Si je m’écoutais, je plongerais.
see zhmay-koo-tay, zhuh plaw-ZHRAY. Click below to hear this.*
If I listened to my heart, I would dive.
This is not the same as Just listen to yourself, will you? That’s what we say when we want another person to hear the import of his or her utterances, or the tone of voice. No, this is someone who already hears himself and chooses to ignore the voice he hears.
It’s another sentence from a novel: a coming-of-age story of sorts, told from a wide variety of points of view. At this moment, the shy, somewhat fearful teenage boy is speaking, and he is watching his friends swimming in the river. He longs to dive in, but is waiting for a girl, and he is trying to set the stage. He has decided that today will be his first real kiss.
Paul’s thoughts are in the present tense: the sun is shining, his friend is floating on his back, the girl is late. So why does this sentence begin in the imperfect tense?
There’s a rule for that! Paul is talking to himself about a hypothetical situation: If I did this, then I would do that. It’s actually the same in English; notice the sequence of tenses in the two languages, above. Past tense followed by conditional for an if-then statement about a hypothetical situation.
The rule even has a name: Les “si” n’aiment pas les “rai(s)”. If you want to know more about it, check the post I wrote about some time ago, here.
In the meantime, if you have a sunny river or lake to swim in, go for it! Summer is coming to a close.
*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file: