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On this webpage, there is a written description of Episode Four of a TV show called "Au coeur de la DPJ" :

Un père impliqué dans un conflit de séparation apprend que son garçon de 3 ans a fait l’objet d’un signalement pour abus physique.

DeepL translates this to:

A father involved in a separation dispute learns that his 3-year-old boy has been reported for physical abuse.

DeepL's translation makes sense; it describes exactly what happens in this episode. But, I don't know how I could have arrived to DeepL's translation's myself.

The part I have trouble with is:

  • son garçon de 3 ans a fait l’objet d’un signalement

I would (word-for-word) translate this to: "His 3-year-old boy made the object of a report", because I would expect it to follow the same pattern as the following:

  • "Ce garçon a fait un dessin au crayon"
    "This boy made a crayon drawing"

To arrive at DeepL's translation, I would have instead written the original to use the passive form of the verb:

  • "Son garçon de 3 ans a été fait l’objet d’un signalement".
    "His 3-year-old boy was made the object of a report".

Can you help me understand why my translation of the original sentence (ie "son garçon a fait l'objet" becoming "the boy made the object") is wrong, why the original sentence didn't use a passive construction (ie, it didn't say "a été fait"), and how I can understand how to get DeepL's translation from the original?

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  • Could you Post the complete sentence? The Question here seems to be a fragment only… Commented Mar 20, 2022 at 19:02

3 Answers 3

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This is one of those cases where your answer is in a WordReference dictionary entry — it turns out that faire l'objet de ____ is a fixed expression meaning "be the subject of ____".

I found this by typing faire l'objet in the search box and waiting for the suggestion to come up — this was on a hunch because I was puzzled by the sentence in the same way you were.

But it's true that this one is pretty maddeningly disguised because of how polyvalent faire is. In my opinion, your temptation to solve the puzzle in terms of the words around faire is very understandable. I tried to do this instinctively as well by interpreting it similarly to faire _____ meaning "work as a _____", and when that didn't turn anything up is when I decided to see if it was a fixed expression using WR.

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  • It's true that objet can be subject but I wouldn't use it here due to the overall context. In fact, it is translated depending on what comes after it. It is not systematically translated as a set expression. For example: l'incident a fait l'objet d'une enquête is: the incident was investigated. English has verbs where French does not. Ergo, they need faire objet or faire l'objet de where we would not. There is no need to say in English: The incident was the subject of an investigation for: the incident was investigated.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 20, 2022 at 2:19
  • @Lambie It's true that the DeepL translation (and "was the subject of" in general) gives the wrong impression as to the nature of the report! You'd have to find a clearer wording. He was the person concerned, or something like that.
    – Luke Sawczak
    Commented Mar 20, 2022 at 16:58
  • My main point though is that faire l'objet de x in French is required because there is no verb to cover the meaning. faire X a fait l'objet d'une enquête is: an investigation of x was conducted, or x was investigated, for example.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 20, 2022 at 17:16
  • @Lambie Je lis ton commentaire, remarque qu'on peut mener une enquête ou enquêter sur un meurtre en français, Ce verbe existe. Commented Mar 20, 2022 at 18:09
  • @LétaleD'incivilisation Oui, mais faire objet d'une enquéte n'est pas mener une enquête. Moi, je veux dire que pour: X was investigated, on dirait : x a fait l'objet d'une enquête et pas: x a été investigué. Dans ce sens-là il n'y a pas de verbe. Le français nominalise lá oú l'anglais utilise un verbe, pour ainsi dire.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 20, 2022 at 18:22
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  • faire l'objet de quelque chose; for example:

faire l'objet d'un rapport, d'une enquête, d'une interrogation, d'une étude etc.

This phrase is very common in French legal, administrative and business lingo.

The translation into English does not need the word object for these phrases.

They become, in translation: A report was made or filed, an inquiry was made or launched], an interrogation was made or occurred etc; a study was made or done. Sometimes, a passive is required.

This: A father involved in a separation dispute learns that his 3-year-old boy has been reported for physical abuse. The translation from from DeepL is wrong. It sounds like the son was responsible for the abuse. A proper translation is: A father involved in a separation dispute learned a report on abuse was filed regarding his 3-year-old son.

This: son garçon de 3 ans a fait l’objet d’un signalement becomes in English: [A father learned that] a report was made or files regarding abuse of his 3-year-old son or A report was made regarding abuse of his 3-year-old son etc.

Generally, the word objet is not used in the translation of "faire l'objet de" unless it is something like: L'objet de l'étude était x, which would be: The purpose of the study was etc.

faire l'objet de: can be "is the subject of" in, for example, a memorandum.

Note de service
Objet: service militaire

Memorandum
Subject: military service

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  • I guess you mean fait l'objet d'un interrogatoire.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Mar 21, 2022 at 1:40
  • @jlliagre No, I didn't. I mean interrogation. Not the police term for questioning (interrogation in English) someone. faire objet de can be followed one or the other and I was just giving some examples.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 21, 2022 at 14:54
  • If you mean interrogation in French, your translation is misleading. You wrote faire l'objet d'un rapport, d'une enquête, d'une interrogation, d'une étude [...] become in translation: *A report was made or filed, an inquiry was made or launched], an interrogation was made or occurred etc; a study was made or done.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Mar 21, 2022 at 15:28
  • @jlliagre une interrogation par la police. faire l'objet d'une interrogation par la police. Aussi: faire objet d'une interrogation, to be questioned or be given an oral test or exam. interrogatoire is a formal procedure conducted an investigating magistrate. So, mine was fine as it was. I did not mean interrogatoire. But it also can follow faire objet de. I repeat: I was just giving examples.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 21, 2022 at 16:42
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    Non, une interrogation, ce n'est pas un interrogatoire. ce sont de faux amis ici. Faire l'objet d'une interrogation par la police est improbable (donc pas du tout very common in French legal) et si cette phrase est employée, elle signifie que la police s'interroge, se pose des question, pas qu'elle en pose à quelqu'un.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Mar 21, 2022 at 16:55
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The English translation "has been reported for physical abuse" is incorrect. That means the boy was the perpetrator of the physical abuse, not the victim. To convey the correct meaning you have to say something like "was the subject of a report that he was physically abused" The French may also be ambiguous in that respect because it seems to fail to indicate "abuse by whom to whom"

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  • Yes, I pointed all this out in my answer.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 20, 2022 at 17:14
  • By whom: The perpetrator(s) might not be known when the signalement is filed. To whom: It is quite obvious the 3-years-old boy is the victim.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Mar 20, 2022 at 23:00
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    Commented Mar 21, 2022 at 20:19

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