Lecciones de Francés

Temas

On dirait une leçon sur "on dirait"!

In our last lesson, we discussed the expression on se croirait (literally, "one would believe oneself"), which means "it feels like." Now we'll take a look at a similar expression: on dirait. Both are impersonal expressions using a verb in the conditional. On dirait literally means "one would say," but it's also a synonym of il semble (it seems/looks like). 

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When introducing a clause, on dirait is followed by que:

 

On dirait que les gens sortent de la terre

It looks like people are coming out of the ground

Caption 31, Lionel En studio d'enregistrement - Part 2

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But when it comes before a standalone noun ("it looks like x"), you don't need the que:

 

On dirait un serpent à pattes.

It looks like a serpent with paws.

Caption 16, Il était une fois - les Explorateurs 10. Amerigo Vespucci - Part 6

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You can also use on dirait by itself, without introducing a noun or clause:

 

C'est ton jour de chance, on dirait.

It's your lucky day, it seems.

Caption 11, Marie & Jeremy Monopoly

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Je suis rouge de colère. -On dirait pas.

I'm red with anger. -It doesn't look like it.

Captions 1-2, Sophie et Patrice Les couleurs

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Depending on context, on dirait can mean something more specific than "it seems/looks like":

 

On dirait que t'as huit ans

You act like an eight year old

Caption 45, Mika Elle Me Dit

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On dirait... on dirait Cluzet!

It sounds... it sounds like Cluzet [French actor]!

Caption 71, Alsace 20 Laurent Chandemerle, l'homme aux 100 voix

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And sometimes it comes closer to its literal meaning:

 

Belle, c'est un mot qu'on dirait inventé pour elle...

Beauty, it's a word you could say was invented for her...

[Beauty, it's a word that seems to have been invented for her...]

Caption 64, Alsace 20 Laurent Chandemerle, l'homme aux 100 voix

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But be careful: dire is a very common verb, so you'll just as often encounter on dirait used in a literal sense.

 

On dirait pas "as-tu", axe verbe en premier, sujet en deuxième

We wouldn't say "have you," verb in first position, subject in second

Caption 31, Le Québec parle aux Français - Part 4

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On dirait que cette leçon est terminée!

 

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On se croirait: When You Feel Like You're Somewhere Else

There's an interesting expression in Sophie and Patrice's latest video on Paris's twentieth arrondissement: on se croirait (literally, "one would think/believe oneself"). It means "to feel like," or more specifically, to feel like you're in a different setting than the one you're in now. Whenever Sophie and Patrice are in the center of Paris, for instance, they feel like they're in Euro Disney:

 

Ça ressemble maintenant à Euro Disney, quoi. On se croirait à Euro Disney un petit peu. 

It looks like Euro Disney now, you know. It feels like Euro Disney a little bit. 

Captions 20-21, Sophie et Patrice Le vingtième arrondissement

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And in Extr@, when Sacha smells a strong fragrance upon walking into her apartment, she feels like she's in a perfume shop:

 

Qu'est-ce que c'est que cette odeur? On se croirait dans une parfumerie.

What's that smell? It's like we're in a perfume shop.

Captions 19-20, Extr@ Ep. 3 - Sam a un rendez-vous - Part 4

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In English we use "you'd think" in a similar way to on se croirait:

 

On se croirait même dans une ambiance de campagne.

You'd even think you were in a country atmosphere.

Caption 27, Le Québec parle aux Français - Part 6

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Alors on se croirait pas du tout à Paris, et on a énormément de verdure.

So you wouldn't think you're in Paris at all, and you have lots of greenery.

Captions 13-14, Antoine La Butte-aux-Cailles

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You can also use the phrase avoir l'impression de (to feel like, to get the impression that) to express this feeling of being elsewhere: 

 

On n'a plus l'impression d'être à Paris. 

You don't feel like you're in Paris anymore.

Caption 62, Actu Vingtième Vendanges parisiennes

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If you're playing Dorothy in a French adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, you might even say:

 

Toto, on ne se croirait plus dans le Kansas!
Toto, it doesn't feel like we're in Kansas anymore!

 

Or, in a more accurate translation of the line:

 

Toto, je n'ai plus l'impression d'être dans le Kansas!
Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore!

 

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for our next lesson and tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com.

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French Protest Words

The French have a long history of protesting, from the storming of the Bastille to the student protests of May 1968 to the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) movement today. Our latest video, from Le Monde, covers a strike on December 5, 2019 during which thousands of people across the country took to the streets to protest the pension reforms proposed by Prime Minister Édouard Philippe. As you can imagine, the video contains a lot of vocabulary related to protests, which we'll examine here. 

 

Un mouvement très suivi en France, et quelques tensions entre manifestants et forces de l'ordre.

A very well-attended action in France, and some tension between demonstrators and police.

Captions 1-2, Le Monde Grève du 5 décembre 2019 : les manifestations massives en images

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Un mouvement can be a social movement or protest movement (such as le mouvement des gilets jaunes), but it can also be a protest in its own right, or, as above, an "action."

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Un mouvement wouldn't be un mouvement without des manifestants ("demonstrators" or "protesters"). Manifestant comes from une manifestation, which is the word for "protest" or "demonstration":

 

Les manifestations se sont déroulées dans environ soixante-dix villes.

Demonstrations took place in about seventy cities.

Captions 10-11, Le Monde Grève du 5 décembre 2019 : les manifestations massives en images

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But sometimes une manifestation is less political than a protest. It can just be an "event":

 

Cette manifestation attire des touristes du monde entier.

This event attracts tourists from around the entire world.

Caption 28, Le saviez-vous? Le carnaval en France

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Or simply an "expression" of something (this sense is the closest to "manifestation" in English):

 

Il y aura entrave à l'épanouissement affectif, à la manifestation des sentiments...

There will be obstacles to emotional fulfillment, to the expression of feelings...

