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On dit les Français portés sur la gaudriole et obnubilés par la "chose", mais ils feraient presque figure de pères la rigueur si on les compare à leurs voisins... allemands.

In this clause, shouldn't there have been: les Français sont portés sur la gaudriole [...] (=the French are all about sex)? Why is the predicate absent? Is its absence part of a certain syntactical rule?

portés and obnubilés, if taken on their own, seem to me to be adjectives rather than verbs as the predicate of the main clause.

(I'm also not sure if the main clause is only les Français portés sur la gaudriole et obnubilés par la "chose" or On dit les Français portés sur la gaudriole et obnubilés par la "chose".)

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2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

A quick primer:

As you note yourself portés sur la chose and obnubilés par la "chose" are regular adjectival phrases that are connected to Les Français. However, they do not use the common épithète or attribut du sujet constructions.

What we have here is termed an attribut du complément (by opposition to attribut du sujet). It is analogous to saying J'ai baptisé mon chien Fido., where Fido is an attribut du complément chien.

What the sentence means is something like

The French are said to be obsessed with [...]

Which is quite different from your proposed Les Français sont portés sur la gaudriole ("The French are obsessed with [...]").

This sentence is somewhat hard to translate in English, but only because of the awkwardness of fitting a generic/impersonal pronoun as the subject in English (and the fact this particular construction sounds more natural with nouns than adjectives), but consider:

They called me a pervert.

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SVP, pourriez-vous insérer dans votre réponse les équivalents anglais de tous les termes de grammaire, tels que attribut du sujet, attribut du complément ? –  Upvote Law Area 51 Proposal Oct 18 '13 at 13:51

The verb you are looking for is “dit”. As per the Dictionnaire de l'Académie, 9

★II. Par ext. Faire connaître, exprimer, avec des nuances particulières.
☆1. Affirmer, prétendre

Here, its arguments are “les Français” and “portés sur la gaudriole et obnubilés par la "chose"”, the latter being an adjectival syntagme, where the past participles porté and obnubilé are used as transitive adjectives. This syntagme could be replaced by any simple adjective

On dit les Français cannibales, mais…

The fact that this syntagme is long and contains transitive entities changes nothing as it is still only an adjectival syntagme, and doesn't need any verb. Here is a quite informal (because I couldn't be bothered to make it X') and non-expanded tree of the clause

Syntactic tree for the main clause

The predicate is “X are said to be Y”, where Y is “portés sur la gaudriole et obnubilés par la "chose"” and everything is fine, yay!

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Doesn’t need any verb and must have none. If one wishes to use a verb, they should write On dit que les Français sont portés sur la gaudriole. –  Édouard Jul 31 '13 at 13:57

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