We believe that it would be a great disservice to translation were we summarily to range it among the arts — perhaps as the 8th art.” Then fuck you.

Naïve: “We are probably justified to assume that, with a better understanding of the rules governing the transfer from one language to another, we would arrive at an ever-increasing number of unique solutions. If we had a quantitative criterion for measuring the depth of exploration of a text, we might even be able to give percentages for the cases which still escape full identity.”

The experience of correcting translation papers for competitive examinations should convince anyone that, in general, success comes with methodical approaches and methods are learnt from practitioners with experience in an often thankless profession who know that being bilingual is not enough to embark on this career.”


Translation in education can serve both for language acquisition, where it is variously frowned upon or praised, and for confirmation of knowledge acquisition. Translation into the foreign language, also called prose composition or thème, allows checking whether learners have assimilated the words and expressions of the foreign language and translation out of the foreign language, also called version, can show that learners are capable of grasping and expressing the sense and the nuances of a foreign text.”

(ii) transmission of an understood content

Translation can be given a third role. A thoughtful comparison of two languages allows a more effective identification of the characteristics and the behaviour of each. In this respect it is not the sense of an expression that matters but the way a language chooses to present it.” “French does not feel the need to add the directional indication represented by <north>. Intuitive in concrete situations, French allows the reader a greater freedom to reconstitute the contextual environment. Given his point of departure, Vienna or Munich for example, the traveller in question cannot help but going north.”

This book is intended for people who have a sound knowledge of both contemporary French and English. Its purpose is not to explain details of grammar or vocabulary but to examine how the constituent parts of a system function when they render ideas expressed in the other language.”

With experience translators can develop automatic reflexes which make it unnecessary to consider the detailed meaning of a text. Such skills are, however, only developed with regular professional practice. Nor are we referring here to computational linguistics which is concerned with automatic translation, a topic we shall discuss further.” “interest in the automation of the translation process is not unimportant and cannot be ignored by translators. We have sometimes found ourselves faced with a difficult text after a long and tiring day. In such cases a <mechanical> application of translation procedures would permit us to obtain a first draft, which would then only need re-reading to correct the inevitable rigidity of such a method.”

We are thinking, for example, of the translation of ‘école maternelle’ by ‘Motherly School’, which could have been avoided if account had been taken of the fact that in English ‘motherly’ is a purely affective word, whereas ‘maternelle’ can be both intellectual and affective.”


When, in a given context, a word has an exact counterpart in another language, there is practically only one signified for two signifiers. For example: ‘knife’ and ‘couteau’ in the context of: ‘couteau de table : table knife’.”

English bread has neither the same appearance nor the same importance as food as French bread.”

bread the pain of hunger le pain de brigitte bardot baguette the bagatelle tel quel


to repeat one of Darmesteter’s examples, ‘vaisseau’ stresses the form, ‘bâtiment’ the structure and ‘navire’ the floating capacity of the object named.” I’m not fully aware of those nuancés…

It is quite normal to forget the etymology of words and it is even inevitable and necessary so that a word can identify completely with the things it represents.”

équipe de dépannage : wrecking crew (gangue ou bando, galera)

Le berger garde ses moutons.

Le chef a préparé un gigot de mouton.

Langue corresponds to our traditional notions of the grammar and the lexicon; parole lives in the written or spoken stylistic manifestations which characterise every utterance [afirmação; sentença].”

langue parole

sense meaning

it is a fact of the French language that there is a form called ‘l’imparfait du subjonctif’. It is no longer in general use, and since it is no longer obligatory it has become an option. Today this form is considered obsolete.”

the distinction between servitude and option is important”

There is an example of overtranslation in the following passage from a book about the French Resistance movement to the German occupation of France during the Second World War in which the author relies too heavily on information translated inadequately from French.

The striking miners were given food by the occupation authorities, but they were not won over. It went so far that the families of the strikers were compelled to go to the City Hall to look for the soup which their men had refused.

(H.L Brooks, Prisoners of Hope, New York, 1942)

<To go to look for> is a case of overtranslation. It should have read: <to get the soup> or <for the soup> or even better <for the food>.” FOR THE S4K3 OF EATING, MA’AM!

Overtranslation consists principally of seeing two units when there is only one.”

We could also say that grammar is the domain of servitudes whereas options belong to the domain of stylistics, or at least to a certain type of stylistics, namely that which Bally has treated in his Traité de stylistique française (1951).”

the predominance of pronominal verbs in French does not strike us unless we contrast English with French. Through such comparisons we can also note the preference of English for the passive voice. By contrast, the study of pejorative words can be made within a single language without reference to any other. Though translators are mainly concerned with external stylistics, they must not ignore the fact of internal stylistics.”

“‘deceased/dead’; it presupposes an option and consequently the existence of stylistic variants.”

it is undeniable that even in our present period of linguistic relaxation, a French educated speaker is unlikely to say <Je vous cause>. This expression gives the text a certain tone which a translation into English must try to replicate, if only by compensation; for example, by using ‘me’ instead of ‘I’, or <It don’t matter>. The fact that <Je m’en rappelle> has become less clear in its tonal attribution bears witness to the fluctuation in these demarcation lines, but does not deny their existence.”

some linguists, notably Delacroix, have gone so far as describing the word as a <nébuleuse intellectuelle>, or even refused to consider it as having any concrete existence at all.”

There is first of all the capricious use of the hyphen: the French write ‘face à face’, but ‘vis-à-vis’, ‘bon sens’, but ‘non-sens’ and ‘contresens’, ‘portefeuille’, but ‘porte-monnaie’, ‘tout à fait’, but ‘sur-le-champ’. These irregularities are just as common in English, with the added complication that there is variance in the use of the hyphen between British English and American English, which uses hyphens more sparingly [raramente]. The following sentence would seem ludicrous to a British reader without a hyphen, yet its absence is perfectly normal to an American:

His face turned an ugly brick(-)red.

Son visage prit une vilaine couleur rouge brique.

Translators, let us remind ourselves, start from the meaning and carry out all translation procedures within the semantic field. They therefore need a unit which is not exclusively defined by formal criteria, since their work involves form only at the beginning and the end of their task. In this light, the unit that has to be identified is a unit of thought, taking into account that translators do not translate words, but ideas and feelings.”

unidade de pensamento

unidade lexicológica

unidade de tradução

There may be superposition of ideas within the same unit. For example, to loom conveys both the idea of a ghost hanging in mid-air and, at the same time, that of imminence or threat, but, whether seen as a single lexical item in a dictionary or from the point of view of the morpho-syntactic structure in which the word might occur, the two ideas cannot be separated. They are superimposed. This is the reason why it is almost impossible to fully translate poetry.”

Je suis à deux paaaaas du paradise

acon-tecer é tomar lugar mas se você toma minha vaga veja só o que irá su-ceder!

with effect, of fact

de efeito, com fato

black-bird vs. black bird

blackmail vs. black mail

He was good and mad. : Il était furieux.

Ele estava BEM brabo.

stoned deaf metul

pelado como um verme

cansado de estar doente e morto de cansado

ensoulpado da palavra de Cristo

subir em tentação

faire un somme : to take a nap [!]

une petite voiture : a wheel-chair

Dictionaries give numerous examples of these, but there are no complete lists, and all for good reason. The following examples have been selected at random”

The more two languages are alike in structure and civilisation, the greater the risk of confusing the meanings of their respective lexicons, as we see, for example, in the problem caused by faux amis.”

amigos da fossa

Do not walk in the street. : Ne marchez pas sur la chaussée.

Ne marchez pas sur la chausée. : Do not walk on the roadway.[UK]

Do not walk on the street. : Ne marchez pas dans la rue.

head bang tête-détonation

figure 1.3

In some cases the discovery of the appropriate TL unit or sentence is very sudden, almost like a flash, so that it appears as if reading the SL text had automatically revealed the TL message.”

At first the different methods or procedures seem to be countless, but they can be condensed to just 7, each one corresponding to a higher degree of complexity. In practice, they may be used either on their own or combined with one or more of the others.” 3 processos diretos; 4 oblíquos

1. borrowing

manutenção do termo; consagração do estrangeirismo

exs. comuns: comidas típicas, produtos tecnológicos, moedas, cidades

moral da estória: não traduzir nem sempre é crime

redingote (capa longa masculina);

hangar, chic, déjà vu, enfant terrible, rendez-vous, tête-à-tête

The decision to borrow a SL word or expression for introducing an element of local colour is a matter of style and consequently of the message.”

O calco é um calco.

Como calco-carbono de algo.

2. calque

Translators are more interested in new calques which can serve to fill a lacuna, without having to use an actual borrowing (cf. ‘économiquement faible’, a French calque taken from the German language). In such cases it may be preferable to create a new lexical form using Greek or Latin roots or use conversion (cf. ‘l’hypostase’; Bally, 1944:257 ff.).”

awkward calques

terapia ocupacional

banco para o comércio e o desenvolvimento (anti-lucro!)


o homem das ruas (l’homme dans la rue = o homem médio)


3. literal translation


In principle, a literal translation is a unique solution which is reversible and complete in itself. It is most common when translating between two languages of the same family (e.g. between French and Italian), and even more so when they also share the same culture. If literal translations arise between French and English, it is because common metalinguistic concepts also reveal physical coexistence, i.e. periods of bilingualism, with the conscious or unconscious imitation which attaches to a certain intellectual or political prestige, and such like. They can also be justified by a certain convergence of thought and sometimes of structure, which are certainly present among the European languages (cf. the creation of the definite article, the concepts of culture and civilization), and which have motivated interesting research in General Semantics.” “If this were always the case then our present study would lack justification and translation would lack an intellectual challenge since it would be reduced to an unambiguous transfer from SL to TL. The exploration of the possibility of translating scientific texts by machine, as proposed by the many research groups in universities and industry in all major countries, is largely based on the existence of parallel passages in SL and TL texts, corresponding to parallel thought processes which, as would be expected, are particularly frequent in the documentation required in science and technology. The suitability of such texts for automatic translation was recognised as early as 1955 by Locke & Booth. (For current assessments of the scope of applications of machine translation see: Hutchins & Somers 1992, Sager 1994.)”

If there were conceptual dictionaries with bilingual signifiers, translators would only need to look up the appropriate translation under the entry corresponding to the situation identified by the SL message. But such dictionaries do not exist and therefore translators start off with words or units of translation, to which they apply particular procedures with the intention of conveying the desired message. Since the positioning of a word within an utterance has an effect on its meaning, it may well arise that the solution results in a grouping of words that is so far from the original starting point that no dictionary could give it. Given the infinite number of combinations of signifiers alone, it is understandable that dictionaries cannot provide translators with ready-made solutions to all their problems.”

* * *

4. transposition

procedimento banal em traduções intra-linguísticas.

5. modulation

The difference between fixed and free modulation is one of degree. In the case of fixed modulation, translators with a good knowledge of both languages freely use this method, as they will be aware of the frequency of use, the overall acceptance, and the confirmation provided by a dictionary or grammar of the preferred expression.

Cases of free modulation are single instances not yet fixed and sanctioned by usage, so that the procedure must be carried out anew each time. This, however, is not what qualifies it as optional; when carried out as it should be, the resulting translation should correspond perfectly to the situation indicated by the SL. To illustrate this point, it can be said that the result of a free modulation should lead to a solution that makes the reader exclaim, <Yes, that’s exactly what you would say>.” “a free modulation does not actually become fixed until it is referred to in dictionaries and grammars and is regularly taught.”

ex: inversões do tipo: “ele não achou nada fácil a tarefa.” “ele achou a tarefa bem difícil.”

