coup de main à prendre

Discussion in 'French-English Vocabulary / Vocabulaire Français-Anglais' started by swissymissy, Oct 21, 2012.

  1. swissymissy Senior Member

    The context is some westerners who lent a helping hand with a physical/difficult task of rice harvesting. They say:

    "Nous nous y sommes exercés...c'est un coup de main à prendre!"

    don't understand the 'a prendre' of the coup de main. Is it the locals that needed a helping hand? Or is it to do with learning how to do it?

    Grateful for any help :)
  2. Maugh Member

    Learning :)

    Kind of equivalent to "you have to get used to it" (you have to train)
  3. Quintis

    Quintis Senior Member

    If I may, the "coup de main" is confusing here because it doesn't mean "help" at all.
    The sentence could be translated quite literally by saying:

    We've practiced it, it's a stroke you have to pick up.

    Hope it's clearer.:)
  4. swissymissy Senior Member

    Thanks, so it's a sort of word play, then?
  5. harrythelm Senior Member

    USA English
    No word play, just a set expression. We would say: you just have to get the hand movement down, or more generally and colloquially, the hang if it.
  6. Maugh Member

    It's not really a play on words, rather something colloquial coming from the fact it (almost always) refers to manual work ("main" and "manuel" are of course much closer in French than "hand" and "manual" in English)

    In a standard dictionnary you'd find two different meanings for "coup de main": "Donner un coup de main" (lend a hand) and "Faire un coup de main" (to raid)
  7. Quintis

    Quintis Senior Member

    I don't think it is intended as a word play, no.
    It is just another meaning of "coup de main", a more literal meaning that is less used.
  8. Transfer_02 Senior Member

    Espoo, Finland
    English - British
    We've had a go: Once you get the knack it's easy. It's OK once you get the hang of it.

    Un coup de main à prendre : a skill that needs a little practice before you become adept at it!

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