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How can I decide whether to choose exprimer or s'exprimer when writing sentences like « Elle veut que tu élèves ta voix pour que tu puisses mieux exprimer/t'exprimer ton argument » or « J'ai écrit un livre qui exprime/s'exprime la souffrance des Harkis »?

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  • to express something and express oneself parallels the French. [que tu élève la voix]
    – Lambie
    Sep 26, 2021 at 17:02
  • @Lambie parallel, and not parallels et "tu élèves"
    – LPH
    Sep 27, 2021 at 9:38
  • @LPH Yes, élèves with an s. Thanks. In English two things like that can be viewed as one thing so the verb would take the s.
    – Lambie
    Sep 27, 2021 at 12:30
  • @Lambie I am very doubful that this construction could be a case of single subject or of coordinative apposition; I see in it a plain case of coordination with two subjects. Each of "to express something" and "to express oneself " parallel "XXX" (I don't understand what you mean by this parallel, but that is another problem). Do they both have to be implied for a parallel to result?
    – LPH
    Sep 27, 2021 at 12:45
  • @LPH Spelling it out: s'exprimer is to express oneself as exprimer is to express. The uses in French parallel the uses in English.
    – Lambie
    Sep 27, 2021 at 12:49

1 Answer 1

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  • S'exprimer means to express oneself, for example by speaking.

  • Exprimer means to express (something), to show.

In both of your examples, something is expressed so only exprimer makes sense. I guess you can't say in English I want you to express yourself your point or if you can, the meaning is not the expected one. Same with French.

Elle veut que tu élèves ta voix pour que tu puisses mieux exprimer ton argument.

J'ai écrit un livre qui exprime la souffrance des Harkis.

The reflexive form s'exprimer can be used that way:

Elle veut qu'on te donne la parole pour que tu puisses t'exprimer.

That said, exprimer son argument is rare and exprimer la souffrance is literary.

I'd probably rather use exposer in the first sentence and décrire, montrer or témoigner de in the second one.

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