Ces cerises sont si sures qu’on ne sait pas si c’en sont.
say sREEZ saw see sewr kawn say pah see sah SAW. Click below to hear this.
These cherries are so sour that you can’t tell if they are cherries.
Yesterday, we talked about three homonyms: sûr, sur, and sur. Can you tell which of them appears in today’s tonguetwister?
That’s right! It’s sur, the adjective meaning sour. That was an easy question; how about a harder one?
Here it is: Explain the last construction in the tonguetwister, si c’en sont. It’s a little tricky to take apart, so let’s dissect it.
C’ stands for Ce, of course. It really belongs with sont, the plural of est. So c’est in the plural becomes ce sont.
But, elbowing its way between the two words, we have en. This little word, officially a preposition, stands for de + an article + a noun. In the present case, that’s des cerises, some cherries.
The thing is that French allows us to take a shortcut: on ne sait pas si c’en sont has to be rendered in English as you can’t tell if they are cherries. If we just stopped with if they are, it wouldn’t be clear if we were saying you can’t tell if they are cherries or you can’t tell if they are sour.
That shortcut also allows us to construct a nice tonguetwister full of hissing sounds! Just please dispose of your cherry pits properly before you start practicing your pronunciation. I don’t want to be in the line of fire.
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