Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you...

Discussion in 'French-English Vocabulary / Vocabulaire Français-Anglais' started by joel72, Mar 30, 2012.

  1. joel72 Member

    Le Mans (France)
    Vous connaissez cette citation de Kennedy ; est-elle grammaticalement correcte ?
    On nous apprend qu'à la forme interrogative il faut l'auxiliaire do.
    Don't ask ... Dans quelles cas peut-on s'en passer ?
  2. Seeda Senior Member

    法语 / French (FR)
    C'est une tournure assez particulière qui a un sens similaire à "non pas (.. mais)" en français. Il aurait très bien pu dire Don't ask.. mais ce serait tout simplement plus prosaïque (ou moins emphatique).

    Comparez :
  3. moustic Senior Member

    near Limoges
    British English
    This, I think, is chiasmus.
    "Symmetrical" structures used for effect.
    Here's another one from JFK:
    Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.
  4. joel72 Member

    Le Mans (France)
    Ok je ne connaissais pas Thanks
  5. joel72 Member

    Le Mans (France)
    Great explanation I would have never found by myself ; it must be also emphasis as says Seeda.
    Thanks a lot
  6. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Although such inversion can indeed help to form chiasmi, it's not limited to that.
    I think, joel, that in this case you meant "la forme impérative". If you went back far enough in the history of the English language, you'd find that "verb + not" was the normal form of the negative imperative (much as it still is in other Germanic languages). ' "Fear not", said he ' was quite normal language, and has (I find) a certain neatness compared with the more modern ' "Don't be afraid", he said '.

    "Fear not" is still quite common (perhaps to create an effect of style): "Fear not, I'll be there on time". The construction also still appears in other expressions such as "Waste not, want not". Le myosotis in English is the forget-me-not,: it would sound rather strange as a don't forget-me!;)

    The construction with "no ..." (adjectival) is also heard in modern English: "Take no notice"; "Break no laws and you'll stay out of trouble"; "Give me no excuses"; etc. Those are just as valid as the alternatives: "Don't take any notice"; "Don't break any laws"; "Don't give me any excuses"; etc.


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