French Lessons

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Silence, moteur, action!

Daniel Benchimol concludes his latest video, on the town of Montmorency, a little differently than he usually does. He introduces us to Philippe, the man behind the scenes of Daniel's numerous travel videos. Philippe does it all: he films, he directs, he edits. Daniel uses some basic film terminology in his description of Philippe: 

 

Laissez-moi vous présenter mon compagnon de tournage, Philippe, qui réalise, qui monte et qui fait l'ensemble de ce que vous ne voyez pas.
Let me present to you my filming companion, Philippe, who directs, who edits, and who does everything that you don't see. 
Cap. 47-48, Voyage en France: Montmorency - Part 4

 

Tournage comes from the verb tourner, which, as you might have guessed, means "to turn." But in movie parlance, tourner means "to film" (and le tournage means "filming" or "film shoot"). To remember this, just think of film reels turning on an old movie camera. 

 

We discussed the verb réaliser in a previous lesson. Among its many meanings is "to direct" a film or stage production. The related word réalisateur (masculine) or réalisatrice (feminine) means "director" or "filmmaker"—in other words, the person who "realizes" the film.

 

Yabla has a lesson on monter as well! Its basic meanings are "to climb" and "to put up," but monter can also mean "to edit" a film. The English word "montage" refers to a specific technique of combining short clips to form a continuous sequence, but the French le montage refers more generally to the "editing" of a film. 

 

Another Yabla video takes us to Concarneau in Brittany, where a film crew documented the town's rich maritime heritage. You'll find some interesting film-related words at the beginning of the video:

 

Moteur! Séance de tournage sur le port de Concarneau. En face de l'objectif, le maître du port.
ActionFilming session on the Concarneau harbor. In front of the camera lens, the harbormaster.
Cap. 1-3, Télévision Bretagne Ouest: Concarneau - Un tournage sur la vie maritime

 

Moteur usually just means "motor" or "engine," but here it means "Action!" This is actually a shortened version of the phrase silence, moteur, action! (literally, "silence, motor, action!"), the French equivalent of "lights, camera, action!" You can also say moteur, ça tourne, action! ("motor, it's filming, action!"). 

 

You might be wondering what a "camera lens" has to do with an "objective." If you consider that un objectif also means "an aim," the relationship might be clearer. A filmmaker or photographer aims their camera lens at their subject, so it makes sense that objectif is the word for "camera lens." 

 

Check out this lesson for some more French film words.
 
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for our next lesson and tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com.

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Telling Jokes in French

Our friend Lionel is known for his witty puns and excellent comedic timing. He even filmed a standup set for Yabla! Apparently, a good sense of humor runs in his family. In Lionel's latest video, his cousin Jean-Pierre cracks a joke about the Vosges mountain range: 

 

Y a une blague à propos des Vosges du Nord. Quand on voit pas les Vosges du Nord, c'est qu'il pleut. Et quand on les voit bien, c'est qu'il va pleuvoir. 
There's a joke about the Northern Vosges. When you don't see the Northern Vosges, it's because it's raining. And when you see them clearly, it means it's going to rain. 
Cap. 85-90, Lionel: à Lindre-Basse - Part 7

 

If you didn't laugh at Jean-Pierre's joke, you probably had to be there (near the Northern Vosges, that is). 

 

Une blague doesn't only refer to a verbal joke. It can also be a trick or a prank you play on someone: 

 

On va leur faire une bonne blague!
We're going to play a nice trick on them!
Cap. 23, Il était une fois... Notre Terre: 9. Les écosystèmes - Part 4

 

Une farce and un tour are the other words for "trick," "prank," or "practical joke":

 

Une farce joyeuse et de franche gaieté. 
A joyous prank with uninhibited gaiety.
Cap. 10, Il était une fois... l’Homme: 6. Le siècle de Périclès - Part 4

 

Ils ont plus d'un tour dans leur sac. 
They have more than one trick in their bag [up their sleeves].
Cap. 34, Il était une fois... La vie: 14. La bouche et les dents - Part 6

 

There's also another word for "joke": une plaisanterie. This example explains what happens in your body when you laugh at a joke: 

 

Vous savez que ce sont les lèvres glottiques qui sous l'effet d'une plaisanterie se mettent à vibrer.
You know that it's the glottic folds that start vibrating when a joke is told.
Cap. 8-9, Le Journal: Les effets bénéfiques du rire!