Captions 4-5, Le Mans TV Horoscope: Scorpion

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However, the slang term une manif specifically refers to a protest. We have a whole Yabla series centered around this word: Manif du Mois (Protest of the Month). 

 

But let's get back to the December 5 protest, which, like many protests in France, was launched by des syndicats (unions): 

 

Le mouvement a été lancé par des syndicats...

The action was started by unions...

Caption 15, Le Monde Grève du 5 décembre 2019 : les manifestations massives en images

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The syndicats didn't just call for un mouvement, but une grève:

 

L'appel à la grève n'a pas souffert du froid hivernal.

The call to strike didn't suffer from the winter cold.

Caption 7, Le Monde Grève du 5 décembre 2019 : les manifestations massives en images

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Some of the protests turned violent, which prompted the Prime Minister, in his response, to make a distinction between les manifestants and les casseurs—the rioters, or literally, "the breakers" (from casser, "to break"):

 

Y a eu quelques villes où on a constaté des débordements souvent liés à la présence de casseurs qui ne venaient pas pour manifester.

There were a few cities where we observed some violent outbreaks, often linked to the presence of rioters who didn't come to protest.

Captions 30-33, Le Monde Grève du 5 décembre 2019 : les manifestations massives en images

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Un débordement is "a flood" or "an overflowing," but its figurative meaning is more violent: "an outbreak," "outburst," or, when plural (des débordements), any kind of wild or uncontrolled behavior. 

 

For more videos featuring demonstrations and protests, do a search for manifestation or manif on Yabla French. 
 

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Sometimes, Three Times

There are three different ways of saying "sometimes" in French, and they all have one thing in common: the word fois (time).

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The first is quelquefois, which literally means "sometimes" (quelque = some; fois = times). Note that quelquefois is written as one word, like "sometimes," but unlike other quelque words such as quelque chose (something) and quelque part (somewhere):

 

Quelquefois, vous allez voir des produits qui ne correspondent pas à cette recette

Sometimes, you'll see products that don't correspond to this recipe

Caption 38, Le saviez-vous? La Maison de l'Olive à Nice - Part 2

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Then there's parfois (par = by, through, per; fois = times):

 

Je vais parfois au cinéma.

I sometimes go to the movies.

Caption 25, Le saviez-vous? Les différentes négations - Part 3

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Finally, there's des fois (literally "some times" or just "times"), which is a bit more familiar. It roughly corresponds to the English expression "at times": 

 

Je me force un peu des fois à sortir de ma zone de confort.

I force myself a bit sometimes [at times] to get out of my comfort zone.

Captions 46-47, Giulia Sa marque de bijoux 'Desidero'

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There are a couple other ways of saying "sometimes" in French that use the other word for "time," temps. These are de temps en temps and de temps à autre, which both mean "from time to time," "every now and then," "once in a while," "occasionally":

 

Peut-être que vous sentez les odeurs qui sortent des studios de temps en temps.

Maybe you smell the aromas that come out of the studios from time to time.

Caption 10, 4 Mains pour 1 Piano Médaillon de Homard - Part 1

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Je parle à mes amis d'université de temps à autre. 
I talk to my college friends every now and then.

 

Just don't confuse any of these with the expressions for "sometime" and "some time." "Sometime" (meaning "eventually" or "at a later time") is un de ces jours (one of these days) or un jour ou l'autre (one day or another). And "some time" (meaning "a while") is quelque temps:

 

Un jour ou l'autre [Un de ces jours] on sera tous papa

One day or another we'll all be a dad [We'll all be a dad sometime]

Caption 28, Stromae Papaoutai

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Et puis après, j'ai été célibataire quelque temps.

And then after that, I was single for a while [for some time].

Caption 26, Le Journal L'âge et la fertilité

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Or: A Golden Word

The conjunction or pops up in two of our new videos this week:

Or la gravité est présente partout.

But gravity is present everywhere.

Caption 79, Le Monde L’astrologie fonctionne-t-elle ?

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Or, je n'étais pas de garde et surtout j'étais saoul.

But, I wasn't on call and above all I was drunk.

Captions 85-86, Le Jour où tout a basculé À l'audience: Mon chirurgien était ivre - Part 1

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Or is not a particularly common conjunction, but it's a good one to know nonetheless (just don't confuse it with the English "or," which is ou in French). It's a synonym of mais (but, yet) and related words like cependant, néanmoins, pourtant, toutefois (however, nevertheless):

 

Or, il y en a un quatrième que nous décrit ici en détail un grand voyageur qui se nomme Amerigo Vespucci.

However, there's a fourth one that a great explorer named Amerigo Vespucci describes to us here in detail.

Captions 34-35, Il était une fois - les Explorateurs 10. Amerigo Vespucci - Part 7

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You'll also see or used as a more general conjunction, equivalent to "now" or "well," often to introduce a new or oppositional fact:

 

Cette pièce a été remplacée ensuite par celle-ci au début vingtième siècle. Or c'est à peu près la même, mais modernisée pour l'époque.

This coin was replaced later by this one in the early twentieth century. Now, it's more or less the same, but modernized for the era.

Captions 16-18, Georges Breizh Numismat

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Je croyais qu'il allait me demander en mariage ce soir-là. Or, il ne l'a pas fait.
I thought he was going to ask me to marry him that night. Well, he didn't do it.

 

As you can see here, or always comes at the beginning of a sentence or clause when used as a conjunction. You could even call it a "transition word." But or isn't only a conjunction! It also happens to be the word for "gold":

 

Il doit y avoir une mine d'or.

There must be a gold mine here.

Caption 39, Il était une fois - les Explorateurs 10. Amerigo Vespucci - Part 3

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L'or is both the color gold and the element. Its adjective form is doré(e):

 

Il m'a donné une bague de fiançailles dorée.
He gave me a gold engagement ring.

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Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for our next lesson and tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com.

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Inside and Outside

The preposition dans can mean "in," "inside," or "into," depending on context. For example, elle est dans la maison could either be "she is in the house" or "she is inside the house," and elle va dans la maison could be "she goes inside the house" or "she goes into the house." In this lesson, we'll focus on "inside" (and its opposite, "outside"), which has a few other translations besides dans.

