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  • "Bonjour" is a French word meaning "hello."
  • In modern Welsh, 'glas' means 'blue'.

But why do we say, for example, the sentence means that the word means “hello,” not the sentence means ‘the word means “hello”’?

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  • When would we say the sentence means that the word means "hello"? That doesn't sound like a normal English sentence. Have you seen it used somewhere?
    – stangdon
    Dec 12, 2021 at 5:53

1 Answer 1

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You seem to be confused by the use/mention distinction.

When you use a word it is not normally quoted. When you mention a word it is sometimes quoted:

"Apple" has five letters.

Apple is a good filling for a pie.

In the first case we are mentioning the word. The predicate is about the nature of the word and not about the fruit.

When you talk about the meaning of a word, you mention it.

"Apple" means a type of fruit that grows on a tree.

We are talking about the meaning of the the word, not about the meaning of the fruit. So we are mentioning the word, and not using it.

So properly one should write

"Bonjour" is a French word meaning "hello"

Here we are comparing the meanings of two words.

Likewise you could say

"Bonjour" is a French word that means "hello".

And the same would go if you are talking about the meaning of a mentioned sentence

"C'est la plume de ma tante." is a French sentence that means "It is my aunt's feather".

There is no particular reason why you can't have embedded words mentioned. But it all gets a bit silly.

Like the "la plume de ma tante", The examples are grammatically correct, but practically useless. Nobody ever needs to talk about their aunt's feather, (or their aunt's pen), nor does anyone need to talk about the meanings of sentences that express meanings.

However ...

“« Bonjour » est un mot français qui signifie « hello ».” is a French sentence that means “‘Bonjour’ is a French word that means ‘hello’.”

Ridiculous, but correct.

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  • The French plume here is an ancient example of a 'false friend'. C'est la plume de ma tante means 'It's my aunt's pen'. Dec 11, 2021 at 20:02

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