Our latest video asks the question, D'où vient le nom de la France? (Where does France's name come from?) As you'll learn from the video, the name comes from les Francs (the Franks), the Germanic people who settled in the region in ancient times, when it was known as Gaul.
If you ask a French person, D'où viens-tu? (Where are you from?), he or she might say, Je viens de la France (I come from France). But there are two other ways of saying the same thing:
Je suis français(e).
I am French.
Je suis un Français/une Française.
I am a Frenchman/a Frenchwoman.
Here, you can see an important rule that applies to all French demonyms (or words referring to the inhabitants of a place): when used as an adjective (as in the first example), they're written all in lowercase, but when used as a noun (as in the second), their first letter is capitalized.
You can see this distinction played out in this caption from the video:
Les plus anciens ancêtres connus des Français sont des peuples gaulois.
The oldest known ancestors of the French are the Gallic people.
Cap. 32, Le saviez-vous: D’où vient le nom de la France?
While les Français is a noun, gaulois is an adjective. As an alternative, we could rewrite the sentence by flipping the parts of speech and changing the capitalization accordingly:
Les plus anciens ancêtres connus du peuple français sont les Gaulois.
The oldest known ancestors of the French people are the Gauls.
On a related note, the names of languages in French are always lowercase: whereas le Français means "the Frenchman," le français means "the French language." And whereas demonyms can change gender and number, language names are always masculine and singular. So you can have le Français (the Frenchman), les Français (the Frenchmen/French people), la Française (the Frenchwoman), and les Françaises (the Frenchwomen), but you can only have le français (the French language).
Finally, another way of answering the question d'où viens-tu is with the expression être originaire de (to be originally from/to be a native of). Aïssa Maïga uses this expression in her video on promoting literacy among girls and women in Senegal:
Vu le fait que je sois originaire du Sénégal et aussi du Mali...
Seeing as I am originally from Senegal and also from Mali...
Cap. 18, Alphabétisation des filles au Sénégal
Aïssa is a French actress with origins in Senegal and Mali, or in other words: Aïssa est une actrice française, originaire du Sénégal et du Mali.
For practice, try describing where you're from in French in a few different ways. You can find a thorough list of French demonyms here.
In a previous lesson, we explored the words compte and compter, which are used in a wide variety of expressions beyond their most basic meanings (“account” and “to count,” respectively). One of these expressions is se rendre compte, which literally means “to give an account to oneself,” but which is best translated as “to realize”:
Et bien sûr nous allons aussi nous rendre compte que Metz est une ville riche par son patrimoine, son passé.
And of course we'll also realize that Metz is a rich city through its heritage, its past.
Cap. 14, Lionel à Metz: Part 1
“To realize” also has a French cognate, réaliser. While réaliser can be used as a synonym of se rendre compte, it more often refers to realizing something in the sense of making something a reality, such as a goal or a dream:
C'est un rêve qui va être chaud à réaliser: c'est pouvoir voir Michael Jackson.
It's a dream that's going to be hard to realize: it's being able to see Michael Jackson.
Cap. 26-27, Micro-Trottoirs: Un rêve récurrent?
While this sense of “to realize” is more of a formal and often technical term, réaliser is more commonly used as a synonym of faire (to make or to do). For example, “to realize a recipe” isn’t as common a phrase in English as réaliser une recette is in French:
Ben, pour réaliser la recette, ben on a besoin des homards.
Well, to make this recipe, well, we need some lobsters.
Cap. 23, 4 Mains pour 1 Piano: Médaillon de Homard - Part 1
Margaux and Manon even use réaliser in their definition of faire:
"Faire" veut dire construire ou fabriquer ou réaliser quelque chose de concret, de matériel.
"Faire" means to build or make or achieve something concrete, material.
Cap. 9, Margaux et Manon: Emplois du verbe faire
If you make the verb reflexive, it means "to become reality" or, in the case of wishes and dreams, "to come true":
Tous mes rêves se sont réalisés.
All my dreams came true.
