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Or: A Golden Word

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

 

Or la gravité est présente partout.

But gravity is present everywhere.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Captions 16-18, Georges Breizh Numismat

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

 

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

 

Il doit y avoir une mine d'or.

There must be a gold mine here.

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

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

 

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

 

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

Continuer la lecture

Inside and Outside

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

 

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

 

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

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

Caption 49, Actu Vingtième Fête du quartier Python-Duvernois

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Should I pay for what they do outside?

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

Captions 47-48, Adrien Le métro parisien

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

 

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

 

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

I'd have trouble living outside of Paris now.

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Caption 24, Annie Chartrand Grandir bilingue

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

 

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

Continuer la lecture

Getting Frustrated in French

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

 

Comme une larme à la fin de l'histoire

Like a tear at the end of the story

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

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

 

Tu deviens ridicule à la fin avec cette histoire.

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

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

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

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

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

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Mais arrête à la fin!

But stop it already!

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

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

 

Mais enfin, relève-toi!

Come on, stand up!

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

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

 

Enfin de quoi vous parlez à la fin?

Well, what are you talking about now?

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

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

But come on, this story is crazy now!

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Continuer la lecture

Saying Grâce

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

 

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

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

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

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

Then we mix using a whisk with speed and energy.

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

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Ensuite, grâce à une petite balance de cuisine

Then, with the help of a small kitchen scale

Caption 16, Marie & Jeremy Le gâteau aux pommes

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Par lui, tout est grâce et lumière et beauté

Through it, all is grace and light and beauty

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

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

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

Caption 22, Le Journal L'Arche de Zoé

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

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

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

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

Continuer la lecture

Say When!

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

 

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

 

Tu l'as inventé quand ce morceau?

When did you compose this piece?

Caption 24, Claire et Philippe: Mon morceau de piano

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

 

Enfin, tu commences à quelle heure le travail?

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

Caption 70, Elisa et Mashal: Petit-déjeuner

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As a conjunction, quand is synonymous with lorsque:

 

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

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

Captions 15-16, Amal: Vélib

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Lorsque je vous vois, je tressaille

When I see you, I quiver

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

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We could easily switch quand and lorsque in those examples:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Captions 17-20, Adrien: Le métro parisien

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

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

Captions 29-30, Arles: Le petit déjeuner

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

Continuer la lecture

Again and Again and Again

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

French spelling has once again been reworked.

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

and the memorization of new words or new phrases.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continuer la lecture

Striking Agreements and Chords with Accord

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Eh bien, scellons cet accord!

Well then, let's seal this agreement!

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

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

 

Il me fallait aussi l'accord de ses parents.

I also needed the consent of her parents.

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

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

 

Ce morceau se joue sur trois accords.

This piece is played with three chords.

Caption 7, Leçons de guitare - Leçon 3

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

 

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

 

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

Riesling still remains in perfect harmony with oysters.

Caption 71, Alsace 20 - 100 recettes pour 100 vins

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

So what is the good pairing of food and wine?

Caption 8, Alsace 20 - 100 recettes pour 100 vins

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Caption 51, Grand Corps Malade - Les Voyages en train

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

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

Caption 21, Actus Quartier - Bêtes de scène ?

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

Continuer la lecture

A Lesson in Limits

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

 

J'ai limite léché l'assiette, quoi!

almost licked the plate, you know!

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Continuer la lecture

Ones, Eighties, and Hundreds

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

Tournez à la page un [not: une].

Turn to page one.

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Quatre-vingt-cinq personnes sont attendues ce soir.

Eighty-five people are expected tonight.

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Continuer la lecture

Painting Three Ways

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Vous y découvrirez la reproduction d'une toile de Sisley

There you'll find the reproduction of a Sisley painting

Caption 10, Voyage en France - Saint-Mammès

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

 

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

Continuer la lecture

Tirer: Pulling, Drawing, Shooting, and More

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Tirez une carte. 
Pick a card.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Continuer la lecture

Au moins or du moins?

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

 

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

 

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

 

On fait au moins sept ou huit groupes différents.

We have at least seven or eight different bands.

