I'm having trouble understanding the construct of this sentence.

"Pourquoi l'ont-ils construite aussi grande ?"

How is it different in meaning from this?

"Pourquoi ont-ils construit une aussi grande ville ?"

1 Answer 1


Considering in your first sentence, l' refers to a city, it can be rephrased to Pourquoi ont-ils construit cette ville aussi grande ?. l' is a pronoun that replaces the noun city.

The difference in meaning with the second sentence is very tiny.

Depending on the context, there might be a nuance, the second one might be a more general question, sort of Is it useful to build such a big city, in general?, while the first one might be more specific, sort of Is it useful for this city in particular to be so big?. But I bet in most cases, both sentences will be actually equivalent.

Note: the question is not specific to French language, actually. The same one would apply in English between Why did they build it so big? / Why did they build this city so big? and Why did they build such a big city?

  • What was confusing to me was that, is "grande" in the first an adverb?
    – Dasshoes
    Jun 10, 2019 at 7:31
  • Nope, it is an adjective. In French, we call this syntax, adjectif attribut du complément d'objet direct (COD) and when the COD (complement, here ville) is replaced by a pronoun, the adjectif gets separated from its qualified name. Other examples : Je trouve ce site utile => Je le trouve utile.
    – Steph
    Jun 10, 2019 at 9:11

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