Some other synonyms of réaliser are accomplir (to accomplish), exécuter (to execute, carry out), créer (to create), atteindre (to achieve), and achever (to finish, complete).
Réaliser is also an important verb in film terminology, meaning “to direct.” In fact, its noun form, réalisateur, specifically means “film director”:
Alors, c'est le réalisateur qui s'est battu pour elle.
So, it was the director who fought for her.
Cap. 4, Le Journal: Marion Cotillard
You can also use the word cinéaste, or “filmmaker,” instead of réalisateur. A “cineaste” in English is either a filmmaker or a film buff (or both!).
Another noun form of réaliser is réalisation, which generally means “realization” or “fulfillment,” but can also mean “design” or “creation” in architectural parlance. As France contains a wealth of architectural treasures, you’ll come across this word a lot in Yabla travel videos:
La réalisation architecturale du parc a été confiée en mille neuf cent quatre-vingt trois.
The park's architectural design was assigned in nineteen eighty-three.
Cap. 8, De nouvelles découvertes avec Marion: Le Parc de la Villette
Et à l'entrée, pour les amateurs d'architecture, il y a cette extraordinaire réalisation Le Corbusier.
And at the entrance, for architecture enthusiasts, there is this extraordinary Le Corbusier creation.
Cap. 11-12, Voyage dans Paris: Le Treizième arrondissement de Paris - Part 2
We hope you realize all of your dreams and goals, whether they’re as small as making a recipe or as large as constructing a building, or as fun as learning French with Yabla!
Alessandro is a pique-assiette (freeloader, literally “plate-stealer”) in his latest video, in which he walks down Paris’s Rue Montorgueil to take advantage of all the free samples (des échantillons gratuits) along the street. As the theme of this video is eating and drinking, you’ll find several different words for those two activities besides the standard verbs manger (to eat) and boire (to drink).
One of the great things about the Rue Montorgueil is that you can basically eat an entire meal for free just by sampling all the delicacies (though we encourage you to support the local businesses by making some purchases too!):
Et on peut déguster tout gratuitement. En fait, on peut se nourrir rue Montorgueil gratuitement.
And you can sample everything for free. In fact, you can eat on Rue Montorgueil for free.
Cap. 10, Cap 24 - Paris 2ème: Alessandro joue le Pique-assiette!
Besides “to sample” or “to taste,” déguster can also mean “to savor” or “to enjoy.” Make sure you don’t confuse it with dégoûter, which has a very different meaning: “to disgust.” On the other hand, goûter is more or less interchangeable with déguster:
Allons-y! Nous allons goûter.
Let's go! We are going to sample.
Cap. 20, Cap 24 - Paris 2ème: Alessandro joue le Pique-assiette!
The noun forms of these two verbs are a bit different, however. Whereas une dégustation is “a tasting” or “a sampling,” un goûter is “a snack” (while le goût refers to a person’s sense of taste or to the flavor of food).
Se nourrir literally means “to nourish oneself,” but it’s mostly used as a synonym for manger to mean “to eat.” It’s also synonymous with s’alimenter, and both verbs mean “to feed” when they’re non-reflexive (nourrir, alimenter). Alimenter can also mean “to supply,” as in a reservoir that supplies a city with water:
Il alimente un cinquième à peu près de la ville de Paris en eau naturelle.
It supplies about one-fifth of the city of Paris with natural water.
Cap. 19, Voyage dans Paris: Le Treizième arrondissement de Paris - Part 2
Of course, it's also possible to nourish your soul rather than your stomach, as in the expression se nourrir d'amour et d'eau fraîche (literally, "to nourish oneself with love and fresh water") or vivre d'amour et d'eau fraîche ("to live on love and fresh water"). It corresponds to the English expressions "to live on love alone" or "to be madly in love." It's also a more romantic way of saying "to be irresponsible" or "carefree."
