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  5. "Je savais être gentil."

"Je savais être gentil."

Translation:I knew how to be nice.

April 10, 2013



I wrote "I knew to be nice," which was wrong. Can this be interpreted that way, or no? It's maybe a slightly odd sentence, but it can make sense in the right context. Maybe "He'd had a difficult day, so I knew to be nice."


I thought that too -- wouldn't "Je savais comment etre gentil" be "I knew how to be nice"?


You never use savoir + comment, when it's 'to know how to do something', it's just 'savoir + qqch', no comment.


By "qqch" you naturally mean "verb", right? ;)


Yes, "savoir" + infinitive = to know how to + verb.



Here there is an error because " gentil " and " gentille " have the same sound. I have written " gentille " and Duo counted me false.

Edit : N6zs, you are right.


@LaKapsule44 I presume you got the audio exercise. In that case there is a difference in pronunciation between "gentil" and "gentille". "Gentil" (gen-TEE). "Gentille" (gen-TEE-ya). From the audio exercise, only the masculine form will be accepted. Unfortunately, the female audio is not correct. I have disabled the audio exercise.


So how would one say "I knew to be nice"? It's important to know both so we can make the distinction.


Should you happen to see that again, I figure it means "quelque chose."


I did the same thing. It may be that savoir means knowing in the sense of knowing how. Maybe 'I knew to be nice' would be 'je comprenais d'être gentil'. That is, 'I understood to be nice'. I really don't know.


Me too - and I don't think it an odd sentence at all. I wish I knew how to express the two ideas in french as they are obviously very different concepts.

BUT savoir can indeed mean to know or to know how e.g. il sait nager is he knows how to swim. It can be used when a skill is required, so I'm not sure about d'être gentil - I gues it is a kind of skill : )

When we say I knew to be nice, there is a sort of had to/should/needed to be understood. I knew (I needed) to be nice

So perhaps when the french want to say I knew to be nice,with this meaning, they might use il falloir or a derivative in the sentence somewhere.

Hopefully a french native will let us know fro sure.


As vcamp89 said, whenever "savoir" is used before an infinitive, it means "to know how to." For example:

Je sais jouer au hockey. = I know how to play hockey.

Elle savait cuisiner. = She used to know how to cook.

I cannot answer the question of how to translate "know to do something" since I'm wondering the same thing myself. Hopefully a native speaker can help here.


I have never seen this meaning of "to need" of the verb "to know". The example sentence (He'd had a difficult day so I knew to be nice) sounds very odd to me. Is this used only in British English?


I hope I help here... looks like is similar in structure to spanish, where you would say " yo supe ser agradable" = "I knew how to be nice". The "how" is implied with the verb form of "savais" in this case.


native spanish/english speaker here.


What "I knew to be nice" in your example sentence should mean? I can not figure it out.


I am a native french speaker (did this for fun). It was very clear to me, and i replayed many times, that she pronounced "gentille" (the -ille sound is not loud but there). Was very surprised when i was told i was wrong.


I am glad to hear this from a native french speaker :) I thought I knew what I was listening for, but I had to listen several times before deciding on gentille so I got annoyed that i got it wrong. If you thought the same then maybe I am listening for the right sounds


Same here. Played back both words in Collins and Google Translate before making a decision. It is very clear she elongates the ending of the word, as you'd expect in "gentille", but not in "gentil".


Is there a difference in the pronunciation of gentil and gentille? if there is I can't tell at least based on the speech software duoLingo seems to be using.


Before I put in my answer I thought there must be a difference and I didn't want to lose a heart so I put both "gentil" and "gentille" into google translate and replayed them over and over. I got the impression "gentille" was slightly more stressed. I replayed the duolingo audio a couple of times, and thought "yep" it sounds slightly stressed, answer is "gentille". Incorrect.

Moral of this story: Duolingo audio is atrocious.


This audio seems incorrect anyway on this page : I hear "gentille" even though it's written "gentil". And I'm French, so it's not coming from my listening skills.

This audio is correct :



When the speaker is a female voice as it is in this exercise one would tend to think it is "gentille". This is often a problem with Duolingo where the genders of the voices don't match what they are saying.


This one may be a hard one for foreigners, because "gentil" and "gentille" are pretty similar as far as the pronunciation is concerned.

The end of "gentil" is pronounced like the end of "petit". The end of "gentille" is pronounced like the end of "fille".

Here is a link with both words so you can get used to the difference :



If you are familiar with IPA gentil -> ʒɑ̃ti gentille -> ʒɑ̃tij


My issue is that the voice is clearly feminine, but the "gentil" is masculine. I have run across this issue several times with the program. I wrote "gentille" because of the voice.


The voice is independent from the sentence's meaning.


I agree with you.....it was like the lady saying "J'avais une barbe." I kept playing it , thinking she was saying something about a "robe"..... Just a bit strange ....


How would one translate "I was known to be nice" and "I used to know to be nice"?


"I was known to be nice." = "J'étais connu pour être gentil."

"I used to know to be nice." = "Je savais être gentil."


What about 'I used to be nice" (e.g. I used to be nice to him whenever I met him)


"J'étais gentil." (J'étais gentil avec lui quand je le voyais/rencontrais.)

The "X used to Y" form is almost always translated with "Imparfait" in French. However, "Imparfait" can't always be translated with the "X used to Y" form. For example: "Je mangeais quand il a frappé à la porte." = "I was eating when he knocked at the door."


So did anyone answer the first question here? How do you say 'I knew to be nice,' as in 'I knew I had to be nice'?


It actually gives us "I knew how" (which was my answer) on the top of this comments page as the correct answer, not "I'd know how" which it said when it marked me wrong. Am I right or not?


I wrote "I knew to be nice," which was wrong. Can this be interpreted that way, or no? It's maybe a slightly odd sentence, but it can make sense in the right context. Maybe "He'd had a difficult day, so I knew to be nice."


Why not: "I used to know how to be nice"?


Why is "I did know how to be kind" wrong?


I was going to leave a comment on an earlier statement 'Out, il savait' which I translated as 'Yes, he knew how' for which I received an incorrect message. Here savais is 'knew how' ...to know how is what I understood as the difference between savoir and connaitre. Did I miss something?


"Je savais être gentille." was rejected and the narrator was a woman! They wanted "gentil" Go figure


"I used to know how to be nice." What's wrong with this translation?


It is correct. If it was rejected, please report it.

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