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In French we can use the prefix re- to mean again (prendre = to take, reprendre = to take back/again). It's sometimes a real verb (like reprendre), but it's not standard or semi-standard when we use it with certain verbs. But still we do and it.

So instead of saying "j'ai encore cassé ce vase" (formal), I could say "j'ai recassé ce vase" (informal), which means "I broke this vase again".

I could even say "j'ai re-re-recassé ce vase" if it's the forth time I've broken it. It's only used in spoken French, (often to be funny).

Is there a comparable way in English to say "again for the n-th time"?

Note: I understand not every verb starting with re means ... again, far from it.

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We can, at least with many verbs, prepend a second, or less commonly, a third or more re prefix. Some would consider it unacceptable in Standard English, and it would often be done informally, often playfully (apparently as you characterize such in French, to be funny), or for special effect (could be angry, etc.).

Bill: They messed up my order again the second time, so I re-returned it!

Susan: Let's hope they get it right this time or you might have to re-re-return it!

  • Thank you. You used an example with a verb starting by re, like Lawrence did. But I suppose we can use it with any verb? "This GoT episode was so awesome I rewatched it". – Destal Sep 5 '16 at 18:01
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    Yes. And if you really want to understand it, you may need to re-rewatch it! – Jim Reynolds Sep 5 '16 at 18:19
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In English, you can use re once or twice informally on any verb - if twice, the second 're' is usually pronounced more strongly (stressed). If you have an English word that starts with re as a prefix (e.g. reactivate), you can sometimes use the re- prefix once more, again informally. Further use of the prefix sounds awkward.

E.g. He revived the hard drive. It crashed again. He re-revived it.

Re- prefix 1 Once more; afresh; anew: reaccustom, reactivate - ODO

The more formal approach in English is to specify the number of times you repeated the action. For example, to formally say that the hard drive was 're-re-re-re-revived', you can say, rather prosaically, that it was "revived five times".

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    +1 I think our answers are complementary, so I'll be complimentary – Jim Reynolds Sep 5 '16 at 17:17
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    Thank you, and now I feel stupid because I realized I knew that and probably used it many times :| And of course in formal French, we use the "number of times" way too. – Destal Sep 5 '16 at 17:57
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There seems to be an important (but subtle) difference between this informal spoken language phenomenon in French and English. The example that was given in French: "j'ai recassé ce vase" shows that it is possible to use this construction in French with an unintentional action. In English if you said "I re-dropped" the vase, the would mean one intentional dropped the vase again (not that one once more knocked it off the table accidentally).

I wish I had more native-speaker intuitions in French to come up with other examples.

  • What I can say is that you're right, in French there doesn't seem to have an intentional meaning. I never thought about it but as far I can think, nope, I don't see this aspect in French uses of re. – Destal Sep 5 '16 at 21:46
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    Fantastic subtlety to pick up on! – GreenAsJade Sep 5 '16 at 23:46

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