La transposition correspondrait en traduction à une équation du premier degré, la modulation à une équation du second degré, chacune transformant l’équation en identité, toutes deux effectuant la résolution appropriée.” Panneton:1946

6. equivalence

cocorico: cock-a-doodle-do

miaou: miaow

hi-han: heehaw

provérbios & clichés *hm, meio-calque meio-borrow, dependendo do acento!)

Tá chovendo canivete/o céu vai desabar : It’s raining cats and dogs.

Tô num mato sem cachorro : I’m in a heap big trouble.

deux patrons font chavirer la barque

bucalque é uma sacanagem

in Canadian French the idiom <to talk through one’s hat> has acquired the equivalent <parler à travers son chapeau>.”


politique des xénophobiques

altright coroner

7. adaptation

a situational equivalence”

Let us take the example of an English father who would think nothing of kissing his daughter on the mouth, something which is normal in that culture but which would not be acceptable in a literal rendering into French.”

Adaptations are particularly frequent in the translation of book and film titles”

Trois hommes et un couffin. : Three men and a baby. [film]

Le grand Meaulne. : The Wanderer. [book title]

MELHOR APOSTAR NO FUTEBOL: “The method of adaptation is well known amongst simultaneous interpreters: there is the story of an interpreter who, having adapted cricket into Tour de France in a context referring to a particularly popular sport, was put on the spot when the French delegate then thanked the speaker for having referred to such a typically French sport. The interpreter then had to reverse the adaptation and speak of cricket to his English client.”

something that does not sound quite right”

All the great literary translations were carried out with the implicit knowledge of the methods described in this chapter, as Gide’s preface to his translation of Hamlet clearly shows.”

80% of the world will have to live on nothing but translations, their intellect being starved by a diet of linguistic pap.” “Quatro quintos do mundo terão de viver apenas de traduções, seu intelecto sofrendo uma dieta de papinha linguística.”

8. my reign

mon oeuvre

OK é o maior EMPRÉSTIMO de todos os tempos.

Wet paint : Prenez garde à la peinture, though ‘peinture fraîche’ seems to be gaining ground in French-speaking countries

CHÃO MOLHADO (pô valeu cara, mas quem te perguntou alguma coisa?)

peso de papel de papel

Você pode falar à francesa mas odiar crases e saídas discretas de festinhas. Hoot-hoot!

shallow girl : BURRINHA

hollow triumph : Vitória de Pirro

casa de areia

castelo de cartas

casa d’arraia

sand-castle horses

Tom Araya

tel est ton cas

Teleton Caval

Clark Kant Übermas

comme un chien commun

En un clin d’oil Before you could say Jack Robinson.




spectacle only with a suspect referee



Travel abroad was at one time considered the classical means of acquiring a language. This was not perceived as remedying a shortcoming of teaching, but rather as a recognition that it is easier to teach the forms of a language than its usage which is dependent on metalinguistic information. Travel permits a constant adjustment to the situation, which formal grammar teaching cannot achieve.” “A substitute for travel are documentaries and other films which capture the spirit of a place or a people in natural settings. In both French and English considerable attention must be paid to regional variations in the language. Canadian French, for example, has created words for objects and phenomena unknown in France (e.g. the words ‘poudrerie’ for ‘blizzard’ since snow storms are common occurrences in Canada but rare in France), and there are words of French customs and traditions which are not used in Canada. When dialogues are written in contemporary colloquial language, they serve as examples of current usage and provide ready-made situation-conditioned utterances which are difficult to identify in dictionaries. Older films or films set in a historical period can even provide evidence of the evolution of a language. Specialised books on customs and traditions, specially when they are written with a keen sense of observation, are equally important for translators. Phrase books are equally very useful as are specialised vocabularies with contextual examples which alone can illustrate the use of a word in its context. (Cf. the excellent Vocabulaire de géomorphologie, by H. Baulig, Paris, Belles Lettres, 1956 and the more recent Vocabulaire de l’éditique, Walton on the Naze: GnoufGnouf 1990).” (???)

J.-C. Corbeil & A. Archambault (Dictionnaire thématique visuel français-anglais, Montréal: Québec-Amérique, 1987): Without personal experience or a photograph it is impossible to imagine what an English country lane looks like or the campus of an American university, or even these strange combinations of chemist shops and iron-mongers called ‘drugstores’.”

Though we can always learn from other translations, translators should be suspicious of the, normally unconscious, influence an original can exert. Even if the target language terminology is flawless, it is always possible that parts of the metalinguistic attitudes of the SL have discoloured the TL text, especially in official international documents where the pressure on closeness of structures is great.”

a. Comparison of texts dealing with identical or parallel situations. [me parece um exercício inútil, dado o gap entre as obras]


Shipwreck of an ocean liner:

Edouard Peisson, Parti de Liverpool, Paris: Grasset, 1934;

W.C. Wade, The Titanic, End of a Dream, New York: Rawson, 1979.

Description of a tropical storm:

Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, Paul et Virginie, Paris: Flammarion, 1972;

Richard Hughes, A High Wind in Jamaica, London: Chatto, 1960.

War situations:

Ernest Hemingway, Men at War, New York: Crown, 1942;

Henri Barbusse, Le feu, Paris: LFG, 1988.

Descriptions of Venice:

John Ruskin, The Stones of Venice, London: Allen, 1892;

Marcel Proust, La fugitive, Paris: Gallimard, 1954.”

French is more explicit when it says:

texte des épreuves for: questions

début de la séance for: appointed hour

candidats for: students

donner lecture for: read.”

Contrary to all expectations, [eu diria que em nada me surpreende] books on translation written in English seem to be produced by monolingual speakers or at least by people who dislike reading other languages. So it is not surprising that only exceptionally do we find a full discussion, rather than a passing reference, to this book in English publications, while the opposite is certainly not true. The result is that until recently Vinay & Darbelnet were almost completely ignored by English-speaking writers in the United States and are only cursorily referred to in Great Britain. It must, however, also be observed that concern with translation in the English-speaking world has only very recently turned to applied aspects.”


In the same way as the French ‘grincement’ is more concrete than the French ‘son’ or the English ‘sound’, the English ‘scrub’ is more concrete, because it refers to a more specific action than the French ‘brosser’.” “Generally, it can be said that French words function at a higher degree of abstraction than the corresponding English words. They tend to be less cluttered with details of reality. Bally’s comment on the comparison between French and German is equally true when it is applied to English”

To translate an English sentence into French, is like copying a coloured image in pencil. By reducing in this way the aspects and properties of things, the French mind arrives at general, i.e. simple, ideas which it places in a simplified order, i.e. that of logic. (Taine, quoted by A. Chevrillon in: Revue des deux mondes, May 1908)”

Il est du génie de notre langue de faire prévaloir le dessin sur la couleur.

(Gide, Lettre sur le langage, Amérique française, November 1941)

promenade : walk [i.e. on foot]

: ride (on a bicycle or on horseback)

: sail (by boat)

: drive/ride (by car)

allée (a roadway) : walk (e.g. Birdcage walk in London)

: drive [in streetnames]

: ride [a path for horses]

“‘Ici’ normally corresponds to ‘here’ but frequently this is not specific enough for English which may want to express the difference between ‘up here’, ‘down here’, ‘in here’, ‘out here’, ‘back here’ or ‘over here’; this is disconcerting for French which does not normally go into such details. An Englishman in Australia may say ‘out here’, and in Canada ‘over here’, i.e. in relation to England, his home country.”

A Frenchman may ask ‘Où voulez-vous que je me mette?’, leaving it to the context or the situation whether this refers to sitting or standing. This general expression ‘se mettre’ can only be matched by specific English words and thus yields two possible translations. ‘Where do you want me to stand?’ or ‘Where do you want me to sit?’ In the same manner the French would use ‘être’ and a preposition for indicating the position of objects, when English, though ‘is’ can use the same construction, prefers a concrete verb of action, e.g.:

Le tableau est au mur. : The picture hangs on the wall.

La bibliothèque est dans un coin. : The bookcase stands in a corner.

Le livre est sur la table : The book lies on the table.” [!]

The French word ‘coup’ is extremely useful because it can be applied to a great number of situations in which it expresses what they have in common: a strong impact. The corresponding English ‘blow’ is not nearly as wide-ranging. It has to compete with a whole range of words:

coup : cut (of a sword)

: thrust (of a lance or a rapier)

: shot (of a firearm)

: kick (with a foot)

: clap (of thunder)

: gust (of wind)

: crack (of a whip)

: stroke (of a brush), etc.”

: coup d’État (revolution of the State) – ah, gringos… Não sabem nem do que se trata, a dizer verdade…


grincement : grating (of a key)

: screeching (of chalk on a blackboard)

: squeaking (of a door hinge)

sifflement : whistle (a modulated human or mechanical sound)

: hiss (of a serpent or steam)

: whiz (of a bullet)

: swish (of a curtain being pulled)

Você ouviu o zunido da bala agora há pouco?

Americans happen to whistle in approval of a show; they also whistle in disapproval, but it is not the same form of whistling. English cannot distinguish between these two varieties of whistling, though it has two quite distinct words: ‘whistle’ and ‘hiss’ which in such circumstances always has a disapproving connotation.”

le bruit à peine perceptible des morceaux de glace dans un verre (Julien Green)

: the faint clink of ice in a glass

Often French does not differentiate between the movement and the noise, e.g.:

coup de fouet : the crack of a whip (sound)

: the lash of a whip (movement)”

the slam of a door : le bruit d’une porte…

a dull thud (of a sack being dropped) : un bruit mat…

a confused buzz of voices : un bruit confus de voix

the splash of water (over a weir) : le bruit du barrage

the pop of a cork (when a bottle is opened) : le bruit d’une bouteille qu’on débouche

the clatter of dishes (being moved) : le bruit de vaisselle remuée

the dripping of rain water (from trees) : les bruit des arbres qui s’égouttent

luire light : to glimmer (feeble & trembling)

: to gleam (pale)

: to glow (reddish)

shine : to glisten (of a wet surface)

: to glint (of a dark surface)

…objets de cuivre qui luisaient doucement dans l’ombre.

: …copper objects glinting in the dark.

a French soldier must address an officer by his rank: ‘mon lieutenant’, ‘mon capitaine’, etc.; a sailor must be equally specific but without the use of the possessive: e.g. ‘oui, commandant’. A schoolboy will say ‘M’sieur’, a teacher speaking formally to one of his superiors would have to say ‘monsieur le Proviseur’, ‘monsieur l’Inspecteur’; an employee ‘monsieur le Directeur’; a French member of parliament: ‘monsieur le Président’, etc. Religious persons are addressed with the possessive pronoun, e.g. ‘Mon Père’, ‘Ma Révérende Mère’.”


bell : cloche, clochette, sonnette, grelot, timbre, etc.

size : dimensions, taille, grandeur, pointure, modèle, format

one no longer goes to the butcher but to the meat counter, which in French corresponds to ‘rayon de la viande’, ‘section de la viande’ or ‘comptoir des viandes’ (C.F.). The simplification of shopping leads to the elimination of many specific words, but the diversity of French expressions also indicates that the usage is not yet fully consolidated because the situation is relatively new.”

