1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: French
  4. >
  5. Help with the sentence: sans …


Help with the sentence: sans oser se l'avouer


sans oser se l'avouer.

Does this mean: Without daring to admit it to oneself or just without daring to admit it.

What I'm having trouble with is the se.

Would it be incorrect to just say:

sans oser l'avouer. i.e without daring to admit it.

As I don't think avouer always has to be a reflexive verb.

So basically

sans oser se l'avouer. sans oser l'avouer.

is the second sentence incorrect? And for the first sentence, does it mean admit it to onself or just admit it?

Thank you!

August 3, 2017



sans oser se l'avouer = sans oser l'avouer à soi-même

sans oser l'avouer = sans oser l'avouer [à... quelqu'un]

Both are right, but they mean two different things.


Yes, both are correct and the first one means 'Without daring to admit it to oneself', indeed.

In French, we can add 'à soi-même' either for emphasis (like in Pierre's example) or for clarification, because reflexive verbs are also used for several persons.

Here is an example of the possible ambiguity with two persons:

  • Roméo et Juliette s'aiment sans oser se l'avouer.

I will not even discuss the ambiguity of 's'aiment', because they could be in love with themselves. We can take for granted that they love each other. But there is still the ambiguity about 'se l'avouer'. Either they do not admit it to themselves, or to each other, so we can add something for clarification.

  • Roméo et Juliette s'aiment sans oser se l'avouer à eux-mêmes (to themselves).
  • Roméo et Juliette s'aiment sans oser se l'avouer l'un à l'autre (to each other).


thank you!! very useful answer


PS: In general, the first ambiguity, about love, is only clarified if it is self-love ('Roméo et Juliette s'aiment eux-même'), otherwise it will be considered as mutual love. If there is only one person, it can only be self-love, of course ('Narcisse s'aime') and a clarification ('lui-même') will be redundant, and therefore incorrect.

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