de bonne guerre


United Kingdom, English
What does "de bonne guerre" mean in the following context?

Ses accusations sur les responsabilités historiques des pays développés sont de bonne guerre.
At a guess, I thought that this could either mean that the accusations are well-founded or that the accusations are warlike, provocative.

Can anybody help me out? Thanks!
  • xuartema

    Switzerland, French
    Ma question : Y a-t-il un équivalent en anglais pour l'expression "de bonne guerre" ?
    My question : Is there an english equivalent for the french expression "de bonne guerre" ?


    New Member
    French - France
    It means they're legitimate, justified or well-founded as you said.

    I'm sorry but I don't completely agree, or at least I would like to add something.
    "de bonne guerre" means that from that it's "sort of" legitimate, justified, etc given the point of vew of the speaker.

    Actually it could even be totally illegitimate or unjustified, but an important point is that given who the speaker is what he says is not surprising.

    I arrive late at the office because I went out partying all night. But I'm going to tell my boss my alarm-clock broke down: C'est de bonne guerre!

    Maybe other french speakers could complete my possibly not very clear answer.


    "De bonne guerre" means that it is fair enough but not necessarily legitimate, in the meaning of lawful. It usually refers to an action, more or less aggresive, which is justified by the same kind of action from the other part. Not really clear but let's take a simple example:

    Democrats blame Republicans for the hard times. (from NYT) We can say that it is "de bonne guerre" as Republicans (I guess) certainly did the same when Democrats were ruling... or if they did any kind of similar attack.

    So ok, somehow it is legitimate, but not regarding the law, moreover the facts are not necessarily true nor justified, we just consider that all parties are using the same "weapons" and so the fight is fair.

    Another example:
    Olympic torch relay in Paris was canceled, consequently Chinese call for boycott of French goods. C'est de bonne guerre. (it does not mean that the writer takes position but that each one is attacking the other, so it is a fair war).

    I hoped I was clear.


    New Member
    The English equivalent would be 'All's fair in love and war.' It's a little more unwieldy but you get the idea. There are no rules in this context.


    Senior Member
    it's fair game?
    That's what immediately came to my mind on reading the first responses. (I'm not familiar with the French expression.)
    "Fair game" has the sense that the action is "fair" in terms of a "tit for tat" or "eye for an eye" sense of justice, or at least that this action is to be expected as a normal response. One important difference, however, is how these are used in the sentence. The thing that is "fair game" is the target, this would not be said of what is aimed at the target. That is, in the present example, it would be "les responsabilités historiques des pays développés" that would be "fair game", and not the "accusations".

    A similar expression is "fair play". It might be possible to say, "The accusations were...fair play," although this sounds a bit off to me in this context--if the subject is serious, I feel "fair play" as a sports reference may sound a bit too light.
    Also, Blind Claim's suggestion, "fair enough", might work.
    Of course, perhaps "the accusations...were justified" might be the simplest way to put it.

    The English equivalent would be 'All's fair in love and war.' It's a little more unwieldy but you get the idea. There are no rules in this context.
    From what the native speakers have said, it doesn't sound like "all's fair in love and war" would have the right meaning, certainly not if there is any sense of justice at all to "bonne guerre." We use "all's fair in love and war" with respect to actions that are unfair means to an end, not to actions that are in any way justified. The expression means that there are no restraints or consideration of fairness when it comes to love or war.
    Last edited:
    < Previous | Next >