Like many other types of nouns, nouns referring to animals often have both male and female versions, and sometimes even separate names for each gender. Many of them, however, are exclusively masculine or feminine, as we'll see in this lesson.
Nouns referring to animals work in a comparable way to those referring to people. The most common way to feminize a noun is to add an -e at the end, and, in many cases, double the final consonant, as in un chien/une chienne (a male dog/a female dog). Note that whenever you double a final consonant, the normally silent consonant (like the -n in chien) becomes pronounced, as you can hear in the example below:
Certains noms masculins vont doubler leur consonne finale. Un chien donne... -une chienne, deux "n", "e". Et un chat donne une chatte, deux "t", "e".
Some masculine nouns will double their final consonant. "Un chien" [dog] gives... -"une chienne," two "n's," "e." And "un chat" [a cat] gives "une chatte," two "t's," "e."
Captions 25-27, Manon et Simon - Le masculin et le fémininPlay Caption
On a side note, you may want to exercise caution when using the words chatte and chienne, as they can both be offensive terms referring to women.
Here is another example of a noun that changes spelling and pronunciation in the feminine form. The word for "lion" follows the same pattern as chien/chienne:
Tu as vu? Le papa lion et la maman lionne se suivent partout.
Did you see? The dad lion and the mom lioness follow each other everywhere.
Caption 23, Les zooriginaux - Léa jacta est - Part 1Play Caption
On the other hand, some animal nouns ending in -n don’t double their final consonant in the feminine, as in un lapin/une lapine (male/female rabbit), but the change in pronunciation still applies. Pay attention to the nasal -in sound in this fairy tale video:
Il y attrapa un beau lapin gras et le mit dans sa bourse.
He caught a nice fat rabbit there and put it in his purse.
Caption 25, Contes de fées - Le chat botté - Part 1Play Caption
Likewise, un renard (a fox), with a silent d, doesn’t have a double consonant in the feminine, but the d will be pronounced: une renarde.
Le renard femelle adulte s’appelle la renarde.
An adult female fox is called a vixen.
Sometimes, in addition to the -e ending, there are some unexpected spelling changes in the feminine, as in un loup/une louve (male/female wolf):
Par exemple, un loup donne... -une louve.
For example, "un loup" [a male wolf] gives... -"une louve" [a female wolf].
Caption 53, Manon et Simon - Le masculin et le fémininPlay Caption
As in un prince (a prince) and une princesse (a princess), some animal nouns take the suffix -esse in the feminine:
Un âne? -Une ânesse. -Bien!
"Un âne" [a donkey]? -"Une ânesse" [a jenny]. -Good!
Caption 41, Manon et Simon - Le masculin et le fémininPlay Caption
In short, there are diverse ways to feminize an animal noun. However, many animals have separate names for male and female specimens, as in English. For example: une vache/un taureau (a cow/a bull).
Et là on voit déjà si c'est une vache ou des taureaux [sic: un taureau]? -Là, c'est une femelle.
And can we already tell here if it's a cow or a bull? -Here, it's a female.
Caption 43, Lionel à la fermePlay Caption
Male and female animal names can be quite specialized and hard to remember. If you don’t know the special name for a female animal, you can do what Automne does in the video below and refer to her as, for example, la maman cochon (the mommy pig) or le cochon femelle (the female pig) instead of the more technical term la truie (the sow). (The term cochonne actually exists, but usually it means something entirely different! It’s a way of insulting a sloppy human, or "a pig"—une cochonne for females and un cochon for males.)
Y a même le bébé de la maman cochon.
There's even the mommy pig's baby.
Caption 56, Lionel et Automne - PlaymobilPlay Caption
Fortunately, there is no need to be technical in everyday situations. If gender is not important or unknown, we tend to use the generic masculine, like the couple does in the video below:
Premièrement, le chat met des poils partout.
First, the cat sheds fur everywhere.
Caption 8, Marie & Jeremy - Le chatPlay Caption
In fact, most nouns referring to animals don’t have feminine and masculine versions—they only come in one gender, assigned arbitrarily regardless of the sex of the animal. In this case, you will need to memorize the gender of the animal along with its name as there is no logic or way of guessing.
For example, some insects, like une mouche (a fly), are always feminine. Some rodents are feminine, as in une souris (a mouse), while others are masculine, as in un écureuil (a squirrel). Some snakes are masculine, as in un serpent (a snake), or feminine, as in une vipère (a viper). Some birds are feminine, as in une hirondelle (a swallow), and some are masculine, as in un perroquet (a parrot).
