(Ouais,) Grave ! - I know, right? / Yeah, seriously! Tu m'étonnes ! - You’re telling me! Idem / Pareil ! - Ditto / Same! N'importe quoi ! - Whatever! / Bullshit! (The “te” is quite often pronounced as a syllable despite the usually silent vowels on the end of French words: “Nun-por-teuh kwa) C'est n'importe quoi - It’s ridiculous / crazy Sérieux ? - Seriously? Really? J'étais mort(e) de rire - (Lit.) I died laughing / I pissed myself laughing Je suis éclaté(e) - I’m shattered / knackered / super tired (Note: can also be used to describe being really high) J'ai la flemme (de faire quelque chose) - I can’t be bothered / arsed (to do something C'est *adj* de chez *adj* - A formula used to really emphasise the adjective used
Ajoutez-en de plus si vous en connaissez ! Add more if you can think of any! :)
À la basically means “in the style of” or “according to.” À la débandade—literally “like a stampede”— used figuratively in English to describe a disorderly or chaotic mess.
2. AMOUR FOU
an obsessive passion for someone, and in particular one that is not reciprocated. It literally means “insane love.”
3. L’APPEL DU VIDE
It literally means “the call of the void,” but in practice it’s usually explained asthe bizarre inclination some people have for doing something dangerous or deadly, no matter how foolish they know it is. So when you’re standing on a beach, l’appel du vide is the voice that tells you to swim away and never come back. When standing on a clifftop, l’appel du vide tells you to throw yourself off.
4. APRÈS MOI, LE DÉLUGE
Après moi, le déluge means “after me, the flood,” and is used to refer to a person’s irresponsible or selfish lack of concern in what will happen after they have gone or moved on.
5. CHERCHEZ LA FEMME
Literally meaning “look for the woman,” cherchez la femme is used in English to imply that if a man is seen acting out of character, then a woman will likely be the cause of it—find her, and the issue will be resolved. Although the origins of the phrase are a mystery, it’s often credited to the French author Alexandre Dumas, whose crime drama Les Mohicans de Paris (1854) contains its first written record: “There is a woman in all cases; as soon as a report is brought to me I say, ‘Cherchez la femme!’”
6. COUP DE FOUDRE
Coup de foudre is the French term for a thunderbolt or strike of lightning, but it’s been used figuratively in English since the late 1700s to mean love at first sight.
7. L’ESPRIT DE L’ESCALIER
Known less romantically as “staircase wit” in English, l’esprit de l’escalier is the frustrating phenomenon of coming up with the perfect observation or comeback after the opportunity to use it has passed.
8. HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE
“Shame on him who thinks badly of it,” warns the old Norman French saying honi soit qui mal y pense, which has been used in English to discourage preemptively or unjustly talking something down since the early Middle Ages.
9. MAUVAIS QUART D’HEURE
As well as having your fifteen minutes of fame, you can also have your mauvais quart d’heure(or your “bad quarter of an hour”)—a brief but embarrassing, upsetting, or demoralizing experience.
10. MAUVAISE HONTE
Mauvaise honte literally means “bad shame.” In English it’s often used simply to mean bashfulness or extreme shyness.
11. MISE EN ABYME
the phrase mise en abyme (“put into the abyss”) is used to refer to the mind-boggling visual effect of a recurring image containing itself into infinity—like a mirror reflected in a mirror.
12. NOSTALGIE DE LA BOUE
The phrase nostalgie de la boue was coined by the French dramatist Émile Augier in 1855, who used it to refer to a person’s fondness for cruel, crude, depraved, or humiliating things. Its meaning has extended over time however, so that today a nostalgie de la boue is often used more loosely to refer to adesire to live a simpler, downsized, or less indulgent life—it literally means “a yearning for the mud.”
13. PLUS ÇA CHANGE
a world-weary acceptance of the current state of affairs—although things might appear to change or improve, beneath it all they remain just as bad as before.
14. POUR ENCOURAGER LES AUTRES
The ironic expression pour encourager les autres—meaning “so as to encourage the others”—refers to an action carried out to discourage any future unrest or rebellion.
15. RECULER POUR MIEUX SAUTER
If you reculer pour mieux sauter, then you literally “draw back in order to leap better.” a temporary withdrawal or pause in action that allows for time to regroup or reassess a situation, and therefore make a better attempt at it in the future.
16. REVENONS À NOS MOUTONS
“let us return to the matter at hand.”
17. ROI FAINÉANT
Literally a “do-nothing king.” leader who has no real power and instead acts merely as a figurehead, or as a symbol of power or authority.
18. TANT BIEN QUE MAL
Anything that is only partly or moderately successful. It literally means “as well as badly.”