Caption 5, French Punk - Frustration

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

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

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

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Au moins is synonymous with au minimum in this sense: 

 

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

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

Caption 5, Lionel - Les nombres

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Captions 3-5, Nouveaux Talents? - Adonis chante

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Captions 4-5, Le Journal - Le bac

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

 

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

Continuer la lecture

In the Mood for Envie

In "Dimanche soir" (Sunday Night), the slam poet Grand Corps Malade declares his love for his wife in beautiful lines such as: 

 

Je l'ai dans la tête comme une mélodie, alors mes envies dansent

I have her in my head like a melody, so my desires dance

Caption 17, Grand Corps Malade - Dimanche soir

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If you didn't see the translation, you might have guessed that envie means "envy." And you would have been right!

 

Vous ne connaissez que l'envie, la hâte, la rage de les tuer.

You knew only envy, haste, the urge to kill them.

Caption 60, Il était une fois... L’Espace - 3. La planète verte - Part 6

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However, besides désir, envie is also the word for "desire." While un désir is a more general desire, envie connotes yearning, longing, or craving:
 

Il peut rester une envie intellectuelle.

There can remain a mental craving.

Caption 129, Le Figaro - Elle a banni le sucre pendant un an - Part 1

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If you think about it, this double meaning of envie makes a lot of sense, since envy is bound up with desire: if you envy (envier) someone, you covet what they have.

 

J'envie les caresses

I envy the caresses

Caption 18, Oldelaf - interprète "Bérénice"

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Quitte à en crever de son histoire déçue, de son passé tant envié

Despite wanting to die from her disappointing history, her so envied past

Caption 12, Yaaz - La place des anges

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But envie isn't always so intense. The extremely common expression avoir envie de doesn't mean "to envy" or "yearn for," but simply "to want," "feel like," or "be in the mood for":

 

Vous avez pas envie de faire la sieste?

You don't feel like taking a nap?

Caption 29, Actu Vingtième - Le Repas des anciens

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J'ai envie d'une limonade.
I'm in the mood for a lemonade.

 

There's also the expression donner envie (literally, "to give desire"), which means "to make someone want something":

 

D'avoir des quantités de choses Qui donnent envie d'autres choses

To have things in large quantities That make you want other things

Captions 4-5, Fréro Delavega - Foule Sentimentale

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In English, we have the phrase "green with envy." But in French, one becomes "green with jealousy": vert(e) de jalousie. You can, however, make someone "pale with envy" (faire pâlir d'envie).

 

Finally, here's a bizarre quirk of the French language: envie is also the word for "birthmark" and "hangnail." What those have to do with envy and desire is an etymological mystery. 

Continuer la lecture

Pleasing with Plaire

The verb plaire is most often used in the expressions s'il vous plaît (formal) and s'il te plaît (informal), which, as you probably know, both mean "please"––or more accurately, "if it pleases you." "To please" is the basic meaning of plaire:

Ça peut pas leur plaire.

That can't please them.

Caption 18, Le Journal - Yann Arthus Bertrand

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Another way of saying "to please" is faire plaisir (literally, "to make pleasure"):

Je sais que ça va pas te faire plaisir

I know this isn't going to please you

Caption 18, Le Jour où tout a basculé - Mon père s'oppose à ma passion - Part 7

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If something pleases you, that means you like it. Indeed, plaire can also mean "to like" or "enjoy":

Une autre œuvre qui me plaît beaucoup

Another work that I like a lot

Caption 35, Patrice Zana - L'artiste et ses inspirations - Part 2

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OK, je te plais pas.

OK, you don't like me.

Caption 52, Le Jour où tout a basculé - À la recherche de mon père - Part 4

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Ce livre plaît à tout le monde.

Everyone enjoys that book.

 

We could certainly translate the above examples as "another work that pleases/appeals to me a lot," "OK, I'm not pleasing/appealing to you," and "that book is pleasing/appealing to everyone." But plaire is used a bit more generally than "to please," so you'll usually see it translated as "to like" or "enjoy" with the subject and object inverted (ce livre plaît à tout le monde = everyone enjoys that book). Note that plaire always takes an indirect object (plaire à quelqu'un, "to please/be pleasing to someone"). 

