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How would you translate a phrase such as "Out of all the hills to die on, you really chose this one?" where this phrase would be spoken in a kind of incredulous manner?

The current translation of « De toutes les collines où mourir...» by DeepL seems way too literal to be correct. « Les collines où mourir » also doesn't feel like the correct translation for the english idiom. Could anybody confirm this or give a better translation?

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  • For the "hill" part of the question, see french.stackexchange.com/questions/52625/… Oct 2, 2023 at 7:33
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    The correct translation will also probably depend on why it's a hill to die on - because the subject is slippery/dangerous/controversial, or just because that person is reacting irrationally to something (with possibly very low stakes)? I'm not sure a single generic French phrase can cover all potential meanings and keep the possible implied irony. Oct 2, 2023 at 7:53
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    "A hill to die on" is really hard to translate in French but "De toutes les <Noun>" is the best way to translate "Out of all the <Noun>". Oct 2, 2023 at 8:36

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To me de toutes ... is usually the best possible translation for "out of all...". But I certainly would not translate the rest of the sentence the same way. Sur lesquelles on peut mourir for "to die on" could do but it doesn't convey the same image in French and you'd have to rephrase it entirely. Some might object it is far too long, but it is usual to need more words in English than in French to express similar ideas*.

For the "kind of incredulous manner" you want to convey I would use il a fallu que...

Parmi toutes les possibilités qui s'offraient à toi il a fallu que tu choisisses celle-ci ! (other possibility: c'est celle-ci qu'il a fallu que tu choisisses!)


* See for instance answers to this question, or these posts on line: 1, 2

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    One could also translate "Out of all" by "Entre toutes" instead of "De toutes" or "Parmi toutes". Oct 3, 2023 at 8:43
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De tous tes combats, il a fallu que tu choisisses celui-là?

or (even more informally)

De tous tes combats, tu as choisi celui-là?

Choisir ses combats means literally choose your battles and is a semi-colloquial way to say that you have to choose the important things to focus on in an argument.

This is the closest equivalent of "hills to die on" I can think of.

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In a vacuum, I would say something like

De toutes les grandes causes, tu as vraiment choisi de mourir pour celle-là ? (ironic)

De tous les chevaux de bataille possibles, tu as vraiment choisi celui-là ?

But since there is no proverbial "hill" in French, you can't stay very allusive and metaphorical and say "out of all the hills..." You have to be more specific about the problem at hand. Grandes causes and chevaux de bataille above are the most generic I could find but will be replaced by something else according to the context.

If you're a hospital worker who blames their unionized colleague for lobbying in favor of a coffee machine rather than better patient care for instance, you probably don't want to be too ironic about the "other hills" and will pick de tous nos problèmes or de toutes nos revendications.

In contrast, if you're simply angry at someone's petty fads and comparing them to other more important subjects isn't the point, you can just skip de tous and say very colloquially and sardonically:

C'est vraiment ça, la grande cause que tu as choisi de défendre à la mort ?

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  • or else, ironically, "T'as pas trouvé pire comme choix ?"
    – Graffito
    Oct 3, 2023 at 21:08

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