French Language

Discuss and learn French: French vocabulary, French grammar, French culture etc.

French Vocab Games app for iPhone/iPad French-English dictionary French grammar French vocab/phrases

For the latest updates, follow @FrenchUpdates on Twitter!

A French friend of mine who I've recently lost contact with, told me a quote and I'm really hoping to get not only the proper translation, but the deeper meaning of it.  The quote is: 

Vivre au bord de la catastrophe - I know what the literal translation equates to, but I'm hoping a native french speaker can let me know their idea of the meaning of the quote. 

Any help is greatly appreciated!!

Views: 1038

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Not a native speaker but could it correspond to "living on the edge" ?  Or "live from hand to mouth"?

I haven't come across it so it is only a guess.

It also reminds me of the Chinese (?) curse "May you live in interesting times" if that is a correct recollection.

 Not that that would be  the translation you are looking for.


not sure that the speaker expressed correctly what he had in mind. We rather use collocations like  courir/ aller à la catastrophe/ être au bord de la catastrophe/ frôler la catastrophe

If he wanted to say "living on the edge" the proper way would be on vit dangereusement

Without more context it's hard to say exactly what he meant, it could aslo mean that they are facing a difficult/ precarious situation and that everything could collapse at any moment. Then it would be more correct to say something along these lines:

La situation est très précaire on vit au jour le jour

I was going to suggest that the (mis) quote might have actually been "Virer au bord de la catastrophe" but I can't find any examples of that phrase in Google ..... so I assume it is not used either.

"Vivre au bord de la catastrophe"  only has 5 returns  and they are all Biblical .

I appreciate the response, it's an original quote spoken by a friend I've lost touch with, so I don't know that it'll pop up in google searches, but as I wrote to another poster, I want to get the quote as close to what was spoken (I jotted it down years ago) - my concern really is in using Vivre - as to actively live your life day to day on the edge of catastrophe, as opposed to Vivre being to live in a physical place (eating/drinking/sleeping) on the edge of catastrophe as if catastrophe is only a physical place.  If that is the case, I may go with Etre - which unfortunately feels more passive, more 'to be' on the edge rather than actively live.  Such a subtle difference, but being a writer, the goal with this quote is to really capture exactly what was said while also capturing the meaning behind it, live day by day on the edge of catastrophe, for only there will you find true genius.  I appreciate your help!

Thank you for your help, I'm interested in what you're saying about collocations - I believe what he meant was to live on the edge of catastrophe, to actively live your life that way, as opposed to be (or exist) Etre - on the edge of catastrophe.  I'm wondering if the subtle difference between to actively live day to day (vivre) and to just passively be (etre) on the edge of catastrophe works the same as it does in English.  It's an original quote my friend said, but from a native speaker's opinion, does Vivre au bord de la catastrophe as opposed to Etre au bord... carry that same subtle difference?  Or does vivre in this sense only mean to physically live (as in eating/drinking/sleeping) on the edge of catastrophe as though catastrophe is a place?  

Let me know if that makes sense - I really do appreciate your assistance, I want to get his quote right and as close to I can to what was spoken  (I'm a writer, and I'm using it in a story) - thank you!

The distinction would be the same in French.

The thing is thet "vivre au bord de la catastrophe" doesn't sound natural or correct partly because of the present tense, nous vivions au bord de la catastrophe  would be acceptable as someone looking at the situation with hindsight  but in a present situation we'd rather say nous sommes au bord de la catastrophe ,but if someone were to utter this sentence it's more likely to mean  that he's going through an ordeal and that something ominous to him could happen at any time,

Secondly a more natural expression in that case would be nous vivons au bord du gouffre.

If you're deliberatly seeking exitement ot danger like living recklessly or being a daredevil the natural expressions are je vis dangereusement/ je me mets en danger/ je me mets en péril/ je m'expose volontairement au danger/ rechercher le danger/jouer avec la mort...

Thank you - this is a great help.  To your last point about living recklessly, is there a way to say this sentence correctly but closer to what I've got him as quoted saying?  When he said it, I jotted down Vivre au bord de la catastrophe, though I'm leaning toward Etre au bord... his meaning was to live day by day on the edge of catastrophe, for only there will you find true genius.  

Again, thank you very much for your help, my goal here for this article is to capture the heart of what he was saying while still keeping as close to what I have him quoted as saying

maybe something like:

C'est au bord du précipice qu'on prend conscience de l'urgence de vivre.

Nous vivons au bord du précipice...

Il faut constamment /vivre au bord du précipice/se mettre en danger

I can't find a proper sentence with "catatrophe" with the same meaning

Ok great, thanks again for your help

my pleasure!

"Virer au bord de la catastrophe"

Hi Georges rather than   "  virer au bord de la catastrophe"   it would be more natural to say " (ça a failli) tourner à la catastrophe" It nearly ended in catastrophe


Follow BitterCoffey on Twitter

© 2022   Created by Neil Coffey.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service