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. 

 

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

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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

 

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

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Expressions with "En"

In part three of "Le Jour où tout a basculé: Nos bébés ont été échangés," one of our new videos this week, Anne-Sophie and Frédéric receive some shocking paternity test results that throw a wrench into their already troubled marriage. Less scandalously, the video also features three common set phrases featuring the pronoun en. Though en usually replaces de + a noun, it doesn't really translate to anything in these three idioms. It's just along for the ride. 

 

Anne-Sophie uses the first expression, ne pas en croire ses yeux (to not believe one's eyes), when describing her reaction to the unbelievable test results: 

 

Je n'en croyais pas mes yeux.
couldn't believe my eyes.
Cap. 5, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Nos bébés ont été échangés... - Part 3

 

Later, when she calls Frédéric to tell him the news, she says: 

 

Rappelle-moi de toute urgence. Je t'en supplie!
Call me back urgently. I beg you!
Cap. 12, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Nos bébés ont été échangés... - Part 3

 

Je t'en supplie (or je vous en supplie in formal speech) is an impassioned, urgent way of saying "please" (just like "I beg you" or "I implore you" in English). It's very similar to another en idiom, je t'en prie, which can mean the same thing:

 

Je t'en prie, arrête, arrête
I'm begging you, stop, stop
Cap. 30, Indila: Love Story 

 

But unlike je t'en supplie, je t'en prie can also mean "you're welcome": 

 

Oh, je t'en prie, y a pas de quoi, hein.
Oh, you're welcome. Don't mention it, OK?
Cap. 15, Plus belle la vie: 2772 - Part 5

 

The narrator uses the most idiomatic of these expressions when describing Frédéric's state of mind: 

 

Il lui en veut toujours mais la donne va bientôt changer.
He is still mad at her, but the situation will soon change. 
Cap. 16, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Nos bébés ont été échangés... - Part 3

 

Vouloir means "to want," but en vouloir à means "to be mad at." The en makes quite a difference here! Note the indirect object pronoun lui in this example, which stands for à + elle, as we mentioned in a previous lesson.

 

When you make this expression reflexive (s'en vouloir), it doesn't mean "to be mad at oneself," but rather "to feel guilty": 

 

Je m'en veux vraiment de ne pas t'avoir cru; je suis vraiment désolée.
I feel really guilty for not having believed you; I'm really sorry.
Cap. 3, Plus belle la vie: 2773 - Part 7

 

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

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"Être en train de": Process and Progress

Être en train de is a handy French expression that describes an event in progress. It's always followed by an infinitive and is often translated as "to be in the process of" or "to be in the middle of":

 

Donc, je suis en deuxième année là; je suis en train d'achever ma formation.
So, I'm in my second year now; I'm in the process of completing my training.
Cap. 19, 4 Mains Pour 1 Piano: Médaillon de Homard - Part 1

 

Là je suis en train de régler les meules pour que le grain soit correctement écrasé.
Here I am in the middle of setting the millstones so that the grain is crushed correctly.
Cap. 4, Télé Lyon Métropole: Chaillé-les-Marais - Une biscuiterie 100 % familiale 

 

But just as often, être en train de can simply be translated with the present progressive tense ("to be doing," "to be making," etc.):

 

Donc, en ce moment, on est en train de faire des truffes cacao.
So, right now, we're making cocoa truffles.
Cap. 7, Canadian Chocolate Seller: Chocolats

 

In French, there is no difference between the present tense and the present progressive tense: on fait can mean both "we make" and "we are making." So the above example could also be written:

 

Donc, en ce moment, on fait des truffes cacao.
So, right now, we're making cocoa truffles. 

 

Être en train de emphasizes the fact that the activity is currently in progress (further emphasized above by en ce moment). In fact, "currently" is another possible translation of être en train de:

 

...je suis en train de travailler avec celui qui a fait "Pulp Fiction" 
...I'm currently working with the person who made "Pulp Fiction"
Cap. 7, Melissa Mars: From Paris With Love

 

You can also use être en train de to describe a continuing event in the past. In this case, it's synonymous with the imperfect tense: 

 

Quand j'ai fait cette photo, la baleine était en train de dormir.
When I took this picture, the whale was sleeping.
Cap. 25, Le Journal: Sillonner & photographier les océans

 

Quand j'ai fait cette photo, la baleine dormait.
When I took this picture, the whale was sleeping.

 

Here again, être en train de stresses the continuousness of the action: the whale was "in the process of" sleeping when the speaker took the picture. 

