Lecciones de Francés

Temas

Lessons for topic Vocabulary

An vs. Année

We've discussed the differences in meaning between the two ways of saying “day" (jour/journée), “morning” (matin/matinée), and “evening” (soir/soirée). Now we’ll take a look at the remaining word pair, an/année (year).

 

An/année works similarly to the other word pairs. The masculine term (un an) usually refers to a specific point in time with an emphasis on quantity, while its feminine counterpart (une année) focuses on duration, content, and quality. 

 

However, there are many exceptions, mostly with année. So, let’s begin with time expressions that call for année exclusively.

 

The demonstrative adjective ce (this) is always paired with annéecette année (this year).

 

Cette année, nous avons décidé d'interviewer Vincent Glad

This year, we decided to interview Vincent Glad

Caption 20, Caroline et l'Express

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Even though we can say ce matin/soir/jour (this morning/evening/day), we can never say cet an! Logic doesn’t always apply…

 

We also always use année with ordinal numbers like première/deuxième/dernière (first/second/last). So we say la première année (the first year):

 

Et c'est la première année qu'on a autant de monde qui reste à la party.

And this is the first year that we had so many people stay at the party.

Caption 27, Ultimate frisbee KYM, le tournoi

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Année is also required with the indefinite adjective quelques (a few): quelques années (a few years). In the conversation below, two friends discuss what they did il y a quelques années (a few years ago):

 

Oh, j'y allais beaucoup avec ma fille, il y a quelques années.

Oh, I used to go there a lot with my daughter a few years ago.

Caption 47, Claire et Philippe La campagne

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The same rule applies to indefinite plural article des (some), as in depuis des années (for years). In the video below, Caroline tells her friend Amal, who has been singing depuis des années (for years), that she should stop because she’s an awful singer. Apparently, Caroline has been putting up with her bad singing for years:

 

Euh... je sais que tu fais ça depuis des années.

Uh... I know that you've been doing this for years.

Caption 7, Amal et Caroline Je n'aime pas quand tu chantes

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And Amal is wondering what took Caroline so long to finally tell her what she really thinks. After all, they’ve been friends depuis plusieurs années (for several years):

 

Justement on est amies depuis plusieurs années.

As it happens, we've been friends for several years.

Caption 45, Amal et Caroline Je n'aime pas quand tu chantes

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Although we say chaque jour (each day), we can’t say chaque an, even though we're referring to a specific point in time. We have to say chaque année (every/each year). In the video below, a journalist asks people on the street if they come to the gay pride parade “every year," first using tous les ans, then chaque année.

 

Tous les ans (every year) is more or less equivalent to chaque année, except it emphasizes the quantity of years. It literally means "all the years":

 

Vous venez tous les ans ou pas? -Oui, tous les ans.

Do you come every year or not? -Yes, every year.

Captions 11-12, Gay Pride La fierté

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Then the journalist uses chaque année (every year) to emphasize the experience itself:

 

Et pour vous c'est important de... chaque année renouveler, euh...?

And for you is it important to... every year, to repeat, uh...?

Caption 13, Gay Pride La fierté

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The journalist could have also asked the people combien d’années (how many years) they had been going to the parade:

 

Vous y allez depuis combien d’années?

How many years have you been going there?

 

Finally, we have one more instance that requires année: de/en quelle année (from/in what year). In the example below, Lionel asks de quelle année (from what year) the cloister dates:

 

Et le cloître, il date de quelle année?

And the cloister, it dates from what year?

Caption 1, Lionel La Cathédrale de Toul - Part 2

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Interestingly, to answer the question de quelle année (from what year), we revert to the masculine term an(s) to refer to the specific point in time:

 

La plus vieille structure que l'on ait trouvée date de six mille cinq cents ans avant Jésus-Christ.

The oldest [umbrella] structure that was found dates back to six thousand five hundred years before Jesus Christ [BC].

Captions 74-76, Pep's Réparation de parapluies

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We almost always say an with numbers and dates. So, we use an to date a building or an object and, of course, to describe the age of a person:

 

Pierre a alors vingt-six ans quand est déclenchée la Seconde Guerre mondiale.

Pierre was twenty-six years old then when the Second World War started.

Captions 36-37, TV Vendée Vendée : Pierre Zucchi, 104 ans, raconte ses mémoires

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With time expressions like pendant (for/during), we tend to use ans for counting the years. In the first part of this video, the journalist tells the story of a woman who decided to give up sugar pendant un an (for a year), with an emphasis on a definite time:

 

Elle a décidé de supprimer le sucre de son alimentation pendant un an.

She decided to remove sugar from her diet for a year.

Caption 2, Le Figaro Elle a banni le sucre pendant un an - Part 1

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Then the journalist switches to pendant une année (for a year) to emphasize the woman's experience: 

 

Et vous avez raconté cette expérience de supprimer le sucre de votre alimentation dans cet ouvrage, "Zéro sucre", pendant une année.

And you recounted this experience of removing sugar from your diet in this book, "Zero Sugar," for a year.

Captions 10-12, Le Figaro Elle a banni le sucre pendant un an - Part 1

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As you may have noticed, there is some flexibility within those guidelines depending on the situation. So much so that, sometimes, the choice is entirely yours! For example, the expressions l’an prochain/dernier and l’année prochaine/dernière (next/last year) are pretty much interchangeable, as the difference in meaning is negligible. 

 

Here, the speaker uses l’an dernier to refer to a point in time, but l’année dernière would have worked too:

 

L'an dernier, huit départements français avaient participé à cette enquête.

Last year, eight French departments had participated in this survey.

Caption 17, Canal 32 Les secrets des cailles des blés

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And in this example, the speaker uses l’année dernière, as the exact timing is not as important as what happened. But he just as well could have said l’an dernier:

 

Ça a commencé l'année dernière.

It started last year.

Caption 6, Le Jour où tout a basculé À l'audience: Mon chirurgien était ivre - Part 4

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Here are a few examples of idiomatic expressions with an/année.

 

To refer to New Year’s, the public holiday, we say le Nouvel An:

 

...au lendemain du réveillon du Nouvel An.

...to the day after the New Year's Eve celebration.

