For example-- Sadly I can't go to sleep for another six hours. It's really that sentence in particular that I'm trying to think how to translate.

Malheureusement je ne peux pas me coucher jusqu'à six heures.

That was my first guess, but I'm not sure if that comes across right. I'm not sure how to differentiate "for six more hours" from "until 6:00."

  • I'm really in doubt about your question. I wonder when can't means must not. Mustn't implies a prohibition, can't indicates either an inability (not being able to do something) or the fact of not being allowed. The only other meaning I know of is when you rule out a hypothesis (Mary can't have won the race, she is so slow at running!)
    – Paola
    Commented Sep 1, 2013 at 10:42
  • @Paola I think this is meant in the shouldn't sense. This is certainly how I understood it. A bit of a "familiar register", maybe.
    – Kareen
    Commented Sep 1, 2013 at 13:10
  • I removed the "can't" part of the question. The question is clearer and more straightforward and this is really the main thing I didn't understand. Commented Sep 1, 2013 at 18:48

2 Answers 2


Tu pourrais dire:

Malheureusement je ne peux pas me coucher avant six heures.

Mais c'est un peu ambigu comme tu le soulignes, et sans autre contexte on pensera plutôt qu'il faut que tu attendes six heures du soir (ou du matin) pour pouvoir te coucher.

Si tu ajoutes encore, on comprendra bien qu'il s'agit d'une durée:

Malheureusement je ne peux pas aller me coucher avant encore six heures.
I can't go to bed for another six hours.

Mais tourner la phrase autrement me semble un peu plus naturel:

Malheureusement, je dois rester debout pendant encore six heures.
I need to stay up for another six hours.

Ces deux tournures sous-entendent que tu attends déjà depuis un moment.

  • One can notice than in spoken French, the "pendant" is very often omitted. So, you would often here sentences such as "Ho là là, je dois encore rester debout 6 heures."
    – oli
    Commented Sep 2, 2013 at 0:57
  • Using debout in this context, it is understood that the speaker means awake and not literally standing? Commented Sep 2, 2013 at 10:26
  • 1
    @Aerovistae: yes, that's very common. Would be the default interpretation unless context indicates otherwise (e.g. you're talking about wanting to sit down but can't because your job requires you to be standing at all times, or some medical condition requires it.) You could also say "rester éveillé", or use the verb "veiller", with slightly different connotations. Circeus's answers are (IMO) better in terms of language (esp. written). Mine are rather more "common"/spoken french.
    – Mat
    Commented Sep 2, 2013 at 10:54

In French the simplest way to express this actually uses one of the "alternate" negatives:

Malheureusement, je ne peux me coucher que dans six heures.

though personally, I'm put in in the future:

Malheureusement, je ne pourrai me coucher que dans six heures.

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