Mon jardin ne mesure que deux mètres sur trois.
maw zhaar-daan muh-zewr kuh duh met-truh sewr trwah. Click below to hear this.
My garden is just two by three meters.
Pretty small. If you’re American, you may need reminding that un mètre is barely more than a yard, and we’re not talking about the yard that needs mowing, either.
So where’s the verb être that you were expecting to see in this sentence? It’s not there. The French language prefers precision. The garden isn’t 2×3, it measures 2×3. It isn’t in front of the house, it finds itself there (il se trouve…).
Then what’s the use of the verb to be in French? It is happiest in the company of an adjective: the garden is beautiful (le jardin est beau), I am angry (je suis fâchée), the baby is adorable (le bébé est adorable).
There’s also a difference in the way measurements are expressed in French, as compared with English. English uses the preposition by to represent the relationship between two measurements: two by three. In French, you use sur (on, over) for this purpose.
That’s the same way you express a fraction in French. If it isn’t one of the basic ones (2/3, 1/2, 3/4, and so on), which have their own names, you say dix-sept sur vingt-quatre, for example. That’s 17/24, or seventeen over twenty-four in English. If you really must discuss odd amounts like that one!
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