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I'm trying to figure out how to say “if you don't mind my asking” in French, not “if you don't mind me asking”. The question that will follow will be formal.

I came up with “si cela ne vous dérange pas mon demandant” but Google Translate is saying it's “si cela ne vous dérange pas de demander”. Could someone help?

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    Si je peux me permettre, "if you don't mind my asking", vs "if you don't mind me asking", doesn't make much of a difference IMO; you can't (and shouldn't be trying to) translate it word-for-word anyway - neither literal translation makes much sense in French. – Mathieu Guindon May 14 '18 at 23:43
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    @CubbyKushi: what do you perceive to be the difference in meaning in English between "if you don't mind me asking" and "if you don't mind my asking"? To me there is no difference in meaning. Even if you perceive a slight difference, surely they are closer to each other in meaning than any French translation will be to either of them? There isn't a one-to-one correspondence between phrases (or words) in English and phrases (or words) in French - that's not how language works.... – James Martin May 15 '18 at 11:05
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    I can't speak for the OP but "if you don't mind me asking" seems to be about whether the listener specifically minds the person who is asking (for having done so), while "if you don't mind my asking" is about whether the listener minds the asking itself (but nothing to do with feelings toward the person for asking). In practice I'm not sure it has ever made much of a difference, but there is a difference... I guess. – Darren May 15 '18 at 12:56
  • @Darren The first to me asks if the person specifically minds the person asking, so the difference between them is negligible. What you implied would be more like "If you don't mind my presence, may I ask...". – Jim MacKenzie May 16 '18 at 22:37
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The most formal way would be:

Si je puis me permettre, (question)

Note that you could also use the interrogative form:

Puis-je me permettre de vous demander (question)?

I think this is as formal as it can be and is the one I would use.

I would say the "enquiquiner" proposal is really not formal.

  • Puis-je me permettre de vous demander (question)? - this is more like May I ask you (something)? – Rafalon May 15 '18 at 12:32
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    in the first one it should be "peux" and not "puis". They both have the same formality just different forms. – Franck May 15 '18 at 12:42
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    I agree with @Franck, « je puis » sounds old fashioned. Although, note that's it's the standard when asking a question: « puis-je » and never « peux-je* ». Though, « est-ce que je peux… » is probably more common. – Asche May 15 '18 at 15:28
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I would interprete it as:

Si vous me permettez de poser la question...

So for example

How old are you, if you don't mind me asking...

Quel âge avez-vous, si vous me permettez de vous poser cette question...?

After the relevant discussion I am not 100% sure if there is but the slightest difference between me/my asking structure. The difference is rather a grammatical one. In any case I think that French interpretations would be the same.


I strongly suggest you to use (apart Google Translate which is very good for quick translations)

https://www.linguee.fr/francais-anglais

So for instance

https://www.linguee.fr/anglais-francais/traduction/if+you+don%27t+mind+me+asking.html

Also another useful web page is

http://www.wordreference.com/fren/

yet another one

https://www.deepl.com/home

  • Je vous remercie pour le site Internet. :) C'est utile! I need to know how to say 'If you don't mind 'MY' asking' not ;If you don't mind me asking.' – CubbyKushi May 14 '18 at 18:37
  • There is a slight difference between the two English if I am correct. But still I would use something along the same lines. See the Edit. – Dimitris May 14 '18 at 18:43
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    As an English speaker I would translate both versions the same into French. T'en fais pas ! – Luke Sawczak May 14 '18 at 19:20
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    @dimitris There is a slight difference between the two... I'd really love to know what difference you and the OP perceive between ...my asking and ...me asking. They are identical in meaning - it is not unusual in language to have many phrases that mean exactly the same. – Oscar Bravo May 15 '18 at 12:08
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    @dimitris There is a grammatical difference but there is no semantic difference. BUt you don't translate grammar - you translate semantics. – Oscar Bravo May 15 '18 at 13:00
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You do not tell the context, whether a formal or informal question is expected, to whom you ask the question (tu or vous) but I would suggest anyway :

Si ma question ne te dérange pas / ne vous dérange pas, xxxx ?