While dictionaries give the meanings of words, they rarely have enough space to indicate the full range of differences in meaning. A methodology of translation must, however, propose a classification of semantic values and consider types of meaning, because it permits a better understanding why certain words, which on the surface appear to be synonymous, belong to different classes of meaning. Translation errors sometimes result when translators have not noted the distance between the meanings of words which at first seemed freely interchangeable.”

An even more striking example is provided by the word ‘clerc’ whose extension varies from French to British English and again to US English. In French a ‘clerc’ is an assistant to a lawyer or an ecclesiastic; in British English ‘clerk’ is widened to apply to anybody whose function is to deal with paper work. In American English the function of selling is added to the French and British English meanings, e.g. ‘a shoe clerk’.”

French distinguishes between:

poêle – fourneau = stove

autobus – car (autocar) = bus (coach)

ruines – décombres = ruins

reflet – réflexion = reflection

écharpe – cache-col = scarf

hébreu – hébraïque = Hebrew

herbe – gazon = grass

cartouche – gargousse = cartridge

atterrir – débarquer = land

éclairs – foudre = lightning

os – arête = bone

remplacer – replacer = replace

classe – cours = class

différence – différend = difference

guichet – fenêtre – devanture = window

chandelle – bougie – cierge = candle

English distinguishes between:

convent – priory = couvent

sticker – label – tag = étiquette

experience – experiment = expérience

stranger – foreigner – alien = étranger

Arab – Arabian – Arabic = arabe

general and technical

du petit lait : whey

adhérence : adhesion

adhésion : adherence

As they get older, some words lose their literal meaning and survive only in their figurative usage. Dictionaries have no means of indicating the stages of this evolution and apprentice translators may get it wrong. There is no external sign that the English words ‘dwell’, ‘delve’ and ‘shun’ are today only used in their figurative meanings, and that their general meanings have to be rendered by ‘live’, ‘dig’ and ‘avoid’. ‘Motherly’ is the same as ‘maternal’ but only in the figurative sense, whereas ‘maternal’ can be used both literally and figuratively. ‘Thunderstruck’ has given way in its literal usage to ‘struck by lightning’ and is now used only figuratively. Equally ‘seething’ is only used figuratively. Such differences can be tabulated”

literal and figurative

intellectual and affective

In French, the objective position of the adjective is after the noun; a small number of adjectives function as specifiers and are then normally placed before the noun (beau, bon, petit, grand, long, joli, etc.). When such adjectives occur in the modifiers position, i.e. after the noun, they acquire a subjective (affective) meaning, e.g.:

un beau jour : one of these days

une journée belle : a beautiful day”

The signified may not exist or not be acknowledged in one of the two languages; or it may exist in both but is only named independently in one of them. In such cases it is also possible to speculate whether the omission is not a sign of how little importance the respective linguistic community attributes to the concept in question. Of particular interest are cultural lacunae in the same language but on either side of the Atlantic. The French Canadian ‘dépanneur’ has a counterpart in the US ‘convenience store’. The concept of a 24-hour store is not yet such an established part of the realia of the European speakers of English and French to have been named separately. The nearest European equivalent would be ‘l’épicerie du coin’ which has the English counterpart of ‘corner shop’.”

Among French lacunae for generic English words we can list:

nuts : walnuts (noix)

hazelnuts (noisettes),

almonds (amandes), etc.

awards : all sorts of study grants (bourses d’études), and distinctions based on merit (distinctions honorifiques).

utilities : services of water, gas, electricity, telephone. French ‘services publics’ with the exception of public transport.”

In the United States a Delicatessen is a restaurant specialising in smoked meat. The French ‘mie’ can be described as ‘the soft part of the bread’ but not named because in English-speaking countries most bread does not permit a clear distinction to be made between hard and soft parts. The English ‘crumb’ partially covers the French ‘miette’ and is therefore generally used in the plural. It is probably because ‘hocher la tête’ (shake one’s head) is not a frequent gesture in the English semiotic repertoire that it does not readily translate into English. English, on the other hand, has ‘nod’ which can only be rendered by the phrase ‘faire oui de la tête’, ‘acquiescer(*) (d’un signe de la tête)’ or simply ‘dire oui’.”

(*) Seria a saída natural em Português.


Quanto mais periférico, pior? Só vale a pena mesmo é no miolo?

O pão.


Q de p ã o.





Cases in which a lacuna exists because one language has not gone as far as the other in the exploration of reality are among the most interesting. French has no special word for ‘curb’ (bordure/bord du trottoir) [meio-fio], and English has no single word for ‘margelle’ (curb stone of a well) [borda]. French ‘chaussée’ has the English alternatives ‘street’ and ‘road’, but the English ‘street’ cannot then distinguish between ‘chaussée’ and ‘rue’” “For ‘to bob’ there is therefore a lacuna in French which good translators fill as best they can. English words without straightforward French counterparts are e.g.: ‘pattern’, ‘privacy’, ‘emergency’, and ‘facilities’ (already mentioned above).”

The vastness of the hall below…

This is a perfectly natural English expression, especially in written language. Its translation should not present any problems, but we immediately run up against ‘vastness’. There is ‘vastitude’, but it is hardly used. ‘Immensité’ goes too far. Translators therefore have to either transpose by means of an adjective, i.e. ‘le vaste hall en bas’; but this goes against the French tradition of using qualifying nouns; or find a noun to which they can add the adjective ‘vaste’, such as: ‘les vastes proportions’.”

stately unquestionableness of the classical languages

(P.G. Hamerton)

While it is easy to match ‘unquestionable’ with the French ‘incontestable’, would the French use ‘incontestabilité’ for ‘unquestionableness’, even though the dictionary permits it? The translation of this phrase requires a transposition and an amplification. The transposition concerns the replacement of a noun by an adjective, ‘incontestable’ or even better in this context ‘indiscutable’. If we add to this ‘stately’ as ‘majestueux’ or ‘hautain’ and a noun to support these two adjectives, we arrive at: ‘L’autorité hautaine et indiscutable des langues classiques’, or possibly ‘le prestige indiscutable’.”

It is easy to understand ‘eye witness’, but ‘témoin oculaire’ requires a greater effort of interpretation and a greater understanding of the language. The vocabulary tests used in the United States are often easier for French speakers than for native Americans because the learned vocabulary is almost the same in both languages and more accessible to French speakers.”

horse show : concours hippique

flower show : exposition d’horticulture

dogshow : exposition canine

family tree : arbre généalogique

five-year plan : plan quinquennal

fingerprints : empreintes digitales

horse-drawn vehicle : véhicule hippomobile

drinking water : eau potable

baldness : calvitie

land reform : réforme agraire

taste bud : papille gustative

sound proofing : isolation phonique

weather ship : frégate météorologique

watershed : domaine hydrographique

overtime : heures supplémentaires

rear (or driving) mirror : miroir rétroviseur

wing load : charge alaire

chain reaction : réaction caténaire

daily : quotidien

monthly : mensuel

weekly : hebdomadaire

quarterly : trimestriel

blindness : cécité

short-sighted : myope

deafness : surdité

stainless : inoxydable

roller blades : patins à roues alignées

CD player : lecteur de disques compacts

contact lens : lentille cornéenne (de contact)

progressive education : l’éducation nouvelle

basic English : le français élémentaire

bifocal lenses (bifocals) : verres à double foyer

With reference to a child’s toy ‘confisquer’ is not translated by ‘confiscate’ but by ‘take away’, because it would sound pompous. Equally ‘condoléances’ is not normally translated as ‘condolences’. However, ‘He expressed the government’s condolences’ was found in the New York Times. But in his private life, the same person would express his sympathy, e.g. ‘Please accept my sympathy…’. The English translation of a French-Canadian article reads: ‘If we asked one or the other to consummate the divorce…’. This is a literal rendering of the French ‘consommer le divorce’, but the English translation is not idiomatic; it would be better to say: ‘to go through with the divorce’.”

Parler só se usa em contextos duráveis:

He never speaks to me. : Il ne m’adresse jamais la parole.

A man spoke to me on the street. : Un homme s’est adressé à moi dans la rue (m’a abordé).

He spoke at the meeting. : Il a pris la parole à la réunion.”

journée :

matinée : [no direct corresponding English forms]

soirée :

veillée :

to iron : passar roupa

In English the gradual aspect is often indicated by the particle ‘away’, which is the opposite to ‘out’ which indicates the perfective, e.g.:

to fade away : baisser : encolher, desmilingüir

to fade out : fondre : derreter, fundir, dissolver

to die away : s’éteindre, mourir : apagar, queimar, falecer

to die out : disparaître : desaparecer, ser aniquilado”

souffler une bougie : to blow out a candle

He wiped the muddy roots clean(-ly) in the current. (Hemingway) : Il lava soigneusement dans le courant les racines pleines de boue.”

continent : in the United States, can refer both to the American continent and to Europe.

réactionnaire : in France, a person of the extreme right

in Canada, formerly a person of the extreme left

tricolore : in France, refers to the national flag

gradé : in France, is a synonym for ‘sous-officier’

Historically the French words ‘succès’ and ‘chance’ were ambivalent but are today univocal.”

The gross line between filthy and dirty.

brunette : is exclusively diminutive in French, but not in English.

a tall brunette : une grande brune


Leave your hopes deep below.

Livin’ your hopes while you can.

Drink it slowly as it fades away.

Like a cool drink in a precious can.

Could live your life and leave it well.

Sweet leafs, sweatin’ bullet-proof minds.

Sorcerors of mankind

Live versions too save

Even farther you’ll die.

There is no escape

from the tides of being.

<Madame est servie> can only be translated as <Dinner is served>.”

in 1914, aeronautics was at the same level as infantry, artillery, engineers and cavalry. It has since been promoted to the rank of aviation and is now parallel to army and navy.”

danser : faire de la danse

skier : faire du ski

patiner : faire du patin

on the occasion of the blockade of Berlin in 1948, for ‘airlift’ the French created the modulation ‘pont aérien’, which illustrates the move from the dynamic to the static and from the concrete word to metaphor. This was a case of a free modulation, but with continued use this expression became fixed and lexicalised as part of the French lexicon. The same happened to a number of other expressions of the ‘cold war’, whose French expressions are calques from English rather than modulations”

the top floor : o suprassumo

jusqu’à une heure avancée de la nuit : until the small hours of the morning

firing party : peloton d’exécution

to wash one’s hair : se laver la tête

a box car : un wagon couvert

papier peint : wallpaper (o de computador também?)

lanterne vénitienne : Chinese lantern [UK]

Japanese lantern [US]

de la première page à la dernière : from cover to cover

d’un bout à l’autre : from beginning to end : do Oiapoque ao Chuí, de cabo a rabo

d’une mer à l’autre : from coast to coast

Space Ghost transatlântico!

pâle comme un linge : white as a sheet

branco como a narina do Aécio

branco como lingerie gozada

branquinho, cheiradinho e gozadinho

For general reading we refer the reader to the substantial grammars of Quirk et al. (1972) and Leech & Svartvik (1975) for English and Grevisse (1988) for French.” “A more detailed treatment of the lexicon is given by Cruse (1986) and Lehrer (1974).” “Word-formation and neology are discussed generally in Mitterand (1976) for French and in Bauer (1983) for English; and in greater detail in the admirable book by Louis Guilbert (1975) and with respect to English complex nominals in Levi (1978). For the formation of compounds which are frequently calqued according to inappropriate patterns, see Zwanenburg (1992) for French and for both languages Bennett (1993).”


