N'importe quoi ("nonsense") translation into English

YulyvrdcapbilvsyyC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

N'importe quoi ("nonsense") translation into English

What clicked for me abruptly when reading this lesson is that there is a relatively good translation that comes to mind: "whatever". Now, my English grammar isn't academic level, but the original meanings of both "n'importe quoi" and "whatever" would appear to to suggest "anything".

Example: "take anything you want" / "take whatever you want"

The similarity is astonishing when you consider the other use of "whatever", namely, "used to express astonishment or perplexity"

Example: "whatever do you mean by that", but also "Whatever!"

I'd be interested in hearing whether this brings clarity on the popular meaning of "n'importe quoi" in French, as it seems to parallel English so closely in its deviation from tradition.

Asked 3 years ago
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor Correct answer

"Whatever" can in some instances (but not all) be translated as n'importe quoi. In other instances it simply means "unimportant and random stuff" (nonsense).

Tu dis n'importe quoi. -- You're talking nonsense.
Prends n'importe quoi. -- Take anything (=whatever you want).

But it cannot mean "whatever" in the sentence below:

Whatever do you mean by that?! -- Qu'est-ce que tu veux dire par là?

In this case "whatever" is an emphatic version of "what". The "ever" is only added for emphasis.

YulyvrdcapbilvsyyC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Your point is well taken, Chris. Thanks for the response.

May I suggest one clarification to my question. The main thrust of my question was regarding finding some logic behind using "n'importe quoi" in the popular sense of "nonsense". So, while I do agree with your explanation, that "whatever" translates multiple ways into French given context, my confusion was more narrowly concerned with understanding how "n'importe quoi" as "nonsense" could be translated into English and why it derived such a seemingly strange popular usage. On this point, would you feel "n'importe quoi" has a similar meaning to "whatever" as used to mean "nonsense"? 

N'importe quoi ("nonsense") translation into English

What clicked for me abruptly when reading this lesson is that there is a relatively good translation that comes to mind: "whatever". Now, my English grammar isn't academic level, but the original meanings of both "n'importe quoi" and "whatever" would appear to to suggest "anything".

Example: "take anything you want" / "take whatever you want"

The similarity is astonishing when you consider the other use of "whatever", namely, "used to express astonishment or perplexity"

Example: "whatever do you mean by that", but also "Whatever!"

I'd be interested in hearing whether this brings clarity on the popular meaning of "n'importe quoi" in French, as it seems to parallel English so closely in its deviation from tradition.

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