1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: French
  4. >
  5. "The United States is a great…

"The United States is a great country."

Translation:Les États-Unis sont un grand pays.

February 14, 2013

110 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Mike359965

... said no one in France, ever.


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

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...


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

It is fairly large though.


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

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?


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

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).


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

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.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Gp6am

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."


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Davewilson123

Then why not THE us IS a great country?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Gp6am

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' "


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DenisBouch7

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


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Kelly110588

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


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/-YahYeet-

Until Donald Trumpet comes to power!


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

Well, this aged well. Extremely well.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/tu.8zPhLjEMCwfst

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


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

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.


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

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.


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

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


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

A little knowledge has always been a dangerous thing.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Keno909

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


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Muzorewi1984

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?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Gp6am

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)


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

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.


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

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


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

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


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

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


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/helmi23

les Pays-Bas sont un pays grand


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

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).


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Michelle343886

I put it after and was wrong:/


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

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


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

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


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

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?


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

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.


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

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.


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

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.


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

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


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

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.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Tanja29373

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


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

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


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

Then why make America great again


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Amanda39912

Says who? French Americans?


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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.


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

lol not at the moment


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ChrisBird6

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.


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

http://french.about.com/od/grammar/a/adjectives_4.htm
"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


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ChrisBird6

Une grande reponse! Merci beaucoup


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/inging198198

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.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Qiset1
  • 1301

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


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DenisBouch7

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


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/giligara30492

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


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Autre10

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!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/cmiller7

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?


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

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.'


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

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 (?).


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Wiggy96

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...


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

I like your apple example!


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

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.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Davewilson123

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


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/XieC2

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


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DenisBouch7

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.


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

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>>.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/vha2

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


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

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


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

True that. Opinion-wise.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Qiset1
  • 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?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Baran427964

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


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

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." )


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/NicolaWils19

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?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DenisBouch7

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


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/NicolaWils19

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"!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rae149514

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


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

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


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

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


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ninety15

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


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/lynn184280

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


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/VickiAdams4

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


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/VickiAdams4

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


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

i thought adjectives came before nouns in French :|


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/RutuPatel25

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.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/RutuPatel25

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


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Autre10

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


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

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


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

This propaganda from a learning platform is abhorrently disgusting.


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

This propaganda from a learning platform is disgusting.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Benjamin_C-C1997

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


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DenisBouch7

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


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Maria381648

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.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DenisBouch7

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


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Maria381648

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.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/wiltrud607387

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


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

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


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

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


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DenisBouch7

"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".


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/dara-03

Why are we using sont instead of est?


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

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.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/William26893

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


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

Why does the adjective come before the noun here?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Raha1978

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


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Neens1982

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


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DenisBouch7

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


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Neens1982

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


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/anhx.ng

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


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DenisBouch7

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


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

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?

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