I suppose this question is somewhat idle, so please don't respond from any other motive than interest, but I wonder whether native French speakers would analyse the sentence as I have done. Please consider this sentence:

Pendant un moment, la place pua le diesel et puis ça s’estompa

Both my bilingual dictionary (Collins Robert) and my monolingual dictionary (Le Robert Dixel) have puer as both transitive and intransitive. Le Robert Dixel cites Puer le sueur, and Collins Robert cites Ça pue l'argent as examples of transitive usage. Regarding the sentence on which I've focussed I think it's fairly clear that both dictionaries would class pua as transitive and le diesel as a direct object.

To me this seems misguided. The subject is inanimate, la place, so surely pua must be intransitive and le diesel must be an adverbial.

Do people agree?


Puer is intransitive. There is never an object that is pué by the subject (the past participle doesn't even exist).

Le diesel is nevertheless a complement that specify what odor it is about. It somewhat looks like a complément attributif.

  • Thanks for responding. I too prefer to consider puer as intransitive, but I note that wordreference.com is another dictionary that considers that it can also be transitive. I find the differences of opinion curious. On your second point, I like to think of complements as necessary components of a predicate, and adverbials as (grammatically) optional.
    – justerman
    Apr 9 at 8:34
  • I don't think there's a problem with the past participle itself. It can be used in active voice compound tenses. Apr 12 at 8:17
  • @StéphaneGimenez That's right. My point was about the fact we don't read or hear le diesel est pué par la place.
    – jlliagre
    Apr 12 at 8:39

X pue Y means that X smells Y.
Whether X is inanimate or not makes no difference. X is the object/person/whatever that smells and Y is the smell.

  • Thanks for responding. I agree with your final sentence but it doesn't really address the issue of transitivity and the grammatical role of le diesel within the sentence.
    – justerman
    Apr 9 at 8:25

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