I'm currently translating from French to English and can't decide how to translate a sentence without the repetition of their being weird.

All around the world States are thinking about and are seeking out their "competitive advantages". Where can they make a difference in the big globalisation game? How can they maximize their image and therefore their influence? Should they take advantage of their demography, their inventiveness and their creativity, their economic and financial wealth, the strength of their armies, the influence of their ideas and their ideals, the generosity of their social models, or in a more subjective way, their capacity to arouse the dream, through for example their mythical cities?

Thanks a lot in advance for any help!

  • 5
    Why do you imagine that repeating their is less acceptable in English than repeating son/sa/ses in French? Purely grammatical function words like the or their or with have no synonyms the way lexical words do, so you have to use them when you have to use them, as you won't be able to find some other word that means the same thing.
    – tchrist
    Mar 31, 2018 at 13:51
  • 1
    @tchrist I agree. But in that passage almost all the "theirs" could be omitted and it would make little difference.
    – WS2
    Mar 31, 2018 at 16:35

1 Answer 1


Here's how I would word your paragraph. There is nothing inspired about it, to be sure, but it might be worth considering. I'll likely be criticized for rewriting your translation, but I enjoyed doing it!

All around the world, states seek out their competitive advantages. They ask,

  • Where can we make a difference in the globalization game?

  • How can we maximize our image and therefore our influence?

  • Should we take advantage of our demography, inventiveness, creativity, economic and financial wealth, army strength, the influence of our ideas and ideals, the generosity of our social models? Or,

  • Should we, in a more subjective way, increase our ability to arouse the dream through our mythical cities (for example)?

My version of your information contains 11 instances of the words our and we. Your version contains 15. While my version cuts down on the number of possessive pronouns, its real strength could be, I feel, its bullet points. If using that format goes beyond what is proper in your translation, I'm sure that by simply eliminating most the the theirs you would improve your translation.

  • First of all, thanks a lot for your answer. I am very thankful you took the time to rewrite my translation ! I'm still learning and I have to admit yours is way better than mine. I had not think about using the we pronoun and it is definitely going to improve my text. Apr 1, 2018 at 10:10
  • @SophieRifaut: You're welcome, I'm sure. As I said, I enjoyed doing it for you. Best wishes! Don Apr 1, 2018 at 11:44

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