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I have another question actually on the very same paragraph from this article on Le Monde. It uses the phrase "a tenu à remercier M. Macron".

Dans la cour de l’Elysée, à l’issue de son entretien avec le chef de l’Etat puis d’un déjeuner « familial », M. Hariri, qui était accompagné de sa femme et de son fils aîné, a tenu à remercier M. Macron qui, dans cette crise, « a fait preuve d’une amitié infaillible ».

In the courtyard of the Elysée, at the end of his interview with the head of state and a "family lunch", Saad Hariri, who was accompanied by his wife and eldest son, was happy to thank Emmanuel Macron who, in this crisis, "demonstrated an infallible friendship".

I looked up this use of tenir, and found this entry on Wiktionary.

tenir: 8. (followed by the preposition à) to be attached to something, to be fond of something, to hold something dear

Am I right to understand the phrase "a tenu à remercier M. Macron" as an example of this? In which case, how should I translate the phrase?

Is my current translation, "was happy to thank Emmanuel Macron", ideal?

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Not quite. The expression "tenir à + infinitif" is commonly used in both conversation and writing — with the meaning of "vouloir (fortement) faire quelque chose".

You can say, for instance:

Dites-moi pourquoi vous tenez tant à en savoir plus sur cette affaire ?

En préambule, je tiens à vous avertir que ...

Ce n'est pas que je ne vous fais pas confiance. Je tenais juste à m'en assurer.

The phrase in your example is a passé-composé variant of this expression:

« X a tenu à remercier Y » === « X a (fortement) voulu remercier Y »

{in English}: "X insisted on thanking Y" or "X was keen to show his appreciation to Y"

Note: The expression also takes the form of "tenir à ce que + subjonctif" when the subject in the subordinate clause differs from that of "tenir à":

Je tiens à ce que ce soit vous qui vous en occupiez. — {je tiens à / ce soit}

  • Ah, I see. Would this be good? "... profoundly thanked Emmanuel Macron"? Or would the simple "... thanked Emmanuel Macron" be better, even though it loses some of the nuance? – ktm5124 Nov 19 '17 at 6:01
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    @ktm5124 No! The idea of "fortement / strongly" is attached to "want to do", not to the verb "remercier". So it is like: "X (strongly / really) wanted to express his appreciation to Y". NOT: "X wanted to express his (great) appreciation to Y". If you want to say "thank Y profoundly", then "X tient à remercier vivement Y". – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Nov 19 '17 at 6:17
  • That makes sense. Then "... (really) wanted to thank Emmanuel Macron" should work, right? Both with and without an adverb such as "really" or "strongly". – ktm5124 Nov 19 '17 at 6:21
  • @ktm5124 Not quite. The idea of "fortement / strongly" is an integral part of this expression. In a manner of speaking, you could get away with thinking that "tenir à faire" is a strong version of "vouloir faire". – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Nov 19 '17 at 6:26
  • Interesting. So, "really wanted to thank Emmanuel Macron" and "strongly wanted to thank Emmanuel Macron" both hit the bull's eye. I think I'll use one of those then. – ktm5124 Nov 19 '17 at 6:28

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