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Tu ressembles peut-être à ton père, mais tu n’as pas l’air d’en avoir la dignité.

= "You have the look of your father, sure, but you don’t exactly exude dignity, unlike him."

= [you don’t have his dignity]

Am I correct in assuming that the sentence can be rephrased as:

Tu ressembles peut-être à ton père, mais tu n’as pas l’air d’avoir la dignité de {lui / ton père}.


If so, can you also say something similar, such as:

Tu ressembles peut-être à ta sœur jumelle, mais tu n’as pas l’air d’en avoir la gentillesse.

or: Tu ressembles peut-être à ta sœur jumelle, mais tu n’en as pas la gentillesse.

= "... but you don’t share your sister’s kindness"

  • But Tu ressembles peut-être à ton père, mais tu n’as pas l’air d’avoir la dignité de lui. is not correct. If you want to make it shorter : Tu ressembles peut-être à ton père, mais tu n’as pas sa dignité.. – Yohann V. Nov 28 '16 at 7:35
  • Once again, as often when you say "Am I correct to assume...", you are correct ! :) En takes the place of the complement, here "ton père". IT avoids repetition. However I think you made a type in your second part : the second sentence is "mais tu n'en a pas la gentillesse". The verb "avoir" is there twice because of "avoir l'air", but if you don't use it there needs to be only one. – Teleporting Goat Nov 28 '16 at 8:47
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Yes, en refers to ton père. Generally speaking, the pronoun en stands for de + noun. See When to use the pronoun en? for a general introduction to pronouns and prepositions.

Here it would be possible to use either sa or en:

Tu n’as pas la dignité de ton père.
Tu n’as pas sa dignité.
Tu n’en as pas la dignité.

The meaning is roughly the same, but there is a subtle distinction. Using sa suggests that the father's dignity may have been transmitted to the child, whereas using en merely suggests a similar dignity. However, this nuance is rather weak; it would perfectly possible to say “sa dignité” even if the people involved were not related and there was no suggestion that the quality was transmitted.

  • Interesting. I didn't think "en" was generally allowed to be used to refer to a person, why is it allowed in this case? – craig_h Nov 28 '16 at 12:30
  • Is the omission of « pas » in the third sentence intentional? If so, why? – D. Ben Knoble Nov 28 '16 at 15:52
  • @craig_h En can't be used for a person when it stands for a complement of a verb that's introduced by de. But when en stands for a complement of a noun that's introduced by de (which is a lot less common than the verb case), there is no person/object distinction. – Gilles 'SO nous est hostile' Nov 28 '16 at 16:54
  • Gilles, I don't understand your reply to @craig_h. What's an example of the forbidden use? – Anton Sherwood Dec 6 '16 at 18:33
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    @AntonSherwood See the answer I link to in my answer here. “Je me passe de l'aide du stagiaire.” → “Je m'en passe.” — “Je me passe du stagiaire.” → “Je me passe de lui.” – Gilles 'SO nous est hostile' Dec 6 '16 at 18:36

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