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On a very recent question on French.SE, the question starts out with:

On m’a fait remarquer, [...], que

I thought this meant "People made me notice, [..], that,.." or "I was made to notice, [..], that..". But DeepL instead said that it meant "It was pointed out to me, [..], that".

I then checked WordReference Dictionary, and indeed, there is an entry for the expression "faire remarquer [qch] à [qqn]", meaning "point [something] out to [somebody]". (This makes me uneasy, because it makes it much more difficult to know if causative faire is being used, or if instead an expression is being used!)

I'm curious, though, could expressions like this ever be understood as causative faire, instead of their normal expression meaning? That is, could "On m'a fait remarquer que" ever be understood to mean "People made me notice that"? Or does the existence of "faire remarquer [qch] à [qqn]" make that impossible?


Edit: I admit that "[Someone] made me notice that ..." and "[Someone] pointed out to me that .." are close in meaning, but for me, the former is much broader, and that someone pointing something out to me is a specific way that I'm made to notice something.

For example, the following sentences show how I can be made to notice something, without someone pointing anything out to me:

  1. I used to think that listening to emotions was useless, and that giving solutions and good advice was how to be a good friend. But my all my therapist did was listen to my emotions. Her helping me in this way made me notice that whenever coworkers listened to me without trying to change anything, I found my own solutions.

  2. Normally I don't pay attention to the other people on the subway. But yesterday on my commute home, the subway broke down for an hour. This made me notice the other people riding with me for the first time in a long time; they were just as stressed as I felt.

  3. Like, omigod, I keep trying to say hello to the cute guy in math class and flirt with him, but I don't think he even knows I exist! How can I make him notice me??!!


Edit: This webpage is a French grammar website (written in English) that explains the grammatical concept of "Causative Faire construction".

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  • People speaking french usually don't know what causatif is (including me, I had to look it up in the dictionnary)...
    – XouDo
    Feb 1 at 15:41
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    2/ Maybe it's because I'm French, but I don't really see much difference between "People made me notice ... that" and "It was pointed out (by people) to me ... that".
    – XouDo
    Feb 1 at 15:57
  • faire remarquer quelque chose à quelqu'un is to point something out to someone. But there is more than one way to translate it. It depends on context. "Make someone notice" is a possibility also. Bear in mind the causative verbs (make, get, etc.) are an English category, not a French one. None of this can be tied up in neat little boxes.
    – Lambie
    Feb 1 at 16:42
  • @Lambie: 1) the "cauastive faire" construction is something I see all the time, but still have trouble understanding. The French grammar websites (written in English, for the learners of French language) make it sound like "causative faire" is indeed a French grammar concept? 2) could you give me some example sentences where "make someone notice" is indeed a likely interpretation? That might help me.
    – silph
    Feb 1 at 20:33
  • French uses faire in many, many ways: faire remarquer, faire voir, faire faire, se faire, se faire faire, faire visiter, etc. etc. It's impossible to cover all of it. remarquer is to remark or notice or point out. faire plus many action verbs is common. "Je voulais me faire remarquer par le jeune homme près du piano. I wanted to make the young man near the piano notice me. See? :) Notice the difference in structure here.
    – Lambie
    Feb 1 at 20:39

1 Answer 1

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On m'a fait remarquer que... is almost a fixed expression so it is always understood to mean "It was pointed out to me".

With other verbs, we can see many meanings this form might have in French:

On m'a fait sortir de la voiture : I was taken out of the car (On m'a sorti de la voiture) / They made me get out of the car (Ils m'ont fait sortir de la voiture).
On m'a fait sortir la voiture : They made me take the car out.
On m'a fait sortir les bagages de la voiture : [I was made to|They made me] take the luggage out of the car.
On m'a fait sortir de mes gonds : They upset me.

J'ai fait chanter mon voisin : "I made my neighbor sing" or "I blackmailed my neighbor".
J'ai fait chanter une chanson : I had a song sung.

As XouDo rightly commented, the fact they both translates to the same form in French makes us not to perceive that much a difference between "People made me notice ... that" and "It was pointed out (by people) to me ... that".

Her helping me in this way made me notice that whenever coworkers listened to me without trying to change anything, I found my own solutions. → Qu'elle m'aide de cette façon m'a fait me rendre compte (or m'a fait remarquer) qu'à chaque fois que mes collègues m'écoutaient sans essayer de changer quoi que ce soit, je trouvais mes propres solutions.

This made me notice the other people riding with me for the first time in a long time; they were just as stressed as I felt. → Ça m'a fait remarquer les (or me rendre compte de la condition des) autres voyageurs pour la première fois depuis un bon moment; ils étaient aussi stressés que moi.

How can I make him notice me??!! → Comment faire pour qu'il me remarque ??!! (Comment lui faire remarquer ma présence/mon intérêt/ma personne ?/ Comment faire pour qu'il se rende compte de mon intérêt pour lui ?)

See also:
How to properly utilize the causative “have” in French?
Why is there a second 'faire' in 'Je voudrais vous faire faire une radiographie.'?

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  • i understand the four examples you gave here; the (long) website i linked to shows the many subtle variations that the "causative faire" form can be in. i am still confused about your paragraph about French people not perceiving that much difference between "people made me notice that" and "people pointed out to me that". in the three example sentences in the first Edit of my post, could "faire remarquer" be used, even though none of those three example sentences mean "to point something out"?
    – silph
    Feb 2 at 1:57
  • this is almost off topic, but it might really help me: could you list some common "faire + verb" expressions? i'm curious if all "faire + verb" expressions have a very similar meaning to a "causative faire" meaning, or if some "faire + verb" expressions actually have a very different meaning to a "causative faire" meaning?
    – silph
    Feb 2 at 1:59
  • "Made me notice" translates to m'a fait me rendre compte que but yes, faire remarquer could also be used in these sentences. About a non causative faire (at least I guess so), there is the expression faire chanter that means "to blackmail".
    – jlliagre
    Feb 2 at 2:06
  • so, i could use m'a fait me rendre compte que in the three example sentences in my edit? and, are you saying that most "faire + verb" expressions do indeed overlap with "causative faire"?
    – silph
    Feb 2 at 2:09
  • Sorry, I edited my comment while you were writing. Both rendre compte en faire remarquer could be used.
    – jlliagre
    Feb 2 at 2:10

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