Larousse states that one of the definitions of the verbe barrer is

Traverser une surface, être disposé en travers : L'écharpe de maire lui barrait la poitrine.

My question is regarding the example

L'écharpe de maire lui barrait la poitrine.

I don’t know how to articulate my question correctly as my level is still beginner but I will try my best. I’m trying to understand why « lui » is present. What is the pronoun « lui » replacing? As in if the pronoun « lui » wasn’t written, then what would be written instead?

If the Mayor’s name is Camille, then I’m guessing what would be written is

L'écharpe de maire barrait la poitrine à Camille.

Is this correct?

2 Answers 2


Yes lui refers to the mayor.

Your sentence is understandable but would likely be stigmatized because it looks like you translate "Camille's chest" by "la poitrine à Camille" while "la poitrine de Camille" is expected.

You can then say:

L'écharpe de maire barrait la poitrine de Camille.

or just reword the original sentence that way:

L'écharpe de maire barrait sa poitrine.

See also:

Limits on the Use of the Indirect Object Pronoun to Indicate Possession

Possessive adjective before a body part

French possessive adjectives vs reflexive pronouns (when to use and how)

  • Thank you so much @jlliagre for your help. 😊
    – SFR
    Commented Nov 21, 2020 at 20:02

Usually, lui replace a "complément d'objet indirect" so yes it is replacing maire. It could be also formulated as L'écharpe de maire barrait sa poitrine without going through 'lui', but that would be vague without any other explanation about the person whom the écharpe is barring the chest.

  • I agree that the "SA poitrine" version would be vague but to the extent that "écharpe de maire" can be a general way of referring to the tricolor sash that any/all French mayors wear on occasion, couldn't the original "lui" version also be vague, with "lui" referring to whomever is wearing the sash, whether they're a/the mayor or not? The vagueness I see with BOTH versions might disappear if it had been "écharpe DU maire" & not "écharpe DE maire" but maybe I'm wrong about "écharpe de maire" possibly being a 3-word way to specify what kind of sash it is and not necessarily who is wearing it.
    – Papa Poule
    Commented Nov 21, 2020 at 18:21

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