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I am reading a nineteenth French medical text in which a patient is being described. Here are a few lines:

On lui a avancé de quoi acheter une livre de pain d'épice, on lui a prêté une table et une chaise. Avec cela, elle s'est établie marchande sur le pont derrière l'Hôtel-Dieu. On ne peut sans en être ému, lui entendre raconter les chances de son petit commerce. Pour gagner huit sous, il fallait qu'elle vendît une livre de son pain d'épice; 

They gave her what she she needed to buy "une livre de pain d'épice", They lent her a table and a chair. With that, she established a stall on the bridge behind the Hôtel-Dieu. One cannot but be moved to hear her recount her fortunes in her small business. To earn eight sous she had to sell "une livre de son pain d'épice";

Pain d'épice translates as gingerbread, but livre seems to translate only as book. In this case it seems to mean loaf. Any comments on this alternate meaning for livre.

Thanks for your consideration


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well I'd say it's essential to make mistakes...

actually it would be: On ne peut s'empêcher d'être ému.

Yes it's an kind of expression that can be used as a standalone expression.

But it's very literary - difficult to use it twice in a text. And the text requires a good level of language.

You can change the feeling with the same way.

On ne peut sans en être attristé ...

On ne peut sans en être horrifié ...

On ne peut sans en être émerveillé ...

depends on what you mean by stand-alone !

the phrase has to be followed by something...

By the way "I could not but be moved" would translate : Je ne pouvais que être touché

Followed by a clause?

Are you saying that ,for example

" On ne peut sans en être attristé en ce moment" would not  be a proper sentence?

No it's not a proper sentence

/ On ne peut / sans en être attristé en ce moment / "  => the part "doing something" is missing.

the only part that could be removed is the part "feeling", even if the meaning becomes a little different

That sentence has only an auxiliary verb, 'peut,' and an adverbial phrase, so it does look clipped. It's essentially the same as 'On ne peut pas.'

The other issue, one about the English idiom, is actually quite unrelated. I believe my post was the first that confuses the 2 issues.

To clarify- the idiom 'can not help doing...' means 'can not stop doing...'

One can not help being happy == One can not stop oneself from being happy.
I can not help loving you == I can not stop myself from loving you.
She can not help it that cats like to follow her home == she can not stop the cats from wanting to follow her.
I shouldn't have said the sentence was same as 'On ne peut pas,' rather that it's not much more as an idea.
I wish the forum allows editing as long as there is not yet a new post. After that, it's fair that a next post seals the deal.


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