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"Ne coupons pas les cheveux en quatre !"

Translation:Let's not split hairs!

March 12, 2015


  • 2696

Please explain for no native English.


"Split hairs" and "couper les cheveux en quatre" both mean to do something with too much care.


In English, to split hairs means to argue about unimportant details, not to do something with too much care. Is this what you meant? I can't be sure. If you said "You are just splitting hairs" then you would be accusing someone of disagreeing with you about a very trivial detail, something that doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. But to do something with too much care is not the same thing at all. Does the French phrase mean to do something with too much care? Or to quibble about petty distinctions? Or both?


I think you're now splitting hairs...


I dunno...I think rebekasto has a point: it seems to me that making unimportant distinctions is not the same as doing something with an inordinate amount of care (even if they have overlap in some cases). But I think sloggo has a point too, since it could be that what is "hair-splitting" to one person is, to another person, of fundamental importance in not holding muddled views (differentiates experts (and geeks!) from those with casual interest). The point is that "splitting hairs" definitely means making unimportant distinctions as its primary meaning; the question is whether the French idiom has the same meaning as "splitting hairs."


I think that was the point of it


Hi my friend, are you a native English speaker?


Thank you very much, but I do not understand sitll. Can you fix it in a context please, for example:

-il y a une bombe là-bas -ne coupons pas les cheveux en quatre.


This is your sentence:

-il y a une bombe là-bas

There would need a space after the sign [-] and you should capitalize "il" to "Il". And, maybe you might add a full stop at the end, then a blank line for clarity in reading.

What I have just done is "couper les cheveux en quatre": going into unnecessary details, since I have perfectly understood your sentence.


Merci une fois de plus.


So, with this explanation, I can conclude that this idiom is similar to the Brazilian's one: "Fazer tempestade em copo d'água." :)


Cool! The Spanish would be: "Buscar la quinta pata al gato" (To search the fifth leg in a cat)


salvou minha vida sksk


Ne cepidlači. To ask to much in details.


Imagine that you are at a community meeting. The topic before the town Safety Committee is that some residents want a traffic light at a busy intersection. Imagine that you are one of the concerned residents. You are explaining to the Safety Committee how the traffic light will be paid for without costing too much. One of your neighbors interrupts and expresses concern. He wants to call it a "stop and go light" and not a traffic light. You turn to him and say, "Let's not split hairs."

It's unimportant what it's called at the moment. THE GOAL IS TO GET THE LIGHT to control traffic and enable residents to cross the street safely.

At this point what the neighbor wants to call the light isn't as important as getting the light. It really isn't on topic either.

Once the residents have the light your neighbor can call it whatever he wants.


Very good example, also cracks me up! Lingot for the laugh!


Thank you for this good exemple !


Idiom: split hairs Meaning. Idiom: split hairs. to argue about small details or differences; Example sentences. Although we both agreed to divorce, my husband is splitting hairs about our settlement.; I’ll just pay the whole bill myself—I hate splitting hairs about the charges.; If we continue to split hairs, we'll never get this project started.; It may seem like we're splitting hairs ...


I sometimes confuse cheveux and chevaux. That leads to a bit of strange imagery.


It's embarrassing that this still happens to me. All I could think of is "why would they draw and quarter a horse?"


and that's exactly what I thought! lol


For the irony of it, it would seem


I cannot see all of the suggested words to help me learn. This is happening a lot and it can't just be on my phone. Please fix this Duolingo, so I can learn quicker without having to completeky guess.

  • 2299

I just checked on that and the length of the hint is limited. I.e., there is not enough space to enter the whole idiom. Now that we have been exposed to it, perhaps we will remember the expression: Ne coupons pas les cheveux en quatre (or this alternative) "Ne cherchons pas la petite bête". http://www.wordreference.com/enfr/split%20hairs


Try rotating your phone to view the page sideways. That worked on mine. :)


Why is 'don't split hairs' not accepted??

  • 2299

Because it is not the "vous" form of the imperative, it is the "nous" form which is translated as "let's + verb". The speaker is included.


Merci. That makes sense.


Duo should get it fixed as soon as possible


To Portuguese speakers, "let's not look for hairs in eggs". (Não procure pelo em ovo!)


In Spanish we use “No le busques pelos al huevo” too and also “No le busques la quinta pata al gato”.


Don't look for the fifth foot of a cat? Ja ja


Esto es lo que estaba buscando! Yes!


Don't split hairs rejected... Pourquoi ?


Ne coupons pas = let's not split (we, not you)


If "let's not" must be included in the translation, then is there another idiomatic form that is generic? As a native USA speaker I consider this conversational. This is not an idiom. PS and I'm not splitting hairs!

  • 2299

It is an idiom because the sentence means something other than the literal meaning. It's not about hair(s). An idiom: a group of words whose meaning considered as a unit is different from the meanings of each word considered separately. The imperative form of the first-person plural means "let's" + verb. By adding the negative "ne...pas" around the imperative verb, it becomes "let's not" + verb. That part is direct...and needs to be. When adding the reference to cutting hair into quarters, it is no longer literal, but figurative, i.e., an idiom. English speakers don't say "cut hairs into quarters"; we say "split hairs" which is the comparable idiom in English.


