Letting, letting go, and dropping things in French

There are a number of verbs related to letting go of things in French, and I am always confused about when to use which one. It gets additionally complicated when talking about dropping things, in which case you have to differentiate between dropping something intentionally and dropping something accidentally. I’m going to try to figure it out in this post.

Advertisements

Screenshot 2015-07-12 16.24.27There are a number of verbs related to letting go of things in French, and I am always confused about when to use which one.  It gets additionally complicated when talking about dropping things, in which case you have to differentiate between dropping something intentionally and dropping something accidentally.  I’m going to try to figure it out in this post.  I’ll start with the verb lâcher.  (All of the photos in this post are subtitled frames from the movie La Haine, “The Hatred,” about young men in the banlieues défavorisées around Paris, for no particular reason other than that I happened to watch it yesterday.)

My Collins electronic dictionary has a number of translations for the verb lâcher. The first one applies when the object is something that is released, but doesn’t necessarily move:

Screenshot 2015-07-12 17.31.55
“Go on, let go of me.”
lâcher: to let go of. The dictionary gives the example Il n’a pas lâché ma main. “He didn’t let go of my hand.”

Next, there is a meaning involving dropping where the focus is on the movement of the object:​

Screenshot 2015-07-12 18.20.32
“But every time that he holds out his [hand] to me, he drops his pants.”
lâcher: to drop. The dictionary gives the example Il a été tellement supris qu’il a lâché son verre. “He was so surprised that he dropped his glass.”

 

Screenshot 2015-07-12 17.09.09
“I can’t let you go in.”
Next, the verb laisser.  It has a number of meanings related to concepts that we would translate with the word leave in English.  Perhaps I find it confusing because one of the meanings is to “let” someone do something, and also, we “let go” in English, with a variety of meanings. Here are some translations and examples from the Collins French-English dictionary:

    • laisser qqch quelque part: to leave something somewhere.  J’ai laissé mon parapluie à la maison.  “I’ve left my umbrella at home.”
    • laisser qqn quelque part:
      • to leave someone somewhere.  J’ai laissé les enfants à la garderie.  “I left the children at the nursery.”
      • to drop someone off somewhere.  Laisse-moi ici, j’en ai pour cinq minutes jusqu’à la gare.  “You can drop me off here, it’ll only take me five minutes to get to the station.”
    • laisser [+ parent survivant]: to leave.  Il laisse une femme et deux enfants.  “He leaves a wife and two children.”
    • laisser (ne pas tout prendre): To leave, in the sense of not taking everything.  Laisse du rôti, tu n’est pas tout seul!  “Leave some meat, you are not the only one here!”
    • laisser qqn faire qqch: to let someone do something.  Laisse-le parler!  “Let him speak!” Il les a laissé torturer sans intervenir.  “He stood back and let them be tortured.”

It gets a bit more complicated when you’re talking about dropping things.  To translate the English verb to drop (something), we have a number of possibilities.  We saw one above, for dropping a glass.  There are a couple of forms that are made in combination with the verb tomber, meaning to fall. 

    • Screenshot 2015-07-12 17.42.22
      “Let it drop. He thinks too much, that stupid bastard.”

      laisser tomber: to drop intentionally.  The WordReference.com website gives the example El lessa tomber le ballon pour courrir dans ses bras, which I believe means “She dropped the ball in order to run into his arms.”

    • faire tomber: to drop accidentally.  WordReference.com gives the example Il a fait tomber ses clés sur le trottoir, which it translates as “he dropped his keys on the pavement.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s