2

Does "je suis tué" mean "I am being killed", or "I am killed", that is, that I was killed and am dead or just about dead?

I would expect the answer to this question to apply to other phrases with similar constructions.

Thank you.

5

Out of context, je suis tué is rare because it needs to be pronounced while being dead1. It means "I am killed". It can be of course be used figuratively.

"I am being killed" better translates to on me tue but can also use the present tense like in je suis tué à petit feu par cette maladie.

Here are other sentences where je suis tué can be used:

Je tue ou je suis tué - I kill or I am killed.

Si je suis tué au combat,... If I'm killed in action...

1Paradoxically, je suis mort is not affected by this issue and is a common sentence.

  • Thank you. Is the rule that, if there is no agent in the sentence, you must use "on" and the active voice? – CMK Nov 3 '17 at 10:57
  • @CMK The problem for that reading is more the past tense than the lack of an agent -- there are awkward ways to use the passive voice for that purpose -- but in any case on me tue and such constructions do usually work very well. – Luke Sawczak Nov 3 '17 at 11:55
  • Well, there is no distinction between continuous and non-continuous aspects in the present tense in French. One could come up with examples where the translation of Je suis tué uses the progressive form in English. See, for example, the “silence” example in Laure's answer. – Stéphane Gimenez Nov 3 '17 at 17:14
  • @LukeSawczak. Which reading are you referring to? Thanks. – CMK Nov 3 '17 at 19:13
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    That would mean the action is happening at a point in time. In English, non-continuous I think you are right vs continuous/progressive I'm thinking about you. Both translate to je pense in French. Je pense que tu as raison non-continuous, je pense à toi continuous. – jlliagre Nov 3 '17 at 22:17
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Je suis tué is a passive voice. If you had used any other subject pronoun than the first person I would have little hesitation on explaining the meaning of the sentence. If someone is killed (tué), they're deprived of life, and unless speaking from an afterlife they can't utter those words.

You are not giving the context in which you read/heard the sentence. As @jlliagre says it could be used with si to express a condition in which the speaker imagines they are deprived of life.

It is also likely the verb is used in a figurative way1 to mean "shattered" or "strongly impressed". Like in:

Je suis tué de fatigue.

It also tends to be used in place of mort in phrases like:

Je suis tué de rire !

Here are two examples where both meanings overlap:

  • In this Je suis Charlie poem:

    Je suis tué nous sommes tous aujourd’hui Charlie !

    Where it takes the meaning of the actual killing in the massacre, and the moral killing of those speaking and mourning the deaths.

  • Or in David Goudreault's poem:

    Je suis tué par votre silence.

    Where the homeless who's speaking is wrecked and will eventually be destroyed because of people's indifference to his plight.

    1 Just like kill in English

  • 1
    Si c'est Hamlet qui parle il y a une autre occasion encore de prononcer un tel paradoxe : "Horatio, je suis mort; tu vis; justifie ma cause et mon caractère auprès de ceux qui douteraient et seraient dans l'incertitude" (V-ii). :) – Luke Sawczak Nov 3 '17 at 10:09
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    Thank you. I made up the sentence randomly, based on what I learned about the passive voice. – CMK Nov 3 '17 at 11:15

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