Il vaut mieux fermer les yeux à ses caprices.

Il vaut mieux fermer les yeux à ses caprices.

eel voh meeYUH fair-may lay zeeYUH ah say kaa-PREESS. Click below to hear this.*

It’s better to turn a blind eye on his/her tantrums.

Ah, now you know that I have, and have had, small children in my life! Rule number 1: Don’t give in to tantrums. You’ll just encourage the next one!

Turning to the French, however: fermer les yeux à means, literally, to close one’s eyes to. That is, we choose voluntarily not to see something. In English, we turn a blind eye on that something–which implies that we may be incapable of seeing it in the first place. Ignoring (or resisting) and denying may look the same to the observer, but they are not the same thing at all.

Chances are (how can we miss it?) we are well aware of le caprice in progress, which is the tantrum. The word nicely conveys the sudden and seemingly irrational nature of a tantrum, don’t you think? Of course “irrational” is from an adult point of view. Understanding the logic of a toddler can be a hopeless task.

Which is why we often must begin by dealing with the symptoms of distress, rather than the cause–much as we clean up the downed branches from the tornado before we analyze why the storm hit at that particular moment and angle. The results are likely to be so much better. Hence, offering advice that begins with il vaut mieux, it is better.

Valoir is an irregular verb meaning to be worth. It can refer to the gold bars in your safety deposit box, the potential price you can get for your house, or the benefits of a course of action. Yes, you can reassure a friend by saying Tu vaux mieux que ça (though it’s a bit unusual), but the verb most often shows up in today’s expression. Word for word, it is worth more to…, followed by an infinitive.

*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:

il_vaut_mieux_fermer_les_yeux.mp3

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