19. VENTRE À TERRE
Ventre à terre literally means “belly to the ground” in French, and so taken literally it can be used simply to describe someone or something lying face down. Doing something ventre à terre, ultimately, means doing it at full speed.
20. VIOLON D’INGRES
A hidden talent or pastime, far outside of what you are best known for, and in which you are just as knowledgeable or adept.
As one of the most important verbs in the french language, vouloir to express a want or desire. You won’t go a day without using this verb. But every now and then, try to say j’ai envie de… which means “I feel like…” doing something in particular.
Personne 1: “Tu veux aller à MacDo?” (You want to go to McDonalds?)
Personne 2: “Bah non, j’ai envie de manger de la bonne nourriture” (Uhmm no, I feel like eating good food)
2. Instead of J’aime faire, Try Je profite pour…
This expression enhances your statement greatly. Profiter de literally means “to thrive on” or “take advantage of” doing something. It’s not a direct translation, but I hear the french say it quite frequently in the context of saying they simply enjoy doing a certain activity.
Personne 1: ”Vous avez passé des bonnes vacances? (Did you guys have a good vacation?)
Personne 2: ”Tout à fait! On est allé à Nice et on a vraiment profité de la plage” (Absolutely! We went to Nice and we really enjoyed the beach)
3. Instead of J’aime bien, Try J’aime bien, moi
There’s this thing in the french language called the reprise. You might not see it in books but It is VERY popular in everyday life. It’s basically a repetition of the subject of a sentence with its tonic pronoun (moi, toi, lui, elle, nous, vous, eux). The purpose is to add emphasis. You can add the tonic pronoun at the end or beginning of the sentence. It’s pretty complicated but I’ll try to break it down.
“Tu es bizarre, toi” (You are so weird!)
“Peut-être que tu les aimes mais moi, je déteste les haricots verts” (Maybe you like them, but I hate grean beans)
“Tu vois le mec là-bas?? Quel beau gosse, lui” (You see the guy over there?? He’s so good looking!)
4.Instead of la chose, Try le truc
There’s nothing wrong with saying la chose when trying to point out a random object or concept, but another way to say “thing” or “stuff” is le truc. It’s just more colloquial.
“C’est quoi, ce truc-là?” (What’s this thing here?)
“Le truc avec les casinos, c’est qu’ils sont toujours des arnaques!” (The thing with casinos is that they’re always ripoffs!)
5. Instead of Tu est sorti Try T’es sorti
Let’s be honest, french is a vocal workout. Ain’t nobody got time to pronounce all those extra vowels! So to eliminate the extra mouth movement, french people have a tendency to run vowels together. Especially when its tu + être/avoir.
“T’es déjà parti?” (You left already?)
“T’as trouvé ton truc encore?” (You found your stuff yet?)
If you’re studying french, or in french immersion like I am, here are some tips + resources I’ve found helpful throughout my five years of immersion. Commençons!
1. IT’S ACTUALLY OKAY TO USE GOOGLE TRANSLATE: Wait, what? I know it’s 100% against what your teachers have been telling you since forever. Mais c’est actuellement trés précis. Now, I’m not saying you should just copy and paste your english draft into google translate, copy the french translation and be done with it. That would be bad. Don’t do that, mauvais élève. Rules of using google translate:
-only use it for single words/short sentences
-double-check it in BonPatron
which leads us to:
2. USE BONPATRON: Probably my favorite french grammar site ever. The link is here. You paste your text into the text box and it corrects/ points out any errors for you. I’ve been using it forever, trust me. It has saved my ass more than a few times.
3. USE WORDREFRENCE: Another of my faves. It’s basically the virtual version of the classic french/english dictionary. Link is here!
4. DON’T IGNORE ACCENTS!: when I was in 7th grade I decided accents were a pain and that they didn’t make a difference anyways, so I just completely disregarded them. Worst mistake ever! Accents completely change the word! For example, ou and où have two different meanings! I know they’re a pain and can be confusing, especially if you’re typing on a computer without a french keybord. This brings us to:
5. USETHIS SITE FOR FRENCH ACCENTS ON YOUR COMPUTER: It’s a site that allows your to copy and paste french accents into your word document.
So you’re in France talking to real french people. You think you’re prepared with all your years of classes at school, but soon you realize you sound like a textbook robot. Here are some ways to upgrade your french and sound a little more fluent. In the words of the great Beyonce:
1.Instead of Comment ça va?, Try ça va?
I’ve already talked about why ça va is a great expression. It’s all encompassing, you can take it in several different ways. It literally translates as “It’s going?”. French people tend to lean towards this relaxed, familiar expression than its more formal counterpart.