The first part of your attempt was correct French: si cela ne vous dérange pas however, the end mon demandant doesn't work in French. I believe "my asking" means my question so translates to ma question but you shouldn't try to stick too much to the English form.

Here is another suggestion :

Si je peux me permettre (une question), xxxx ?

  • @Eric that's correct, it's against "ma question", 3rd person singular - regardless of the "te" or "vous" – Mathieu Guindon May 14 '18 at 23:34
  • @MathieuGuindon Fixed, thanks! – jlliagre May 15 '18 at 11:33
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Depending on the context,

Sans vouloir être indiscret,...

could work. For example :

Sans vouloir être indiscret, quel âge avez vous ?

It isn't an exact translation but is idiomatic and conveys the same meaning. It is clear that a sensitive question is coming right after.

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The most formal way to say it would be

Si je puis me permettre…

(The form je puis of the verb pouvoir is more formal than je peux and is used only in expressions like this one.)

You can also apologize for your curiosity by saying

Excusez ma curiosité, mais…

And more strongly

Désolé de vous enquiquiner, mais j'avais une question à vous poser…

and the answer will be «Mais non, vous ne m'enquiquinez pas» followed by the answer to your question.

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    "Enquiquiner" sounds very much France-French (?), and not quite formal. Depending on the context it might even raise an eyebrow or two (in Quebec-French anyway). – Mathieu Guindon May 14 '18 at 23:41
  • @MathieuGuindon yes, this is indeed France origin french and not International french. – Franck May 15 '18 at 12:45
  • And very old-fashionned if you ask me... It would be hard to use in day-to-day speach without amusing at least a few people... – Laurent S. May 15 '18 at 13:41
  • @LaurentS. Getting a smile from the asked person could be a good start! – Eric Duminil May 15 '18 at 13:54
  • It is not formal in the sense of written-formal speech, but it is formal when you want to address somebody with respect. Maybe some more insight on the context of the query would be helpful. – yannis May 16 '18 at 10:45
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I came up with 'si cela ne vous dérange pas mon demandant' but Google Translate is saying it's 'si cela ne vous dérange pas de demander'. Could someone help

In the phrase "my asking", the word "asking" is grammatically a gerund:

The gerund is a verb which is used as if it were a noun ... [for example] "Seeing is believing"

It's formed from the present participle of the verb.

French verbs have a present participle (e.g. manger / mangeant) but I think they're not used as gerunds i.e. as nouns. You could never say bon mangeant in French like you might say "good eating" in American English.

Instead I think the French tend to use the infinitive form of the verb, e.g. bon à manger ("good for to eat" also known as "good food"), or voir c'est croire.

So mon demandant is no good. If you want to use a noun in the phrase, you say ma question.


Also I think that asking, "If you don't mind..." is slightly rude: perhaps it's imposing on you to decide. So a slightly politer English version (which doesn't ask you to commit yourself before you've even heard my request) might be to ask, "If I may, ...". That's where other answers are suggesting Si je peux or Si je puis.

Also, the distinction in English between "If I may" and "If I can" is, in French, the difference between pouvoir and permettre. Again, I think it's more polite to say "If I may permit myself to..." than "If you will permit me to..." -- I think you're expected to be well-behaved, to govern your own behaviour, to know what's right and wrong, and to not impose that responsibility on others. That's where another answer suggests Si je peux me permettre instead of Si vous me le permettez. Sometimes if you get a cold-call, i.e. a business phone call from someone you don't know, they'll explain the reason (i.e. why they're allowing themselves to call you) by starting, Je me permets de vous contacter parce que...

  • Je vous remercie. Je l'ai trouvé vraiment instructif ! :) Can you just confirm the following: both 'je peux me permettre' and 'je puis me permettre' mean the same thing, however the latter is more formal than the former. – CubbyKushi May 16 '18 at 0:10
  • I think they're the same, just puis is more courtly, literary (and not current) -- it's soutenu. – ChrisW May 16 '18 at 0:23

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