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May the Force Be with You! (Que la force soit avec toi!)

The word force is self-explanatory. It means “force” or “strength." However, what makes the cognate force interesting is that it has other meanings besides “strength." Indeed, there are a variety of idiomatic expressions such as à force (over time), en force (in force), de force (by force), among others. 


Before we start focusing on the idiomatic expressions mentioned above, let’s look at force as a cognate. In the video below, Caroline notes that it takes a certain amount of force to play badminton:


Voilà. Y a beaucoup de... y a... de la force en fait.

There you are. There's a lot of... there's... force, in fact.

Caption 17, Caroline - et le badminton

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“Force” being synonymous with “strength," it makes sense that la force also translates as “strength." For example, eating your vegetables, especially carrots, will give you plenty of force:


Cela donne beaucoup de force. Surtout les carottes, là.

It gives you a lot of strength. Especially the carrots here.

Caption 40, Actus Quartier - Fête de quartier Python-Duvernois

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Avoir de la force not only means “to have strength,” but also “to be strong”:


Il a beaucoup de force dans les bras.

He has very strong arms (literally, he has a lot of strength in the arms).


The word force loses its original meaning when combined with other nouns, as in un tour de force (an amazing feat, or, as we also say in English, a tour de force). In the video below, a fashion genius a réussi un tour de force (managed an amazing feat) by “turning a leather goods brand into a fashion brand to be reckoned with":


Le petit prodige du groupe LVMH, qui a réussi un tour de force

The little prodigy of the LVMH group, who managed an amazing feat

Caption 17, Le Journal - Défilé de mode

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While the gifted can réussir un tour de force, others, like the singer IAM, make un retour en force (a comeback, literally "a return in force"). Notice the switch to the preposition en here: 


Avec ce disque, IAM fait un retour en force.

With this album, IAM makes ​​a comeback.

Caption 9, LCM - IAM fait son retour en force!

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By itself, en force means “in force” or “in large numbers”:


Seuls nos guerriers, et en force, peuvent y aller.

Only our warriors, and in numbers, can go there.

Caption 26, Il était une fois: les Explorateurs - 15. Bruce et les sources du Nil

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En force (in force/in large numbers) should not be confused with de force (by force). Again, pay attention to prepositions:


Alors ils m'ont embarqué au poste, de force.

So they took me to the police station, by force.

Caption 72, Le Jour où tout a basculé - J'ai piégé mon fan

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You can also combine force with other prepositions. The construction à force de + verb means "by doing/by dint of," implying some repetitive action. In other words, by continuing to be/do something, consequences will follow—some good, some bad, and some hilarious. In the video below, à force de maltraiter (by mistreating) the door a few too many times, Barbara and Isabelle caused their apartment number six to turn into a number nine, leading to all sorts of trouble:


Effectivement, à force de maltraiter cette pauvre porte d'entrée,

Indeed, by mistreating that poor entrance door,

la vis qui tenait le numéro a fini par tomber.

the screw that was holding up the number ended up falling off.

Captions 74-75, Mère & Fille - C'est le bouquet

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On the other hand, you can expect a better outcome à force d’être sage (by being good). In his song "Petit Pays," rapper Gaël Faye describes the consequences of being trop sage:


À force d'être trop sage je me suis pendu avec mon auréole

By being too good I hanged myself with my halo

Caption 57, Gaël Faye - Petit Pays

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The phrase c’est à force de can mean “it’s due to/it’s from" doing something. Magali tells Sébastien that his stomach pains are a result of his constantly pressuring her to leave her husband:


Mais ça, c'est à force de me presser.

But that's from pressuring me.

Caption 26, Le Jour où tout a basculé - J'ai fait souffrir l'amant de ma femme

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The expression à force can also stand on its own to mean “over time":


À force, Cynthia s'est mise à gruger mécaniquement sur les devis.

Over time, Cynthia started fudging the estimates automatically.

Caption 49, Le Jour où tout a basculé - Mon patron m'oblige à mentir aux clients

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Or “after a while”:


Non, du tout. C'est un petit peu fatigant à force,

No, not at all. It's a bit tiring after a while,

mais ils sont géniaux, donc, euh... -Ah bon.

but they're great, so, uh... -Ah, good.

Caption 76, Actus Quartier - Fête de quartier Python-Duvernois

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Finally, force is also a present-tense form of the verb forcer (to force/to force oneself):


Je me force un peu des fois

I force myself a bit sometimes

Caption 46, Giulia - Sa marque de bijoux 'Desidero'

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There are more ways to use force as well. You can find some of them here.


And don't forget: à force de regarder (by watching) many Yabla videos, you will be able to improve your skills in French à force (over time). Thank you for reading this lesson!



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