He faced a life sentence

giovannino

Senior Member
Italian, Neapolitan
An English forero was asking me whether "affrontare" is always the best translation for "to face (something)".
I'd like to ask native speakers for confirmation but I get the impression that sometimes using "affrontare" changes the meaning of the original English sentence when "to face" means "to be faced with the possibility of...".
For example Garzanti translates

He faced a life sentence

as

Affrontò l'ergastolo

Isn't that wrong? Doesn't he faced a life sentence mean that, if convicted, he would (almost certainly) get a life sentence?
Would rischiava l'ergastolo work or does it add an element of uncertainty that faced doesn't convey?
 
  • underhouse

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Ciao giovannino,

    mi chiedo se il significato di "to face" qui sia il primo suggerito da Garzanti:

    1 fronteggiare, essere di fronte a, dirimpetto a; essere esposto a...

    Mi chiedo se in italiano ci sia un'espressione equivalente o, di volta in volta, si possa tradurre in modo diverso, ad esempio, con un generico "ha preso l'ergastolo".
     

    TimLA

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    Hello,

    It may be more complex than that.

    "To face" can mean "a possibility" or "a certainty" that you have to discern by context.

    The jury said "guilty" and he faced a life-sentence. (certainty).
    He is facing a life-sentence, but hopefully the lawyers will get him off. (possibility)
     

    giovannino

    Senior Member
    Italian, Neapolitan
    I think that "affrontò l'ergastolo" doesn't mean much on its own. To me it would make sense if it were followed by something like "con serenità", "con spirito di rassegnazione". And in any case it has to do with the way the convicted man coped with his life sentence emotionally.
    On the other hand it seems to me that in, for example "if convicted, he faced a life sentence", "faced" just means that a life sentence lay ahead.
    That's why I think that the Garzanti translation is misleading. It would never work for "he faced a life sentence", but only for "he confronted (not sure it's the right verb) his life sentence with dignity/resignation etc".
     

    underhouse

    Senior Member
    Italian
    I am wondering whether a native speaker perceives any difference between:

    He was facing a life sentence when...

    and

    He was serving a life sentence when...
     
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    TimLA

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    He was facing a life sentence when...(jail was possibly in the future)
    He was serving a life sentence when...(he is in jail now, serving/doing the sentence)

    "Serving"??? In jail, "doing" the time?
     

    neuromatico

    Senior Member
    English (Canadian)
    I am wondering whether a native speaker perceives any difference between:

    He was facing a life sentence when...a surprise witness appeared and exonerated him.

    Your first statement indicates that he had not yet been convicted, whereas your second tells us that he was incarcerated.

    He was serving a life sentence when...new evidence came to light resulting in a new trial and his eventual release from prison
     

    neuromatico

    Senior Member
    English (Canadian)
    I think that "affrontò l'ergastolo" doesn't mean much on its own. To me it would make sense if it were followed by something like "con serenità", "con spirito di rassegnazione". And in any case it has to do with the way the convicted man coped with his life sentence emotionally.
    On the other hand it seems to me that in, for example "if convicted, he faces/would face a life sentence", "faced" just means that a life sentence lay ahead. (Yes, but the past tense would be used only in a historical context).
    That's why I think that the Garzanti translation is misleading. It would never work for "he faced a life sentence", but only for "he confronted (not sure it's the right verb) his life sentence with dignity/resignation etc".
    Other than in literature, this type of construction would be rendered in the present or future tense. I wouldn't use "confront" exactly this way, although I would say "He was confronting a life sentence (when DNA evidence cleared him and he was released)".
     
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    underhouse

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Allora forse direi:

    He was facing a life sentence when...
    Stava andando incontro ad un/all' ergastolo quando...

    He was serving a life sentence when...
    Stava scontando un ergastolo quando...
     

    giovannino

    Senior Member
    Italian, Neapolitan
    Hi neuro,

    I confused matters by using the wrong verb (confronted) to render "affrontò". What I meant was that to me (but other Italians might disagree) the Garzanti translation ("affrontò l'ergastolo") can only mean two things: 1) "affrontò [la condanna al]l'ergastolo..[incomplete on its own]e.g. con spirito di rassegnazione" (he accepted his sentence with resignation) or 2) "affrontò l'ergastolo con serenità, dedicandosi allo studio" (he coped with life imprisonment...). Can "faced" be used in 1) or 2)?
     

    neuromatico

    Senior Member
    English (Canadian)
    Hi neuro,

    I confused matters by using the wrong verb (confronted) to render "affrontò". What I meant was that to me (but other Italians might disagree) the Garzanti translation ("affrontò l'ergastolo") can only mean two things: 1) "affrontò [la condanna al]l'ergastolo..[incomplete on its own]e.g. con spirito di rassegnazione" (he accepted his sentence with resignation) or 2) "affrontò l'ergastolo con serenità, dedicandosi allo studio" (he coped with life imprisonment...). Can "faced" be used in 1) or 2)?

    "Faced" could be used in both cases.

    "He faced a life sentence" is a complete sentence ;), but not "He faced his life sentence", which would require modification along the lines you suggest, i.e. making reference to his mental state (con spirito di rassegnazione).

    With "He coped with his life sentence", the modification would refer to what he did (dedicandosi allo studio).
     
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    giovannino

    Senior Member
    Italian, Neapolitan
    "He faced a life sentence" is a complete sentence ;), but not "He faced his life sentence", which would require modification along the lines you suggest, i.e. making reference to his mental state (con spirito di rassegnazione).

    Well, that's exactly the point I've been trying to make: to me "affrontò l'ergastolo..." is an acceptable translation for "he faced his life sentence..." [both the Italian and the English sentence being incomplete] but not for "he faced a life sentence".
     
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