Les USA ont pris le dessus…

Les USA ont pris le dessus…

lay zew-ay-sah aw preel day-sew… Click below to hear this.

The US got the upper hand…

We’re talking about la Coupe mondiale du foot féminin , of course. That’s the World Cup of women’s soccer. Pronounce it /lah coop maw-deeYAHL dew FOOT fay-mee-NAA/.

Note that in French you don’t say women’s, but féminin. And the word for soccer is le football, or le foot for short.

Now let’s get back to today’s phrase. In many sports, having one or both of yours hands above your opponent’s hands may present an advantage: fencing, boxing, basketball, to name a few. But in the game of foot, there are no hands (other than the goalie’s). The same thing happens in today’s phrase: To gain the upper hand is prendre le dessus, literally to take the top. No hands in the French phrase.

Note also which past tense is used in our sentence. Les USA ont pris le dessus. That’s the passé composé, or compound past (because it is composed of two parts). Here it can mean the US has gotten… or the US got…. That’s because the first English translation is announcing new news in the ongoing game, whereas the second English translation refers to a narration of the game after it has ended.

If we used the imperfect, we would say les US prenaient le dessus, and we would be describing an action that happened repeatedly or was ongoing. In soccer, gaining the upper hand can happen repeatedly (in one of those games where the power seesaws back and forth repeatedly,) but not as an ongoing event. In soccer, the very nature of gaining the upper hand is sudden and dramatic: Someone scores.

But they don’t necessarily win. C’est le Japon qui a gagné (sail zhaa-paw kee ah gah-NYAY). Japan won.

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