Caption 34, TV Vendée Fêtes de fin d’année : manger léger et équilibré

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(Note, however, that when referring to the “new year” in general, we say la nouvelle année.) 

 

And au Nouvel An, on New Year’s Day, it’s customary to wish everyone bonne année et bonne santé (Happy New Year and good health), which is what this Good Samaritan did while visiting the homeless:

 

Merci beaucoup. Bonne année et bonne santé.

Thank you very much. Happy New Year and good health.

Caption 27, Dao Evolution Noël pour les sans-abris

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Le Nouvel An (New Year’s Day) may be a time to reflect on the old days, like les années cinquante (the fifties), which was a time of decline for the Hôtel Negresco in Nice:

 

La crise économique de mille neuf cent vingt-neuf ralentissent le fonctionnement de l'hôtel qui se trouve au bord de la faillite dans les années cinquante.

The economic crisis of nineteen twenty-nine slow down the operation of the hotel, which finds itself on the verge of bankruptcy in the fifties.

Captions 27-30, Le saviez-vous? L'hôtel Negresco - Part 1

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And if nothing fazes you, you might use the slang phrase:

 

Je m’en moque comme de l’an quarante.

I couldn’t care less (literally, "l don't care about it like [I don't care about] the year forty").

 

For more idiomatic expressions, click here.

 

In conclusion, the choice between an and année is somewhat subjective and contradictory with its many exceptions, so let’s recap.

 

Expressions that go with année are as follows:

 

la dernière/première/deuxième année (the last year/first year/second year)

pendant l’année (during the year)

plusieurs années (several years)

quelques années (a few years)

chaque année (each/every year)

toute l’année (all year)

durant/pendant des années (for years)

cette année (this year)

combien d'années (how many years)

quelle année (what year)

 

Expressions that go with either an or année include:

 

l’année dernière/l’an dernier (last year)

l’année prochaine/l’an prochain (next year)

 

Just remember that in general, an is used to refer to a point in time and année to emphasize duration.

 

Bonne journée et bonne lecture! (Enjoy your day, and happy reading!).

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Morning and Evening: Matin/soir vs. matinée/soirée

In our last lesson, we discussed the differences in meaning between the two ways of saying "day" in French, le jour and la journée. The masculine term jour refers to a specific moment in time, or a unit of time with an emphasis on quantity, while its feminine counterpart journée emphasizes quality, content, and duration. We also mentioned that there were other words pairs, namely matin/matinée (morning), soir/soirée (evening), and an/année (year), that work similarly. 

 

In this lesson, we will focus on the word pairs soir/soirée and matin/matinée.

 

Like jour (day), matin (morning) and soir (evening/night) indicate a point in time. You can use them to specify the time of day, as in six heures du matin (six o’clock in the morning).

 

To clarify whether it’s morning or afternoon on the twelve-hour clock, simply add du matin (in the morning) and du soir (in the evening) to the time:

 

New York, six heures du matin

New York, six o'clock in the morning

Caption 2, Boulbar New York, 6 heures du matin

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(Du matin is equivalent to “a.m.” and du soir is equivalent to “p.m.”).

 

You can also combine matin/soir with other time expressions, as in le lendemain matin/le lendemain soir (the next morning/evening):

 

Le lendemain matin, Jean-Paul est rongé par la culpabilité.

The next morning, Jean-Paul is consumed with guilt.

Caption 1, Le Jour où tout a basculé Mon histoire d'amour est impossible - Part 6

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Similarly, you can pair matin/soir with hier (yesterday). In the example below, we have hier soir (last night): 

 

T'étais où hier soir?

Where were you last night?

Caption 42, Le Jour où tout a basculé J'ai volé pour nourrir mon fils - Part 7

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The nouns le soir and le matin aren't necessarily accompanied by an adverb of time. They can be used on their own to indicate a time of day. In the example below, the restaurant owner explains how many people typically come for lunch or dinner:

 

Cinquante personnes le midi, cinquante personnes le soir

Fifty people at noon, fifty people in the evening

Captions 31-32, Christian Le Squer Je ne fais que goûter!

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In the example below, Elisa and Mashal discuss what they usually have for breakfast, and Elisa is surprised to hear that Mashal likes to eat a slice of chicken le matin (in the morning).

 

Le matin? -Ouais. Une tranche de poulet le matin?

In the morning? -Yeah. A slice of chicken in the morning?

Captions 5-6, Elisa et Mashal Petit-déjeuner

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Unlike in English, you don't need a preposition in French to say "in the evening/in the morning." You can simply say le soir/le matin (in the evening/morning). 

 

When the time is less specific or crucial, and the emphasis is on what happened during that time, it’s better to use the feminine version dans la matinée/soirée (in the morning/evening). This time, the preposition dans (in) is included.

 

Let’s look at what Alexandre and Sophie were doing dans la soirée (in the evening) in the example below. What matters most is what happened during the evening—Alexandre calling Sophie:

 

Dans la soirée, Alexandre appelle Sophie.

In the evening, Alexandre calls Sophie.

Caption 7, Le Jour où tout a basculé J'ai piégé mon fan - Part 3

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In the next example, Alexandre calls Sophie at a different time: en fin de matinée (in the late morning). Since timing is approximate, we use matinée

 

Alex, l'agent de Sophie, m'a appelée en fin de matinée.

Alex, Sophie's agent, called me in the late morning.

Caption 15, Le Jour où tout a basculé J'ai piégé mon fan - Part 6

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You can substitute matinée (morning) with soirée (evening) here: en fin de soirée (in the late evening).

 

When estimating how long it might take to perform a task, use the suffix -ée to indicate duration. In the example below, the person needs la matinée (the whole morning or the better part of the morning) to do her shopping:

 

Je vais faire des courses. J'en ai pour la matinée.

I'm going to do some shopping. I'll be out for the morning.

Caption 2, Le Jour où tout a basculé Mon histoire d'amour est impossible - Part 6

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When describing how much you can accomplish in the span of a morning, you say dans une matinée (in a morning). Watch the video below to find out how many madeleines this amazing baker makes dans une matinée (in a morning):

 

Mais vous, tout seul, dans une matinée, vous faites combien de madeleines?

But you by yourself, how many madeleines do you make in a morning?

