— Je sais que tu pars souvent avec lui, mais dis-moi franchement, êtes-vous allés chez le même coiffeur ?

— As-tu l’intention de me faire un interrogatoire ? Car si c’est le cas, je vais dire toute la vérité, rien que la vérité... Ha, ha, ha voila. Comme on était à New York, je suis allé me faire couper les cheveux avec une bande de copains. Voila tout.

With my knowledge of the French language, I could actually think of two ways of translating that piece. You see, my dictionary says that the word comme can mean both since and as though at the same time. But that fact leads to two seemingly different translations that are actually contradictory in meaning:

since we were in New York

as though we were in New York

In English, these two sentences have meanings that are quite different. So, my question is how do I go about resolving this issue? Which translation is correct?


2 Answers 2


Comme has several meanings in French, but not the second one of your question which would require si, as already stated by petitrien.

In the expression "Comme on était à New York", it can mean:

De la même façon qu'on était à New York,... ("like, the same way": but it doesn't work in this sentence)


Puisqu'on était à New York,... ("since, because": likely meaning here)


Alors qu'on était à New York,... ("while": rarer literary meaning)

The TLFi states that it is sometimes difficult to guess whether the second or the third meaning was intended:

Rem. 3. Il est quelquefois difficile de faire le départ entre comme causal et comme temporel, comme glissant vers la valeur de morph. de la circonstance gén. (cf. supra III). Au bout d'un moment, comme il se taisait mais qu'il avait l'air bien calme, je lui dis... (G. Duhamel, Tel qu'en lui-même, 1932, p. 158 ds Sandf. t. 2 1965, § 196).


The meanings are indeed quite different but As though we were in New York is the translation of Comme si on était à New York and not Comme on était à New York. There is no ambiguity in French.

  • This is exactly as in English, of course: “as we were in New York, I went to get a haircut” is very different from “as if we were/had been in New York, I went to get a haircut”, but only the presence or absence of if disambiguates. Jun 24, 2019 at 23:35

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