Lesson 66. Vocabulary
The verb importer has two different meanings: “to import” (goods or merchandise, or even a computer file) and “to be important” or “to matter.” You can use the phrase il importe as a more formal alternative to il est important (it is important) when giving a warning or instruction:
Il importe de se laver les mains avant de manger.
It is important to wash your hands before you eat.
But more often, you’ll see the verb used in two set expressions to refer to things that aren’t important, or whose specific identity doesn’t matter. The first of these expressions is peu importe, which means “little does it matter”:
Peu importe si je veux ça, mes larmes en vain, et peu importe des lendemains si je t’aime
Little does it matter if I want it, my tears in vain, and little do the tomorrows matter if I love you
Cap. 11, Peach FTL: L’Empreinte
The other expression is not as straightforward but probably even more common. Take a look at this sentence:
C'est le seul art que tu peux faire n'importe où, n'importe quand.
It's the only art that you can do anywhere, anytime.
Cap. 7-8, B-Girl Frak: La Danse
You’ll have to watch the video to find out what artform B-Girl Frak is referring to (though you might be able to guess from the title), but for now, let’s focus on the phrases n’importe où and n’importe quand. Literally translated, they mean “doesn’t matter where” and “doesn’t matter when,” which are roundabout ways of saying “anywhere” and “anytime.” In French, the construction “n’importe + interrogative word (où, quand, qui, quoi, comment, quel)” corresponds to English phrases beginning with “any” (anywhere, anytime, anyone, etc.).
Depending on context, this construction can function as a few different parts of speech. For instance, while n’importe où and n’importe quand act as adverbs, n’importe qui (anyone) and n’importe quand (anytime) act as indefinite pronouns:
Et qui l'achète? Ah, n'importe qui.
And who buys it? Ah, anyone.
Cap. 4-5, Le Journal: La bougie du sapeur
Le marché Dauphine, une véritable caverne d'Ali Baba, ici on trouve n'importe quoi.
The "Marché Dauphine" [Dauphine Market], a veritable Ali Baba's cave, here we find anything.
Cap. 2, Cap 24: Paris - Alessandro fait les Puces!
N’importe quoi can also be used more informally to mean “ridiculous” or “nonsense”:
Là, je trouve ça n'importe quoi, parce que, voilà, chacun a ses... a sa religion.
I think it's ridiculous because, you know, everyone has ... has his or her own religion.
Cap. 16, Grand Lille TV: Sondage - le voile intégral
If you want to be a bit more specific than “anyone” or “anything,” you can use the expression n’importe quel/quelles/quels/quelles, which is always followed by a noun:
Vous parlez comme n'importe quel homme.
You talk like any other man.
Cap. 28, Bande-annonce: La Belle et la Bête
Lequel, laquelle, lesquels, and lesquelles can be used to replace “quel/quelle/quels/quelles + noun” (more on that here). Likewise, you can also put n’importe in front of those words to express indifference:
Tu veux aller à la plage ou à la piscine? -N’importe laquelle.
Do you want to go to the beach or to the pool? -Either one.
Finally, there’s the adverb phrase n’importe comment, which literally means “any how,” but is usually translated as “any way” or “any which way.” The French house artist Toxic Avenger devoted an entire song to this phrase:
Bouge ton corps n'importe comment
Move your body any which way
Cap. 24, The Toxic Avenger: N’importe comment
In informal speech, you’ll even hear n’importe used as a standalone phrase to mean “it doesn’t matter” or “I don’t care” (or even just "whatever"). We hope that you do care about all of the different ways to use importer!
Lesson 65. Spelling
As we’ve noted in previous lessons, accent marks are very important in French. Their presence or absence can completely change the meaning of a word, as in cote, côte, and côté or des, dés, and dès. In this lesson, we’ll investigate a more straightforward but no less significant distinction, between du and dû.
You may already know that in French de + le ("of" + "the") is always contracted into du. That’s why, in their introduction to their video on springtime trends (or trends of the springtime), Fanny and Corinne say tendances du printemps:
On va vous parler des tendances du printemps.
We're going to tell you about some springtime trends.
Cap. 2, Fanny & Corrine parlent de la mode: Tendances du printemps
Printemps is masculine, so, to put it mathematically: de + le printemps = du printemps. Note that, in the title, Fanny and Corinne parlent de la mode (talk about fashion). De + la can appear together in French, so no contraction is necessary there. You can find out more about these rules on this page.
When you put a circumflex on du, its pronunciation doesn’t change, but it’s no longer a contraction of de + le. Dû is the past participle of the verb devoir, which means “to have to” or “to owe.” So why does dû require a circumflex? For no other reason than to distinguish it from du! Though the circumflex is only used to distinguish meaning in this case, it can serve some other purposes as well, which you can learn more about here.
