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

Tense in translations

I've noticed a lot of biographical articles about dead people begin with 'Il est' or similar - that is, talking about the person, and the things he/she has done, in the present tense. We typically translate this to past tense to match English conventions.

I therefore have some questions:

1) Is using present tense to talk about the past a French convention?

2) Should we convert to past tense when translating, or translate literally?

Thanks!

June 26, 2012

3 Comments


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

Hi therico,

In French, there is what we French people call "présent de vérité générale" which you could translate as "present tense of general truth". It is a somewhat difficult notion, but basically it is used for statements/facts which are considered as "absolute truths", ie: Le soleil se lève à l'Est (=The sun rises from the east) or regarding dead people : everything about them that is documented, and will not change (provided time does not begin to flow backwards).

I think this should answer your first question. For the second one, hopefully some people will chime in and clarify things further.


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

I think I would translate into the past if it sounds more natural in English.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/yojoedave2002

I asked this question too. The "dead people and documented" part of what KiP said answered my question :)

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