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I'm going through the engineering text Application des potentiels a l'étude de l'équilibre et du mouvement des solides élastiques by J. Boussinesq, which was published in 1885. In my reading, I am stuck in trying to figure out the correct meaning of the adjective propre. Please consider the following excerpts.

On peut se poser, relativement à l'équilibre des solides élastiques, deux sortes de problèmes fondamentaux, c'est-à-dire propres à faire comprendre de quelle manière se comporte un corps quand il se déforme pour résister à certaines actions extérieures. (p. 15)

Il n'en est vraisemblablement pas qui soient plus propres à nous faire connaître de quelle manière, dans les solides en équilibre, les pressions ou autres efforts extérieurs se transmettent, soit de la surface à l'intérieur -- ce qui est le cas du premier problème... (p. 18)

...et, d'autre part, ils deviennent inversement proportionnels à la distance pour les points très éloignés, ce qui, dans les milieu indéfinis, les rend également propres à exprimer les conditions dites aux limites... (p. 20)

...le principal des termes qui expriment l'action propre de ces modes est en raison inverse du cube de la distance. (p. 25)

My French dictionary (published 1897 in Montréal, and thus seemingly in keeping with any archaic definitions that might not be used nowadays) has the following definition:

propre definition

Using Google Translate, it comes up with the following translations:

google

Considering all of this, the best English meaning that I can come up with in this context is "proper" or "appropriate." Thus, the excerpts above, roughly translated, would be:

One may posit, with respect to the equilibrium of elastic solids, two types of fundamental problems, that is to say appropriate to understanding how a body behaves when it deforms to resist certain external actions.

But it is unlikely that they are appropriate to make known in what manner, in solids in equilibrium, the pressures and other external forces are transmitted, from the surface to the interior - which is the case of the first problem...

...and, secondly, they become inversely proportional to the distance for very distant points, which, in the undefined medium, also makes them appropriate for expressing said boundary conditions...

...the principal terms that express the proper action of these modes is inversely proportional to the cube of the distance.

Is this the correct meaning of propre, given the context?

(English is my native language, and I am attempting to learn French as a hobby. Languages are fun!)

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    You are roughly correct - to my mind at least. In fact here we are dealing with both propre à and with propre as a stand alone adjective (in the last instance). I would use 1- Specific; 2 and 3- suitable; 4- appropriate. – Laure SO - Écoute-nous Sep 22 '15 at 17:22
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Appropriate doesn't seem to me perfectly appropriate here...

The first three instances of propre are adjectives that are close to your dictionary definition: Qui rend exactement l'idée

I would translate them with "able to" or "suitable", e.g. :

... deux sortes de problèmes fondamentaux, c'est-à-dire propres à faire comprendre de quelle manière se comporte un corps quand il se déforme...

... two kinds of fundamental problems, i.e. able to make clear how a body behave upon deformation...


Il n'en est vraisemblablement pas qui soient plus propres à nous faire connaître de quelle manière...

Probably none are more suitable to tell us which way...


... les rend également propres à exprimer les conditions dites aux limites...

... make them also suitable to express the so-called "to limits" conditions...


The last occurence match the first definition, "own" or "proper".

... le principal des termes qui expriment l'action propre de ces modes est en raison inverse du cube de la distance.

... among the terms that express these modes proper action, the main one is in inverse ratio to the cube of the distance.

  • Nice elaboration. "Suitable" or "apt" may be better than "likely" ("likely" implies a probability, which comes from "vraisemblablement", not from "propre"). – Chop Sep 23 '15 at 5:24
  • @Chop, that's right, anwser updated.. – jlliagre Sep 23 '15 at 6:03
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"Traduttore, traditore"

Quick answer: The not-so-bad translation, here, is indeed "appropriate".

Expanded answer: The last definition of "propre" in your dictionary is the one that is used in the text. To get the equivalent meaning of "propre", you would have to wrap "appropriate" and "specific quality/attribute" together in one word.

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It seems you had the best answer and the best obersvations. In your three context, you seem to have found the proper way of translating propre... Your dictionary does not seem to have properly targeted this meaning but it comes close as previous answers indicate. For example, convenable is not really appropriate for qualités propres au commandement, one would expect more than convenable.

At any rate, you could look at the definition of proper in English which should be close enough...

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