Lezioni Francese

Argomenti

Avoir Beau

At the end of the second installment of Le Jour où tout a basculé - J'ai volé pour nourrir mon fils, Sarah uses an interesting construction to express remorse about something she did at work: 

 

Et j'avais beau me dire que je l'avais fait pour Nino,  j'avais vraiment honte.

And even though I told myself that I'd done it for Nino, I was really ashamed.

Captions 54-55, Le Jour où tout a basculé - J'ai volé pour nourrir mon fils - Part 2

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Beau means "beautiful" or "handsome," but the expression "avoir beau + infinitive" doesn't have anything to do with beauty. It can mean a variety of things depending on context, but it generally describes a failed effort or something done in vain. Sometimes it's just a synonym of bien que, malgré, or quoique ("even though" or "although"), as in the example above: 

 

T'as beau le travailler, ça ne vient pas.

Even though you work at it, it doesn't come.

Caption 67, Alsace 20 - Laurent Chandemerle, l'homme aux 100 voix

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Ça a beau être une pizzeria, nos prix sont assez élevés pour le commun des mortels.

Although it's a pizzeria, our prices are pretty high for the everyday mortal.

Caption 5, F&F Pizza - Chez F&F - Part 1

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Or it can correspond to the English expressions "no matter what" or "no matter how hard": 

 

Elle a beau faire, son copain la critique toujours. 
No matter what she does, her boyfriend always criticizes her. 

 

J'ai beau trimer, sans toi ma vie n'est qu'un décor qui brille, vide de sens.

No matter how hard I slave away, without you my life is just decor that shines, empty of meaning.

Caption 19, Indila - Dernière danse

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When used with the verb essayer (to try), it means "try as one might":

 

Et j'ai eu beau essayer de le convaincre d'arrêter ses enfantillages, rien à faire.

And try as I might to convince him to stop his childish games, it was useless.

Captions 6-8, Le Jour où tout a basculé - Mes grands-parents sont infidèles - Part 4

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And when used with être (to be), the expression is often translated as "may be" or "may well be": 

 

Yseult a beau être jeune, elle sait bien où elle veut aller.

Yseult may be young, [but] she knows exactly where she wants to go

Caption 5, Watt’s In - Yseult : La Vague Interview Exclu

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Tu as beau être désolé, tu m'as blessé profondément. 
You may well be sorry, but you hurt me deeply.

 

Note that, while the English requires a "but" in both of these sentences, there's no need for a mais in the French. So you wouldn't say: Yseult a beau être jeune, mais elle sait bien où elle veut aller. 

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Expressions

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