Bonjour! For an essay in my French class I tried to say "The silence is like someone has died." I wrote "Le silence est comme personne est morte." My professor thought that was incorrect, but I don't think what she wrote is what I wanted to say. She corrected it as "Le silence est comme ne (or une, can't tell) personne qui est morte." Help? Merci Beaucoup!
Well, yours is definitely wrong because the groups are not separated enough. You tried to translate English grammar rules to French, what could never lead to correct sentences, especially complex ones.
English tends to simplify or shorten the sentences as much as possible. French likes things to be clearly identifiable, to make the sentences “flow”. For that, our grammar works with clear groups which structure cannot be modified. To give you an image, English works like a card game, you have different cards and you can create numerous winning combinations by playing with them. French works like a puzzle game, the pieces can’t be modified, they have only four sides, hence very few winning combinations.
To build a correct sentence, you need a major group (usually subject+verb / + complement if needed) which you can complete with others groups. You can only have one verb per group. In any case you need a link, like a “glue” between the groups. We usually use pronouns for that.
For example, your sentence includes two verbs, so you have two groups. “Like someone has died” seems to have the same role as a complement, if in English it doesn’t need any specific treament, in French, a complement cannot be verbal, ever. So we need to turn your “verbal complement” into a separated second group.
The sentence in French is separated this way:
1st group: (subject)Le silence (verb)est (complement)comme une personne
2nd group : (pronoun, the “glue”)qui (verb)est (complement)morte.
Technically, your teacher’s sentence is grammatically correct and it is the literal translation of your idea. However her sentence is terrible when it comes to the meaning since “like someone has died” is totally idiomatic. It’s exactly like what I said previously, this English structure shortens where French grammar would take time to describe the feeling. For instance, we use passive forms much more than in English.
The correct option would have been:
“Il y a un silence comme si quelqu’un venait juste de mourir.”
(Literally, “there is a silence as if someone has just died.”)
But the best option possible would have been:
“Il y a un silence de mort.”
(Literally, “there’s a death silence”)
This is an idiom, it’s quite a basic one though. Your teacher should have suggested that one -in my opinion, since 1/ it’s grammatically speaking SO MUCH simplier, 2/ it works much better regarding the writing style, 3/ it’s actual real French, not some sort of Google Translate option xD
If you’re writing something and you feel like you can’t really translate your expressions, like you’re somehow stuck, don’t hesitate to hit my inbox and ask what would be the best option to express your ideas :)