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I see that both of these seem to translate to the noun hope. What is the difference between them, if any? It seems that one gives espérance but has espoir.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Espoir seems to be more focused, and more tangible. Espérance refers more to a state of mind, more like optimism. Espoir is widely used in French, as opposed to espérance which is a not-so-used word.

ex. J'espère (j'ai l'espoir) que le repas sera bon (I hope the meal will be good). vs Il est plein d'espérance (he is full of hope)

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I would add that espérance applies in religious or spiritual contexts. –  Whelp Jul 28 at 11:07

while "espoir" (https://fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/espoir) -which is the "Déverbal" of "espérer"- is a neutral,abstract,down-to-earth and everyday life word,"espérance"(https://fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/esp%C3%A9rance) is formal and more focused on the action by itself...

In deed,"espérance" can be split into the stem that comes from "espérer" plus the sufix "-ance" which gives all the nuance to that word :the sufix "-ance" indicates an action or the result of an action (https://fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/-ance). "espérance" is widely used in theological literacy and mathematics :

l'espérance mathématique d'une variable aléatoire réelle est, intuitivement, la valeur que l'on s'attend à trouver, en moyenne, si l'on répète un grand nombre de fois la même expérience aléatoire

(https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esp%C3%A9rance_math%C3%A9matique)

Finally,i dare say that "espérance"" is for situations in which we are sure about the result while "espoir" has a nuance of great uncertainty.

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