2

À tous les coups, Sophie essaie d'imiter tout ce qu'il fait.

I wonder if "à tous les coups" placed at the beginning of a sentence always means "certainement / sans doute / je parie bien que"?

When you have the meaning of "à chaque fois" in mind, on the other hand, do you need to place it in the middle or at the end of a sentence?

Sophie a une admiration folle pour lui, elle essaie à tous les coups d'imiter tout ce qu'il fait.

Sophie a une admiration folle pour lui, elle essaie d'imiter tout ce qu'il fait, à tous les coups.

4

I think (so this answer is not purely objective) nothing is totally obvious about some rules which may lead to some conclusion.

Starting from the simple definitions provided here, we have three meanings:

  • The non familiar and literal one: each time a stroke is given

  • A first familiar one, but close to the previous as "coups" here has some kind of 'generalized' meaning: à chaque fois

  • A second familiar one which means "certainement" and is similar to "à coup sûr". Note that "certainement" as itself two meanings: a pure certainty and something that we are quite totally sure of. "A tous les coups" is relative to this second meaning.

Surely, the first clue is provided by the overall context: can something be uncertain or unknow in this context?

For instance, in a narrative form like

"Sophie avait une admiration folle pour lui. A tous les coups, elle essayait d'imiter ce qu'il faisait. C'était devenu une obsession."

there is nothing doubtful. All is said like facts. So that "à tous les coups" cannot be "certainement", even if placed at the beginning of the sentence.

Secondly, comma or pauses that separate "à tous les coups" from the other part of the sentence can be an indication, so that we can guess:

"A tous les coups, elle fait cette chose" is "certainement", like a comment about the overall sentence. But sadly (for us here), this separation can also be a way to highlight or give an importance to "à tous les coups".

and:

"A tous les coups elle fait cette chose" sounds much more like "à chaque fois" as linked to the verb.

Same thing if placed at the end:

"Elle fait cette chose, à tous les coups" (certainement)

"Elle fait cette chose à tous les coups" (à chaque fois)

And if placed in the middle, I think this is the same principle, except that the sentence becomes more complex, so that the overall tone sounds less familiar:

"Elle fait à tous les coups cette chose" (quite surely "à chaque fois")

"Elle fait, à tous les coups, cette chose" (may be "certainement" but sounds less obvious)

Concerning the provided examples, two elements are blurring the meaning a bit:

"Sophie a une admiration folle pour lui" does not sound as a familiar way of speaking. So we are intuitively closer to "à chaque fois".

"tout ce qu'il fait" can be itself interpreted as "each time a thing is done" which reminds "à chaque fois".

but over that, I think the use of the comma is the main clue in the sentences given in your question.

  • Could/should your statement of the second meaning of “certainement” perhaps be “something that we are [NOT] quite totally sure of” (to distinguish its “caractère probable” a bit better from “a pure certainty”)? Regardless, I’m glad you undeleted your good answer, which, from version 1 onward, made/makes it clear, at least to me, that rules are not always black and white and that answers are rarely either right or wrong. – Papa Poule Sep 22 '17 at 21:45
  • Just curious & unrelated to the preceding comment or to your answer, but do you think that “sans faute/sans exception” could capture the “à chaque fois” sense of “à tous les coups,” just as “sans doute” can seemingly, depending on the context, capture both the “valeur affirmative/pure certainty” and the “valeur dubitative définitive ou provisoire/ caractère probable” meanings of “certainement” and/or “à tous les coups”? – Papa Poule Sep 22 '17 at 21:47
  • @PapaPoule, about your first comment: I think "quite totally sure" is ok too (but is it my poor English?), This is (need to be) about something we don't know by facts.So this is a guess... Even if I've try to find some rules, the overall context can influence a lot the meaning. For instance what about "A tous les coups, il boxe sur son flanc droit"? – lemon Sep 23 '17 at 7:44
  • @PapaPoule, about your second comment: "sans faute" is more "with accuracy", like in "nous avons rendez-vous sans faute à midi". "Sans exception" is more "always", "each time", no doubt at all here. "Elle l'a imité sans exception" is something we are objectively sure of. – lemon Sep 23 '17 at 7:48
3

As you said When "à tous les coups" is placed in the beginning of a sentence, it always has the meaning of "I'll bet that..." or "It's almost certain that...".

À tous les coups, Sophie essaie d'imiter tout ce qu'il fait.

really means:

I'll bet that Sophie is trying to imitate everything he does.

Whereas if you want to use À tous les coups as an alternative to "À chaque fois" it should not be placed in the beginning of the sentence (it will sound a little off to a native speaker)

  • Hi. So do you think that my 2nd and 3rd sentences with "à tous les coups" in the sense of "à chaque fois" sound natural? If so, which one do you prefer? – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Sep 22 '17 at 7:11
  • both sound natural, the 3rd being more emphatic and the 2nd more a statement. – Anne Aunyme Sep 22 '17 at 13:28
0

It means "always", you can use

  • Toujours
  • Tout le temps
  • A chaque fois
0

Your theory is very often valid but there is at least one well known exception:

À tous les coups on gagne !

is not an hypothesis but an assertion.

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