Caption 53, Lionel L'usine de madeleines de Liverdun - Part 2

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Unlike the baker in the example above, the lady in the video below decides to prendre la matinée (take the morning off):

 

Elle a pris sa matinée aujourd'hui.

She took her morning off today.

Caption 41, Le Jour où tout a basculé J'ai volé pour nourrir mon fils - Part 5

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Taking the morning off is a great opportunity to faire la grasse matinée (to sleep in; literally, "to do the fat morning"). That is precisely what the animal in this funny zoo recommends doing while on holiday:

 

Pas question. Vacances égalent grasse matinée.

Out of the question. Vacations equal sleeping in.

Caption 33, Les zooriginaux Repos corsé - Part 3

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And if you’re in the mood, you can watch a matinée performance. Une matinée can stretch into an early afternoon, the start of the day for very late risers.

 

For evening people, how you spend la soirée (the evening) is more important. In the video below, Cinderella was having such a good night out that la soirée (the evening) flew by:

 

Avec la musique et la danse, la soirée passa comme dans un rêve.

With the music and the dancing, the evening passed like in a dream.

Captions 21-22, Contes de fées Cendrillon - Part 2

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Elisa and Mashal also remember a memorable evening, cette soirée (that evening), as they look at old photos:

 

C'est vrai. Je me rappelle de cette soirée.

That's true. I remember that evening.

Caption 53, Elisa et Mashal Photos

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If it had been a formal event, une soirée (a soirée), Elisa and Mashal might have worn une robe de soirée (an evening gown). 

 

On the other hand, une robe de soirée (an evening gown) would not be appropriate for a job interview, as Mashal jokingly points out:

 

On va pas se ramener, euh... -Avec une robe de soirée, quoi.

We're not going to show up, uh... -In an evening gown, right?

Caption 67, Elisa et Mashal CV

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In any case, it’s always good form to wish someone bonne soirée (have a good evening) when parting ways, and save bonsoir (good evening) for the beginning of the evening, as it’s a greeting.

 

Now that we’ve explored soir/soirée (evening) and matin/matinée (morning), we’re ready to tackle an/année (year) in a future and final lesson.

 
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What’s in a Day? - Un Jour vs. Une Journée

You probably came across the word jour (day) very early on, when you learned the greeting bonjour (hello). But did you know that bonjour has a feminine counterpart, bonne journée (have a nice day)? 

 

And are you aware that there are two words in French not only for "day," but also for "year," "morning," and "evening"

 

                                masculine                    feminine

       day                     un jour                      une journée

      year                      un an                        une année

    morning                le matin                      la matinée 

    evening                  le soir                         la soirée 

 

Is there a difference between the masculine and feminine versions? If so, which one should you choose?

 

The shorter masculine nouns un jour, un an, un matin, un soir refer to a specific point in time, a unit of time, with an emphasis on quantity. The longer feminine nouns une journée, une année, la matinée, la soirée emphasize duration and quality.

 

Although the masculine and feminine versions of each word translate more or less the same way, they have different shades of meaning that are not necessarily conveyed in English and that can be difficult for French learners to grasp.

 

In this lesson, we'll explore the differences between jour and journée (day), and we will cover the remaining words in a future lesson. 

 

So, let’s take a closer look at jour (day) first. As mentioned earlier, the shorter masculine word jour refers to a day as a unit of time, or a point in time.

 

You always use jour when referring to a calendar day, as in: 

 

Quel jour sommes-nous?

What day is it? (literally, "What day are we?")

 

You would never say, Quelle journée somme-nous? 

 

A point in time doesn’t have to be specific. Un jour can also mean "one day" or "someday":

 

Un jour le destin lui donnera une occasion de régler ses comptes.

One day, fate will give her an opportunity to settle her score.

Caption 56, Le Jour où tout a basculé J'ai escroqué mon assurance ! - Part 3

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In any case, jour often does refer to a specific or even a special day. In the example below, Sam explains to his mother that today was a special day: lotto day. 

 

Aujourd'hui, c'était le jour du loto

Today was lotto day

Caption 3, Extr@ Ep. 6 - Le jour du loto - Part 5

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And it’s a special day for his friend Nico too, who picked up two girls in a single day:

 

Ouais. Deux filles en un seul jour.

Yeah. Two girls in a single day.

Caption 17, Extr@ Ep. 6 - Le jour du loto - Part 5

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Note that en une seule journée (in a single day) would be grammatically and semantically acceptable, but maybe not the best choice here. It would mean something like "in the span of a single day." En une seule journée wouldn’t sound quite as striking, as Nico wants to emphasize the record time it took him to pick up two girls!

 

Meanwhile, Annie is celebrating Sacha’s lottery win. She tells her:

 

C'est ton jour de chance.

It's your lucky day.

Caption 4, Extr@ Ep. 6 - Le jour du loto - Part 4

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Unfortunately, her jour de chance turns out to be un jour de malchance:

 

Quel jour de malchance!

What a day of bad luck!

Caption 59, Extr@ Ep. 6 - Le jour du loto - Part 8

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The expression is usually un jour de malchance, since the emphasis is on the unlucky event, but you could say une journée de malchance if you wanted to shift the emphasis onto the duration of the day—perhaps referring to a day filled with unlucky events!

 

It was also un jour de malchance for the mother in the example below, who remembered ce jour-là (that day) as the day when she found out that her baby was switched at birth:

 

Ce jour-là, je savais que ma vie ne serait plus jamais la même.

That day, I knew that my life would never be the same again.

Caption 24, Le Jour où tout a basculé Nos bébés ont été échangés... - Part 4

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We use the construction ce jour-là (that day) to look back on a significant day, or event.

 

And to convey the passage of time and repetition, we have the expression au fil des jours (day by day/as the days go by):

 

Pourtant, au fil des jours, Edna se laisse peu à peu séduire par René.

However, as the days go by, Edna lets herself be seduced by René little by little.

Captions 15-16, Le Jour où tout a basculé Mes grands-parents sont infidèles - Part 6

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It makes sense to use jours with adjectives of quantity like plusieurs (several) and tous (every), as we are counting the days: 

 

Il s'apprête à passer plusieurs jours en province.

