{I said jokingly}: C’est un vieux bougon et on a beau se quereller souvent, je pouvais quand même pas tourner les talons en le laissant dans un pétrin pareil !

1st Dilemma:

Ideally, I wanted to impart the feeling of "certes" to both phrases: "c’est un vieux bougon" and "on se querelle souvent". The way the sentence stands now, however, I suppose the expression "avoir beau" only qualifies the latter part "on se querelle souvent". I wonder how I can effectively incorporate the idea of "avoir beau" into both parts?

2nd Dilemma:

It is not grammatical to say "il est un vieux bougon" instead of "c’est un vieux bougon", but if I insert "avoir beau" into this part, I wonder if it is necessary to change the subject from "ce/ça/cela" to "il" and say "il a beau être un vieux bougon"?


2 Answers 2


If you want to include the expression avoir beau for the two clauses, they need to have the same subject (or you can repeat the expression, but that's a bit inelegant).

You can get there by slightly transforming the second clause:

Il a beau être bougon et se quereller avec moi souvent...

I'd also consider merging the two clauses:

Ce bougon et moi avons beau nous quereller souvent...

J'ai beau me quereller souvent avec ce bougon...

On your second question, you have to drop the article un in front of bougon to make it an adjective. With un the meaning changes:

Il est bougon = c'est un bougon = he's grumpy, he's a grumpy guy

Il est un bougon = (old) there is a grumpy guy

  • Merci. As this was spontaneous speech, it didn't occur to me on the spot, but should I match the tense of "avoir beau" with "pouvais"? By the way, it is an interesting comparison as to the "bougon"! Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 20:54
  • Ah no you don't need to match tenses, it's just that I thought this was written and recollecting about the past. In speech, you would keep the present because fighting with that person and then being grumpy are still currently ongoing habits. Will edit to match.
    – qoba
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 2:14

1st dilemma: As I suppose you've guessed, there's no way to incorporate the exact phrase avoir beau into both predicates the way they're currently worded, because the expression is tied to the subject and you have two different subjects. (Of course, you could repeat it if you wanted: « Il a beau être un vieux bougon et on a beau se quereller ... » )

I think you have the right idea with a sentential adverb like certes since that can easily be made to qualify two different verb phrases with good punctuation:

Certes, c'est un vieux bougon et on se querelle souvent, mais...

However, I wouldn't say that avoir beau is that close to certes. I'd translate « on a beau se quereller » by something like "For all the good our quarrelling does," whereas « Certes, on se querelle » would be more "Admittedly/It's true, we quarrel." But that might be the meaning you intend anyway. In any case, I think this syntax is a pretty likely candidate for applying such a modifier to both elements.

2nd dilemma: Agreed: c'est and ce sont seem too invariable to support anything interposed along the lines of « Cela/celui a beau être ... » , at least not with the same meaning.

Also, if you do stick with avoir beau for his being an old grump, I wonder if a more active verb than etre would better complete avoir beau (which to my mind carries some sense of intentionality)?

  • 3
    Just to clarify. “Il a beau être un vieux bougon” is the only idiomatic way here. “Cela a beau” works too, but in other contexts (not for persons). Using a demonstative pronoun that may refer to a person, “Celui-ci a beau” works (it's not possible to omit the -ci, or -là). Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 20:56
  • 1
    Hi! Regarding your last para: I think it's perfectly acceptable to stick to "être". I seem to recall my French co-worker once said, using "avoir beau": "Sure, I'm French {J'ai beau être français}, I love Soba so much, perhaps more than your average Japanese person does!" As you can see, there is no sense of intentionality perceived in this part. :) Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 21:19
  • By the way, an interesting point you've raised there! I've always considered "certes" and "avoir beau" more or less the same thing, both translating into "we may/might be ~~~, but ~~~" as an expression of a partial concession. Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 21:34
  • 1
    @Alone-zee I can see how "certes plus mais/néanmoins/cependant/etc" and "avoir beau" are more or less the same thing, but without the "mais/etc," "certes" can mark total agreement with the affirmation, whereas "avoir beau" seems to already have a qualifying "although" built right into it, making the "mais" redundant.
    – Papa Poule
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 22:25

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.