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The first is dedans. Unlike dans, which is a preposition, dedans usually functions as an adverb. It can either mean "inside" or "indoors":

 

Là y'a nouveau jeu. Ils doivent deviner combien il y a de bonbons dedans.

There's a new game. They have to guess how many candies there are inside.

Caption 49, Actu Vingtième Fête du quartier Python-Duvernois

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Je n'aime pas rester dedans toute la journée.
I don't like staying indoors all day.

 

Like "inside," dedans can also be used as a noun:

 

Le dedans de l'église est très sombre.
The inside of the church is very dark. 

 

We could also say l'intérieur de l'église est très sombre (the interior of the church is very dark), or simply il fait très sombre dans l'église (it's very dark inside the church). In fact, l'intérieur is the other word for "inside" in French. You'll often see it in the phrase à l'intérieur (de), which can also mean "within":

 

Maintenant, on va la laisser reposer pour que les levures à l'intérieur puissent permettre à notre pâte d'être aérée.

Now we are going to let it rest so that the yeast inside can allow our dough to be airy.

Captions 32-33, Alsace 20 Grain de Sel: le Lycée hôtelier Alexandre Dumas

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Alors des maisons, c'est très rare d'en trouver, euh... à l'intérieur de Paris, je vous le promets.

So [standalone] houses, it's very rare to find them, uh... within Paris, I promise you.

Captions 19-20, Antoine La Butte-aux-Cailles

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We could easily rewrite these two examples using dedans and dansles levures dedans (the yeast inside), en trouver dans Paris (find them in Paris).

 

Now let's move "outside." Though French has a general word for "in" (dans), it doesn't have one for "out." However, dedans and à l'intérieur (de) do have direct opposites: dehors and à l'extérieur (de). 

 

Dehors functions in the exact same way as dedans, as an adverb or noun:

 

Dois-je payer pour ce qu'ils font dehors?

Should I pay for what they do outside?

Caption 20, Alain Etoundi Allez tous vous faire enfilmer! - Part 2

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Le dehors de la maison est plus joli que le dedans. 
The outside of the house is nicer than the inside. 

 

There's also the phrase en dehors de, which means "outside of" in both a literal and figurative sense:

 

Parce qu'il y a énormément de personnes qui vont travailler en dehors de Paris

Because there are so many people who go to work outside of Paris

Captions 47-48, Adrien Le métro parisien

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En dehors de ça, je ne vois aucune autre solution. 
Outside of that, I don't see any other solution. 

 

Sometimes you'll see hors de rather than dehors de:

 

J'aurais du mal à vivre hors de Paris maintenant.

I'd have trouble living outside of Paris now.

Captions 38-39, Elisa et sa maman Comment vas-tu?

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But hors (de) usually means "outside" figuratively, along the lines of "beyond," "without," or "excluding":

 

C'est hors de question!
That's out of the question!

 

Le loyer est de 600 euros hors charges. 
The rent is 600 euros excluding utilities. 

 

Finally, there's à l'extérieur, the opposite of à l'intérieur

 

Ce quartier-là, à l'extérieur, il a quand même une certaine réputation...

This neighborhood, on the outside, it has a certain reputation, nevertheless...

Caption 52, Actus Quartier Fête de quartier Python-Duvernois - Part 2

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Ça m'a permis d'aller travailler à l'extérieur de ce pays.

It's allowed me to work outside of this country.

Caption 24, Annie Chartrand Grandir bilingue

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Il y a des gargouilles sur l'extérieur de la cathédrale.
There are gargoyles on the cathedral's exterior

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Now you know all the ways of saying "inside" and "outside" inside and out! 

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Getting Frustrated in French

In a previous lesson, we discussed the words finalement and enfin, which both mean "finally" but have different connotations. Now we'll look at the related phrase à la fin, which can also mean "finally," but is more aptly translated as "in the end":

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Comme une larme à la fin de l'histoire

Like a tear at the end of the story

Caption 29, 1789: Les Amants de la Bastille Tomber dans ses yeux

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However, like enfin, which is often used as a filler word equivalent to "well," "I mean," "in any case," or "come on," à la fin also has a more colloquial meaning. It's used to express frustration, when you've had enough of something and want it to be done with, or when you're fed up with someone's behavior:

 

Tu deviens ridicule à la fin avec cette histoire.

You're becoming ridiculous with this story at this point.

Caption 11, Le Jour où tout a basculé Mon histoire d'amour est impossible - Part 5

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Mais qu'est-ce que t'as à la fin avec ce garçon?

But what is it with you and this boy, ultimately?

Caption 16, Le Jour où tout a basculé Mon histoire d'amour est impossible - Part 5

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Mais arrête à la fin!

But stop it already!

Caption 58, Le Jour où tout a basculé Notre appartement est hanté - Part 6

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In this sense, à la fin overlaps with enfin, which can also be used to express frustration: 

 

Mais enfin, relève-toi!

Come on, stand up!

Caption 2, Il était une fois - les Explorateurs 15. Bruce et les sources du Nil - Part 3

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You can even use the two in the same sentence, when you're really frustrated:

 

Enfin de quoi vous parlez à la fin?

Well, what are you talking about now?

Caption 65, Le Jour où tout a basculé Notre appartement est hanté - Part 5

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Mais enfin, elle est dingue, cette histoire à la fin!

But come on, this story is crazy now!

Caption 43, Le Jour où tout a basculé Notre appartement est hanté - Part 7

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But that's not all! There's yet another word that's used informally for this purpose: encore (still, again). Patricia gives a succinct explanation of this in her video on encore and toujours:

 

Enfin le mot "encore" peut désigner l'impatience ou le mécontentement par rapport à un événement qui se répète ou continue. Par exemple, la phrase: Quoi encore?

Finally, the word "encore" can indicate impatience or dissatisfaction with regard to an event that repeats or continues. For example, the sentence: What now? [What is it now?]