He is getting ready to spend several days outside of Paris.

Caption 25, Le Jour où tout a basculé Espion dans l'immeuble - Part 1

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You also use jours combined with the plural adjective tous (every/all) to explain what you do every day:

 

Et je travaille ici tous les jours.

And I work here every day.

Caption 4, Fred et Miami Catamarans Les Bateaux

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But watch what happens when you use the feminine form of tout, toute (all, whole):

 

Et donc, j'ai passé la journée à faire comme ça. J'ai fait Cluzet toute la journée.

And so I spent the day going like that. I did Cluzet all day.

Caption 74, Alsace 20 Laurent Chandemerle, l'homme aux 100 voix

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By switching to the feminine form, toute la journée (all day/all day long), the emphasis is now on duration rather than a point in time. When describing how you spend your day, you need to use journéeYou would never say tout le jour to mean “all day”: only toute la journée.

 

Just like toute, prepositions of duration like pendant or durant (during) also pair with journée:

 

Deux minutes en moyenne d'attente pendant la journée

Two minutes of waiting on average during the day

Captions 69-70, Adrien Le métro parisien

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And when referring to a day dedicated to a specific cause, such as International Yoga Day, you would also use journée:

 

Donc c'est la deuxième année qu'est célébrée cette Journée Internationale du Yoga

So it's the second year that this International Day of Yoga is being celebrated

Caption 2, Paix et partage Journée Internationale du yoga

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Finally, le jour can also mean "day" as a general unit of time, the opposite of la nuit (night):

 

Une demi-heure dans un simulateur de conduite toutes les quatre heures, de jour comme de nuit.

Half an hour in a driving simulator every four hours, day and night.

Caption 19, Le Journal Apnée du sommeil

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As you can see, jour and journée are so similar, yet so different. The rules are somewhat flexible, but there are certain situations that call for one word over the other.

 

Au fil des jours (over time), by watching Yabla videos tous les jours (every day), you’ll find it easier to choose the correct word!

 

And stay tuned for a lesson on an/année (year), soir/soirée (evening), and matin/matinée (morning) in the future.

 
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How to Hug in French

In our last lesson, we talked about the different words for kissing in French, and how the COVID pandemic has affected the French custom of la bise. Now we'll focus on hugging. Yes, French people hug too! However, there are differences. Unlike in Anglo-Saxon countries, where hugging is what la bise is to French people, hugging is not so prevalent in France. A hug is not used as a greeting, as full-body contact may be considered intrusive. Hugging is more of a private affair, a heartfelt show of affection. So, if you’re not comfortable with la bise, don’t think that you can make a compromise by giving a hug instead! 

 

In fact, the word for “hug” doesn’t have a direct translation in French.

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Instead, you’ll find a paraphrase: serrer dans ses bras (to squeeze in one's arms) or prendre dans ses bras (to hold in one’s arms).

 

J'aurais bien voulu, pour passer le temps te serrer dans mes bras amicalement

I really would have liked, to pass the time to squeeze you warmly in my arms

Captions 1-2, Babylon Circus - J'aurais bien voulu

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Un câlin is a more familiar hug, more like a cuddle:

 

Que le mot soit doux comme un câlin

May the word be sweet like a cuddle

Caption 4, Les Nubians - Que le mot soit perle

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You can also use the verbal phrase faire un câlin (to hug or cuddle). Sophie and Patrice even use it when talking about hugging their Christmas tree!

 

Moi, j'aime bien faire des câlins aux arbres. -Allez viens. On va lui faire un petit câlin

I really like hugging trees. -Come on, we'll go give it a little hug

Caption 86, Sophie et Patrice - Après Noël

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And you can give bisous, bises, and câlins in writing too, with no fear of contamination! It's equivalent to "kisses and hugs" at the end of a letter, text message, or email:

 

Bisous, câlins, Maman.

Kisses and hugs, Mom.

Caption 40, Extr@ Ep. 1 - L'arrivée de Sam - Part 1

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Finally, there's the more formal une étreinte, which is "an embrace," and its verbal form étreindre (to embrace):

 

J'aurais voulu que cette étreinte avec mon père dure éternellement.

I would have liked this embrace with my father to last forever.

Caption 25, Le Jour où tout a basculé À la recherche de mon père - Part 9

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Le soir, on s'étreint, les deux pieds dans l'eau

In the evening, we embrace, both feet in the water

Caption 21, Duel - Caramel

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The word embrasser is cognate with "embrace," but don't let that confuse you: it means "to kiss," not "to hug." See our last lesson for more on that.

 

The French might not hug each other as much as Americans do, but they have quite a few different ways of saying "hug"!

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To Kiss or Not to Kiss?

The COVID pandemic has forced French people to fundamentally rethink how they interact with each other. They will need to reconsider the way they typically greet and say goodbye to one another with a peck or two on each cheek, a kiss known as la bise.  

 

Should this customary greeting, this deeply ingrained cultural habit of faire la bise be avoided during a pandemic? 

 

In the video below, French Public Health authorities keep telling the inhabitants of the Grand-Est region to please stop kissing, which translates as s’embrasser:

 

Arrêtez de vous embrasser.

Stop kissing.

Caption 1, RMC Covid-19: faut-il encore se faire la bise?

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Hold it! Does that mean that French people should stop kissing altogether? Not exactly. It simply means skipping the traditional peck or two on each cheek (la bise or s’embrasser sur la joue) every time you greet a friend or an acquaintance. The French health authorities are not specifically referring to romantic kissing. 

 

Still, despite the risk of contamination, many French people are finding it difficult to abandon this tradition as it feels very awkward and unnatural to them, and they just can’t help themselves!

 

Beaucoup de Français ont un peu de mal à changer les habitudes, un peu de mal à oublier la bise.

Many French people are having a bit of trouble changing their habits, a bit of trouble forgetting the kiss on the cheek.

Captions 12-14, RMC Covid-19: faut-il encore se faire la bise?

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Cette mère de famille avoue embrasser la plupart de ses connaissances.

This mother admits to kissing most of her acquaintances.

Captions 43-44, RMC Covid-19: faut-il encore se faire la bise?