 

When plaire is reflexive (se plaire, literally "to please oneself"), it means "to be happy" or "to enjoy being somewhere":

Est-ce que tu t'y plais?

Are you enjoying yourself here?

Caption 24, Yabla à Nancy - Université Nancy 2

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Elles se plaisent à Lindre

They like Lindre

Caption 21, Lionel - à Lindre-Basse - Part 6

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Or, in the plural, it can mean "to like one another," "to enjoy each other's company":

Ils se sont plu immédiatement.

They liked each other instantly.

 

And for life's unpleasant moments, there's the verb déplaire (to dislike, displease, irritate, upset):

Ses plaisanteries déplaisent à ma mère.

My mother doesn't like his jokes. (His jokes irritate my mother.)

 

There's also the expression n'en déplaise à (with all due respect to, with apologies to, no offense to):

Pas de fiole de cyanure, n'en déplaise à Shakespeare

No vial of cyanide, no offense to Shakespeare

Caption 47, Grand Corps Malade - Roméo kiffe Juliette

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We hope you're pleased with this lesson on plaire!

Continuer la lecture

Trees, Groves, and Orchards

In our latest Le saviez-vous? video, we visit La Maison de l'Olive, a store in Nice specializing in—you guessed it—olives. Like most of the Mediterranean region, the south of France is filled with olive trees, or oliviers:

 

Toute la cuisine méditerranéenne se fait avec l'huile d'olive. C'est la civilisation de l'olivier.

All Mediterranean cuisine is made with olive oil. It's the olive tree civilization.

Captions 27-28, Le saviez-vous? - La Maison de l'Olive à Nice - Part 1

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You might be familiar with the word olivier as a proper noun, Olivier, the French equivalent of "Oliver." But its basic meaning is "olive tree." In fact, like olivier, the names of most fruit and nut trees end in -ier in French. So, for example, an apple tree is un pommier (from une pomme), a cherry tree is un cerisier (from une cerise), a pear tree is un poirier (from une poire), and so on: 

 

Je parle surtout du cacaoyer, du bananier

I am talking especially about the cacao tree, the banana tree

Caption 8, Grand Lille TV - Visite des serres de Tourcoing

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Ils connaissent le mot café, mais ils ne connaissent [sic] pas ce que c'est que le caféier...

They know the word "coffee," but they don't know what the coffee tree is...

Caption 12, Grand Lille TV - Visite des serres de Tourcoing

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Of course, there are some exceptions. A few of these tree names end in -yer, not -ier, such as cacaoyer above and noyer (walnut tree, from une noix). And a few just end in -er, namely oranger (orange tree) and pêcher (peach tree). Like most -er words, these trees are always masculine, even if the fruit or nut that grows on them is feminine. So you have un pêcher (a peach tree) but une pêche (a peach); un cerisier (a cherry tree) but une cerise (a cherry).

 

Incidentally, when someone asks if you know how to faire le poirier, they're not wondering whether you can "make the pear tree," but whether you can do a headstand! The origin of this expression probably has to do with the rough resemblance between a headstand and a pear tree. But why not un pommier or un citronnier (a lemon tree)? Who knows! 

 

A group of fruit or nut trees is a grove (un bosquet) or an orchard (un verger). But the French word for "olive grove" is not un bosquet d'oliviers. It's une oliveraie:

 

En tout cas, en ce qui concerne les oliveraies qui sont sur les Alpes-Maritimes, elles ont été plantées par les Grecs.

In any case, with regard to the olive groves that are in the Alpes-Maritimes, they were planted by the Greeks.

Captions 32-34, Le saviez-vous? - La Maison de l'Olive à Nice - Part 1

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Here we have another pattern: the words for fruit/nut groves or orchards generally end in -eraie or -aie. These words are always feminine. For instance:

 

une pomme - un pommier - une pommeraie
une cerise - un cerisier - une cerisaie 
une orange - un oranger - une orangeraie 
une châtaigne (a chestnut) - un châtaignier - une châtaigneraie 
une amande (an almond) - un amandier une amandaie 

 

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

Continuer la lecture

Declining Décliner

The word "decline" can mean "decrease," "deteriorate," "move downward," or "politely refuse." Its source, the French verb décliner, can have all of these meanings and more.

