faire/laisser place à qqn/qqch

Discussion in 'French-English Vocabulary / Vocabulaire Français-Anglais' started by Novanas, Jul 10, 2009.

  1. Novanas Senior Member

    English AE/Ireland
    Dear Friends, I hope someone can help me clarify something that I'm more than a bit confused about.

    I'm reading a book in which a man is out driving very early in the morning. He sees the reflection of the rising sun in his rear-view mirror, and "sans transition, le jour fit place à la nuit..." Now my dictionary gives "faire place à" as "to give way to". And so it appears to me that the French and English express themselves exactly the opposite here. In English we would say "the night gave way to the day."

    The on-line dictionary of the Centre National de Ressources Textuelles et Lexicales defines "faire place à qqn" as "se ranger, s'effacer pour laisser passer qqn." So perhaps the French envision the day giving way to let the night pass and go wherever it wants to go. In other words, the night makes off. The English expression "give way to" has the sense of "be replaced by"--in other words, the night gives up its place to the day.

    The English "give way to" is in agreement with the definition that the CNRTL gives to the expression "Place à...!": "Laissez passer, cédez la place à qqn (pour qu'il agisse, prenne la parole)." In English, the night gives way so that the day "can act".

    To make matters even more confusing, though the CNRTL gives "laisser place à qqn" as equivalent to "faire place à qqn", my author clearly uses it (in the same context of the man who is out for a drive) in the English sense of "give way to": "Les champs de lave et leur dureté inaltérable laissent ainsi rapidement place aux lignes apaisantes du sable, aux courbes, rondeurs et spirales que le vent forme et déforme..."

    It is clear here that the lava fields are being replaced by the "lignes, courbes, rondeurs, spirales" because in the previous sentence, the author says, "Mais la voiture franchit le dos d'une artère de lave fossile, atteignant un point assez élevé pour dominer les coulées secondaires qui...s'amenuisent en s'enfonçant doucement sous le sable..."

    So I apologize for going on at such length, but I'm a bit confused here, and I would be grateful if someone could set me straight.
  2. kme

    kme Senior Member

    yep your are indeed very confusing... the 2 expressions don't seem contradictory to me... give way = donne place/ laisse place

    what's confusing about it?
  3. ara1e

    ara1e Senior Member

    Spain, Galician and Spanish
    I find that expression very strange. If the man is driving in the mornig then la nuit fait place au jour.

    I checked the Dictionnaire de l'Académie and I found this:
    Faire place à quelqu’un, s’effacer devant lui. Il y a longtemps que vous êtes là, faites place aux autres.
    Faire place à quelque chose, être remplacé par elle . L’amour dans son cœur a fait place à la haine.

    No mistake here, it was very early in the morning and the author was still endormi ;)
  4. GerardM

    GerardM Senior Member

    Paris, France
    I am too slow.

    I agree with ara1e to say that the "le jour fait place à la nuit" is a mistake!

    Exactly the same use as in English.
    You deserve a free book from the editor/author ;)

    As for "faire" or "laisser": you know languages sometimes use a verb "by chance" in a short list: let, take, do, make... we sometimes wonder why that verb instead of another one.
    Similarly in French "prendre de l'essence" can laisser place à ;) "faire de l'essence" in some regions of France as well as in Italy.
    You "take or have a shower", the Italian use "fare la doccia".
    Don't bother much about this. We have to learn by heart in many languages.
  5. Novanas Senior Member

    English AE/Ireland
    Thanks very much for your replies. I am glad you have clarified this for me.
    And to ipl_001, I understand that different verbs are sometimes chosen to mean the same thing. The only reason I raised the question about a possible difference between "faire place" and "laisser place" was that it appeared that the author was giving them a different meaning.
    But thanks for clearing this up. I don't like being confused. It happens too often.
  6. mary7 New Member

    The key to understand the sentence is from the rhetoric point of literary , not only from the definition of the phrase. Here, the author wants to express that it was very very early in the morning and it was still very dark. So, even in the moring the darknenss of the night was still dominant and didn't give way to the light of the day. In this sense, the definition of the dictionary and the author's usage of it are correct. Such kind of expression is understandable, and even expressive elegantly, far from "a mistake".

    But short of the complete context of the sentence, the inference above may be incorrect but I think such possibility is very little.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2009
  7. Novanas Senior Member

    English AE/Ireland
    Dear Mary7, thanks for your comment, but I think I'm going to stick with the opinion of the francophones who posted on this thread. The story I was reading was set in Saudi Arabia, and the author mentioned more than once how suddenly it got light in the morning--once the sun appeared on the horizon it was immediately broad daylight. This is very different from Europe (especially Northern Europe) where daylight comes on very gradually.
  8. mary7 New Member

    Indeed,I also think you are right now since the writer has seen the reflexion of the sun. Ici, peut-etre seulement le problem d'habitude de utiliser des petits mots.


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