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In this youtube video for French learners, there is this sentence:

On se sent pas forcément les bienvenus.

and the video says that this sentence means "We don't necessarily feel welcome". I'm having trouble understanding the grammar of "les bienvenus". If I strip the sentence down to simplify it, I get:

On se sent les bienvenus.

With the English answer to this French.SE question, my best guess is that with "les bienvenus", "bienvenus" is a noun, and "les" is a definite article. This brings up more questions that I have, though.

  1. If "Les bienvenus" is a noun phrase, I'm not sure what it means, because we don't have this in English. We do have "welcome" as a noun ("When I moved to this city, my best friend threw me a big welcome"), but not in a way that makes sense with a plural definite article "the welcomes" the way it's used here ("We are the welcomes" doesn't make sense, even if "On se sent les bienvenus" makes sense in French).
  • Does "Les bienvenus" mean "people who are welcomed"?
  1. Se sentir + [adjective] is a construction that I have seen before; it matches English nicely. (for example, "We felt shocked", "On se sent choquée".) But I haven't seen "Se sentir + [noun phrase]" before, and I'm not sure what it means. Does "Je me sens bonheur" mean "I feel happiness", and "Je me sens le café" mean "I feel like I am coffee / I feel like consuming some coffee"? Similarly, does "On se sent les bienvenus" mean "We feel like people who are welcomed"?
    • Can you comment on my "se sentir + noun phrase" sentences above? Can you give me some more example sentences of "se sentir + noun phrase"?
  2. Why is it "les bienvenus", since its subject "On" is singular? Shouldn't it be "On se sent le bienvenu"?
  3. I see that in the WR dictionary, "être bienvenu" and "être le bienvenu" both have entries; but there is no entry for "se sentir bienvenu" nor "se sentir le bienvenu". Does the entry for "être le bienvenu" imply that you can use it for "se sentir le bienvenu", too? In general, can all locutions that start with être be used with "se sentir", too?
  4. What is the difference in meaning between "On se sent bienvenus" and "On se sent les bienvenus"? In general, when is "être bienvenu" used, and when is "être le bienvenu" used?

Note: Below was an old version of my question; I'm keeping it here only for showing an example of what confuses a beginner learner of French, and our thinking process, when we are unsure with parsing confusing sentences.


There are many guesses I have about "les bienvenus":
  1. Maybe "les" is some kind of direct object pronoun (and "bienvenus" is some form of a verb??)
  2. Instead, maybe "bienvenus" is a noun, and "les" is the definite article for the noun?
  3. The translation is "We don't necessarily feel welcome", and "welcome" in the translation is an adjective, So, maybe "bienvenus" is also an adjective? (I first thought that "bienvenu" might be an adjective created by a past participle of the verb "To welcome", as in the English "I welcome you to my home", but there is no "bienvenir" verb entry in WordReference. But despite this, there is a WR entry saying that "bienvenu" is an adjective)

But none of these guesses make sense to me.

  • With 1), it seems like a direct object pronoun "les" would only make sense if there exists a verb "To Welcome" in French, but there is no wordreference entry for "Bienvenir" or something like that.
  • With 2), there is a wordreference entry for "bienvenu" as a noun. Supposing "les bienvenus" is a noun. That means "Se sentir [noun phrase]" is a valid construction?? I only have heard of "se sentir [adjective]", as in "Je me sent choqué(e)".
  • With 3), there is a wordreference entry for "bievenue" as an adjective. But if it's an adjective, what is the "les" there for? And why is the adjective "bienvenus" plural -- the subject "On" is singular!

In my WR search, I noted some other entries which might be relevant, but I still have uncertainties about them:

  • There is also a wordreference entry for "être bievenu", and an entry for "être le bienvenu". Both these entries mean "be welcome (intransitive verb + adj)". Is this what is happening with "On se sent les bienvenus"?

    But if so, my uncertainties are:
    • a) does an entry of "être bienvenu" imply also an entry for "se sentir bienvenu",
    • b) what is the difference between "être bienvenu" and "être le bienvenu", and
    • c) when I see an entry like "être le bienvenu", how do I know that both "le" and "bienvenu" might change form to agree in number and gender... and with what are each agreeing?! (eg, even if somehow know that "le" and "bienvenu" in the entry "être le bienvenu" must agree with something, I don't know what each of the words "le" and "bienvenu" in "le bienvenu" are grammatically, so I don't know what they are agreeing with; that is, I run into the same difficulties as the original question "On se sent les bienvenus"!!))