 

Most of these other meanings stem from a more specialized grammatical one. To "decline" a noun, pronoun, or adjective is to list all of its forms according to case, number, and gender. You don't have to worry about doing this in French—it only applies to certain languages, such as Latin and Ancient Greek. But décliner can refer to a similar activity of enumerating, presenting something in various forms, offering a range of something, laying out all its different facets.

 

Because décliner has such a wide variety of meanings, its translation is highly context-specific. For example, you can use it to talk about a fashion designer "presenting" all the styles of his latest collection on the runway:

 

Du blanc, du noir, presque exclusivement, tous les codes déclinés inlassablement,

Almost exclusively white and black, all the styles presented tirelessly,

Caption 5, Le Journal - Défilé de mode - Part 2

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Or you can use it in the sense of "depicting" several aspects of something:

 

...des travaux de couture d'une jeune femme qui décline un petit peu l'Alsace sur du tissu

...some sewing projects from a young woman who kind of depicts the various faces of Alsace on fabric

Captions 18-19, Alsace 20 - Mangez bien, mangez alsacien!

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Businesses often use décliner to advertise a product available in various forms. When Lionel visited a madeleine shop in Liverdun, the owner used it to refer to the different flavors she sells:

 

Nous l'avons déclinée à la mirabelle... -Oui. et à la bergamote.

We've adapted it with mirabelle plum... -Yes. and with bergamot orange.

Captions 32-33, Lionel - La boutique de madeleines de Liverdun - Part 2

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This restaurant owner in Nice uses décliner in a somewhat particular sense. He's not talking about the different forms of socca he offers, but rather all the times of day people order it:

 

Ça se décline comme ça, et on peut en manger vraiment à n'importe quelle heure.

It's available like that, and you can really eat it at any time.

Captions 34-35, Le saviez-vous? - La socca, spécialité niçoise

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If you see décliner on a form you're filling out, or hear it from an administrative official, you're being asked to provide information about yourself:

 

Déclinez votre nom et adresse.
State your name and address.

 

Don't forget that décliner also has all the senses of the English "decline": "decrease," "deteriorate," "move downward," "politely refuse."

 

We've now "declined" all the meanings of décliner!

Continuer la lecture

Surprise, Surprise!

In the latest segment of Le Jour où tout a basculé - J'ai piégé mon fan, Alex uses a phrase whose meaning may surprise you:

 

Mais bon, c'était pour la bonne cause. Tu m'étonnes. Regarde.

But OK, it was for a good cause. You're not kidding. Look.

Captions 7-8, Le Jour où tout a basculé - J'ai piégé mon fan - Part 7

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The literal translation of tu m'étonnes is "you surprise me," but it's often used as a set phrase meaning "you're not kidding," "no kidding," or "tell me something I don't know." Used in this way, it has the opposite meaning of its literal translation—the person is not surprised by what they just heard. Tu m'étonnes is very similar to the English expression "surprise, surprise," which is also used ironically to convey a lack of surprise. 

 

Sans blague is another phrase meaning "no kidding" or, more literally, "no joke." This one, however, can express surprise:

 

Je suis né le 3 novembre. -Sans blague! Moi aussi!
I was born on November 3. -No kidding! So was I!

 

The verb étonner has the same root as the English verb "to stun." It means "to surprise," "astonish," or "amaze":

 

Sur l'eau, il vit son reflet, totalement étonné

In the water, he saw his reflection, totally surprised

Caption 29, Contes de fées - Le vilain petit canard - Part 2

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Les héritiers de Jules Verne n'ont pas fini de nous étonner.

Jules Verne's heirs have never ceased to amaze us.

Caption 26, Le Journal - Le record du Tour de Monde!

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And the English "surprise" comes directly from the French surpris(e):

 

Je suis un peu surpris.

I'm a little surprised.

Caption 38, Lea & Lionel L - Le parc de Bercy - Part 1

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Unsurprisingly, the verb surprendre means "to surprise":
 

Tu vas mener l'attaque pour les surprendre.

You're going to lead the attack to surprise them.

