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  5. "Comment leur en vouloir ?"

"Comment leur en vouloir ?"

Translation:How can you blame them?

February 12, 2013



For those confused about this expression: http://french.about.com/od/vocabulary/a/en-vouloir.htm

"Elles sont comme ça. Il ne faut pas leur en vouloir. Les enfants doivent être très indulgents envers les grandes personnes." - Le Petit Prince, quatrième chapitre


ok, thanks. But you would never say "how to blame them?" in english


No, you wouldn't say exactly that, but you might still express this sentiment. One might say, "Am I supposed to blame them?" or "How do I blame them? They didn't do it."


I think we might say, "Who could blame them?"


"Can you blame them?" is another possibility that I consider a common expression.


Yeah, these sentences are awfully constructed translations.


Well, sometimes when people are still learning it's necessary to give them a more literal translation so they don't become confused. But an overly literal translation can be confusing as well. It's difficult to balance.


Thank you erudis. However I still don't understand why "vouloir" was not conjugated in this case?


It's a simple "how + infinitive" construction, very similar to English, and it's the auxiliary verb that is conjugated in this case. The only difference here is that in French the subject and the auxiliary verb can be omitted more often.

"Comment (peut-on) leur en vouloir?" - "How (can we) blame them?"

You don't need the parenthesis for the sentence to make sense in French, but you certainly do in English.


It all suddenly mades sense to me, thank you for your post.

So... "Comment (peut-on) leur en vouloir?" = "How (can we) blame them?"

In the French sentence the subject and the auxiliary verb are omited and it would still make perfect sense, but not in English.

It should be translated as: " how can we blame them?" and not the literal "How to blame them?"


How am I supposed to know this????? :(

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this is the DL way of learning, kind of like life, finding things out


If you do the hover-over on any of the words "leur en vouloir" the phrase "blame them" is shown. This seems to be the way DL is dealing with idioms now (sometimes!)


I wrote 'How to blame them for it?' translating the 'en' with 'for it', is that not legitimate?


Zeitverschwender's point seems a good one. I'd love to read someone's reply.


If you had read the link at the start of this thread, you would have seen the explanation for "en" in the phrase en vouloir since the literal translation is given as "to want some from someone". However, the phrase really means "to be mad at/to hold a grudge against someone/to blame someone", so that is how you must understand it.

For comparison, consider ça va ?. Literally that phrase is "that goes?", but what it really means is "how are you?" or "how are you doing?" which is how we interpret it and translate it whenever we see it.


I did read that about.com link (which was excellent), but obviously did not read it carefully enough, so, thanks for drawing my attention to it again. And, thanks also for the ça va analogy. (PS How do you create italics in this discussion board? Highlighting a word and then doing ctrl + i does not seem to work here).


You're welcome. With regard to italicizing your text, here is a guide on the formatting codes for this site: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/2591660


Thank you. I have problem with "Leur". I don't know its role in this sentence.


It is the indirect-object pronoun "them". Remember an indirect object is one that requires a preposition between it and the verb acting on it. Like you usually say "give it TO them". "Them" here is an indirect object. And in French, the verb "to give" donner usually requires the preposition à. So if you wanted to say "give the book to Jean and Pierre", you would say Donnez le livre à Jean et Pierre. But if you wanted to say "give the book to them" you would say Donnez-leur le livre.

For a direct-object pronoun "them", i.e., where no preposition is needed like "I like them" then the preposition for "them" would be les: je les aime bien.

Since the literal sense of leur en vouloir is "to want some FROM them", you use the pronoun leur for "them".

Does that help?


Thank you! It helps a lot. I also found this page for the reference https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_personal_pronouns


The topic is the infinitive, so some of the constructions are not complete sentences, but idioms, clauses, or phrases. Since this construction "en vouloir à quelqu'un" has so many uses, and shades of meaning, it is up to you to construct whole sentences with it. If used in speech, as a question, it is suggestion, to tease a response of some sort from you.


What the heck? I thought "vouloir" means "to want."


Individual words take on a new meaning when used in phrases.


faire = to do/to make

  • il fait beau = it (the weather) is nice

aller = to go

  • comment allez-vous ? = how are you (doing)?

être = to be; nous = we

  • nous sommes lundi = today is Monday

So yes, vouloir means "to want" and the literal translation of leur en vouloir is "to want some from them" but the actual meaning of the phrase is "to be mad at them/to blame them".

  • comment leur en vouloir ? = how can you be mad at/blame them?


So this is an idiomatic expression and so the hints should HINT that!


Unfortunately, the hints only give meanings of individual words so there is no way for them to tell you how those meanings change depending on how the word is used. You'd have to turn to dictionaries for that, or just learn from your mistakes the way you initially learned your first language.

For example, aller means "to go" and it would be wrong for the hints to suggest any word in the phrase "how are you" as a definition for aller just because there is an idiomatic phrase used to greet that uses aller.

Part of the fun in organic learning is that when you get something wrong, it makes you think more as you try to reconcile what you know with the new information you have gained. Just that exercise alone can help you retain the information better. So I find getting things wrong can be a blessing in disguise.


en vouloir à qn, to bear sb a grudge; s'en vouloir de, etc., to be annoyed with, etc. Items way down the vouloir entry in Collins. An introduction to this use might have been helpful. Then we are given "How to blame them?" which is not even a near miss for a grammatical phrase. Oh, Duo!

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I read through the discussions but still cannot understand why " how to blame them" is NOT correct.

"how can you blame them" seems more negative and shows that we should not blame them. But I cannot find such hint in this structure, but rather a simple ask.

any help please?


"How to blame them" sounds like a heading for an essay in which you will give suggestions on different ways to blame them.

"How can you blame them (when they haven't done anything wrong)?" is the sense of this sentence. You are basically stating that they should not be blamed which is the point of the French sentence.


Mer_des_chats: If one adds "Et" before the idiom it makes what you have stated even clearer. "Et comment leur en vouloir." And how can blame them?


Maybe so, but since it is not there, it clearly is not necessary for the statement to make sense in French. And so we must translate what we have, which IMO makes sense even without "And".


en vouloir = to blame some useful expressions: Je m'en veux = I blame myself. Je t'en veux = I blame you.


how do you get blame out of couloir? And I don't get the explanations. I think level 2 is too early to start throwing so many idioms at us. How are we supposed to know that to want can also mean to blame?


There is absolutely no way I could have figured this idiom out without this discussion page! Special thanks to Erudis. The deeper down this rabbit hole I go, the harder the French get.


I think "what do you want from them?" Kind of makes sense after looking at that link. Insinuates undeserving culpability in a similar way and is more literal for new learners!


How do you figure that that is more literal for learners? "What do you want from them?" in no way literally implies that someone was blaming another. When you blame someone for something, it doesn't mean you want anything from them. So I do not see how a sentence that is asking "how dare you blame them?" can be interpreted as being equivalent to "what do you want from them?"


Not sure what is meant by "how can you blame them?". If it's meant rhetorically then you'd be more likely to ask 'who can blame them?' or just be more likely to say 'you can hardly blame them'.

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