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"The United States is a great country."

Translation:Les États-Unis sont un grand pays.

February 14, 2013



... said no one in France, ever.


Except maybe at the end of that little, unnoticed thing called World War II. Or in the period between the American Revolution and the French Revolution. Or when France gave the United States the Statue of Liberty...


It is fairly large though.


What are the rules for handling nations like the U.S. which in French are nominally plural? Here we have noun and verb agreement, but not adjective? In what other sentence structures does a nominally plural entity exhibit singular conjugations/declensions/etc?


The singular forms occur in the phrase "a great country," un grand pays. This whole phrase is being equated to the plural subject, les Etats-Unis. It's all very logical, really: plural subject & verb (The U.S. are) plus the singular complement (a great country). If we could still say "These United States are", feeling the words as a true plural, it would seem more natural: "These United States are a great country" (because it's true, e pluribus unum--we are just one country).


I was actually referring to the French rules, not English. For example, wouldn't we write "les chats sont noirs", not "les chats sont noir"? So I'm wondering where else we have this interesting acceptable disagreement in conjugation and declensions.


In your sentence "noirs" (black) modifies "chats" (plural cats) so the plural "noirs" is required to match the plural "chats." But in the sentence "Les Etats-Unis sont un grand pays," "grand" (great) modifies "un pays" (one single country) not "Les Etats-Unis" (the 50 united states). That is why the singular "grand" is required -- it has to match the singular "pays."


Then why not THE us IS a great country?


We Americans say it that way all the time, but the French don''t. Notice how they say "Les Etats-Unis" using the plural article "les" instead of the singular "L' "


Thanks, this is interesting. Would "The United Nations is a great organization." Translate to "Les Nations Unies sont une grande organisation"?


This is probably the most logical explanation on here...It explains why what I wrote is the exact opposite of the correct answer, lol...

In English, The United States refers to one country, as a whole. (Unfortunately, my brain likes the concept of "Le États-Unis.")

On that note, I also wanted to use est here, as opposed to sont; these singular forms match with un pays...

Le États-Unis est un grand pays. Would that be acceptable? ...or is it just one of those rules you have to remember? :p


Until Donald Trumpet comes to power!


Well, this aged well. Extremely well.


Trumpet?!?! Lol! I call him a human cheeto tho


I think this is more similar to British than American english. The Brits refer to companies in the plural where we use the singular. For example, they would say "Jaguar are introducing a new model" "Apple are selling a new computer" "Toyota are retooling" because companies are seen as a collection of individuals where we would use "is" in each of those examples because we view the company as an entity in itself. In this case, the french translates to "The United States are a great country," because it is seen as a collective where we would say "The United States is a great country" because we see it as a unit.


We use English-English in Australia, and would never use 'are' in this sentence. It's just grammatically incorrect. With collective nouns, verb form choice depends upon whether the emphasis is on the whole, or the units within the whole, and in this sentence, emphasis is upon the whole.


I agree with you, but I'm afraid not everyone does.


A little knowledge has always been a dangerous thing.


Why do you make me tell lies?!!!!


I don't get this. It seems to literally translate to "the united states are a great country".

I mean, I understand the idea "the united states FORM a great country". Is that what we're saying here? We're not talking about the place as one nation?


It says the (50) United States are a (single) great country. The French have preserved the concept of pluralism that would have been familiar to our founding fathers: "....That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States...." (Declaration of Independence) ".....The united states, in congress assembled...." (Articles of Confederation)


how strange that US is only semi considered a collective noun. shouldnt it either be 'est un grand pays' or 'sont grands pays' or something. either way most of the world stopped treating the US as a plural noun for some hundred years.


It's actually logical if you think about it: the whole point of the U.S. is they comprise one country. E Pluribus unum


I thought by the phrase "The United States is a GREAT country" that it meant "great" as in "good" not as in "large". :(


if you put 'grand' before the noun it means 'large', if you put it afterwards it takes on a figurative meaning 'great, good, grand' etc. The French.About website explains it well


les Pays-Bas sont un pays grand


I think it's the other way around. Adjective, if put before the noun, indicates that the meaning is figurative and if after, literal (except the BANGS adjectives).


I put it after and was wrong:/


I think "grand" means both of those things. o:


We have the yuuuugest country, nobody has a yuuuuger country than we do


As an aside, how do the French suggest sarcasm? Is it the same as English, by putting emphasis on a word, or is there another way?