Here’s an example of dû used as a past participle, from a video about an electric sporting boat:
Donc, on a dû utiliser deux moteurs.
So we had to use two motors.
Cap. 25, Bateau sport 100% électrique: Le Nautique 196 E
Dû can also be used as an adjective, in which case it means “due,” as in the expression “due to” (dû à):
Peut-être que c'est aussi dû au fait que ma mère aimait beaucoup chanter.
Maybe it's also due to the fact that my mother liked very much to sing.
Cap. 16, Mai Lingani: Mai et Burkina Electric
Dû is the masculine singular form of the adjective, but note that the circumflex disappears in every other form: the feminine singular (due), the masculine plural (dus), and the feminine plural (dues). Remember: in this case, the circumflex is only there to prevent confusion with du.
In this caption from a video on AIDS, dû modifies the singular feminine noun banalisation, so it becomes due:
Une banalisation qui est due d'ailleurs à la trithérapie.
A trivialization which, besides, is due to the tritherapy.
Cap. 3-4, Le Journal: Le sida
Finally, dû can be used as a noun (un dû) to mean “a due,” or something that one is owed:
Je lui paierai son dû.
I will pay him his due.
We hope that we have duly (dûment) demonstrated how much of a difference one little accent mark can make!
Lesson 64. Vocabulary
In French, there are two different verbs meaning “to find”: trouver and retrouver. Although the two verbs are often interchangeable, the major difference between them has to do with the difference between discovering and retrieving: while trouver usually refers to finding something new, retrouver (which is related to “retrieve”) usually refers to finding something you’ve lost.
If you go to the fantastic food market in Arles, you’ll be overwhelmed by the incredible amount of fresh cheeses you’ll find there:
On trouve les meilleurs fromages de toutes les régions
We find the best cheeses from all the regions
Cap. 17, Arles: Le marché d’Arles
On a more emotional note, you might be determined to find a lost love, like the subject of this music video:
Elle a juré de vous retrouver vite.
She swore to find you again fast.
Cap. 9, Yaaz: La place des anges
“To find” doesn’t only refer to finding a person or a thing. You can also find something intangible, like a concept, feeling, or physical state:
Comme il trouve pas la solution
Since he can't find a solution
Cap. 26, Oldelaf: Le monde est beau
J'ai fait un cauchemar et ne pouvais pas retrouver le sommeil.
I had a nightmare and could not get back to sleep.
In English, "to find" can also be a synonym for “to think,” when expressing an opinion. Likewise, trouver can be a synonym for the standard French words for "to think," penser and croire. Like the person in this video, we at Yabla find foreign language learning to be very important:
Lesson 63. Vocabulary
In an introductory French class, Lionel gives a rundown of some basic ways to greet people in French:
C'est le soir. Bonne soirée.
It's the evening. Good evening.
Cap. 26, Leçons avec Lionel: Salutations
In English, a “soirée” is a fancy party usually held in the evening. Though the French word soirée can also refer to a party, its basic meaning is just “evening,” which isn’t quite as fancy. You can see from the example above that there is another French word for “evening”: le soir. Likewise, there is also another way to say “good evening”: bonsoir. So what’s the difference between le soir and la soirée and bonsoir and bonne soirée?
It’s not just that le soir is masculine and la soirée is feminine or that bonsoir is one word and bonne soirée is two. It’s more a question of emphasis: la soirée generally refers to the duration of an evening, whereas le soir just refers to a specific time. The difference is pretty subtle, and the words are often interchangeable, but it’s good to know that this pattern applies to other time-related words as well: matin/matinée (morning), jour/journée (day), and an/année (year).
In this weather report, the phrase toute la matinée emphasizes the durational aspect of matinée:
En effet, le soleil va briller de Wissembourg à Saint-Louis durant toute la matinée.
Indeed, the sun will shine from Wissembourg to Saint-Louis all morning long.
Cap. 3, Alsace 20: Météo du 2 juillet 2010
If she just wanted to emphasize the specific time of day, the weather reporter could have said something like:
En effet, le soleil va briller de Wissembourg à Saint-Louis demain matin.
Indeed, the sun will shine from Wissembourg to Saint-Louis tomorrow morning.
Note that matinée never refers to a daytime theater performance or movie screening, as it does in English. In French, it just means "morning." To get another sense of morning as a duration of time, think about the French expression for “sleeping in,” faire la grasse matinée (literally, “fat morning”). When you sleep in, you spend a good amount of the morning (if not the whole morning, or toute la matinée!) in bed:
Il travaille bien en classe; il ne fait jamais la grasse matinée!
He works hard in class; he never sleeps in!
Cap. 15, Les zooriginaux: 2 - Tel père tel fils - Part 1
The pattern continues with jour/journée. Notice the difference in meaning between toute la journée and tous les jours:
Je suis sur la plage toute la journée.
