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Woman: Quelle déception de te voir t’abaisser à de si bas méfaits.

Man: Des bas méfaits ?

I just heard these colloquial sentences, but I wonder why the man uses "des" instead of "de"? Is it for emphasis or something?

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De is more formal than des. Without context, I'd say that Woman uses formal language, which is not the case for Man. Or Man considers "bas méfaits" as a kind of compound noun, thus conveying the fact that he has trouble understanding what those "méfaits" really are and what Woman means. In this case, des is fine even in formal language.

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Woman: Quelle déception de te voir t’abaisser à de si bas méfaits.

Le bon usage states that when the noun (méfaits) following a plural indefinite article (des) is preceeded by an epithet (bas), the indifinite article is usually replaced by de:

  • De bons fruits
  • En faisant de plaisantes grimaces (Marcel PAGNOL)

→ This is the rule applied by the Woman in her statement.

According to Le bon usage again, an exception is made when the adjective and noun form a whole together:

  • Des bons mots
  • Des grands hommes
  • Des grandes personnes (= des adultes)

So in the perception of the Man of the question, bas méfaits is likely considered as a collection of individual bas méfaits (and therefore, a “bas méfait” becomes a full concept, different than a simple “méfait”).

In my understanding, by responding:

Man: Des bas méfaits ?

, the Man is basically asking some details and/or examples of the individual “bas méfaits” the Woman is referring to in her accusation.

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  • Perhaps, the man intended "bas méfaits" as the quoted phrase? Man: Des « bas méfaits » ? Dec 9 '17 at 21:02
  • @Alone-zee Do you mean that he possibly meant to say only “Bas méfaits?”, without beginning with des nor de? I am unsure of what you meant to ask, but if it's in the line of my suggestion, it could have been another way for him to say it, but it wouldn't change the meaning, and my interpretation of his reply would be the same: he is unsure (or pretends to be unsure) of what he is accused of. Dec 10 '17 at 17:22
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I believe the presence of si makes de mandatory here. It could be either in the answer though.

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