La nourriture is the general word for “food,” while un aliment refers to a piece of food (or a “foodstuff”). And l’alimentation has a wide variety of meanings, including “food,” “feeding,” “groceries,” “supply,” “diet,” and “nutrition.” It's typically used in a broader, more abstract way:
Tu dois pouvoir bénéficier d'une alimentation suffisante, saine et équilibrée.
You must be able to receive adequate, healthy, and balanced nutrition.
Cap. 18, Marie et Sakhoura: Droits des enfants
Par contre, si vous êtes dans un rythme d'alimentation biologique, vous allez réfléchir à votre consommation.
However, if you're following an organic diet, you're going to think about your consumption.
Cap. 26-27, Alsace 20: Pourquoi le bio est-il plus cher?
Rue Montorgueil also has a lot to offer in terms of beverages, including some delicious smoothies:
Une fois que vous avez picolé gratuitement les smoothies gratuits, donc les fruits et légumes...
Once you've downed the free smoothies for free, so the fruit and vegetables...
Cap. 15, Cap 24 - Paris 2ème: Alessandro joue le Pique-assiette!
Picoler is a slang term for boire that usually refers to alcoholic beverages, but can also refer to “downing” or “knocking back” any kind of drink.
The most common slang word for manger is bouffer, which, as a noun, is also a slang word for “food”:
Quand je réalise que la bouffe est un problème
When I realize that food is a problem
Cap. 25, Oldelaf: Je mange
Oldelaf’s music video is full of food-related vocabulary, as Oldelaf depicts himself not as a mere pique-assiette, but as a total glouton (glutton). The words you learned in this lesson should come in handy in any culinary situation, whether you’re nibbling on free samples in Rue Montorgueil (goûter dans la rue Montorgueuil) or pigging out at home (bouffer à la maison)!
Our latest Grand Lille TV video focuses on the end of an urban legend: a house in Villeneuve D'Ascq that was said to be haunted is now being torn down. Urban legends are dubious by nature, so speaking about them usually involves expressing some degree of doubt, suspicion, or uncertainty. In fact, the news report on the ex-haunted house in Villeneuve D'Ascq demonstrates a few different ways to express doubt, suspicion, or uncertainty, or simply relay something that may or may not have actually happened.
The first expression comes in the video title itself, Clap de fin pour la maison dite hantée (End of the so-called haunted house). Un clap de fin is a filmmaking term referring to the clapperboard used to mark the end of a scene. More importantly, the word dite (the feminine singular past participle of dire, "to say") is used here as an adjective meaning "so-called." Think of it as a sort of disclaimer indicating that Grand Lille TV doesn't officially believe the house was haunted.
But dit as an adjective doesn't always have to be a disclaimer—like "so-called," it can also just refer to a commonly used name for something. Since it's an adjective, it always agrees in gender and number with the noun it modifies:
C'est un petit peu le cœur du quartier dit de la nouvelle Athènes.
It's kind of the heart of the so-called "Nouvelle Athènes" (New Athens) neighborhood.
Cap. 16, Voyage dans Paris: Le 10ème Arrondissement - Part 2
The next expression tells us the source of the alleged haunting using a tricky verb conjugation:
La présence d'un fantôme d'un enfant qui aurait été tué par ses parents à l'époque
The presence of the ghost of a child who had supposedly been killed by his parents at the time
Cap. 5, Grand Lille TV: Clap de fin pour la maison dite hantée
What we're dealing with here (besides a heartbreaking story) is the past conditional tense (also called the "conditional perfect"). It's formed by combining the conditional form of the auxiliary verb (avoir or être) with the past participle of the main verb. In this example, we actually have two past participles (été and tué) because the sentence is in the passive voice ("been killed").
The French conditional usually corresponds to the word "would": un enfant qui aurait été tué literally means "a child who would have been killed." But, as we discussed in a previous lesson, the conditional is also used to relate an uncertain fact or event, in which case it's often translated using words like "supposedly," "reportedly," or "apparently" without the conditional "would." We can tell that this is the best translation of the past conditional here because "a child who would have been killed" doesn't make sense in the context of the video. In general, context is key for determining whether the French conditional is a "true conditional" ("would be") or an expression of doubt or uncertainty ("is supposedly").
