1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: French
  4. >
  5. "You cannot see the wood for …

"You cannot see the wood for the trees."

Translation:C'est l'arbre qui cache la forêt.

March 22, 2013



it would be nice to know when Duolingo is about to break form and do idiomatic translations instead of the usual literal ones.


This! Really unfair if idioms come all of a sudden and cost you a heart. Which may mean that you may fall short of completing a lesson. Great!


The purpose isn't to pass lessons, but to learn French, where recognising idioms all of a sudden is a necessary skill.


What bugs me is that I wrote an acceptable literal translation but was marked wrong because I said "trees" instead of "tree." Go figure.


I realize it's an idiom, but can't you also say it more literally? "Tu ne peux pas voir le bois pour les arbres"


I tried this too, but using the vous form and also lost aheart.


I tried it too and lost a heart!


Moi aussi - being creative I also tried 'parce que...." and "à cause de...." which didn't work either.


Pour is the wrong preposition,you need à cause de.


Another test in this lesson insists on "arbres" (plural) for this. I lost one heart with the singular there and another for using the plural here.



I used a literal translation from a previous exercise the one which said :"(parfois) les arbres ne vous laissent pas voir la forêt" and now it wants an idiomatic translation. I think there should be some indication that an idiom rather than the literal translation is required. The problem with idioms as we can see from this discussion is that they differ from one region to another.


I did exactly the same as you, having put EXACTLY their translation above - and lost a heart because it wanted the literal translation -and blow me down this time it wants the idiom. Doesn't it make you want to spit?


Vous ne pouvez pas voir la forêt à cause des arbres.

  • 2851

True but you also used plural ... DL does not like that. I had a more literal/incorrect translation which it had rejected due to plural of arbers. " Vous ne pouvez pas voir le bois pour les arbres"


First, it is a saying/proverb/idiom. Second, one tree does not obscure a forest. Third, the English sentence presented says "trees" not "tree". "Le bois" is just another word for a wooded area which, last time I looked, is another word for forest. As you will learn, being literal is not necessarily better and with an expression like this one, it is obvious that Duo rejects a translation and instead wants us to guess what the French equivalent is. The point is simply that this is not a translation exercise, it is a test to see if you can intuitively transform an idiom from one language into a similar idiom in another language. If Duo users took such liberties in normal translations, nobody would get past level 2.


n6zs, "a cause des arbres" (with grave over A) not accepted July 30, 2014. Reporting.

  • 272

"Les arbres cachent la foret"? DL said no but what's wrong with it?


It means you only see the trees and not the whole thing,so e.g.all the details but not the main thing. I've reported the wood/woods issue.


What does this idiom mean?


YSurUnNuage this idiom means you cannot clearly understand a situation if you are too involved in it


I really like the French version of this idiom!

[deactivated user]

    This is total crap. Cacher = to hide. Show me, in "You cannot see the wood for the trees."... where is the word "hide"?


    when all else fails DL turns to idiom for a change of pace - but knowing it might come in handy some day. Peut être??


    I don't mind learning the idiom, even if it costs me a heart, but the English should be "the woods" I think. wood=material woods=forest.


    No the English idiom is "wood" le bois .. but in English the trees are plural. Why is only the singular "l'arbre" accepted in French ?


    That's interesting, I'm an anglophone and I have always heard/read/used 'forest' so it would be' fôret ' however in idiom, where we're approximating the meaning with a local translation, it could be anything.


    watch the circumflex. your forest is actually a drill bit.


    I am English born and bred and lived there for 30 years. Have never heard the idiom with the word "forest" only "can't see the wood for the trees" but it may be one of those idioms with regional varieties.


    I agree: I have never heard "you cannot see the wood for the trees" but I have heard: "you cannot see the forest for the trees." For some reason though, duo lingo won't accept this translation.


    This one must have been constructed by a non-native English speaker. "Wood" (as well as "woods") is a synonym for forest, but it's a more poetic or even archaic usage, much less commonly used by native speakers. I join all who were annoyed at losing a heart when DL expected idiomatic French in exchange for non-idiomatic English.


    Americans say "forest" in the expression


    But other Anglophones say "wood".


    Canadians also say forest


    On the brighter side, "le bois" actually does mean a wood (chiefly literary) or woods, as in a "wooded area", not just wood, the material. A few years ago, I visited Paris and the lovely Bois de Boulogne just west of the Eiffel Tower was a real treat--il est très pittoresque. http://www.paris-walking-tours.com/boisdeboulogne.html


    It can also be translated as C'est l'arbre qui cache le forêt. which means It is the tree that hides the forest. Not sure what it means exactly, but maybe a native speaker will stumble upon this discussion and explain it.


    I cannot understand this


    In addition to other issues raised, surely "On ne peut pas…" should be acceptable (besides "Tu…" and "Vous…"), since the "you" is meant in the general sense, not the specific person spoken to?

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