1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: French
  4. >
  5. "Cette voiture coûte un bras."

"Cette voiture coûte un bras."

Translation:That car costs an arm and a leg.

December 19, 2013

101 Comments
This discussion is locked.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/judithscott

Interesting explanation of the english phrase "an arm and a leg" was given to me by a tour guide. In the old days if you wanted to have a portrait painted you were charged depending on how much of your body was included. Obviously if your portrait showed your arms and legs then it cost a lot. I wonder if it has the same roots in France?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Phrontistery

Salut. Well, I heard that in some Middle Eastern countries, if you take something you can't quite afford (steal), it will cost you an arm and a leg...or a hand, two hands, a head...sigh.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mosenazad

It's just hand, not arm or leg


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Andre872035

Not sure about Middle East, maybe cars are cheaper there and cost you only a hand, but in this French saying we talk about arm <=> bras, not hand <=> main. Still, this car is cheaper in French compared to English, just an arm, not an arm and a leg...


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Saray879288

Thank you I thought I had gone blind, couldn't see see where the leg went.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sxlty_Teardrxps

Woah. Cool. Did not know that! My class were taught what it meant, not where it came from.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Aneinout

In Brazil it costs "the eyes of your face" or "a kidney"


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/HermoineGr8

But the noun here is car, not a portrait..... Does it still mean the same?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/n6zs

It is just an expression to say that something (anything) is extremely expensive. The opposite expression is "trois fois rien" (literally "three times nothing"). It is translated with similar colorful expressions in English: small potatoes, next to nothing, peanuts, dirt cheap, no big deal, etc.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kubi_b

"Trois fois rien" est vraiment un virelangue pour moi.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Kevin968039

I can identify @kubi119759


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/stuggin

There's no mention of any legs here!!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/obitow

cars are cheaper in France. lol


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/gagarski

In Russia it would cost a kidney


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/agape1327

In Portugal it costs the eyes from the face( os olhos da cara)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mentalearner

Why "arms and legs"? Only arms were mentioned in the sentence.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Vic_H82

Agreed it would have to say et un jambes no?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

"une jambe".

This is an idiom which does not mention "une jambe" in the French version.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

Alternative: Cette voiture coûte la peau du dos (polite version).


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jrikhal

First time I (native speaker) hear this polite version. ;)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/maggimunro

Ok, so what is the impolite version, or is it too rude for Duo?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jrikhal

peau du c*l, I let those who want to know looking for the *. ;)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Buddhafly13

Maybe you can explain this to me in a personal message so as to not get yourself in "trouble"? =p


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

... la peau des fesses / ... la peau du cul

of course, this is just for you to understand it when you hear it, not for you to actually use it! ;-)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/K333222

I've heard also "ça coûte les yeux de la tête". Do French people still use that one too?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

Not younger generations though, but yes.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/NickC172

What exactly does the polite version mean?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

It means that the thing costs a lot more than what you are prepared to pay for it (as if you had to give one of your arms).


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sa_mills

What's worse, it's probably a lemon (citroen)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Remy
  • 1824

That's punny ;-)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/OpalTones

Sitesurf, you seem to know everything around here... do you work for Duolingo?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

No, I don't but I've been answering users' questions on the forums for over 8 years.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/protocactus_PC

For anyone confused, Citroën is the name of a French car manufacturer.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

Pronunciation: SI-TRO-ENN


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Odiin

The English idiom is in the past tense no? 'Cost' an arm and a leg. At least it can be. I know the French is technically in the present tense, but it added the idiomatic 'and a leg' in English. I say Ouch!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

No, "costs" is in the simple present tense. In the past simple tense, there's no 's' at the end in the 3rd person singular.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/b_adger

'Cost' would imply the car has already been bought, costs implies the car is for sale. I note that the hover hint for 'coute' is "cost an arm and a leg' but using this was marked wrong...


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/philipo79

I came on here for this exact reason. Can someone clarify that it can only mean a car that hasn't been bought?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Remy
  • 1824

"costs" is the present, so it just means that it is something expensive (either you want to buy it, or you already own it: it does not change the fact that it is expensive).


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/RICHA_GARG

"This car costs" is present tense. Past version will b "this car costed" . "this car cost" is wrong usage in english because car is singular so its verb will take an 's' at the end. In plural case it will be "these cars cost" (present) and " these cars costed" (past).


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

"to cost" is an irregular verb.

  • present: it costs
  • preterit: it cost
  • present perfect: it has cost

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/philipo79

"cette voiture a coûté un bras" = "that car cost an arm and a leg"


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JordanMowat

I see you go on and on about being true to the idiom. In English, it is predominantly "cost".


