I noticed this sentence in the Wikipedia page for the French translation of Touching the Void:

Sans aucune assistance, à part Richard Hawking, un étudiant rencontré sur place, et qui garde leur camp de base et doit prévenir les secours après un certain temps d'absence, les deux hommes savent que le moindre problème peut leur être fatal.

From the context, it is clear that it means he must get help if they fail to return, but I read this as "and he must prevent rescue after a certain period of absence". What am I missing? Does prévenir have another meaning?

  • 2
    prévenir's main meaning is warn, let someone know, not prevent. Have you tried a dictionary before asking? May 23, 2019 at 12:11
  • Ahhh, thanks I used google translate which assured me that it meant prevent. Lesson learned. May 23, 2019 at 12:25
  • It's alright :) And just so you know, I don't recommend Google Translate, not because the translations are "bad" but because it gives 1 translation. Most of the times it's more subtle and words have at least 3-4 translations. It's always better to look in a dictionary that gives several of them. May 23, 2019 at 12:51
  • Google Translate needs context, just like the rest of us... : prévenir les secours → "to prevent the rescue" but Il doit prévenir les secours après un certain temps d'absence → He must warn the helpers after a certain period of absence.
    – jlliagre
    May 23, 2019 at 13:20
  • This is not a translation of the English-linked text on Wikipedia. The English text does not contain this sentence as far as I can determine. Where is the English, please?
    – Lambie
    May 23, 2019 at 14:59

1 Answer 1


As @Teleporting Goat said, prevenir means to warn. For example:

I'm warning you: Google Translate sucks. --> Je te préviens Google Traducteur est nul.

Good advice, try to use DeepL instead of Google translate. It's much better!


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