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Can someone explain how to properly translate the term "memory" for different contexts? I.e. "A memory of walking in the park" vs. "I have an excellent memory."

Are souvenir and mémoire the proper words to be used here? If not, what do they mean exactly?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Yes, memory translates to different terms in french, depending on the meaning.

As you presumed :

A memory of walking in the park (memory = souvenir)

but

I have an excellent memory. (memory = mémoire)

I can't think of any other meanings...

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Yes, these are the good words here.

Souvenir is for something you remember, a remembrance... It also design an object who recall a moment of your life to you (like an object you got on a trip).

"J'ai souvenir d'un long voyage..." -> I remember a long trip...

"Je me souviens de ce jour..." -> I remember this day...

"J'ai acheté ce souvenir..." -> I bought this token...


Mémoire has approximately the same definition than memory and can be sometime used in place of Souvenir :

"J'ai mémoire d'un long voyage..." -> I remember a long trip...

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3  
""J'ai acheté ce souvenir..." -> I bought this token...". Actually, that would be "I bought this souvenir.". Frenglish works both ways. –  Bruno Jul 5 '12 at 15:00
1  
Anyone I hear saying "J'ai mémoire d'un long voyage" will be force-fed some medication. –  Joubarc Jul 6 '12 at 7:36
    
@Joubarc Pour être honnête, il y a d'autres emplois de mémoire sans article, comme dans si j'ai bonne mémoire de [quelque chose], ... –  Romain VALERI Jul 9 '12 at 9:33

You have the right word for each context. A single memory (i.e. an event) is a "souvenir", but memory in general is "mémoire". Other expressions that have more quirky translations include:

  • "in memory of" → "à la mémoire de"/"en souvenir de"
  • "have pleasant memories of" → "garder un bon souvenir de"

In computing, "memory" is also "mémoire": "Mémoire vive" "mémoire morte" ("RAM"/"ROM").

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