Cette leçon est à vous!

In her latest video series, Patricia talks about the different ways of expressing possession in French. Though she mainly focuses on possessive adjectives (which correspond to "my," "your," "his/her," etc.) and possessive pronouns (which correspond to "mine," "yours," "his/hers," etc.), Patricia also uses another possessive construction throughout the videos. It's the expression à + stressed pronoun (moi, toi, lui, elle, nous, vous, eux, elles), which can be used as an alternative to a possessive pronoun: 

 

Si cette tasse est à moi... je dis: c'est la mienne.
If this cup is mine... I say: it's mine
Cap. 27-30, Le saviez-vous? - Les pronoms possessifs - Part 1

 

This expression usually follows the verb être, as in the example above, but you'll also find it in other contexts: 

 

J'ai trouvé une robe à elle dans le grenier. 
I found a dress of hers in the attic. 

 

Unlike possessive adjectives and pronouns, which change depending on the gender (masculine or feminine) and number (singular or plural) of the possessed object, this construction corresponds to the gender and number of the possessor:

 

Et si je veux dire que cette chaussure est à lui... je vais dire: c'est sa chaussure. 
And if I want to say that this shoe is his... I'm going to say: it's his shoe. 
Cap. 55-59, Le saviez-vous? - Les adjectifs possessifs - Part 1

 

Since chaussure is feminine and singular, the possessive adjective modifying it also needs to be feminine and singular (sa). But sa chaussure can either mean "his shoe" or "her shoe" depending on context. We know that Patricia means "his shoe" here because she says cette chaussure est à lui (this shoe is his). If she had said cette chaussure est à elle (this shoe is hers), then sa chaussure would mean "her shoe." 

 

You'll often find this construction in combination with a possessive adjective. Let's say you're at a dog park and you're telling someone whose dog is whose. If you say c'est mon chien (that's my dog), they'll immediately know that the dog in question belongs to you. But if you say c'est son chien (that's his or her dog), they might not know who you're referring to. You can specify by saying: 

 

C'est son chien à elle. / C'est son chien à lui
That's her dog. / That's his dog. 

 

The expression c'est à + stressed pronoun also has another meaning that has nothing to do with possession. It's the equivalent of the English expression "it's up to me, you, etc.": 

 

C'est à toi de décider ce que tu veux faire. 
It's up to you to decide what you want to do. 

 

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Quelconque and Quiconque

The words quelconque (any) and quiconque (anyone) can come in handy when you're talking about something general or non-specific in French. Though they look quite similar, you can easily tell these words apart by focusing on what comes before -conquequi (who) and quel (what, which). There are a few key differences between these words. While quelconque can refer to both people and things, quiconque only refers to people. And while quiconque functions as a relative or indefinite pronoun, quelconque functions as an adjective: 

 

Elle fouille la maison de fond en comble à la recherche d'un quelconque indice.
She rifles through the house from top to bottom in search of any clue.
Cap. 19, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Nos bébés ont été échangés... - Part 5

 

Mais la petite sirène était incapable de faire du mal à quiconque.
But the little mermaid was incapable of hurting anyone.
Cap. 41, Contes de fées: La petite sirène - Part 2

 

Quelconque and quiconque are very similar to two other expressions we discussed in a previous lessonn'importe quel and n'importe qui

 

Ils la postent dans n'importe quelle boîte aux lettres en oubliant pas de mettre leur adresse retour...
They mail it in any mailbox, not forgetting to put their return address...
Cap. 11, LCM: "Cher Père Noël..."

 

Et qui l'achète? -Ah, n'importe qui.
And who buys it? -Oh, anyone
Cap. 4-5, Le Journal: La bougie du sapeur

 

Note that while the quel in n'importe quel changes depending on the gender and number of the noun it modifies (n'importe quelle, n'importe quels, n'importe quelles), the quel in quelconque never changes. However, since quelconque is an adjective, it takes an "s" when modifying a plural noun:

 

Si vous avez de quelconques questions, n'hésitez pas à nous contacter. 
If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact us. 

 

Quiconque can mean "whoever" or "anyone who" in more formal contexts: 

 

Quiconque arrive en retard ne sera pas autorisé à entrer dans le théâtre. 
Anyone who arrives late will not be allowed to enter the theater. 