I'm on the beach all day long.
Cap. 8, Fred et Miami Catamarans: Fred et sa vie à Miami
Je suis sur la plage tous les jours.
I'm on the beach every day.
Bonjour is the standard way to say “hello” (or “good day”), but as you may have guessed, you can also say bonne journée. Bonne journée is usually translated as “have a good day,” and this same distinction can be applied to bonsoir and bonne soirée. You'd tend to say bonjour/bonsoir when greeting someone and bonne journée/bonne soirée when leaving them. However, you generally won’t hear bon matin or bonne matinée in French—”good morning” is simply bonjour. And there is only one way to say “good afternoon” (bon après-midi) and “good night” (bonne nuit), which you only say before going to bed.
Finally, there is an/année. Again, you would use an to refer to a specific year or number of years:
Dans trois ans, j’aurai trente ans.
In three years, I will be thirty years old.
Une année is a one-year span, but it can also refer less precisely to a period of 11 or 13 months (whereas un an is strictly 12 months):
C'est pour ça que je voulais vraiment absolument m'arrêter ici pendant pendant une année....
That's why I really absolutely wanted to stop here for a year....
Cap. 36-37, Le Québec parle aux Français: Part 2/11
You can’t wish somebody a bon an in French, but you can certainly wish them a bonne année. In fact, bonne année happens to be the phrase for “Happy New Year," while "New Year's" (referring to the specific day) is le Nouvel An or le jour de l'An. Since the holidays are fast approaching, in addition to a bonne journée and a bonne soirée, we at Yabla also wish you a bonne année for le Nouvel An (a few months in advance)!
Lesson 62. Vocabulary
Auprès de is a French preposition that doesn’t have a direct English translation. It generally refers to a situation of proximity and has a range of meanings, including “beside,” “next to,” “with,” “among,” “by,” “at,” “close to,” and more. It’s one of those words whose definition almost entirely depends on context, so let’s take a look at how it’s used in some Yabla videos.
The most literal meaning of auprès de is “beside” or “next to,” referring to physical proximity (another expression for this is à côté de). At the end of the classic French fairy tale La Belle et la Bête (Beauty and the Beast), Belle wants nothing more than to be beside her beloved Beast:
Laissez-moi retourner auprès de lui; c'est mon seul souhait...
Let me return to his side; it's my only wish…
Cap. 42, Bande-annonce: La Belle et la Bête
On a less romantic note, you can also use auprès de to describe two things that are next to each other:
L’hôpital se trouve auprès du parc.
The hospital is located next to the park.
Auprès de doesn’t always refer to being directly beside someone or something. More generally, it can mean “with” (avec) or “among” (parmi) a group of people or things:
Thalar, mon cher ami, avez-vous enquêté auprès de tous les animaux?
Thalar, my dear friend, did you inquire among all the animals?
Cap. 40, Les zooriginaux: 3. Qui suis-je? - Part 4
Une fois que tu seras auprès des chefs, tu pourras leur parler de ce que tu voudras.
Once you're with the chiefs, you'll be able to talk to them about whatever you like.
Cap. 2-3, Il était une fois… L’Espace: 6. La révolte des robots - Part 5
When looking at two people or things that are beside one another, or considering two ideas or situations in your head, it’s almost impossible not to compare them. Along those lines, in addition to “with,” auprès de can also mean “compared with” or "compared to":
Nous sommes pauvres auprès de nos voisins.
We are poor compared to our neighbors.
Auprès de is also used in more formal administrative and governmental contexts to mean “at” or “with,” usually to direct people to a certain department or office or to describe people connected to a department or office:
Les visites ont donc lieu tous les jours et sont gratuites mais pensez à réserver auprès de l'Office du Tourisme de Tourcoing.
So visits take place every day and are free, but think about making a reservation at the Tourcoing Tourism Office.
Cap. 17-18, Grand Lille TV: Visite des serres de Tourcoing
Aujourd'hui, par exemple, elle reçoit des chargés de mission auprès du gouvernement.
Today, for example, she meets with government representatives.
Cap. 33, Le Journal: Les microcrédits
J’ai laissé un message auprès de ta secrétaire.
I left a message with your secretary.
You may have noticed that auprès de looks very similar to another preposition, près de (near, nearly, around). Près de also describes proximity, but it implies a greater distance than auprès de. It’s a question of being near something versus being next to something. In the first green example sentence, the hospital is directly beside the park. But in the sentence, L’hôpital est près du parc, the hospital is just in the park’s general vicinity.
So whether you’re talking about being snuggled up beside a loved one or just walking among a group of people, auprès de is the phrase to use. Try using it to describe what or who is next to you right now!