Captions 17-21, Le saviez-vous? Utilisation de "encore" et "toujours" - Part 2

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Patricia also uses two phrases meaning "to be fed up with" or "to be sick/tired of" in this video—en avoir assez de and en avoir marre de:

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Ah! Encore lui! C'est clair, ça veut dire que on en a assez de le voir. On en a marre de lui.

Ah! Him again! It's clear, it means that we're tired of seeing him. We're sick of him.

Captions 25-28, Le saviez-vous? Utilisation de "encore" et "toujours" - Part 2

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You now have all you need to vent your frustrations in French!

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Saying Grâce

While preparing a gâteau aux pommes with Marie, Jeremy uses the phrase grâce à several times when noting the utensils they use to add the ingredients:

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On ajoute cent grammes de sucre mesurés avec précision grâce à un mesureur.

We add one hundred grams of sugar measured precisely thanks to a measuring cup.

Captions 10-11, Marie & Jeremy Le gâteau aux pommes

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Ensuite on mélange grâce à un fouet avec vivacité et énergie.

Then we mix using a whisk with speed and energy.

Captions 14-15, Marie & Jeremy Le gâteau aux pommes

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Ensuite, grâce à une petite balance de cuisine

Then, with the help of a small kitchen scale

Caption 16, Marie & Jeremy Le gâteau aux pommes

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"Thanks to" is the closest equivalent to grâce à in English. Though Jeremy uses it to talk about inanimate objects, you can just as well use it to refer to a person, someone you're literally thanking:

 

Merci beaucoup. Grâce à vous, ce mariage, c'était formidable.

Thank you very much. Thanks to you this wedding was great.

Caption 59, Grand Corps Malade Inch'Allah, en duo avec Reda Taliani

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Grâce has the same Latin root as the Spanish gracias and the Italian grazie, which both mean "thanks." It's also the source of the English word "grace." Like "grace," la grâce (don't forget the circumflex) can mean "elegance," "pardon," and "mercy":

 

Par lui, tout est grâce et lumière et beauté

Through it, all is grace and light and beauty

Caption 5, Il était une fois - Notre Terre 9. Les écosystèmes - Part 1

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La grâce des membres de l'Arche de Zoé pourrait intervenir la semaine prochaine

The pardoning of the members of Zoe's Ark could occur next week

Caption 22, Le Journal L'Arche de Zoé

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Les vénérables vieillards, plusieurs fois centenaires, n'ont pas connu grâce.

The venerable old men, centenarians several times over, did not get any mercy.

Caption 53, Il était une fois... L’Espace 3. La planète verte - Part 6

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As you might have guessed, "mercy" is the literal meaning of merci. So when you say "thank you" in French, you're really saying "mercy." And when you say "thanks to" something or someone, you're really saying "grace"!

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Say When!

There are a few different ways of saying "when" in French, the most basic of which is quand. Like "when," quand can either be an adverb or a conjunction. As an adverb, it's generally used to form questions:

 

Quand seras-tu libre?
When will you be free?

 

Tu l'as inventé quand ce morceau?

When did you compose this piece?

Caption 24, Claire et Philippe: Mon morceau de piano

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À quelle heure is an adverbial expression that's more or less synonymous with quand, albeit a bit more specific. It's the equivalent of "at what time" in English:

 

Enfin, tu commences à quelle heure le travail?

Anyway, what time [when] do you start work?

Caption 70, Elisa et Mashal: Petit-déjeuner

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As a conjunction, quand is synonymous with lorsque:

 

À Paris quand vous sortez le soir, le métro se termine à minuit trente.

In Paris when you go out at night, the metro stops [running] at half past midnight.

Captions 15-16, Amal: Vélib

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Lorsque je vous vois, je tressaille

When I see you, I quiver

Caption 19, Bertrand Pierre: Si vous n'avez rien à me dire

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We could easily switch quand and lorsque in those examples:

 

À Paris lorsque vous sortez le soir, le métro se termine à minuit trente.
Quand je vous vois, je tressaille

 

However, you can't use lorsque as an adverb, that is, as a question word. So you would never ask someone, Lorsque seras-tu libre?

 

You'll also see the phrase au moment où ("at the moment when") instead of quand or lorsque:

 

Au moment où le chat sortit en courant, la calèche royale atteignait le château.

When the cat ran out, the royal carriage reached the castle.

Captions 33-34, Contes de fées: Le chat botté - Part 2

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 usually means "where," but sometimes, as in au moment où, it means "when":

 

Les lignes de métro vont s'ouvrir jusqu'à mille neuf cent quatre-vingt-dix, dans les années mille neuf cent quatre-vingt-dix, la ligne quatorze fut ouverte.

The subway lines will open [continued to open] until nineteen ninety, in the nineteen nineties, when line fourteen was opened.

Captions 17-20, Adrien: Le métro parisien

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Le dimanche, les gens ne travaillent pas, on va prendre le croissant, on va prendre le pain au chocolat

Sunday, when people don't work, we'll have a croissant, we'll have a chocolate croissant

Captions 29-30, Arles: Le petit déjeuner

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If you're ever in doubt when to use which word for "when," just go with quand. It has the broadest scope, so you can use it pretty much n'importe quand (whenever).

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Again and Again and Again

De nouveau and à nouveau both mean "again" (or more literally, "anew"), and you'll often find them used interchangeably in everyday speech. But technically there's a subtle difference between them. De nouveau implies a repetition of something that already happened:

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Le lendemain il se retrouva de nouveau sur le bord d'un immense lac.

The next day, he found himself again on the edge of an immense lake.

Caption 13, Contes de fées - Le vilain petit canard - Part 2

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Je ne vous ai pas entendu. Pourriez-vous m'expliquer de nouveau?
I didn't hear you. Could you explain it to me again [repeat what you just said]?

 

On the other hand, à nouveau implies something happening in a different way than before—that is, in a new way: 

 

On retravaille à nouveau l'orthographe français [sic: française].

