[original] : Il a beau avoir été élevé dans une société martiale, il ne recule devant aucune perfidie pour arriver à ses fins.

Normally, in the « avoir beau X, Y » expression, X and Y represent opposite ends of the spectrum, thereby making Y surprising. So it would make more sense if Y showed a stark contrast to X:

Il a beau avoir été élevé dans une société martiale, il excelle dans beaucoup de domaines.

Despite X [= he has grown up in a society that has known nothing but war],

he is surprisingly Y [= he excels in many fields].

In the original sentence, however, the relation between X and Y seems more like « X, alors Y », which deviates from the usual way this expression is used:

Because X [= he has grown up in a war-ravaged society],

naturally, he is Y [= he will stoop to anything to achieve his ends.].

Or perhaps, at least in the eyes of the speaker, X and Y somehow contrast strikingly with one another?

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    Reading it without any other context, I interpreted it as something like "Despite growing up in a military environment [i.e. with its attendant emphasis on discipline, honor, respect for authority...], he will stoop to any treachery, no matter how vile, to achieve his ends." Dec 25 '16 at 15:33
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    @AlanO'Donnell Hi. So you must mean: "Il a beau avoir été élevé dans une société martiale où devraient compter les vertus telles que la discipline et le respect pour l'autorité, il est tout sauf ça, ne reculant devant rien pour arriver à ses fins." Dec 25 '16 at 16:11
  • Yeah, exactly. I'm a student too though, so we'll see what a French person says. Dec 25 '16 at 16:16
  • Il a beau neiger, j'y vais./Même si il neige, j'y vais There need not be a stark or linear contrast. Reading in will be speculative. Who says the usual way this expression is used is to represent the opposite ends of the spectrum ?? Thanks.
    – user3177
    Dec 26 '16 at 19:18

In this specific sentence, X and Y ARE as usual in opposition if the person who wrote it sees 'élevé dans une société martiale' as brought up with a sense of honor. Honor and perfidie are in stark contrast.

My explanation is that Avoir beau X, Y is normally used here with a stark contrast between 'honor' and 'perfidie.

Despite (X) having been brought up with a sense of honor, he is surprisingly Y= (perfide).

What makes this specific sentence sound Strange is that when we hear 'société martiale', this doesn't necesserily brings to our minds the idea of 'honor'.


It's kind of weird (if not confusing) for me to read that. I've never seen that "avoir beau X, Y" thing being used other than for the first case scenario you've talked about. And I don't think it's even right to use it that way (the second one). Could I have a little more contextualization over here?

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