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Person A: Il a cru qu'il allait faire fortune. Mais en fin de compte, son commerce s’est effondré.

Person B: C'est plutôt bon pour vous. Encore qu'il n’avait pas l’air d'être un rival dangereux.

{or} Person B: C'est plutôt bon pour vous. Encore qu'il n’a pas l’air d'avoir été un rival dangereux.

I’m trying to translate the English sentence below into French, and not sure of the tense to use for the « l’air » part.

The context is that the company run by Person A’s old business rival went bankrupt and Person A doesn’t know where he is now.

Person B is forming an opinion about Person A’s old rival, based only on what she has just heard from Person A.

Person B: Though, from what you’ve told me, it doesn’t seem like he was much of a rival to you, anyway.

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The question is about using the past indication on avoir l'air de and present indication on être un rival dangereux, or the contrary.

I prefer the first one (avait l'air d'être) because you don't know where he is now, so you remember what he looked like in those days you are talking about.

De quoi avait-il l'air, à cette époque ?

Pas d'(être) un rival dangereux, en tout cas.

I'd use the second one if the guy is in front of me now and I can tell by his look that he probably wasn't a rival in those days. But maybe someone will tell you that nowadays he looks inoffensive, but it wasn't the case at that time.

De quoi a-t-il l'air, aujourd'hui ?

Pas d'avoir été un rival dangereux, en tout cas.

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I would translate this:

Person B: Though, from what you’ve told me, it doesn’t seem like he was much of a rival to you, anyway.

like this:

Personne B: Quoique, d'après ce que vous m'avez dit, il ne semblait pas être un rival important pour vous, de toute façon.

Hope this will help!

  • Hi. My question is not about how to translate the sentence, but rather about what tense to use for the "l'air" part {of the two possible choices I highlighted}. So please stick to the expression "avoir l'air de". Merci. – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Nov 25 '16 at 11:31

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