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Lesson 56. Vocabulary
In our last lesson, we talked about the word plus (more) and how its different pronunciations affect its meaning. Now let’s take a look at the opposite of plus—moins (fewer, less)—which only has one pronunciation, but no fewer meanings!
Like plus, moins is an adverb of comparison, and can modify both adjectives and nouns. When it modifies an adjective, it’s usually followed by que to form the comparative phrase “less than.” In his video on French breakfast customs, Éric observes that cereal is less popular in France than it is in English-speaking countries:
Et puis les céréales, mais c'est moins commun que chez vous, qu'aux États-Unis, qu'en Angleterre.
And then cereal, but that's less common than where you come from, than in the United States, than in England.
Cap. 37-38, Arles: Le petit déjeuner
When modifying a noun, moins is usually followed by de:
Il y a moins de bêtes à chasser.
There are fewer animals to hunt.
You can even make moins a noun by putting le in front of it, in which case it means “the least”:
C’est le moins que je puisse faire.
That’s the least that I can do.
When you put an adjective after le moins, the adjective becomes superlative:
C'est le livre le moins cher et presque tous les éditeurs ont une collection de poche.
This is the cheapest book, and almost all publishers have a paperback collection.
Moins is also the basis for several common expressions. There’s the phrase à moins que (unless), which Adonis uses when singing about what he believes is the only acceptable reason for cutting down trees:
À moins que ce soit pour faire mes jolis calendriers
Unless it’s to make my pretty calendars
Cap. 4-5, Nouveaux Talents: Adonis chante
Try not to confuse à moins que with au moins, which means “at least”:
Tout le monde connaît le Père Noël, tout le monde lui a écrit au moins une fois...
Everybody knows Santa Claus, everybody's written him at least once...
Finally, there’s de moins en moins (“fewer and fewer” or “less and less”):
Ça peut aider aussi à sauver les animaux, à ce qu'ils soient de moins en moins abandonnés.
That can also help save animals so that fewer and fewer are abandoned.
Since moins is a quantitative word like plus, it makes sense that it can be used with numbers as well. You’ll hear it the most often as a number modifier in expressions involving temperature, time, and basic arithmetic:
Et voilà, me voilà parée pour sortir par moins zéro, moins quinze degrés.
And there we have it, here I am dressed to go out in below zero, negative fifteen degrees.
Il est dix heures moins le quart.
It’s a quarter to ten.
Deux plus cinq moins trois égale quatre.
Two plus five minus three equals four.
We hope you are plus ou moins satisfait(e) (more or less satisfied) with our presentation of plus and moins! And for any math whizzes out there, here’s an informative article on French math vocabulary beyond addition and subtraction. Why not try learning (or relearning) geometry in French?
Lesson 55. Pronunciation
If you listen to Jean-Marc’s description of Mediterranean beaches versus those in western France and the eastern United States, you might be struck by the way he pronounces the word plus (more):
Les plages sont beaucoup plus petites, avec beaucoup plus de gens.
The beaches are a lot smaller, with a lot more people.
Cap. 8, Jean-Marc: La plage - Part 1
Did you notice that he didn’t pronounce the “s” in the first instance of plus, but did pronounce it in the second? That’s no inconsistency on his part—Jean-Marc is actually obeying the tricky pronunciation rules of this common little adverb.
The general rule of thumb for plus is fairly easy to remember: when it’s used to mean more of something (plus de...), the “s” is pronounced; when it’s used in a negative sense (ne… plus [no more], non plus [neither]), the “s” is not pronounced:
Je ne savais plus qui j'étais.
I didn't know who I was anymore.
Mais toi non plus tu n'as pas changé.
But you, you have not changed either.
This becomes especially important in informal conversation, when a lot of French speakers tend to drop the ne in negative constructions. So if someone says je veux plus de pain and they don’t pronounce the “s,” you can tell that they don’t want any more bread even though they left out the ne. If they do pronounce the “s,” you can pass them the bread basket!
A different rule applies when plus is used comparatively, i.e., when it’s followed by an adjective. In that case, the “s” is usually not pronounced (like when Jean-Marc says plus petites in the first example), unless the adjective begins with a vowel:
Voici celle qui est sans doute la maison la plus illuminée d'Alsace.
Here is what is without a doubt the most illuminated house in Alsace.
