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I've seen the phrase "en effet" beginning a French sentence on occasion, and I was wondering whether it was closer to the meaning of the English word "indeed" or the phrase "in effect" - or perhaps it can it have both senses? In English the two have a somewhat different meaning. "Indeed" emphasizes something previously mentioned:

I like watching tennis. Indeed, I went to Wimbledon last year.

Whereas "in effect" means that something has a particular outcome which may not be obvious, or stated explicitly previously:

Smoking is unhealthy in all sorts of ways. In effect, it's a slow means of suicide.

Which meaning is the French phrase closer to?

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3 Answers 3

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I would say that it is closer to indeed, but perhaps not as broad. For instance, one wouldn't say

J'aime voir du tennis. En effet je suis allé à Roland-Garros l'an dernier.

but rather

J'aime regarder du tennis. De fait je suis allé à Roland-Garros l'an dernier.

But as a one-word sentence I think it to be a good translation

« Tu es allé à Roland-Garros l'an dernier ?

En effet. »

In effect is closer to en fait

Fumer est très mauvais pour la santé. En fait, c'est un lent suicide.

Note : I have edited my answer according to Gilles', but his and not mine should be chosen imho — though he's not the fastest cow-boy in the west.

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I think that "justement" is more natural than "par exemple" in that example, and that "regarder" ("active") is better than "voir" ("passive"). –  Axioplase Sep 7 '11 at 1:59
    
@Axioplase Indeed –  Evpok Sep 7 '11 at 8:28
    
@Evpok En effet. –  Jez May 8 '13 at 8:27

Both French and English have several phrases derived from a verb meaning do (faire). Their meanings overlap to some extent.

En effet generally introduces a clarification. This can correspond to some of the uses of indeed. In this meaning, effectivement is effectively a synonym.

I felt lost, and indeed I was lost.
Je me sentis perdu, et je l'étais en effet. (Eugène Fromentin)

Indeed can also indicate confirmation or agreement. En effet and (more commonly, I think) effectivement can be used for that as well.

Was it you I saw in London yesterday? — Indeed I was in London yesterday, so that could have been me.
Est-ce toi que j'ai vu à Londres hier ? — Effectivement, j'étais à Londres hier, donc il se peut que ce fût moi.

Sometimes indeed introduces a reinforcement. En effet cannot perform that task; de fait or par exemple are possible translations.

I like watching tennis. Indeed, I went to Wimbledon last year.
J'aime regarder le tennis. De fait, je suis allé à Roland Garros cette année.

In fact can introduce a clarification (overlapping with *indeed), but most often the clause that contains in fact extends the clause it illustrates in some manner. Then en effet cannot be used; en fait or de fait* are possibilities (par le fait and dans le fait are others, but they are rare and dated). There is a nuance between en fait and de fait: en fait can convey opposition (there may be a difference between theory and practice), whereas de fait does not (practice confirms theory). Also, en fait insists on the passive aspect of fact (something is true), whereas de fait insists on the active aspect of fact (something happens).

Gravity tells us that objects fall, and in fact if you drop a stone, it falls.
La pesanteur nous dit que les objets tombent, et de fait, si on lâche une pierre, elle tombe.

In our experiment, we saw the stone fall. In fact, the law of gravity tells us that stones always fall.
Dans notre expérience, nous avons pu observer que la pierre est tombée. En fait or de fait, la loi de la pesanteur énonce que les pierres tombent toujours.

In our experiment, we saw the stone fall. In fact, this is a general phenomenon called gravity.
Dans notre expérience, nous avons pu observer que la pierre est tombée. En fait, il s'agir d'un phénomène général appelé pesanteur.

Smoking is unhealthy in all sorts of ways. In effect, it's a slow means of suicide. (or: it's effectively a means of suicide.)
Fumer est mauvais pour la santé pour beaucoup de raisons. De fait, c'est une méthode de suicide lente.

Smoking is unhealthy in all sorts of ways. In fact [or: in truth], it's a slow means of suicide.
Fumer est mauvais pour la santé pour beaucoup de raisons. En fait [or: en vérité], c'est une méthode de suicide lente.

En fait can go as far as generalizing the discussion and reversing an assertion.

I'm not sure if I saw him yesterday… In fact, I remember now: I haven't seen him all week.
Je ne suis pas sûr de l'avoir vu hier... En fait, je me souviens maintenant : je ne l'ai pas vu de la semaine.

When en fait has a concessive aspect, à vrai dire (“to tell the truth”) is another possible formulation.

I don't know who won, and in fact I don't care.
Je ne sais pas qui a gagné, et à vrai dire peu m'importe.

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«En effet» is closer to «indeed»

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So how would you say something like "in effect"? –  Jez Sep 6 '11 at 14:43
1  
@Jez I would say «En conséquence» –  chepseskaf Sep 6 '11 at 14:51
    
I would rather say “en pratique”. Not an exact match for “in effect” though. –  Stéphane Gimenez May 6 '13 at 22:21
    
@StéphaneGimenez you're certainly right, the definition could be in actuality –  chepseskaf May 7 '13 at 6:36

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