My question is: What is "les bienvenus", and in the last four bullet points of my analysis, do my questions make sense, or is there some misunderstanding about French grammar that I make in those bullet points?

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  • Do you not have the basic skill necessary in French to check a dictionary? It seems to me that your answers, or at least most of them are in this definition: cnrtl.fr/definition/bienvenu. You can always ask a question about something that is not clear in a dictionary definition.
    – LPH
    Nov 12 '20 at 18:52
  • Here are links that make likely the closure of your question, they should provide you with spme information: french.stackexchange.com/q/34199/17649 french.stackexchange.com/q/7643/17649
    – LPH
    Nov 12 '20 at 19:29
  • @LPH no, i don't have the French language skills to make good use of a French dictionary written in French. having a 70-80% understanding and feeling a little overwhelmed is ok when watching a TV show in French, but when trying to understand something like word usage or grammar, having a 70% understanding of what's written isn't good enough. gladly, the second of your links has an answer in English, which i'll gladly read
    – silph
    Nov 12 '20 at 22:57
  • Something in your anwser breaks my application (in the formatting).
    – user25634
    Nov 13 '20 at 10:05
  • @Fólkvangr indeed, i hate Markdown because sometimes it just doesn't do what i think i'm telling it to do. the bullet point in 1) is supposed to be indented, like the bullet point in 2) is, but .. it isn't, and i don't know why. honestly Markdown shouldn't have the power to break your application, but it seems that it is also buggy in this way?
    – silph
    Nov 13 '20 at 12:30
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  1. Bienvenus is an adjective1 here (despite being described as substantive by some sources). In this specific construction, les introduces a subset of a group, the ones who are welcome vs the ones who are not, the" welcome ones" vs "the unwelcome ones". Note that there are not a lot of adjectives that can be used both ways like bienvenu. Here are a few that can: on est perdants / on est les perdants, on est premiers / on est les premiers, on est nouveaux / on est les nouveaux, on est seuls / on est les seuls.

  2. We feel like being the welcome ones. Here the pattern is se sentir + subject attribute.

  3. The verb must grammatically agree with the subject so is singular but the adjective must logically agree with the subject. Here on represent more than one person thus the plural. The same happen in English with the pronoun "you" that requires a plural verb "are2" but can have a singular or plural subject attribute depending of who is behind that "you", e.g.: "you are the man" vs "you are the men". A football chant became famous after the 1998 World cup final: On est les champions, on est les champions... (We are the champions)

  4. Se sentir bienvenu is absolute (I feel welcome) while se sentir le bienvenu is being part of a class (I feel being part of the ones being welcome). Many sentences that use être + adj. can use se sentir too, with of course a difference in meaning. Je suis prêt / je me sens prêt (I'm ready/I feel ready), je suis capable / je me sens capable, je suis seul / je me sens seul. Some are less or not idiomatic je me sens sûr, je me sens content.

  5. There is no significant difference. On se sent bienvenus can be heard but seems to me less "French" than on se sent les bienvenus. It is possibly an anglicism.

1 Like adjectives and unlike substantives, bienvenu agrees in gender and number with the subject.
2 The singular thou art being obsolete.

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  • your explanation in 1) about "les" introducing a subset of the group is very illuminating. it helps me understand the explanation in 4), too; and i appreciate the list of other adjectives that can "seem" like nouns using a similar construction as "on est + [les] + bienvenus"
    – silph
    Nov 13 '20 at 12:26
  • the only thing that i'm still unclear about is the "se sentir + [noun phrase]" meaning. can you give me some other example sentences (with translation) of this construction, and comment on what the sentences "je me sens le café", "je me sens le bonheur" mean (or if they're nonsense, why are they nonsense) ?
    – silph
    Nov 13 '20 at 12:28
  • is the construction of "les bienvenus" based on the same construction used with "pour les petits" (a category of TV show that i can limit my results to, when looking for a TV show to watch on the Radio-Canada website), or "les misérables" (the title of a book and the musical adapted from the book) ? is there a name for this grammatical construction, that we don't have in English? can i say "on est les petits [que tu aimes]" or "on est les misérables [qui tu désteste]" ?
    – silph
    Nov 13 '20 at 12:38
  • 1
    Je me sens le café or je me sens le bonheur do not work. Café and bonheur aren't adjectives, can't be subject attributes. What would work is: Je me sens de boire un café and je me sens heureux.
    – jlliagre
    Nov 13 '20 at 13:32
  • Yes, I guess most examples can be translated just by appending "ones", e.g.: Pour les petits - "For the small ones", Les misérables - "The miserable ones".
    – jlliagre
    Nov 13 '20 at 13:35

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