De quoi s'agit-il dans cette leçon?

In the latest segment of his tour of L'Isle-Adam, Daniel makes repeated use of the common expression il s'agit de:

 

Il s’agit tout simplement de la plus grande piscine fluviale de France.
Quite simply, it is the largest river pool in France.
Cap. 7, Voyage en France: L'Isle-Adam - Part 3 of 4

 

Il s’agissait du Tarzan de l'époque, le célèbre Johnny Weissmuller.
It was the Tarzan of the time, the famous Johnny Weissmuller.
Cap. 13, Voyage en France: L'Isle-Adam - Part 3 of 4

 

We could rewrite the above sentences with the expression c'est/c'était: C'est tout simplement la plus grande piscine fluviale..., C'était le Tarzan de l'époque.... But whereas c'est simply means "it is," il s'agit de can also mean "it's about" or "it's a question of." You can use it to specify something you just mentioned:

 

Il s’agit de voir où sont les abus.
It’s a question of seeing where the abuses are.
Cap. 12, Le Journal: Contrôle des prix alimentaires - Part 1

 

La seule prison qui se trouve dans Paris intra-muros, il s’agit de la prison de la Santé...
The only prison located within Paris itself, namely, the Santé [Health] Prison...
Cap. 19, Voyage dans Paris: Le Treizième arrondissement de Paris - Part 1
 


Or you can use it to describe the content of something, for example a movie. Here's a very basic synopsis of the movie Jaws

 

Dans ce film, il s'agit des attaques de requin.
This movie is about shark attacks [literally: "In this film, it's about/it's a question of shark attacks"]. 

 

S'agir is an impersonal verb, which means it can only be conjugated with the pronoun il. So you couldn't say, Ce film s'agit des attaques de requin, even though that might seem like a more direct translation of the English. 
 

The best way to understand the nuances of il s'agit de is to hear it in context. You can do a Yabla search to find all the videos containing this extremely common expression. 
 

Stay tuned for our next lesson and tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com!

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Malin: Smart or Evil?

The adjective malin appears in two recent videos on Yabla, and it has two very different meanings in each. In the last segment of Le Jour où tout a basculé: Notre appartement est hanté, we finally get to the bottom of the spooky occurrences in Harold and Claire's apartment, thanks to Harold's clever investigations:

 

Mais cette fois-ci, le couple s'est attaqué à un adversaire plus malin que les autres. 
But this time, the couple tackled an opponent who was smarter than the others.
Cap. 34, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Notre appartement est hanté - Part 8

 

And in Lionel's visit to Toul Cathedral, we learn about the cathedral's gargoyles and what they represent: 

 

Ici là-bas, on a une représentation du diable, du malin, d'un démon.
Here, over there, we have a representation of the devil, of the evil one, of a demon.
Cap. 26-27, Lionel: La Cathédrale de Toul - Part 2

 

While malin is most often used as an adjective meaning "smart," it can also have darker undertones, especially when used as a noun. In the second example, the tour guide uses it as a synonym for the devil, but un malin can also just refer to a trickster or a wily person. And don't forget that "smart" can have a negative connotation in English too:

 

Ça sera peut-être d'avoir l'air malin dans l'interview, hein.
It might be looking like a smart aleck in the interview, you know?
Cap. 21, Micro-Trottoirs: Un rêve récurrent?

 

Bien sûr. Et nous aussi on voudrait du sucre, gros malin!
Of course. And us too, we would like some sugar, wise guy!
Cap. 12, Il était une fois... la vie: 14. La bouche et les dents - Part 3

 

Ne fais pas le malin avec moi. 
Don't get smart with me. 

 

Note that the feminine form of malin isn't maline, but maligne:

 

Et même, très maligne, ma petite Clémentine!
And even very clever, my little Clémentine!
Cap. 46, Manon et Clémentine: Conjugaison du verbe être

 

You'll also see this -in/-igne ending in the word bénin/bénigne (benign, minor), which is actually an antonym of malin/maligneune tumeur maligne is a malignant tumor, and une tumeur bénigne is a benign tumor.  

 

Manu le Malin is a famous French hardcore DJ. You can check out some interviews with him on Yabla. 

 

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Prepositions of Place

In our last lesson on the difference between the verbs habiter and vivre, we mentioned that habiteris often followed by a preposition such as à or dans, but it doesn't always require one. So if you live in Paris, you could either say j'habite à Paris (I live in Paris) or simply j'habite Paris (I live in Paris)But in this lesson, we'll focus on instances in which the choice of preposition is very important. Take a look at this example: 

 

Je suis né à Paris en France et j'ai commencé à faire du piano vers l'âge de huit ans
I was born in Paris, in France, and I started to play the piano at around eight years of age
Cap. 3, Alex Terrier - Le musicien et son jazz

 

You'll notice that Alex uses two different prepositions here (à and en) that both translate as "in." So why does he say à Paris but en France? It all has to do with the types of places he's describing. When you're talking about being in a city, you use à:

 

Je suis né à Paris mais j'habite à Lyon. 
I was born in Paris but I live in Lyon. 

 

When you're talking about being in a feminine country (usually ending in e, such as la France), you use en (je suis né en France)But when you're talking about being in a masculine country, you useauunless the name of the country begins with a vowel, in which case you use en:

 

Ma famille habite au Botswana et en Angola.
My family lives in Botswana and in Angola

 

And for a plural country of either gender, you use aux:

 

Donc, treize, quatorze jours de vacances aux États-Unis.
So, thirteen, fourteen days of vacation in the United States.
Cap. 5, Interviews à Central Park: Différences culturelles 

 

These prepositions are translated as "in" in the above examples, but they can all mean "to" as well:

 

Aujourd'hui nous sommes à Londres et demain nous irons à Dublin
We're in London today and we're going to Dublin tomorrow. 