*Bonus points: Try ça y est?
2. Instead of Qu’est-ce que c’est?, Try C’est quoi ça?
In general, it is more common in spoken french to form a question like this. “Qu’est-ce que”, “Est-ce que” “Qui est-ce qui” and all of its other cousins are said more for formality or politeness. You wouldn’t use them around your friends. So next time form your question like this: Subject + Verb + Question Word.
Qu’est-ce que tu aimes faire? —–>Tu aimes faire quoi?
Où est-ce qu’elle travaille? ——> Elle travaille où?
3.Instead of ici,Try là
Technically, là means there. But in spoken french, it often substitutes ici to mean here. It’s a nuance in proximity, which makes a huge difference in english, but doesn’t at all in french.
Personne 1:“[Au Téléphone] Bonjour. Je pourrais parler à Pierre?”
Personne 2: “Désolé, mais il n’est pas là”
4. Instead of mes amis, Try mes copains/mes potes
I rarely hear french people refer to a friend as un ami. Copain or copine is the most supported by all ages and pote is usually reserved for young people. Be careful with copain/copine for it can have a moreboyfriend/girlfriend connotation.
Funny Sidestory: I once told this random guy hitting on me that I was waiting for my copine. He immediately asked if I was a lesbian. Whoops.
5.Instead of Allons-y,Try On y va
Despite what your textbook taught you, Allons-y is a lame thing to say. For starters, no one uses the subject “nous” and allons-y is the imperative form of “nous”. If someone says it, they’re probably saying it ironically. Instead of “nous”, people say “on” so naturally On y va is a much cooler way to say “lets go!”.
chercher une vie meilleure - to seek a better life
donner une perspective à sa vie - to give oneself a chance in life
fuir - to flee
le statut de réfugié - refugee status
le droit d'asile - right of asylum
courir des risques - to run risks
le trafiquant - trafficker
l'immigration clandestine (f) - illegal immigration
passer la frontière - to get across the border
le sans-papier - illegal immigrant
la liberté - freedom
le(la) réfugié(é) - refugee
le camp de réfugiés - refugee camp
le comportement raciste - racist behaviour
l'intolérance (f) - intolerance
le préjugé - prejudice
la discrimination raciale - racial discrimination
l'inégalité (f) - inequality
persécuter - to victimise
le harcèlement policier - police harassment
stigmatiser - to stigmatise
la xénophobie - xenophobia
l'antisémitisme (m) - antisemitism
entretenir des sentiments racistes - to harbour racist feelings
tenir des propos racists - to make racist remarks
l'agression verbale (f) - verbal abuse
une attaque de caractère raciste - a racist attack
la violence raciste - racist violence
le parti politique - political party la gauche - the left la droite - the right le(la) conservateur(-trice) - conservative le socialiste - socialist le communiste - communist l’anarchiste (m) - anarchist l’extrémiste (m) - extremist le fasciste - fascist les relations internationales - international relations les Nations Unies - United Nations les tensions internationales - international tensions les enjeux politiques - political issues défier les resolutions de l'ONU - to defy UN resolutions la corruption - corruption des elections marquées par la fraude électorale - rigged elections
Ça m'est égal - I don’t mind Comme tu veux/vous voulez - As you wish/Whatever you like Je m'en fiche - I don’t care Je m'en fous ** - I don’t give a damn Je m'en bats les couilles/steaks *** - I don’t give a fuck J(e n)‘en ai rien à faire/battre*/cirer*/foutre*** - I don’t give a fuck
* = Familiar, ** = Vulgar, *** = Very vulgar
Ajoutez-en des autres si vous en connaissez ! Feel free to add more if you know any!
I know I haven’t covered the Subjunctive on this blog yet, but for some of you this is review. I hope I can make this as clear as I can (because anyone who studies French knows how murky the water can be).
The Subjunctive uses:
To express doubt
To express an attitude
To express and opinion
To imply a hypothesis
How to Conjugate the verbs:
Conjugate your verb for the 3rd person noun (Ils/Elles). For Nous and Vous, use their “Imparfait” endings
Take off the ending -ENT and add the following endings
Regular -ER verbs
Regular -IR verbs
Regular -RE verbs
3. Enjoy the easiest part of the Subjunctive because it’s about to get real.
4. Cry because of all of the irregular verbs
Aller -> aille, ailles, aille, allions, alliez, aillent
Avoir -> aie, aies, ait, ayons, ayez, aient
Être -> sois, sois, soit, soyons, soyez, soient
Faire -> fasse, fasses, fasse, fassions, fassiez, fassent
Pouvoir -> puisse, puisses, puisse, puissions, puissiez, puissent