If the adjective begins with a vowel, the “s” of plus is pronounced like a “z” to follow the rules of liaison, which you can learn about in our previous lesson on that subject.
The “s” is also pronounced when plus is used at the end of a sentence to mean “more” and when it is used as a noun (le plus):
Du coup, ils ont commencé à être plus proches de moi et à me parler plus.
So they started to be closer to me and to talk to me more.
Cap. 33, B-Girl Frak: Limoges
Qui peut le plus peut le moins.
He who can do more can do less.
So to sum up, here’s a general breakdown of the pronunciation of plus:
The “s” is pronounced:
-in the expression plus de....
-when plus is followed by an adjective beginning with a vowel.
-when plus is at the end of a sentence and means “more.”
-when plus is used as a noun.
The “s” is not pronounced:
-in negative plus constructions (ne… plus, non plus).
-when plus is followed by an adjective beginning with a consonant.
Nous espérons que c'est un peu plus clair maintenant! (We hope that this is a bit clearer now!) Since it’s such a common word, plus appears in quite a large number of Yabla videos—you can find a list of them here. And stay tuned for a lesson on the opposite of plus—moins (less)—coming soon to Yabla.
Thanks to subscriber Felicity S. for suggesting this lesson topic!
Lesson 54. Vocabulary
Given that (étant donné que) it's the season of Thanksgiving (or Le Jour de l’Action de Grâce in Canadian French), let’s commemorate the act of giving by exploring the French verb for “to give,” donner. Besides thanks, there is an infinite number of things you can give, so we’ll focus on some specific expressions with donner that are featured in our videos.
Let’s start by giving some thanks to our favorite tour guide, Daniel Benchimol, who likes to close his always informative travel videos with the phrase donner rendez-vous:
Je vous donne rendez-vous très rapidement pour d’autres découvertes.
I’ll meet you very soon for some other discoveries.
Daniel is literally “giving you a rendezvous,” and you can accept his gift by watching his latest tour, which will take you around Paris’s beautiful Bastille neighborhood.
It’s also good to give thanks for the rights (les droits) that we’re granted every day, whether our human rights or the occasional promotional perk:
Une place de concert achetée donne droit également à une entrée gratuite au château.
A purchased concert seat also entitles you to a free entry to the castle.
Cap. 27-28, TV Tours: Ouverture du 3ème festival de Chambord
And let’s not forget about what we can give back to others, even if it’s just a helping hand:
Je viens là et puis je leur donne un petit coup de main.
I come here and then I give them a bit of a helping hand.
If you’re dealing with someone stubborn, you might not want to give them anything or get anything from them—you might just want them to give in (se donner):
Seul face à Beethoven encore et toujours, Beethoven qui résiste et qui se donne et s’enfuit...
Alone in front of Beethoven, as always, Beethoven who resists and who gives in and runs away...
Cap. 18, Le Journal: Gstaad
As a gift to you for being such great Yabla subscribers, here is a list of some other useful expressions with donner. Think of it as a bit of a donnant donnant (give and take) situation. For even more donner-related expressions, see our previous lesson on the word maldonne.
donner de sa personne - to give a lot of oneself, go out of one’s way
donner à penser que - to suggest, lead to believe
donner faim/soif/chaud/froid - to make hungry/thirsty/hot/cold
donner sur - to look out onto
donner dans - to lapse into
se donner à fond - to go all out, give it one’s all
se donner du mal - to go to a lot of trouble
donner du fil à retordre - to give a hard time, give the runaround
se donner en spectacle - to make a spectacle of oneself
s'en donner à cœur joie - to enjoy wholeheartedly
Lesson 53. Vocabulary
In any language, it’s good to know how to explain the reasons for things. It’s great to say j’aime la langue française (I love the French language), but it’s even better to be able to say why (pourquoi) you love it. This lesson will show you some words that all answer the question, Pourquoi?
The most basic response to "why" is "because," and the most basic translation of "because" in French is parce que. This Frenchman in New York City uses parce que to explain why the Big Apple’s Bastille Day celebration makes him feel at home:
Je pense que c’est bien parce que ça crée une atmosphère française.
I think it’s a good thing because it creates a French atmosphere.
