1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: French
  4. >
  5. "L'éléphant rose boit-il du v…

"L'éléphant rose boit-il du vin ?"

Translation:Does the pink elephant drink wine?

December 31, 2012



Just what exactly were they smoking when they came up with this sentence?


I don't know for English, but in French, someone who "voit des éléphants roses" is someone who has drunk too much.


In English, "seeing pink elephants" is a phrase associated with intoxication which is a reference to the 1941 Disney film "Dumbo" in which Dumbo, under the influence, hallucinates a group of pink elephants. I'm not sure if this could possibly be a quote from the film in French but it is not an idiom in English.


Apparently, the first use of this expression was found in " John Barleycorn " by Jack London in 1913, in a description of some body who had drunk so much that he was seeing "blue mice and pink elephants". Therefore, we can assume that Disney did not invent the concept!


Which makes sense given their extensive history of "borrowing". ;-)


'Seeing pink elephants' as a euphemism for drunk is indeed an idiom in English, but maybe you have to be at least middle-aged, like me, to be familiar with it. :)


Interesting; thanks! I've heard a lot of phrases for drunk in my life, but never that one. I am handicapped by being under 25 however. ;-)

Edit: And you're almost up to a continuous year! Impressive!


I love this conversation.


In this case, the source behind the question most likely drunk the same wine the "pink elephant" did.


If a pink elephant is drinking your wine, you've probably had enough already.


Well done, now in French: "Si un éléphant rose boit ton vin, tu as probablement déjà assez bu".


what's with the boit-il? where does il come into play - is it referring to the elephant?


"boit-il" is the basic interrogative form, while the active form is "il boit" and the negative forms "ne boit-il pas?" and "il ne boit pas", respectively. there are other ways of asking questions : "est-ce qu'il boit ?" or (in oral mostly) "il boit ?"


It is the most formal way of asking a question, with the use of inversion Verb-Subject (pronoun). There are two less formal:

standard: est-ce que l'éléphant rose boit du vin ? oral/casual: l'éléphant rose boit du vin ?


A sense of humour rarely found in these translations!


why not just 'l'elephant rose boit du vin"? what's up with the 'boit-il'? Merci!


Formality, apparently. Though I'm not exactly sure when it would be appropriate. If you're asking this question, you're probably not worrying about verb-subject inversion.


Questions triggering a yes/no answer can come in 3 forms, from formal, to standard, to relaxed registers:

  • Formal: l'éléphant rose boit-il du vin ? - real subject is repeated with a pronoun and verb is reversed with subject pronoun.

  • Standard: Est-ce que l'éléphant rose boit du vin ? - interrogative phrase "est-ce que" (= is it that?), then question in statement format.

  • Relaxed (in speech): L'éléphant rose boit du vin ? - only the question mark and voice raising on the last syllable will indicate this is a question.


One: quit drinking, man Two: you better hurry. The elephant's nearly finished your wine.


Where did we learn "boit-il"? il was translated "any" - is that correct?


You may not have learnt it before, but it needs a first time for every new notion.

"Boit-il" is the most formal way of asking a question, with the use of inversion Verb-Subject (pronoun). There are two less formal constructions:

  • Standard: est-ce que l'éléphant rose boit du vin ?

  • Oral/casual: l'éléphant rose boit du vin ?


Thanks for your help!


welcome to Disney land!


The pink elephant drinks its wine was incorrect.


Also, I think "its wine" would be "son vin", so this sentence is simply "wine", not "its wine".


yes because your construction is not interrogative but active.


What's wrong with "The pink elephant, is he drinking wine?"?


Why wouldn't it accept it when I translated 'il' as 'it' and insisted it should be 'he'?

MINE: The pink elephant, it is drinking wine? DUO: The pink elephant, he is drinking wine?


I think the computer did not correctly identify the issue here. I don't think that "the pink elephant, is he/it drinking wine?" would be natural English anyway.

The way questions are constructed in English is quite different from the French way, and what Duo proposes here as the correct answer (at the top of this page) is probably the best translation.


Thanks sitesurf for your help. If so what will the 'il' refer to? I understand that it is impossible for one to do a direct one-to-one translation from English to French and vice-versa. However, one need to understand these rules, if any, to be able to know when to use it and when not.


"il" refers to the elephant (masc sing):

la femme boit-elle du vin ? (fem sing)

les garçons boivent-ils du vin ? (masc plur)

les filles boivent-elles du vin ? (fem plur)


Thanks. Does it mean that in forming questions the pronoun of the subject must be attached to verb? Sorry for bothering you.


In the formal construction of questions: yes.

Learn French in just 5 minutes a day. For free.