FR: ce dont j'ai besoin / ce que j'en pense

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by Rypervenche, Jul 29, 2009.

  1. Rypervenche

    Rypervenche Junior Member

    France
    USA English
    I have been learning about "dont" and "ce dont" recently and teaching it to a friend when I was asked if "c'est ce dont je pense" was correct. At first I thought it was, but now I am not so sure.

    C'est ce dont je pense.
    C'est ce que j'en pense.

    I know what the second one means and that it is correct. The first one however, I would like to know if it is correct and if so, what the difference is between the two and the nuances.

    Another example which leads me to believe that this is not a set rule is:

    C'est ce dont j'ai besoin.
    C'est ce que j'en ai besoin.

    French people have told me that the second one is not correct, and I know the first one to be correct.

    Can anyone help me understand the differences ? I think I'm not sure where the subject and object are and that is leading to my miscomprehension.

    Thank you in advance.

    P.S. I would also like to know what "C'est ce dont je pense" would translate to. The version that uses "penser de" and not "penser à quelqu'un". I can't seem to figure out how it is different from "C'est ce que j'en pense." Thank you^^
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2009
  2. cropje_jnr

    cropje_jnr Senior Member

    Wollongong, Australia
    English - Australia
    Dont replaces the preposition de. The construction je pense de is not very French compared to je pense à, therefore the usual wording is "C'est ce à quoi je pense".

    "C'est ce que j'en pense" has an entirely different meaning - it expresses an opinion about something, rather than the subject of your thoughts.

    In contrast, de is the correct preposition in "j'ai besoin de", making "ce dont j'ai besoin" the correct construction. The second sentence is, as your friends suggest, incorrect.

    C'est ce à quoi je pense = that's what I'm thinking about / I think about.
    C'est ce que j'en pense = that's what I think about it/that (i.e. that is my opinion).
     
  3. Rypervenche

    Rypervenche Junior Member

    France
    USA English
    Ahhh. So the fault lies in the verb itself ? I knew "ce à quoi" with "penser à". So "penser de" is not a very proper verb then ? That would answer a lot of my questions and make much sense. Is it rather colloquial ?

    However, I found more than 10 000 000 results on Google for "ce dont je pense". http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&safe=off&rlz=1G1ACGW_ENUS315&q=%22ce+dont+je+pense%22&btnG=Search&cts=1248847919279&aq=f&oq=&aqi=

    And a quote from http://www.assemblee-nationale.fr/13/cr-cafc/08-09/c0809049.asp
    "Ensuite, je suis devenu le directeur d’une antenne qui compte 453 salariés et j’ai dû traiter tous les problèmes de cette antenne, ce dont je pense ne m’être pas trop mal tiré."

    Something isn't right here...
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2009
  4. Ohara321 Junior Member

    English-Canada
    "Ce de quoi" would go with penser de (which is a correct form). HOWEVER, rather than forming "ce de quoi", which means "that of which/what", French has a special relative pronoun for that...dont. Dont= de quoi.

    "ce dont je pense" = that which I think of (in terms of having an opinion on the matter). It is not a complete phrase, it must be followed or preceeded with something.

    C'est ce dont je pense.
    That is what I think of.
    Ce dont je pense est bien.
    That which I think of is good.

    C'est que j'en pense.
    That is what I think of it.
    "about it" is "en", which is refering to a predetermined subject.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2009
  5. radagasty Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    Australia, Cantonese
    I'm not sure this is an adequate translation into English, for it suggests to me the matter of thought rather than an opinion on the said matter. Were I to translate that is what I think of back into French, I would produce c'est ce à quoi je pense instead.

    That said, I cannot readily suggest an alternative translation for c'est ce dont je pense, except perhaps simply that's my opinion.

    Thinking about it logically, ce dont je pense is in some sense a contraction of ce de quoi je pense and antecedent of the relative pronoun dont is therefore not the opinion itself, but rather the matter upon which one has the opinion.

    On this basis, I propose the following pair of translations:

    ce dont je pense
    that of which I think it

    ce que j'en pense
    that which I think of it

    but language does not always work logically, so I may be completely mistaken.
     
  6. tilt

    tilt Senior Member

    Nord-Isère, France
    French French
    I'm sorry but Ce dont je pense is not French on its own.
    The only way to come across such a phrase is, for example, Ce dont je pense + infinitive, and dont is the object of the latter verb, then, not of penser.
    The example given by Rypervenche is such a sentence.

    That of which I think definitely translates in ce à quoi je pense, like Cropje_Jnr said.

    Your link returns only 3,610 references when I click it.
    And browsing through the pages shows that only 240 of them are relevant, the other beeing copies of the formers (the list stops page #24).
    Be careful with Google's number of results!
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2009
  7. Rypervenche

    Rypervenche Junior Member

    France
    USA English
    That actually makes a lot of sense. I saw a lot of "Ce dont je pense + infinitive" forms on Google. I have been asking a LOT of people the answer to this question, and yours seems to make the most sense.

