"Il a peur de son ombre."
Translation:He is afraid of his shadow.
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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.
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.
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.
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 :-)