Sunday, June 22, 2014

Usage of depuis to mean "from"

I suspect that when I first learned the French word depuis, the textbook, quite reasonably, listed only the word's first two, more common English meanings of "since" and "for", both of which relate to the passage of time. Someone learning basic vocabulary is less likely to be able to take in all possible meanings, so should be exposed to those that are most likely to be encountered. Podcasts, or similar sources of regular native usage of a language, can help fill out gaps in one's knowledge.

The parenthesized definitions below are from my Larousse French-English dictionary app, followed by my own comments:

  • Since (depuis le 10 mars; since March 10th)
  • For (depuis 10 ans; for 10 years)  Duration. I have long understood this meaning, but at a certain level I never thought specifically about an English translation for it. Internalizing the language this way would, however, be problematic if you aspire to be a translator.
  • From ([dans l'espace, un ordre, une hiérarchie] (il lui a fait signe depuis sa fenêtre; he waved to him from his window))  English phrases where "from the vantage point of" or "originating from" sound natural are ones where depuis likely works well in French.  I heard such usage in episode 151 of News in Slow French (depuis Gaza), where it no longer surprised me, since, according to my memory, in some other podcast episode I had previously heard this usage. In that case, it was concerning a space exploration vehicle sending images from the vantage point of some other planet (depuis Saturne? I no longer remember.).

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