A French native speaker just told me that

One must do what one must do

can't be translated into French as

On peut faire ce qu'on peut faire

because the correct way to say that is

On fait ce que l'on peut faire.


On fait ce que l'on peut faire

actually means

One does what one must do.

Is there any explanation why my translation might not be correct?

  • Besides the pouvoir/devoir confusion m.raynal addresses, I don't think there's anything illogical about On doit faire ce qu'on doit faire, though it's a little wordy and sounds to me like a calque of English.
    – Luke Sawczak
    Jul 25, 2017 at 14:46

1 Answer 1


Actually, 'On fait ce que l'on peut faire' means 'One does what one can do'.

And also, the way people say it generally is : 'On fait ce que l'on peut'.

Or more often : 'On fait ce que l'on peut avec ce que l'on a', which means literally 'One does what one can do with what one has'.

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