French spelling has once again been reworked.

Caption 46, Le saviez-vous? - L'histoire de la dictée - Part 1

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Je ne comprends pas. Pourriez-vous m'expliquer à nouveau?
I don't understand. Could you explain it to me again [in a different way]?

 

Do you see the difference between the second sentences in the examples above? If you don't hear something someone said, you want them to repeat it. So you use de nouveau. But if you don't understand what they said, you want them to rephrase it, say it in a new way. So you use à nouveau.

 

Note that both these expressions only use nouveau, not the other forms of the adjective (nouvelnouveaux, nouvelle, nouvelles). If you see any of these after de, you're dealing with "new," not "again":  

 

et de la mémorisation de nouveaux mots ou de nouvelles phrases.

and the memorization of new words or new phrases.

Caption 49, Le saviez-vous? - Les bénéfices de la dictée

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If you forget when to use à nouveau versus de nouveau, you can always just use encore, the most basic equivalent of "again":
 

On espère te... te voir encore sur d'autres scènes en Alsace?

We hope to... to see you again on other stages in Alsace?

Caption 62, Alsace 20 - Femmes d'exception: Christine Ott

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Just keep in mind that encore can also mean "still," as we discussed in a previous lesson.

Continua leyendo

The preposition à : "to," "at," or "from"?

In her video on the famous French writer Victor Hugo, Patricia recites an excerpt from Hugo's poem "À l'Arc de Triomphe," a tribute to the city of Paris. The title of the poem means "At the Arc de Triomphe," but in another context à l'Arc de Triomphe could also mean "to the Arc de Triomphe." "At" and "to" are the most common meanings of the preposition à. But as we see several times in this video, à can also mean "from" when paired with certain verbs:

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Cette science universelle Qu'il emprunte à tous les humains;

This universal science That it borrows from all humans;

Captions 46-47, Le saviez-vous? - La poésie de Victor Hugo

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Puis il rejette aux peuples blêmes Leurs sceptres et leurs diadèmes,

Then it rejects from pallid people Their scepters and their diadems,

Captions 48-49, Le saviez-vous? - La poésie de Victor Hugo

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À tout peuple, heureux, brave ou sage, Il prend ses lois, ses dieux, ses mœurs.

From all people, happy, brave, or wise, It takes their laws, their gods, their customs.

Captions 42-43, Le saviez-vous? - La poésie de Victor Hugo

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The verbal phrases here are emprunter quelque chose à quelqu'un (to borrow something from someone), prendre quelque chose à quelqu'un (to take something from someone), and rejeter quelque chose à quelqu'un (to reject something from someone). Though de is the more general equivalent of "from," you can't use de in verbal phrases like these–you have to use à.

 

The indirect object of these phrases (that is, what follows the à) is usually a person: "to x something from (à) someone."

 

Cacher (to hide) and voler (to steal) are two other common verbs that take à instead of de:

 

Je vais cacher les cadeaux de Noël à mes enfants.
I'm going to hide the Christmas gifts from my kids.

 

Marc a volé de l'argent à Sophie.
Marc stole money from Sophie.

 

Another very common verb with à is acheter (to buy). Be careful with this one though: acheter quelque chose à quelqu'un can either mean "to buy something from somebody" or "to buy something for somebody." You'll need to figure out the meaning from context:

 

Marc a acheté une bague au bijoutier.
Marc bought a ring from the jeweler. 

 

Marc a acheté une bague à Sophie.
Marc bought a ring for Sophie.

 

But with other verbs—such as permettre à (to enable/allow), rappeler à (to remind), and coûter à (to cost)—the à doesn't translate to anything at all:

 

De permettre à quarante mille femmes et jeunes filles au Sénégal, euh... d'être alphabétisées,

To enable forty thousand women and young girls in Senegal, uh... to become literate,

Captions 3-4, Alphabétisation - des filles au Sénégal

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Rappeler effectivement aux gens que ça reste des produits de confiserie, c'est pas une mauvaise mesure,

Indeed, to remind people that these are still sweets, it's not a bad idea,

Caption 14, Le Journal - Publicité anti-calories

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Et la différence, cela ne coûte quasiment rien à Martine.

And the difference costs Martine practically nothing.

Caption 57, Alsace 20 - Alsace: les plus belles déco de Noël!

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There are a good number of other verb phrases with à where the à means "from" or just isn't translated. Here are some of the more common ones:

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arracher à (to remove from)
commander à (to order)
défendre à (to forbid/ban)
demander à (to ask)
enlever à (to take away from) 
épargner à (to spare)
éviter à (to save/spare)
garantir à (to guarantee)
pardonner à (to forgive)
refuser à (to refuse/deny)
souhaiter à (to wish)

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Striking Agreements and Chords with Accord

We've touched on grammatical agreement in previous lessons, but in this one we're focusing on the word "agreement" itself. The French word for "agreement" is un accord, and its verbal form, accorder, means "to agree" or "to make an agreement":

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Et les accords, également. Savoir comment on accorde un adjectif à son sujet, par exemple

And agreements too. Knowing how you make an adjective agree with its subject, for example.

Captions 11-12, Le saviez-vous? - Les bénéfices de la dictée

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Un accord is "an agreement" in all senses, not just a grammatical one. It can refer to an official agreement, something you might sign or seal:

 

Eh bien, scellons cet accord!

Well then, let's seal this agreement!

Caption 16, Il était une fois... l’Homme - 6. Le siècle de Périclès - Part 3

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Or it can refer to a verbal agreement, to permission or consent:

 

Il me fallait aussi l'accord de ses parents.

I also needed the consent of her parents.

Caption 30, Le Jour où tout a basculé - Mon père s'oppose à ma passion - Part 4

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It's pretty obvious that this is where the English word "accord" comes from. But did you know that accord is also the root of the word "chord"?

 

Ce morceau se joue sur trois accords.

This piece is played with three chords.

