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I have a pair of question and answer:

Pourquoi est-ce que tu veux voyager ?

Je veux voyager pour visiter de nouveaux pays.

I want to replace voyager in the answer by a pronoun, and I thought that

Je le veux pour visiter de nouveaux pays

would work, but my teacher said that it was wrong.

When I asked him which pronoun I should use instead, I was told that there's no suitable pronouns to replace the infinitive in this case, and that I should reuse the infinitive (voyager) in my answer.

However, there can certainly be cases where repeating the infinitive would be awkward, such as when it's long. In those cases, what pronouns (or perhaps other structures) can I use to replace the infinitive? Thank you.

  • Just wondering, what's the English translation? My guess: "Why do you want to travel?" With infinitive: "I want to travel to visit new countries." Pronomial: "I want it to visit new countries." (This is also not idiomatic in English, btw.) Dimitris's answer: "To visit new countries." Luke's answer: "I want to do it ..." – wjandrea Aug 6 at 15:05
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« Je le veux » is actually okay to my ears, though not idiomatic according to the native speakers who have weighed in. Arguably this le wouldn't replace the infinitive but whatever substantive is implied by the infinitive (e.g. « un voyage »).


A more common solution is to replace the verb by another. The general one is (le) faire :

Pourquoi veux-tu voyager ?

Je veux le faire parce que je veux visiter de nouveaux pays.

It might seem like « le faire » hardly saves time and effort over repeating « voyager », but two points may be made: that this isn't essential for pronouns, as long as they help you avoid repetition; and that the mileage will vary depending on the length of the original phrase, since it can replace everything branched under the verb:

Si, elle t'a dit qu'elle ne consentira plus de te voir autant qu'elle vivra, mais elle l'a fait dans le seul but de te rendre jaloux.
You could also say l'a dit here, repeating the verb but not the rest.

Also see Gilles' comment about possibly using a different verb depending on the situation. For example, if you want to voyager to a specific place, you might replace that verb phrase by y aller instead of le faire. This makes sense to me. I wonder if there might be a few atomic verbs that "catch" different categories, like faire, aller, être, avoir (these last two certainly can't be replaced by le faire).


Finally, Dimitris' suggestion is certainly applicable to everyday conversations if you just meant that you were looking for a practical way to avoid repeating a verb.

  • Nice answer Luke! +1 – Dimitris Aug 6 at 2:33
  • Thanks you. Would you say le faire is used often in spoken French? In English, saying I like it to avoid saying, for example, I like to ride my bike would be very common I think. – seismatica Aug 6 at 9:58
  • Actually, while “je veux le faire” is less unidiomatic than “je le veux”, it's not really idiomatic either. I'm not sure why. I think “le faire” is for a specific action rather than for a general habit, but it's not just that. It sounds a bit strange even in “Pourquoi veux-tu aller en Thailande cet été ? — Je veux y aller parce que …” (not “le faire”). It is indeed strange, because your example where “le faire” stands for “dire …” is perfectly idiomatic. Cc @seismatica – Gilles Aug 6 at 11:37
  • In this case, "Je veux le faire" sounds a lot more natural than "je le veux", IMHO. – jcaron Aug 6 at 12:26
  • @seismatica Thanks you is wrong. It should have been either thanks or thank you. – Dimitris Aug 6 at 13:01
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Je le veux is not technically wrong but is not idiomatic in this context.

It is somewhat too formal and too strong, and only used in occasions where it implies a strong commitment, often religious, especially a wedding (Yes, I will / Yes, I want to), or a "divorce"?

Both suggestion in Luke's and Dimitris' answers (Pour visiter de nouveaux pays and je veux le faire pour...) are idiomatic so better than je le veux pour....

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Sorry if I didn't get your query. What is wrong with the following reply?

Pourquoi est-ce que tu veux voyager ?

(Juste) pour visiter de nouveaux pays.

You avoid repeating voyager.

There is indeed the so-called pronom neutre le. This is used to replace among other things infinitive verbs. (See for instance: http://uoh.concordia.ca/pronoms/co/m/co/Le_pronom_neutre_le_-_B1.html)

Avez-vous prévu de sortir ? Oui, je l'ai prévu.

Voudriez-vous voyager ? Oui, je le voudrais.

In any case your reply doesn't sound peculiar to me (albeit not a native speaker). Your usage of le (as a neutral pronoun) does not contradict any grammar rules I am familiar with but may be is not so idiomatic (to be verified by native speakers).

E.g., in the same spirit one can say (see here http://www.aidenet.eu/grammaire12.htm)

Il pleut, je le savais.

See also Luke's excellent answer (much more experienced and properly educated than me:-)!).

  • Merci, though I think this is one where a native speaker might correct me on the "je le veux" option.. we'll see! Meanwhile, +1. – Luke Sawczak Aug 6 at 2:54
  • @LukeSawczak Thanks also! By the way since you are a writer and translator (among other interesting things:-)!) I would like to hear your opinion in my recent Monty Python related questions if you have time of course. – Dimitris Aug 6 at 2:58
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    I confirm that starting the reply with “pour” is the most idiomatic way. (Or “juste pour” or “simplement pour” — “juste” is maybe a bit of an anglicism there, but it's a widely accepted one.) – Gilles Aug 6 at 11:40
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This is found in the literature, but there aren't too many cases;

  • ... faisaient ricaner ou me dégoûtaient parce que je les trouvais hypocrites, ennuyeuses, enfin vous voyez ce que je veux dire.
    — Je vois, oui. Et maintenant, vous voulez faire partie de ces gens biens, c'est ça ?
    — Je le veux. Je le veux pour mon fils.(Le miroir noir, Anna Galore - 2010)

  • Je renonce à tout ce qui n'est pas vous ; je veux pratiquer la pauvreté comme vous me le demandez par ma Sainte Règle; je le veux, parce que je vous l'ai promis par un engagement sacré; je le veux pour ne pas provoquer vos châtiments ...(Le rédemptoriste imitant Jésus-Christ par la pratique des douze ..., Arthur-J. Mouton - 1909)

However, your teacher seems to be right, in current French you'd repeat the verb or say rather something like this;

Pourquoi est-ce que tu veux voyager ?
C'est ce que je veux parce que j'ai envie de/je veux visiter de nouveaux pays.

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