Elle est la sixième femme la plus riche du pays.

Elle est la sixième femme la plus riche du pays.

ay lay lah see-zeeYEM fahm lah plew reesh dew payEE. Click below to hear this.*

She is the sixth richest woman in the country.

This is the sort of thing that gives nightmares to students of French. Not only is it a tricky expression, but you’ll be hard put to find it in a dictionary. Here’s how it works:

C’est une femme riche.
She is a rich woman.
(She is one of many, so une.)

Elle est la femme la plus riche du pays.
She is the richest woman in the country.
(She is the only one, so la. And note how you have to repeat the article la. The entire phrase la plus riche du pays modifies la femme and gives her a rank: the richest in the country.)

Elle est la sixième femme la plus riche du pays.
She is the sixth richest woman in the country.
(She is the only one occupying the rank of sixth, so la. Among the richest women in the country, she is the sixth. Note that the sentence structure remains the same. The modifier has not changed; all we have done is to add her rank.)

And who is she? Her name is Wu Ying, and she made the news recently for having been condemned to death for monetary fraud. There were several interesting expressions in the article in Le Monde, some of which I plan to write about in the next few days.

*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file:

sixieme_femme_la_plus_riche.mp3

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