Caption 7, Leçons de guitare - Leçon 3

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(It's not, however, the root of the word "cord." That would be une corde—a cord, rope, or string.)

 

On another musical note, accord is also the word for "harmony" in a figurative sense, referring to a match, fit, rapport, or understanding: 

 

Le riesling ça reste quand même sur les huîtres un accord parfait.

Riesling still remains in perfect harmony with oysters.

Caption 71, Alsace 20 - 100 recettes pour 100 vins

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Alors c'est quoi le bon accord mets et vins?

So what is the good pairing of food and wine?

Caption 8, Alsace 20 - 100 recettes pour 100 vins

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Nous sommes en parfait accord.
We are in complete agreement/harmony.

 

But you're most likely to encounter accord in the expression d'accord, the French equivalent of "OK" or "all right":

 

D'accord, ça marche pour moi.
OK, that works for me.

 

D'accord is an abbreviated form of the phrase être d'accord, "to agree" or "to be in agreement":

 

On s'est quitté d'un commun accord, mais elle était plus d'accord que moi

We left each other with a mutual agreement, but she was more in agreement than I

Caption 51, Grand Corps Malade - Les Voyages en train

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Certaines personnes sont pas d'accord avec l'enfermement des animaux.

Some people don't agree with the confinement of animals.

Caption 21, Actus Quartier - Bêtes de scène ?

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D'accord, c'est tout pour cette leçon!

Continua leyendo

Une leçon sur "rien que", rien que ça!

When you put the words rien (nothing) and que (that) together, you get the expression rien que, which does not mean "nothing that," but "nothing but":

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Je jure de dire la vérité, toute la vérité et rien que la vérité.
I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

 

ll utilise rien que pour cela dix-huit kilos de beurre.

For that, he uses nothing but [no less than] eighteen kilos of butter.

Captions 4-5, France 3 - Les conséquences de la crise du beurre

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Like "nothing but," rien que is a more emphatic way of saying "only" (seulement or ne... que) or "just" (juste):

 

C'est rien que des cochonneries, non? [C'est seulement des conneries, non? / Ce n'est que des conneries, non?]

It's nothing but trash, isn't it? [It's only trash, isn't it?]

Caption 36, Il était une fois - Notre Terre - 9. Les écosystèmes - Part 3

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Aujourd'hui rien que pour vous j'ai décidé d'enquêter sur le titre "Maître Restaurateur".

Today, just for you, I decided to investigate the title "Maître Restaurateur" [Master Restaurant Owner].

Captions 2-3, Alsace 20 - Grain de Sel: le titre de Maître Restaurateur, c'est quoi?

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Voici la ferme verticale, un gratte-ciel rien que pour cultiver des fruits et des légumes.

Here is the vertical farm, a skyscraper solely for growing fruits and vegetables.

Caption 27, Il était une fois - Notre Terre - 25. Technologies - Part 7

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It can also mean "alone," again in an emphatic sense:

 

Je trouve que rien que le titre du recueil, il est vraiment sublime.

I think that the title of the collection alone is really sublime.

Captions 76-77, Le saviez-vous? - Karine Rougier présente son art - Part 4

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Ça me rend malade rien que d'y penser.
The thought of it alone/The very thought of it/Just thinking about it makes me sick.

 

Rien que pour ça je devrais quitter mon emploi.
For that reason alone I should quit my job.

 

Don't confuse rien que pour ça with rien que ça, which means "that's all" or "no less," often used ironically to emphasize something enormous or extravagant:

 

C'est un grand cinéma avec une énorme salle qui peut comporter deux mille sept cents spectateurs. Rien que ça!

It's a big movie theater with a huge auditorium that can accommodate two thousand seven hundred viewers. That's all!

Captions 3-5, Paris Tour - Visite guidée de Paris

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Il n'a plus d'argent mais il veut quand même acheter une nouvelle voiture. Une Porsche, rien que ça!
He has no money left but he still wants to buy a new car. A Porsche, no less!

 

But sometimes a rien next to a que does indeed mean "nothing that":

 

Et c'est pas pour rien que les derniers polars français par exemple...

And it's not for nothing that the latest French thrillers, for example...

Caption 21, Télé Lyon Métropole - Un café librairie spécialisé dans le polar

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The rien in this example is part of the expression ce n'est pas pour rien (it's not for nothing). "Nothing but" wouldn't make sense here. 

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Rien que ça pour "rien que"!

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A Lesson in Limits

In Les endives au jambon - Part 1, Sophie gives Patrice's recipe for endive with ham a rave review. She uses the word limite twice:

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J'ai limite léché l'assiette, quoi!

almost licked the plate, you know!

Caption 64, Sophie et Patrice - Les endives au jambon - Part 1

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Et limite... limite... limite, tu pourrais mettre un tout petit peu de miel, hein?

And almost... almost... you could almost put in a tiny little bit of honey, right?

Captions 106-107, Sophie et Patrice - Les endives au jambon - Part 1

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Une limite is "a limit," but limite can also be an adverb or adjective. As an adverb (which is how Sophie uses it here), limite is a more informal synonym of presque (almost, nearly). So Sophie could also have said:

 

J'ai presque léché l'assiette, quoi!
I almost licked the plate, you know!

 

Tu pourrais presque mettre un tout petit peu de miel, hein?
You could almost put in a tiny little bit of honey, right?

 

In the first example, she could also have used the expression "avoir failli + infinitive" (to almost do something):

 

J'ai failli lécher l'assiette, quoi!
I almost licked the plate, you know!

 

But let's get back to limite. As an adjective, it usually means "maximum," as in la vitesse limite (maximum speed) or le prix limite (maximum price, upper price limit). You'll also see it in phrases like la date limite (deadline) or la date limite de vente (sell-by date).

 

More colloquially, limite can describe a close call, something you just barely succeeded in doing:

 

J'ai réussi mon permis de conduire, mais c'était limite.
I passed my driver's test, but just barely.

