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Faire mal à vs faire du mal à = to hurt someone

In French, there are two very close expressions to express the nuance between hurting someone physically and hurting them emotionally.

Look at these sentences:

Il va faire mal à ma meilleure amie.
He's going to hurt my best friend. (physically)

Il va faire du mal à ma meilleure amie.
He's going to hurt my best friend.  (emotionally)

Tu fais mal à ta sœur.
You're hurting your sister

Laura a fait mal à Juliette.
Laura hurt Juliette.

Tu as fait du mal à Paula quand tu as rompu avec elle.
You hurt Paula when you broke up with her.

To express to hurt someone (physically) in French, you use the expression faire mal à + person. (literally to do hurt to)

To express to hurt someone (emotionally), you use the expression faire du mal à + person. (literally to do (some) hurt/damage to)

ATTENTION: 
To use both these expressions with to hurt me/you/him/her/us/you/them, you will use me/te/lui/nous/vous/leur before the whole expression in simple and compound tenses, and between aller and faire (du) mal in Le Futur Proche.

Je vais te faire du mal si je reste.
I'm going to hurt you if I stay. (emotionally)

Je vais te faire mal si je reste.
I'm going to hurt you if I stay.  (physically)

Paul me fait mal.
Paul is hurting me.

Nous vous avons fait mal.
We hurt you

Il va faire mal à ma meilleure amie.
He's going to hurt my best friend. (physically)

Elle me fait du mal quand elle dit ça.
She hurts me when she says that.

 

See also Position of object pronouns with infinitives 

 

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Elle me fait du mal quand elle dit ça.
She hurts me when she says that.


Vous allez lui faire mal.
You're going to hurt him.


Je vais te faire du mal si je reste.
I'm going to hurt you if I stay. (emotionally)


Tu as fait du mal à Paula quand tu as rompu avec elle.
You hurt Paula when you broke up with her.


Il va lui faire du mal, je le sens.
He's going to hurt her, I can feel it.


Il va faire du mal à ma meilleure amie.
He's going to hurt my best friend.  (emotionally)


Nous vous avons fait mal.
We hurt you


Laura a fait mal à Juliette.
Laura hurt Juliette.


Il va faire mal à ma meilleure amie.
He's going to hurt my best friend. (physically)


Paul me fait mal.
Paul is hurting me.


Tu fais mal à ta sœur.
You're hurting your sister


Je vais te faire mal si je reste.
I'm going to hurt you if I stay.  (physically)


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Q&A

stephen

Kwiziq community member

4 November 2017

1 reply

Blesser

When do you "blesser" instead of "faire du mal"

Chris

Kwiziq community member

4 November 2017

4/11/17

Blesser can be used to connote physical as well as emotional hurt whereas "faire du mal" only works for emtional slights. You have the option, it's your choice. As I understand it, "blesser" stands for more serious injuries, in general.

-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Terri

Kwiziq community member

1 June 2017

1 reply

Sorry, hit the wrong key. Question below.

If the type of hurt is not specified (I hurt Olive yesterday.) how does one know whether it is an emotional or physical hurt? I hurt Olive yesterday was on an A2 test, and I wonder if it might be better on a comprehension type question like this to specify which type hurt the question is looking for. Thank you for your help on this, I appreciate it.

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

3 June 2017

3/06/17

Bonjour Terri !

I agree with you that this question definitely needed a clearer context, and I've now added it:
___ hier quand je lui ai marché sur le pied. (I hurt Olive yesterday when I stepped on her foot.)

Note: for these types of specific questions, please use the "Report it" button in your correction board in the future  :)

À bientôt !

Terri

Kwiziq community member

1 June 2017

1 reply

If the type of hurt is not specified, is there a 'default' translation?

Ron

Kwiziq community member

3 June 2017

3/06/17

Bonsoir,
Il va faire mal à ma meilleure amie.
He's going to hurt my best friend. (physically)
Il va faire du mal à ma meilleure amie.
He's going to hurt my best friend. (emotionally)
This is an excellent question because given the two examples above, sans the state in parentheses it would be very difficult to differentiate a translation; however, also in the lesson it states that «faire du mal à» is specific to emotional or psychological pain, hurt while «faire mal à» is specific to a physical hurt, i.e. cut, bruised, kicked, etc.
Votre question m'a plu certainement parce qu'il m'a fallu penser. Merci beaucoup ! Bon travail!
J'espère que ma réponse vous aidera.

Antoinette

Kwiziq community member

24 March 2017

2 replies

Where is an adverb put with these expressions?

Example, greatly or often?

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

24 March 2017

24/03/17

Bonjour Antoinette !

This is a trickier question than it looks!
It depends on whether you're describing the whole action of hurting, or if you're focusing on the level of hurt you're inflicting.
Indeed, remember that the expression in French is literally "to do harm/hurt to someone".

1- If it's the whole action (often, never...), then the rule is as usual with adverbs:
- in simple tenses, it comes after the verb =
"Tu me fais *souvent* mal. / Tu fais *souvent* du mal à ta sœur."
- in compound tenses, between the auxiliary and the past participle:
"Tu m'as *souvent* fait mal. / Tu as *souvent* fait du mal à ta sœur."

2- if you're focusing on the level of hurt you're inflicting, therefore qualifying "mal" =
- With "faire mal", the adverb will come before "mal":
"Tu m'as fait *très/extrêmement* mal." (You hurt me very much / badly.)
"Il me fait *vraiment* mal." (He really hurt me.)

- With "faire du mal", because here "mal" is a noun, you will use "beaucoup de" (a lot of "hurt"), etc:
"Il me fait *beaucoup de* mal." (He hurts me a lot.)
"Tu lui as fait *moins de* mal que lui." (You hurt her less than him.)

I hope that's helpful!
À bientôt !

Antoinette

Kwiziq community member

24 March 2017

24/03/17

Une réponse superbe! Merci.

Debra

Kwiziq community member

12 March 2017

1 reply

Je pense qu'il n'y a pas de son pour la premiere question??

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

13 March 2017

13/03/17

Bonjour Debra !

I've looked at this lesson, and made sure there was sound for all examples and questions :)

Merci et à bientôt !
I'll be right with you...