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Back in pre-COVID days, if you wanted to break the ice and exchange bises for the first time, you could just plunge ahead or you could simply ask, On se fait la bise? (Shall we give each other a peck on the cheek?). In a subtle way, asking or granting permission to exchange bises indicates the beginning of a friendship, in partnership with se tutoyer (using tu, the informal form of “you”).

 

But for now, the habit is hard to break. It’s usually de rigueur and not optional among family members. And it’s up to you to guess or decide how many bises you should exchange. Usually two will suffice, but that can vary. 

 

The pressure to exchange la bise is greater on girls than boys as girls are expected to kiss everyone, regardless of gender. Girls especially feel the social pressure to exchange bises as they worry that they will come across as cold and unfriendly if they don’t kiss their friends and family members.

 

(Speaking of cold, la bise is also a cold northerly wind that bites your cheeks. We discussed this in a previous lesson.)

 

As for males, they aren’t expected to kiss everyone, and serrer la main (shaking hands) with male friends or relatives is acceptable.

 

If a man is feeling very gallant and old-fashioned, he can kiss a lady’s hand: faire un baiser sur la main. There’s even a special word for this: le baisemain (kissing someone’s hand as a mark of respect). 

 

Although not so much used as a formal greeting anymore, le baiser remains a beautiful expression of love. Un baiser often refers to a romantic kiss:

 

Depuis que tu m'as laissé ce baiser fiévreux

Since you left me that feverish kiss

Caption 9, Charles-Baptiste Sale type

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The verb baiser used to mean “to kiss,” and it was perfectly acceptable to use the term in formal circumstances and otherwise:

 

Il faut se mettre à genoux et baiser le pied de l'empereur. C'est la coutume.

We must kneel and kiss the emperor's foot. It's the custom.

Caption 11, Il était une fois - les Explorateurs 15. Bruce et les sources du Nil - Part 6

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But beware! Baiser as a verb means something else entirely now! It’s slang for “to have sex.” But don’t worry: un baiser (a kiss) is safe to use in a sentence.

 

In addition to le baiser (kiss) and la bise (peck on each cheek), you may come across a couple of variations:

 

Le bisou, or “little kiss,” is warmer and more playful than la bise. The term is often used when talking to children, but also with good friends or lovers. It’s an expression of love and affection and is not typically used as a greeting like la bise

 

Et moi, j'ai pas droit à un petit bisou?

And me, don't I get a little kiss?

Caption 49, Le Jour où tout a basculé Mon histoire d'amour est impossible - Part 1

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Un bécot is a somewhat more intimate kiss, more like a “smooch.” In this video on school regulations regarding public displays of affection, students smooch (se bécotent) in school. You can watch the entire video to discover more slang words for kissing:

 

Cela dit, le règlement ne prévoit aucune sanction pour les amoureux qui se bécotent à l'école publique.

That said, the regulations do not allow for any sanctions against lovers who kiss at public school.

Caption 31, Le Journal Baisers interdits dans les couloirs!

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So there you have it: multiple ways of greeting and expressing love and affection in French, whether it be la bise, un bisou, un baiser, or un bécot. It may have to be une bise virtuelle à distance (a virtual, socially distanced kiss) or an elbow bump until we can kiss the pandemic goodbye!

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It All Sounds the Same to Me! - A Lesson on Homophones

Have you noticed that while some French words have many variations in spelling, they sound the same?

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For example, the words un verre, un ver, vers, and vert(s) share the same pronunciation yet have different meanings. That makes them homophones.

 

Homophones are especially common in French as the letters t, d, and s, when placed at the end of a word, are usually silent.

 

Check out Patricia’s video on homophones and homonyms, which she turned into a fun story.

 

Let’s examine the examples mentioned earlier.

 

Un verre can mean "a glass" or "a drink." The expression boire un verre means "to have a drink." Or, you can say prendre un verre.

 

On est tous là avec juste l'envie de passer un bon moment, de boire un verre

We are all here just with the desire to have a good time, to have a drink

Caption 52, Actu Vingtième Vendanges parisiennes

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Le verre also refers to the material itself. It means "glass," as in English:

 

Nous sommes maintenant chez le souffleur de verre de L'Isle-Adam.

We are now at the L'Isle-Adam glassblower's.

Caption 11, Voyage en France L'Isle-Adam - Part 4

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Speaking of verre, did you know that Cinderella’s slippers might originally have been made not of verre, but of vair (squirrel fur)?

 

Some scholars believe the original fable described pantoufles de vair (squirrel fur slippers), which became pantoufles de verre (glass slippers) in Charles Perrault's famous version. No one knows if he made a mistake or simply chose a new material for the slippers in his version of the fairy tale.

 

From squirrels to worms…. Un ver de terre is an earthworm, a critter that Claire and Philippe remember fondly in their La campagne video.

 

Alors elle prenait le petit ver de terre dans la main.

So she used to take the little earthworm in her hand.

Caption 71, Claire et Philippe La campagne

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And the poetically named ver solitaire (literally, "solitary worm") is the French word for "tapeworm”!

 

If the thought of many vers solitaires turns you off (vers being the plural of ver), let’s turn toward vers, an innocuous word that simply means "toward."

 

In the Actus Quartier video, this young lady is looking toward the future:

 

Je suis tournée vers l'avenir et vers tout ce qu'on va construire... 

I'm looking toward the future and toward all that we're going to build… 

Caption 40, Actus Quartier Fête de la rose au caviar rouge

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Vers also means "around," "about":

 

Plutôt vers deux heures du matin

Instead around two o'clock in the morning

Caption 60, Adrien Le métro parisien

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Now, for a more colorful version of this homophone, you have the word vert, which means "green." 

 

As you probably know, vert, like most adjectives, takes on masculine, feminine, and plural endings. For more information on adjective agreements, refer to previous lessons.

 

As mentioned earlier, -t and -s are often not pronounced at the end of a word. So vert (masculine singular) sounds exactly like verts (masculine plural). However, note that vert will become verte when agreeing with a feminine singular noun, and the t in verte will be pronounced! 

 

Donc, on va écrire "vert". Masculin. Sinon... "verte".

So we're going to write "green." Masculine. Otherwise... "green" [feminine].

