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French grammar - Present participles as adverbal gerunds

Present participles as adverbal gerunds

We previously saw present participles used at adjectives. Present participles can also be used to form gerunds which can be used modify verbs just like adverbs.

-- The idea is that we can modify 'doing this' by adding '(while or by) doing something else'. Here '(while or by) doing something else' modifies 'doing this' in much the same way that an adverb modifies a verb.

In French the (adverbal) gerund is formed by combining the preposition en with a verb's present participle.

The gerund can be used to modify the main verb in two ways:

'While' or 'upon' - to indicate that something is happening ('while') or happened ('upon') at the same time or immediately before.

'By' or 'because' - to indicate why or how something happens.

To emphasize the simultaneity, or to contrast the two actions, we can add the adverb tout in front of the gerundive clause.

Examples:
En rentrant, j'ai rencontré Paul.
While on my way home I met Paul.

en rentrant - 'while on the way home' (simultaneous action)

En prenant le métro, il lisait le journal.
While taking the subway, he read the newspaper.

en prenant - 'while taking' (simultaneous action)

En écoutant leur prof, les élèves ont compris.
By listening to their teacher, the students understood.

en écoutant - 'while listening' (simultaneous action)

En entrant dans l'abri de jardin, j'ai vu une énorme araignée noire.
Upon entering the garden shed I saw a huge black spider.

en entrant - 'upon entering' (simultaneous action)

Il pleurait en racontant l'histoire.
He wept as he told the story.

en racontant - 'while telling' (simultaneous action)

Il parlait en mangeant sa glace.
He was talking while eating is ice cream.

en mangeant - 'while eating' (simultaneous action)

Il est tombé en dansant.
He fell while dancing.

en racontant - 'while telling' (simultaneous action)

Elle pleure tout en souriant.
She cries even while smiling.

en souriant - 'while smiling' (simultaneous action)

tout added for emphasis

Il s'est coupé avec le couteau en cuisinant.
He cut himself with the knife while cooking.

en cuisinant - 'while cooking' (simultaneous action)

Il gagne beaucoup en travaillant dur.
He earns a lot by working hard.

en travaillant - 'by working' (means)

Il commence le spectacle en chantant.
He starts the show by singing.

en chantant - 'by singing' (means)

Elle est arrivée en courant.
She came (by) running.

en courant - 'by running' (means)

En me réveillant à 6h, j'ai fini avant midi.
By waking up at 6 a.m., I finished before noon.

en se réveillant - 'by waking up' (means)

C'est en pratiquant régulièrement que vous le faites bien.
It is by practicing regularly that you do it well.

en pratiquant - 'by practicing' (means)

note the use of 'c'est' - the gerund is in fact a noun

En m'habillant vite, je gagne 10 minutes chaque matin.
By getting dressed quickly, I save 10 minutes every morning.

en s'habillant - 'by get dressed' (means)

En vous levant tôt, vous ne serez jamais en retard.
By getting up early you will never be late.

en se levant - 'by getting up' (means)

Tout en écoutant le professeur, je faisais mes devoirs.
All while listening to the teacher, I was doing my homework.

en écoutant - 'while listening' (simultaneous action)

Tout en faisant un régime, je n'ai pas perdu de poids.
Even while dieting, I did not lose weight.

en faisant - 'by doing' (means)

tout added for emphasis