Translators are, after all, neither grammarians nor linguisticians.”




Le style administratif est un genre littéraire” R. Catherine

Pior para a literatura!

It is no accident that the English style of notices is more personal, direct and at the level of concrete expression than its French counterpart.”

Bien loin de rechercher (comme le fait l’allemand) le devenir dans les choses, le français présente les événements comme des substances.” Bally, 1944

In the course of its history French has consistently resisted the formation of derived verbs. For example, ‘recruter’ was banned ‘til the 18th century. Stendhal was offended by ‘progresser’ and would probably have been outraged by ‘contacter’ and ‘originer’. It is only recently that ‘poster’ has come into use beside ‘mettre à la poste’. ‘Tester’ is increasingly being used and the letter in Le Monde (21.10.1953) which complained about the use of ‘être agressé’ instead of ‘être victime d’une agression’ will strike most readers today as anachronistic. English has no such scruples; consequently many simple English verbs can only be rendered by means of verb phrases.”

a hopeless undertaking : une entreprise sans espoir

an orderly withdrawal : une retraite en bon ordre

a Pyrrhic victory : une victoire à la Pyrrhus

He will board the night express for Germany : Il montera dans le rapide de nuit à destination de l’Allemagne.

Within two weeks… : Dans un délai de deux semaines…

From: J.B.Smith : Expéditeur: J.B. Smith

From a friend : De la part d’un ami

Within the city… : À l’intérieur de la ville…

The reluctance of French to use ‘ceci’ and ‘cela’ for referring to a previous sentence leads to the introduction of nouns which indicate the reference more clearly and consequently change from case to case.

This does not surprise me. : Cela ne me surprend pas.

: Cette attitude ne me surprend pas.

: Cette réaction ne me surprend pas.

: Cette réponse ne me surprend pas, etc.”

Legouis & Cazamian – A History of English Literature

The Time Machine : La machine à mesurer le temps.

(H.G. Wells)

Qu’est-ce que c’est que cette lettre : What is this letter?

Because ‘à’ indicates both position and direction, French signs would be ambiguous if they read ‘À la gare’, instead of: ‘Direction de la gare’. For similar reasons French prepositions cannot be followed by conjunctions.”

English demonstratives remain on the level of concrete expression, whereas the combination of demonstrative adjectives followed by a noun leads French frequently back to the level of abstract expression.”

As a language of abstract expression, French is internally logical when it uses the definite article on all occasions when things or persons represent a category or a concept. English, working more closely to the level of concrete expression, prefers the indefinite article for presenting indeterminate objects, which it does not feel a need to conceptualise.” “The English plural without an article corresponds to a singular with an indefinite article.”

He had his arm in a sling. : Il avait le bras en écharpe.

He speaks with his hands in his pockets. : Il parle les mains dans les poches.

He reads with a pen in his hand. : Il lit la plume à la main.

in the great majority of cases, there is no choice as regards gender, and translators must be prepared for this in their training. There are, nevertheless, certain difficulties which we shall emphasize here, recalling the well-known, but essential distinction, between natural gender (male, female, asexual being or hermaphrodite) and grammatical gender (masculine, feminine, neuter; epicene).” “na grande maioria dos casos não há escolha quanto ao gênero, e os tradutores têm de estar preparados e treinados. Há, não obstante, algumas dificuldades que devemos enfatizar aqui, relembrando a sabida distinção, e que nem por isso deixa de ser essencial, entre gênero natural (masculino, feminino, ser assexuado ou hermafrodita) e gênero gramatical (masculino, feminino, neutro, epiceno¹).”

¹ Ex: a onça-macho, o jacaré-fêmea…

We know that English has almost completely lost the grammatical gender, which allows the natural gender to surface; French, on the other hand, is entirely dominated by grammatical gender. Though this latter feature obscures the actual physiology of the sexes and produces ambiguities of the type: ‘his hat, her hat : son chapeau’; on the other hand, grammatical agreements based on gender can lead to useful clarifications”

In recent years new feminine forms have been adopted so that ‘une auteure’, ‘une professeure’, ‘une docteure’ etc. are now recommended usage, especially in Canada.”

in 17th century French, ‘jeunes personnes’ meant young women, rather than young people as it does today”

Inversely, a French epistolary novel will sometimes lose some of its savour in English, because letters written in the first person are deprived of a part of their gender distinction. In such cases translators have to resort to compensations to re-establish the masculine or feminine tone: use of a proper noun, or certain lexical elements specific to one sex or the other, compounds of the type – ‘girl-friend’, ‘boy-friend’, etc.

As to ‘it’, used to refer to very young children, this can be translated by an equally ambiguous French epicene word: ‘l’enfant’, ‘le bébé’. Sir Ernest Gowers quotes a very ambiguous phrase on this subject: ‘If the baby does not thrive on raw milk, boil it.’”

domestic animals are readily given a gender in English, which is sometimes surprising to a French reader. ‘She’s a good girl’, or ‘He’s a good boy’, is often said of a dog.”

CHRISTINE, THE KILLER LADY ON WHEELS: “Better known is the feminine personification of machines towards which English speakers feel closely linked: ‘ship’, ‘packet’, ‘merchantman’, ‘motorcar’, ‘automobile’, ‘watch’. However, there are cases where the masculine is used (pipe). Pascoe (quoted by Jespersen) sums up this inconsistency, using bakery as his example: ‘Any cake is termed a he, but a cold plum-pudding of a more stodgy nature is termed a she’.”

the sea is sometimes ‘She’, sometimes ‘He’, sometimes ‘It’.”

Though English does not have a special word to indicate sex, except in kinship words and such rare cases as ‘bridegroom – bride’, it can use a special morpheme; e.g. ‘-ess’ (‘manager/manageress’, ‘author/ authoress’); but it should be noted that this suffix has a strong pejorative connotation; <There is a derogatory touch in it which makes it impossible when we wish to show respect>, (Curme, 1931). In this matter English is closer to French which, for the same reasons, also dislikes ‘-esse’ as the feminine form of the morpheme ‘-eur’, as in ‘docteur’, ‘doctoresse’; this may explain the absence of the form ‘professoresse’.

The introduction of French morphemes allows English to create some terms such as: ‘confidante’, ‘fiancée’, as opposed to ‘confidant’, ‘fiancé’, but the morpheme ‘-ette’ does not carry any evocation of gender in ‘kitchenette: petite cuisine’, ‘roomette: compartiment de wagon lit’, ‘leatherette: similicuir’, etc.”

In the collective sense, English uses words which remain singular, but can only be translated by a plural in French. In French-speaking countries we sometimes find the inscription ‘Informations’, aimed at English-speaking visitors, a plural which is translated literally from the French ‘Renseignements’. It is, in fact, the English singular ‘Information’ which is the equivalent to the French plural; to say ‘un renseignement’, English has to use a special expression form, called here the singulative (Determiner + non-count noun): ‘a piece of information’.”

advice : des conseils a piece of advice : un conseil

poetry : des vers a piece of poetry : une poésie

evidence : des preuves a piece of evidence : une preuve

furniture : des meubles a piece of furniture : un meuble

news : des nouvelles a piece of news : une nouvelle

But: The news : la nouvelle

toast : des toasts a piece of toast : une rôtie [Canadá, C.F.]

: des rôties (C.F.) : un toast

But: a toast : un toast porté à quelqu’un

flying glass : des éclats de verre|a piece of flying glass : un éclat de verre

In English, the singulative is not only expressed by ‘piece’, but a whole range of other words can be used:

English French

Singulative – Collective : Singular – Plural

a suit of armour – armour : une armure – des armures

a flash of lightning – lightning : un éclair – des éclairs

a clap of thunder – thunder : un coup de tonnerre – tonnerre

a blade of grass – grass : un brin d’herbe – de l’herbe

a firework display – fireworks : un feu d’artifice – des feux d’artifice

a round of ammunition –

ammunition : une cartouche, un coup – des munitions”


Winding road the shortest straw between two good and evils



& d[e]ad

medical students : des étudiants en médecine

her married name : son nom de marriage

mental hospital : hôpital psychiatrique (nada científicos esses gringos!)

that wretched man : ce diable d’homme

a strange fellow : un drôle de type

idiot : espèce d’imbécile

Not only do adverbs in ‘-ment’ seem cumbersome, they are restricted in their application. Conversely, the suffix ‘-ly’ in English can be attached to any adjective and even to participles.”

angrily : avec colère

ecstatically : avec extase

tolerantly : avec tolérance

tactfully : avec tact

concisely : avec concision

effortlessly : sans effort

unashamedly : sans honte

abruptly : sans transition

unrythmically : sans suivre le rythme

unaccountably : sans qu’on sût pourquoi

conditionally : sous condition

reliably : de source sûre

authoritatively : de source autorisée

inadvertently : par inadvertance

deservedly : à juste titre

repeatedly : à plusieurs reprises

He is reportedly in Paris. : On dit qu’il est à Paris.

He is reputedly the best man in the field. : Il passe pour le meilleur spécialiste dans ce domaine.

In certain cases there is no choice in French. While there are forms in ‘-ment’ for ‘certain’ and ‘vif’, neither ‘certainement’ nor ‘vivement’ would be suitable in the contexts shown above. There is option and gain in the French in ‘à tête reposée’ (compared with ‘tranquillement’), and option with no clear gain in the use of ‘d’une main habile’ and ‘en termes ironiques’.”

When the comparison is explicit, the comparative or superlative are as vital in French as they are in English. However, we note, as do most grammars, that following Latin usage, English employs the comparative in place of the superlative when the comparison is limited to two objects or two people. This is why ‘aîné’ is sometimes translated as ‘elder’ and sometimes as ‘eldest’.”

l’abrégé du dictionnaire d’Oxford : the Shorter Oxford Dictionary

Le Petit Larousse

L’abrégé Comte de Monte-Cristo!


I’m at my best.

In the next example, the French version makes it clear that the management refuses all responsibility even before the event.

La direction n’est pas responsable des objets perdus. : The management will not be responsible for lost articles.

This will be your little grandson? : Je suppose que ce jeune garçon est votre petit-fils?”

We can say that in English there is dilution, the passage of time being indicated both by the preposition ‘since’ and by the tense. In French only ‘depuis’ indicates passage of time.

Je suis ici depuis dix heures. : I have been here since ten.

But it is useful to note that French, like English, uses the passé composé or the plus-que-parfait when it is a matter of an intermittent activity.

Je ne l’avais pas vu depuis trois mois. : I had not seen him for three months.

C’est n’est pas faute d’avoir essayé : Not for want of trying.

The use of the imparfait arises as a problem in translation from English into French.”

The French imparfait is not, as is often said in a simplified view, the tense that indicates duration, but the tense that considers an action irrespective of its beginning and its end.” “if duration can be measured, time has passed. We can say: Il habitait Londres pendant la guerre, but not Il habitait Londres pendant dix ans.”

English grammarians recognise the existence of the présent historique which Jespersen suggested be called the ‘présent dramatique’. In contrast, Hilaire Belloc, in his article on translation (The Bookman, October 1931), describes it as a form which is alien to the nature of English. It is difficult to ignore this observation by a good English writer who also had an intimate knowledge of French. However, these 2 positions can be reconciled if we say that, though the présent historique occurs in English, it is much less frequent in English than in French. Translators must therefore use their discretion.”

The passé simple is commonly found in fiction texts (novel, science-fiction, tales, etc.) because they do not necessarily have to be linked to reality. The passé simple is usually rendered by the English past tense.”

