In Karen Ann’s song “Jardin d’hiver” there’s a line saying “Je n'en peux plus de t'attendre”.

If I were to say this (I’m not a native speaker) I’d probably use “je ne peux plus t’attendre”.

Are both forms correct? What is the difference in the meaning?

  • 2
    Have you tried looking up je n'en peux plus (or n'en plus pouvoir in a dictionary? What did you find? For example, or this. You are new to FL but not to SE so you know we like OPs to say what research they have done. And you also can look a this question, not a real duplicate but close.
    – None
    Nov 6 '21 at 17:04
  • I actually did read one them before asking, but it didn’t answer my question. I understand that n’en pouvoir plus is an expression, but in this case you can say both versions, with and without the n’en … de, and it’s not clear to me what is the nuance in the meaning. Would you ever use “je ne peux plus t’attendre”?
    – yohbs
    Nov 6 '21 at 17:24
  • @yohbs Did you take the time to understand the meaning of the expression? An expression implies a different definition, these two sentences don't have the same meaning.
    – Simon
    Nov 6 '21 at 17:33
  • After I'd written an answer I noticed an attempt at translating the song was available online, not perfect but it does give you an idea.
    – None
    Nov 6 '21 at 17:58

Je ne peux plus t'attendre is just the verb pouvoir in the negative.

But in Je n'en peux plus de t'attendre you have en which here is an adverbial pronoun that does not replace anything in the sentence, and then de.

The phrase is n'en plus pouvoir, it is always in the negative, and if followed by a verb, that verb is preceded by de. According to the context it will be rendered by different structures in English but all meaning that's one's had enough.

  • Arrête ce bruit, je n'en peux plus. (I can't stand it/take it any more.)
  • Je n'en peux plus de t'attendre. ("I'm fed up with waiting for you" or "I'm tired of waiting for you" according to context1).

1 In the song Jardin d'hiver I'd go for the second option.


1/ Je ne peux plus t'attendre (pouvoir qqc) This is the expression of the simple impossibility of the prolongation of the waiting, whatever the reason, whether a material immpossibility, or unreasonnable circumstances.

2/ Je n'en peux plus de t'attendre

(TLFi) N'en plus pouvoir. Être abattu, à bout de forces. Synon. pop. et fam. être sur les genoux (v. genou), sur les rotules (v. rotule), au bout du rouleau*.
♦ N'en plus pouvoir de fatigue, de chaleur.
♦ Robert se laisse tomber au pied d'un arbre: Ah! de l'eau, mes amis. Je n'en puis plus, un peu d'eau, si cela est possible. (LA MARTELIÈRE, Robert, 1793, V, 1, p.55)
Au fig. Être excédé. Écoute, Edmond, il faut que tu saches... Je n'en peux plus de ces mensonges (ARAGON, Beaux quart., 1936, p.348).

(Wiktionnaire) n’en plus pouvoir intransitif (se conjugue) Ne plus être capable de supporter, de souffrir, une chose.
♦ Ah ! messieurs, ma pauvre tête n’en peut plus ; et vous venez de me la rendre comme une pomme cuite. J'aime mieux encore les coups de bâton que de recommencer. — (Molière, Le Malade imaginaire, 1er intermède, Paris, 1673)
♦ le pays haletant n’en peut plus de ces crises périodiques, qui tourmentent sa constitution et blessent ses droits les plus chers. — (François Buloz, Revue des Deux Mondes, Chronique de la quinzaine - 28 février 1835)

The translation of "n'en plus pouvoir" in the sentence of the query is not to be taken figuratively in the sense of being fed up or tired of something ("être excédé", TLFi), but in the literal sense of feeling fatigue, tiredness, where the fatigue is not physical but mental; the reason is clear, the caracter saying that is someone in love with the person, and there is no sign of animosity, only the definite impression of a real longing for the loved one (ref.). According to this, a likely choice of translation is "to be weary of".

  • I'm weary of waiting for you.

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