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Can someone please explain to me what this expression means and how is it used. I see it a lot in French TED talks and I'm not sure of its meaning. For example at one point the presenter said:

Vous souvenez-vous comment moi j'ai fait pour apprendre le mot « passementerie ».

Mais même si... comment peuvent-ils faire pour apprendre leur sens ?

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I think you can translate "faire" by "manage".

Vous souvenez-vous comment moi j'ai fait pour apprendre* le mot passementerie
Do you remember how did I manage to learn the word "passementerie" ?

It makes an emphasis on the manner you did it. It implies it is something not common, but you found a way to do it.

It is very common. You may often use it when someone solves a problem:

Comment t'as fait pour finir aussi vite ?? (familiar)

« Comment [j'ai/t'as/il a/...] fait » is not formal, it is used on common language (a little familiar maybe, but not that much)

  • Oh I see thanks a lot. Is it common in spoken French or it's rather formal? – noam b Feb 1 '16 at 10:27
  • It is very common, but it is not formal. I edit my answer. – Random Feb 1 '16 at 10:38
  • Manage in English emphasizes the success, not the manner. You should drop this part. The explanation that follows is good enough. – Stéphane Gimenez Feb 1 '16 at 11:32
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Think about “Comment faire pour” this way: What are the actions it takes to obtain the desired result?

A sentence such as:

Comment j'ai fait pour apprendre le mot « passementerie » ?

is about the actions you took. If you ask instead:

Comment j'ai appris le mot « passementerie » ?

the question is much broader. Answering “from whom” or “where” you learned it would be sufficient.

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"Vous souvenez-vous comment moi j'ai fait pour apprendre* le mot passementerie" translates: "Do you remember how I managed to learn the word passementerie"

"mais même si... comment peuvent-t-il faire pour apprendre leur sense ?" translates: "Even if... how can they manage to learn their meaning?"

So yeah, "How to manage to" could be a quite accurate translation for "Comment faire pour"

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