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I've been looking for translations online, but all of them don't fit what I want to say. I'm having trouble translating something like "He is good at playing the piano" in French, because what I get is "Il est bon à jouer du piano" which can also be "He is good for playing the piano". So what I'm basically asking is how to translate sentences like "They are good at cooking, "She is bad at playing the guitar" or "We are bad at studying".

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There are several ways to translate that, but usually in French the "at -ing" form will be translated by a preposition and a noun. "good" will be translated by "bon" or synonyms like "doué", "fort"...

He is good at playing the piano. -> Il est doué au piano.

If you want to use a verb you can use the following form, with the adverb "bien":

Il joue bien du piano

It may be ambiguous because you don't know if "il" is at the instant playing well the piano or if he is just skilled in general, but the context should make that clear.

Some other examples:

They are good at cooking. -> Ils sont forts en cuisine.

They are good at cooking. -> Ils cuisinent bien.

She is bad at playing the guitar -> Elle joue mal de la guitare / Elle est mauvaise en guitare

We are bad at studying -> Nous n'étudions pas bien / Nous ne sommes pas doués pour les études.

  • Ah! So you don't use the same structure as english. Thanks! This cleared up a lot. – chaplinmyflabbydog Apr 6 '16 at 9:51
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This is a kind of sentence which is hard to translate easily from English. For instance, your examples would become:

Il est doué au piano
Il est doué pour jouer du piano
Ils sont bons en cuisine
Elle est mauvaise à la guitare
On n'est pas doué pour étudier

Here, you may use « doué » and « bon », but on an oral conversion, you will often hear « doué » for this kind of sentence. The difference with Englsih is that in French, we won't use a verb but a noun after "good at", it makes it a little tricky to translate...

  • You can also use "fort" in a casual conversation, but that's more familiar – Webster Apr 6 '16 at 14:51
  • Is it only for these kind of sentences you would use "Pour" before the verb even though it doesn't necessarily mean "in order to"? Because I learned that you use pour before infinitives when it means "in order to" – chaplinmyflabbydog Apr 7 '16 at 12:56
  • @chaplinmyflabbydog Indeed, in this kind of sentence, "pour" doesn't mean "in order to". Here, it means something like "in this specific thing". In everyday conversation, you should not use it until you're sure of what you do. But you would understand if you hear it :) – Random Apr 7 '16 at 18:21

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