Discuss and learn French: French vocabulary, French grammar, French culture etc.
wary of three uses of “s’en tenir à”
1) to stand by, maintain something
Je m’en tiendrai à notre accord.
I’ll stand by our agreement.
I can think of no other context to this (contract, deal, etc.) other than variations on “to stand by what I said” (my position, etc.)
I’m unsure of the command form. Would it be “En tiens-toi à notre accord.”?
If you referred earlier to the accord, would the pronoun form be “En y tiens-toi?”
2) to keep to something
s’en tenir au sujet
to keep to the subject
Would the command be “En tiens-toi au sujet.”?
Is this usage used? I would like other examples of “keeping to” something. I believe Google translator uses "rester fidèle à..."
3) to not know what to make of s.o., sth.
ne pas savoir à quoi s’en tenir avec qq, qch
I believe “I don’t know what to make of the conflict” would be “Je ne sais pas à quoi m’en tenir avec le conflit.” If “le conflit” had already been mentioned, would I say “Je ne sais pas avec quoi m’y en tenir.”?
The Google translator prefers “Je ne sais pas quoi faire du conflit” and “Je ne sais pas quoi faire de celui-ci” respectively. It’s certainly easier, but if “s’en tenir avec” is used, I will commit to being able to recognize it.
OK, these are excellent questions!
The command form-- at least in formal usage-- would be "tiens t'en à...". I don't think it would be terribly common, though-- I suspect speakers would be more likely to say e.g. "Il faut t'en tenir à...".
Then, your question regarding the clitics is also very astute. You're probably used to hearing e.g. "Il y en a..." (and with variants of "y en avoir" in general), where "y" and "en" occur together. However, it turns out that this is actually more or less the only case where "y" and "en" readily occur together (occasionally I think you'll see other cases in literary use, but it's not common). So in other cases, you need to re-arrange. You could instead say e.g.:
Je ne sais pas à quoi m'en tenir sur cela.
Incidentally, I'm not sure that (1) and (2) really constitute separate categories-- I think the meaning in both cases would be fairly similar. The idea is "not go beyond..., not stray from/outside of the scope of ...". I suppose that in English, "stick to" might be more idiomatic for something like a contract, but I wonder if this is just a translation issue rather than a difference in meaning to a French person?
I would use "respecter" for standing by an agreement.
I cannot imagine anyone uttering the sentence "En y tiens-toi".
For "keep to the subject", I might use the opposite formulation: "Ne t'écarte pas du sujet", rather than get into linguistic mayhem like "en tiens-toi au sujet".
And, for example (3), I would suggest "interpréter" or even "comprendre" as possibilities.