 

Être en cours de has the same meaning and function as être en train de, except it's usually followed by a noun instead of an infinitive:

 

Un immense chantier est en cours d'achèvement.
A huge construction project is being completed.
Cap. 23, Voyage dans Paris: Cour de l'Industrie - Part 1 

 

A final note: Make sure not to confuse en train with entrain, a noun meaning "enthusiasm" or "liveliness." Nous espérons que vous êtes en train d'étudier le français avec entrain! (We hope you're in the process of studying French with enthusiasm!)

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"Tromper": To Mislead and Be Mistaken

In the latest episode of "Le Jour où tout a basculé," Frédéric accuses his wife Anne-Sophie of cheating on him with her ex, but Anne-Sophie insists he's mistaken. Both of them use the verb tromper to state their cases: 

 

Quatre ans plus tôt, Anne-Sophie m'avait trompé. C'était une histoire sans lendemain.
Four years earlier, Anne-Sophie had cheated on me. It was a short-lived affair.
Cap. 40, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Nos bébés ont été échangés - Part 1

 

Tu t'es toujours trompé avec lui. 
You've always been mistaken about him. 
Cap. 8, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Nos bébés ont été échangés - Part 1

 

While Frédéric uses tromper to mean "to cheat" or "deceive," Anne-Sophie uses the reflexive form of the verb, se tromper, which means "to be mistaken" (literally, "to deceive oneself"). Frédéric also uses se tromper later in the video: 

 

Je m'étais pas trompé. Ce fameux soir, c'est un mail de son ex sur lequel je suis tombé.
I was not wrong. That famous evening, it was an email from her ex I came across.
Cap. 43, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Nos bébés ont été échangés - Part 1

 

You'll have to stay tuned to find out who's really being deceived here. There's a lot more at stake in this episode than potential infidelity! 

 

Tromper isn't only reserved for marital dramas. It's the best verb to use whenever you've been duped, tricked, fooled, or misled (which hopefully isn't that often!): 

 

Le marchand m'a trompé. Il m'a vendu une montre cassée. 
The shopkeeper misled me. He sold me a broken watch. 

 

Being mistaken is usually not as serious as being cheated, so you'll often see se tromper used in more mundane situations. You can add de + a noun after it to specify what the person is mistaken about: 

 

Bonjour, pourrais-je parler à Christine? -Désolé, vous vous êtes trompé de numéro.
Hello, may I speak to Christine? -Sorry, you've got the wrong number. 

 

Je pense que nous nous sommes trompés de bus. 
I think we got on the wrong bus. 

 

You may be familiar with a painting technique known as "trompe-l'œil" (literally, "tricks the eye"), which creates an illusion of three-dimensionality. Daniel shows us an interesting example of this technique in a church in Provins:

 

Observez quelques instants au cœur de l'église cet effet de trompe-l'œil...
Observe for a few moments in the heart of the church this trompe-l'œil effect...
Cap. 33-34, Voyage en France: La ville de Provins - Part 3 

 

We hope this lesson has helped you tromper l'ennui (stave off boredom)!

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Frech Object Pronouns, Part 2: Indirect Object Pronouns

As we mentioned in our last lesson, a direct object is a noun that receives the action of a verb (such as "the ball" in "I throw the ball"). On the other hand, an indirect object indicates to whom or for whom the action is done (such as "my friend" in "I throw the ball to my friend"). Just as direct object pronouns replace direct objects (e.g. "I throw it to my friend"), indirect object pronouns replace indirect objects ("I throw the ball to him/her"). There are six indirect object pronouns in French: 


me (to me)              nous (to us)
te (to you)               vous (to you)
lui (to him/her)        leur (to them)


In French, an indirect object pronoun usually replaces "à (to) + a person." Unlike direct object pronouns, which can refer to either people or things, indirect object pronouns only refer to people.
 

Je jette le ballon à mon amie. / Je lui jette le ballon.
I throw the ball to my friend. / I throw her the ball [or "I throw the ball to her"].


The following example contains a mixture of direct and indirect pronouns. How did the speaker know when to use which? 
 

