Un prêté pour un rendu.
uh pray-tay poo ruh rah-DEW. Click below to hear this.*
One good turn deserves another.
In which none of the words in either language correspond to any of the words in the other! There’s no good turn, no deserving, no another. Nothing but one, un. Not much to go on!
So let’s dissect. In the French, we have two past participles pretending they are adjectives: prêté and rendu. The first means lent or offered, and the second means returned or given. All we have to do is figure out who gave what to whom, and in what order.
1. One lent for one returned?
2. One offered for one returned?
3. One lent for one given?
4. One offered for one given?
The first three all sound like some variation on “If I give you something, you have to give it back,” or “I’ll give you this for that.” Ungenerous, and creating obligation. I’m going with #4.
Let’s establish that the unspecified one, un, refers to a good turn, in French un service (which also means a favor).
What we are really saying here, somewhat telegraphically, is You did me a favor, and therefore I am pleased to return the favor by doing something nice for you. Un prêté pour un rendu.
The last key to understanding this phrase is pour. Yes, it means for, but it’s not a swap we’re talking about. My marble for your baseball card. My hairbow for your bracelet. We are not keeping score.
Pour often means for the sake of, or because of. We are talking about free-will offerings, and this is a pleasant way to say “thank you” when someone returns a favor. It’s about generosity and gratitude. They always come back to bless you!
*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: