Il ne peut pas la voir.

Il ne peut pas la voir.

eeln puh pah laa VWAAR. Click below to hear this.*

He can’t stand her.

I guess, in English, the image is of someone who will not stand around in the same room with her. In French, the image is of someone who will not see her.

But it’s more than that. Remember that pouvoir means to be able to, and refers to a physical incapability, not a mere unwillingness or reluctance. Which suggests, in turn, the level of repugnance that he feels regarding her.

Notice, too, that this sentence is wide open to punning: Il ne peut pas la voir sounds exactly like Il ne peut pas l’avoir, He can’t have it.

But that has more than one layer of meaning to it, as well. Are we talking about a toddler who may not have a cookie because he will spoil his supper? No, this has do do with the fact that it is impossible for him to have it. For example, he can’t (must not) have my cell phone because it is right here in my pocket. He can’t have the stolen cash because it was recovered minutes ago, 50 miles from his location, under a rock beside the toll road, and checked in immediately as evidence at the police station.

Or it could be a drama of the heart: Il ne peut pas la voir parce qu’il ne peut pas l’avoir. Who’s to say?

*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:


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