In the video below, apart from le lion, all the names of the endangered species—la panthère (panther), la girafe (giraffe), l'autruche (ostrich), and l'hyène (hyena)—are feminine in gender, but don't necessarily refer to individual females:
Certaines espèces ont quasiment disparu, telles que la panthère, autruche, hyène, girafe et lion.
Some species have almost disappeared, such as the panther, ostrich, hyena, giraffe, and lion.
Captions 27-30, Nader Fakhry - À la recherche des derniers éléphants - Part 1Play Caption
As these nouns only have one grammatical gender, you will need to specify the sex of the animal with the term mâle (male) or femelle (female). In the documentary below, the speaker refers to une panthère femelle (a female panther):
Malgré la présence d'une panthère femelle juste à côté...
Despite the presence of a female panther right next door...
Caption 20, Le Journal - Espèces en voie de disparitionPlay Caption
There you have it! We’ve explored some of the grammatical quirks and intricacies of the animal kingdom. Remember that not all animal names have a masculine and feminine counterpart, but only a single grammatical gender just like nouns referring to objects, which will be the topic of our next lesson. So stay tuned!
Do you know what Parlez-vous céfran means? It’s Parlez-vous français? (Do you speak French?) in verlan, a form of slang in which a word’s syllables are inverted. In verlan, français (French) becomes céfran. The term verlan is itself an instance of verlan, standing for l’envers ("backward" or “back to front”), as Lionel puts it in his lesson:
"Verlan", c'est "l'envers" à l'envers.
"Verlan" is "l'envers" [backward] reversed.
Caption 5, Lionel L - Le verlanPlay Caption
Although verlan is widely used among young people today, the practice of reversing syllables goes back a long way (and is not exclusive to the French language). French Enlightenment writer François-Marie Arouet, aka Voltaire, is said to have made up his pen name by reversing the syllables of his hometown of Airvault. More recently, singer/rapper/songwriter Stromae (né Paul Van Haver) built his stage name around the word maestro, which in verlan became Stromae! Verlan was even used as a coded language among prisoners during World War II.
But it was not until the seventies and eighties that verlan really started to take off and become a form of expression for the disenfranchised in the poorer suburbs of Paris. It became part of the language of immigrants, namely second-generation French North Africans straddling two cultures, who called themselves beurs (arabes in verlan). (Incidentally, the term rebeu, a variation of beur, has become so mainstream that it is now entered in Le Petit Robert dictionary!)
The term beur (Arab), featured in the video below, is part of the catchphrase black, blanc, beur (black, white, Arab), which has become a symbol of racial diversity:
La Marianne, c'est le symbole de la République avant tout. Je vous dirais qu'elle soit noire, beur, ou blanche, c'est pareil.
Above all, Marianne is the symbol of the Republic. I'm telling you, whether she's black, Arab, or white, it's all the same.
Captions 16-17, Le Journal - MariannePlay Caption
By the same token, immigrants don’t want to abandon their roots and compromise their values to fit in. According to filmmaker Alain Etoundi, minorities are misrepresented in French movies, such as the comedy Les Kaïra, in which black characters are stereotyped as funny, harmless rogues. The title of the movie Les Kaïra is based on caillera, the verlan term for racaille (riffraff, scum):
Vous aimez valider des films de pseudo "Kaïra" ["caillera", verlan "racaille"]
You like to endorse pseudo-"Kaïra" films [riffraff]Play Caption
In addition to movies, music, especially hip-hop, helped verlan spread beyond the suburbs from the nineties onwards. In 2013, Congolese-born hip-hop artist Maître Gims made liberal use of verlan in his song "Bella":
Les gens du coin ne voulaient pas la "cher-lâ" [lâcher]
The local people would not leave her alone
Caption 54, Maître Gims - BellaPlay Caption
Turning two-syllable words into verlan is quite straightforward. In the example above, Maître Gims just switches the syllables of lâcher (to let go/to leave alone) around to make cher-lâ. But with one-syllable words, it’s a little trickier. For example, pieds (feet) becomes iep:
Rends-moi bête comme mes "iep" [pieds]
Make me stupid as my feet [thick as a brick]
Caption 59, Maître Gims - BellaPlay Caption
And chien (dog) becomes iench:
Je suis l'ombre de ton "iench" [chien]
I am the shadow of your dog
Caption 61, Maître Gims - BellaPlay Caption
Rapper Grand Corps Malade also uses verlan in his song "Roméo kiffe Juliette" (Romeo Likes Juliet):
Le père de Roméo est vénère [énervé], il a des soupçons
Romeo's father is irritated, he has suspicions
Caption 25, Grand Corps Malade - Roméo kiffe JuliettePlay Caption
And in "Plan B", Grand Corps Malade refers to a girlfriend as a meuf:
Quand ta meuf c'est Kardashian et que tu rêves d'une vie planquée
When your chick is a Kardashian and you dream of a secluded life
Caption 21, Grand Corps Malade - Plan BPlay Caption
The word femme (“woman” or “wife") becomes meuf in verlan, which can also mean “girlfriend” or, more slangily, "chick."