Caption 28, Leçons avec Lionel Couleurs

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Now that you’ve acquainted yourself with homophones, you’ll be surprised how many you'll be able to spot! But if you haven't satisfied your appetite for homophones, click here to learn some more.

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Just Kidding!

The verb se moquer is used in two recent videos, in two slightly different senses:

 

Et il n'est pas le seul à se moquer.

And he's not the only one making fun.

Caption 40, d'Art d'Art - "Impression, soleil levant" - Monet

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Non mais tu te moques de moi?

No but are you kidding me?

Caption 61, Le Jour où tout a basculé - Ma fille et mon mari se sont fait berner - Part 3

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Se moquer means to make or poke fun, or to kid. If it takes an object, as in the second example, you have to add de after it (to make fun of someone). It's cognate with "to mock" in English, and can also have that sense, depending on context: 

 

Se moquer gentiment de personnages célèbres est très courant pendant la période de carnaval.

Gently mocking famous people is very common during the carnival period.

Caption 20, Le saviez-vous? - Le carnaval en France

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But se moquer has another meaning that isn't quite as obvious. It's the verb you use when you don't care about something, or more precisely, when you couldn't care less:

 

Je me moque des règles. 

I couldn't care less about the rules.

 

In more informal speech, se ficher is often used instead of se moquer in most of its senses:

 

On se fiche de nous ou quoi?

Are you kidding us or what?

Caption 5, Actus Quartier - Devant la SNCF

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Je me fiche des règles.

I couldn't care less about the rules.

 

Another way of saying "to make/poke fun" is taquiner (to tease):

 

Ne taquine pas ta sœur.

Don't tease your sister.

 

There are a few other verbs for "to kid" in French. If you want to say "I'm kidding" or "just kidding," use plaisanter or rigoler:

 

Je plaisante, pas du tout.

I'm kidding, not at all.

Caption 22, Elisa et Mashal - Mon chien Roméo

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Je ne ferai pas l'idiote. Non, je rigole.

I will not act like an idiot. No, I'm kidding.

Caption 52, Margaux et Manon - Conjugaison du verbe faire

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Rigoler is an informal synonym of rire (to laugh). So you can think of je rigole as "I'm just having a laugh." Plaisanter, the verb form of une plaisanterie (a joke), means "to joke" or "joke around." So je plaisante is more along the lines of "I'm just joking around."

 

If you want to say "you're kidding," as an exclamation, you can say, Tu plaisantes! Or, you can even just say, Tu parles! (literally, "You're talking!")

 

Tu parles. Impôts?

You're kidding. Taxes?

Caption 37, Patricia - Pas de crédit dans le monde des clones - Part 1

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And for the phrase "no kidding," you can use the phrase sans blague (no joke). For more on that and other joke-related expressions, see our lesson Telling Jokes in French.

 

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French Art Vocabulary

In the series d'Art d'Art, new at Yabla French, you'll learn the stories behind some of the most famous works of European art. You'll also learn plenty of art-related vocab too! Here are some key words from the first two videos in the series, on the Mona Lisa and The Death of Marat:

 

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une œuvre - a work

"D'Art d'Art", c'est l'histoire d'une œuvre d'art.

"D'Art d'Art" is the story of a work of art.

Caption 3, d'Art d'Art "La Mort de Marat" - David

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When we talk about an artist's "œuvre" in English, we're usually referring to the artist's entire body of work. In French, une œuvre can have that same connotation, but it can also just mean a single work of art.

 

 

un tableau - a painting

Voyez la solennité antique quasi religieuse qui se dégage de ce tableau.

See the ancient, almost religious solemnity that emerges from this painting.

Captions 10-11, d'Art d'Art "La Mort de Marat" - David

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As we explained in a previous lesson, there are three French words for "painting": une peinture (cognate with "painting"), une toile (literally, "canvas"), and un tableau (literally, "little table"). 

 

 

un pinceau - a paintbrush

Sous son pinceau, la mort de Marat devient la mort de Jésus.

Under his brush, the death of Marat becomes the death of Jesus.

Captions 35-36, d'Art d'Art "La Mort de Marat" - David

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Un pinceau is a paintbrush, but it can also refer to a makeup brush (un pinceau de maquillage). It's related to the English word "pencil" (un crayon in French).

 

 

tracer - to trace, draw, write

les dernières lignes qu'il a tracées avec sa plume, désormais inerte, ce sont des noms destinés à la guillotine

the last words that he wrote out with his quill, now unmoving, are names [of those] intended for the guillotine

Captions 43-45, d'Art d'Art "La Mort de Marat" - David

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In an artistic sense, "to trace" usually just means to copy something by drawing over it. Tracer has that connotation too, but depending on context, it can also be a synonym of dessiner (to draw) and écrire (to write).

 

 

un cadre - a frame 

un chef-d'œuvre - a masterpiece

Ce jour-là, au musée du Louvre, à la place du chef-d'œuvre de Léonard de Vinci, il ne reste que le cadre.

That day, at the Louvre Museum, in the place of Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, only the frame remains.

Captions 10-12, d'Art d'Art "La Joconde" - Vinci

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Le cadre is the frame around a painting or photograph. But that's not all! It's also the word for "framework" (as in the expression dans le cadre de, "within the framework of"), the word for "setting" or "surroundings," and the word for "executive" or "manager." You could say le cadre contains a lot of meanings within its "frame."

 

Finally, we have un chef-d'œuvre. We can think of a masterpiece as an artist's "chief work," or the "chief" of the artist's entire œuvre. 

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Surtout, Above All

The adverb surtout is actually two words combined: sur (over, above) and tout (all). Once you know that, its meaning is self-explanatory:

 

Et surtout n'oubliez rien.

And above all, don't forget anything.

Caption 9, Bande-annonce - La Belle et la Bête

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There are a couple different ways of saying "above all" in English, all of which are encompassed by surtout. There's "most of all":

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Mais surtout c'est toi

But most of all, it's you

Caption 30, Aldebert - La vie c'est quoi ?

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"Especially":

 

J'ai du mal à mentir, surtout quand c'est pas vrai

I find it hard to lie, especially when it's not true

Caption 29, Babylon Circus - J'aurais bien voulu

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And "particularly" or "in particular":

 

J'aime surtout la cuisine japonais.

particularly like Japanese cuisine. / I like Japanese cuisine in particular.

