FR: not talking about books

ShineLikeStars

Senior Member
English - Canada
Bonjour !

Dans le cas suivant, faut-il ajouter un S à la fin de livre ?

English : I'm not talking about books (the ones you read), I'm talking about exercise books.

Français : Je ne parle pas de livre(s), je parle de cahier(s) ?

Merci beaucoup !
SLS
 
  • AlphonseB

    Member
    French - France
    I think both work equally as I get you use books as a category of items generally speaking.

    Using French de is correct. Singular and plural are both appropriate for introducing the category.
    - des [de les] livres : about all books, hence the idea of book
    - de livre : about the concept of book
     

    OLN

    Senior Member
    French - France, ♀
    Vu qu'on dit books, the ones you read, le pluriel livres s'impose en français aussi.
    Il faudrait effectivement une autre phrase pour savoir si le singulier livre et cahier peut convenir, avec au mieux un vocabulaire sans équivoque et traduisible tel quel.

    (...)
     
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    jann

    co-mod'
    English - USA
    For me, the overall meaning and grammar are clear... and yes, both nouns should be in the plural in the negation, just as they are in English. The sentence would be clearer yet if it were re-punctuated: I'm not talking about "books" (the ones you read); I'm talking about exercise books.

    This is partial negation of the ce n'est pas du vin, c'est de la bière variety.

    "Books (the ones you read)" = romans, litérature, ouvrages non-romanesques déstinés à être lus du début à la fin, etc.. à la différence de dictionnaires, manuels scolaires, ouvrages de référence, etc. que l'on consulte sans pourtant les lire en entier.

    "Excercise books" is ambiguous, and indeed we cannot select the correct vocabulary for the translation without knowing for sure what they are. But since SLS has suggested cahiers, that certainly suggests that she is thinking of soft-bound workbooks where students write their assigned schoolwork (as opposed to reference books about sport, or textbooks that provide prompts to help students practice the material outlined within but are not intended to be written in).

    We regularly refer to all paper materials that students transport in their backpacks as "books," even though this is not really accurate. So SLS's sentence makes sense in a school context where one might need to distinguish between different types of bound, paper-based materials.
     

    OLN

    Senior Member
    French - France, ♀
    Pardon ! :eek:
    Je n'avais pas compris que SLS définissait pour nous entre parenthèses le sens de books (read au présent et you au sens one), mais avouez qu'illustrer une question de grammaire portant sur le pluriel par un vocabulaire nécessitant une définition détourne inutilement l'attention.

    Exemple dans une école : Je distribuerai les cartes demain. Je ne parle évidemment pas de cartes à jouer, bande de petits malins, mais* des cartes de cantine.

    * une conj. bien choisie est une alternative à la ponctuation par un point virgule :)
     
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    ShineLikeStars

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    Possibly, but it depends on the exact context and on the intended meaning. What is the full context, SLS?
    The full context is two schoolchildren talking about exercise books and not novels. The noun is less important to me, I am more interested in knowing whether we should add an S to the noun in French. Another example could be:

    I'm not talking about shirts, I'm talking about skirts. (The context is two fashion design students talking about clothing. Person A said "shirts" but Person B heard "skirts" so Person A is just correcting.)

    Je ne parle pas de chemises, je parle de jupes. From the responses above I understand that an S is mandatory.

    Thank you all for your help.
     

    Maître Capello

    Mod et ratures
    French – Switzerland
    I'm not talking about shirts, I'm talking about skirts. (The context is two fashion design students talking about clothing. Person A said "shirts" but Person B heard "skirts" so Person A is just correcting.)
    Erm… Didn't you just mix up the two words? Did person A really say "shirts" and not "skirts"? If person A is the one saying the sentence, it should be the other way around, shouldn't it?

    From the responses above I understand that an S is mandatory.
    I'm afraid it isn't as simple as that… We still miss the exact (albeit incorrect) sentence from person B to tell whether it is more appropriate to use the plural or the singular. Both numbers may also be possible depending on context.
     

    ShineLikeStars

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    Erm… Didn't you just mix up the two words? Did person A really say "shirts" and not "skirts"? If person A is the one saying the sentence, it should be the other way around, shouldn't it?
    Oops, yes, I made a mistake. It should be the reverse, that is: I'm not talking about skirts, I'm talking about shirts.

    I'm afraid it isn't as simple as that… We still miss the exact (albeit incorrect) sentence from person B to tell whether it is more appropriate to use the plural or the singular. Both numbers may also be possible depending on context.
    Here's the made-up dialogue:

    A: What kind of buttons works best for shirts, you know, the button-up kind?
    B: Well, if you want the zipper at the back to close properly at the waist area, you'd probably want to use these buttons.
    A: I'm not talking about SKIRTS, I'm talking about SHIRTS.
     

    Maître Capello

    Mod et ratures
    French – Switzerland
    Ah, OK, so it was actually person A who initially mentioned the word using the plural and person B never actually used it. In that case, the plural is certainly better, but the singular would not be out of the question.

    Je ne parle pas de livres/jupes ; je parle de cahiers/chemisiers. → Je ne parle pas de [la catégorie des] livres/jupes ; je parle de [la catégorie des] cahiers/chemisiers.
    Je ne parle pas de livre/jupe ; je parle de cahier/chemisier. → Je ne parle pas de [la catégorie] livre/jupe ; je parle de [la catégorie] cahier/chemisier.
     

    ShineLikeStars

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    Thank you for this explanation, Maître Capello. In which situation would the singular case be the only acceptable case?
     

    AlphonseB

    Member
    French - France
    When you're not referring to a category I believe.

    - I'm going to buy a skirt.
    - I think you have way too many shirts already.
    - I'm not talking about a shirt, but about a skirt.

    There it's all about one particular item (you're going to buy). Fr.: Je ne parle pas d'une chemise, mais d'une jupe.

    - I like skirts.
    - Don't you prefer a sweater?
    - I'm not talking about shirts, I'm talking about skirts.

    This is about categories of clothes. Fr.: Je ne parle pas de chemise[s], mais de jupe[s]. Both plural and singular are grammatically correct, though I would stick to the original plural in this particular example.
     

    ShineLikeStars

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    Thank you for your explanation Alphonse. I think this makes sense to me. Only when we are talking about one, particular item would the noun remain singular. And in that case we would have to say je ne parle pas d'un(e) X, instead of je ne parle pas de X.
     

    AlphonseB

    Member
    French - France
    Well you're welcome. That's just my two-bit way of understanding this but think about what you want to refer back to.

    If you want to refer to one single item you are going to use singular.

    If you want to refer to a general concept you might use both singular or plural in French I believe.

    - J'ai plusieurs paires de chaussures.
    - Tu mets des sandales ?
    - Je parle de chaussure. [singular]

    That doesn't come out as a shock to me, though singular might be more infrequently used I think.
     
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