Perhaps the French are extending the hyperbole. Instead of just splitting hairs in half, cutting them lengthwise into four makes it an even greater exaggeration of unnecessary detail.


Could I get a literal translation please? Helps me understand French thinking


Do not cut the hair into quarter (four pieces)


This isn't what it says. It says "let's not..." rather than "do not..."

("Coupons" not "Coupez".)


I like how its wrong if you include the "into quarters" bit. /s

Sorry for being accurate ...


Accuracy is all well and good except when you are doing the idioms section, which you are...


In German this would be "Sei nicht kleinkariert", which litteraly means don't be someone who makes too little squares/ don't be checked


In German: Haarspalterei


in the French, it says into 4 (quatre) but in the English translation, there Is no mention of 4


Para hispanohablantes: significa ''no le busques el pelo al huevo'' o ''no le busques la quinta pata al gato''


`Be careful because the sound is wrong.

It sounds like "Ne coupcons pas les cheveux en quattre" but it should be more like this:


Vriament je ne comprends rien dans cette phrase, pourquoi il manque de sujet? pourquoi pas "Nous ne coupons pas....." pourquoi bien qu'il s'agit d'une negation, on la traduit a l'imperatif?


"Let's cut!" = coupons ! (positive)

"Let us not cut!" = ne coupons pas ! (negative)

Imperative is the only form of verbs in French that do not have a personal pronoun.


Mmmmm.....j'avais mal regardé, merci beaucoup.


Well, now I know where the word "coupon" comes from! Makes perfect sense, too!


I brought this up with a French speaker in Quebec and he looked at me funny... is this a common saying in French? Why the word "quatre" (four) in this phrase?


French in Québec and France are so very different. (Duo is meant to be teaching us the France version.)


First, idioms don't always make sense.

I'd guess the four comes from the old "draw and quarter" punishment where you literally cut a person into four parts.


Je suis du Quebec et justement, je ne comprends pas cette expression. Quelqu'un pourrait m'expliquer?


C’est une façon de dire « de ne pas se compliquer la vie ». De faire simple, tout simplement.


Why is it necessary to have "ne coupons pas" instead of just "pas coupons?" It seems like a double negative, but I've seen this before in other phrases. Thank you!


French negatives work in tandems: ne... pas.

They are placed as brackets on either side of the conjugated verb, including in imperative.


Ha ha I got "lets not split hairs" marked wrong


Yes, because of the spelling of "let's", with an apostrophe.


I typed "Lets not split hairs", without the apostrophe in let's. Let's not split hairs here, Duolingo!


You may not expect a computer will show any leniency: a sign missing is the only thing it can spot.


Learned basic french language by attempting basic test and had a great experience. Will sure recommend to other writers at CV Folks - https://www.cvfolks.co.uk/ to try this challenge and learn easily multiple language.


In Persian the same idiom (hairsplitting) exists but has a positive connotation, usually used as an adverb meaning meticulously. One of the iduoms with similar negative meaning is "drilling the poppy"!

  • 2696

In Czech we use nit-splitter as negative, punctilious as neutral and careful, constientious as positive. Nothing like hairsplitting or drilling poppy.


Em portugues creio que seja : "Voce esta procurando pêlo em ovo". Something like: you're seaching for hair in one egg.


J'aime Minecraft, mais pourquoi le 1/2? C'est tres bizzare.




En France, is this a commonly used idiom? Or is there a more commonly used alternative?

Also, when using coupe (not in relation to idioms), do you need to indicate quantity of pieces you'll be cutting something into? Or would it be ungrammatical if you just say coupe without indicating quantity?


It is a commonly used idiom. Yet, if you want something shorter, you can use the verbs "chipoter, ergoter or pinailler", all three meaning "to discuss about unimportant things" (to nitpick/quibble).

  • Let's not split hairs! = Ne chipotons/ergotons/pinaillons pas !


Why does 'ne' and 'pas' go together when they has same meaning? What relates them?


Please explicain for a native frensh

Quelqun pourrait-il m'expliquer mais en français


Tu devrais regarder tous les messages et tu trouveras la réponse. Et sur Google si tu écris cette phrase de DL, tu auras aussi la réponse.


Please explain why there is no liaison between cheveux and en ?while in a previous example ''si le coeur vous en dit" we did a liaison between vous and en.


you gave a verbal translation. the true meaning is : let's not analyse in a too detailed manner

this is a general comment for idioms!


I did not got it ! Its doesnt make any sence !!


In Turkish i think this is similar to 'kılı kırk yarmak' meaning splitting hair into 40 pieces :) I think it means going in detail.


In Turkish i think this is similar to 'kılı kırk yarmak' meaning splitting hair into 40 pieces. It means going in detail.


Wow. It's really hard to understand the meaning for me, who's not an English or French native.


I've never heard this in my life... And I'm British... Can someone explain it to me?


Idiom: split hairs Meaning. Idiom: split hairs. to argue about small details or differences; Example sentences. Although we both agreed to divorce, my husband is splitting hairs about our settlement.; I’ll just pay the whole bill myself—I hate splitting hairs about the charges.; If we continue to split hairs, we'll never get this project started.; It may seem like we're splitting hairs ...


When is this expression used?

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