EN: Être moderne, c’est vivre en prenant ses distances - gerund / infinitive


Senior Member
French (Belgium)

Here is a French sentence that I can't translate into English because I have the feeling I would have to use 3 gerunds in a row and it doesn't seem correct.

Please have a look, here it is:

"Être moderne, c’est vivre en prenant ses distances par rapport à la tradition."

=>"Being modern, it's living keeping oneself at a distance from tradition."

Can you help me with this sentence, and perhaps enlighten me about the possibility (or impossibility) to use 3 gerunds like this? How could I elude this problem?

  • To be modern is to live while keeping one's distance from tradition. The direct translation of the infinitives works quite well here.

    Americans rarely use one; you would be more commonly chosen here. One is correct, though.
    Another approach (by a non native)
    Modernity is living at a distance from tradition.
    I'm a native, and I like Gil's translation :) Or 'being modern is living at a distance from tradition.' if you want to keep a verb on each side of the 'is'. I think that sounds slightly better because the two sides are grammatically parallel, you have verb=verb instead of noun=verb. (But I studied mathematics, so perhaps I just like that sort of thing :D )

    Or you could say 'being modern is living while keeping oneself/yourself at a distance from tradition' to separate those two gerunds. 'living keeping oneself at a distance...' is correct as far as I know but it sounds a bit weird. I like Gil's approach better though.

    I think the first gerund doesn't really make a difference because there are other words in between... if you had a sentence which had three in a row with no words in between then it would probably sound very weird. But if you have two verbs with 'is' in between, then they probably should be either both gerunds or both infinitives to be correct, so it doesn't sound weird at all.