 

You might also say j'ai limite raté mon permis de conduire, j'ai presque raté mon permis de conduire, or j'ai failli rater mon permis de conduire (I almost failed my driver's test).

 

Finally, limite is also the word for "edgy" or "borderline," as in something that's risqué or just shy of being offensive:

 

Ton ami est sympa mais ses blagues sont un peu limites.
Your friend is nice but his jokes are borderline offensive

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We've reached the limit for this lesson! Tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com.

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Ones, Eighties, and Hundreds

When it comes to writing numbers in French, there are a good number (bon nombre) of rules to remember. Luckily, Sophie and Patrice have broken down most of them in their latest video series. They pay particular attention to the rules concerning the numeral one (un), the eighties (quatre-vingts), and the hundreds (cents).

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In French, there’s only one numeral that changes according to the gender of the noun it modifies: the numeral one!

 

Je n’ai acheté qu’une chemise et un pantalon.

I only bought one [feminine] shirt and one [masculine] pair of pants.

 

This rule applies to any number ending in “one,” such as vingt-et-un (“twenty-one,” masculine) or vingt-et-une (“twenty-one,” feminine):

 

J’ai acheté trop de vêtements: vingt-et-une chemises et vingt-et-un pantalons.

I bought too many clothes: twenty-one shirts and twenty-one pairs of pants.

 

However, there’s an exception to this: the numeral un never changes when it comes after a noun indicating a number. For example:

 

Tournez à la page un [not: une].

Turn to page one.

 

Pourriez-vous me passer la revue numéro vingt-et-un [not: vingt-et-une]?

Could you pass me the magazine issue number twenty-one?

Caption 25, Sophie et Patrice - Chiffres et nombres - Part 2

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Most other numbers—from deux (two) to quarante (forty) to deux mille quarante (two thousand forty)—never change in any situation. For those that do (besides those ending in un), it’s generally a question of knowing when to add an -s at the end. Take the number quatre-vingts (eighty) for example. Quatre-vingts literally means “four twenties” (4 x 20 = 80) and always takes an -s, except—once again—after a noun indicating a number. So we would write: la page quatre-vingt (page eighty) and les années quatre-vingt (the nineteen eighties), but quatre-vingts pages (eighty pages) and quatre-vingts années (eighty years).

 

The -s is also dropped whenever quatre-vingts is followed by a number—as in quatre-vingt-un (eighty-one) or quatre-vingt-cinq (eighty-five):

 

Quatre-vingt-cinq personnes sont attendues ce soir.

Eighty-five people are expected tonight.

Caption 79, Sophie et Patrice - Chiffres et nombres - Part 2

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Did you notice we wrote quatre-vingt-un (eighty-one), but vingt-et-un (twenty-one, or “twenty and one”) above? That’s another rule of eighties and ones: you say vingt-et-un (twenty-one), trente-et-un (thirty-one), quarante-et-un (forty-one), cinquante-et-un (fifty-one), soixante-et-un (sixty-one), and soixante-et-onze (seventy-one, or “sixty and eleven”), but quatre-vingt-un (eighty-one) and quatre-vingt-onze (ninety-one, or “four-twenty-eleven” [4 x 20 + 11 = 91]).

 

The rules for the hundreds (cents) are the same as those for the eighties:

 

À chaque fois qu'il y a un nombre qui suit le cent, même s'il y a un nombre qui précède le cent, on ne met pas de S.

Each time there's a number that follows the cent, even if there's a number that precedes the cent, we don't add an S.

Captions 43-45, Sophie et Patrice - Chiffres et nombres - Part 2

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So we would write: trois cent(three hundred), la page trois cent (page three hundred), trois cent un (three hundred one; not trois cent et un!). For more on cent, and numbers like mille (thousand) and million (million), see our lesson on big numbers in French.

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If your head is spinning from all these number rules, don’t fret! It’s easier to just memorize numbers like soixante-quinze and quatre-vingt-onze rather than having to calculate 60 + 15 and 4 x 20 + 11 each time you want to say "seventy-five" and "ninety-one."

 

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Painting Three Ways

Since France has such a rich artistic history, from Gothic architecture to Surrealism and beyond, it's not too surprising that there are three different words for "painting" in French. You'll find one of them in our new video on the artist Karine Rougier:

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Un travail à la fois de peintures, de sculptures... de pierres peintes

Works of both paintings, of sculptures... of painted rocks

Captions 9-10, Le saviez-vous? - Karine Rougier présente son art - Part 1

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Une peinture shouldn't be too hard to remember, since it's a cognate of "painting." Its relatives also have direct English equivalents: peindre (to paint), peint/peinte (painted), peintre (painter).

 

Peinture is also the word for "paint," as in the substance: 

 

Et la peinture, euh... on peut dire, se sépare pas comme une vinaigrette.

And the paint, uh... we can say, doesn't separate like a vinaigrette.

Caption 31, Salon Eco Habitat - La peinture à l'ocre

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So la peinture à l'huile, for example, can either mean "oil painting" or "oil paint."

 

In English, a "tableau" is an artistic grouping or arrangement, originally referring to a motionless group of people representing a scene or historical event, kind of like a living painting. As a matter of fact, "tableau" is short for tableau vivant, which means exactly that. Un tableau (literally, "little table") is another word for "painting" in French:

 

Actuellement, je prépare un grand tableau, "La naissance de Vénus".

At the moment, I'm preparing a great painting, "The Birth of Venus."

Caption 67, Il était une fois - les Explorateurs - 10. Amerigo Vespucci - Part 1

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Finally, there's la toile, which technically means "canvas," but is just as often used for "painting":

 

Vous y découvrirez la reproduction d'une toile de Sisley

There you'll find the reproduction of a Sisley painting

Caption 10, Voyage en France - Saint-Mammès

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But that's not all! Une toile is also "a web," as in une toile d'araignée (spider's web). And just as you can say "the web" in English to refer to the internet, in French you can say la toile.

 

We hope this lesson has inspired you to get out your pinceaux (paintbrushes)!
 

