I have 2 questions from the French text below:

"C’est un chouette garçon. Il faudrait qu’elle le présente à sa petite-fille Caroline, qui reste célibataire en permanence.

Background: Earlier in the story it is clearly stated that the woman is just a few years older than the "chouette garçon" but then says she wants to introduce him to her "petite-fille" which I thought meant granddaughter. That would seem like an odd introduction to be made given the ages.

The other question I have is: qui reste célibataire en permanence... It would seem to indicate that she is permanently single. or does it just mean that she is 'still' single. Why would they use "en permanence"... I would have said it, "qui reste encore célibataire".

  • 1
    Welcome to FSE. From where comes this passage?
    – Dimitris
    Commented May 31, 2020 at 23:00
  • You don't really say your question about "petite-fille"... I guess you think the respective ages of the characters makes it hard to believe this woman has a daughter that is old enough to date a man - so do you suspect you have a wrong understanding of the word "petite-fille" ?
    – Greg
    Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 6:28
  • Notice that you wouldn't really say "qui reste encore célibataire" in French. Depending on what you want to express, "qui demeure célibataire" would work, though.
    – Matt
    Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 8:58

2 Answers 2


Reading the source (French Short Stories for Beginners, Vol.2), I don't see any evidence that the woman (Jacqueline) is just a few years older than the chouette garçon.

The poissonnier is described as un petit jeune that had to takeover his father's business so is likely in his early 20s.

On the opposite, I would say she is at least in her 60s given the sentence:

Jadis, ses parents venaient faire leurs courses au même endroit, et certains commerçants sont restés les mêmes.

Jadis is a literary word meaning a long time ago, similar to the English "yore". This sentence somewhat implies Jacqueline parents belong to a bygone past, i.e. are dead.

Another hint is Jacqueline husband's first name, Marcel. Its popularity peaked around one hundred years ago and almost disappeared after the 50s / 60s, think Homer in the English speaking world.

...mais il est un peu jeune pour elle.

is an understatement and a joke. You shouldn't take it seriously.

Célibataire en permanence is not a common expression (to say the least, it can even be called a hapax as it seems to appear nowhere outside this short story) but insists on the fact Caroline's granddaughter (her petite-fille) is never having an affair. Using both rester et en permanence do not go well together here although for example the sentence la porte reste ouverte en permanence is common and means "the door stays constantly open". You might then translate this sentence as :

She should introduce him to her granddaughter Caroline who "stays constantly single".

  • Later in the same paragraph it says: Mais il est un peu jeune pour elle (Jacqueline), et en plus elle a déjà son Marcel à la maison qui l’attend et la chérit depuis des années." implying that she would consider it but he's a little young for her and besides she has Marcel...). Thus my understanding that he wasn't all that much younger than she, hence my wondering why she would be recommending him to her "petite-fille"... because "petite-fille" is hyphenated I assumed it was her granddaughter.
    – user24604
    Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 19:38
  • I believe the "Jadis, ses parents..." sentence was just re-establishing that the market was indeed an old and long-standing one that even her parents used to go to.
    – user24604
    Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 19:43
  • Thank you all so much for your comments and help.
    – user24604
    Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 19:45
  • 2
    Il est un peu jeune pour elle is an understatement. She doesn't consider anything seriously. Jadis, ses parents... somewhat implies her parents are dead. Marcel popularity as a first name peaked one hundred years ago and almost disappeared after the 50s / 60s, think Homer in the English speaking world. Who she calls her petite-fille is definitely her granddaughter.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 20:42

jlliagre covered the part about the age difference.

I understand that you find the fact that she said "a bit too old for him" disturbing. But don't forget that French love understatements.

It often sound odd to american speakers, but "Pas mal" generally means very good, "un petit peu trop" means "really too much". Sometime, we add lowering adjectives to reinforce the idea : "Un tout petit peu trop" is more than "Un peu trop".

I hope this clarify this for you.

Reste célibataire en permanence could have two meanings.

  • This could mean that she is single, always, all the time. Either she is not interested in any relationship or nobody want to date her.
  • She could always come back single. She might start relationship, but either they are one night stands or she break up very fast. She may not be interested in serious relationship.

My interpretation would lean to the second one. She remains single all the time because she is not in an established relationship. Her grandmother might not like this behavior, hence the stressing of "en permanence", which could let imagine that she is tired of seeing her being single again.

  • 1
    I'm not very convinced by the second interpretation. For example le restaurant reste ouvert en permanence is unlikely to mean the restaurant is episodically closed.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 13:03
  • 1
    That's true, but a restaurant is generally supposed to have time where it is closed. Normally you would say "Le restaurant reste ouvert jusqu'à 22h". "En permanence" is then needed to express the absence of closing time. Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 14:39
  • Adding en permanence is, imho, reinforcing the fact she is single, albeit an unidiomatic way.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 16:13
  • It's totally possible. Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 16:16
  • 1
    Ah... I like your two interpretations of the en permanence, Kevin. that sounds reasonable to me.
    – user24604
    Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 20:55

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.