1. fabfab Senior Member

    France - Grenoble
    French - France
    A "petit malin" (in French) is a clever and cunning person showing a great ability to get what he wants by various 'borderline' means such as pleasing others, playing with the rules...

    How would you say in English?

    Should you need some clarification please let me know.
  2. Moon Palace

    Moon Palace Senior Member

    Understanding 'petit malin' is not the problem with your question. The problem here is the lack of context since I don't think there is an equivalent phrase in English, the translation will depend on the context you provide.
  3. cropje_jnr

    cropje_jnr Senior Member

    Canberra, Australia
    English - Australia
    There is no exact equivalent I am aware of, so if you can retain the French original, do so!

    Otherwise, something inventive like "a manipulative little terror" might work??
  4. hunternet

    hunternet Senior Member

    France - French
    It sounds a bit "too much" for "petit malin". Maybe simply "smart ass" ?
  5. Moon Palace

    Moon Palace Senior Member

    Or even simply 'clever one'? But wouldn't you adapt it to context?
  6. wildan1

    wildan1 Moderando ma non troppo (French-English, CC Mod)

    there are several ways to express this depending on context.

    Please give the full sentence, or an example you can think of, fabfab.
  7. Juna Frato

    Juna Frato Senior Member

    Dutch, living in France
    'smart ass' is ok. Problem is, the word 'ass' in it. Petit malin you can use in most contexts; smart 'ass' you can't really...

    May I suggest 'sly dog' or 'clever little bugger'? (BE AND AE possibilities)

    Juna Frato
  8. wildan1

    wildan1 Moderando ma non troppo (French-English, CC Mod)

    smartass is often used for someone who is sarcastic--maybe that's also clever, but to my mind not the same as malin:

    Stop being such a smartass and give us a realistic suggestion

    faire le malin can be expressed by the verbal phrase pull a fast one:

    He pulled a fast one and bought all the remaining tickets so he could re-sell them at double the price.

    This is somewhat colloquial but not vulgar.
  9. Moon Palace

    Moon Palace Senior Member

    Strange this impression when reading this thread that we are elaborating hypotheses on thin air if I may say so. Are we starting an encyclopedia in Diderot's style :D or are we going to have more context so as to determine what would fit best?
  10. catay Senior Member

    Canada anglais
    Here's an expression from my neck of the woods: "He's/she's a real operator"....an opportunist, someone that "pulls a fast one" (as Wildan said) to get what he\she wants.
  11. Montaigne Senior Member

    French, France
    "Petit malin" means the guy is smart but on the tricky side, so it could be translated by
    "smart guy, a crafty one".
    "Smart ass" being more ass than smart corresponds to "gros malin", one who is trying to be smart.
  12. Albert 50 Senior Member

    Montreal QC and Dallas TX
    Canada: French and English (bilingual)
    I would suggest "smart aleck" as a translation for "petit malin" I think that "smart aleck" may be a mild euphemism for "smart ass" (which would not have been an acceptable term in my family growing up.)

    "Qui est le petit malin qui a dit/fait ça"? = Who's the smart aleck/smart mouth who said/did that?

    But still, context would determine how strong or how mild the translation would be.

  13. fabfab Senior Member

    France - Grenoble
    French - France
    Waouhhh... so many replies! Thanks!

    I was actually looking for a generic term matching the definition I gave but there is seemingly none even if smart ass/mouth/guy look close.
  14. Blootone

    Blootone Senior Member

    Saorstát na hÉireann
    English, Français
    The term "clever dick" is the closest match to "petit malin", although it is a little antiquated...
  15. edwingill Senior Member

    England English
    He's a crafty so-and-so
  16. wildan1

    wildan1 Moderando ma non troppo (French-English, CC Mod)

    Don't try that one if you are in North America!
  17. giannid

    giannid Senior Member

    USA English
    In Britain, I believe they use the word chancer in this context.

    For example: He's a bit of a chancer. (a scheming opportunist)
  18. xiancee

    xiancee Senior Member

    A smooth operator?
  19. Wopsy

    Wopsy Senior Member

    The garden of Ireland
    English - Ireland
    I think this is the best suggestion.
  20. catay Senior Member

    Canada anglais
    :tick:A variation of my suggestion post #10...an expression perhaps more commonly heard in North America. However, I wouldn't necessarily use this in a context referring to younger children, adolescents maybe, because the expression implies rather accomplished or sophisticated manipulation tactics.

  21. franc 91 Senior Member

    English - GB
    a sly one (the Artful Dodger)

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