Just run into this one: 'Helene had come to notice working for the German Communist Party'.

I surmise the subject ('Helen') is here the object of noticing while being the subject of the gerund (incidentally I am not sure 'working' is a gerund in that case).

I understand the whole phrase is equivalent to: 'Helen had been noticed' —even better: 'had drawn attention upon herself'— 'because she was working for the German Communist Party.'

Do I get it right? And is this conspicuous grammatical construction correct?

Sources: none found.

  • Just out of curiosity, is ‘Helene’ by any chance Helene Weigel? – StoneyB on hiatus Sep 28 '14 at 12:54
  • No: the name was Helen Jansen, spouse to a hungarian. (Is 'to' correct, here?) – Brice C. Sep 29 '14 at 12:48

You’re pretty close on the sense of the sentence, but the idiom ‘come to notice’ has misled you.

Notice here is not a verb but a noun, and to is not an infinitive marker but a preposition. Come to notice might be more specifically phrased as came to the notice of the authorities or came to the notice of the intelligence services.

Come has the ‘inchoative’ sense it takes in become: it marks the beginning of an action or state. It has a passive rather than active feel—something which happened to Helene, not something which she effected—so you were closer on your first interpretation, ‘Helen had been noticed’.

Working is, as you suspect, not a gerund but a participle: a verb form acting as an adjective rather than a noun. It is not implied that her work for the DKP caused her to be noticed, merely that that is what she was doing when she was noticed—doubtless because that was where the authorities were looking.

The sentence might be paraphrased

The authorities first took notice of Helene when she was working for the German Communist Party.
Helene become an object of interest to the authorities when she was working for the German Communist Party.

  • — This a very precise and learned answer.Should you have any question of the kind in French which you feel you need help for, I will be pleased to return the favour. – Brice C. Sep 29 '14 at 12:53

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