Our last two expressions are packed into one caption:
C'était soi-disant... une maison qui... devait être hantée.
It was a so-called... a house that... was supposed to be haunted.
Cap. 13, Grand Lille TV: Clap de fin pour la maison dite hantée
First we have another word for "so-called," soi-disant, which is also used in English (as in "a soi-disant artist," or a self-proclaimed artist). Unlike the adjective dit, which goes after the noun, soi-disant goes before the noun (une soi-disant maison hantée, "a so-called haunted house") and doesn't change in gender or number.
The speaker hesitated a bit here and chose not to use soi-disant in the end. Instead, he used the verb devoir, which usually means "to have to" or "must," but can also mean "to be supposed to," both in the sense of having a duty and of supposedly being or doing something. Incidentally, soi-disant can also be used as an adverb meaning "supposedly," so the speaker also could have said, une maison qui était soi-disant hantée (a house that was supposedly haunted).
For practice, try finding some straightforward sentences expressing a fact and turn them into expressions of doubt, suspicion, or uncertainty using the examples above. Beginners can play around with dit and soi-disant, while more advanced learners can tackle the past conditional. As an alternative, try writing about your favorite urban legend in French!
Oldelaf’s latest song featured on Yabla, “Vendredi” (Friday), is a sort of satirical ode to boring weekends:
I am bored
Je me sens tout chose
I feel peculiar
Cap. 41, Oldelaf: interprète “Vendredi”
You might have been able to guess that je m’ennuie means “I am bored” here because it contains the word ennui, which the English language borrowed from the French as a synonym for “boredom.” But in French, l’ennui and its related words don’t only have to do with being bored. They can also involve being bothered, worried, troubled, or annoyed. In this lesson, we’ll see how these multiple meanings play out—and we promise it won’t be boring!
First, there’s l’ennui, which usually just means “boredom”:
Je meurs d’ennui.
I’m dying of boredom.
However, if you pluralize l’ennui (les ennuis), you don’t get “boredoms,” but “problems” or “troubles”:
On évite certains ennuis
We avoid certain problems
Cap. 16, Le Village de la Bière: Ceci n’est pas un bar!
Quant à Socrate, il a de sérieux ennuis.
As for Socrates, he has serious troubles.
Cap. 27, Il était une fois… l’Homme: 6. Le siècle de Périclès - Part 6
(Speaking of philosophers with ennui(s), there's also l'ennui pascalien, or "Pascalian ennui," named after the seventeenth-century polymath Blaise Pascal. It corresponds to the notion of "existential ennui" in English.)
As we saw in the first example, the reflexive verb s’ennuyer means “to be bored.” But the non-reflexive verb ennuyer can either mean “to bore” or “to bother”:
Ça vous ennuie que je vous photographie?
Will it bother you that I photograph you?
Cap. 36, Le Journal: Marion Cotillard
Marc ennuie ses enfants avec ses longues histoires.
Marc is boring his kids with his long stories.
You’ll have to pay attention to context to determine whether ennuyer means “to bore” or “to bother.” In the case of the examples above, taking a photo of someone is probably more likely to bother them than bore them, and kids are probably more likely to be bored than bothered by their dad’s long stories. That said, sometimes ennuyer can have both meanings at once. For example, you could say that Marc is bothering his kids by boring them with his long stories. You could also say that he is annoying them—in fact, the word “annoy” is etymologically related to the word “ennui,” which should make this additional meaning of ennuyer easier to remember.
Context is also key with other ennui derivatives like ennuyeux/ennuyeuse (boring, annoying, tiresome) and ennuyé(e) (bored, annoyed, worried):
Y a rien à dire
There’s nothing to say
Cap. 40, Melissa Mars Music Videos: Et Alors!
Toutes ses questions sont vraiment ennuyeuses.
All his questions are really annoying.
On peut être fasciné, agacé, déçu, énervé par le ton, captivé par l'intrigue ou tout bêtement ennuyé...