    However...

    How can so many people be wrong ? So many people are using this "incorrectly" as you say. Unless the problems lies with my Google search. Perhaps since your computer is in French or because you have a filter, it shows les results ?

    Hmm, it just dawned on me. A French Canadian told me something like "It can also mean 'ceux à qui je pense'" Is this true ? If that is so, that would make sense for all of the results.

    I would very much like to have a solid answer once and for all. Thank you very much everyone for the answers, and thank you tilt. I hope to have a response from you and/or others on this new information.^^
     
  8. Daeman Junior Member

    Lyon, France
    French
    Casual spoken French can be very sloppy in its use of ce que / ce dont / ce à quoi, so don't trust what google tells you. Using one for the other is still widely recognised as an error, especially in written language.
     
  9. Rypervenche

    Rypervenche Junior Member

    France
    USA English
    I know, but 10 600 000 is not a number that usually lies. Not usually... I can't imagine that many people would mess up a structure that is usually avoided as it is.
     
  10. tilt

    tilt Senior Member

    Nord-Isère, France
    French French
    Restart your search and reach page 50 or so. You'll see you don't have that much results, in fact. As I told you, the number of results that reads on the first returned page is generally not relevant at all, especially when that big.

    Moreover, I'm pretty sure most of these ce dont je pense are followed by an infinitive, and thus are correct.
     
  11. Daeman Junior Member

    Lyon, France
    French
    Also see here thread 55014 (sorry, can't post URLs yet!) for penser à vs. penser de. Choosing between ce dont / ce de / ce que is just a matter of going back to the original verb structure. The thing is, the requirements for "penser de" are such that I can think of relatively few sentences where ce dont je pense would be correct.

    Penser de means have an opinion of.

    Here are a few sentences with the same meaning:
    Je pense qu'il faudrait se débarrasser de cette chaise. (I think we should get rid of this chair.)
    Je pense de cette chaise qu'il faudrait s'en débarrasser. (My opinion on this chair is that we should get rid of it.)
    Ce dont je pense qu'il faudrait se débarrasser, c'est cette chaise. (This chair is what I think we should get rid of.)

    Here's another: "Ce dont je pense le plus grand bien, c'est son discours" (lit. Her speech is what I hold in highest esteem)
     
  12. Rypervenche

    Rypervenche Junior Member

    France
    USA English
    Hmm, there seems to be a lot of possibilities. I see in this third sentence that the "de" is coming from "se débarrasser" and not "penser". That makes perfect sense to me.

    So it is said, but the situations are very stricts. Wow, this is great. A lot of learning over such a small question. "Can I say 'Ce dont je pense' ?"

    This is all very informatiive and a lot of great material. Je vais tout relire quand je me réveillerai demain. J'ai fait une nuit blanche en cherchant une réponse. ; ; Un grand merci à tous ceux qui ont aidé^^ And if anyone would still like to add to this, please help yourself^^
     
  13. Daeman Junior Member

    Lyon, France
    French
    Well, this is what I thought at first, but actually I don't think so!
    Ce dont je pense qu'il faudrait l'enlever, c'est cet arbre.* (That which I think we should remove is that tree)
    Here "enlever" does not call for a "de", so "de" must come from "penser de".
    However, it is true that in most cases, one would more naturally rephrase the sentence in order to use "ce que", except when the verb in the relative sentence also uses "de".

    * Note: Arg, bad example, this sentence evoques another possible meaning: "That from which I think it should be removed is that tree". However I think that in this case, one would rather say: "Ce dont je pense qu'il faudrait l'enlever, c'est de cet arbre". I suggest replacing "l'enlever" with "le photographier" for clarity. Tricky point indeed, we're nearing the limits of what can be described by strict rules ;-)
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2009
  14. marget Senior Member

    I think that the quote you gave from www.assemblée-nationale... "Ensuite, je suis devenu le directeur d’une antenne qui compte 453 salariés et j’ai dû traiter tous les problèmes de cette antenne, ce dont je pense ne m’être pas trop mal tiré." deals with the expression se tirer de.
     
  15. Daeman Junior Member

    Lyon, France
    French
    Ok, I think the ambiguity here is because several syntactical constructions use the word sequence "ce dont je pense".
    1) "de" goes with the verb in the relative sentence and "je pense" functions as a kind of apposition: ce dont je pense ne m'être pas trop mal tiré, ce dont j'espère ne m'être pas trop mal tiré, meaning ce dont (je l'espère) je ne me suis pas trop mal tiré.
    2) "de" comes from the phrase "penser de", such as in ce dont je pense le plus grand bien, c'est son discours.
    3) Both construction may actually lead to nearly identical sentences, in which case the meaning is not clearly defined (as in my previous post).
     

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