I'm reading Le rouge et le noir and I came upon this sentence:

Cet automate de mari lui nuit plus qu'il ne lui sert

I understand the first part of the sentence but not the second one. My problem is with "lui nuit plus". What does it mean? The usual translation of nuit doesn't make any sense to me in this context and my dictionary doesn't give a translation that I feel that fits in the context.

  • lui nuit plus = harms him more
    – user6768
    Jan 4, 2016 at 21:21
  • He gives her more problems than he's usefull for her... Jan 5, 2016 at 16:04

4 Answers 4


The gloss for your sentence would run something like this:

Cet automate de mari lui nuit plus qu'il (ne lui) sert

This automaton of (a) husband harms her more than he serves

lui is a clitic pronoun standing for the indirect object of the verb nuire ('to harm'). Here lui refers to the wife and nuit is the 3SG present indicative of nuire.


Here, nuit is the conjugated form of the verb nuire, which means "to hurt".


"harm" implies physical damage too much for my tastes. It'd say something like "gives her more trouble than he helps."

  • 1
    +1 for noting that "harm" might be a bit too strong/out of place
    – Papa Poule
    Jan 5, 2016 at 14:52

In addition to those given in previous answers, here are several other idiomatic, albeit less literal, ways to translate “lui nuit plus qu'il ne lui sert” that might fit your context:

“… causes {her} more problems/creates more problems {for her} than he solves
(from ‘The Rebel Wife’ By Donna Dalton via Google Books);

“… does {her} more harm than good
(from ‘Temple bar, conducted by G.A. Sala’ By Temple almanac via Google Books); and

“… is more trouble than he’s worth {to her}
(from ‘AN Unthymely Death’ By Susan Wittig Albert via Google Books)

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