As singers have popularized the use of verlan, it's become part of everyday conversations among young people. In the video below, Elisa uses verlan in a conversation with her mother, whom she accuses of being relou (annoying):
Bah oui! T'es... t'es super relou ["lourd" en verlan], on le sait hein!
Well yes! You're... you're really annoying, we know that, right?
Caption 8, Elisa et sa maman - Comment vas-tu?Play Caption
It's not just people who can be relou. Activities like housework can be as well:
Et très vite j'allais comprendre qu'il y avait plus relou que le ménage.
And very quickly I was going to understand that there were more frustrating things than housework.
Captions 73-74, Mère & Fille Tâches ménagèresPlay Caption
As you can see, verlan words pepper conversations and songs all across the French-speaking world. If you want to try your hand at verlan, just switch some syllables around, and don’t forget check out the videos featured in this Blaya (Yabla) lesson!
The verb craquer (to crack)—not to be confused with croquer (to crunch/bite)—is an interesting word as it can be used in a variety of ways, often in situations that involve strong emotions, either positive or negative. When used informally, craquer has many meanings that range from “breaking down” to “falling in love."
In a negative context, craquer can mean to crack up, or crack under pressure:
François est dégoûté. Il craque.
François is disgusted. He's cracking up.
Caption 35, Oldelaf Le monde est beauPlay Caption
Craquer can also describe something or someone cracking under pressure:
Continue à faire des films aussi flingués et les cités vont craquer.
Continue making gun movies like always and the housing estates are going to crack.
Captions 51-52, Alain Etoundi Allez tous vous faire enfilmer! - Part 1Play Caption
It can also refer to someone "giving in" or "caving":
Bon, j'ai craqué parce que...
Well, I caved because...Play Caption
While craquer means to crack under pressure, faire craquer quelqu’un means to cause someone to crack or to break someone’s spirit, like the mother in the video below who tried to faire craquer (break down) her son’s girlfriend:
Sa mère voulait me faire craquer.
His mother wanted to break me down.Play Caption
At the other end of the spectrum, however, craquer can describe a positive experience. It's slang for “to fall in love." In the example below, the French pianist Christine Ott is asked:
C'est ce qui t'a fait craquer, toi, pour cet instrument?
Is that what made you fall in love with this instrument?
Caption 4, Alsace 20 Femmes d'exception: Christine OttPlay Caption
And the singer Melissa Mars "fell head over heels" for her project "Et Alors!":
Et voilà, donc du coup, ben évidemment j'ai craqué sur ce projet,
And there, so as a result, well of course I fell head over heels for this project,
Caption 23, Melissa Mars Et Alors!Play Caption
In the following example, shoppers "fell" for some Christmas ornaments:
Et ben on a craqué sur des choses un petit peu typiques, euh...
And, well, we fell for things that are a little bit typical, uh...
Caption 10, Alsace 20 Ouverture du marché de Noël de ColmarPlay Caption
And, of course, craquer sur also means to fall for a person:
J'avais complètement craqué sur elle
I'd completely fallen for herPlay Caption
Likewise, faire craquer can mean to make someone fall for someone:
Je pouvais avouer, ouais, qu'elle m'a fait craquer
I could confess, yeah, that she made me fall for her
Captions 32-33, Harmelo Mets Ton Masque Ft. Jade L x GhettoPlay Caption
On a spookier note, craquer can mean to creak, as in the sound the floor makes in this couple’s haunted apartment:
Ah, c'est le plancher qui craque.
