En français dans le texte, from Shakespeare's Henry V Act 3 Scene 4:

Katherine — Je m'en fais la répétition de tous les mots que vous m'avez appris dès à présent.

meaning "I will now repeat all the words you have taught me."

Can someone please explain the grammar of "Je m'en fais" in this type of sentence? All I have found is that the idiomatic usage of the phrase indicates worry, but that doesn't fit in the instance.


"Je m'en fais la répétition" here simply means "I repeat them". "En", standing for "the words". The construction of the sentence is akward in French, as is in fact all that Catherine says in French in the play. Nobody would speak like Shakespeare has Catherine speak in the play. I expect it is as much because French has changed since the 16th century and because most probably Shakespeare's French wasn't that good, even for the times' standards.

"Je m'en fais", when not followed by an object, means "I worry". It is a reflexive verb.
Not to be confused with e.g.: "Je m'en fais une montagne" meaning "I do make a big deal out of it".

  • The perfect literal translation would be I do for myself the repeat of them, meaning I repeat them. – SteeveDroz Oct 23 '13 at 7:27
  • I strongly doubt Shakespeare did any French translations himself. The translator could have been bad, though, or like you said, old-fashioned. – Justin Young Oct 25 '13 at 5:03
  • @JustinYoung: Since some scholars still debate about whether the person named William Shakespeare actually wrote the plays attributed to him some can argue that he didn't write Catherine's part himself. Nevertheless, the person referred to as Shakespeare went to grammar school, which at the time meant he did some latin, foreign languages weren't taught at school then but in the 16th century a greater proportion of learned English people could speak and write some French than they do nowadays.[to be continued] – Laure SO - Écoute-nous Oct 25 '13 at 6:46
  • @JustinYoung: [Continued] Whether Shakespeare asked for help to write Catherine part is not really relevant and the use of the words "translator" and "translation" are entirely misleading since the part of Catherine was written in French in the original text as published. In my answer I was of course referring to her words in the whole play, not only to the OP's quote. – Laure SO - Écoute-nous Oct 25 '13 at 6:47
  • Oh, I had no idea he wrote scenes in French. No comment on the authorship question, those who still don't believe will never be persuaded. – Justin Young Oct 25 '13 at 9:24

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