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Le mois passé, le roi du Bahreïn a procédé au remplacement de quatre ministres dont deux membres de la famille royale.

I'm not sure how to properly understand the way the relative pronoun dont is used in this quote. As far as I know, it's usually translated into English as either whose or that. However, Google Translate translated it for me as including. Literal translation would render the sentence almost meaningless: Last month, the king of Bahrain replaced four ministers whose two members of the royal family. That doesn't sound right. Help me out please.

  • It's probably best not to interpret dont as a relative pronoun here, but rather as a preposition. (This usage probably did grammaticalise from a relative construction but synchronically it doesn't behave as one) – Eau qui dort May 17 at 10:40
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Of which would be the appropriate translation in this case:

Original text: Le mois passé, le roi du Bahreïn a procédé au remplacement de quatre ministres dont deux membres de la famille royale.

My translation: This past month, the king of Bahrain has proceeded with the replacement of four ministers, two of which are members of the royal family

Further reading: https://www.cnrtl.fr/definition/dont

  • Please see my comment under another answer, which I was composing while you were posting your equally good answer. – Papa Poule May 15 at 16:15
  • @Papa Poule I'd argue that my suggested translation would almost hold also in English without the verb "are", would you agree? – Toivo Säwén May 15 at 16:24
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    Unrelated, but your rendering "Le mois passé" as "This month" & especially your use of the present "are" got me thinking that my use of the past "were" could be ambiguous (ie, are those two no longer royals?), so I now would go with "being" in my version to avoid that possible ambiguity. Back to the issue, although I would still expect to hear or see some form of the verb "to be" in there, after repeating/re-reading it many times, I can certainly at least agree that it would almost work in English without "are/being" (& even that it might be perfectly fine (perhaps a question for ELU?). – Papa Poule May 15 at 17:50
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In this case, including is the right translation. The two members of the royal family are included into the four ministers being replaced.

  • Why is it the right translation? – user69786 May 15 at 11:40
  • @user69786 Because the others don't make grammatical sense? It can be hard to say why something is correct. This is one of the meaning of dont, and in this sentence it works and the others don't, so it must be this one. – Teleporting Goat May 15 at 12:41
  • @user69786 The other ones are very different grammatically. When dont means "whose", it's follow by a verbal group or a clause. When it's just followed by a nominal group, it means including. – Teleporting Goat May 15 at 12:43
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Yes, including is a possible translation of dont as used here.


There are limited option to play with a group of people (or things...) already mentioned:

  • You may want to add to them.
    • → Use et, en plus de, etc.
  • You may want to detail some of them.
    • → This is the case here, dont being the unambiguous trigger for this interpretation.
  • You may want to leave it as is, no more members, no more explanations, no more details.
    • → Do nothing (Le mois passé, le roi du Bahreïn a procédé au remplacement de quatre ministres.)

Examples of such uses of dont in recent news:

Malgré un virus, Rafael Nadal a réussi quatre bris de service, dont trois en deuxième manche, pour montrer la sortie au Québécois Félix Auger-Aliassime 6-3, 6-3 au deuxième tour du Masters de Madrid.
    La Presse, 8 mai 2019

« Pour l’instant ce sont neuf bêtes, juments et chevaux dont certains que j’ai depuis longtemps qui vont être euthanasiées. »
    La Dépêche, 15 mai 2019

  • 1
    What confused me most about OP's sentence (& maybe what was/is behind OP's confusion) was the lack of a verb in the "dont" clause. TLFi/CNRTL addresses this French verb omission at "I.-/A.-/2./a)/β)" and I.-/A.-/2./c) in its entry for "dont" (the latter usage being described as "tour très fréq., notamment dans la lang. parlée") (& you even omit "étant" from your example using "deux d’entre eux [étant]," but in English, one c/w/shouldn't ellipt the "were/being" from "... two of which/of whom [were/being] members of the royal family," so maybe that point is worthy of mention in your good answer. – Papa Poule May 15 at 16:11
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    I went thinking the op was interested in knowing Why is it the right translation?, but it appears like a short answer is preferable... so be it. – ﺪﺪﺪ May 17 at 13:28

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