EN: une perspicacité dont on ne le croirait pas capable

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by Richelieu, Feb 15, 2013.

  1. Richelieu New Member

    USA
    English
    Hello, apologies if this post is a little long.

    I would like to know how to translate the following two related phrases. The first is from a nonfiction historical book, c.1950:

    1) ...avec une perspicacité dont on ne le croirait pas capable,...

    This translation seems OK:

    1a) "with a perspicacity of which one would not have believed him capable"

    But I would prefer to translate it this way if it is correct:

    1b) "with a perspicacity of which one might not have believed him capable"

    I have also discovered a very similar phrase in Alexandre Dumas' Les Trois Mousquetaires (1844):

    […]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 16, 2013
  2. nobbs Senior Member

    France - Français
    Hello,
    […]

    -> "with a perspicacity of which one would not believe him capable"
    "croirait" is present, not past: the lack of belief happens now.

    […]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 18, 2013
  3. Richelieu New Member

    USA
    English
    Hello,
    Thank you for this answer. I see what you mean: your update of Dumas, "dont on l'aurait crue incapable" translates literally into "of which one would not have believed her capable", whereas my (1), "dont on ne le croirait pas capable" would seem to translate literally into "of which one would not believe him capable."

    The problem is that the latter, to my ear, seems bad English. I can't imagine saying that phrase. I imagine that the sense of (1) is,
    "I (the author) would not have believed him capable of this, had he not done such-and-such, which he did." In other words, I am now asking whether in French, "dont on l'aurait crue incapable" and "dont on ne le croirait pas capable" would be used in the same situations to mean the same thing.

    Thanks.
     
  4. Kelly B

    Kelly B Senior Member

    USA English
    Are you shifting the book as a whole (or whatever portion of it you're working on) from historic/narrative present to past tense? I agree that usually sounds more natural in English than maintaining the present tense. That said, I'd probably stick with would.
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2013

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