 

Note, though, that "especially," "particularly," and "in particular" have more direct equivalents in French as well:

 

C'est le sujet qui nous intéresse tous spécialement aujourd'hui.

It's the subject that's especially of interest to all of us today.

Caption 62, Uderzo et Goscinny - 1968

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Mais quand on est sensible à la peinture,

But for one who appreciates painting,

ici, la lumière est particulièrement belle.

the light here is particularly beautiful.

Caption 8, Arles - Un Petit Tour d'Arles

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Les plages de la côte atlantique et en particulier

The beaches on the Atlantic coast and in particular

de la côte basque sont des plages très étendues.

on the Basque coast are very vast beaches.

Caption 31, Voyage en France - Saint-Jean-de-Luz

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Surtout can also mean "mainly" or "mostly," which isn't quite the same as "above all":

 

En fait c'est ça surtout

In fact that's it, mostly

Caption 37, Alsace 20 - La chronique Mode de Caroline: mode éthique

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Aujourd'hui j'ai surtout travaillé au bureau.

Today I mainly worked in the office.

 

In informal speech, surtout is also the equivalent of "whatever you do" or "be sure to":

 

Surtout, ne rate pas le prochain épisode de "Extra"!

Whatever you do, don't miss the next episode of "Extra"!

Caption 10, Extr@ - Ep. 5 - Une étoile est née

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Surtout, regardez les vidéos les plus récentes sur Yabla French!
Be sure to check out the most recent Yabla French videos!

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How to Talk About "Stuff"

Un machin doesn't mean "a machine" (that's une machine). In fact, it doesn't mean anything specific at all. It's a filler word, used when you're speaking generally or when you can't think of the proper word for something. It's an informal alternative to une chose (a thing), roughly equivalent to "thingy" or "thingamajig," or when plural, "stuff":

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C'est-à-dire... de la confiture et des machins comme ça.

That is to say... jam and stuff like that.

Caption 10, Sophie et Patrice - Le petit-déjeuner

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D'abord, je mets un peu d'acétone

First, I apply a little bit of acetone

parce que souvent y a des étiquettes, des machins avec de la colle.

because often there are labels, stuff with glue. 

Captions 58-59, Sophie et Patrice - Les lampes de Sophie

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C'est quoi ce machin-là?

What is that thing?

 

Je savais que ça n'allait pas être le single, le machin...

I knew that it was not going to be the single, the whatever...

Caption 110, Watt’s In - Maître Gims : J'me Tire Interview Exclu

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Un truc is another informal way of saying une chose. It's basically synonymous with un machin:

 

Mais y a un truc aussi qui se faisait avant,

But there was another thing that was done before,

c'est que la police, ils intervenaient au collège...

it's that the police went in to the middle school...

Captions 16-17, Banlieues françaises - jeunes et policiers, l'impossible réconciliation?

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Et on va aller acheter des trucs.

And we're gonna buy some stuff.

Caption 59, Actus Quartier - Fête de quartier Python-Duvernois

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But unlike un machinun truc can also mean "a trick":

 

Tout ça, c'est des trucs pour nous faire travailler encore plus!

All these are tricks to make us work even more!

Caption 42, Il était une fois: Notre Terre - 25. Technologies

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And there are a couple of idioms with truc that can't be replaced with machin

 

Je n'aime pas faire la fête. Ce n'est pas mon truc.

I don't like partying. It's not my thing.

 

Chacun son truc!

To each his own!

 

Likewise, there's one idiom that only uses machin:

 

Et quand je dis un grand ancien,

And when I say a great elder,

ça veut pas dire un vieux machin, pas du tout.

that doesn't mean an old so-and-so, not at all.

Captions 55-57, Uderzo et Goscinny - 1968

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Un vieux machin is a grumpy old man, an old fogey. 

 

You can even use machin and truc as proper nouns when you don't know or can't remember someone's name. In this case they're capitalized:

 

Demande à Machin* de t'aider.

Demande à Truc de t'aider.

Ask what's-his-name to help you.

 

*As a proper noun, Machin becomes Machine in the feminine (Demande à Machine de t'aider/Ask what's-her-name to help you). Truc doesn't change.

 

There's also another expression you can use when you don't know someone's name: Monsieur Untel/Madame Unetelle

 

Demande à Monsieur Untel/Madame Unetelle de t'aider.

Ask Mr./Ms. so-and-so to help you.

 

So when you don't know the name of something or someone, or you're just talking about "stuff" in general, machin and truc are the words to use. 

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Risky Business

In his latest video on the coronavirus pandemic, Lionel talks about the measures being taken to control the spread of the virus in France. Like everyone else in the world, French people are trying to minimize the risk of catching the virus by staying inside and wearing masks when they have to go out. 

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Though risk is a major theme of the video, when Lionel uses the verb risquer, he means something a bit different: 

 

Lors du déconfinement,

During reopening,

nous risquons de sortir avec des masques

we're likely going out with masks

et... les distanciations sociales

and... social distancing

risquent de durer un bon moment.

is likely going to last for quite some time.

Captions 35-38, Lionel L - La pandémie, un mois déjà

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We don't "risk" going out with masks on, nor does social distancing "risk" lasting for a while longer. (Quite the contary: these are the very measures that are reducing risk). Risquer often just means "to be likely" (être probable) or "there's a good chance that." The stakes don't have to be that high:

 

Cette année, Noël risque d'être très présent dans les rues.

This year, Christmas is bound to be very present on the streets.

Caption 22, TV Vendée - Le sapin de Noël décoré par les enfants

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But risquer can also mean "to risk" or "run the risk of":

 

Si ça continue à cuire, ça risque de perdre sa belle couleur.

If they continue to cook, they run the risk of losing their beautiful color.

Caption 57, 4 Mains pour 1 Piano - Médaillon de Homard

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Il a risqué sa vie pour sauver le chien.

He risked his life to save the dog. 

 

Its noun form, risque, can mean "risk," "danger," or "chance." Note that, though it ends in an e, risque is masculine: 

 

Le risque avec les lamas, c'est qu'en grandissant,

The danger with llamas is that as they grow up,

ils peuvent devenir agressifs.

they may become aggressive.