Ah, it's the floor that's creaking.Play Caption
And for a little bit of humor, craquer (to rip) can describe a wardrobe mishap. In this video, Elisa and Mashal look at old photographs, and Mashal remembers when her pants ripped in the middle:
Enfin, quand j'avais dansé mon pantalon qui avait craqué au mil'...
Well, when I'd been dancing, my pants, which had ripped in the mid'...
Caption 82, Elisa et Mashal PhotosPlay Caption
Or when referring to shoes, you can say that they are sur le point de craquer (about to burst). In "J'aurais bien voulu," the singer of the ska band Babylon Circus talks about his battered ego sagging down to his socks to the point that his godasses (shoes) are sur le point de craquer (about to burst):
J'ai l'ego dans les chaussettes et les godasses sur le point de craquer
My ego's in my socks and my shoes are about to burst
Caption 30, Babylon Circus J'aurais bien vouluPlay Caption
There’s another colloquial expression that paints a similar picture, plein à craquer, which means “bursting at the seams” or “overcrowded”:
Les hôpitaux sont pleins à craquer.
The hospitals are completely overcrowded.
Don't confuse craquer with the English loanword cracker, which means "hacker":
Des crackers ont piraté le logiciel.
Some hackers hacked into the software.
(Un cracker can also be of the edible kind… a cracker!).
The noun un craque doesn’t refer to "cracking" at all. It's slang for un mensonge (a lie):
Mais si tous mes craques t'indiffèrent
But if all my lies leave you indifferent
Caption 28, Mademoiselle K (avec Zazie) Me taire te plairePlay Caption
The English noun “crack,” as in a crack in the wall, is une fissure in French, and the verb is fissurer (to crack), as mentioned in this video about the Liverdun Church during the Second World War:
Parce qu'elle a été fissurée pendant la dernière Guerre mondiale.
Because it was cracked during the last World War.
Caption 76, Lionel L'église de Liverdun - Part 2Play Caption
There are other instances when “crack” doesn’t translate as craquer in French. For example, “to crack a joke” is simply raconter une blague (to tell a joke), Lionel’s specialty in his Yabla videos:
Lionel adore raconter des blagues sur Yabla.
Lionel loves telling jokes on Yabla.
And when you "crack up" at a joke, you éclater de rire (burst out laughing):
Les blagues de Lionel me font toujours éclater de rire.
Lionel's jokes always crack me up.
One last thing you can do with craquer in French is craquer une allumette (strike a match):
On peut craquer une allumette pour voir dans le noir.
We can strike a match to see in the dark.
Nous espérons que vous avez craqué sur cette leçon (We hope you fell for this lesson)!
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 année: cette 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'ExpressPlay Caption
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 tournoiPlay Caption
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 campagnePlay Caption
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.Play Caption
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 chantesPlay Caption
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 fiertéPlay Caption
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 fiertéPlay Caption
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 2Play Caption
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 parapluiesPlay Caption
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 mémoiresPlay Caption
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.Play Caption
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 1Play Caption
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 blésPlay Caption
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.Play Caption
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.Play Caption
(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-abrisPlay Caption
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 1Play Caption
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!).
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 matinPlay Caption
(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.Play Caption
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?Play Caption
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!Play Caption
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-déjeunerPlay Caption
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.Play Caption
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.Play Caption
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.Play Caption
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?Play Caption
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.Play Caption
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 3Play Caption
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 2Play Caption
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 PhotosPlay Caption
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 CVPlay Caption
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.
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"?
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.Play Caption
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 5Play Caption
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 5Play Caption
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 4Play Caption
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 8Play Caption
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.Play Caption
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.Play Caption
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.Play Caption
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 BateauxPlay Caption
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.Play Caption
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 journée. You 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 parisienPlay Caption
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 celebratedPlay Caption
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 sommeilPlay Caption
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.
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.
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 vouluPlay Caption
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 perlePlay Caption
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 NoëlPlay Caption
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 1Play Caption
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.Play Caption
Le soir, on s'étreint, les deux pieds dans l'eau
In the evening, we embrace, both feet in the water
Caption 21, Duel - CaramelPlay Caption
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"!
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.Play Caption
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?Play Caption
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?Play Caption
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 typePlay Caption
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.Play Caption
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?Play Caption
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!Play Caption
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!
