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I wrote in a paragraph this:

Après la plage une de nos coutumes préférées était de manger de la crème glacée, qu'on croyait la meilleure au monde!

I got it wrong! and lost marks.

Teachers comments: "I looked over the que part, and found why I thought it was a bit awkward: Your sentence was a bit vague as to what you were referring to (the ice cream or the custom). My correction, using ce que, is still a bit vague too (unclear which is the best in the world). So I rewrote the sentence, but I would still use ce que (an indefinite relative pronoun) instead of que, and to put être before meilleure. Ce que is used to talk about something not yet mentioned in the sentence, and can be used to mean what, that or which. This is why you lost a mark for que.

Teacher correction:

Après la plage, une de nos coutumes préférées était de manger ce qu'on croyait être la meilleure crème glacée au monde!

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    The original sentence is perfectly fine. It is IMHO more colloquial for a conversational style. The teacher correction is more formal, but equally correct :-) In my mind, there wasn't any problem or ambiguity with the first sentence when I first read it, only that it's less formal than the teacher's correction.
    – Frank
    Mar 4 at 20:10
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    The only issue I see with your sentence is a missing comma after plage and an extra comma after glacée: Après la plage, une de nos coutumes préférées était de manger de la crème glacée qu'on croyait la meilleure au monde! In addition, coutume is correct but perhaps not the word native French would first choose. I'd probably say habitudes, or even un de nos rituels était [...].
    – jlliagre
    Mar 4 at 22:25
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    Removing the extra comma makes crystal clear that what is best in the world is the ice cream although there was little doubt before.
    – jlliagre
    Mar 4 at 22:30
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    @Frank Oui, j'aurais du pondérer les virgules. Seule l'absence de la première est vraiment problématique, la deuxième peut sous-entendre : Après la plage, une de nos coutumes préférées était de manger de la crème glacée, crème glacée qu'on croyait la meilleure au monde !
    – jlliagre
    Mar 5 at 8:12
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    In addition to coutume that I was not the only one to remark, native French speakers from France are probably more likely to say des glaces instead of de la crème glacée. I don't think I ever spontaneously said crème glacée in my life. It's une glace, un sorbet, un cornet deux boules, etc.
    – jlliagre
    Mar 5 at 10:32

2 Answers 2

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Après la plage, une de nos coutumes préférées était de manger de la crème glacée, qu'on croyait la meilleure au monde !

This sentence is perfectly fine. It would fit perfectly well in a 20th-century autobiography or novel written like an autobiography.

The only thing I might change is to replace “de la crème glacée” by “de la glace”, although this might be due to regional differences or to changes over time. (It seems that in books, “crème glacée” competed with “glace” in the mid-20th century, then almost disappeared, and is now making a comeback. I don't know how reliable this data is though.)

Both commas are necessary, for different reasons. The comma after “après la plage” avoids a hard-to-parse run-on sentence. Many types of complements before the subject practically require a comma between them and the subject. The comma before “qu'on croyait …” is necessary for the parsing to have the desired meaning:

Nous mangions de la crème glacée, qu'on croyait la meilleure au monde.

We ate ice cream. On a related note, [implied: because we were children who didn't know anything else] we thought this was the best ice cream in the world.

Nous mangions de la crème glacée qu'on croyait la meilleure au monde.

We ate ice cream, specifically because we had reason to believe it was the best in the world. This doesn't quite give the right feeling. It's not really wrong, but it doesn't fit the tone so well.

I disagree with your teacher's feedback.

Your sentence was a bit vague as to what you were referring to (the ice cream or the custom).

Grammatically, it's ambiguous. But the meaning is clear. I think any attempt to make the grammar unambiguous would ruin the flow for no good reason.

Après la plage, une de nos coutumes préférées était de manger ce qu'on croyait être la meilleure crème glacée au monde !

This sentence is ok, but it jumbles the idea of eating ice cream with the idea that it was the best in the world. This feels more like an attempt to describe the world precisely and less like a recollection of one's youth. The grammar is fine, the meaning is fine but the tone is off.

Also, speaking of punctuation, in France (but not in all French-speaking countries), French typesetting requires a thin unbreakable space before double punctuation (:;!?) (also inside quotes « comme ça »).

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  • For the general public glace is a generic term that covers different types of products. Manufacturers do make the difference since legislation requires precise ingredients for crème glacée.
    – None
    Mar 29 at 17:59
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I have a problem with the use of the verbe "croire" in your sentence.

Croire is something more deep, like ideas. For food we can use other verbs to emphasize the taste or opinion. Like "Trouver" or "Penser".

In usual real french, not a lot of people would say or even write this sentence like this. We would rather write something like this : Après la plage, une de nos coutumes préférées était de manger de la crème glacée. On trouvait/pensait qu'elle était la meilleure du monde !

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    Croire peut parfaitement s'employer dans le sens de « penser ».
    – Toto
    Mar 29 at 11:00

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