In English, "because" can refer either to the reason behind something or the cause of something. The difference is subtle, but the French might help clear it up. Whenever you want to say "because of" something, use à cause de instead of parce que:
J’ai pourtant passé une nuit horrible et triste à cause de toi!
Yet I spent a horrible and sad night because of you!
It helps that "because" and à cause de both include the word "cause"! Note that à cause de is most often used in negative or neutral situations—its more positive counterpart is grâce à (thanks to):
J'ai passé une nuit merveilleuse grâce à toi!
I spent a marvelous night thanks to you!
"Because" is not the only word that answers "why," nor is parce que (or à cause de) the only phrase that answers pourquoi. There’s also "since," or puisque:
C’est peut-être le temps de se préparer justement, puisque tout arrive très vite.
It may indeed be time to get ready, since everything happens very quickly.
Note that puisque is one word, while parce que is two. Why is that, you may ask? Unfortunately that’s a question that has no real answer!
Another way to give a reason for something is with the word "as," which in this case translates to car:
Je vais au marché, car j’ai repéré une petite robe
I’m going to the market, as I noticed a little dress
You can also translate car more formally as "for" ("I’m going to the market, for I noticed a little dress"). Incidentally, the French word for a car that you drive is une voiture, but attention: un car (or un autocar) is also a vehicle in French—it means "coach," as in the kind of bus you might take on a long journey (a city bus is called un autobus).
The final French expression for giving a reason conveniently includes the word "reason" (raison) within it. The expression is en raison de, usually translated as "due to":
Cette race de géants va disparaître en raison d’une gravité terrestre devenue trop forte
This race of giants was to disappear due to a terrestrial gravity which had grown too powerful
Cap. 40-41, La Conspiration d’Orion: Conspiration 1/4
If you think the idea of a "race of giants" is totally unreasonable, watch the Conspiration d’Orion series and see if its conspiracy theories might convince you otherwise....
We hope that the reason you give when someone asks why your French is so amazing is: parce que j’utilise Yabla tous les jours (because I use Yabla every day)!
Lesson 52. Vocabulary
In keeping with the Yabla French tradition of presenting three words that look or sound the same but mean different things (see our lessons on des, dés, and dès and si, si, and si), here are three more: quand, quant, and qu’en.
Of the three words, quand is the one you might be the most familiar with. It means “when,” both as an interrogative adverb (e.g. When are you going?) and as a conjunction (e.g. I’m going when I get off work).
In their discussion on multiculturalism, the R&B sister duo Les Nubians use quand as an adverb to speculate on a sort of global passport that would allow us all to become “universal citizens”:
Quand est-ce qu’on invente le passeport?
When will they invent the passport?
Cap. 25, Les Nubians: Le multiculturalisme
As an interrogative adverb, quand can sometimes be replaced with à quel moment... or à quelle heure... (at what time…?).
While Les Nubians are looking to the future, Axel reflects on the past in his tour of Paris’s Luxembourg Gardens, using quand as a conjunction:
Je me rappelle quand j’étais petit, quand j’étais avec mes copains.
I remember when I was little, when I was with my friends.
The other adverbial form of “when” is lorsque:
Lorsque je vous vois, je tressaille
When I see you, I quiver
Quand is also used fairly often in the expression quand même, which means “still,” “even though,” or “all the same”:
Pas mal de nuages mais quand même des éclaircies
Quite a few clouds but still some sunny spells
Cap. 9, Alsace 20: Météo des Maquilleurs
The words quand and quant are only off by one letter, so make sure not to confuse them in writing. Quant is always followed by à or one of its variants (à la, au, aux) and means “as for” or “regarding”:
Quant à l’adresse du destinataire, il s’agit du Père Noël.
As for the recipient’s address, it’s Santa Claus.
An expression to replace quant à is en ce qui concerne (concerning): En ce qui concerne l'adresse du destinataire, il s'agit du Père Noël.
Less confusable in writing is qu’en, which nevertheless sounds the same as quand and quant. Qu’en is a contraction of the relative pronoun que and the indefinite pronoun en and is used in phrases like:
What do you think about that?
As you may know, en replaces phrases beginning with de (or de la, du, des), so the above sentence could also be written as: Que penses-tu de cela?
So what do you think about these three homonyms? (Quant à vous, qu'en pensez-vous?) We hope this lesson helped clear up any confusion you may have had!