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Partez l'esprit tranquille en vacances en nous laissant nous occuper de votre installation.

On several separate occasions, I have heard native French speakers around me use the phrase « l'esprit tranquille » like an adverb. It rubbed off on me, and now I use it in conversation myself.

The thing is, I would expect some additional word like « avec l'esprit tranquille » to make it grammatically correct. I wonder if « l'esprit tranquille » is an exceptional case where a noun phrase is used like an adverb? Or are there other similar expressions?

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  • Also compare English "He fell head first."
    – Luke Sawczak
    Commented Jul 21, 2017 at 17:34
  • @LukeSawczak Indeed. "France won hands down." Commented Jul 21, 2017 at 18:08

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Yes, there are many other expressions like this one, there are not always specific idioms, it's also a valid structure where a nominal group is used with an adverbial meaning. A few examples coming to mind :

Partir la fleur au fusil (specific idiom)

Travailler les yeux baissés (I just composed this one, it's not a specific expression)

Mâcher la bouche ouverte (unspecific, although probably used quite often)

You can see that for each of these examples, the preposition "avec" that you expected is not only absent, it would be redundant and may sound odd to some.

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  • Hi. Can you use other adjectives in the phrase « l'esprit + adjective »? Commented Jul 21, 2017 at 16:43
  • @Alone-zee Yes. L'esprit serein, l'esprit confus, l'esprit léger ...anything goes as long as it makes sense in the context. Commented Jul 21, 2017 at 16:44
  • Oh, I see. Can you come up with a sentence where "l'esprit confus" is used like an adverb without "avoir/avec"? Commented Jul 21, 2017 at 16:46
  • « Avant même de recevoir cette missive, la jeune femme avançait dans la vie l’esprit confus. » John Burnside, L'été des noyés, 2014. Commented Jul 21, 2017 at 16:55
  • Agreed - I see this structure often, and without "avec". It seems to work particularly well with elements of oneself (perhaps on the model of sentences like "J'ai -la partie du corps- -modifiant-"?).
    – Luke Sawczak
    Commented Jul 21, 2017 at 17:31

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