We can be fascinated, annoyed, disappointed, upset by the tone, captivated by the plot, or, quite simply, bored...
Cap. 29-30, Manon et Clémentine: Vocabulaire du livre
Tu as l’air ennuyé. Mais ne t’inquiète pas! Tout ira bien.
You look concerned. But don’t worry! Everything will be all right.
Hopefully you aren’t bored, annoyed, bothered, or worried at the moment, but if you are, Oldelaf’s new video is a perfect antidote to all the various shades of ennui!
And for more information on the usage and history of the word "ennui" in English, check out this interesting article.
Ailleurs is an adverb with a few different meanings. By itself, ailleurs means “elsewhere,” in both a literal and figurative sense:
On te souhaite, ben, beaucoup de réussite, su tu vas en Australie ou ailleurs.
We wish you, well, a great deal of success, whether you go to Australia, or elsewhere.
Désolé, je n’ai pas entendu la question. J’avais la tête ailleurs.
Sorry, I didn’t hear the question. My mind was elsewhere.
You can also find ailleurs in the more absolute phrases nulle part ailleurs (nowhere else) and partout ailleurs (everywhere else):
...et des poissons qu'on ne trouve nulle part ailleurs.
...and fish that one cannot find anywhere else.
Cap. 15, Le Journal: L’île de Pâques
La situation s’améliore partout ailleurs.
The situation is improving everywhere else.
Ailleurs can also be found in two common phrases that are used to add extra information to a topic. The first of these is par ailleurs (otherwise, additionally):
La préfecture du Rhône a par ailleurs mis en place un centre d'appel
Additionally, the Rhône Prefecture has set up a call center
The second phrase, d’ailleurs, has a wide range of meanings:
C'est un très bon vin et d'ailleurs je vous conseille de le boire.
It's a very good wine and I recommend that you drink it, for that matter.
C'est d'ailleurs lui qui préface le livre.
He's the one who prefaces the book, by the way.
Un très beau lieu d’ailleurs.
A very beautiful place, incidentally.
Cap. 66, LCM - Concert: La Folia à l’abbaye Saint-Victor
Both d’ailleurs and par ailleurs can be placed pretty much anywhere in a sentence. For instance, we could easily move the phrases from the middle of the sentence to the beginning in the examples above:
Par ailleurs, la préfecture du Rhône a mis en place un centre d’appel
D’ailleurs, c’est lui qui préface le livre.
An easy way to learn the difference between these very similar phrases is to learn synonyms for them. Par ailleurs is generally synonymous with d’autre part and d’un autre côté (otherwise, on the other hand), while d’ailleurs is synonymous with du reste (furthermore), en outre (besides), and de plus (moreover). In other words, while d’ailleurs tends to be used to confirm what was previously said, par ailleurs is more often used to contradict it or provide an alternative.
That pretty much covers all the uses of this word, but if you’re interested in looking ailleurs for some more translations and example sentences, this Larousse entry is a handy summary of everything we mentioned above.
The French word jamais usually means “never,” in the negative construction ne… jamais:
On nous dit que les bus ne sont jamais à l'heure.
They tell us that the buses are never on time.
Cap. 11, Cap 24: Les bus sont-ils toujours en retard?
Technically, jamais only means “never” when it’s attached to a ne (though the ne is sometimes dropped in informal speech). An easy way to remember that the French word for “never” is actually two words is to note that “never” is just another way of saying “not ever,” which is the literal translation of ne jamais. But jamais doesn't always have a negative meaning, and sometimes is better translated as “ever.” In fact, as with the word “ever,” there are plenty of instances in which jamais can be used by itself (without the ne) to have a positive meaning.
Cyril uses jamais in this way two times while showing us some of his impressive rollerblading skills:
Le plus gros trick que j'aie jamais fait...
The greatest trick that I ever did...
Cap. 7, Cap 24: Démonstration de roller freestyle
Si jamais on a envie d'aller skater là-bas...
If we ever feel like going to skate over there...
