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Tu vas avoir du mal à lui faire tomber le masque.

I'm having trouble understanding this. Considering that "tomber" is an intransitive verb, is "le masque" the direct object of "faire"? Does it have the meaning "have the mask drop"? At least, I understand that I should consider it to be "faire tomber le masque à lui".

But how does "lui" play a part in this?

  • "have his mask drop?" "faire tomber son masque"?

or

  • "have/let him drop the masque?" "le laisser tomber le masque"?
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    "[subject] tombe le masque" is an expression meaning the subject stops dissembling and reveals their true self. It's used here with faire as a causative auxiliary verb, which turns the main verb to the infinitive and causes its erstwhile subject to drop to a free slot of its verb's complement, usually in the order [direct object] > [indirect object] > [oblique complement] see french.stackexchange.com/questions/2535/… and french.stackexchange.com/questions/19815/… – Eau qui dort Nov 19 '17 at 14:46
  • @Eauquidort Hi. I wonder if "tomber le masque" sounds a bit more informal than "lever le masque"? – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Nov 19 '17 at 15:10
  • "faire + verb phrase + à quelqu'un" (indirect object after à), that is where the lui comes from. People seem to like to use fancy grammatical words but I find that giving concrete examples is easier because you don't have to "translate" the grammar lingo. meaning: to make him reveal his true self i.e. to make him drop his mask. – Lambie Nov 19 '17 at 19:00
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I think you are confused by the assumption that tomber is always intransitive.

In colloquial French, you can use it as a transitive verb with 2 meanings:

1) to take off a piece of clothing. It is frequent in the phrase tomber la veste, which you would say in situation where you are formally dressed with a suit, and you decide to relax a bit and take off your jacket (ex: on est entre nous, tu peux tomber la veste). Or a famous French song from the 90s had this line in its chorus: On va la tomber, tomber la chemise.

2) to seduce a man/woman. Ex: votre fils est très beau, il doit sûrement tomber toutes les filles

In the set phrases tomber le masque or faire tomber le masque à quelqu'un, it would be tomber used transitively as in the 1st meaning above, ie faire tomber le masque à quelqu'un will mean "to force someone to remove one's mask".

Note, however, that you will also find this expression where "les masques" would indeed be the subject of "tomber", used then intransitively. Grâce à cette discussion, les masques sont tombés.

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