15.6 Semantic differences


  15.6.1 Construction aprés avoir + participe passé and ayant / étant + participe passé

Both, the participe passé as well as participe présent can be used in a temporal clause, a conditional clause and in a relative clause. The difference is that the participe présent presents an action that happens at the same time as the main action, while the participe passé presents an action that happens before the main action.

  Examples
J' ai vu quelqu' un se dirigeant vers la porte.
    I saw somebody approaching the door.
  Arrivé chez moi, j' ai lu ta lettre.
    Having arrived at home I read your letter.

Now, we have also seen the forms with ayant / étant + participe passé, which actually also represent something happening before the main action.

  Examples
a) Ayant épargné assez d' argent, il pouvait s' acheter une nouvelle voiture.
    Having saved enough money, he could buy a new car.
  b) Après avoir épargné assez d' argent, il pouvait s' acheter une nouvelle voiture.
    After having saved enough money, he could buy a new car.

What now? Both express something happening before the main action (buying a car), where is here the difference? Option a) expresses the causal relation, option b) the temporal relation. Let's have another example to make things a bit more clear.

  Examples
aa) Ne l' ayant pas fait, il avait la conscience tranquille.
    Not having done it, he had a good conscience. (= Because he did not do it, he had a ...)
  bb) Après ne pas l' avoir fait, il avait la conscience tranquille.
    After not having done it, he had a good conscience.

Here, it becomes more clear that aa) describes the cause for the good conscience, bb) describes only the sequence of events. Here are some more examples to show the differences.

  Examples  
  Travaillant dur, il gagne beaucoup d' argent.
Working hard he earned a lot of money.
  Ayant travaillé dur, il gagne beaucoup d' argent maintenant.
  Working hard he earned a lot of money. (Because of his hard working he earned ...)
  Lisant le livre, il pouvait répondre à toutes les questions.
  Reading the book he could answer all the questions.
  Ayant lu le livre, il pouvait répondre à toutes les questions.
  Reading the book he could answer all the questions. (Because of reading the book ...)
  La nuit tombant vite en montagne, ils se sont dépêchés d' arriver.
  The night falling fast in the mountains they hurried to arrive. (Because of the night falling fast ...)
  La nuit étant tombée, ils se sont dépêchés d' arriver.
  The night having already fallen in the mountains they hurried to arrive.






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