Lv 7
Nancy asked in Society & CultureLanguages · 4 weeks ago

French Question: Is it grammatical to leave the accents off of "là où" and write just "la ou" to mean "there where"?

I'm asking because I'm trying to get through this book I'm reading in French for research for a thesis I'm writing for a criminology class I'm taking, and I keep seeing "la ou" written and taking it as "that or" only to find "that or" doesn't quite fit in how I'm taking the context and so wonder if it means "là où" or "there where."

Here's an example passage:

"Quand je tue, je me débarrasse de mon humanité comme un fardeau encombrant. Je suis dans un monde splendide d'indifférence, la ou aucune détresse, aucune solitude ne peut plus me menacer."

In the second sentence, just after the comma, "la ou" appears. What does it mean? I read it as "that or" but "there where" seems to fit better because I take the paragraph as meaning:

"When I kill, I shed myself of my humanity like an encumbering burden. I am in a splendid world of indifference, there where any distress, any solitude can no longer menace me."

Is that right? Or am I misreading it and "la ou" makes it mean:

"...that or any distress, any solitude can no longer menace me."

Or maybe I'm missing reading that whole clause. If so, what's it mean?

Also, I'm asking if it's grammatical to omit accents in là où" and have it mean "there where" because this is an academic book, so if it isn't, I find it unlikely the author and editor would've repeatedly made the same mistake or typo, so me taking it to mean "there where" is wrong and it means "that or" and does fit but I just suck too much at French to read this book.


By the way, I've never taken a French class. All the French I know I know because I dated a Swiss girl for two years, so my French is super iffy, but usually can understand reading it, or think I can. That's because I'm fluent in Spanish a Portuguese and know Latin, which, like French, are also romance languages. That with what I picked up from my ex allows me to hobble together a fair understanding in reading, or so I like to think, but now I'm wondering if I'm deluded thinking that.

1 Answer

  • 4 weeks ago

    ' Là ' = there, here.

    ' La ' without the accent is a feminine article. Example:

    La vache / the cow

    La famille / the family. 

    About ' où ' it means: where. Ex:

    Où est le chien ? / Where is the dog?

    Ou without the accent = or. Ex:

    Tu préfères le gâteau ou le pain ? / Do you prefer cake or bread?

Still have questions? Get answers by asking now.