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Is there an equivalent to the expression "je me permets de ..." in English?

I think this expression has two usages:

  • to convey an assertive tone:
    Je me permets de vous rappeler que la date limite est le 19 novembre.

  • to simply ask something politely:
    Je me permets de vous demander si vous pourriez m'aider sur la rédaction de ce contrat.


I would also like to ask if whether a one-to-one translation is possible:

  • I allow myself to ask a question.
  • I would like to allow myself to ask a question.
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    "May I ..." is idiomatic, polite and can be said assertively. May 11 at 6:07
  • @WeatherVane Is it used a lot, or? Is it more in Great Britain or in the US?
    – starckman
    May 11 at 6:29
  • English does have the phrase take the liberty, which is close to being a straightforward translation, but its patterns of usage are not quite the same.
    – jsw29
    May 11 at 17:06
  • In English, we do say: Allow me to say X, which in French is: Permettez-moi de vous dire. There is no one to one here at all. Tuffy's got it right.
    – Lambie
    May 11 at 18:40
  • Je me permets de vous rappeler que la date limite est le 19 novembre. -> If I may/could/might (in order of assertiveness) remind you that … -- Je me permets de vous demander si vous pourriez m'aider sur la rédaction de ce contrat. I hope you don’t mind my asking …
    – Greybeard
    May 11 at 19:17

3 Answers 3

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Je me permets de vous rappeler que la date limite est le 19 novembre.

This carries the assertive strength of

If I may/could/might (in order of assertiveness) remind you that …

(I assume the difference in French will be the tone of voice.)

These are classic understatements: the greater the understatement, the greater its force.

The "may" is assertive but mild - the implication is that permission is sought, whereas the real implication is that permission is irrelevant.

The "could" is assertive - It implies that the reminding is something that, possibly, may not be necessary, whereas the real implication is that the speaker is sure that the listener has forgotten or ignored the criteria and that the reminding is essential.

Might is very assertive - the implication is that the speaker is unsure that he has the rank or right to point out a fault, whereas the real implication is that the speaker is furious, he knows he is superior to the listener, and that the listener is an idiot.

Je me permets de vous demander si vous pourriez m'aider sur la rédaction de ce contrat.

I hope you don’t mind my asking … This is polite and deferential.

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  • I would like to accept this answer, if the following points are addressed in the answer: Is the "if" mandatory? What about the 1-to-1 translation with "let" and/or "allow"?
    – starckman
    May 12 at 6:07
  • @starckman Of course the if is necessary. That "if" is what makes it a meaning that is culturally equivalent. That's the whole point of it.
    – Lambie
    May 12 at 17:39
  • @starckman The direct translation "I permit/allow myself ..." simply does not work. It is not idiomatic in this context.
    – Greybeard
    May 12 at 20:51
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The French represents a kind of understatement. It sounds polite, but is really there to convey the speaker's sense of superiority. The nearest English equivalent is

I take the liberty of...

The speaker's words are meant to suggest a humility/deference which the speaker does not feel. And this façon de parler is meant in both languages to humiliate the addressee.

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  • This is often the case, yes. Except in context: I'm going to take the liberty of saying x
    – Lambie
    May 11 at 18:37
  • @Lambie Yes, you are right. This kind of locution is a way of apologising in advance for the offence I am about to give.
    – Tuffy
    May 11 at 18:42
  • That's exactly right. I prefer phrase to locution, but never mind, we agree. You know this kind of pragmatic meaning in French (the English, as in Brits, have other ones) always reminds me of Bon appétit. Can you see why? :)
    – Lambie
    May 11 at 18:43
  • @Lambie Yes, calling a phrase a 'locution' in the way I did, has the effect of holding it delicately between the thumb and forefinger as if it were something distasteful.
    – Tuffy
    May 11 at 18:46
  • Ha ha ha. Yes, quizzically examining the worm.
    – Lambie
    May 11 at 18:49
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If we take a typical use of this expression, it appears that there are three main renderings.

  • I would like to
  • May I
  • Let me

Je me permet de (vous faire remarquer que …)
[I would like to]/[May I]/[Let me] point out (to you) that …

This can be checked on DeepL.

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    "Allow me (to)" is similar to "Let me" and also seems to reflect the original meaning nicely.
    – garnerstan
    May 11 at 17:31
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    Checked on DeepL? These automated translation programs are a curse, really. And the the entire pragmatic meaning is entirely missed.
    – Lambie
    May 11 at 18:42
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    @Lambie I think you exaggerate; those programs are already marvels of precision despite the fact that now and again something goes through the mesh of their scrutinizing systems.
    – LPH
    May 11 at 22:29
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    If that is so, why is every single thing it proposes wrong? And why is it that you can't see that it is wrong? Maybe you are "ignoring it" [French meaning of ignore].
    – Lambie
    May 11 at 22:54
  • @Lambie Now, that is not exaggerating from your part any more, it is plain lying, but I can't see why you do that. No, it is not as you say, I can see that very often the translations obtained from DeepL are quite good; there is no reason why I should pretend that they are good. If you are hoping to make me revise my judgement, as on so many other things, expecting me to say that white is black, and thereby get some kind of obscure satisfaction, one more time you are going to be disappointed.
    – LPH
    May 11 at 23:32

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