 

So how do you say "to crack a joke" or "to tell a joke" in French? You can either say raconter une plaisanterie or raconter une blague

 

Il aime raconter des plaisanteries [or des blagues] grivoises.
He loves to tell dirty jokes

 

But if you're talking about "joking" or "joking/messing around," then you use the verbs plaisanter or blaguer:

 

Ils blaguaient tout le temps pendant leur enfance.
They always used to joke around when they were little. 

 

Tu plaisantes! Je ne crois pas ça. -Non, je ne plaisante pas! 
You're kidding! I don't believe that. -No, I'm not kidding!

 

Thanks for reading! We'll be back soon with a new lesson. Sans blague! (No joke!)

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Ne faites bas de bêtises!

Animals are generally (and perhaps unjustly) considered to be less intelligent than humans, which explains why the French word bête can mean both "beast" and "stupid":

 

Après tout, c'est bête la guerre.
After all, war is stupid
Cap. 25, Il était une fois - les Explorateurs: 15. Bruce et les sources du Nil - Part 7

 

The related noun bêtise can mean anything along the lines of "stupidity" or "idiocy." You can use it in a general sense to talk about "something stupid":

 

Après les parents, ils me disent, quand ils font une bêtise...
Later the parents tell me, when they do something stupid...
Cap. 56, Banlieues françaises: jeunes et policiers, l'impossible réconciliation? - Part 1

 

Or you might use it to refer to something more specific, such as a mistake. Une bêtise isn't just any old mistake, but a particularly stupid one:

 

Vous allez réparer vos bêtises.
You're going to repair your stupid mistakes.
Cap. 31, Il était une fois - Notre Terre: 9. Les écosystèmes - Part 4

 

Of course, if you tell someone he or she has made a stupid mistake, you could be implying that the person him or herself is stupid. Une erreur is a more neutral word for "mistake" that doesn't connote stupidity:

 

Elle fait une terrible erreur
She's making a terrible mistake
Cap. 4, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Mes grands-parents sont infidèles - Part 3

 

The plural bêtises is often used to refer to "nonsense," "mischief," or any kind of naughty behavior:

 

Arrête tes bêtises.
Stop your nonsense.
Cap. 28, Agnès Varda: Le lion volatil - Part 2

 

Mais si on fait des bêtises, on sait jamais...
But if we get into mischief, you never know...
Cap. 89, Actu Vingtième: Le Repas des anciens

 

If you argue with someone over des bêtises, you're arguing over nothing:

 

Mes enfants se disputent toujours pour des bêtises.
My kids are always arguing with each other over nothing.

 

When it comes to learning a language, there's no such thing as a stupid mistake. So don't fret if you forget an accent mark or type in the wrong word in a Yabla game—you've just made a simple erreur, not une bêtise!

 

For fun, here's an 80s throwback for you: Sabine Paturel's "Les Bêtises," which was a smash hit in France in 1986. 

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French Si Clauses

In our previous lessons on the French conditional, we briefly mentioned si (if) clauses, which express the possibility or likelihood of an event. These are comparable to "if/then" constructions in English, as in "if you didn't want to go, then you should have said something" or "if I rest now, I'll have more energy later." French si clauses are made up of two parts: a condition (e.g. "if I rest now") and a result ("I'll have more energy later"). They come in three different forms, each expressing different likelihoods and employing different verb tenses and moods. Let's break them down one by one. 

 

1. Si + present-tense verb
The first type of si clause describes a possible or likely event. It expresses what could or will probably happen if a present condition is met. When the "condition" part (si + verb) of the clause is in the present tense, the "result" part can be in the presentimperative, or future

 

Si on surveille pas, elle les prend et puis elle les fait tomber un par un.
If we don't watch, she takes them and then makes them fall one by one.
Cap. 23, Angers 7 - Un lama en plein appartement

 

Donc si vous pouvez éviter de sortir, évitez
So if you can avoid going out, avoid it.
Cap. 7, Alsace 20 - Météo des Maquilleurs

 

Même aujourd'hui, si on me fait chanter, je chanterai.
Even today, if you make me sing, I'll sing.
Cap. 55, Actu Vingtième - Le Repas des anciens

 

2. Si + imperfect verb
The second type describes something that's contrary to the present situation or unlikely to happen. Here the si is followed by an imperfect verb and the "result" part of the clause requires the conditional:

 

Si on avait pas tant de bénévoles... cela serait pas possible. 
If we didn't have so many volunteers... it wouldn't be possible.
Cap. 34-35, Farmer François - Le stand de légumes

 

Je pourrais aller au cinéma avec toi si je n'étais pas malade. 
I could go to the movies with you if I weren't sick. 

