FR: la jambe / ma jambe

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by b1947420, Aug 28, 2009.

  1. b1947420 Senior Member

    I find the description of body parts confusing in French.

    Should we always use the definite article or possessive adjective or a mix of both?
  2. J.F. de TROYES Senior Member

    Could you be more precise by giving an example ? Do you mean you are wondering how to translate something like " Wash your hands" or " He broke his arm ". You can't use the possessive in French, but the definite article is always used : " Lave-toi les mains ( or " Lavez-vous les mains " ) ; " Il s'est cassé un bras " ; " J'ai mal à l'estomac" .
  3. b1947420 Senior Member

    Do I say "J'ai cassé la jambe ou ma jambe"

    J'ai fait couper mes cheveux ou les cheveux"

    and so on.

    I had understood that body parts are not owned in French, but I have seen examples of the use of the possessive adjective when describing body parts and this is where I am confused.
  4. moustic Senior Member

    near Limoges
    British English
    With the verbs you mention (laver, couper, casser ...) you use reflexive forms (se laver, se couper, se casser ...) plus definite article.
    Je me lave les mains.
    Il s'est coupé les cheveux.
    Elle s'est cassé le bras.

    Other wise you can say :
    Regarde mes cheveux !
    Tes pieds sont sales !
  5. b1947420 Senior Member

    Thank you moustic you have cleared up the confusion in my mind.
  6. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
  7. b1947420 Senior Member

    Thanks Thomas1 your suggestion is very helpful.
  8. b1947420 Senior Member

    Just one final query on this issue.

    If I want to say that "I have broken my leg" I understand that I should say "Je me suis cassé la jambe" but I'm left not fully understanding why "J'ai cassé ma jambe" is unacceptable?

    Is this just a matter of convention?
  9. pieanne

    pieanne Senior Member

    Nice Hinterland
    It's unacceptable! :)
    To me, it would mean you intentionally broke your own leg...
  10. b1947420 Senior Member

    Ah! I see, thanks a lot pieanne.
  11. french4ever New Member

    Elle s'est cassé le bras.

    you should write it: Elle s'est cassée le bras.

    cassée must be set with elle and elle is female form
  12. Nanon

    Nanon Senior Member

    Entre Paris et Lisbonne
    français (France)
    Désolée de vous contredire, french4ever, mais "elle s'est cassé le bras" est correct. Explication ici.
  13. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    Hello, french4ever, and welcome to the forum. :)

    In this case there is no agreement. Casser is a réflechi type of verbe in this sentence, this means the agreement is with COD.
    Elle s'est cassé le bras.
    le bras is the direct object after the verb so no agreement.
    s' is the indirect object, elle a cassé le bras à elle-même.

    Ils se sont lavés à l'eau froide. (ils ont lavé eux-mêmes, we have to agree the verb with se, the direct object)
    Ils se sont lavé les mains (ils sont lavé les mains à eux-mêmes, les mains COD after the verb, se COI, no agreement).

    Verbs that are essentially pronominal, for example: se souvenir, agree with the subject: Elle se sont souvenues de X.

    EDIT: I see Nanon replied before me, but I'll leave my answer.
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2009
  14. Nanon

    Nanon Senior Member

    Entre Paris et Lisbonne
    français (France)
    You certainly should, Thomas. I didn't say hello to french4ever. How rude! :eek:

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