6

C'est dommage que bon nombre de photos ...

{Instead of}: C'est dommage qu'un bon nombre de photos ...

I've always found it curious that the adjective "bon" tends to avoid being coupled with an indefinite article "un", most notably in the case of the phrase "(un) bon nombre de". Normally, I just put it down to an ironclad rule, but...

Ça a intérêt à être le bon bateau, cette fois.

{Instead of}: Ça a intérêt à être un bon bateau, cette fois.

... another instance has popped up where I cannot logically explain the presence of the definite article "le (bon bateau)" instead of "un (bon bateau)". This is the first time they talk about the boat in question, so I'd be tempted to say "it better be a good boat" rather than "it better be the good boat".

  • Nombre de personnes sont arrivées le matin du ... I don't think the lack of an article in bon nombre de X is related to bon but the oddness of nombre de. – Luke Sawczak Sep 7 '17 at 13:37
16

Both

C'est dommage que bon nombre de photos ...

and

C'est dommage qu'un bon nombre de photos ...

are equivalent and idiomatic, the first one is more stylish.

On the other hand:

Ça a intérêt à être le bon bateau, cette fois.

and

Ça a intérêt à être un bon bateau, cette fois.

are still idiomatic but have different meanings.

The first one means "this better be the right boat", i.e. the boat we should take to go where we want, the boat we are looking for while the second one means "this better be a good boat", i.e. a comfortable, pleasant, reliable, etc. boat.

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  • 1
    I'd say C'est dommage que bon nombre de photos is written style, and would therefore find Il est dommage que bon nombre de photos more constant. – Right leg Sep 7 '17 at 13:10
  • 1
    @Rightleg Bon nombre can also be "posh" spoken style, but you are right il est dommage would be more consistent with it. – jlliagre Sep 7 '17 at 15:15
  • Hi. I suppose the same interpretation applies to "fréquenter les mauvaises personnes" vs "fréquenter des mauvaises personnes"? I mean, "the wrong people {not the right ones}" vs "bad people"? – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Nov 4 '17 at 21:06
  • Yes, same interpretation indeed. – jlliagre Nov 4 '17 at 21:28
6

These two sentences don't have the same meaning.

In Le bon bateau, "le bon" means "the right/correct one". It better be the right boat, this time. Like they've been looking for a boat, and have been stumbling across a few, always the wrong one.

"Un bon bateau" on the other hand means just that, a good boat. It better be a good boat, this time. (ie not a crappy boat like last time).

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  • 6
    Adding "obviously" to your first sentence is rather off-putting. If it was so "obvious", they wouldn't need to ask the question in the first place. – R.M. Sep 7 '17 at 14:37
1

The choice between "le" and "un" is made depending on specificity:

  • speaking of a specific item, use "le",
  • speaking of any such item, use "un".

English offers the same distinction between "the" and "a".


In the examples you have given, there are 3 different meanings of "bon":

C'est dommage que bon nombre de photos ...

In this case, "bon" is equivalent to "grand" and means large:

It's a shame that a large number of photos ...

Next:

Ça a intérêt à être le bon bateau, cette fois.

In this case, "bon" means right (by opposition to wrong):

It better be the right boat, this time.

Next:

Ça a intérêt à être un bon bateau, cette fois.

In this case, "bon" means good (by opposition to bad):

It better be a good boat, this time.

In the first and third case, the item is not specific, so you use "un" whereas in the second case the item is specific (the right boat) and therefore you use "le".

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