"Yet, we were away for two minutes only."

Translation:Pourtant, nous ne nous sommes absentés que deux minutes.

April 17, 2018

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Help! Can someone break this down for me please

Pourtant = yet

Nous sommes absentés = we were away (is that the first nous or the second?)

I'm presuming 'absenter' is what i have seen called 'reflexive' (no idea what it means other that it has a second nous (or vous etc.)

I've seen ne... que, but never seen the 'ne' part between a double nous (vous etc.). Is this where the first part of the negative should go when it is reflexive?

Any help is much appreciated!


Reflexive verbs are used for when the action is done to the subject. For example, "se demander" is to "ask oneself. So when we say "Je me demande" we mean "I ask myself." Remember that "se" is a reflexive pronoun and changes according to the subject.

However, there are reflexive verbs that have an idiomatic meaning. "S'absenter" is one of them.

  • je me suis absenté
  • tu t'es absenté
  • il s'est absenté
  • nous nous sommes absentés
  • vous vous êtes absentés
  • Ils se sont absentés

In all of the conjugations above, you have this order: subject → reflexive pronoun → auxiliary verb être → past participle.

The two element "ne... que" adverb is used to denote a restriction of something. In this case, the addition of "ne... que" adds the meaning "only two minutes." As with any verb with object pronouns, the "ne" will go before everything (verbs and pronouns) except the subject. The "que" will go before the thing you're restricting. You then have

  • subject → ne → reflexive pronoun → auxiliary verb être → past participle → que → two minutes


Thanks for the explanation but i'm still struggling with this one. The way I read it as a learner, adding the "ne" makes it negative and would read - "We weren't away for two minutes". Is this one of those oddities that you just need to accept doesn't make sense if you translate too literally?


The way I read it as a learner, adding the "ne" makes it negative

But not always the same kind of negative. The "ne" is just an indicator that the sense of the verb will be influenced or restricted in some way. The second element will tell you how. You need that second element to tell you what kind of negative.


Why not: "Cependant nous nous sommes absentés pendant deux minutes seulement"?

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