Caption 28, Il était une fois - les Explorateurs - 15. Bruce et les sources du Nil - Part 2

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But it can also have the related meaning "to catch," "come upon," or "discover":

 

Louise surprend René et Edna en pleine conversation.

Louise catches René and Edna deep in conversation.

Caption 2, Le Jour où tout a basculé - Mes grands-parents sont infidèles - Part 8

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Just as there are two words for "to surprise" (étonner and surprendre) and two words for "surprised" (étonné[e] and surpris[e]), there are two words for "surprising": 

 

C'est pas étonnant que beaucoup de peintres soient venus s'installer ici sur Arles.

It's not surprising that many painters came to settle here in Arles.

Caption 12, Arles - Un Petit Tour d'Arles - Part 3

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C'est un endroit vraiment surprenant en plein cœur de Paris.

It's a really surprising place right in the heart of Paris.

Caption 14, Voyage dans Paris - Les Secrets de Belleville

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Can you guess what la surprise and l'étonnement mean? Surprise, surprise! 

Continuer la lecture

Logement pour tous!

In early 2018, a group of protesters gathered in front of the headquarters of the SNCF (Société nationale des chemins de fer français [French National Railway Company]) to demand that the company convert its empty buildings into public housing:

 

Logement! -Pour qui? -Pour tous!

Housing! -For whom? -For everyone! 

Captions 19-21, Actus Quartier - Devant la SNCF

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Logement is the word for "housing" or "lodging" in general, but it can also refer more specifically to an apartment, house, or home: 

 

J'aurais pas pu avoir mon logement.

I wouldn't have been able to get my apartment.

Caption 58, Actus Quartier - Devant la SNCF

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Lorsque j'avais pas mon logement.

When I didn't have my home.

Caption 110, Actus Quartier - Devant la SNCF

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The verbal form of logementloger, means "to house" or "to accommodate." It's synonymous with héberger:

 

ces beaux immeubles vides pour héberger, pour loger les personnes qui sont à la rue.

these beautiful empty buildings to house, to provide housing for people who are on the street.

Captions 17-18, Actus Quartier - Devant la SNCF

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On the flip side, loger can also mean "to be housed," "to stay," or "to live":

 

Je loge chez mon amie
I'm staying at my friend's place.

 

If someone is mal logé, they're living in poor housing conditions:
 

La honte, la honte à ce pouvoir qui fait la guerre aux mal-logés.

Shame, shame on this authority that's waging war on the poorly housed.

Captions 28-29, Actus Quartier - Devant la SNCF

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And if someone is homeless, they're SDF—an acronym for sans domicile fixe (without a fixed abode):

 

Moi, je suis là parce que je suis SDF. Je suis sans domicile fixe.

Me, I'm here because I'm homeless. I'm without a fixed abode.

Caption 100, Actus Quartier - Devant la SNCF

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Another word for "homeless" is sans-abri (without shelter).

 

Many people lucky enough to have a fixed abode pay un loyer (rent) to un/une propriétaire (a landlord/landlady):

 

j'ai de quoi payer un... un loyer

I have enough to pay... rent

Caption 120, Actus Quartier - Devant la SNCF

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La propriétaire a vendu son appartement.

The landlady sold her apartment.

Caption 103, Actus Quartier - Devant la SNCF

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Propriétaire is also the word for "owner." Un propriétaire foncier is a property owner, such as the SNCF:

 

Faut quand même savoir que la SNCF, c'est le deuxième propriétaire foncier du pays après l'État.

You should know, however, that the SNCF is the second largest property owner in the country after the State.

Captions 43-45, Actus Quartier - Devant la SNCF

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You'll find two words for "building" in this video—immeuble and bâtiment:

 

Vous avez vu dimanche le bel immeuble vide

On Sunday you saw the beautiful empty building

Caption 10, Actus Quartier - Devant la SNCF

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Parce qu'ils ont des bâtiments vides, complètement vides

Because they have vacant buildings, completely vacant

Caption 30, Actus Quartier - Devant la SNCF

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While both are general terms for "building," un immeuble can also be an "apartment building" or "apartment block," which is what the protesters are hoping the SNCF will provide for those in need.

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