This is determining that the states are plural, when they aren't---they are part of the collective when discussing the country, hence being called United. "United States" is singular.


Yes, we would say (in English) "The United States is a great country / a wonderful place to live" (or whatever), but apparently in French it's different; the phrase is still felt as a plural, thus subject of a plural verb.


The problem you encounter here has one true answer: In French, the logic of the grammar always comes before the logic of reality. We don't say "Les États-Unis est un pays" because it sounds incredibly weird to start with a plural subject and go with a singular verb, even though we are aware the U.S. are one country. Just remember, it's about the grammatical logic first.


Im confused, does grand come after Etats-Unis? I thought the adjective comes after the noun in french.


The adjective "grand" is modifying "pays," not "Etats-Unis," no?

SIZE adjectives precede the noun, in French (also QUALITY and AGE--I seem to remember there's a whole list of them.). "Les petits enfants," "une jolie femme," and so forth.


Should this be "un pays grand"and not "un grand pays"?


I believe it's that SIZE adjectives precede their noun.


Then why make America great again


Says who? French Americans?


Why did it reject "...pays grand " , I thought adjectives came after the noun


I think it's true that size adjectives come before the noun.


Oh how devious, one solution was missing a diacritic...


I think this is more similar to British than American english. The Brits refer to companies in the plural where we use the singular. For example, they would say "Jaguar are introducing a new model" "Apple are selling a new computer" "Toyota are retooling" because companies are seen as a collection of individuals where we would use "is" in each of those examples because we view the company as an entity in itself. In this case, the french translates to "The United States are a great country," because it is seen as a collective where we would say "The United States is a great country" because we see it as a unit.


lol not at the moment


Does this sentence refer to the states being a large ( vast) country or a very good one? I thought 'grand' meant large, but if someone said "the US is a great country" to me then I would think they meant it was a good contry.


"Some adjectives have both a figurative and an analytic (literal) sense and can thus be placed on either side of the noun. When the adjective is figurative, it goes before the noun, and when it's analytic, it goes after the noun."
Figurative: un grand homme a great man
Literal: un homme grand a tall man


Une grande reponse! Merci beaucoup


Thank you! I had to read through a lot of unrelated politics/history comments to get to my answer. I think this applies to Spanish too. This was exactly what I was wondering.

  • 1301

So the country of the united states is considered plural? How odd.


No, the term country in the sentence is singular. "Un grand pays.


Oui, exactement! Il n'est pas nécessaire faire Amerique grand encore!


Guys guys I am Iranian, soon we'll have a war with Les États-Unis and the fate of the politics will be decided, so just leave this topic for now and pay attention to the Grammer!


my understanding is that united states is Plural always, regardless of how we think of them. What confuses me is why is it not grands? It seems to have a plural subject but grand pays is singular?


There is agreement in number between 'Les États-Unis' and 'sont' because in French the name of the US is plural. There is also agreement in number between 'grand' and 'pays' because 'pays' is itself singular. The word 'grand' is modifying 'pays' not 'Les États-Unis.'


Note that it's "un grand pays." What the US is (are!) being equated to is a singular phrase.

It's hard for us as English speakers, but I think it's like those sentences where you say "She is an angel" in a gendered language: "She" is obviously feminine, but if it happens that "angel" is a masc. noun (un ange, in French, ein Engel, in German), you have these sentences that may seem weird to us, at first, but are perfectly logical: "Marie? C'est un ange!" (DL has rehearsed it often enough that I won't say "Elle est un ange" where it should be "C'est... !") I guess something like "Cette femme est un ange" would be a possible utterance (?).


I can take the plural verb and singular adjective and noun (just) - I suppose we could have a sentence like: "These apples are a big load", or similar constructions.

What gets me is being caught by the Duo hints yet again. The given hints are 'grand' or 'magnifique', and 'great' seemed better translated by 'magnifique'. This is not accepted, but apparently 'formidable' is, even though it doesn't appear in the hints. Grrr...


I like your apple example!


In American English, plurals, when considered as a whole and used as subjects take singular verbs. It should be The United States is a great country: Other examples: ham and eggs is a breakfast food.


Um! The United Ham and Eggs are a great food: a thought!


Ham and eggs are both breakfast foods; "ham and eggs" is a meal or dish you might have for breakfast.


I think there are examples both ways. "The Olympic teams are a great asset." Which we treat the same way the French use in the given sentence.


