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One thing I've always found funny in French is the lack of antonyms for some common adjectives; for example, words such as cher and profond seem to not have any exact antonyms in current use (though the answers to this question seem to give some approximations in the first case) and speakers resort to constructions like pas cher and peu profond for "cheap" and "shallow".

In English, one can easily form sentences like "The shirt I bought last week wasn't cheap, but it also wasn't expensive", or "This pool is a little shallow for diving off a springboard". What is the best way of phrasing these meanings in French, given that I've never seen pas pas cher etc. being used?

Relatedly, I'm aware that something similar happens in English: sometimes, humorously or just colloquially we say something like "Well, he's not not-handsome", either when the antonym doesn't exist or when we don't wanna say it. Do French speakers also do this?

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I don't think there's a generic answer. It depends on the adjective, the intensity, the level of formality, etc. There are many adverbs and adverbial constructions that can express a middling level.

For example, to translate "The shirt I bought last week wasn't cheap, but it also wasn't expensive":

La chemise que j'ai achetée la semaine dernière n'était pas bon marché, mais elle n'était pas chère non plus.   (literal translation, ok but a little overdone)
La chemise que j'ai achetée la semaine dernière n'était ni chère ni bon marché.   (ok, neutral formality, but not completely idiomatic)
La chemise que j'ai achetée la semaine dernière n'était ni chère ni pas chère.   (nice and short)
La chemise que j'ai achetée la semaine dernière était entre deux prix.   ("entre deux [noun]" is a fairly common way to express a middling level, but for some reason I don't think it sounds right with prix)
La chemise que j'ai achetée la semaine dernière était entre deux.   (only if the context makes it clear that it's about prices)
La chemise que j'ai achetée la semaine dernière avait un prix intermédiaire.   (formal)
La chemise que j'ai achetée la semaine dernière était moyennement chère.   (informal)
La chemise que j'ai achetée la semaine dernière n'était pas donnée, mais pas très chère non plus.   (informal; "pas donné" (only in the negative) means expensive, but to a somewhat lesser level than "cher")

"This pool is a little shallow for diving off a springboard" expresses an excessive degree, which opens a different set of possibilities, the most natural one being to say "not enough A" rather than "too not-A":

Ce bassin n'est pas tout à fait assez profond pour sauter du plongeoir.
Ce bassin n'est pas vraiment assez profond pour sauter du plongeoir.

Doubling the negation is not impossible, but pretty uncommon. I can't think of a natural example.

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  • thank you for all the options! In particular I had never seen pas donné, seems useful as a "soft" version of cher that already appears in the negative. – Culm and Internode Feb 7 at 22:16
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Bon marché is a common antonym for cher:

le menu enfant à 9.50 € n'est pas cher mais pas bon marché non plus. (tripadvisor)

Depending on what it applies to, superficiel can be a good antonym for profond.

Anyway, using "not not-sth" is also sometimes done in French:

Il n'est pas pas cher et faut réserver à l'avance. routard.com

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  • Interesting that the pas pas construction does seem to appear, although it seems kinda rare from a quick search; thanks for the example. – Culm and Internode Feb 7 at 22:24
  • Yes, it's very rare but does happen. – jlliagre Feb 8 at 1:31
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The best opposite for "cher" is "bon marché".

(TLFi) 2. Adj. inv. Peu coûteux.
♦ Son déjeuner variait de deux à quatre sous selon que les oeufs étaient chers ou bon marché (Hugo, Misér.,t. 1, 1862, p. 811).
♦ Le vin meilleur marché qu'ailleurs (Barrès, Cahiers,t. 11, 1917, p. 280).
♦ Les draps étaient lourds, de ces draps humides des hôtels bon marché (Aragon, Beaux quart.,1936, p. 377).

As to "profond" there is no such simple solution as for "cher". If we limit ourselves to the literal meaning, the following expressions are useful.

sans profondeur, de profondeur négligeable, pas profond du tout

  • C'était un étang de profondeur négligeable dans lequel barbotaient beaucoup de canards.

For the figurative sens, it is différent. Here are the best two from the suggested list.

  • superficiel, léger

The "pas pas beau" option, as a literal translation, is not one used in French, as far as I know. An equivalent would be as in the following instance.

Non pas qu'on ne l'aurait pas trouvé beau, mais il était d'une beauté étrange.

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