French Lessons

Topics

Standing and Sitting

In her hit song "Christine," the French artist Christine and the Queens (aka Héloïse Letissier) plays with the phrase tenir debout:

 

Je ne tiens pas debout
I can't stand up
Cap. 7, Christine and the Queens: Christine 

Ça ne tient pas debout
It doesn't hold up
Cap. 9, Christine and the Queens: Christine 

 

The expression in the first caption is se tenir debout, which means "to stand up" (literally, "to hold oneself upright"). Since it's a reflexive expression, there should actually be a me in the caption (Je ne me tiens pas debout), but reflexive pronouns are often dropped in informal speech. 

 

Without the reflexive pronoun, tenir debout is an idiomatic expression meaning "to hold up" (its literal translation), "to add up," or "to make sense." 

 

Se mettre debout and se lever are two other common ways of saying "to stand up": 

 

Donc on se lève et l'effet de surprise les fait s'envoler dans le filet.
So we stand up and the surprise effect makes them fly into the net.
Cap. 9, Canal 32: Les secrets des cailles des blés

Il s'est mis debout quand je suis entré dans la chambre. 
He stood up when I entered the room. 

 

These phrases describe the action of standing up, but if you wanted to describe someone who is already standing, you would use the phrase être debout or even just debout by itself: 

 

Par exemple lui, il était debout, elle, elle était allongée.
For example, him, he was standing up; her, she was lying down. 
Cap. 17, Niko de La Faye: "Visages" - Part 1

Debout, une rose à la main
Standing up, a rose in hand 
Cap. 17, Indila: Love Story 

 

We can't talk about standing up without also talking about sitting down! There are two expressions for sitting in French: s'asseoir (to sit) and être assis/assise (to be seated): 

 

Le Jardin du joli Cœur est un tout petit parc où on peut s'asseoir tranquillement. 
The Jardin du Joli Cœur is a very small park where you can sit quietly.
Cap. 35, Joanna: Son quartier

Tout le reste du temps, je dors... là où je suis assise
The rest of the time, I sleep... right where I'm sitting.
Cap. 15, Le Journal: Les navigateurs du Vendée Globe - Part 2 

 

Thanks for reading! If you have a suggestion for a future lesson topic, feel free to email us at newsletter@yabla.com or tweet us @yabla.

Vocabulary

You May Also Like