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"On ne peut pas avoir le beurre et l'argent du beurre."

Translation:You can't have your cake and eat it too.

December 22, 2013



how did butter and money become eating cake?


These are both idiomatic expressions, so it's translating the entire idiom rather than having a literal word-for-word translation that wouldn't communicate the same meaning in the other language. It is tricky when you first encounter these sorts of things on Duo, but I think it's also good to learn expressions like this.


I don't think that helps us any. It helps us to learn idioms, not French. I would like to know what the sentence means to a French speaker. I don't need Duolingo to explain to me what "you can't have both butter and butter money," means. I would like to know if my translation is correct. It's good to learn expressions, but they should take both the literal and figurative translations.


I respectfully disagree. In this example the literal translation would be incorrect as it would not convey the correct meaning of the sentence and makes no sense.


It means that you can't buy something, and keep the money. You cant have your cake and eat it too.


I think people often underestimate how much sense some idioms make even when taken literally. "You can't have your cake and eat it too" : you can't keep a cake and still have eaten it, hence reaping both benefits - makes sense. "You can't have butter and money for butter" - also makes sense.


Totally agree. I wish I could up vote your comment more than once!

Having the answer be an English idiom which means something similar but translates entirely different is NOT helpful. When I say or write the French idiom, and think an idiomatic English approximation that is NOT helpful.

The English idiom should be a note, NOT the answer. We are intelligent enough to read the French words and decipher the actual meaning of the French idiom without having the English idiom forced on us, impeding our translation skills.

This entire unit is a complete mess.


For what it's worth, the literal answer is accepted, at least now (I wrote "you can't have the butter and the money for the butter," which was marked correct). So I don't think it's impeding literal translation skills at all, if that's what you're going for. However, I think idioms and idiomatic expressions are extremely important in learning any language, because only being able to translate sentences based on their literal meanings leaves huge gaps in our ability to communicate, and effective communication is the entire point of learning a language.

Here's an example: If a French-speaking person learned English incredibly well in a textbook sense, but without ever having to translate common idioms into equivalent language-appropriate idioms, they might say to you in English, "for lack of thrushes, one eats blackbirds." This would make absolutely no sense to you and might even be pretty off-putting (you eat what?!), making all their hard work mastering English vocabulary and grammar pretty much useless in this case.

However, if they had learned to translate common idioms as a whole, instead of literally, they would know that they should say instead, "beggars can't be choosers." While in the case of the butter/cake idioms the meaning might be clear based on the literal meaning, this is definitely not always the case, and either way, the ultimate goal is for the speech to sound natural in the target language, so translating idioms non-literally is always the preferable translation.

As they say, "don't translate the words, translate the meaning."


So why does Duolingo give us the word-for-word translation instead of using it as an expression? (I've returned to learning French for the first time in over a year, and have absolute no memory of this phrase, so trying to remember what it was was REALLY hard for me.)


Try doing the newly added unit on IDIOMS, you will loose fewer hearts down the road, and get a few laughs à la fois ;-))


Because the French peasants had no cake to eat!

(I kid)


I answered "You can't have your cake and eat it" and was flagged incorrect. I have reported it since the final "too" is often dropped. It seems there are a few variants around: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You_can%27t_have_your_cake_and_eat_it


I agree completely and have fixed it.


In Yorkshire that idiom would translate as "you can't have the penny and the bun". I feel that might be a bit closer to the french intent


I like that expression too! :-)


Right about now, some in Duo-land is wondering why they bothered to put this in the section on Materials instead of IDIOMS where it belongs.


With all the idioms we have seen, they couldn't have fit it in the idiom section


Ah! Leave it to the French to have a saying about butter! ;-) But since I love butter also, I should remember this one! :~D


You can't have butter and the money for butter, too. makes sense to me, though obviously the English idiom is what one uses in translation


As not being a natural speaker in English I first had problems with understanding this idiom. When I looked it up then it gave me "You can't run with the hare and hunt with the hounds!" which then made more sense to me (so this should be an option as well in my opinion.

