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There are many other of these kinds of hyphenated words/phrases in English, which signify something or someone that will be a certain thing in the future; for example, "bride-to-be", "mother-to-be", "father-to-be", "movie-to-be", "celebrity-to-be"...

What's the best way to translate these kinds of language constructs into French?

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up vote 19 down vote accepted

One can translate this with the adjective futur:

La future mariée, une future célébrité, etc…
(The future bride, a future celebrity, etc…)

Regarding parents-to-be, it's easier to speak of a futur papa or a future maman than of a futur père or a future mère.


  • To refer to future progression (with an air of hope) when the quality being referred to isn't new, one can also use en devenir:

    Un chanteur en devenir
    (A singer in the making)

  • To refer to a creation phase (possibly a difficult one), the metaphor of gestation is frequently used:

    Un projet en gestation
    (A project in gestation)

On peut traduire ceux-ci grâce à l'adjectif futur :

La future mariée, une future célébrité, etc…

En particulier, pour les futurs parents, on parlera plus facilement du futur papa ou de la future maman que du futur père ou de la future mère.

Variantes :

  • Pour insister sur le développement progressif (avec une tonalité d'espoir) lorsque la qualité n'est pas nouvelle, on peut aussi utiliser « en devenir » :

    Un chanteur en devenir

  • Pour insister sur une phase de création (éventuellement difficile), la métaphore de la gestation est très courante :

    Un projet en gestation

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@Jez: There's something special with “mariée”. In French, both marier and mariage refer to the event (the wedding), therefore “le marié” and “la mariée” usually mean “the groom” and “the bride”. Using standard terminology, “husband” and “wife” are respectively “le mari” and “la femme” (with all the underlying ambiguities). – Stéphane Gimenez Sep 29 '11 at 17:17

In the cases when the quality is not present yet, but it isn't even certain when or whether it will develop in the future, you could also use the adjectives latent, en puissance or dormant.

Since you specifically ask about certain cases, it's not really a good answer to your question, but I thought it might be interesting. For an actual answer about certain things, see Stéphane's answer but note that en devenir and en gestation are also less certain than futur, which is the proper translation of -to-be.

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I think in some case it can simply be the adjective "né". It means the person is born for that purpose (even if the development of the nature/purpose is in the future, and not only in the past). "Il est né pour être chanteur" doesn't necessarily mean "he is a singer"

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