FR: avoir peur de l'eau / avoir besoin d'eau - article défini / partitif

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by Trendywendy_41, Aug 23, 2013.

  1. Trendywendy_41 Senior Member

    Berkshire
    English
    Hi there,
    Isn't the expression 'avoir peur de' as well?
    But one says J'ai peur de l'eau but J'ai besion d'eau?
    One site says "Watch out for the prepositional phrases" To me, these are both prepositional phrases.

    One would think that J'ai peur de l'eau means the specific water that one's just about to be pushed into! Or is it J'ai peur d'eau? I don't think so?
    Any advise?

    Trendy
     
  2. jann

    jann co-mod'

    English - USA
    There's a fundamental difference in the conception of the water here.

    One idea of being scared of (the) water applies to all water bodies. It reflects a fear of drowning. To speak in the general, when your conception of the thing in question admits no divisions into categories or segments (in other words, when on some level you really are talking about ALL of that thing in the world), then you use the definite article in French. This gives you j'ai peur de + l'eau, les chiens, le noir, etc. Note that sometimes we include "the" in this context in English, and other times we omit it (afraid of the dark, of (the) water, of spiders, etc.)

    Of course, you could also have certain specific water in mind ("the" water) -- the water you're about to be pushed into, today's choppy waves and strong currents in the bay, the water you believe to be contaminated and unsafe to drink, etc. And of course you need the definite article then, regardless of which language you're speaking.

    But it's very hard to imagine a situation where you would be afraid of "some" water. With fear, it's all or nothing, or else it's a specific case.

    On the other hand, when you say "I need water" in the generic, you don't need all the water in the world. The water in this conception can be divided into portions and you need only some of it. So you wouldn't say "I need the water" with the definite article unless you had certain specific water in mind (the 150ml of water that you measured out and set aside for your recipe / the container of water that your painting group is passing around to rinse their paintbrushes in, etc.). In other words, needing water can refer to a specific case and will use the definite article in that context... but the general case is "some" instead of "all or nothing." So if you're just saying "I need water," instead of introducing water with the definite article (l'eau), you will introduce it with the partitive article (de l'eau). This gives you a contraction of the preposition de with the partitive article (de + de l' = de):

    j'ai besoin de + de l'eau = j'ai besoin d'eau
     
  3. geostan

    geostan Senior Member

    English Canada
    I realize it can be confusing. But there is a difference in the nature of the expressions avoir besoin de and avoir peur de. The first one deals with quantities. So you distinguish between J'ai besoin d 'argent (I need some money) and J'ai besoin de l'argent. (I need the money.)

    With avoir peur de, the fear is generic and as such not usually quantifiable. In this case, if you need to say you have fear of some things and not others, you would add something to show this.

    J'ai peur des loups. I am afraid of wolves [all wolves, wolves in general). J'ai peur de certains loups. (I am afraid of some wolves, and not others.)

    I hope I have explained this satisfactorily.
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2013
  4. arundhati Senior Member

    France
    French - France
    I agree with Geostan, and sometimes "avoir besoin de l'eau", when it's not quantifiable, is required : "le chlore a besoin de l'eau pour former un chlorure".
     
  5. Trendywendy_41 Senior Member

    Berkshire
    English
    Thank you all for your responses,
    J’ai peur des chiens. I am afraid of dogs (all the dogs in the world)
    J’ai peur des chiens qui me mordent. I am afraid of the dogs that bite me (specific dogs)
    J’ai peur du chien qui me morde. I am afraid of the dog that bites me.
    J'ai peur de certains chiens. I'm afraid of some dogs (J'ai peur des certains chiens would mean I am afraid of the some dogs right? :))
    J’ai besoin d’un chiein. I need a dog (is that right?)
    J’ai besoin de chiens. I need dogs. (some dogs)
    J’ai besoin des chiens qui sont fidèles à l’homme. I need dogs that are faithful to men (specific dogs)

    I think I've got it

    Thank you

    Trendy
     
  6. geostan

    geostan Senior Member

    English Canada
    J'ai besoin des certains chiens sounds strange to me.
    Unless you need all the dogs that are faithful to men, I would say J'ai besoin de chiens qui sont fidèles à l’homme
    Note that the 3rd person indicative of mordre is mord. With an e it is a subjunctive form.

    Cheers!
     
  7. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    In that example, I'd rather omit the definite article because you're talking about some water here: Le chlore a besoin d'eau pour former un chlorure. When including it, you're talking about water as an entity, almost as if it were a person. It makes me think of water as one of the four elements.

    I guess that's Trendy's point: it sounds as strange in French as in English. ;)
     
  8. arundhati Senior Member

    France
    French - France
    Oui, presque, en tant "qu'entité chimique" en tout cas, pour parler de la molécule.
     
  9. Trendywendy_41 Senior Member

    Berkshire
    English
    Isn't that the same as J'ai besoin des chiens qui sont fidèls à l'homme? Talking about specifics?
     
  10. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    Yes, that's it, Trendy. :)
     
  11. Trendywendy_41 Senior Member

    Berkshire
    English
    Thank you. You've all really helped me to understand this. :p
     
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