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Tirer: Pulling, Drawing, Shooting, and More

The galette des rois (kings' cake) is a holiday treat prepared throughout the French-speaking world. Associated with the feast of Epiphany on January 6, the cake contains a small figurine (called la fève) representing the baby Jesus. Whoever finds la fève in their slice is crowned king or queen for the day.

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Patricia explains the tradition of the galette des rois in her latest video. While doing so, she also happens to use the verb tirer in all three of its major senses: 

 

En début d'année, au mois de janvier, nous tirons les rois.

At the beginning of the year, in the month of January, we draw kings.

Captions 4-5, Le saviez-vous? - La tradition de la galette des rois - Part 1

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Non, il ne s'agit pas de tirer les moustaches du roi ou encore tirer des fléchettes sur le roi.

No, it's not about pulling the king's mustache or shooting darts at the king.

Captions 6-7, Le saviez-vous? - La tradition de la galette des rois - Part 1

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Le roi et la reine qu'on a donc tirés, c'est-à-dire tirés au sort, choisis au hasard, portent leur couronne pour clôturer cette célébration.

So the king and the queen that were drawn, that is to say drawn at random, chosen at random, wear their crowns to close this celebration.

Captions 19-22, Le saviez-vous? - La tradition de la galette des rois - Part 1

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"To pull" is the most basic meaning of tirer. You'll often come across it when approaching a door (tirez, "pull"), along with its opposite (poussez, "push"). And in the event of an emergency, you might tirer l'alarme incendie (pull the fire alarm).

 

Tirer means "to draw" not in the sense of "drawing" a picture (the verb for that is dessiner), but rather "drawing" something toward you or extracting something (such as la fève from a galette des rois). It's also "to draw" as in "to pick" or "select." For example, a French magician might say to you:

 

Tirez une carte. 
Pick a card.

 

Tirer's more sinister meaning is "to shoot" or "to fire," referring to a weapon. This also has to do with pulling—you pull the trigger to fire a gun and pull the bow to shoot an arrow. Be careful with your prepositions here: we say "to shoot or fire at" in English, but in French it's not tirer à but tirer sur (tirer des fléchettes sur le roi).

 

Tirer has many, many other meanings. For instance, you can use it to describe skin irritation (which, if you think about it, kind of feels like your skin is being pulled):

 

J'ai la peau qui tire
My skin is irritated.

 

On a totally different note, tirer can also refer to printing something, such as a book, a photo, or a poster. In this case it's synonymous with imprimer

 

On a tiré [or imprimédes affiches pour le concert. 
We printed some posters for the concert. 

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Note that there are two noun forms of tirerle tirage and le tirTir exclusively refers to "shooting" or "firing" a weapon, as in le tir à l'arc (archery). Tirage refers to "drawing" or "printing," as in le tirage au sort (drawing lots) or le tirage d'un livre (the printing of a book).

 

For even more usages of tirer, check out this page or do a search in our video library. 

 

On se tire! (We're out of here!) Thanks for reading. Tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com.

 

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Au moins or du moins?

Moins is a comparative word meaning "less" or "least" (its opposite, plus, means "more" or "most"). In this lesson, we'll focus on two common expressions with moinsau moins and du moins, both equivalent to "at least." How do we know when to use which?

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If you think about it, "at least" has (at least!) three usages. It can specify the minimum amount of something ("I need at least two cups of coffee every day"), it can emphasize a positive aspect of an otherwise negative situation ("The car was totaled, but at least we're all OK"), and it can alter the connotation of a previous statement ("That restaurant is terrible. At least that's what I've heard"). In general, au moins corresponds to the first two usages, and du moins to the third.

 

We use au moins when referring to a minimum amount. It's often followed by a number:

 

On fait au moins sept ou huit groupes différents.

We have at least seven or eight different bands.

Caption 5, French Punk - Frustration

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Tu pourras leur parler de ce que tu voudras, pourvu que tu parles au moins deux heures.

You'll be able to talk to them about whatever you like, as long as you speak for at least two hours.

Captions 3-4, Il était une fois... L’Espace - 6. La révolte des robots - Part 5

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Au moins is synonymous with au minimum in this sense: 

 

Pour jouer à la pétanque il faut au minimum deux joueurs.

To play pétanque, you need at the minimum two players.

Caption 5, Lionel - Les nombres

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But like "at least," au moins doesn't have to refer to a numerical minimum. It can also refer to the "bare minimum," as in the minimum you can do if you can't or don't want to do something else:

 

Bien entendu, il faut réapprendre ou tout au moins se remettre au niveau

Of course, it's necessary to relearn or at the very least get up to speed

Caption 24, Lionel - Le club de foot de Nancy - Part 2

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Au moins is a great expression to use when you're being optimistic or encouraging someone:

 

C'était pas comme t'imaginais, mais au moins tu essayes

It was not as you imagined, but at least you're trying

Captions 76-77, Watt’s In - Zaz : On Ira Interview Exclu

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Just don't confuse it with à moins (que), which means "unless":

 

Ne plus couper les forêts à moins que ce soit pour faire mes jolis calendriers

No longer cut down the forests unless it's to make my pretty calendars

Captions 3-5, Nouveaux Talents? - Adonis chante

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Du moins restricts the meaning of a previous statement. You can use it to modify or clarify what you just said:

 

Je suis le fou du village. Du moins, c'est ce que les gens disent.

I'm the village idiot. At least that's what people say.

Captions 68-69, Patrice Zana - L'artiste et ses inspirations - Part 2

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C'est parti pour quatre heures de réflexion. Du moins en théorie.

Time for four hours of recollection. At least in theory.

Captions 4-5, Le Journal - Le bac

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Du moins is more or less synonymous with en tout cas (in any event, anyway): en tout cas c'est ce que les gens disent (that's what people say, in any event); en tout cas en théorie (in theory, anyway).

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

To get an even better sense of how to use these two expressions, just do a search for au moins and du moins on the Yabla site. 

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