Cap. 18, Cap 24: Démonstration de roller freestyle
Si jamais is a very common expression that usually is not broken up, like “if ever” is (which is why you have si jamais on a envie instead of si on a jamais envie above, but “if we ever feel” instead of “if ever we feel”).
Another common expression is plus que jamais, “more than ever”:
Les oiseaux sont plus que jamais sous haute surveillance.
More than ever, the birds are under high surveillance.
Cap. 30, Le Journal: La grippe aviaire - Part 1
Don’t confuse this with the negative expression ne… plus jamais (never again), which Charles-Baptiste uses extensively (in an inverted form) in his love song “Sale type” (Dirty Guy):
Plus jamais je ne me couperai les cheveux depuis que tu as mis tes mains dedans
Never again will I cut my hair since you put your hands in it
Cap. 6-7, Charles-Baptiste: Sale type
The opposite of ne… jamais is toujours (always, forever), but sometimes jamais can be used as a synonym for toujours in more formal or poetic contexts (just as “ever” can be a synonym of “always”).
Singer Ina-Ich waxes lyrical with the expression à jamais (forever) in her song “Libre comme l’eau”:
À jamais libre comme le vent
Forever free like the wind
Cap. 55, Ina-Ich: Libre comme l’eau
A similar expression meaning “forever” is pour jamais, which is a more formal version of pour toujours. And if you really want to emphasize eternalness, you can use à tout jamais (forever and ever).
To summarize, let’s take the old adage “never say never” and apply it to jamais: jamais sometimes “says never,” sometimes says “ever,” and sometimes says “forever.” But it never, ever says anything else!
We’ve dealt with adjectives a lot in previous Yabla lessons, and in this one we’ll focus on five of them that all share one important feature. See if you notice something peculiar about the spelling of the French words for “new” and “old” in the following examples:
Donc je vais vous présenter mon nouvel appartement.
So I'm going to show you my new apartment.
Cap. 20, Joanna: Son nouvel appartement
Ce square a la particularité d'héberger le plus vieil arbre de Paris.
This square has the distinction of housing the oldest tree in Paris.
Cap. 27, Voyage dans Paris: Saint-Germain-des-Prés
You may already know that “new” in French is nouveau (masculine) and nouvelle (feminine), and that “old” is vieux (masculine) and vieille (feminine). So where did nouvel and vieil come from?
The answer is that, for a small group of adjectives, the masculine singular form changes when the adjective is followed by a noun starting with a vowel or a non-aspirated (mute) h. So instead of nouveau appartement, you have nouvel appartement, and instead of vieux arbre, you have vieil arbre.
If you think about it in terms of pronunciation, you might get a better sense of why this happens. The phrase nouvel appartement “flows” better than nouveau appartement because the l sound prevents the little pause that occurs when you move from the “eau” of nouveau to the “a” of appartement. French pronunciation places a heavy emphasis on words flowing together smoothly (a concept called “euphony”), an idea we previously touched on in our lesson on liaisons. This little rule is just another way of making sure the language sounds pleasing to the ear.
The three other descriptive adjectives that exhibit this spelling change are beau/bel/belle (beautiful), fou/fol/folle (mad, crazy), and mou/mol/molle (soft).
Je préfère un mol oreiller.
I prefer a soft pillow.
Le fol espoir d'un rendez-vous
The mad hope of a rendezvous
Cap. 15, Oldelaf: interprète “Bérénice”
Alors, qui me fait une offre pour ce bel athlète?
So, who's making me an offer for this handsome athlete?
Cap. 25, Il était une fois… l’Homme: 6. Le siècle de Périclès - Part 3
This phenomenon also occurs with the demonstrative adjective ce/cette (this, that), which becomes cet before a singular masculine noun starting with a vowel or mute h. So if we removed the word “handsome” from the sentence above, it would become:
Alors, qui me fait une offre pour cet athlète?
So, who’s making me an offer for this athlete?
