• Il me fait dire ça par un tiers.

  • Il me fait dire ça.

I'm so confused about this matter. The only difference is the addition of the "par" phrase, but are their meanings quite different grammatically?

  • Can you please change the title of that question. As it stands you are asking about “have that said to me by someone else” and “have me say that” which are English sentences.
    – None
    Jul 9, 2017 at 6:21

1 Answer 1


My second attempt at an answer: To understand a causative faire sentence, sometimes we have to take into account the scheme of things that can go into it. Here's how we might proceed...

Faire has (1) an agent and (2) a recipient.

Dire has (3) an agent, plus any other complements for its normal usage. For example, dire usually takes (4) the thing said and (5) the person hearing it.

This structure is complex, and what makes it worse is that French marks some of those roles ambiguously. And not every sentence will have all of these things; some of them can be implicit.

Fortunately, some roles are easier to figure out. For example, (1) the agent of faire is simply the subject of the sentence ("il").

And your example includes ça, which is nice because the only role it can take is (4) the thing said.

Moreover, if we identify (2) the recipient of faire, then that same person is (3) the agent of dire (which is the key logic of a causative faire sentence).

So we need to identify just two more things: (2/3) the recipient of faire, and (5) the hearer of dire.

Here's where the problem comes in. Both of those roles can be expressed grammatically as an indirect object. That indirect object in your sentence is me.

So the question is: does me belong to faire or to dire ? That is, is me the person being made to talk, or the person who hears? (Naturally, we'll have to leave one role unstated either way.)

In your sentence, there's no grammatical way to decide. As Lambie writes below, there often is a semantic way to decide, i.e. the context will encourage a particular reading. And in any case, there are other ways to say this whole sentence that make it clearer.

But that's the unfortunate reality about the sentence. Note that the problem arises because a single item in the sentence could grammatically fulfill two different roles. Whenever that's true, we'll have the same problem. Some causative faire sentences are spared this issue.

Now let's see how "par un tiers" changes the situation.

It too can do one of two things: it can tell us (2/3) the recipient of faire/agent of dire, or it can tell us something entirely new: (6) how the thing is said.

If "par un tiers" is (2/3) the recipient of faire, that forces me to become (5) the person hearing. So in this sense it would solve our problem about me.

He makes a third party say it to me.

However, if "par un tiers" is (6) how the thing is said, then me is still undecided about the two roles mentioned above:

He has it said to me via a third party.
(Notice that this means more or less the same thing as "He makes a third party say it to me.")

He has me say it via a third party.

So that's about it. We're still left with ambiguity. But ambiguity comes from examining sentences in isolation. When you encounter it in the real world, hopefully the context makes it plain. :)

  • Can anyone confirm the following observations, which I'll keep out of the answer for now? (1) If you wanted to resolve the ambiguity the other way, you might say: "Il me fait dire ça, à moi." But the agent is sometimes introduced post-verbally with à, sometimes not, so it's still ambiguous. (2) If the verb weren't dire but one that takes a person as a direct object, then you couldn't rely on a pre-verbal direct object pronoun to disambiguate. || Are those two claims accurate? (If not, feel free to make a more comprehensive answer.)
    – Luke Sawczak
    Jul 9, 2017 at 3:28
  • 1
    In fact the ambiguity is not solved, Il me fait dire ça par un tiers could still mean “He has me say that through someone else”. Jul 9, 2017 at 12:54
  • @Laure: It may be best, then, if one of you drafts a more thorough answer! Evidently I've yet to get my head around it. For example, that link I shared mentions Je fais étudier mes enfants chaque soir, but you're telling me that this COD could only be pronominalized pre-verbally as a COI. And I'm still unclear on the points I've sought above... and Stéphane's point is also valid!! That said, if I get time later I'll do some more research and rewrite this when I have a better understanding of it.
    – Luke Sawczak
    Jul 9, 2017 at 13:15
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    Aside from that, pronouns with this faire auxiliary are specially tricky. Compare Il le fait écrire (He makes him write, or, He has it written down) vs il lui fait écrire un poème (He has him/her write a poem) vs Il le fait graver (most likely, He has it engraved) vs Il lui fait parvenir la lettre (He has the letter sent to him/her). Jul 9, 2017 at 13:19
  • 1
    The broader context will usually clarify: il me fait dire cela. If it means make and is ambiguous given a context, the verb might tend to change: Il a insisté pour que je dise cela or il m'a forcé à dire cela.
    – Lambie
    Jul 9, 2017 at 15:38

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