 

And quelconque is sometimes used as a pejorative meaning "ordinary," "second-rate," or "mediocre": 
 
 

Ce restaurant est très quelconque
That restaurant is very mediocre

 

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Walking Words

Daniel does a lot of walking in his Voyage en France series, showing us around some of France's most beautiful and historic cities and towns. He also uses several walking-related words during his tours:
 

Et d'emblée depuis cette promenade...
And right away from this walk...
Cap. 5, Voyage en France: Conflans-Sainte-Honorine - Part 3

 

In English, "promenade" is a somewhat formal word for a boardwalk or a leisurely stroll. But une promenade is the standard French term for "a walk" or, when you're going somewhere in a vehicle, "a ride" or "drive":

 

Hier nous avons fait une promenade en voiture
We went for a drive yesterday. 

 

Its verb form, se promener, means "to take a walk": 

 

Quand on se promène dans le vieux Conflans...
When we take a walk in Old Conflans...
Cap. 22, Voyage en France: Conflans-Sainte-Honorine - Part 3

 

Daniel also frequently uses the word une balade (not to be confused with une ballade, "a ballad"), which has the same meaning as une promenade:

 

Pendant votre balade dans le vieux Conflans...
During your walk in Old Conflans...
Cap. 28, Voyage en France: Conflans-Sainte-Honorine - Part 3

 

Just like une promenadeune balade also has a verb form, se balader:
 

À se balader avec lui dans les rues de Dakar, on mesure toute la dimension de l'artiste.
Strolling along the streets of Dakar with him, one gets a sense of the depths of the artist.
Cap. 28-29, Le Journal: Youssou N'Dour 

 

C'est très, très agréable de se balader avec ces bateaux sur la mer. 
It's very, very pleasant to go for a ride on those boats on the sea.
Cap. 33-34, Jean-Marc: La plage - Part 2

 

As you may know, marcher is the basic French verb for "to walk." But it's also often used informally to mean "to work," "to function," or "to go well": 

 

Non, c'est juste pour voir si tout marche bien.
No, it's just to see if everything is working well.
Cap. 2, Il était une fois - Les découvreurs: 9. Galilée - Part 5

 

Elle est chez les seniors. Et ça marche bien.
She's with the seniors. And it's going well.
Cap. 43, Actus de Quartier: Fête de quartier Python-Duvernois - Part 3

 

Just as you can say "that works" to mean "OK" or "sounds good to me," in French you can say ça marche:

 

Tu veux prendre un café aujourd'hui à quinze heures? -Ça marche!
Do you want to get coffee today at three p.m.? -That works!

 

Now that you know all the different ways of saying "walk" in French, why not go take one? 

 

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Assister: To Witness and Assist

In one of our newest videos, an interviewer asks people on the street to talk about their most beautiful dreams and most terrifying nightmares. One woman describes a particularly unsettling nightmare: 

 

J'assiste à des accidents où y a des gens qui sont très blessés...
I witness accidents where there are people who are badly injured...
Cap. 83-84, Micro-Trottoirs: Rêves et cauchemars

 

She's not saying that she assists with these accidents (which would be even more unsettling!), but that she witnesses themThe phrase assister à doesn't mean "to assist," but rather "to witness" or "to attend":

 

Puisqu'un public assiste à une assemblée générale et à une réunion...
Because a crowd attends a general assembly and a meeting...
Cap. 8, Lionel L: Nuit Debout - Journée internationale - Part 2

 

"To attend" looks a lot like the French verb attendre, but like "to assist" and assister à, these two words are faux amis (false friends)—attendre means "to wait," not "to attend." 

 

But once you take away the àassister has the same meaning as its English cognate:  

 

Le sous-chef assiste le chef dans la cuisine. 
The sous-chef assists the chef in the kitchen. 

 

There are a number of other French verbs meaning "to assist," like aider (to help) and accompagner (to accompany):

 

J'ai aidé ma grand-mère à nettoyer la maison. 
helped my grandmother clean her house. 

 

...qui connaissent les parents et accompagnent les enfants les plus en retard
...who know the parents and assist the students who are the most behind
Cap. 29, Grand Corps Malade: Education nationale

 

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French Theater and Film Words

Our new videos this week feature a wealth of vocabulary related to the performing arts. In the first, our newest presenter Mathilde talks about the Comédie-Française, one of France's most iconic state theaters. Though the theater has the word comédie in its name (and was founded by one of France's greatest comic playwrights, Molière), it stages all kinds of theater pieces, both comic and tragic. In fact, the word comédie doesn't only mean "comedy." It can also mean "acting" in general. Likewise, un comédien/une comédienne is not merely "a comedian":

 