Il m'a dit: "Je le garde". Ben, je lui ai dit: "Écoutez, expliquez aux quatre cents personnes...”
He told me, "I'm keeping it." Well, I told him, "Listen, explain to the four hundred people...”
Cap. 24, Actu Vingtième: Vendanges parisiennes


It all depends on whether the verb in question would normally be followed by the preposition à. Garder isn't followed by à: you would say garder quelque chose (to keep something), but never garder à quelque chose. If you watch the video, you'll know from context that the speaker is referring to le fromage (cheese). So instead of saying je garde le fromage, he uses the direct object pronoun le (je le garde). On the other hand, you would say dire à quelqu'un (to tell someone), but never dire quelqu'un. Because of that à, the speaker knows to use the indirect objects me and lui


Here are some other examples of indirect object pronouns in action:


Si la nuit me parle de souvenirs passés
If the night speaks to me about past memories
Cap. 3-4, Boulbar: New York, 6 heures du matin

Mais je te donne plus que des mots
But I give you more than words
Cap. 12, Corneille: Comme un fils

Et là, je leur ai envoyé une petite nouvelle…
And here, I sent them a little short story…
Cap. 86, Claudine Thibout Pivert: 2ème Salon du livre et des vieux papiers Mazamet


We know these are indirect object pronouns because they all replace "à + person" in the verbal expressions parler à quelqu'un (to speak to someone), donner à quelqu'un (to give to someone), and envoyer à quelqu'un (to send to someone).


As you learned in our last lesson, when a direct object pronoun is followed by a verb in the past tense (passé composé), the past participle needs to agree in number and gender with the direct object pronoun. On the other hand, you don't have to worry about agreement in the passé composé with indirect object pronouns. That's why you have je leur ai envoyé in the example above and not je leur ai envoyés or je leur ai envoyées

 

Feel free to tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com. Thanks for reading!

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French Object Pronouns, Part 1: Direct Object Pronouns

direct object is a noun that receives the action of a verb, such as the word "cookie" in the sentence, "I'm eating the cookie." It generally answers the question "what?" or "whom?" ("What am I eating? The cookie.") A direct object pronoun replaces the direct object when the latter is already implied. So instead of "I'm eating the cookie," you could just say, "I'm eating it."  

 

The French direct object pronouns are:

 

me (me)             nous (us)
te (you)              vous (you)
le (him, it)          les (them, masculine and feminine)
la (her, it)

 

Direct object pronouns have the same function in French as they do in English, with a few important distinctions. The most notable of these is that whereas in English the direct object always comes after the verb, in French it always comes before (except in the imperative, as we discussed in a previous lesson): 

 

Ce livre me fascine.
This book fascinates me

 

Quand un copain t'appelle pour son déménagement
When a friend calls you to help him with his move
Cap. 4, Oldelaf: La Tristitude

 

The third-person singular direct object pronouns (le and la) have the same gender as the noun they refer to: 

 

Le silence tue la souffrance, l'émoi
Silence kills suffering, the struggle
L'entends-tu, est-ce que tu le vois?
Do you hear it, do you see it?
Cap. 21-22, Indila: S.O.S.

 

La tarte à l'oignon! -Ouais, comment vous la faites? -Je la fais pas, je l'achète.
Onion tart! -Yeah, how do you make it? -I don't make it, I buy it.
Cap. 17, Actu Vingtième: Foire aux oignons

 

In the first example, the le of le vois refers to le silence. In the second, the la of la faites/la fais refers to la tarte à l'oignon. Both examples demonstrate another rule that applies to all singular direct object pronouns (me, te, le, and la): when the verb that comes after the pronoun begins with a vowel or silent h, the e or of the pronoun is dropped and is replaced with an apostrophe (this is known as elision). That's why you have l'achète instead of la achètel'entends instead of le entends, and t'appelle instead of te appelle.

 

Again, this only applies to singular direct object pronouns. With the plural pronouns, all you have to think about is number agreement. In the following examples, les refers to both the masculine plural ils and the feminine plural les pommes, and it doesn't change before a verb beginning with a vowel:

 

À l'assemblée, ils ont reçu un prix qui les touche mais les concerne peu…
At the assembly, they received a prize that touches them but concerns them little…
Cap. 25, Le Journal: Nouveaux artistes pluriculturels

 

Est-ce que tu aimes les pommes? -Non, je ne les aime pas.
Do you like apples? -No, I don't like them

 

The only other tricky aspect of French direct object pronouns occurs in the past tense (passé composé). If you have a feminine singular, feminine plural, or masculine plural direct object pronoun before a verb in the passé composé, you need to make sure that the past participle agrees in number and gender with the noun you're referring to: 

 

Je n'ai pas les jouets. Je les ai oubliés
I don't have the toys. I forgot them

 

Mais si toutes ces technologies existent depuis si longtemps, pourquoi est-ce qu'on ne les a pas utilisées?
But if all these technologies have existed for so long, why haven't we used them?
Cap. 3-4, Il était une fois - Notre Terre: 25. Technologies - Part 6


The root (masculine singular) forms of the above past participles are oublié and utilisé. But since jouets is masculine plural, we need to add an s to oublié to make it plural (oubliés). And since technologies is feminine plural, we need to add an e to utilisé to make it feminine and an s to make it plural (utilisées).