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/John787925

Even an idiom can still vary to reflect tense. "Have you bought that car you wanted yet?" "No, it costs an arm and a leg." You're probably more likely to USE the idiom to talk about something you've already bought, and thus use the past tense, but that doesn't mean it doesn't make sense in the present.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/saragclopes

you can substitute "voiture" for other words and still is an idiom or this idiom itself only works with the word voiture?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

Anything you buy for money can replace "voiture"


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DylanHepworth

This car costs an arm should be accepted. It's literal but it's still correct.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/whitegiraf1

But, it would not be correct to say to an English speaker. They would think you would left off the other part of the expression


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/hlorrithi

Now i wonder if the french also say they'd give their right arm for this and that :)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

"je donnerais un bras pour avoir ça" (not necessarily the right one)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TrishLearner

C'est toujours le bras droit en anglais. I guess our left arm has no value in English. :(


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ari_____

Does anybody knows why there is the circumflex accent on the u?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

It replaces an 's' that was there in old French: "couster" has become "coûter"


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/PugLove888

Arianna, it's just like Sitesurf explained. An example that is easy for English speakers to remember is the French word «hôtel» was once spelled «hostel»; it is also where English gets the words "hotel" and "hostel"! :~D Also remember that the French delicacy «pâte» was once just "paste". ;-)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ClassiDuo

How about "That car costs a pretty penny."


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/OsoGegenHest

Not as exact, but well done on remembering that one anyway.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MasterChief555

Doulingo is incorrect, the correct form is, “That car cost an arm”


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/BinkyOuiOui

No, the point of translating an idiom is not to translate it literally, but to translate it idiomatically. You would struggle to get the answers correct in this section if you try to translate the phrases word-for-word... "An idiom is an expression whose meaning cannot be directly derived from the meanings of the words it contains". So in the 'proverbs and idioms' section of duolingo, the correct answers will be the phrases that are accepted, used and understood in the native speaker's language. In France the saying doesn't refer to a leg (in this example) and in English speaking countries, it does. Each language has it's own version of the phrase and that's what will be accepted as being correct.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Saray879288

That may be. But a clarification of that would be appreciated. Also all languages dont have the same idioms. So hopefully these will stick to the ones that are valid to each country. Either way its a learning experience.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/duttagupta35504

Is 'coûte' only present tense?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jrikhal

coûte is the conjugated form of:
- 1st person (sing.) of indicative present
- 3rd person (sing.) of indicative present
- 1st person (sing.) of subjunctive present
- 3rd person (sing.) of subjunctive present
- 2nd person (sing.) of imperative present

In this sentence it's 3rd person (sing.) of indicative present.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

Have you ever used that verb in 2nd person (sing.) of imperative? ;-)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jrikhal

No, not up to now... ;)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Esther567

This is for all of these bonus skills, But... When I do them you never have extra words to confuse you which is always helpful in my opinion as it helps you lears Also I think there should be more lessons as after a while it gets rather repetitive.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AnaHelenaM1

Interesting, cars are cheaper in French than in English.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Elliott543308

Two things how does bras mean a arm AND a leg, and what the heck


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

Elliott, "bras" does not mean "an arm and a leg".

The sentence you were given is an idiom, which means that it does not directly translate from one language to the other.

In everyday life, "an arm" is "un bras" and "a leg" is "une jambe". If you want to refer to the indistinct "limbs" you will use "les membres" (masc).


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/proserpineisback

In my country, we say "it costs an eye of the face"


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/OpalTones

I love Duolingo stories, but there should be a place where you can write your own stories - re-enforce your French or other language, and get creative at the same time! There could even be a way to get your best stories in the reading section! Please consider!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

And who would correct your work?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Goran12

What exactly does it mean? That it was very expensive, but does worth it, or that it is simply too expensive?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jrikhal

Just that it's very expensive (there is no idea about being worth it or not).
Does the English sentence have a different meaning (being worth it)? I thought it was the same as in French.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JoyceA

jrikhal, the English "It costs an arm and a leg" just means that it is very expensive. It says nothing about whether it is worth the expense. So it is the same as the French.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jrikhal

Thanks for the answer!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Perseph1955

"My Mercedes cost me an arm and a leg, but it was worth every penny." OR: "I paid an arm and a leg for that car, but it wasn't worth a toenail." No value in the expression itself, as you see.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Jothi972484

Hi everyone

How do we report that Duolingo takes ages to load a lesson. it's frustrating to see Duo hopping skipping and whistling away. Then when the lesson is loaded it goes cranky...it won't move on to the next....

pl help/advise


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ChelleTruman

So, since this only applies to the present tense, how can we use this sentiment in the past tense in French? Is there another idiom that applies or are we supposed to change the tense of the verb coûter? There has been a lot of complaining about it one way or another but no one has answered this question as far as I can see.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

Any tense could do.

"cette voiture m'a coûté un bras" = that car cost me an arm and a leg

"cette voiture m'aurait coûté un bras" = that car would have cost me an arm and a leg

etc...


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/PeterRobin153588

Just swiping one idiomatic saying for another only vaguely connected one is hardly a translation considering the amount Duo berates us for not writing exactly what he thinks is correct elsewhere. Considering this an extra "paid for" section perhaps Duo could have put a bit more effort in composing it! [Let's not get into his ideas of translating "composing".]

Learn French in just 5 minutes a day. For free.