FR: Never before had there been something like this

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by wichuraiana, Mar 3, 2013.

  1. wichuraiana Member

    English - United States
    I realize I have some pretty big holes in my knowledge of French grammar, as illustrated by my inability to translate this phrase:

    Never before had there been something like this.

    No context; I'm just trying to figure out what tense to use in these situations and where to put "jamais" and "ne" and the like.
  2. pointvirgule

    pointvirgule Senior Member

    Mtl, QC
    One of many possible ways to turn the translation would be, Jamais auparavant n'avait-on vu chose pareille.

    Translating whole sentences is usually frowned upon in these parts, but in this instance it is necessary in order to show the placement of jamais and ne, if we choose to keep the inverted sentence structure. (Understood, dear mods? ;))

    The tense that is used to match the English past perfect is the plus-que-parfait of the indicative.
  3. L'Inconnu Senior Member

    So, now we have:

    "Never before had we seen the like."

    Yes, there are many ways to translate it. The problem seems to be the ambiguity of the verb "To be". It could mean "to happen", "to exist", etc. Here's my 'stab at it'

    "Jamais auparavant n'y avait-il eu une chose pareille."
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2013
  4. pointvirgule

    pointvirgule Senior Member

    Mtl, QC
    I specifically chose not to translate it with n'y avait-il eu because it makes the sentence sound like a translation. It's grammatically correct but not thoroughly idiomatic.

    At any rate, the proper translation will depend on context. My suggestion was just an example.

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