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The Reasons "Pourquoi"

In any language, it’s good to know how to explain the reasons for things. It’s great to say j’aime la langue française (I love the French language), but it’s even better to be able to say why (pourquoi) you love it. This lesson will show you some words that all answer the question, Pourquoi? 

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The most basic response to "why" is "because," and the most basic translation of "because" in French is parce que. This Frenchman in New York City uses parce que to explain why the Big Apple’s Bastille Day celebration makes him feel at home: 

 

Je pense que c'est bien parce que ça crée une atmosphère française.

I think it's a good thing because it creates a French atmosphere.

Caption 5, Bastille Day NYC - Le 14 juillet à New York

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In English, "because" can refer either to the reason behind something or the cause of something. The difference is subtle, but the French might help clear it up. Whenever you want to say "because of" something, use à cause de instead of parce que

 

J'ai pourtant passé une nuit horrible et triste à cause de toi!

Yet I spent a horrible and sad night because of you!

Caption 27, Les zooriginaux - Léa jacta est

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It helps that "because" and à cause de both include the word "cause"! Note that à cause de is most often used in negative or neutral situations—its more positive counterpart is grâce à (thanks to):

J'ai passé une nuit merveilleuse grâce à toi! 

I spent a marvelous night thanks to you!

"Because" is not the only word that answers "why," nor is parce que (or à cause de) the only phrase that answers pourquoi. There’s also "since," or puisque:  

 

C'est peut-être le temps de se préparer justement, puisque tout arrive très vite.

It may indeed be time to get ready, since everything happens very quickly.

Caption 27, JT - Risques d’avalanche sur les massifs des Alpes du Nord

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Note that puisque is one word, while parce que is two. Why is that, you may ask? Unfortunately that’s a question that has no real answer! 

Another way to give a reason for something is with the word "as," which in this case translates to car

 

Je vais au marché, car j'ai repéré une petite robe.

I'm going to the market, as I noticed a little dress.

Caption 24, Manon et Clémentine - Conjugaison du verbe aller

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You can also translate car more formally as "for" ("I’m going to the market, for I noticed a little dress"). Incidentally, the French word for a car that you drive is une voiture, but attention: un car (or un autocar) is also a vehicle in French—it means "coach," as in the kind of bus you might take on a long journey (a city bus is called un autobus).

The final French expression for giving a reason conveniently includes the word "reason" (raison) within it. The expression is en raison de, usually translated as "due to":

 

Cette race de géants va disparaître en raison d'une gravité terrestre devenue trop forte.

This race of giants was to disappear due to a terrestrial gravity which had grown too powerful.

Captions 40-41, La Conspiration d'Orion - Conspiration 1/4

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If you think the idea of a "race of giants" is totally unreasonable, watch the Conspiration d’Orion series and see if its conspiracy theories might convince you otherwise....

We hope that the reason you give when someone asks why your French is so amazing is: parce que j’utilise Yabla tous les jours (because I use Yabla every day)! 

Vocabulary

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