pouvoir

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French[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From Middle French povoir, from Old French povoir, pooir, from early Old French poeir, from Vulgar Latin *potēre (to be able) for Classical Latin posse, present active infinitive of possum. The Latin infinitive *potēre was a regularized form from the root potis (able) or formed on the basis of the present participle potens. The v is an epenthetic consonant added to avoid hiatus.

See cognates in regional languages in France : Bourguignon peuvoi, Champenois pouâr, Franc-Comtois povoi, Gallo pouair, Lorrain pouhoir, Norman pouveî, Picard puvoèr, Poitevin-Saintongeais pevoer, Franco-Provençal povêr and possêr, Occitan poder, Catalan poder, Corsican putè.

Pronunciation[edit]

Verb[edit]

pouvoir

  1. can, to be able to
    Je peux venir ce soirI can come this evening
  2. may
    désastre qui peut nous frapperdisaster which may strike us

Usage notes[edit]

  • Pouvoir is not used with verbs relating to the five senses:
    Je te voisI can see you
    (not “Je peux te voir”, which is “I can meet you”)
  • It is also not used to mean can (to know how to), savoir is used instead.
    Je sais nagerI can swim
    (not “Je peux nager”)
  • In Belgian French, pouvoir is not used to say someone is capable of something, savoir is also used for that.
    Je ne sais pas dormirI am not able to sleep
    to a Belgian, “I do not know how to sleep” to a Frenchman.
    Je ne peux pas dormirI am not allowed to sleep
    to a Belgian, “I am not able to sleep” to a Frenchman.
  • Puis (/pɥi/) is an archaic form of the first person present indicative peux. It is still used in inversion or with the conjunction si:
    Puis-je vous aider?May I help you?
    Si je puis me permettre…If you don't mind…

Conjugation[edit]

Related terms[edit]

Noun[edit]

pouvoir m (plural pouvoirs)

  1. (countable or uncountable) power, a power.
  2. authority
  3. (law) power of attorney

Derived terms[edit]

Further reading[edit]