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It is nowadays common, in English, to use the expression "I was diagnosed with [cancer or whatever]".  It is inelegant, because it is the disease which is diagnosed, not the person.  I am trying to think what one would say in French.  "On a diagnostiqué un cancer" might do, if the context tells you who you're talking about.  But what if you want to make it clear that it is "I" who have the cancer?

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Wouldn't you just put in a "me" before the verb (auxiliary verb in this case) ?

As in :"On m'a diagnostiqué un cancer" .

I am not sure if "diagnostiquer" can be expressed differently but I suppose if someone has received that sort of news they may not be too concerned as to the mot juste.

To my ear, that sounds even odder than the English version.  It has the connotation that someone has conveyed a diagnosis of cancer to me, or even that someone has kindly diagnosed cancer for me, as I can't do it myself - not necessarily that it is I who have the cancer.  But I hope that one of our native speakers will contribute.

And "diagnostiquer", though somewhat ponderous, is perfectly standard French, isn't it?

I don't think so .To me it just sounds like the doctor ("on")  has informed someone of their  diagnosis .

Nobody else ,surely would transmit this information (although I  have to backtrack and admit that I have seen the results of tests for skin cancer come in through the post) .

If I search Google for the exact phrase  I can see there are 105,000 instances  and so  it seems like a fairly common expression to me'a+diagnostiqu%C3%A9+un+cancer%22

Mind you the equivalent search in English  ,on "I was diagnosed with cancer" brings up over 6 million returns  and so is arguably in a lot more common use. 

If you want to   convey the  directness of actually being told the situation by  the hospital or the doctor  you can say something along the lines that "le medecin m'a  diagnostique  ...." which gives 350,000 returns in Google for the exact phrase.

You can find a lot of bad English and bad French by googling.  I repeat that "I was diagnosed with cancer" isn't very good English, however many million usages of it can be found.  "I have  been given a diagnosis of cancer" is better.  It is (I repeat) the disease which is diagnosed, not the person.  "Cancer was diagnosed", not "I was diagnosed".

The suggested French, though perhaps demotic, suffers from a similar, though not the same, problem.  It is inelegant and potentially ambiguous.

No - I wasn't bothered about who made the diagnosis.

I will  outpedant you yet!

This is from the Merriam-Webster dictionary ( which is supposedly an Encyclopaedia Britanica  company) "

                       Examples of Diagnose

"a new doctor with little experience diagnosing patients"

Even if it wasn't kosher I would still be comfortable with it.


I find it strange  in your example that what you are really tackling is the problem of the passive voice being incorrect, so much surprising as it is more common in English than in French:

From The Longman dictionary:

di‧ag‧nose / ˈdaɪəɡnəʊz $ -noʊs / verb [ transitive ]

Joe struggled in school before he was diagnosed as dyslexic.

The illness was diagnosed as mumps.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer. 
On m'a diagnostiqué un cancer is correct in French
From The Robert dictionary:
diagnostiquer [djagnCstike] v. tr.
ÉTYM. 1832; de diagnostique.


 1  Reconnaître (un mal, une maladie) en faisant le diagnostic. | Diagnostiquer une typhoïde ( Délire, cit. 4).
¨ Par ext. | Diagnostiquer chez qqn une tendance masochiste. è Discerner.

 2  Déceler (qqch.) d'après des indices, des signes. | Les experts hésitent à diagnostiquer une crise économique
No, Vedas, the objection is not about the passive voice. Rather, it's the question of what is the direct object of the verb.

Another problem is the apparently wrong use of 'with.' The truly correct form is 'His disease is diagnosed as cancer by the docteur with the aids of advanced diagnostic procedures.'

But the current example (at top) has long long been part of accepted usages, formal and otherwise, albeit one of those whose apparent 'defects' will never cease to be noted, nor forgiven.

Back to French, the LAROUSSE gives this example: ils ont diagnostiqué un cancer . You have answered the obvious question I had wanted to ask.

Sorry I thought I had correctly diagnosed a passive voice illness...

The definition in the Collins Cobuild:

If someone or something is diagnosed as having a particular illness....

be_ V-ed + as

The soldiers were diagnosed as having flu

be_ V-ed + with

Susan had a mental breakdown and was diagnosed with schizophrenia

and from Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, 8th edition
diag nose
BrE / ˈdaɪəɡnəʊz /
BrE / ˌdaɪəɡˈnəʊz /
NAmE / ˌdaɪəɡˈnoʊs /
 verb forms
 word origin
 example bank
[ transitive ,  intransitive ]
to say exactly what an illness or the cause of a problem is
~ (sth) The test is used to diagnose a variety of diseases.
~ sth as sth The illness was diagnosed as cancer.
~ sb with sth He has recently been diagnosed with angina.
~ sb (as) sth He was diagnosed (as) a diabetic when he was 64.
~ sb + adj./noun He was diagnosed (a) diabetic.
© Oxford University Press, 2010

It is interesting that the OED online version, which states that the entry for "diagnose" has not been recently updated, makes no mention of the "he was diagnosed" usage.  This suggests that it is comparatively modern.

However, we are in danger of discussing English, rather than French (my fault in part).  I accept that On m'a diagnostiqué un cancer is normal French usage (though whether it is "correct" is another matter).  But you couldn't use a direct object in this context, could you?  On l'a diagnostiqué avec un cancer doesn't seem plausible.  Still less so Il était diagnostiqué ...

Hello Jean, for sure you wouldn't use the two sentences you mentioned but you could say: il fut diagnostiqué, il était diagnostiqué (without using "avec")

The usage of the French verb diagnostiquer dates back to 1832 only.

It would be interesting to know when it first appeared in English.

It's true that some modern usages don't sound elegant, I for one can't bear the now accepted expression supporter une équipe that we can hear everyday at the moment, it appeared quite recently and obviously comes from the English to support, I much prefer the elegant version soutenir une équipe...

Vedas, in the sentence "On m'a diagnostiqué un cancer" (you said was correct), the direct object is "un cancer." So would it also be correct to write "On a diagnostiqué un cancer à moi" ?

Surely it's an indirect object.  On lui a diagnostiqué un cancer.


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