I'm trying to translate the lyric: "I don't have anything to smile about."


Je n'en ai rien pour sourire


Je n'ai rien pour en sourire

sound okay to you? Or would a different translation be better?

  • Do you mean this like an answer to "Why are you smiling?" or a more permanent sad feeling? Aug 13, 2019 at 12:36

7 Answers 7


Some context would be helpful. Deepl is of handy here:

Je n'ai aucune raison de sourire.

Je n'ai pas de quoi sourire. (already mentioned by @petitrien)

There is also the song Je n'ai pas le Cœur à Sourire of Daniel Guichard

Je n'ai pas le cœur à sourire

(already mentioned by @MercrediAndThenJedi)

Besides, in this link


one reads the original lyrics of the song Nightmare by Halsey along the French translation. So

No, I ain't got nothin' to smile about.

Non, je n'ai pas de quoi sourire.

Here is the Pre-chorus

"Come on, little lady, give us a smile" - "Allez, petite fille, fais-nous un sourire"

No, I ain't got nothin' to smile about - Non, je n'ai pas de quoi sourire

I got no one to smile for, I waited a while for -Je n'ai personne à qui sourire, j'ai attendu un certain temps pour

A moment to say I don't owe you a goddamn thing - Un moment pour dire que je ne te dois rien


In this case, I'd rather say:

  1. Je n'ai pas le coeur à (sou)rire
  2. Je n'ai pas le coeur à en (sou)rire
  • That seems wrong to me: "Je n'ai pas le coeur à sourire" implies a rather temporary situation, while "I don't have anything to smile about" is more permanent.
    – Blackhole
    Aug 13, 2019 at 10:00
  • 2
    @Blackhole : "I've lost [ beloved one ], I don't have anything to smile about." is = to "Je viens de perdre [ être cher ], je n'ai pas le coeur à sourire", and this doesn't imply any time-frame. Only lasting as long as your sorrow will last. Be it in English or French, to me, the meaning is the same.
    – user21442
    Aug 13, 2019 at 10:15
  • 2
    "Pas le coeur a" makes it about you. "I don't have anything" makes it about the situation. It changes the meaning, IMO.
    – Jeffrey
    Aug 13, 2019 at 14:10

Neither translation is working. en for some reason doesn't work here as a pronoun for the object of sourire and rien is problematic too. I think you'd have to say :

  • Je n'ai pas de quoi sourire


Maybe just:

Plus rien ne me fait sourire.

  • 1
    That's "Nothing makes me smile any more."
    – LPH
    Aug 13, 2019 at 7:41
  • Grosso modo c'est le sens et le sentiment, hein ? :)
    – livresque
    Aug 13, 2019 at 7:49
  • Dans ce cas, à quoi sert « any more » dans « "I don't have anything to smile about any more. » ? C'est aller trop loin de l'ajouter dans la traduction.
    – LPH
    Aug 13, 2019 at 7:57
  • Attends, any more ou anymore ? Chez Cosette ?
    – livresque
    Aug 13, 2019 at 8:00
  • « anymore » en américain et « any more » en anglais mais le premier est probablement accepté en anglais aussi.
    – LPH
    Aug 13, 2019 at 8:01

The two translations are grammatical French but they do not correspond to the context and the contexts that justify them are so far fetched that those sentences will never occur in the language (ngram).

There are several possibilities of translation; I think there'll be yet others besides those listed below;

  • Il n'y a rien qui me fasse sourire.
  • Il n'y a rien qui me porte à sourire.
  • Je ne trouve pas quoi que ce soit qui me fasse sourire.
  • Je n'y trouve pas quoi que ce soit qui me fasse sourire.
  • Pour moi, il n'y a pas de quoi sourire.
  • Sorry if I don't understand: linguee.fr/francais-anglais/traduction/je+n%27en+ai+rien.html One encounters a lot of ** Je n'en ai rien** not to say "...will never occur in the language".
    – Dimitris
    Aug 13, 2019 at 10:02
  • 1
    I am not a native speaker but I cannot imagine a native one (even coming from Sorbonne:-)!) to prefer Je ne trouve pas quoi que ce soit qui me fasse sourire. than Je n'ai pas de quoi sourire in colloquial speech.
    – Dimitris
    Aug 13, 2019 at 10:06
  • @Dimitris Slight variations in the context might make that preferable but that is not even necessary; all people do not choose the shortest way there is to express what they have to say. 1/ « Je ne trouve pas » insists on the fact that the person does not see anything but that in the end there might be something that they missed (for instance). 2/ There is nothing specially formal in this form, it's quite common; the subjunctive is a commonly found in everyday speech in French, provided one does not restrict their consideration to the least educated portion of the population, of course.
    – LPH
    Aug 13, 2019 at 10:16
  • 1
    Sorry I have been working in an academic environment for several years and I can certainly say that even prof usually prefer the shortest way to express an idea.
    – Dimitris
    Aug 13, 2019 at 10:20
  • 1
    Ngram is not panacea:-)! According to your link books.google.com/ngrams/… there is no an instance encountered of je n'en ai rien; nevertheless linguee.fr/francais-anglais/traduction/je+n%27en+ai+rien.html shows that this is not the case.
    – Dimitris
    Aug 13, 2019 at 10:23

Two idiomatic phrases that may suit your purpose:

Il n'y a (vraiment) pas de quoi sourire.

Il n'y a (vraiment) pas de quoi rire.

This usually applies to a specific situation.

This phrase was used as title of a book, which is a collection of sketches by Raymond Devos.

  • Je ne trouve pas ça [drôle / rigolo / marrant] (du tout).

  • Cela ne me fait pas (vraiment) [rire / rigoler] (du tout).

  • C'est pas [drôle / rigolo / marrant] (du tout)!

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