Man: Mais c’est beaucoup trop comme récompense.

Woman: J’insiste, quand même. Ce n’est pas comme si j'avais les moyens de dépenser tout ça, en tout cas.

  1. "I don't have any particular things that I want to spend my money on. So go ahead and take it as a reward!"

Given the context, this is the right interpretation, but if you only go by the word "moyens", can't you also interpret the sentence as follows, as contradictory as it may sound?

  1. "I financially cannot afford to spend all that much money as a reward."

2 Answers 2


There might be an humorous effect in that sentence but no real ambiguity.

Avoir les moyens means to be able to, to have the capacity to achieve something, here the woman says she is not able to spend that much money, that it is beyond her capacities.

It is true avoir les moyens financiers is by far the most common implicit meaning but that's not the only one. The factor can also be physical (il a les moyens de gagner la course), intellectual (il a les moyens de comprendre), popularity (il a les moyens de gagner l'élection), evidence (on n'a pas les moyens de le vérifier), etc.

  • The factor can also be coercitive: Nous avons les moyens de vous faire parler! usually pronounced with a strong german accent: Nous saffffons les moyens de fou faire parrrler!
    – chqrlie
    Oct 30, 2017 at 22:38
  • @chqrlie Yes, Francis Blanche's version of "We have ways of making you talk!" cliché (Vee haf vays uff maykink you took!). My list shows some examples but isn't exhaustive.
    – jlliagre
    Oct 30, 2017 at 23:29

This is indeed ambiguous, for the reason you have highlighted. 'Avoir les moyens' is so commonly used to talk about financial affordability that using when talking about money almost imposes that meaning on it.

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