J’ai dû la prendre à partie.

J’ai dû la prendre à partie.

zhay dew lah prah-drah paar-TEE. Click below to hear this. 

I had to take her to task.

Devoir is a complicated verb! I should probably write about it one of these days. But for today, let’s just say that the passé composé (compound past) of this verb, j’ai dû, il a dû, and so on, means I had to, he had to, etc. It can also be translated I was obliged to. It doesn’t say where the obligation came from–internal or external–but you felt that you had to do something.

In this case, I had to take her to task, which is just another way of saying that I had to scold her. Maybe she was disrespectful, or failed to do what I asked her to do, or did something she shouldn’t have. Prendre à partie looks remarkably like yesterday’s phraseprendre le parti de…  But that final e makes all the difference. While un parti is a political party, a side (in a dispute, for example), or a prejudice, une partie can be all sorts of things: a part, a (social) party, a round or a game, or a struggle or fight

Attempting to dissect some expressions is a futile exercise. There is no easy way to fit this sequence of words together in a way that makes sense in English. But remembering that une partie is a gathering of people, and that a gathering of people may play a game, and that the game may become contentious, and that the whole thing may explode in dispute and blame-laying, is one way to remember that J’ai dû la prendre à partie means I had to take her to task. Or you can just memorize it.

Alternate audio file link: jai-du-la-prendre-a-partie


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