3

The question is on comme in this excerpt from L'étranger de Camus :

Peu après, le ciel s’est assombri et j’ai cru que nous allions avoir un orage d’été. Il s’est découvert peu à peu cependant. Mais le passage des nuées avait laissé sur la rue comme une promesse de pluie qui l’a rendue plus sombre.

Which is the correct reading?

  1. Laisser is a transitive verb, promesse its object, and comme modifies (introduces, sets the tone for, etc.) promesse. In this case, what does comme mean? Would it be like as it were (preparing the reader for a figurative meaning to come)?

  2. Laisser is intransitive and comme introduces an adverbial clause. In this case, what does laisser mean?

  • The same thing happens in “J'ai comme un doute” or “Il y a comme un problème”. – Stéphane Gimenez Oct 23 '15 at 8:27
2

Mais le passage des nuées avait laissé sur la rue comme une promesse de pluie qui l’a rendue plus sombre.

Yes, you are right, Laisser is, indeed, a transitive verb, but this phrase does ne suit pas une structure de topicalisation syntaxique au sens strict. I mean that its object (complément d'objet direct) is not explicit.

If you try to put an explicit object to that verb (laisser), the phrase can be written this way:

Mais le passage des nuées avait laissé sur la rue quelque chose comme une promesse de pluie qui l’a rendue plus sombre.

Does this mean Camus was wrong? No. The phrase is correct, and it is common to findd implicite objects in French language. I give you a simple example:

J'aime beaucoup

aimer is a transitive verb, you can not see its object but still this phrase it correct. You can write it, depending on the context, for example like this: j'aime beaucouo le dessin

  • Thanks. It seems to match the usage of like as in: "He had like this skin disease or something." But in English, like there sounds almost like you know or uh, and no one would re-write it as something like. So I gather from your answer that comme as in Camus is not so informal as like. – Catomic Oct 23 '15 at 11:56
  • Exactly: this use of comme is poetic in French. Translating it as likein English keeps the sense but completely reverses the tone. – chqrlie Oct 28 '15 at 23:51

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.