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There are several ways of translating into French the idea conveyed by “no-brainer”, as in:

It seems like a no-brainer to improve standards.

  • Améliorer les standards ? Ça va de soi or Poser la question, c’est y répondre.
  • Ça semble une évidence que l’on doive monter la barre.
  • Ce n’est que normal que l’on fasse progresser les normes.

While the second translation I propose does transform the noun into a noun, “évidence” is not always the most appropriate translation:

“How should I approach this stability problem?”
“That's a no brainer, use a dovetail.”

  « Comment devrais-je assurer la stabilité du montage ?

  • Ne te pose pas de questions, utilise une queue d’aronde !
  • Le mieux, et de loin, sera une queue d’aronde.

I feel the use of “évidence” in this case would be too condescending, because “évidence” has more of an absolute value than “no brainer”, the latter allowing for person-specific experience and knowledge.

Would there be, then, beside “évidence”, another noun that could cover in a gentler manner the idea of “no brainer”?

  • I'd use "Pas besoin d'être un génie pour ...". – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Dec 15 '17 at 23:29
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    @Alone-zee That wouldn't be very gentle, would it? :S – ﺪﺪﺪ Dec 15 '17 at 23:31
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Une proposition de néologisme aux allures de calque morphologique pourrait-on dire mais entièrement français vu qu'elle représente la substantivation de la locution adverbiale sans effort (facilement) :

Un sans-effort [ Wiktionnaire fr. no-brainer, Termium dans un contexte spécialisé (l'entente) ]

Une formalité d'une certaine manière, l'acte sans difficulté (TLFi A 2 b). Plus généralement on préfère ça va de soi et la facilité selon le contexte, tel que mentionné ailleurs... mais c'est un nom !

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    Ce sont là deux très belles trouvailles! Un sans-effort saisit exactement la nuance, quoiqu'il ne soit pour l'instant qu'une proposition dont la valeur est pour ainsi dire toute en potentiel. Une formalité (particulièrement lorsque qualifiée de simple, comme c'est souvent le cas) possède par ailleurs aussi cette ambivalence qui peut servir à exprimer, selon le contexte et l'intonation, autant la simplicité qu'une légère condescendance. Merci de votre réponse! – ﺪﺪﺪ Dec 20 '17 at 13:27
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    @Feelew Je vous en prie. Merci ! – user3177 Dec 20 '17 at 20:39
  • +1 pour une formalité – Kii Jan 30 '18 at 9:39
  • Je ne pense pas que ce terme puisse être compris dans le langage courant. – qoba Mar 25 at 20:10
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Personally I'd find «c'est facile» just as condescending as «évident», and the latter a reasonable translation for “no-brainer”.

That said, a couple or three other suggestions:

  • Start with évidemment, because it draws the listener in and says “you’ve already realised that ...” rather than “it should be obvious that ...”
  • A bit of searching led me to «Ça coule de source» and «Ce n'est pas compliqué». The former is quite a figurative phrase, which compliments the listener; the latter is un peu dur).
  • Obviously if you wish to avoid condescension, avoid beginning with «Franchement, je crois que la question ne doit pas se poser...» :o)
3

If your desire to express this concept with a noun would be satisfied by declaring the absence of an antonym/near antonym of that noun, maybe you could consider using that strategy, perhaps as follows:

Granted, there’s technically a gap in meaning between “not being something [e.g., a brain-teaser/twister] and actually “being the near opposite of that thing [e.g., a no-brainer], but it’s possible that the nuance caused by this very gap could actually present an opportunity to soften a bit the notion of “It’s a no-brainer” by replacing it with “It’s not a brain teaser,” ...
... first in English (for I, in spite of your observation, often hear/see “no-brainer” used condescendingly in that language, too) ...
... and then in French to slightly temper the condescending tone of ...
... “C’est/Ça semble une evidence que …” with, for example:

Ce n'est pas un mystère {que …}.

(usage example, possibly relevant, from Journal des débats, Volume 28, Issues 41-65 L'Assemblée, 1985 - Québec (Province), via GoogleBooks).


If, however, the nuance/gap between something “not being un mystère” and its “being une evidence” is either too great (i.e., "sorry, but that’s just not what it means") or ...
... too slight (i.e., "sorry, but it’s still too condescending"), ...
... then perhaps you could consider a literal translation of “It’s not a brain-teaser/twister,” such as:

C{e n}’est pas un casse-tête [chinois].

(from Reverso-Context).
(but please note that this, too, might be seen as failing to help you reach your admirable goal of avoiding all traces of condescension [and some might even see it as being worse than the original in that respect])

(see also Cath S’s suggestion on this Word Reference thread on “a no-brainer”)

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    This is interesting. Since “no-brainer” has a self-contained negation, it wouldn’t be that much of a stretch either to negate a concept in French also. Your answer reminded me of “it’s not rocket science”, a bit different but in the same vein. Aussi, comme le disent les Russes en suivant Boulgakov dans Le Maître et Marguerite: «—Quand devez-vous mourir? [...] —Personne n’en sait rien et ça ne regarde personne [...] —Personne n’en sait rien, ah bien oui! [...] C’est quand même pas le binôme de Newton! [...]Il mourra dans neuf mois, l’an prochain en février, [...]» – ﺪﺪﺪ Dec 18 '17 at 17:58
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    Also, I just wanted to point out that I am aware of the condescending use of “no-brainer” in English. I just think it also allows for a more generic use, which is harder to get across using the French “évidence”, because like I said, it conveys more of an absolute value. The wood-worker who would say this is a no-brainer about the usage of dovetails could well think it is a no-brainer for him, since he knows his stuff and there is clearly no better options, and knowing at the same time not everybody has this specific type of knowledge. – ﺪﺪﺪ Dec 19 '17 at 15:39
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    @Feelew I do agree that "C'est une “évidence” (without being expressly qualified with "pour moi/lui" or even with "semble" as in your example) conveys more of an absolute value [even to the point of (trying to) end further discussion (like a "fait indiscutable"?)] than "no-brainer" by itself does (maybe because “évidence” is more serious and/or well-established than "no-brainer," which is fairly recent, I think & somewhat "cutesy"?). On the WordReference thread I cited, "Docbike" (from the [arguably stodgy?] UK) argued that "no-brainer" was "so offensive," but s/he was pretty much shot down. – Papa Poule Dec 19 '17 at 17:22
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    @Feelew Re "It's not rocket science/brain surgery," I'm not sure, but that might be approaching the notion of "absolute value" conveyed by "C'est une évidence,” where "rocket science" could be seen as setting the absolute apex of what's difficult to grasp or to do, leaving little ground to argue that the speaker was just talking in relative (context-specific/eg "wood-working") terms. (I'm probably shooting my "ce n'est pas un casse-tete" in the foot with that, but then again a generic "casse-tete" wouldn't (necessarily) set the bar quite as high as "rocket science/le binôme de Newton" would. – Papa Poule Dec 19 '17 at 17:49
2

I think the best would simply be to use the concept of "simplicité" or "facilité".

Comment devrais-je assurer la stabilité du montage ?

  • C'est simple, utilise une queue d'aronde !
  • C'est facile, utilise une queue d'aronde !
  • C'est tout simple – jlliagre Dec 16 '17 at 0:03
  • C'est bidon. C'est trivial. – Kii Jan 25 '18 at 16:09

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