https://www.duolingo.com/Jim277669

Why not "un" enfant in this sentence?

Translation:Mon grand-père était très pauvre quand il était enfant.

This one tripped me up, and I'm not sure why. Does anyone know why "un enfant" is incorrect here? (At least, according to a Duolingo answer)

1 week ago

10 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/Adam44288

Because here "enfant" is an adjective :) So the good way to say it is "il + être + adjective" with no article between the verb être and the adjective ! If it was a noun, it'd be more like "Quand c'était un enfant"

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Jim277669

Thank you. I'd never thought of it as an adjective, but I did run across another example in a dictionary where it is used in the same phrase exactly. While I won't be losing sleep over it, it is good to learn another accepted use of the word.

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jkidder

It's a very peculiar thing in French, that nouns of professions, religions, nationalities, and the like can be used as adjectives, but only in one very narrow situation: after "Il/elle est", when there are no other adjectives.

He is a lawyer.
C'est un avocat. (noun) or Il est avocat. (adj.)
but
He is a good lawyer.
C'est un bon avocat. (noun) only

So in other words, it's not worth remembering that "enfant" is sometimes an adjective. Rather, when you come to the c'est vs il est lesson, remember this peculiar usage as a class.

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Sierrajeff

For me this is one of the more difficult early grammar lessons - because it seems "counter-intuitive". It seems like the "Il/Elle" construction should be the specific form ("He is a lawyer"), whereas the "C'est" construction should be the adjectival form ("It's lawyery", as it were). But perhaps by knowing it's the opposite of what my English brain wants it to be, I can remember the rule!

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ken482461
  • 25
  • 25
  • 22
  • 18
  • 14
  • 156

Copy and paste the sentence: "Mon grand-père était très pauvre quand il était enfant", in the Search function and you will see the discussions regarding this sentence. For example the following one by fellow student ikwilvertalen: Quote: "ikwilvertalen If you've come across French professions, you'll recognise what is going on here. When you are saying what someone's profession is, you don't use un/une, e.g. je suis médecin - I am a doctor (literally: I am doctor), il est prof - he is a teacher (literally: he is teacher). The same pattern comes into play when saying [person] is a [specific type of person], as in "He is a child", "She is a mother" - "Il est enfant", "Elle est mère" Unquote

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Jim277669

Wow! Excellent!

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Adam44288

"[person] is a [specific type of person]" Never heard of it, or maybe the [specific type of person] is an adjective, and not a noun ? Tell me if I'm wrong but if it's a noun, only religions, professions and nationalities don't need "être + un(e) + noun".

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jkidder

Those are just the most common words that behave this way. "Enfant" and "mère" and others can be used this way as well.

Most important, though, to remember that even with professions and the like, if there is an adverb or a second adjective involved, it does not work. You never will hear "Elle est bonne mère", for example.

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/FredrikVC
  • 16
  • 3
  • 105

Did you check the language discussion linked to the question?

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Jim277669

Yes, but unfortunately nobody had been curious about my particular question. Quite honestly, I think my question is fairly low-level. It was just really bugging me! The vagaries of language... LOL! Thanks for trying to point me to something!

1 week ago
Learn French in just 5 minutes a day. For free.