He has never forgiven her. : Il ne lui a jamais pardonné.

: Il ne lui pardonna jamais.

Up to the beginning of the 20th century the passé simple was commonly used in narrative literary discourse. Today it is never used in spoken language, and only survives in some forms of written discourse.”

in English pronominal verbs are always literal whereas in French they can also be figurative.”

Inherent pronominal verbs have no transitive counterparts and are exclusively encountered in pronominal form, e.g. ‘s’absenter’ but not ‘absenter’, or take a completely different meaning from their transitive part.

Il se gargarisa à l’eau et au sel. : He gargled with water and salt.

Il se replongea dans sa lecture. : He went back to his reading.

Il plongea dans la piscine. : He dived into the pool.

Vous vous plaignez trop. : You complain too much.

Vous les plaignez trop. : You pity them too much.

Voici ce qui s’est passé. : This is what happened.

Il est passé te voir. : He came to see you.”

Os EUA são tão capitalistas que lá quem não tem CARTÃO VISA pode até ser deportado!!

The frequency of the English passive is part of the nature of the language. English verbs do not have to be transitive to have passive forms; they simply keep their preposition regardless of voice, e.g.:

The doctor was sent for. : On envoya chercher le docteur.

The bed had not been slept in. : Le lit n’avait pas été défait.”

There may be a connection between this construction and the reluctance of English speakers to express a definitive opinion or judgement.”

As manchetes da imprensa aumentam o buraco do cu dos homens.

The French ‘devoir’ has become weakened; similar to the evolution of ‘shall’, it tends to become an auxiliary verb for the future.” This shall not be a pipe.

Devo, não nego; devenho quando puder.

Books may not be returned to the shelves. : Il est interdit de remettre les livres sur les rayons.

Il ne faut pas qu’il parte. : He must not go.

Il n’est pas nécessaire qu’il parte. : He does not have to go.

It won’t roll, without time, brodah!

To express the idea of probability French has ‘probablement’, and the expression ‘il est probable que’ followed by the indicative. French does not have a personal form equivalent to ‘He is likely to’. On the other hand, among the structural faux amis, ‘without doubt’ is the equivalent of ‘sans aucun doute’ and not of ‘sans doute’, whose equivalent is ‘no doubt’.”

Contrary to French, the English future anterior cannot express probability. ‘Il aura oublié’ can only be translated as ‘He must have forgotten’, which is the same equivalent as for ‘Il a dû oublier’.”

In a sentence starting with ‘si’, introducing a weak probability of an eventuality, the most suitable English correspondence is ‘should’. In such sentences French does not use ‘devoir’; it has many other alternatives.”

It must be so. : Cela ne peut pas ne pas être.

The two things must be related. : Les deux choses sont nécessairement liées. [!]

A distinction common to both languages separates ‘je ne sais’ from ‘je ne sais pas’ and ‘I dare not’ from ‘I do not dare’. But ‘I don’t know’ is the equivalent of both ‘je ne sais’ and ‘je ne sais pas’.” WTF?!? Qu’est-ce que c’est? Pas possible!

In principle, the nuance of ‘je ne sais’ is untranslatable. Nevertheless, at the end of a sentence, it has an equivalent in such phrases as: ‘it is hard to say’.”

Seria agora o melhor momento para beber vossa água e em conseqüência possivelmente utilizar vosso lavabo?!?

Vô cagá, ok?

May I fuck you?

The English infinitive cannot be used to express an imperative. In the language of instructions and notices, where the use of the French infinitive is most frequent, English often uses its middle form which, unlike the French middle, is not pronominal.”

Il s’est tu. : He fell silent.

Il se tut.

He did do it : En effet, il l’a fait. (as he said he would).

I did warn you!, says the adult.

escada rolante : tapis roulant!

carne mal-passada : PINK MEAT

Literal translation is sometimes possible, e.g.:

the trampled grass : l’herbe piétinée

his torn coat : sa veste déchirée”

Parvenu près de la porte… : Having reached the door…

Lui parti, j’ai retrouvé le calme. (A. Camus) : Once he had left, I regained my composure.

…as they covered mile after mile… : …à mesure que les kilomètres

s’allongeaient derrière eux…

It appears that English prefers to proceed by repetition, with the aid of ‘on’ or ‘after’, in cases where French prefers an abstract word which concludes rather than describes.”

English cannot form certain types of compounds. For example, the French ‘un bruit de roues’, i.e. any wheels whose sound is heard, can only be translated by the noun phrase ‘a sound of wheels’.”

the will to power : la volonté de puissance

the room on the second floor : la chambre du second

Lady with a parrot : Femme au perroquet

(the title of a picture)

Without going as far as German, English can create synthetic expressions which in French have to be expressed by analytic means. Most of the examples below come from newspapers and publicity material which abound in such expressions. Professional translators encounter them all the time.”

It is time-consuming. : Cela prend beaucoup de temps.

It is a full-time job. : Cela prend tout votre temps.

Le pape envoie le formulaire tel qu’on lui demandait. (Racine) – This kind of syntax exists in English, but no longer in French. One way of explaining this difference is to say that French works by representation where English works by ellipsis. For this reason French refers to the complement of a verb by means of a pronoun, either in order to announce it, or to remind us of it.”

Ele não disse!

Ele não o disse!

Ele não te disse!

Ele não lho disse, pois, ora, traste!

J’y suis arrivé. : I’ve got there.

He came sooner than you thought. : Il est arrivé plus tôt que que vous ne pensiez.

Mets-en ! (C.F.) : You bet!

Skip it! : Ça suffit! : Dexa queto!

Cut it out! : En voilà assez! Ça va! : Tá bom!

Further reading:

The question of English gender is discussed in Corbett (1991).”

For a general treatment of mood and modality of English see Palmer (1986).”


THE TECHNOLOGICAL SLAVERY: “When this book was written — in the mid-1950s — research in units larger than the sentence had only reached the stage of general description and the authors were obliged to extrapolate from necessarily incomplete observations. Besides, at the level of the message, which is the subject of the present chapter, it seems impossible to explore this subject in depth without the support of computer analyses of textual corpora which was unavailable at the time.”

teachers rightly insist that translation should never be started before the entire text has been read and re-read.” HM

Je suis votre femme is either I am your wife or I am following your wife

Bêbados britânicos lacônicos:

He was having his usual. : Il prenait son verre comme d’habitude.


He stopped at the local. : Il entra au bistro du coin.


Il est entré au Métro. : He got a job at the Métro.

Il est entré dans le Métro. : He boarded the Underground.

Je vais vous mettre à la porte. : I’ll throw you out.

Je vais vous mettre à votre porte. : I’ll see you home.

[to your front door]

Demain, je serai à la rue. : Tomorrow I’ll be in the street.


Demain, je serai dans la rue. : Tomorrow I’ll be out in the street

[fighting, demonstrating, etc.]

Il est entré curé. (Canada) : He became a priest.

Il est entré chez un curé. : He went to visit a priest.

When the situation is properly analysed and reconstituted, one of the two languages, and not necessarily always the source language, may reflect the situation with greater precision.”

translators are superior to machines because they can introduce gain in the message, though, of course, not in the situation.”

A CASA É SUA, MAS NÃO FAÇA BARULHO: “Since French does not have phrasal verbs, a notice hanging on a door, saying Entrez sans frapper! is more precise than the English equivalent Walk in!. While to English speakers the meaning is perfectly clear, its correct interpretation depends much more on the situation than the corresponding French notice.”

Titles are thus examples of the purest state of explicitation. As the stylistic abridgement which leads to a title is rooted in the nature of the language, we readily understand that titles have to

be translated by means of modulation”

Hollow Triumph : Château de Cartes

Wuthering Heights : Les Hauts de Hurlevent

(Transposition of the sound-effect of the proper name)

Fatal in My Fashion : Cousu de fil rouge

(Wordplay on ‘fashion’; the work deals with murder in a fashion house)

The Man with My Face : Comme un frère

(History of a double)

Le Grand Meaulnes : The Wanderer

Out of the Past of Greece and Rome : Tableaux de la vie antique

(Transposition with noun)

Blackboard Jungle : Graine de violence

(Film about juvenile delinquents)

Le compteur est ouvert : Twice Tolled Tales

(Wordplay on ‘compteur-conteur’) : (Wordplay on ‘toll-told’)

Mixed Company : De tout pour faire un monde

Thicker than Water : Les liens du sang

Figure it out for yourself! : C’est le bouquet!

An Alligator named Daisy : Coquin de saurien

(Wordplay on the idiom ‘coquin de sort’)

the expression ‘César de Carnaval’ hides an allusion to Mussolini and has been aptly translated as ‘Sawdust Caesar’ [César de serragem]. It is formed by a modulation on the idea of carnival, hence the circus and its arena which is covered in sawdust. There is also wordplay on ‘sawdust’ which is used for the stuffing of puppets.”

Depuis quand répond-on comme cela à ses parents? : Since when do children answer their parents in this way?

Dear Sir, : Monsieur

Dear Mr. Smith, : Cher Monsieur

His wife of 16 years… : Après seize ans de mariage, sa femme…

His 16 year-old wife : Sa femme de seize ans

You asked for it. : Vous me l’avez demandé.

: C’est bien fait pour vous.


He is talking through his hat. : Ele nem sabe do que está falando…

Give me Beethoven any time. : Não é lá uma Brastemp (Beethoven)…

E quem poderia imaginar que a brastemp se tornaria um dos meus maiores pesadelos recentes?

If, for example, in Canada we find ‘SVP’ written on a notice stuck on a lawn, we understand it to mean that we should not walk on the grass. Or, if in the English-speaking parts of Canada, a roadside sign reads ‘WORMS’ we know it to refer to the sale of bait for fisherman.”

a French teacher : a teacher of French/from France

Stage door : Entrée des artistes

Unlike the lexicological units, situations are not recorded in dictionaries. They are rarely mentioned in books on stylistics, except by Bally who treats situations in his Traité de Stylistique française and more extensively in Le langage et la vie (1952).”

Mensagens contextuais de difícil apreensão quando isoladas:

i. Le mécanicien n’a pas aperçu le signal.

A railway signalman, which in French is indicated by the semantic markers ‘mécanicien’, and ‘signal’ which excludes, for example, a motor mechanic or a dental mechanic; it is further likely that there has been a railway accident, otherwise the message would be pointless.”

ii. Saignant?

The situation explains that this is a waiter in a restaurant asking a customer whether the meat should be grilled ‘rare’, as opposed to, medium or well-done.”

iii. Et avec ça, Madame? MAIS ALGUMA COISA?

This sentence is appropriate for a sales assistant in a store addressing a female customer who has already bought something.”

iv. You can’t miss it. VAI NA FÉ, IRMÃO!

This is said by someone who has just given an indication to a stranger who has asked for a direction.”

v. You’re on! AÇÃO!

This expression is typical for a stage manager who sends a performer onto the stage.”

vi. Wrong number. QUE NÚMERO VOCÊ DISCOU?

This is a response to a wrongly dialled telephone call.”

vii. You’re a stranger here. / Hello, stranger! E AÍ, SUMIDO!