Thanks to everyone posting in this thread the subject + verb agreement in the lesson makes more sense. Whether the phrase is sonorous to the ear is another matter but its structure is consistent with what we've learned up to now.

Conversely, is the lesson's logic correctly applied in the following phrase?

'Le pays de les États-Unis est grand.'

Contemplating the phrase above - in which the subject is the country as a whole - along with the forum discussion helped me arrive at a tentative conclusion (open to confirmation/clarification): <<Les États-Unis>> agrees with <<sont>> and is treated singularly by the adjective <<un grand pays>>.


How is "great" translated to "grand"? Grand = big/tall, n'est-ce pas?


It was great. It's now been "trumped" by many other countries :)


True that. Opinion-wise.

  • 1301

I used "grand" and it counted me wrong. It said to use "genial" So now I am quite confused. Which is correct and why?


"Un" after "sont" ?? I'm confusion. America explain!!!


Think of it rather as "un" before (and agreeing with) "pays."

We need the "sont" because the subject is plural ("les Etats-Unis").

Think of the whole sentence as: "The (plural subjects) ARE [the same as] a singular complement."

OR: Think of how we would say, "The Millers ARE (plural verb!!) A (singular article!!) wonderful family."

Or, "They are a good team." That kind of thing!

(As others have explained, English speakers no longer really "see" the plural "United States" as a plural any more; whereas once upon a time, Americans spoke of living "in THESE (plural) United States," today we see "the United States" as a collective noun, grammatically singular, equivalent to the singular noun "America." )


Isn't this a big country? I was thinking great in terms of really good - I've not heard "grand" used in that context - can it be?


Grand has several meanings. Large, big, wide, great, etc


OK, thanks Denis. As I say, I've not heard it used that way but it's good to know. I can't remember what I answered now (!) so it would be interesting to know what, if any other answers would have been excepted. I'm thinking "formidable"!


So great and big are the same word in French? Seems strange to me they have a completely different context.


"The United States is a great country." Why "sont" instead of "est"?


(There are many answers to this question already, on this page.)


I was wrong because i wrote 'les états unis sont un pays grand'. it is sad.


Great does not have to mean big. Can also be a superlative.


How would I say 'is a big country'? Would it be: un pays grand? Or is it trickier than that?


How would I say: The United States is a big country.


i thought adjectives came before nouns in French :|


How come the adjective comes before thr noun here? The sentence isn't saying 'large', it's saying 'great', which does not refer to the size.


How come the adjective comes before the noun here? The question does not refer to the size. It says 'great', and not 'large'.


Shouldn't we use adjective after the noun? Why ((un grand pays)) and not ((un pays grand)) like the previous casee


Why isn't it pays grand, rather than grand pays?


This propaganda from a learning platform is abhorrently disgusting.


This propaganda from a learning platform is disgusting.


Doesn't sont = are? Shouldn't it be Les Ètats-Unis est un pays grand?


Les États-Unis is plural, therefore "sont" is used. In the past it was also plural in English.


Grand = great, which does not describe size, so why grand is positioned in front of the word pays. I agree if grand was translated big.


Rules always have exceptions. Perhaps here is works like "un homme grand" (a tall man) or "un grand homme" (a great man).


Grand = great, which does not describe size, so why grand is positioned in front of the word pays. I agree if grand was translated big.


THE US (plural) are A (singular) great country?..confusing


Doesn't adjective come after the noun? (Pays grand) and also I thought grand meant big and super meant great but my answer wasn't accepted


Should this not be 'EST un grand ...' because the United States is one country?


"Les États-Unis" is plural. Think of other similar situations in English like "The Beatles are a great band" or "The Habs are a great team".


Why are we using sont instead of est?


If "Les Etats-Unis" is plural, the verb it's subject of must also be plural.

Extensive discussion of this very point on this page already.


As before we studied, adjective is following behind noun (glass green, women french, ....). Why is it "big country" in this case ?


Why does the adjective come before the noun here?


Why not pays grand? Grand is an adjective coming after the noun not before


Why is the adjective not after the noun like in other classes. Eg. Un magasin petit vs. Un grand pays


It is "un petit magasin" adjectives of size come before the noun.


Why is it un grand pays instead of un pays grand like in other classes (un magasin grand)


"Les États-Unis sont un pays grand" incorrect why?


Here grand must be placed before the noun. Un grand homme (a great man) un homme grand (a tall man)


so when does the adjective precede the noun and when does it follow the noun? Would 'Les Etats-Unis sont pays grand' be right? why or why not?

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