Have you noticed that while some French words have many variations in spelling, they sound the same?
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
We are all here just with the desire to have
un bon moment, de boire un verre.
a good time, to have a drink.
Caption 52, Actu Vingtième - Vendanges parisiennesPlay Caption
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-AdamPlay Caption
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 campagnePlay Caption
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
I'm looking toward the future
et vers tout ce qu'on va construire...
and toward all that we're going to build…
Caption 40, Actus Quartier - Fête de la rose au caviar rougePlay Caption
Vers also means "around," "about":
Plutôt vers deux heures du matin.
Instead around two o'clock in the morning.
Caption 60, Adrien - Le métro parisienPlay Caption
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.
So we're going to write "green." Masculine.
Otherwise... "green" [feminine].
Caption 28, Leçons avec Lionel - CouleursPlay Caption
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.
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.Play Caption
Non mais tu te moques de moi?
No but are you kidding me?Play Caption
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
Gently mocking famous people is very common
pendant la période de carnaval.
during the carnival period.
Caption 20, Le saviez-vous? - Le carnaval en FrancePlay Caption
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 SNCFPlay Caption
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 RoméoPlay Caption
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 fairePlay Caption
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?Play Caption
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.
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:
"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" - DavidPlay Caption
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.
Voyez la solennité antique quasi religieuse
See the ancient, almost religious solemnity
qui se dégage de ce tableau.
that emerges from this painting.
Captions 10-11, d'Art d'Art - "La Mort de Marat" - DavidPlay Caption
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").
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" - DavidPlay Caption
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).
Les dernières lignes
The last words
qu'il a tracées avec sa plume, désormais inerte,
that he wrote out with his quill, now unmoving,
ce sont des noms destinés à la guillotine
are names (of those) intended for the guillotine
Captions 43-45, d'Art d'Art - "La Mort de Marat" - DavidPlay Caption
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).
Ce jour-là, au musée du Louvre,
That day, at the Louvre Museum,
à la place du chef-d'œuvre de Léonard de Vinci,
in the place of Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece,
il ne reste que le cadre.
only the frame remains.
Captions 10-12, d'Art d'Art - "La Joconde" - VinciPlay Caption
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.
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 BêtePlay Caption
There are a couple different ways of saying "above all" in English, all of which are encompassed by surtout. There's "most of all":
Mais surtout c'est toi
But most of all, it's you
Caption 30, Aldebert - La vie c'est quoi ?Play Caption
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 vouluPlay Caption
And "particularly" or "in particular":
J'aime surtout la cuisine japonais.
I 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 - 1968Play Caption
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'ArlesPlay Caption
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-LuzPlay Caption
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.Play Caption
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 néePlay Caption
Surtout, regardez les vidéos les plus récentes sur Yabla French!
Be sure to check out the most recent Yabla French videos!
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":
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-déjeunerPlay Caption
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 SophiePlay Caption
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 ExcluPlay Caption
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...Play Caption
Et on va aller acheter des trucs.
And we're gonna buy some stuff.Play Caption
But unlike un machin, un 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!Play Caption
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 - 1968Play Caption
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.
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.
Though risk is a major theme of the video, when Lionel uses the verb risquer, he means something a bit different:
Lors du déconfinement,
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 déjàPlay Caption
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.Play Caption
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 HomardPlay Caption
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 appartementPlay Caption
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 trainPlay Caption
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!)
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 musulmanPlay Caption
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.Play Caption
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 véloPlay Caption
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 RougePlay Caption
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?Play Caption
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 travailPlay Caption
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.
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)?
The Paris-Meudon Observatory...
a su garder sa spécificité d'astrophysique
was able to keep its astrophysical specificity
Captions 18-20, Voyage en France - MeudonPlay Caption
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.Play Caption
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 FontainePlay Caption
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," connaître, doesn'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."
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).
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'enregistrementPlay Caption
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.Play Caption
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 - MonopolyPlay Caption
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 couleursPlay Caption
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 ditPlay Caption
On dirait... on dirait Cluzet!
It sounds... it sounds like Cluzet [French actor]!Play Caption
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...]Play Caption
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 FrançaisPlay Caption
On dirait que cette leçon est terminée!
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 arrondissementPlay Caption
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-vousPlay Caption
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 FrançaisPlay Caption
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-CaillesPlay Caption
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 parisiennesPlay Caption
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 email@example.com.