"The bird carried a fish in its beak."

Translation:L'oiseau a porté un poisson dans son bec.

April 2, 2018

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Why not 'L'oiseau a porté un poisson dans le bec.' I learned that human body parts are not given the possessive if they obviously belong to the person possessing. the bird can hardly carry a fish in a different bird's beak.

Incidentally, the other day I saw a herring gull catch a fair sized flatfish at low tide. It was struggling to keep it to itself as it seemed that all the seagulls in the area wanted to steal the catch. So maybe with a bit of mind juggling a bird might just manage to carry a fish in another bird's beak. If the other bird got the fish and wouldn't let go and the original bird was holding on fast to the bird that had stolen the fish....


I also wonder if we can say dans le bec instead of dans son bec.


"dans le bec" is accepted

Anyone in a position to comment on which would be more common / natural here?


Why 'a porte' and not 'portait'. Surely the past was continuous?


The imperfect tense is not just past continuous. Imperfect is used (primarily) for 1) habitual or repeated actions in the past, or 2) an action that was in progress in the past. It has other uses, too. So that would look like this:

  • L'oiseau a porté un poisson dans son bec = the bird carried a fish in its beak. It generally describes a single completed event.
  • L'oiseau portait un poisson dans son bec = 1) the bird would (-or- used to) carry a fish in its beak (describing a habitual action in the past) or 2) the bird was carrying a fish in its beak. (Describing an action that was in progress without reference to what happened next).

Take a look at this site for an excellent explanation of the difference between Passé composé and imperfect. https://languagecenter.cla.umn.edu/lc/FrenchSite1022/FirstVERBS.html


This is great, thanks. Could you also comment on my original observation. Why son bec and not le bec? Thanks again.

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