it', such as 'la visite'!


If, on the other hand, you're talking about remembering people, you'd use an emphatic pronoun such as 'lui', elle', 'eux' or 'elles' as these follow preposition. Therefore, 'I remember him' would be 'je me souviens de lui', and 'I remember her' would translate as 'je me souviens d'elle'. With se rappeler, you'd just use the object pronouns for 'him' and 'her'. 'Je me le rappelle' or 'je me la rappelle'.


The verb 'rappeler' can also be used without the reflexive pronoun 'se' and it's meaning is 'to remind' or 'to ring back'. Examples of these would be 'rappelle-moi de téléphoner à ma mère' (remind me to phone my mother) and 'je dois rappeler ma mère parce qu'elle n'était pas à la maison' (I must ring my mother back as she wasn't at home).


So, rappelez-vous que 'je m'en souviens' et 'je me le/la rappelle' veulent dire la même chose.


There are examples of the above grammatical constructions in our conversation last week 'Parler du bon vieux temps' which is also on Quizlet. Do comment if you have any questions or would like further clarification. A plus, Angela





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