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I ran into this while trying to use approcher, which as far as I know is usually used as approcher de.

I was saying "The managers are approaching me."

So I got "Les directeurs m'approchent," but then I wasn't really sure, since it has de which made me think of en and then I got nervous and decided to ask.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Approcher can be used both transitively, intransitively, and as a pronominal verb (s'approcher). All three possibilities produce a slightly different meaning. I'll give some examples bellow. The translation you provided “Les directeurs m'approchent” corresponds to a transitive use of the verb and is probably the best translation for your original sentence—however it may sound less natural in French.

Pronominal use:

Il s'approche de la vérité.
Les directeurs s'approchent de moi.

Meaning approximatively:

  • He is getting close to the truth. (Actively)
  • The managers are coming close to me.

Intransitive use:

Il approche de la vérité.
Je voulais empêcher qu'il n'approche de moi.
(Les directeurs approchent de moi.)

Approximatively:

  • He gets close to the truth. (It happens)
  • I wanted to prevent him to get close to me. (I don't want it to happen.)
  • The managers get close to me. (It happens)

Remark: The last sentence is inside brackets because it would be hard to find a context in which it is appropriate. Such a phrasing would mean that the managers' intentions are purely irrelevant, they just happen to come close. (I'm not sure the translation reflects that.)

Transitively:

Il approche le ministre.
Les directeurs m'approchent.

Approximatively:

  • He is approaching the minister. (That is, he most probably wants to speak.)
  • The managers are approaching me.

That's your original sentence. Notice however that, in everyday life, French speakers would almost always use the pronominal form instead to describe a scene, unless there is something inappropriate with someone approaching someone else.


Oh, and to make things even more complex, there is another use case for the transitive form:

Il approche l'enfant de la table.

He brings the child closer to the table.

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Doesn't approcher qqun most commonly mean "meet with, talk to [about something]"? (TLiF's meaning I.A.1.c))? The last meaning feels off too. I'd never use approcher there, only rapprocher. –  Circeus Aug 24 '12 at 14:49
    
What else would you do with a minister?… As for the last example both are possible, with a slightly different meaning again (my example was adapted from the first example in Wikipédia). –  Stéphane Gimenez Aug 24 '12 at 16:56
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You can say “Les directeurs s'approchent de moi”, because we say “s'approcher de quelque chose” not “approcher quelque chose”.

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Approcher quelqu'un est tout à fait correct. –  Stéphane Gimenez Aug 22 '12 at 20:48
    
@StéphaneGimenez Yes, but the meaning is completely different. I'm not sure which meaning is intended by the question. –  Gilles Aug 22 '12 at 20:53
    
@Gilles: Me neither, that why answering this question is so difficult :-) –  Stéphane Gimenez Aug 22 '12 at 20:58
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Well. You probably want "les directeurs s'approchent de moi".

"Les directeurs m'approchent" is correct, but has another meaning, "the managers take contact with me".

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