I would like to translate the sentence “I was not intending to be sad.”

I know that I can translate it as « Je n’avais pas l’intention de être triste. »

But can I translate it by saying « Je ne pensais pas être triste. » ?

L’académie française

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lawless french

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2 Answers 2


The original sentence seems odd because being sad or not is rarely something intended, i.e. something planned.

If that's really the expected meaning, a good translation is, as you wrote:

Je n’avais pas l’intention d'être triste.

Penser seems less faithful to "indend": je ne pensais pas être triste is closer to "I didn't expect to be sad".

  • Thank you for your explanation @jlliagre !!! 😊 Similarly, I am well aware that the sentence “I was not intending to eat the cake.” can be translated as « Je n’avais pas l’intention de manger le gâteau ». But can I translate it by saying « Je ne pensais pas manger le gâteau. »?
    – SFR
    Jan 3, 2022 at 1:44
  • @CFrench By the same logic, it would mean "I didn't expect to eat the cake." Which is a little odd since expectations are by definition defeated by something unexpected, and it's hard to see a voluntary act like eating a cake as coming unexpectedly on a person :)
    – Luke Sawczak
    Jan 3, 2022 at 5:27
  • @CFrench What you'd rather say is Je ne pensais pas que j'allais manger le gâteau.
    – jlliagre
    Jan 3, 2022 at 9:18
  • @LukeSawczak a little off topic, but i would have thought that "accidentally" overeating delicious junk food -- as if it was out of your control -- would be a common experience! (eg "i bought an entire chocolate cake yesterday. i didn't expect that i would end up eating it all by myself in one sitting, watching Netflix!")
    – silph
    Jan 6, 2022 at 8:37
  • @silph True enough — at least I think the phenomenon has entered the public consciousness enough to be more than joke material!
    – Luke Sawczak
    Jan 6, 2022 at 12:05

You can't translate “I was not intending to be sad.” as "Je ne pensais pas être triste." ? because "to intend to be something" is justified only if the state is "controllable" by the person who is speaking. So, "intending to be sad" is a rare construction that can have but a very unusual meaning. (Obviously, you can't turn on and off your sadness at will; if you do, it is not real sadness.) Actually, it could be translated as "Je n’avais pas l’intention d'être triste." if you mean that you had in mind to do something that would erase any trace of actual sadness, as for instance cheer up or having a few drinks too many before the event in view (just a convincing example this one, not a recipe!).

The problem with this verbal form, as with most of them, is that several meanings correspond to it. Here, it does not mean "to intend" but "to believe".

  • Je ne pensais pas être triste. ↔ Je ne croyais pas être triste.
  • Wouyld the downvoters be honest enough to mention what they think justifies their mute disapproval?
    – LPH
    Jan 3, 2022 at 13:20

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