 

When you're talking about coming from a place, the rules are a bit more straightforward. For cities, feminine countries, and masculine countries beginning with a vowel, you use de/d'. For masculine countries beginning with a consonant, you use duAnd for plural countries, you use des

 

Je viens (I come)...        de New York (from New York). 
                                    d'Athènes (from Athens). 
                                   de Chine (from China). 
                                   d'Iran (from Iran). 
                                   du Canada (from Canada). 
                                   des Pays-Bas (from the Netherlands).

 

Knowing these prepositions will make it easier to describe where you're from, where you are, and where you're going in French!  


                                
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Habiter and Vivre: Two Ways of Living

Habiter and vivre both mean "to live" in French, but they're used in slightly different contexts. Habiter is very similar in meaning to its English cognate, "to inhabit": it generally refers to where a person is living. While vivre can also have this meaning, it more often refers to a person's living conditions or general existence. Let's look at some examples to illustrate the difference between these two lively verbs. 

 

It's very common to place a preposition such as à or dans after habiter to describe where you're living: 

 

On habite à Still, on a eu une superbe opportunité.
We live in Still, we had a superb opportunity.
Cap. 7, Alsace 20 - Grain de Sel: à l'Anatable à Dinsheim

 

J'habite dans une maison bleue. 
live in a blue house. 

 

But technically, habiter doesn't require a preposition at all. You could just as well say on habite Still (we live in Still) or j'habite une maison bleue (I live in a blue house). The choice is yours! Here's another example of habiter without a preposition: 

 

De là à habiter ce bout du monde isolé...
From there to inhabiting this isolated end of the world...
Cap. 3, Le Journal: L'île de Pâques

 

Whereas habiter describes the specifics of a person's living situation, vivre is more about la vie en général (life in general). It describes how a person lives, or what their life is like:  

 

Elle a permis à Michel, sinon de faire fortune, du moins de vivre bien avec sa petite famille...
It has allowed Michel, if not to become rich, at least to live well with his small family...
Cap. 17-18, Le Journal: L'île de Pâques

 

...un petit village qui vit son quotidien de manière tranquille
...a small village that lives its daily life in a quiet way
Cap. 4, Lionel et Chantal: à Frémestroff

 

Vivre can also mean "to live through" or "to experience":

 

Moi je dirais que c'est magique et que ça se raconte pas, qu'il faut le vivre.
I'd say that it's magical and that it can't be described, that you have to experience it.
Cap. 24, TV Vendée: "Nieul Village de Lumière"

 

No matter where you're living or how you're living, we hope your French studies are going well!

 

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Finalement or Enfin?

There are two ways of saying "finally" in French: finalement and enfin. Though they have the same translation and are often used interchangeably in casual speech, these two words aren't exactly synonymous. There's a subtle difference between them that's illustrated in these two examples:

 

Le grand jour est enfin arrivé.
The big day finally arrived.
Cap. 28, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Nos bébés ont été échangés... - Part 7

 

Au début... j'étais braquée. J'avais pas envie. Puis finalement j'ai compris que c'était pour mon bien. 
In the beginning... I was dead against it. I didn't want to. Then finally I understood that it was for my own good.
Cap. 6-7, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Nos bébés ont été échangés... - Part 8

 

When you say that something has finally arrived, you're implying that you've been expecting it to arrive for a while. But if you finally understand that something is for your own good after being dead against it, you're implying that you didn't expect to have this reversal of opinion. This is the fundamental difference between enfin and finalement: while enfin describes a foreseeable outcome, finalement describes an unforeseeable one. 

 

Let's look at another example. If you say to someone, je suis enchanté(e) de vous rencontrer enfin (I'm glad to finally meet you), you're saying that you've been wanting to meet them for a long time. But if you say, je suis enchanté(e) de vous rencontrer finalement, you're giving the impression that you didn't really want to meet the person at first, but now you're happy that you did. Which is to say that you shouldn't use finalement in this case, unless you want to hurt their feelings! 

 

Finalement can also mean "in the end," which also has the sense of something not turning out as expected: 

 

Alors demain, finalement, on ira pas au château. 
So tomorrow, in the end, we won't go to the castle. 
Cap. 54, Le Mans TV: Mon Village - Malicorne - Part 3

 

Another way of translating that caption would be, "So tomorrow we won't go to the castle after all."

 

Enfin is used very often in informal speech as a sort of filler word that can mean anything from "well" to "I mean" to "in any case": 

 

Il y en a eu tant que ça? -Oui, enfin, non, euh... quelques-uns, quoi. 
Have there been that many? -Yes, well [or "I mean"], no, uh... a few, you know.
Cap. 37-38, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Notre appartement est hanté - Part 2

 

...où nous sommes au métro Jaurès, enfin, où Paris-Plage a accès à l'eau.
...where we are at the Jaurès subway stop, in any case, where "Paris-Plage" has access to the water.
Cap. 2-3, Lionel L: Paris-Plage - Part 2

 

Enfin can also come in handy when expressing impatience or frustration:

 

Mais enfin, relève-toi!
Come on, stand up!
Cap. 2, Il était une fois - les Explorateurs: 15. Bruce et les sources du Nil - Part 3

 

Cette leçon est enfin terminée! (This lesson is finally over!) Tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com.

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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

 

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to write to us at newsletter@yabla.com or tweet us @yabla.

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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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