Caption 25, Angers 7 - Un lama en plein appartement

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There's also the adjective risqué, which you probably recognize. Though risqué can mean "racy" and "suggestive," as it does in English, it also just means "risky":

 

Pour elles c'est trop risqué de s'accrocher à la locomotive.

For them it's too risky to grab on to the engine.

Caption 47, Grand Corps Malade - Les Voyages en train

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Some say it's a good thing to take a lot of risks, but these days, that doesn't seem like the safest advice. Ne prenez pas de risque! (Don't take any risks!)

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Rest Assured!

In his conversation with Lionel, Lahlou describes his daughters' success in school and sports in an interesting way. He uses the verb assurer:

 

Les deux grandes franchement, elles assurent.

The two older girls, frankly, they're doing great.

Elles assurent super bien à l'école, au sport.

They're doing really well in school, in sports.

Captions 82-83, Lionel & Lahlou - Être musulman

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Elles assurent is a familiar way of saying "they're doing great," "they're doing a great job." Lahlou also could have used the preposition en to specify what the girls are succeeding in: elles assurent en maths (they're good at math), elles assurent en natation (they're good at swimming). 

 

More often, assurer means "to assure" or "ensure," or, when reflexive, "to make sure"/"to check":

 

Je vous assure qu'elle est là.

I assure you that it's there.

Caption 37, Le saviez-vous? - Les verbes du 1er groupe les plus utilisés

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Mais on doit s'assurer que le pneu est bien assis

But we have to make sure/check that the tire is well-seated

sur la jante et ne pas trop gonfler.

on the rim and that we don't inflate too much.

Caption 19, Sports Shop - La mécanique d'un vélo

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Assurer has a few other meanings as well. It can mean "to secure" or "achieve":

 

Ses affiches et ses tableaux

His posters and his paintings

ont permis au Moulin Rouge

allowed the Moulin Rouge

d'assurer une notoriété rapide et internationale.

to achieve rapid international notoriety.

Captions 19-21, Amal et Caroline - Moulin Rouge

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Il est difficile d'assurer un emploi en ce moment.

It's hard to secure a job these days.

 

It can mean "to take care of," "handle," or "deal with":

 

Je dois assurer l'école.

I have to take care of the school.

Caption 13, Les zooriginaux - 3 Qui suis-je?

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La brigade des pompiers assure l'extinction des incendies.

The fire department takes care of putting out fires. 

 

Or it can mean "to insure," as in "to provide insurance coverage":

 

Notre maison est assurée.

Our house is insured

 

Likewise, its noun form assurance can either mean "insurance" or "assurance," or more precisely, "self-assurance," "confidence," "certainty":

 

Le stress au travail a en effet un coût, humain bien sûr,

Stress at work does indeed have a cost, a human one of course,

et économique pour l'assurance maladie:

and an economic one for national health insurance:

près de cinquante milliards d'euros.

close to fifty billion euros.

Captions 57-58, Le Journal - Le stress au travail

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Il faut parler avec assurance pour convaincre les gens.

You have to speak with self-assurance/confidently in order to convince people.

 

So whether you're assuring, ensuring, making sure, or insuring, assurer is the verb to use. You can find even more ways of using it here.

 

Continua leyendo

Savoir: The More You Know

You may already know that the verb savoir means “to know.” But did you know that, when followed by an infinitive, it can also mean “to be able to” or “to manage to" (synonymous with pouvoir)?

 

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L'Observatoire Paris-Meudon...

The Paris-Meudon Observatory...

a su garder sa spécificité d'astrophysique

was able to keep its astrophysical specificity

Captions 18-20, Voyage en France - Meudon

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L’article a su le convaincre à recycler.

The article managed to convince him to recycle.

 

It’s easy to see that “know” wouldn’t really work in either of these examples, since their subjects aren’t human. You wouldn’t say that the Paris-Meudon Observatory “knew” how to keep its astrophysical specificity, nor that an article “knew” how to convince someone. 

 

On the other hand, there are plenty of cases where savoir plus an infinitive can go either way:

 

Pour quelqu'un qui sait faire la cuisine.

For someone who knows how to cook.

Caption 63, Alsace 20 - Grain de Sel: le titre de Maître Restaurateur, c'est quoi?

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Bref, Jean de La Fontaine fait partie pour moi de ces auteurs intemporels

In a word, Jean de La Fontaine is for me one of those timeless authors

qui à travers une forme littéraire intéressante

who, through an interesting literary form,

a su toucher le fond de la nature humaine.

was able to reach the depth of human nature.

Captions 38-40, Le saviez-vous? - Jean de La Fontaine

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We could just as well switch the translations here: “someone who can cook”; “Jean de La Fontaine… knew how to reach the depth of human nature.” "To be able to" and "to know how to" are more or less synonymous, so it makes sense that they overlap in the same French verb.  

 

Just note that the other verb for "to know," connaîtredoesn't have this extra connotation. While savoir means "to know how to" or "to be aware of," connaître means "to know someone" or "to be acquainted/familiar with." 

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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

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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

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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.

I'm red with anger.

On dirait pas.

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

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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.

It looks like Euro Disney now, you know.

On se croirait à Euro Disney un petit peu. 

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?

What's that smell?

On se croirait dans une parfumerie.

It's like we're in a perfume shop.

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

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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

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Alors on se croirait pas du tout à Paris,

So you wouldn't think you're in Paris at all,

et on a énormément de verdure.

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 then 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,

A very well-attended action in France,

et quelques tensions entre manifestants et forces de l'ordre.

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,

There will be obstacles to emotional fulfillment,

à la manifestation des sentiments...

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

There were a few cities

où on a constaté des débordements

where we observed some violent outbreaks,

souvent liés à la présence de casseurs

often linked to the presence of rioters

qui ne venaient pas pour manifester.

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

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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

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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

I force myself a bit sometimes (at times)

à sortir de ma zone de confort.

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

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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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Thanks for reading! Tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com.

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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

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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 quatrièmeque 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

This coin was replaced later by this one

au début vingtième siècle.

in the early twentieth century.

Or c'est à peu près la même, mais modernisée pour l'époque.

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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