He could not help but notice how thin Alessandra was

Discussion in 'Italian-English' started by gettare, Mar 22, 2009.

  1. gettare Banned


    He could not help but notice how thin Alessandra was.

    It's the "he could not help but notice" part that is beating me.

    Whatever you can do make this work would be great.

  2. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    I think you might be able to use 'fare a meno di' for a translation (to go without, so it would be 'he couldn't go without noticing'....

    Non poteva fare a meno di notare quanto magra era Alessandra..

    It's just my attempt:)
  3. Drizzt

    Drizzt Member

    Ankara, Turkiye
    agree with Alex..
    (I was thinking the same way but i didn't want to subscribe - just a matter of self confidence) :)
  4. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    :) I know I keep checking back to see if anyone has confirmed it or not, really interested to know if it's correct.
  5. joe86

    joe86 Senior Member

    Hey Alex! It is long time no see :D

    Also, another option could be: non poteva evitare di...

  6. Nashledanou Member

    Slightly off topic: according to Bill Bryson, "couldn't help but..." is a redundancy. You can express the same by simply saying "couldn't but"+infinitive or "could not help"+gerund

    La traduzione italiana, volendo essere pignoli, dovrebbe rendere la doppia negazione:

    "non poteva (pote') non fare a meno di notare"

    Anche se non si puo' equivocare il senso, non suona molto giusto.
  7. xmas50 Senior Member

    Italian - Italy
    Non poter fare a meno di ... is the perfect translation, but what about the tense? It could be
    Non poteva fare a meno di notare quanto magra fosse Alessandra
    Non pote` fare a meno di notare quanto magra fosse Alessandra

    It all depends on the context
  8. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Hi Nash, just a note about something you wrote:

    The second one is correct but sounds quite bad, 'couldn't help but' is just what people say, it sounds the best.
  9. tomzenith

    tomzenith Senior Member

    English - Britain
    I'm afraid I don't quite agree with you alex..

    'I couldn't but notice' isn't completely incorrect, just a little outmoded. If I remember correctly Dickens goes in for it quite a lot.

    'I couldn't help noticing' sounds completely natural to me, and I think I'd be more likely to use it in spoken language than 'I couldn't help but notice', which sounds a little more formal.

    When you think about it, Bryson's right, it is a little wierd. Expanded 'I couldn't help but notice' = I could not stop myself doing anything other than noticing = (roughly) I didn't notice, I did everything else except noticing. Bit of a strange one really.
  10. gettare Banned

    Thanks everybody for your cool mri's. Alex: Your "non poteva fare..." looks fine in overalll context flavor


    This is actually the whole sentence. I am using the imperfetto because of the simultaneity of the action even though come se would like it to be subjunctive. Maybe I'm wrong there.
    Mentre Giorgio e Alessandra lavoravano come se contro il tempo Giorgio non poteva fare a meno di notare quanto magra era Alessandra.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 22, 2009
  11. Nashledanou Member

    It does sound natural, but technically speaking, it is redundant. Whereas the other two are totally correct.

    I googled out a few examples:

    As he was walking home along the Nevski, he could not help noticing a well-shaped and aggressively finely-dressed woman (Tolstoj, Resurrection)

    The rat was a self-sufficing sort of animal, rooted to the land; and, whoever went, he stayed; still, he could not help noticing what was in the air, and feeling some of its influence in its bones (Kenneth Grahame, "The Wind in the Willow")

    and, most strikingly:

    I couldn't help notice the clothes he wore,
    And he couldn't but notice mine (Henry Lawson, "Since Then")

    Lawson even drops the gerund after "help". Now, that sounds weird. Granted, it's a poem, but if you do some research you'll find out many other examples.
  12. Nashledanou Member

    "...non poteva fare a meno di notare quanto magra fosse Alessandra", but I am unsure myself here. Maybe both are right. Italian subjunctives are a big razzmatazz.
  13. gettare Banned

    Thanks Nash!
  14. Wonder_Donnie Senior Member

    Florence, Italy
    Both are correct (quanto fosse magra, quanto era magra) but it is preferable to use quanto fosse magra in my opinion or, at least, I'm used to say quanto fosse instead of quanto era, in this case.
  15. gettare Banned

    Daniele Grazie mille
  16. agostina di martino New Member

    sorry guys i wish to express this concept in in english with a litotes. I'm writing a formal document/review but i think it may fit well if i say:

    Following the motto "Meeting the challanges of 21st Century Music", ArtMusFair non poteva fare a meno di discutere" the current status quo on collective rights management by setting up the panel "Authors Rights: Between EU Directive & Cultural Flatrate"

    i don' fell like writing "it could not help but discuss" it sounds really bad to me...i would prefer something like "it could not...without discussing" but i don't know how to fill the gap

    thank you in advance! i 'm used to lurk a lot to this forum, you're always very helpful!

  17. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Couldn't go without mentioning... ?

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