Donc la Comédie-Française aujourd'hui a environ soixante comédiens dans sa troupe, parmi les plus célèbres comédiens français.
So the Comédie-Française today has around sixty players in its troupe, among the most famous French actors.
Cap. 40-41, Mathilde: La Comédie-Française

 

You can also simply say un acteur/une actrice for "actor/actress." And if you want to specify that you're talking about a comic actor (i.e., a comedian), you can say un/une comique or un/une humoriste

 

The phrase jouer la comédie means "to act" or "to be an actor." Sometimes it's just shortened to jouer (which also means "to play"):

 

Ils jouent aussi pour d'autres théâtres. 
They also act for other theater companies.
Cap. 43, Mathilde: La Comédie-Française

 

Don't confuse that expression with faire de la comédie, which means "to make a fuss" or "a scene."

 

In this tragic tidbit about Molière's final performance, we find two interesting theater-related words: 

 

Molière serait mort en scène en interprétant le rôle mythique d'Argan dans une de ses plus célèbres pièces...
Molière supposedly died onstage while interpreting the mythic role of Argan in one of his most famous plays...
Cap. 36-38, Mathilde: La Comédie-Française

 

While une scène can refer to a scene in a play, it also refers to the stage on which the play is performed. The word for "play," une pièce, is short for pièce de théâtre (theater piece). 

 

Our second video takes us from the world of theater to the world of film. It documents a Chinese film festival in the town of Richelieu headed by one of France's most famous film directors, Claude Lelouch. The video contains not one but three different words for "director": 

 

...et des metteurs en scène prestigieux d'ailleurs qui ont des prix...
...and eminent film directors, incidentally, who won prizes...
Cap. 27, Festival du cinéma chinois: Coup d'envoi à Richelieu

 

Et pour rendre hommage à ces femmes si chères au cœur du cinéaste...
And to pay homage to these women who are so dear to the filmmaker's heart...
Cap. 40, Festival du cinéma chinois: Coup d'envoi à Richelieu

 

...en présence du réalisateur et de son actrice Anouk Aimée.
...in the presence of the director and of its actress Anouk Aimée.
Cap. 43, Festival du cinéma chinois: Coup d'envoi à Richelieu

 

On the other hand, there's only one word for "screenwriter"—scénariste (from scénario, "screenplay" or "script"):

 

...mais surtout scénariste de bon nombre de films signés Lelouch.
...but more importantly screenwriter of a good number of films signed "Lelouch."
Cap. 10, Festival du cinéma chinois: Coup d'envoi à Richelieu

 

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When "Good" Means "Right" and "Bad" Means "Wrong"

Did you know that, in French, "good" can also mean "right," and "bad" can also mean "wrong"? This might sound sort of philosophical, but it's really just an issue of translation. Bon/bonne and mauvais/mauvaise are two of the most basic adjectives in French. They usually mean "good" and "bad" respectively, but depending on context, they can also mean "right" and "wrong": 

 

C'est la mauvaise réponse à la question. 
That's the wrong answer to the question. 

 

Vous pouvez aussi me donner deux numéros de compte. Je vous dirai lequel est le bon.
You can also give me two account numbers. I will tell you which is the right one.
Cap. 20-21, Patricia: Pas de crédit dans le monde des clones - Part 3

 

When bon/bonne and mauvais/mauvaise mean "right" and "wrong," they're often preceded by a definite article (le, la, les). For example, take a look at the difference between the phrases un bon moment and au (à + le) bon moment:

 

Eh bien, j'espère que vous avez passé un bon moment, ici, sur Arles...
Well, I hope you had a good time here, in Arles...
Cap. 21, Arles: Un Petit Tour d'Arles - Part 3

 

Tout cet art, c'est de faire en sorte de mettre dans l'eau au bon moment, hein...
All this is an art to ensure that you put in the water at the right time, you see...
Cap. 8, Ostréiculture: Rencontre avec Gildas Mourier (Morbihan)

 

Using these adjectives isn't the only way to describe correctness and incorrectness. You can also use the verbal phrases avoir raison (to be right, literally "to have reason") and avoir tort (to be wrong, literally "to have fault"):

 

Oui, tu as raison. Je ne suis pas trop dans mon assiette.
Yes, you're right. I feel under the weather.
Cap. 25, Manon et Clémentine: Expressions toutes faites

 

J'ai peut-être eu tort de me fier à lui pour ce projet.
Maybe I was wrong to trust him with this project.
Cap. 53, Il était une fois - Les Amériques: 9. Cortés et les Aztèques - Part 3

 

