"Il a peur de son ombre."

Translation:He is afraid of his shadow.

March 27, 2013

This discussion is locked.


if ombre is feminine, why is it son?


Its because in french, when a noun begins with a vowel (or vowel sound such as "h") it takes the masculine "son" to avoid awkward back to back vowel pronunciation such as "sa ombre"


Why not "He is frightened of his shadow"?


Why not 'He has fear of his shadow'?


Because in English fear takes the form of the verb "to be." Other places like that are hunger (english, we are hungry) and finish (we are finished, means simply we have completed a task, not that we are dead, as it would translate word for word into French).


But for fear you would use have. I am scared. I am frightened, I am afraid. I have fear.


But we don't talk about having fear in basic situations, we say we are afraid, or we use fear as a verb: "he fears his shadow." If one is afraid of a class of things, you could say "he has a fear of spiders" or "he is afraid of spiders." Notice that you need the "a" when you use the verb have with fear. We simply don't construct the idea of fear in the same way that romance languages do. I can't think of a sentence or situation where you would say "I have fear." If you were in a situation that frightened you in general, you would naturally say "I am afraid." At a stretch you would say, "I have fears." I think DL is making the point that English and French use different constructions with the idea of fear.

I bumped you up because I accidentally bumped you down, and didn't want to leave that.


Yes, you're right. We would have to say I have a fear of spiders. Not I have fear.


I thought it was nombre.... grrrr


They are indeed pronounced exactly the same. In conversations though, you probably wouldn't make the same mistake :)


For years when listening to "Ne me quitte pas" I thought the words were "nombre de ton nombre, nombre de ta main, nombre de ton chien" and couldn't work out why they didn't make any sense at all, and then I saw the written lyrics. Enlightenment!


Jacques Brel' songs have enlighted us for a long time .... Just a thought for him


Are you sure they're pronounced the same? I thought the liaison in son ombre denasalizes son? Although I guess in rapid speech, very few would be able to tell.


son ombre = son-N-ombre = son nombre (not so-Nombre)


Little details like this make the learning process much more rewarding. Merci.


I think denasalization only happens with longer words that have a nasalized ending. I think short words like un, ton, etc. keep the nasalized sound even when there is liaison. I am not a native speaker though, so confirmation from someone about this would be great.


Duo did not accept "He is afraid of her shadow".

Is this incorrect?


Back translation: il a peur de son ombre à elle


Grammatically, son or sa may both be "his" or "her", it will be understood as relating to the subject of the sentence (il), so it would be understood as "his". Here is an example that demonstrates how this works:

  • Il est tombé de son cheval = he fell off his horse
  • Il est tombé de son cheval à elle = he fell off her horse
  • Elle est tombée de son cheval = she fell off her horse
  • Elle est tombée do son cheval à lui = She fell off his horse


Spanish also has a similar conundrum: "le tiene miedo a su sombra" in this case, the possessive "su" is understood to refer back to the person who is afraid (whether male or female). If we do not mean it that way, we need to add a clarifying fragment: "le tiene miedo a la sombra de ella." In that way it works similarly to the French equivalent.


One of the answer choices in a multiple choice question is "He is afraid of his own shadow". How would one say that? "Il a peur de l'ombre de soi"??


"his own shadow" is "sa propre ombre"


Why is "he has a fear of his shadow" not accepted?

  • 1017

It sounds very stilted in English. It isn't grammatically incorrect, but it is not conventional.


Often in English they say "he is afraid of his own shadow" just to make it clear that it is not some other male person's shadow that is meant. In French, they don't need to do that, so I say He is afraid of his own shadow is very often = Il a peur de son ombre.


"Il a peur de son ombre" also. I think own is just a stressing mark.


Il a peur de sa propre ombre.


Does the sentence with his own shadow is accepted? doesn't it sound better,?


No it is not, even if it sounds better, because the Fr sentence would be: "sa propre ombre"


Sitesurf, I have learned to leave the "own" out if I don't want to be penalized, and I understand the reasoning, but-- "Afraid of one's own shadow" is such a common expression that I would never leave the "own" out when speaking English. I think the question is how do we best learn the meaning of the French sentence. It is a difficult call because if we are just considering the individual words, this one translates easily as long as one remembers that the French "avoir peur" and we English speakers "to be afraid". I do know that a translator of text would include the "own" in an English translation because that is how we would express this idea.


I think "being afraid of one's own shadow" is idiomatic in English. I can't imagine saying it without the "own" part, so I think the translation should be accepted, even if the literal French wording might be different


why not "It is afraid of its shadow"?


If "it" is an animal, fine, no problem.


But if ombre is feminine, shouldn't it be ''sa ombre''


You think right, but French is sometime ... capricious. But there is always an explanation. Yes, we must say son ombre, but it's only because it sounds better, the two vowels a (de sa) and o (de ombre) wouln'd sound bad, so we say son ombre, so we can do the liaison. (Comme on dit son image, son île ... etc :-)


in Spanish, if you say «tiene miedo de su sombra» (il a peur de son ombre, he is afraid of his shadow), it is «he is afraid of everything» or «he sees dangers everywhere» that you mean. Is it the same in French and/or in English as well?


It certainly is true of English, I assume it means the same in French.


Yes, the same in French as well.

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