5

J'ai acquis bon nombre de pierres toutes plus belles les unes que les autres.

Does this phrase basically mean that the multiple stones the speaker has obtained each have different levels of beauty?

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    No, it's just a French idiom. In English, we say: "every stone was prettier than the last," which means, they are all equally pretty. – MorganFR Jun 6 '16 at 16:23
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No, it just means the stones are very pretty.

The expression tou(te)s plus X les un(e)s que les autres is just another way to say très X. The literal meaning is kind of a contradiction — in your example, it would mean that when you looked at any one stone closely, you'd always find it prettier than all the other stones; but the stones can't all be the prettiest stone. This contradiction makes the expression a little tongue-in-cheek; the literal meaning is not intended when using this expression.

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    A rough literal translation could be "each one outshining the others". – Thomas Francois Jun 6 '16 at 15:08
  • @qoba An interesting expression. So does the following variation with the word "aussi" mean the same thing? Merci. -- "pierres toutes aussi belles les unes que les autres" -- – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Jun 6 '16 at 15:09
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    @LUNA I think you would loose the meaning. you are just saying every stones are beautiful... Saying each one is prettier than another means they are so pretty you can't tell which one is the prettiest. Saying this, you have to imagine someone with shinning eyes and looking in every directions, pointing a stone to be the prettiest "This one !", then changing his mind and pointing at another stone "Er, no. This one !", in an endless loop... :) – Random Jun 6 '16 at 15:33
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    I agree with Random. When you use "tous aussi X les uns que les autres" you're just making a statement that the things being compared are equal with respect to the quality being compared. You lose the tongue-in-cheek contradiction. It can even be used to express indifference, eg La pierre que tu choisis n'a aucune importance, elles sont toutes aussi belles les unes que les autres. – qoba Jun 6 '16 at 15:57
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    I think this expression actually also exists in English: "I have acquired a good number of stones, each prettier than the last" – Nico Mezeret Jun 7 '16 at 9:28

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