This expression fits the case where we greet someone whom we have not seen for a long time. Suddenly encountering someone at one’s doorstep, the French equivalent might be <On ne vous voit plus!>. The familiar tone also indicates a certain close acquantaince between the interlocutors.”

would a telephone operator greet a new subscriber with ‘Hello stranger!’? This is very unlikely and demonstrates that any one situation normally and almost automatically calls for a particular message. For example, ‘Do you think we’ll make it?’ seems only appropriate for someone who is late for an appointment, e.g. a departing train, and fears that he/she may miss it. It also expresses anxiety, and an atmosphere of tension, etc. The specific limitation of the message to a single situation is all the more remarkable in that the general sense of the verb ‘make’ is totally unrestricted.”

when a British English speaker fears that his message ‘Smith called this morning’ might be misinterpreted, the alternative ‘Smith called here this morning’ or ‘called by this morning’, would be chosen, making it clear that it was a personal visit and not a telephone call. In American English the ambiguity is less likely to occur because the expression ‘stop by’ is widely used in such cases.”

Accordingly, in August 55, he (Julius Caesar) made a start by crossing from Boulogne with some 10,000 men, etc.”

IS EUROPEAN PHILOSOPHY DEAD? “To understand this sentence from an English book on archaeology we need to add the implied topographical details, namely ‘the Channel’. The text was written from the point of view of someone in England and reflects the same attitude as when the English speak of the Continent when referring to the rest of Europe. (…) This particular meaning of ‘Continent’ is now also found in American English and then the appropriate equivalent would be ‘Europe’.”

UM CURSO PARA +30: “Translation can therefore be regarded as a truly humanistic activity which has its place among the highest intellectual pursuits. This is a well-known fact though it is rarely fully acknowledged.”

Regardless of any special usage, question marks are important in comparative stylistics because translators frequently have to deal with elliptical sentences, especially in dialogues.”

Finally, and this is the most critical point, morphological links are not usually indicated in writing. Before translating, a thorough segmentation of the text is therefore necessary which can only be carried out by a careful reading which restores the prosodemes and correctly separates the stress groups. In French, the distinction between the two meanings of the following example is made in speaking by a liaison after ‘savant’. Only the use of orthographic liaison markers would clarify the difference.

un savant aveugle : a blind scientist

phonetically: [õesavãvoegl]

un savant aveugle [+liaison] : a learned blind man

phonetically: [õesavãtavoegl]

L’usage laisse une certaine latitude dans l’emploi des signes de ponctuation; tel écrivain n’use jamais du point virgule. Une relation peut-être marquée au moyen d’une virgule par celui-ci, au moyen d’un point-virgule par un autre, au moyen d’un double point par un troisième. L’abondance des raisons peut s’expliquer tantôt par des raisons purement logiques, tantôt par

des références à un rythme oral qui multiplie les pauses. (Grevisse 1988: paragraph 1058)”

Needless to say translators must convert the English decimal point into the French ‘virgule décimale’, e.g. $10.50 → 10,50 $ and put the currency sign after the symbol. See Ramat (1989) for a discussion on that subject. The corresponding update to English punctuation is Nunberg (1990). Stylistic or optional punctuation serves to provide greater semantic precision in a message.”

The absence of commas is not considered an error in English which uses commas more sparingly than French.”

The absence of commas frequently leads to backtracking in order to correct an erroneous segmentation of the text and avoid a misinterpretation. This is particularly acute in cases of successive particles” “it is strongly suggested that translators read their text aloud so that they can be guided by the articulation.”

termos curtos x termos longos (sinônimos perfeitos) (FRANTUGUÊS!)

weeds : les mauvaises herbes

: les voiles d’une veuve

model : modèle réduit

to make amends : faire amende honorable

to inhale : avaler la fumée

sold at cost : vente au prix coûtant

as : au fur et à mesure que

ruminer : to chew the cud

He talked himself out of a job. : Il a perdu sa chance pour avoir trop parlé. : Ele falou mais do que devia. : Se fufu.


In general it appears that English is shorter than French. This, at least, emerges when English texts are contrasted with their French translations. But we also have to take account of the fact that all translations tend to be longer than the original. Translators lengthen their texts out of prudence but also out of ignorance.”

retirement → to retire : prendre sa retraite

We’ll price ourselves out of the market. : Nous ne pourrons plus vendre si nous sommes trop exigeants.

“‘Before, after, until, etc.’ have the advantage of being prepositions and conjunctions at the same time.”

We conclude that economy is a relative concept and what matters is only how it is achieved. Each language has its own cases of comparatively greater economy which translators have to be aware of in order to find the most appropriate expression.” “In English, in the absence of the surname or the first name, the familiar register is often marked by the use of such familiar forms of address as ‘man’, ‘chum’, ‘Bud’, ‘Mac’, ‘boy’, ‘girl(ie)’, ‘brother”, ‘sister’, etc. In French many of these forms of address, used as interjections or in appositions, can be omitted because the use of ‘tu’ compensates. French also has such non-specific, familiar forms of address, e.g. the very familiar ‘Jules’ to address someone whose names one does not know. The US equivalent might be ‘Mac’, whereas in England ‘Jack’ or ‘George’ would correspond, but it must also be noted that such terms often change with fashion. On the whole, however, the use of the forename is more widespread in the United States than in England.”

Disliking abbreviations, especially of names, French can reproduce the tone by a dislocation of the constituent elements of the message.” O estruturalista L.-S.

There are three possible cases:

a. The SL elaboration can be transferred directly to the TL.

b. The SL elaboration can only be expressed by means of an equivalent form.

c. The SL elaboration cannot be reproduced, but is compensated in some other way.

Elaboration is a matter of stylistics. It relies on levels of expression, which in the written language are used for certain literary effects to satisfy technical requirements, as in legal discourse. Elaboration is therefore mainly found in literary, diplomatic or political texts. Elaboration is not a property in itself. One of its extreme forms was the precious style; a contemporary elaboration is the ‘jargon’ of some social scientists.”

by retracing the process backwards, translators may be faced with alternative possibilities leading by parallel routes to the same global effect and choose the alternative to the original text.

We must therefore recognise that back-translation cannot constitute a precise measurement since it is unlikely that the original will be reconstructed verbatim. Like writers, translators enjoy a certain freedom of expression or work within a range of expressions which does not affect the meaning of the message.”

TRADUTOR FRANCÊS-FRANCÊS: “A French Canadian translation may differ slightly from a French or Belgian one in its choice of synonyms, variants or regionalisms which do not affect the global meaning of the message.”

Two versions of a text which are considered fully equivalent at one time may be considered to diverge greatly at other times. Conversely, texts which we find divergent, may be considered equivalent by a later generation of readers. Historians of the language will then have to prove equivalence or divergence.”

“‘Gloom’ is appropriate to the extent that it is an external state which the soul suffers, but it is stronger than ‘morne’ which accounts for the stronger back-translations of ‘détresse – chagrin – jours sombres’ and perhaps also for ‘tristesse’.” Gloom é uma péssima palavra do Inglês, sempre problemática!


It went like clockwork. : Cela a marché comme sur des roulettes.

His life hangs by a thread. : Sa vie ne tient qu’à un fil.

In the case of dead metaphors translators simply have to look for an equivalent metaphor in the TL.”

flotter dans l’indécision : to dilly-dally, to vacillate

la marche à suivre : the procedure

as cool as a cucumber [!] : avec un sang-froid parfait

before you could say Jack Robinson : en moins de rien / en deux temps trois mouvements

as like as two peas : comme deux gouttes d’eau : separados na maternidade

In cases where proverbs are constructed around dead metaphors, the search for equivalents can range widely. In the case of live metaphors, translators can look for an equivalent or, if it cannot be found, translate the idea. Any metaphor can be reduced to its basic meaning, which Bally calls the ‘terme d’identification’.”


un sale type : a bad guy

un type sale : a dirty guy

comer pelas beiradas

run like an invisible guy and, despite all the other runners being the favourites, win the race cofcof in one word underdog

Yoda’s ontological expectations

Since in both languages the goal tends to be placed towards the end of the sentence, in French, adverbial modifiers, which qualify it without being the real core of the message, are preferably placed in the earlier part of the sentence or before the verb. This is particularly applicable to causal expressions, a manifestation of the abstract approach in which the cause precedes its effect.

Sûr d’obtenir gain de cause, il attendit sans inquiétude l’ouverture du procès.

Il y a Untel qui donne une conférence ce soir. : X gives a lecture tonight.

the cold, ugly little town : la petite ville froide et laide

English, like German, remains more objective and therefore often represents a state or an activity outside any subjective interpretation of reality.”

There’s a knock at the door. : On frappe à la porte.

Today is Thursday. : Nous sommes jeudi aujourd’hui.

Marseilles compte une population de près d’un million d’habitants. : The population of Marseilles is close to the million mark.

English frequently uses italics or underlining for signalling an emphatically stressed word. Such marks are less clear in French where italics and capital letters do not necessarily indicate a phonemic emphasis, but rather a graphemic highlighting. Besides, French cannot at will stress any element of the sentence. Nevertheless the following uncodified means of emphasis are available in French:

Vous trouvez ça <formidable>, vous?

Permettez….. J’ai aussi mon mot à dire!

C’était hénaurme! (instead of énorme)

Si, si : Yes, indeed.

Si, si, si, si! : Yes, I assure/tell you!

C’est très, très bien. : That’s excellent.

Il n’est pas gentil, gentil. : He’s not very nice.

Il n’est pas beau, beau (Canada) : He’s not what you call handsome.”

Céline,…le Roi! Ah, quoi, mais non!…

formidable : super

écoeurant : disgusting/or : splendid (C.F.)

refus carré : flat refusal : UM FORA REDONDO

un temps dégeu (C.F.) : rotten weather

un programme sensas : a brilliant programme : TÓÓPzêra

Je te connais bien, moi!

En ce qui me concerne,…

He was excruciatingly funny : Il était impayable.

He was good and sorry. : Il le regrettait amèrement.

He was good and mad. : Il était absolument furieux.

Elle est stupide, ton idée! : This is utter nonsense.

More will be said about this later. : Nous en reparlerons.

“‘Beaucoup’ can be used in initial position only when it refers to people. (Beaucoup n’ont pas pu entrer).”

The ample use of the rhetorical question is native to ordinary French prose, not to English. It is also native to French prose to define a proposition by putting the data of it first into question form. (Belloc, 1931)”

Où est-il le temps où quand on lisait un livre on n’y mettait pas tant de raisonnements et de façons. (Saint-Beuve) : Gone are the days when the reading of a book did not require so much fuss and bother.”

There is only a step from the rhetorical question to the exclamation. English freely uses exclamations, which incidentally employ the same inversion required for questions, possibly because it constitutes an affective type of emphasis without the artifice of rhetoric.” É isso. O Português é o idioma universal que reúne as características de todos os demais. É isso! Não é isso mesmo? Creio que seja assim…, sim, de fato, assim o é, eu não me engano! Ó! Engano-me eu por um acaso?!?

Though in French exclamations are quite common in every day language, they do not occcur with the negative form. But note the fixed highly literary expression: ‘Quelle ne fut pas ma surprise…’.”

such ambiguities as ‘le tiroir est tout vert — le tiroir est ouvert’. Because spoken French does not strongly mark word or morpheme boundaries, articulation is based on sense and breath groups some of which can be quite long and difficult to analyse.”

fait no pé que le reste we cours derrièr


Mon innocent de frère : My stupid brother

deux dollars de l’heure : two dollars an hour

Il y en a trente de blessés. : Thirty were wounded.

Il n’est rien d’impossible à l’homme. : Nothing is impossible to man.