Stay tuned for part two of this series, which will focus on indirect object pronouns. À bientôt! 

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Se Passer: To Bypass and Pass By

The subject of Lionel's latest video is Article 49-3 of the French Constitution, which gives the government the power to push through legislation without a parliamentary vote. The government most recently invoked Article 49-3 to push through a controversial labor reform bill that has sparked much controversy in France. Public outcry over the bill culminated in the Nuit Debout protest movement, which Lionel has also been covering for Yabla. 

 

In his video, Lionel uses the verb phrase se passer de (to bypass, to do without) to describe the government's action: 

 

Au final le gouvernement a décidé de passer en force, et s'est passé du vote de l'Assemblée Nationale et du Sénat.
In the end, the government decided to force its passage, and bypassed the vote of the National Assembly and the Senate.
Cap. 7-8, Lionel L: Le 49-3

 

The de in se passer de is crucial. If you remove it, you'll get a completely different expression, as Lionel demonstrates later on in the video: 

 

…et que d'ores et déjà nous pouvons comparer à ce qui s'est passé en France
…and that already we can compare it to what happened in France
Cap. 19, Lionel L: Le 49-3


By itself, se passer means "to happen" or "occur," as in the expression, Qu'est-ce qui se passe? (What's happening?/What's going on?) You'll also hear it in the impersonal expression il s'est passé...: 
 

Et il s'est passé quelque chose de complètement inédit pour moi…
And something happened that was completely new for me…
Cap. 45, Watt’s In: Indila - Dernière Danse Interview Exclu


But that's not all! Se passer can also mean "to pass" or "pass by" when referring to a period of time:

 

Six mois se sont passés depuis ma dernière visite. 
Six months have passed since my last visit.


Stay tuned to Yabla to learn more about ce qui se passe (what's happening) throughout the French-speaking world!

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Une leçon à ne pas manquer!

At the end of "Tango," new on Yabla this week, Mélanie Laurent sings: 


Parce qu'au fond tu l'aimes bien, elle te manquerait je crois
Because deep down you really love her, you would miss her, I think
Cap. 52, Mélanie Laurent: “Circus” & “Tango”

 

When you're talking about missing someone in French, manquer is the verb to use. However, in this context, manquer actually means "to be missing" rather than "to miss." Though elle te manquerait might appear to mean "she would miss you" upon first glance, its literal translation is actually "she would be missing from you," which is just another (perhaps more romantic) way of saying "you would miss her." So when talking to someone close to you whom you haven't seen in a while, make sure to say tu me manques ("I miss you," literally "you're missing from me") rather than je te manque ("you miss me," literally "I'm missing from you").

 

On the other hand, manquer does mean "to miss" when you're talking about missing something in the sense of not being there for it. In this context it's synonymous with the verb rater

 

J'ai manqué [or ratéle bus. 
missed the bus. 

 

The expression "manquer de + infinitive" (or just "manquer + infinitive") means "to nearly do something." "Faillir + infinitive" has the same meaning:

 

Il a manqué d'être tué [or: Il a failli être tué]
He was nearly killed. 

 

But in the negative, this expression more often means "to not forget to do something": 

 

Ne manquez pas de vous arrêter au numéro treize de l'avenue Junot
Don't forget to stop at number thirteen Avenue Junot
Cap. 12, Voyage dans Paris: Butte Montmartre

 

Another common meaning of manquer is "to lack," usually in the expression "manquer de + noun":

 

L'hôpital manque de moyens, comme toutes nos formations sanitaires, hein?
The hospital lacks resources, like all our medical facilities, huh?
Cap. 22, Le Journal: Hôpital ultra-moderne à Burkina Faso

 

In fact, the noun form of manquerun manque, specifically means "a lack": 

 

J’ai compris qu'il y avait un manque énorme au niveau, euh... alimentaire
I saw that there was an enormous lack at the, uh... alimentary level
Cap. 7, Alsace 20: Mangez bien, mangez alsacien!

 

Finally, manquer is also used in the impersonal expression "il manque + noun" ("x is missing"):

 

Il ne manque plus que l'argent nécessaire.
All that's missing is the necessary money.
Cap. 6, Il était une fois - Les découvreurs: 13. Stephenson - Part 6

 

Don't forget (ne manquez pas) to check out our new videos this week and feel free to tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com!

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