We were having a conversation about asteroids, and I said:

Je ne suis peut-être pas expert en astronomie, mais... Qu’est-ce qu’un petit humain de rien du tout peut contre quelque chose d’aussi imposant, si ça reprend la route direction Terre ?

The phrase "reprendre la route" sprang to mind first, considering that the asteroid had already been orbiting somewhere else before bumping into another asteroid and ending up on a collision course with Earth.

But I'm not sure if "prendre la route" sounds completely out of place here:

Je ne suis peut-être pas expert en astronomie, mais... Qu’est-ce qu’un petit humain de rien du tout peut contre quelque chose d’aussi imposant, si ça prend la route direction Terre ?

Does it sound like a new asteroid has just been born and has set its first course towards Earth?

  • As an aside: An (apparently) native French speaker has mentioned that I should have said "peut faire" here rather than "peut". But I found "peut" more idiomatic. I used "peut" with a similar construction in mind: "personne n'y peut rien", for instance. I wonder which phrasing is more suitable? Aug 28, 2019 at 12:29
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    And they were right.
    – None
    Aug 28, 2019 at 12:50
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    @Con-gras-tue-les-chiens: Boileau wrote to Racine, “Que peut contre tes vers une ignorance vaine ?”, and this usage is still valid these days. It’s less frequent than “peut faire”, though. Aug 29, 2019 at 18:55
  • si ça revient vers la Terre...
    – Lambie
    Aug 30, 2019 at 15:11

5 Answers 5


Can you say “prendre la route” here instead of “reprendre la route”?

Grammatically, you can remove a piece of information by using prendre instead of reprendre, but scientifically, I would have avoided to use reprendre in the first place.

Asteroids, like planets, stars, galaxies, black holes and the likes do not change their direction on their own.

Prendre la route, reprendre la route, prendre la direction or, to a lesser extent, changer de cap would mean there is a pilot on board to make that decision.

All of these bodies cannot defy the fundamentals of gravitation. They just follow its laws.

A collision between two objects in space is expected to trigger a change in their respective trajectories, especially the lighter of them. In that case prendre la route would make sense as there is some kind of "driving decision" during the collision.

I would nevertheless suggest:

Que peut faire un misérable terrien contre quelque chose d'aussi phénoménal si sa trajectoire vient à croiser celle de la Terre ?

  • “Titanesque” isn’t a gradable adjective, so you can’t say “aussi titanesque”. Aug 29, 2019 at 19:00
  • @Philippe-AndréLorin Je n'aurais pas écrit très titanesque ou peu titanesque, mais aussi titanesque me semble acceptable et assez courant, comme quelque chose d'aussi gigantesque, d'aussi colossal, d'aussi herculéen, d'aussi monstrueux, d'aussi dantesque, d'aussi gargantuesque, etc.
    – jlliagre
    Aug 30, 2019 at 8:42
  • @jlliagre In the same vein as Philippe's remark, but with a certain dose of humour, I'd say using "titanesque" when speaking about asteroids is not welcome, due to the moon Titan. Unless the asteroid in question is orbiting around Saturn :-) Aug 31, 2019 at 4:15

I think route in French is less used in the sense of course than it is in English. That's the main problem with your sentence. I'd use cap and say :

  • Je ne suis peut-être pas expert en astronomie, mais... Qu’est-ce qu’un petit humain de rien du tout peut contre quelque chose d’aussi imposant, s'il change de cap et fonce sur la Terre ?
  • I see. Two points: 1) Though it's indeed mainly about a person's journey, Googling turns up many search results for "(re)prendre la route direction X". 2) I notice that you too have opted for "peut" rather than "peut faire". But some natives seem to find this phrasing unnatural. Aug 28, 2019 at 18:23
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    I prefer "peut" to "peut faire" in this context, namely man being pitted against forces that surpass him."
    – user21018
    Aug 28, 2019 at 18:51
  • Got it. Interesting how even natives' opinions are split on this one. I like your phrasing "fonce sur la Terre". Aug 28, 2019 at 19:11
  • Les astéroïdes ne foncent pas sur la Terre, à moins de parler métaphoriquement. Ils reviennent (dans leur orbite) vers la Terre ...
    – Lambie
    Aug 30, 2019 at 15:23
  • @Lambie Foncer : aller très vite, se déplacer rapidement. Je ne vois pas où se trouverait la métaphore.
    – user21018
    Aug 30, 2019 at 15:34

"Prendre la route" seems better here. "Reprendre la route" suppose it stopped, then started moving again.

However, none of those expressions are great fit here, it is used usually to describe someone's state, like being on a road trip. I would not use it for other things than people.

I would say "s'il prend la direction de la Terre" in your case.

  • Oui pour « pendre la direction », mais « il » à la place de « ça » serait mieux.
    – None
    Aug 28, 2019 at 12:25
  • En effet je corrige ! Aug 28, 2019 at 12:25
  • Yeah, I usually use the phrasing "(re)prendre la route direction X" to talk about a person's journey. I thought I could use it here figuratively, but it doesn't work, after all? Aug 28, 2019 at 12:35
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    @Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Definitely not la route, le chemin would be a possibility but reprendre la direction de is really the first thing that comes to mind
    – None
    Aug 28, 2019 at 12:47
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    @Lambie je suis d'accord et c'est d'ailleurs ce que j'explique. Ils ne reviennent pas vers la Terre en revanche, du moins on ne peut pas déterminer s'ils proviennent à l'origine de la Terre. Aug 30, 2019 at 15:24

For me prend sound better.

reprend la route direction Terre imply to me it was in the past in a route to earth, felt on another route and now return to the route to the Earth. A bit like if I told it retake the road to Earth.

To use reprend I would had told;

reprend sa route mais direction terre.

The use of trajectoire or cap like @jlliagre and @petitrien told sound more good and specific, but I wanted to add the detail of reprendre use.


Je ne suis peut-être pas un expert en astronomie, mais, que peut faire un humain insignifiant face à un astéroïde aussi imposant si celui-ci poursuit sa trajectoire en direction de la Terre ?


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