The sequence of tenses when the main verb is in the present tense in French

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The sequence of tenses when the main verb is in the present tense

Rules about the sequence of tenses (la concordance des temps) apply to sentences containing two verbs. When the main verb is in the présent, the other verb (in the subordinate clause) goes by the following rules:

•  for an action happening before the main one, we use a past tense (generally the imparfait or the passé composé).
Je crois que Victor a été malade verbe 1 présent → verbe 2 au passé composé I think Victor was ill (= he is not ill any more)
Tu te rappelles quand on habitait à Paris ? présent → imparfait Do you remember when we used to live in Paris?
•  for an action happening at the same time as the main one, we use the présent.
Je me demande pourquoi Victor est malade. présent → présent I wonder why Victor is ill.
•  for an action happening after the main action we use the futur.
Je crois que Victor sera bientôt malade. présent → futur. I think Victor will soon be ill.
Je crois que Victor va bientôt être malade. présent → futur proche I think Victor is going to be ill soon.
Note: the sequence of tenses applies to sentences with a subordinate clause introduced by que. Depending on the context, it also applies to subordinate clauses introduced by qui, pourquoi, quand, où, combien, etc.
Tu peux me dire ce que tu as fait ? Can you tell me what you did?
Gérard nous demande pourquoi nous n’irons pas à la réunion. Gérard is asking us why we won’t go to the meeting.


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