"Isabelle only brushed her teeth at Christmas."

Translation:Isabelle ne se brossait les dents qu'à Noël.

June 25, 2020

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Why is "se brosser" in the imperfect tense here instead of in passé composé? The English sentence does not include "was" or "used to"; the act of brushing one's teeth only at Christmas seems a distinct and limited action. Is the imperfect used here because the sentence implies that she brushed her teeth every Christmas? Thanks


yes, you are right it's a habit so the imperfect tense is needed .


Christmas occurs every year. If you do something every Christmas, it's a repeated and habitual action, so you have to use imparfait tense.


The English is definitely wrong here. What the French sentence says is "Isabelle brushed her teeth only at christmas" (That is, Christmas was the only time she brushed her teeth.)

The English translation says Isabelle only brushed her teeth at Christmas. That is, At Christmas, the only thing she did was brush her teeth.

There's no good reporting option. On some of them "the English translation is awkward" is an option but I don't have it for this one.


You are exactly right. Sometimes Duo expects us to give the correct translation from the wrong sentence!


Could someone please explain why 'Isabelle ne se brossait que les dents à Noël' doesn't work. Thanks. (Can't figure out the placing of que/qu'.)


JeanP15 - What you have written means that she brushed only her teeth and not, for instance, her hair. The "que" is usually placed just before the event/thing that creates, or is, the restriction


My translation matched Duo's more by luck than judgment, as I debated whether it should be 'ne se brossait que les dents à Noël', implying that she maybe undertook a full toilette the rest of the year but at Christmas it was reduced to just brushing her teeth. Another possibility might be 'À Noël les dents sont seulement brossés par elle', implying that the rest of the time she maybe brushes and flosses, but as a Christmas treat she saves herself the effort of flossing.

All because the English isn't clear about what 'only' refers to. What an infuriating language it can be sometimes!


Looking at this again, I see a problem (apart from it being clunky) with '...brossés seulement par elle'. It might equally imply that the rest of the year someone else (a parent? carer?) brushes her teeth for her but at Christmas she does it herself. That wretched 'only' again! What would be the elegant way a French speaker would convey the idea that 'only' refers to her act of brushing and excludes other things she might do to them when cleaning her teeth?


Why wrong "Isabelle a seulement brossee les dents a Noel"?


In French it is a reflexive verb : se brosser les dents, se brosser les cheveux. il se brosse les dents ( he brushes his teeth) il s'est brossé les dents ( he brushed his teeth) But je brosse le cheval ( I brush the horse) and j'ai brossé le cheval ( I brushed the horse )

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