Voilà du bon travail de fait. : Well done!

Il est honteux de mentir. : Lying is despicable.

It has also been described as the film of reality. English offers excellent examples of this style in sentences such as:

He crept out from under the bed. : Il sortit de dessous le lit.

He walked leisurely into the room. : Il entra dans la chambre sans se presser.

He drank himself to death. : C’est la boisson qui l’a tué.

Off with you. : Va-t-en! Sauve-toi! File!”

Among 21 titles of novels, 16 titles are ‘static’ of the type <Vol d’essai>, but 5 resemble the dynamic nature of the English titles above.

Je me damnerai pour toi.

Quand les genêts refleuriront.

Vous verrez le ciel ouvert.

Quand le diable a soif.

Quand l’amour refleurit.”

A intradutibilidade dos títulos de música.

Writers may somehow delay the development of the ideas until they have found time to absorb and order them by establishing a sequence, hidden connections, cause and effect, etc. This is, broadly speaking[,] the French attitude, which resembles that of a spectator commenting on events rather than that of a participant stating them gradually as they appear. This second attitude requires taking a specific stance and applying value judgments, and can therefore be called rational development, which is achieved by the greater use of the level of abstract expression. Generally speaking, English adopts the first, i.e. the intuitive or sensorial point of view, whereas French prefers the second. This observation is confirmed by the English critic and writer Robert Graves, whose comment on this issue, being subjective, is also quite revealing:

…French, Italian… are reasonable codifications of as much of human experience as can be translated into speech. They give each separate object, process or quality a permanent label duly docketed, and ever afterwards recognize this object, process or quality by its label rather than by itself; … these languages are therefore also the rhetorical languages, rhetoric being the poetry of labels and not the poetry of things themselves. English proper has always been very much a language of ‘conceits’, … the vocabulary is not fully dissociated from the imagery from which it is developed; words still tend to be pictorial and not typographic… It is the persistent use of this method of ‘thought by association of images’ as opposed to ‘thought by generalised preconceptions’ that distinguishes English from the more logical languages. (Graves, 1926)”

Quant à la coordination, elle devient une véritable charpente du langage, très apparente, solide et souple à la fois, abondante et variée. Nombre de ‘particules’ lient les phrases et les propositions entre elles pour bien en marquer le rapport logique: opposition, explication, exemple, résumé, conclusion, objection. C’est encore une des grosses difficultés du grec pour les jeunes héllenistes, et même pour les traducteurs chevronnés. Si l’on traduit toutes les particules, on alourdit intolérablement la phrase française. Si on les escamote, on fait disparaître un des traits essentiels du génie grec: la démarche prudente et sûre de la pensée,… (Bernelle, 1955)”

O Novo Testamento e seu PESO incômodo bem-ilustrados… Por outro lado, não outro senão Platão podia ser o rei-filósofo…

In the translation of French diplomatic or legal texts the omission of connectors which mark the flow of the utterance would be a disservice to the language; but as these connectors can vary considerably between languages, it has to be accepted that what is explicit in one language may have to be implied in the other and vice versa, even in texts that are otherwise considered to require as literal a translation as possible.”

sentient sentence

in the last paragraph, the phrase ‘in other words’ is a semantic connector and ‘but’ a lexical connector. Dictionaries rarely list semantic connectors which are difficult to identify and characterise outside their immediate context.”

“‘furthermore’ can mean both ‘de plus’ and ‘enfin’.” Ademais, ou seja…

In all this immense variety of conditions, the objective must be… : Et cependant, malgré la diversité des conditions…

This sentence contains two enumerations, (i) of the difficulties presented by the diverse conditions and (ii) the choice of objective. ‘This’ has a recall function and at the same time stresses the complexity of the difficulties to be resolved. French prefers to indicate clearly the opposition between the obstacles and the goal to be attained.”

Dictionaries cannot offer suitable equivalents for ‘en effet’ because they would need as many examples as there are situations in which it can occur. Many translators equate ‘en effet’ with ‘in fact’ which however is the equivalent of ‘en fait’. Basically, the expression ‘en fait’ is the opposite of ‘en effet’.”

Com efeito e de fato são sinônimos perfeitos em Português.

Em efeito já seria um arcaísmo, se é que aceitável hora alguma…

Porém no parágrafo acima en fait e in fact seriam : Na verdade…

Na verdade, en fait e in fact seriam…

(idéia de oposição)

In fact I was gonna kill her, but she is indeed adorable!

Absolutely, ma friend.

It is part of Hemingway’s style to use few connectors. In modern French this style can be imitated up to a certain point. There may nevertheless come a moment when, as we have seen, the nature of the language resists close parallel translation. Even if a translator tried to imitate Hemingway’s style, it is doubtful whether French could cope with two ‘and’ in sequence. Also, the ‘when’ would normally be translated by a tighter link.”

OXIDENTE (enferruja mas demora): “In both languages the expansion of a point of view is represented by the colon, the introduction of additional information by brackets, and especially by hyphens. The indentation of a sentence, the separation into paragraphs in order to list a number of arguments, blank spaces of varying size, are all graphic means of articulating a text.”

For an English reader the semicolon [;] reinforces the comma which would normally be expected in this position and has thus the role of final element connector.”

Alemães e franceses curtem mais um

Paragraph structure is an important stylistic device; for example long paragraphs as we find them in Proust or Ruskin and short paragraphs of a few words as in Victor Hugo are intended to achieve specific reactions in readers.”

Freedom at the formal level, which has to be channelled by subtle and rule-governed techniques, is the main concern of this book. It is very difficult to make rules or even set guidelines for organising the macrostructure of texts because of the great diversity of text types and the enormous variation in the length of texts. It is nevertheless very important because it is quite easy to distort the flow of an argument by a wrong segmentation into paragraphs.” “in multilingual publications of the United Nations there seems to be an excessive concern with preserving identical paragraphs in all languages. This practice certainly facilitates cross-references among multilingual texts in a discussion, but it is dangerous to elevate it to an absolute rule. A simple count of paragraphs in bilingual Canadian or European documents shows that for the same text English uses fewer paragraphs than French and that paragraph borders do not always coincide.”

THANK GOD: “as long as the rules we have discovered here are reversible, we are dealing with a structured and classifiable system which to a certain extent is even automatic. Everything else in translation is subjective and is related to literary creation.”

Inexperienced or incurious translators do not spontaneously feel the need for a change of the point of view in a message. The more familiar a syntactic structure is to translators, the less they think of oblique solutions. This tendency is also prevalent in bilingual populations where translation is often no more than a simple calque of structures from the source language. It is, of course, true to say that bilingual populations usually also share a fair amount of culture and therefore background knowledge which influences their verbalisation. They are therefore less likely to use the method of modulation which is built on the recognition of extralinguistic differences.”

French pragmatics to express imperatives positively: French uses ‘Taisez-vous!’ rather than ‘Ne parlez pas!’. Hence ‘Tenez-vous droit!’ rather than ‘Ne soyez pas penché!’”

The advert which states Coca-Cola refreshes without filling (and its variant: Coca-Cola does not fill) cannot be translated literally, especially since the meaning of ‘fill’ is rather subjective. The Canadian translator of this slogan clearly felt the need for a modulation by inversion, which is quite common. ‘La boisson légère, qui rafraîchit!’

Phone for a taxi. : Appelez donc un taxi. (French does not specify the mode of calling or asking.)”

He stood looking at the sea : Il s’arrêta pour contempler la mer.


I’m afraid we’re not on the telephone. : Je regrette, nous n’avons pas le téléphone.

I’m afraid I’m not on e-mail yet. : Je regrette, pour l’instant je n’ai pas accès au courier électronique.

Pôxa féra, recêio naum pôder tiajudá!

O senhor queira nos acompanhar.

Estender a roupa no varal: denota a origem do hábito das lavadeiras de estenderem a roupa sobre a grama. Diferentemente do que seria se disséssemos “pendurar a roupa”.

The move from abstract to concrete reminds us of metonymy; the change of part and whole is like synecdoque; the argument by the negation of the opposite is like litotes; the use of space and time intervals is like metalepsis; etc.” ??? – esclarecimentos na sequência

…and I don’t mean maybe. : …et je ne plaisante pas.

to sleep in the open : dormir à la belle étoile

She can do no other. : Elle ne saurait faillir à sa mission. / Elle ne saurait agir autrement.

This is your receipt. (on a bill) : Reçu du client.

Buy Coca-Cola by the carton. : Achetez Coca-Cola en gros / Achetez Coca-Cola à la douzaine.

Give a pint of your blood. : Donnez un peu de votre sang.

This parcel may be opened for inspection. : Peut être ouvert d’office.

Nous sommes des Napoléons jusqu’à la moelle!

SE VOCÊ NÃO É PRONOME VOCÊ É CONTRA NOMES: “False abstractions in English are a special case under the guise of metonymy. Some English words express rather general abstractions which may cause difficulties in French. These words can be recognised both by the fact that they often stand for a previously expressed sentence and by the use of an abstract deictic. Contrary to expectations French renders these words by concrete expressions. This movement is a form of reverse modulation, moving from the general to the particular, and is motivated by the deictic and seemingly abstract nature of the English text.”

The French ‘installation’ often corresponds to ‘facilities’, a very general word of even wider range than ‘installation’.”

I saw two men with huge beards. : Je vis deux hommes à la barbe de fleuve.

Soldado de estômago vazio não agüenta fuzil: pun intended.

I wouldn’t lift a finger. : Je ne lèverais pas le petit doigt.

Estômago soldado não caga em funil. The part for the whole (synecdoque)

Ex: ‘Le Palais Bourbon’ for the French Parliament; a Sétima Arte; Marseille é a cité Phénicienne; Windy City é Chicago.

A arena onde as bestas se devoram NÃO seria um exemplo de synecdoque (qual o termo traduzido?) quando em uma prosa poética eu estiver me referindo, p.ex., aos nossos queridos congressistas. Neste caso temos uma substituição metonímica, e não a referência a um todo por um “nome próprio” ou alcunha estabelecida.

Mais exemplos onde há substituição:

Ele limpou a garganta : Ele clareou a voz.

He read the book from cover to cover. : Il lut le livre de la première à la dernière page.

“Ele flutuava dentro de suas vestes”: construção possível no Francês para denotar a frouxidão e largueza das roupas em alguém.

Don’t call up the stairs. : N’appelle pas du bas de l’escalier. [??]

Yield right of way. [US] : Priorité à gauche. Negation of the opposite (litotes)

It does not seem unlikely. : Il est fort probable.

He has a guilty conscience. : Il n’a pas la conscience tranquille.

Come along quietly. (Policeman to man being arrested) : Suivez-moi sans protester.

Don’t make me laugh. : Laissez-moi rire. [??]

I know as little as you do about it. :Je n’en sais pas plus que vous. Space for time (metalepsis)

Where my generation was writing poetry… these youngsters are studying radio scripts. : Alors que ma génération faisait des vers… les jeunes d’aujourd’hui travaillent des textes pour la radio.

* * *

the white man’s burden : le fardeau de la civilisation

Fixed expressions representing modulations, e.g. the type ‘fireboat : bateau-pompe’ exist both at the lexical level and for whole messages. In the latter case we speak of equivalences, which are discussed in the next section, e.g.:

Vous l’avez échappé belle. : You’ve had a narrow escape. : Essa foi por pouco : Escapou fedendo. : Foi por um triz.”

