5

Vous avez regardé votre ami être réduit en charpie sans lever le petit doigt, non ?

In this sentence, the context helps to determine that the subject "vous" is the one who didn't even "lever le petit doigt" to help his friend in dire straits.

But without much context to go on, how woud you differentiate it from another possible interpretation where the direct object "votre ami" is the one who didn't "lever le petit doigt" to save himself, only to leave himself at the mercy of it all?

How would you rephrase the sentence to clarify which of the two possible interpretations you have in mind?

Vous avez regardé ... sans lever le petit doigt.

{vs}: Votre ami a été réduit en charpie sans lever le petit doigt.

For the sake of the argument, let's leave aside the fact that combining the two ideas ("réduit en charpie" and "sans lever le petit doigt") might be something of a juxtaposition, not making perfect sense.


I wonder if any of the following works for the "vous" interpretation, at least in the colloquial language?

  1. With an M dash, or a long pause:

Vous avez regardé votre ami être réduit en charpie sans lever le petit doigt, non ?

Vous avez regardé votre ami être réduit en charpie, non sans lever le petit doigt ?

  1. By placing an emphasis on the part "sans lever le petit doigt" with "et ça":

Vous avez regardé votre ami être réduit en charpie, et ça, sans lever le petit doigt, non ?

Vous avez regardé votre ami être réduit en charpie, non? Et ça, sans lever le petit doigt ?

  • 1
    Your question seems to seek a solution that relies solely on reordering the phrases as they stand (i.e., one that doesn’t require adding more context), but I think one way to clarify it would be to add “[lever le petit doigt] pour l’aider” to mean “vous is not helping the friend” and “[lever le petit doigt] pour s’aider (lui-meme)” to mean “l’ami isn’t helping himself.” FWIW, the scenario of “vous” not helping reminds me of when “photo journalists” (read: “anyone with a cell phone”) keep filming/clicking photos “to capture the moment” [& perhaps a big paycheck] instead of helping. – Papa Poule Apr 29 '17 at 14:20
  • 1
    "Regarder (qqch se passer) sans lever le petit doigt" is an idiom to express standing by without intervening, so unless your intent is to indicate that it was the person being chopped up who was the one not raising the little finger, your original sentence is already perfectly clear that it was the subject who didn't – qoba Apr 29 '17 at 15:02
  • @qoba réduire en charpie is surely not to be taken in the literal sense here. When speaking of a person réduire en charpie means to destroy them psychologically (unless of course we're on the battlefield and we're talking of WW1 or another such horror...) . "Chop up" does not carry that figurative meaning. – Laure SO - Écoute-nous Apr 29 '17 at 15:31
  • Right, I guess I should have said "beaten to a pulp" perhaps. Still I think it's already very clear in the original whose little finger we're talking about – qoba Apr 29 '17 at 15:38
  • 1
    The sentence sounds like a translation of: You saw your friend be [reduit en charpie] sans level le petit doigt. And the structure does not ring true to my ear in French. Of course, whadda I know. I agree with Papa Poule: pour l'aider would make it sound like real French. – Lambie Apr 29 '17 at 17:35
6

You might need to avoid the infinitive clause and have a subject to lever le petit doigt.

  • Vous avez regardé votre ami être réduit en charpie sans (même) que vous leviez le petit doigt ?

  • Vous avez regardé votre ami être réduit en charpie sans qu'il puisse même lever le petit doigt.

Of course the second sentence could be :

Vous avez regardé votre ami être réduit en charpie sans qu'il lève le petit doigt.

But it would make the friend look very passive !


After your edit:

I'm not sure Vous avez regardé votre ami être réduit en charpie – sans lever le petit doigt, non ? would make you intention any clearer. The other one would be better because of the break made by non.

Your second proposal has something to it but I think avec ça would be better to help disambiguation:

Vous avez regardé votre ami être réduit en charpie, et sans lever le petit doigt avec ça.

et ... avec ça cleary refers to the clause before the comma.

You could also use de plus or de surcroît :

Vous avez regardé votre ami être réduit en charpie, et ça de plus, sans lever le petit doigt.

Vous avez regardé votre ami être réduit en charpie, et ça de surcroît, sans lever le petit doigt.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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