The question is on the preposition pour (highlighted) in this passage from Camus's The Stranger.

En me réveillant, j’ai compris pourquoi mon patron avait l’air mécontent quand je lui ai demandé mes deux jours de congé : c’est aujourd’hui samedi. Je l’avais pour ainsi dire oublié, mais en me levant, cette idée m’est venue. Mon patron, tout naturellement, a pensé que j’aurais ainsi quatre jours de vacances avec mon dimanche et cela ne pouvait pas lui faire plaisir. Mais d’une part, ce n’est pas de ma faute si on a enterré maman hier au lieu d’aujourd’hui et d’autre part, j’aurais eu mon samedi et mon dimanche de toute façon. Bien entendu, cela ne m’empêche pas de comprendre tout de même mon patron.

With the help of English translations, I am understanding it to mean "I have forgotten it while thus saying." (I have posted a separate question on le.)


What is the exact sense of pour in this sentence, and can you provide other sentences in which pour is used in the same sense?

Motivation for the Question

This dictionary entry only seems to give me the most standard senses of pour, but none of them suit our sentence. Meursault is not, for example, forgetting an inconvenient circumstance for the purpose of making a self-serving request. Prepositions are tricky and can have subtle meanings highly dependent on context. (For example, the English by in "He did right by his creditors.") So I'd like to know for sure that reading pour as while in our sentence is okay and also what other subtle shade of meaning might be in this particular pour.

2 Answers 2


"pour ainsi dire" is an expression. Litterally, you could translate it as "in order to say so" or "as a matter of speaking", so "pour" has here the meaning of "for", but for subtle meaning you should not take it word by word.

"Pour ainsi dire" is used to announce an approximation or an exageration in the use of some terms. In this particular case, I would translate the sentence as (note that I am not sure of the tense to use in English):

I had it almost forgotten


As explained by @radouxju, "pour ainsi dire" is an expression that can, roughly, be translated to the English equivalents so to say or so to speak.

Thus, the phrase

Je l’avais pour ainsi dire oublié...

could be translated as

I had, so to speak, forgotten it (it referring to the fact that "c’est aujourd’hui samedi".)

  • 1
    This idiomatic expression could be reconstructed as pour le dire ainsi.
    – GAM PUB
    Sep 28, 2015 at 8:57
  • Yes, and I assume that could be better translated as "to put it this way"...
    – Anupama G
    Sep 28, 2015 at 9:39
  • 1
    So to speak seemed almost perfect.
    – GAM PUB
    Sep 28, 2015 at 9:51

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