In a previous lesson, we mentioned one other way to say "to be wrong"—se tromper:

 

Donc, tu crois que Colomb se trompe!
So you think that Columbus is wrong!
Cap. 6, Il était une fois - les Explorateurs: 10. Amerigo Vespucci - Part 3

 

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Getting the Facts Straight

In her new sci-fi series Pas de crédit dans le monde des clones, Patricia imagines a dystopian future in which all credit card companies have merged into one:

 

Du fait de nombreuses fusions, il ne reste plus qu'une société anonyme de cartes de crédit
Because of many mergers, there remains only one limited liability credit card company
Cap. 15, Pas de crédit dans le monde des clones: Part 1 

 

Du fait de is one of several French expressions that mean "because" (you can learn more about these expressions in our past lesson on the topic). It's also one of many expressions featuring the word fait, which you might recognize as a conjugation of the verb faire (to make, to do). But fait is also a noun meaning "fact"—du fait de literally means "from the fact of." In this lesson, we'll review some other "fact"-based expressions in French. 

 

Patricia uses a similar expression to du fait de earlier on in her video—de ce fait(therefore, literally "from this fact"):

 

De ce fait, toutes les procédures de paiement sont réalisées sans argent physique. 
Therefore, all payment procedures are performed without physical money. 
Cap. 13, Pas de crédit dans le monde des clones: Part 1 

 

Now that you know that fait means "fact," you can probably guess what en fait means. Alessandro uses it when interviewing a flea market vendor: 

 

Vous, c'est une véritable passion que vous partagez tous les jours en fait.
For you, it's a true passion that you share every day, in fact.
Cap. 6, Cap 24: Paris - Alessandro fait les Puces! - Part 1

 

The vendor responds in the next caption with another fait expression, tout à fait (exactly):

 

Oui, oui. Tout à fait
Yes, yes. Exactly.  
Cap. 7, Cap 24: Paris - Alessandro fait les Puces! - Part 1

 

Don't confuse en fait with au fait, which means "by the way" or "incidentally":
 

Ah, au fait, j'ai parlé à Vanessa de nos nouveaux voisins.
Oh, by the way, I spoke to Vanessa about our new neighbors.
Cap. 22, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Espion dans l'immeuble - Part 8 

 

En fait and au fait are easily confused not only because they look similar, but also because the t is pronounced in both of them. In most other instances of the word fait, the t is silent.  

 

If someone has done a good job on something, you can say, Bien fait! (Well done!) In this case fait isn't a noun but the past participle of the verb faire:

 

Oui, chef. Bien fait!
Yes, chief. Well done!
Cap. 6, Il était une fois... L'Espace: 3. La planète verte - Part 2 

 

As a noun, fait doesn't only mean "fact." It can also mean "event" or "occurrence" depending on the context:

 

Cette histoire est inspirée de faits réels.
This story is inspired by real events.
Cap. 29, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Espion dans l'immeuble - Part 1 

 

This lesson is now a fait accompli (accomplished fact). Thanks for reading! 

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Telling Stories and More with "Histoire"

In the latest segment of Le Jour où tout a basculé, Frédéric and Anne-Sophie meet Laetitia at a café to deliver some shocking news: their daughters were switched at birth. Upon hearing this, Laetitia is in a state of total disbelief. She says to the couple: 

 

Mais qu'est-ce que c'est que cette histoire?
But what is this all about?
Cap. 37, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Nos bébés ont été échangés... - Part 5

 

Histoire is related to two English words, "history" and "story," and can mean either one depending on context:

 

Ici, donc une ville riche en culture et riche en histoire...
So here a town rich in culture and rich in history...
Cap. 8, Lionel: À Wissembourg

 

C'est vraiment une histoire d'amour, c'est parti d'une histoire d'amour.
It's really a love story, it started out as a love story.
Cap. 4, Annie Chartrand: Sa musique

 

But in informal expressions like qu'est-ce que c'est que cette histoire, the word means something more along the lines of "business" or "matter." It often has this meaning in the construction histoire de + noun: 

 

Ici tout est histoire de récup, de quoi créer un beau Noël.
Here it's all a matter [or questionof recycling, enough to create a beautiful Christmas.
Cap. 53, Alsace 20: Alsace - les plus belles déco de Noël!

 

When histoire de follows an infinitive, it means "in order to," "just to," or "so as to": 

 

Bats le beurre de citron, histoire de bien mélanger le tout.
Whisk the lemon butter, in order to mix it all well.
Cap. 33, 4 Mains pour 1 Piano: Médaillon de Homard - Part 3

 

Two other, less familiar ways of saying "in order to" are pour + infinitive and afin de + infinitive.