(In German we have a saying that pictures to "dance on two weddings at the same time" which means the same thing.)


I would suggest that both the English and French versions of this saying have a slightly different meaning. Namely, that if you choose something nice, there is a cost. The examples you have given seem to imply a choice between two things, neither of which is more favourable than the other.


We say "You can't have YOUR cake and eat it too" in English. This is an error. Duolingo wrote this as "You can't have THE cake..."


So is the literal translation one cannot have the butter and also the money?


Yes, that's it.


I honestly couldn't figure out what was meant by l'argent du beurre until I read the comments. I would benefit from seeing both a literal and idiomatic translation.


I like, "You can't have it both ways."


I do not understand what type of translation is this one. You can't have your cake and eat it too. ?? Of course I can have my cake and eat it too. I do understand that this is a saying that does not means what the words are but I never heard this expression in English. Where is this expression used?


It is extremely common in English everywhere I know of. I was born and bred in California, have lived in British Columbia for many years, and have travelled in Australia, New Zealand, England and Scotland.

Once you've eaten your cake, you don't have it any more. You can't have it, sitting on the table looking pretty, and eat it, too. The meaning, for this saying and for the French one, is that sometimes you have to choose between mutually exclusive options.


As someone else already pointed out, the original expression was " you can't eat your cake and have it too" which makes more sense


As a native English speaker I don't think I ever fully understood (parsed) this common idiom until I saw the equivalent idioms in French.


Another colloquial way of saying this in the North of England would be to say:you can't have the toffee and the halfpenny too.


I recall learning idioms in my native language as a child. My parents would explain how the literal words applied to abstract concepts in life. I look at language learning as an adult in the same way. It would help me tremendously to look at the literal translation first and then relate that to the idiom as I know it in my native language. Otherwise I just memorize a phrase and it doesn't really make much sense to me. Can anyone explain this butter thing to me here?


The farmer can have the money, but the butter will be gone; or she can keep the butter and have no money.


My (DL wrong): You can't have THE cake and eat it too"<--

DL right: WE can't have THE cake and eat it too." / But, as an alternative (here): YOU can't have YOUR cake and eat it too.

Actually, I have heard the phrase: "You can't have THE cake and eat it too"." by well raised and "very English" people.

Is this idiosyncratic?


I like, "You can't have it both ways."


This is great XD you can't have the butter and the money for the butter. XD


why wouldn't "we can't have both" be a valid translation? Is the point of this to provide an equivalent idiom in English or to interpret the idiom's meaning?


To provide an equivalent idiom - this can "drive you round the bend", if you "haven't a clue", but as DianaM says above it's how we learn. I have to leave idioms till I'm in the right mood so I don't "throw the towel in" (don't ask....)


What does that even mean!?!?!?


Roughly speaking, it means, if you have a choice between two options and each rules out the other, then you cannot have them both. More specifically, if you buy the cake (or the butter) you cannot also have the money. Another interpretation might be that if you choose something nice, there is a penalty to pay. However, nothing gets the meaning across quite as effectively as the saying itself.


There are too many possible versions of this idiom in English, "One can't have cake and eat it too" is wrong but should be right and "one can't have their cake and eat it too" is also wrong but should be right, but "one can't have his cake and eat it too" is correct


I don't necessarily agree with all you said, and I'm not sure where you are being ironic, but with regard to your final suggestion, shouldn't that be "One can't have one's cake and eat it too"? :) Just a thought.


Et le sourire de la crémière ?? XD


ni la crémière


I like, "You can't have it both ways."


one cant have the butter and keep the money


I think this might be incorrect - it makes no sense!! Butter & money???


It is not incorrect. It is an idiom. Literally, "You can't have the butter and the money for the butter". Meaning, you can't have two mutually exclusive things - if you buy butter, you won't have the money; if you keep the money, you won't have the butter. The usual English idiom with the same meaning is, "You can't have your cake and eat it [too]". OK?

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