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Robert fait du latin. Quel professeur fait ce cours de latin?

The word "fait" looks rather odd to me. Literally I read it as

Robert does some Latin. Which professor does this course of Latin?

How should I understand this verb in these two sentences?

  • A better literal translation might use the 'progressive' or 'continuous' aspect: "Robert's doing Latin. Which teacher's doing this Latin class?" (Which still looks awkward in writing, but sounds pretty natural to me in informal conversation.) – ruakh Sep 13 '16 at 22:45
  • @ruakh, should then the first sentence be "Robert fait le latin"? – Jack Sep 13 '16 at 23:15
  • I'm not sure why you say that. Bare nouns in English can correspond to French phrases with either definite or partitive articles; for example, "I like milk" is "j'aime le lait" (where "le lait" means roughly "milk in general"), whereas "I'm drinking milk" is "je bois du lait" (where "du lait" means roughly "some milk"). – ruakh Sep 14 '16 at 1:14
  • @ruakh: thanks for your comment. What I'm saying is that "du latin" would roughly mean "some Latin", while "le latin" means "Latin in general" according to your comment, right? And "du latin" looks very odd. – Jack Sep 14 '16 at 1:18
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Faire is a verb that can be used to replace a more specific word

Je fais un gateau --> Je prépare un gateau

Je fais du foot --> je joue au foot

In this case : Robert fait du latin. can be understand like

Robert prend des cours de latin

OU

Robert travaille son latin (Fait des exercices)

We cannot clearly know if he is doing some exercices right now or if he has Latijn lesson.

And for the second part :

Quel professeur fait ce cours de latin?

The verb can be replaced by "Teach"

Quel professeur donne ce cours de latin ?

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"faire" is a bit of a "filler verb" in French. In the second sentence, it clearly means "teach", or in french: Quel professor donne ce cours de latin?

I've never seen it used like in the first sentence, but the meaning is transparent: He's doing some sort of exercise in Latin. You seem surprised by the structure of that sentence, but it's exactly the same as the english "Robert is doing maths."

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