 

Be careful with the expression raconter des histoires. It can either mean "to tell stories" or "to tell lies":

 

La mère raconte des histoires aux enfants chaque soir. 
The mother tells stories to the children every night. 

 

Arrête de me raconter des histoires!
Stop telling me lies!

 

That's the story with histoire! If you have any questions or comments, please write to us at newsletter@yabla.com or tweet us @yabla.

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Wild and Crazy

In her latest video, Patricia gives us an overview of French synonyms, or words with the same basic meaning but different nuances and intensities. To demonstrate, she illustrates some examples of synonyms for "happy" and "angry." She repeatedly uses the expressionêtre fou/folle de (to be mad or wild with) to describe the more intense degrees of those emotions:

 

Elles sont folles de bonheur.
They are mad with happiness.
Cap. 17, Le saviez-vous? - Les synonymes

 

You can use this expression to heighten just about any word describing an emotion:

 

Ils sont extatiques, fous de joie, béats.
They are ecstatic, overjoyed, blissful. 
Cap. 17, Le saviez-vous? - Les synonymes

 

Elles sont folles de colèrefolles de rage, horripilées. 
They are wild with angerraging mad, incensed. 
Cap. 52-54, Le saviez-vous? - Les synonymes

 

Or, you can use it with any other noun or pronoun to describe something or someone you're "crazy about": 

 

Non, je ne suis pas fou. Je suis seulement fou de vous!
No, I am not crazy. I'm only crazy about you!
Cap. 6, Charles-Baptiste: Interview

 

...qui montre la vie trépidante des jeunes, fous de voitures dans les années soixante-dix.
...that shows the hectic life of young people who are crazy about cars in the seventies.
Cap. 8, L'auteur: Bernard Colin

 

If you haven't already, check out Patricia's other videos in the Le saviez-vous? series for more of her excellent insights into French language and culture. 

 

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To the Bottom and Back

Did you know that the French word for the back of a space is the same as the word for the bottom of a space? The word is le fond, and determining its meaning is a question of perspective: 

 

Et l'on voit encore des vestiges, des traces de cette époque avec notamment dans le fond

une chapelle pour se recueillir...
And you can still see remains, traces from that time, with, in particular, in the back, a chapel for meditating...
Cap. 32-33, Lionel: Verdun - Part 2

 

L'eau de l'étang était si profonde que la princesse ne pouvait pas en voir le fond.
The pond water was so deep that the princess could not see the bottom of it.
Cap. 7, Conte de fées: Le roi grenouille - Part 1

 

We can tell what le fond means in each of these examples based on the type of space they're describing. The subject of the first example is the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Verdun. A chapel wouldn't be located on the bottom of a cathedral, but in the back. And in the second example, the princess is looking down into the pond, which means she's trying to see the bottom of it, not the back.

 

Whether it means "the back" or "the bottom," le fond refers to the depth of a space. But it can also refer to depth in a non-physical, metaphorical sense—even a spiritual one: 

 

"Om", ça signifie le fond cosmique qui est le symbole de l'unité dans la diversité.
"Om" signifies the cosmic depth that is the symbol of unity in diversity.
Cap. 31, Paix et partage: Journée Internationale du yoga

 

Fond is used in quite a few expressions, such as dans le fond and au fond, both meaning "basically":

 

Dans le fondc'est des grosses feuilles de betterave.
Basically, they're big beet leaves. 
Cap. 13, Farmer François: Le stand de légumes

 

Parce que au fond, le fait de payer un stand, ça sert aussi d'abord à se rencontrer... 
Because basically, the act of paying for a booth, that also helps first of all to meet each other...
Cap. 61-62, Actu-Vingtième: Le vide-grenier

 

Don't confuse au fond with à fond, which means "totally": 

 

Ah, que griller des feux. -Griller des verts, donc. -À fond.
Oh, just running lights. -Running green lights, then. -Totally.
Cap. 49, Cap 24: Les cyclistes parisiens sont-ils indisciplinés?

 

There's also de fond, an adjective phrase meaning "fundamental": 

 

Mais pour une baisse en rayon, la prochaine étape devrait être une réforme de fond
But for a reduction in stores, the next step should be a fundamental reformation
Cap. 22, Le Journal: Contrôle des prix alimentaires

 

If you'd like to explore the many expressions using this word de fond en comble (from top to bottom), we recommend this WordReference entry

 

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