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I don't know how to convey 'the first few' as in the following sentences:

  1. Write the first few terms of the following series.
  2. We will quickly go through the first few slides.
  3. The first fews days wil be difficult.
  4. The first few sentences of your abstract should state the subject of the study.

Google Translate, Deepl, Linguee and Reverso ignore few and convey only first by premiers/premières but I am wondering if native speakers have an idiomatic way to convey few as well.

2 Answers 2

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Les premiers …” is an adequate translation of “the first few …”. We (meaning French speakers from France) wouldn't use “les premiers …” if it can mean a large number of items. The word-by-word translation “?les quelques premiers” is possible if you want to insist that you mean a small number of items, but it's uncommon (contrast frequencies: the first few / few ≈ 1% in English, but les quelques premi(ers|ères) / quelques ≈ 0.003% in French).

To reinforce the “first few” aspect, we might use other words within the semantic field of beginnings, for example:

  • Commencez à écrire les premiers termes de la série.
  • Nous allons passer rapidement sur le début de la présentation.
  • Les tous premiers jours seront difficiles.” (Note that this stronger than “the first few”, more like “the very first few”.) (Note that conservative writers write “les tout premiers”, which is somewhat logical because tout is an adverb and thus should be invariable — but the feminine form would be “les toutes premières heures”.)
  • Le résumé doit commencer par quelques phrases résumant le champ d'étude.
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  • What a thorough answer! Thank you very much.
    – Dimitris
    Commented Feb 18, 2023 at 9:18
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You can use the word quelques:

  • “Écrivez les quelques premiers termes …”
  • “On va rapidement parcourir les quelques premières …”

et cetera.

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  • 5
    les quelques premiers ou les quelques premières ne me semble pas très idiomatique.
    – XouDo
    Commented Feb 17, 2023 at 15:50
  • Je trouve plus idiomatiques les tours que Gilles a expliqués mais ce n'est pas inusité pour moi et j'ai trouvé que le président de la République a employé ça spontanément à l'oral. Commented Feb 18, 2023 at 16:46

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