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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

Caption 7, Christine and the Queens - Christine

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Ça ne tient pas debout

It doesn't hold up

Caption 9, Christine and the Queens - Christine

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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.

Caption 9, Canal 32 - Les secrets des cailles des blés

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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.

Caption 17, Niko de La Faye - "Visages"

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Debout, une rose à la main

Standing up, a rose in hand

Caption 17, Indila - Love Story

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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

The Jardin du Joli Cœur is a very small park

où on peut s'asseoir tranquillement.

where you can sit quietly.

Caption 38, Joanna - Son quartier

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Tout le reste du temps, je dors... là où je suis assise.

The rest of the time, I sleep... right where I'm sitting.

Caption 15, Le Journal - Les navigateurs du Vendée Globe

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