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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 - 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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