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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?
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.
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.
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". ;-)
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.
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.
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).
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.
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".]