"Anna ne pense qu'à faire de la gymnastique."

Translation:Anna only thinks about doing gymnastics.

June 26, 2020

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Can somebody explain this construction? How does not thinking (ne pense) turn into only thinking?


Ne {verb} que means 'only.' Using this construction is preferable to 'seulement.' We only have one day. On n'a qu'un jour.


It's ne pense que .... It's really common in French, and in spoken French the ne is often so light that it's really not there.


Really it's the pas not the ne that is the adverbial meaning "not". Here ne is linking to que which to me means "but" in the rather dated sense: "She thinks naught but of doing gymnastics." Que is used like this for the subjunctive too. Now whether anyone even recognizes what I'm saying -- I liked Shakespeare and all that you see . . .


Or, with contemporary phrasing, "Anna thinks of nothing but doing gymnastics."


"Anna only thinks about doing gymnastics." She doesn't do gymnastics, she only thinks about it.

"Anna thinks only about doing gymnastics." It's the only thing she thinks about.


Timmy, your second sentence is the one that makes the most sense to me and is how I would interpret the sentence


In theory, maybe. But the first sentence is used very often, especially in speech, with the second meaning. This may also vary by region.


Grammar is used to clarify meaning. That's its purpose.

People make grammatical errors all the time, but that's no reason to reject the grammatically correct version in favour of the ambiguous one.


I'm not saying that the second is wrong. It should be accepted. But the first is also correct and deserves to be the default translation, as that's what most people actually say. Grammar is important, but it isn't a fixed set of rules and it isn't always logical. It's just a description of the way that speakers form their sentences, a description that varies with time. When most people say things a certain way, by definition that way is correct.


Descriptivism vs proscriptivism! I had years of very strong proscriptivist teaching to overcome when I became a "mature" (open for debate lol) student of English! I'm getting there... It's only when I'm proofing for academic works that I absolutely resurrect Mrs Morgan's lessons from secondary school (and my mother's throughout her life)! (◠‿◕)


You are still marking “thinks only” as wrong when it is better English grammar

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