Note that if another word beginning with a consonant (usually another adjective) is placed between the noun and the special form of the adjective, you don’t need to use the special form anymore. You can see this in the previous example, where you have ce bel athlète instead of cet bel athlète.
As you may have noticed, all of these adjectives belong to a small group of adjectives that go before the noun they modify. You can learn more about adjectives like this in our previous lesson on the subject. Also, remember that this spelling change only occurs with the masculine singular forms of these adjectives. The masculine plural forms (nouveaux, vieux, mous, fous, beaux, ces) don’t change before a noun beginning with a vowel or mute h. According to the rules of liaison, their endings are pronounced to indicate the plural.
Since this spelling change happens with such a small number of adjectives, the best way to learn it is probably just to memorize them. Here’s a little memory aid for you using fragments of all the example sentences in this lesson:
Cet homme a le fol espoir de trouver… (This man has the mad hope of finding…)
...le plus nouvel appartement de Paris. (...the newest apartment in Paris.)
...le plus vieil arbre de Paris. (...the oldest tree in Paris.)
...le plus mol oreiller de Paris. (...the softest pillow in Paris.)
...le plus bel athlète de Paris. (...the handsomest athlete in Paris.)
While we at Yabla encourage you to spend as much time as you can watching our videos, we realize that sitting in front of a computer screen all day isn’t that healthy. So we also encourage you to take a break every so often to move around a bit! To get you inspired, let’s review the various ways of saying “to move” in French.
The two most basic verbs meaning “to move” are bouger and remuer, which are more or less interchangeable, but can both take on more specific meanings. In this cartoon, a polar bear tells Leon the lion not to move:
Bouge pas de là, Léon. Tu restes ici!
Do not move from here, Leon. You stay here!
Cap. 5, Les zooriginaux: 3. Qui suis-je? - Part 2
Bouger can also be a more informal synonym of partir, meaning “to leave”:
Nous devons bouger d’ici.
We have to get out of here.
Sometimes you’ll see the idiom ça bouge (literally, “it moves”) to refer to a place that’s lively or full of activity, like the city of Strasbourg:
La ville, son charme... les bâtiments. -Ça bouge.
The town, its charm... the buildings. -It's lively.
Cap. 18, Strasbourg: Les passants
In “Dernière danse” (Last Dance), Indila uses remuer to describe the power she feels in her douce souffrance (sweet suffering):
Je remue le ciel, le jour, la nuit
I move the sky, the day, the night
Cap. 10, Indila: Dernière danse
Besides “to move,” remuer can also mean “to stir” or “to mix” in a culinary setting:
Pour faire des œufs brouillés, il faut remuer les œufs dans une poêle.
To make scrambled eggs, you have to stir the eggs in a frying pan.
When you’re talking specifically about moving from one place to another, se déplacer (literally, “to displace oneself”) is the best verb to use:
Ensuite on peut se déplacer au restaurant pour finir la soirée.
Then you can move to the restaurant to end the evening.
Cap. 28, Cap 24: Découverte d’un restaurant parisien
Even more specifically, when you’re talking about moving from one home to another, use déménager. Un ménage is the word for “household,” so you can remember the difference by thinking of déménager as “to de-household”:
En effet, si vous avez déménagé, vous devez vous inscrire à la mairie de votre nouveau domicile.
Indeed, if you've moved, you must register at the city hall of your new residence.
Cap. 10, Le Journal: Voter - un droit ou un choix?
Finally, let’s not forget that we can be moved in a metaphorical way, when something makes us feel emotional. The verb for that is émouvoir, the past participle of which isému (moved):
Son histoire… avait ému en début d'année des milliers de spectateurs.
Her story… had moved thousands of viewers at the beginning of the year.
Cap. 1-2, Le Journal: Le mensonge
Hopefully this lesson has moved you to get up and move! Here’s a suggestion: play our latest music video, Zaz’s “Éblouie par la nuit” (Blinded by the Night), and see how much of the lyrics you understand while dancing along. Or, if dancing isn’t your thing, you might want to check out Joanna’s video on preparing for a run.
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!