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Sentences that (almost) made you rage quit

For me it has been this one today:

"Il y en a eu un autre avant lui."

Specifically the part before "autre". That one hit me really hard. If I had been given this sentence purely as an acoustic exercise, I certainly wouldn't have stood a chance writing it down and would have lost a heart. "Trop-des-liaisons-pour-moi.jpg".

But even so, it took me quite a while to deconstruct it and figure out its meaning. Mainly due to me mistaking "eu" for some obscure singular form of "eux" at first and not realizing that it was the past participle of "have". But then again, this whole composition is indescribably alien to me, just in one league with "Qu'est-ce que c'est?", but less frequent. It actually made me stop and look out the window for a while, pondering about my existence in general, and whether romanic idioms would ever come easily to me at all. I asked myself, finally being sure about its meaning, if I could have come up with it on my own. Certainly not. My attempt at formulating it would have been far off. I fooled around a bit, trying to pronounce it with the words separated from each other, in staccato, repeatedly and as fast I could. This whole process may have lasted 15 minutes and this sentence was the first one I encountered in the tree, that I actually put on paper to remember.

Anyway, if nothing else, it made me realize again, that my main weakness when it comes to French really is listening comprehension and it doesn't help to learn words by their own. I often cannot recognize them as what they are in a spoken sentence, especially when they are short and partially merged with other words. I really need the drill, to repeatedly get exposed to all those quirky idioms as a whole.

So, do you have some syntactic gems that had a similar impact on you?

August 14, 2013



hey Oheim! You'll be happy to know that we're currently working on adding more context to sentences like 'Il y en a eu un autre avant lui'. For example, we altered the first sentence you mentioned to 'Il y a eu un autre homme avant lui.' The new sentence translates to, "There has been another man before him." Learning a language does take time, so it's good you are thinking about how everything goes together, but we don't want to completely stump you because there's not tons of context :)


The sentence "Sentences that (almost) made you rage quit" makes me want to "rage quit".


Your mention of "qu'est-ce que c'est?" brought back the days when I was starting to learn French. That, and aujourd'hui (come on, 'on the day of today'!?) had really brought home just how strange and archaic French is.

My excuse for pulling out my hair on this day (of today :)? "Un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq, six, sept, huit, neuf, dix." Read out sloooowly during timed practice :)


In German, it's the lack of context and yet still the high demand of grammar. "The" can be said in so many different ways it gives me a complete headache, and even then the noun following it can also change. For learners who hate grammar and memorization, this is definitely not the language for them.

A sentence that kills me every time I hear it is "Wo ist die gute?" (I think, the sentence still gets me every time.) And it translates to "Where is the good?" ....Like, really? When is that said?!


I'm with you. I took three years of German in high school, and the confusion over "the" is the second thing I remember about it. The first is "Gott im Himmel." (Is "im" right?) I've gotten a lot of use out of that over the years. ;)


"im" is correct. It's a contraction of "in dem" When "in" means "within", it stands with the dative ("in" as in "into" stands with the accusative) and Himmel is masculine, therefore it's "dem Himmel"


Thanks! Nice to know I retained something. :)


Native speaker here - "Wo ist die gute?" (with a small g) can only be said when there's a (feminine) noun for "gute" that can be inferred from the context. E.g. "Diese Milch ist schlecht. Wo ist die gute?"

"Wo ist die Gute?" (with a capital G) is valid, too, and I hear it more often than "Wo ist die gute?". Not being a professional translator, I would in most contexts translate it to "Where is she / the woman / the girl?" "Gute" can be slightly sarcastic, but I don't know how to translate that best. One example where I've heard that sentence is when somebody promised to be there, but isn't - "Meine Freundin hat mir versprochen, zu kommen." "Wirklich? Wo ist die Gute?"

There is no difference between the pronunciations, so context is king.


Thank you so much for the explanation (: I suppose it just confuses me because I don't really think we say it like that in English, but that really helps so much!


Yeah lately there has been a lot of classic French films on TCM and when I listen it's almost discouraging, I think to myself "holy crap there is no way I will ever understand a word of French"

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