There is thus a difference between the parallelism of equivalences which have emerged independently in each language in an identical situation and the equivalences created by translation which have become an integral part of the TL.” “There exists a phased process of creation of new expressions some of which become fixed with time, e.g. the phrase ‘a new deal’, spontaneously written by Mark Twain, became a fixed expression with a political meaning, i.e. New Deal, when it was taken up by President Roosevelt and led later to similar expressions in politics, e.g. Fair Deal.”

semantic equivalences can be recorded in glossaries as collections of gallicisms, idioms, proverbs, idiomatic expressions, etc. (see: Dony, 1951). We intend to show that the scope of equivalences is wider and that such collections can never be exhaustive.”

French cleaning : (in France) Nettoyage américain

invisible mending : stoppage

French stick : baguette

French toast : Pain perdu. Pain doré (Canada)

French leave : filer à l’anglaise [!]

German measles : rubéole

Spanish fly : cantharide

LE BON NÖEL: “(The habit of exchanging impersonal preprinted cards at Christmas is of relatively recent date in France. Before that people sent visiting cards or letters for the New year which, though also containing ready-made phrases, were not so general as the English phrase above.)”

alusões (sínteses) culturais:

A Tomada da Bastilha : Le quatorze Juillet : Bastille Day / the storming of Bastille

Le quatre Septembre : The fall of the French 2nd Empire (1870)

L’homme du dix-huit Juin : De Gaulle (particularmente seu discurso de 18/06/1940)

la fille aînée de l’Église : Catholic France

la chute du Mur : The re-unification of Berlin

elephant : Partido Republicano

the deep south: Georgia, Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, Alabama e Mississippi

the Boston tea-party : o incêndio de navios carregados de chá no porto de Boston que iniciou a Revolução Americana de 1776

no taxation without representation : o slogan que fez eclodir a guerra de independência

epítetos retóricos:

the Granite City (Aberdeen)

the Athens of the North (Edinburgh)

um Bourbon (republicano americano!)

the Old Dominion (the state of Virginia)

Old Glory (the flag of the US) [que nojo]

the Old Colony (the state of Massachusetts) [quem adorou foi o Moro]

The simplest external indicator of allusions is to be found in words with a deictic, anaphoric or cataphoric function. In the process of analysis we could indicate anaphoric references by a left pointing arrow (←) and cataphoric references by a right pointing arrow (→); this distinction could be useful in identifying the nature of the reference so that the translation can properly account for them.

The English definite article has a greater deictic value than the French definite article and must therefore at times be rendered by a French demonstrative. Some are anaphoric, i.e. they refer to previous events or situations”

There is no future in the country if this is allowed to prevail. : Avec un pareil → état d’esprit le pays est voué à la stagnation.

Probably under the influence of the English ‘this’, many French language newspapers use ‘Ce’ in headlines, even when no explicit allusion would appear to justify such a deictic. In order to conform to the French tradition these headlines should have used nominal expressions”



French has followed English in this use of deictics, as we can see in the example of the advertising slogan C’est une chaise Flambo!. In this case an accompanying photograph or drawing can explain and even justify the use of the deictic.”

France’s Pineau. : M. Pineau, représentant de la France.

Renowned European Cuisine. : Sa cuisine.

Epicurean Wine Cellar. : Ses vins fins.

Scenic Aerial Chair Lifts. : Son monte-pente pittoresque.

Private Heated Swimming Pool : Sa piscine.

clichés are single units of translation and should wherever possible be replaced by an equivalent target language cliché. The motivation for the use of clichés can be found in the desire to avoid repetition, i.e. the wish to produce ‘elegant variations’. It may occur that there is no need for a cliché in the target language. English is not as averse to repetition as French. We can therefore expect to find more clichés in French than in English.” Cf. Partdrige, Dictionary of Clichés (1980)

You could have knocked me down with a feather. : J’en suis resté sidéré, estomaqué,…

You could have heard a pin drop. : On aurait pu entendre voler une mouche.

Was my face red!? : Je ne savais plus où me mettre.

It was sitting there all the time. : Il me crevait les yeux.

He had it coming to him. : C’est bien fait; ça lui apprendra.

be fruitful and multiply : croissez et multipliez

Genesis 1.28

old and well-stricken in years : vieux et avancés en âge

Genesis 18.11

signs and wonders : prodiges et miracles

Exodus 7.3

Fixed allusions differ from clichés in that they have a specific origin which can be traced back to an author, a book, or a well-known historic fact. They form part of a people’s heritage, and it is quite possible that 2 people, though speaking the same language do not share the same literary or historical allusions. This is frequently the case with British and North American texts.”

a certain flair is needed to recognise citations which are not identified by quotation marks or reference to the author or the book but are hidden in the text.”

Different periods and social classes have their own preferences for sources of allusions but the French classical authors have been cited for centuries and are likely to continue to do so. Many have full English equivalents and occur in English dictionaries of quotations, but English users of such phrases would not necessarily make the same cultural association to the original author and his historical period.”

a whole series of books took their title from a film by the American comedian Woody Allen, Everything you ever wanted to know about sex, but were ashamed to ask. For example, in 1981 the highly respected philosopher James D. McCawley [who?] published Everything that linguists have always to know about Logic but were ashamed to ask.”

Estude por cem dias. Quem sabe lhe servirá para um.

Em Roma fechada não entra mosca.

Como diria um português em 1530: o melhor é sempre ir par’oeste.

Her ghost in Phileas Fogg

Moçoila como a neblina (fille as fog)

O caminho mais curto para a verdade não é uma linha reta, afinal a terra é geóide.

O menor caminho entre dois pontos é uma parábola, até Einstein saberia disso.

Diz a razão, diz a abstração, que nada há mais prático e rápido que uma linha reta do início ao fim: eis porque a vida é irracional, imediata, enrolada e demora a passar! Não confie em conselhos, prefira viver sem celhos!

Pierre est vraiment séraphin. : Pierre is very avaricious.

The book by J. Heller Catch-22, later made into a film and long running television series, has given us an expression for a situation in which one cannot win, in the sense of the proverb <Heads I win, tails you lose>.”

Down! (to a dog) : Couché! Bas les pattes!

Keep off the grass! : Ne marchez pas sur le gazon! : A grama ainda está muito verde para receber caminhantes.

Under new management. : Changement de propriétaire.

: Nouvelle administration (C.F)

Desculpe, mas em Português essa não colou!

Slippery when wet. : Chaussée glissante par temps humide.

Winding Road. : Virage sur x kilomètres.

In the last example French indicates a distance, whereas English readers are expected to note by themselves when the curves stop. The greater precision expressed in French road signs by the use of precise measurements, e.g. PARIS À 600 MÈTRES (Gare St-Lazare), may add to the impression some tourists have gained that French is a clear and transparent language.”

Ceci c’est pas un spa!

Slowly you can go forever

There’s never a game over if you can fill this form.

Cof cof

Eles se parecem como dois flocos de neve. Yin e yang.

– Vocês são como Mario e Luigi.

– Irmãos inseparáveis?

– Não: todo mundo agradeceria se aparecesse só um por vez.

– Detesto hospitalidade.

– Como?

– Eu disse que detesto essas duas coisas.

– Mas você só disse uma.

– Hospital e idade. Detesto ser bem-tratado só porque sou um velho doente.

A caridade começa onde a hospitalidade acaba: no limiar da porta da sua casa.

Take, for example, the fact that most American cities are built on two sides of a railway line. Because of the distribution of population on either side, Americans speak of a right side and a wrong side of the track when they want to make general class distinctions. Translators must understand this situation before they can attempt to create the following equivalent message.

He lives on the wrong side of the track. : Il n’est pas de notre milieu.”

Ela é Julieta e eu Romeu, com essa diferença: não nos gostamos. Aí tens.

The text book examples are usually taken from Indian languages which do not differentiate between the colours red and brown, or red-brown-black, or between white-grey-pale blue, etc. Nearer to European languages, the standard example is Welsh, for which the following table shows the division of colours”

The now obsolete French expression ‘demi-tasse’ is still used in the English-speaking America to refer to the small cups used for after-dinner coffee.”

We can cite an incident of the First World War. A misunderstanding about the English troops was based on the translation of ‘tea’, the name for the English soldiers’ evening meal, by the French ‘thé’ [quando não passava de uma ração ordinária de soldado].”

The English ‘residential areas’ refers to parts of towns without shops, offices or factories. This type of town planning is often unknown in France and consequently the concept does not exist. Even in the ‘beaux quartiers’ of Paris — another metalinguistic problem — there are shops and offices in elegant residential streets.”

the French ‘quartier des affaires’, ‘centre ville’ or ‘centre’ would correspond to the US ‘downtown’ or ‘business centre’ or the ‘City’ of London.”

In the English speaking world ‘science’ does not include mathematics, the ‘humanities’ does not include history and geography and possibly linguistics.”

PROFESSOR É QUEM TEM PROFESSORADO: “the title of professor followed by the proper name is in France usually reserved for medical professors. Other university professors are more frequently called simply ‘M. X’.”

The word ‘hospital’ is not always best translated by ‘hôpital’ which in French has certain connotations of poverty if not outright misery. Therefore, in certain cases it is better to translate:

I went to see him at the hospital. : Je suis allé le voir à sa clinique.”

Yours truly, : Salutations distinguées,

Yours sincerely, : Veuillez agréer l’expression de mes sentiments les meilleurs,

Yours ever, : Amitiés

* * *

As a form of conclusion we can do not better than critically examine André Gide’s observations in the preface to his translation of the first act of Hamlet.

The study of messages, originally proposed by Zellig Harris (1952), had to wait another 2 decades before it was granted its own theories under the heading of text linguistics. Halliday (1976) discussed criteria for textual cohesion, Hoey (1983) presents the criterion of coherence. A global view of text linguistics is given in Dressler (ed.) (1978).” “There is a substantial literature on the linguistic aspects of metaphor, e.g. the excellent collection of articles edited by Ortony (1979) and Lakoff (1980); in French metaphor is discussed by Henry (1971).”

A psycholinguistic interpretation of the criterion of relevance in translation is given by Gutt (1991).”

Bernelle, M.A. 1955. “Présentation du grec ancien”. in: Vie et Langage 44. 492.

Cassirer, E. 1979. Symbol, Myth and Culture. Essays and Lectures of E. Cassirer. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Dony, Y.P. de 1951. Léxico del Lenguaje Figurado (Castellano, Français, English, Deutsch. Buenos Aires: Desclée de Brouwer.

Galichet, 1958. Physiologie de la Langue française

Hutchins, J. & Somers, H. 1992. Introduction to Machine Translation. London: Academic Press.

Locke, W.N. & Booth, A.D. 1955. Machine Translation of Languages. New York: Wiley. Lyons, J. 1977. Semantics (2vols.) Cambridge: Cambridge UP.

Malblanc, A. 1944. Stylistique comparée du français et de l’allemand. (5ed. 1968) Paris: Didier.

* * *

Rivers perhaps are the only physical features of the world that are at their best from the air. Mountain ranges, no longer seen in profile, dwarf to ant-hills; seas lose their horizons; lakes have no longer depth but look like bright pennies on the earth’s surface; forests become a thin, impermanent film, a moss on the top of a wet stone, easily rubbed off. But rivers, which from the ground one usually seen only in cross sections, like a small sample of ribbon — rivers stretch out serenely ahead as far as the eye can reach. Rivers are seen in their true stature.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh, North to the Orient

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