 

As you can see from the above example, the "result" doesn't always have to follow the "condition"—it can just as easily be placed before it. So we could rewrite the "Farmer François" sentence as: Cela serait pas possible si on avait pas tant de bénévoles (it wouldn't be possible if we didn't have so many volunteers). As long as both parts of a si clause are in the right tense/mood, it doesn't matter which comes first.

 

3. Si + pluperfect verb
The final type of si clause is a lot like the second type, but a bit more complex. It describes something that's contrary to a past event—for instance, something you wish had happened or regret not having done. In other words, it expresses an impossibility. The pluperfect is paired with the past conditional here: 

 

Si j'avais su, je serais venu avec deux chevaux. 
If I had known, I would have come with two horses.
Cap. 50, Il était une fois - Les découvreurs - 13. Stephenson - Part 6

 

Hier j'aurais levé le bras pour appeler le taxi si j'avais d'abord soigné mon épaule.
Yesterday I would have raised my arm to hail the taxi if I had treated my shoulder first.
Cap. 39-41, Le saviez-vous? - Le mode du conditionnel

 

 

To learn about some other meanings of si besides "if," check out this lesson. And if you have any suggestions for future lesson topics, feel free to tweet us @yabla or email us at newsletter@yabla.com.

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The French Conditional - Part 2

As Patricia mentions in her recent video, the French conditional mood only comes in two tenses: present and past. While the present conditional expresses something you would do, the past conditional expresses something you would have done. We discussed the present conditional in our previous lesson, so now we'll focus on the past. 

 

The past conditional is a compound tense, which means it's made up of multiple parts. Two parts, to be exact: an auxiliary verb (avoir or être) in the conditional, plus the past participle of the main verb. Here's an example of the verb pouvoir (to be able to) in the past conditional:

 

On aurait pu les cuire individuellement, mais là ça va le faire.
We could have cooked them individually, but here, this'll do it.
Cap. 49, 4 Mains pour 1 Piano: Médaillon de Homard - Part 2

 

Like most verbs, pouvoir combines with the auxiliary verb avoir (to have) in compound past tenses. But as Patricia explains in another video, some verbs combine with être (to be) in those instances, such as the verbs aller (to go) and naître (to be born):

 

Je serais allé à la plage mais il faisait trop froid. 
I would have gone to the beach, but it was too cold. 

 

L'histoire officielle dit que ce drapeau serait né sous la Révolution française de dix-sept cent quatre-vingt-neuf.
Official history says that this flag was supposedly born under the French Revolution of seventeen eighty-nine.
Cap. 6-7, Le saviez-vous? - Histoire du drapeau français

 

The important thing to remember is that in the past tense, you only need to conjugate the auxiliary verb in the conditional, not the main verb (so you wouldn't say on aurait pourrait or je serais irais, for instance). 

 

It's easy to confuse the past conditional with the pluperfect (or plus-que-parfait) tense, which is used to describe things that happened in the remote past. Both constructions contain an auxiliary verb followed by a past participle (in the pluperfect, the auxiliary verb is in the imperfect tense, not the conditional), and you'll often find both of them in sentences containing si (if) clauses:

 

Hier, j'aurais levé le bras pour appeler le taxi si j'avais d'abord soigné mon épaule.
Yesterday, I would have raised my arm to hail the taxi if I had treated my shoulder first.
Cap. 39-41, Le saviez-vous? - Le mode du conditionnel

 

We'll talk about si clauses in further detail in a future lesson. In the meantime, you might want to check out the song Si by Zaz, which contains a good number of si clauses and verbs in the conditional.

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The French Conditional - Part 1

In her latest lesson, Patricia introduces the conditional mood, used to describe hypothetical situations. Unlike the indicative mood, which refers to definite, certain actions or events, the conditional refers to anything indefinite or uncertain. The French conditional generally corresponds to "would" in English—"would go," "would say," "would run," etc. 

 

Conjugating the conditional is fairly straightforward. You just take the infinitive form of the verb and add the ending -ais, -ais, -ait, -ions, -iez, or -aient (though there are some exceptions to this rule). Let's take the verb parler (to talk) as an example:

 

je parlerais (I would talk)                        nous parlerions (we would talk)
tu parlerais (you [sing.] would talk)        vous parleriez (you [pl.] would talk)
il/elle parlerait (he/she would talk)          ils/elles parleraient (they would talk)

 

You may have noticed that these endings are the same as those used in the imperfect tense. In fact, you'll often see the conditional paired with the imperfect in si (if) clauses:

 

Que ferais-tu si tu gagnais à la loterie?  
What would you do if you won the lottery?

 

Si j'avais soigné mon épaule, je lèverais mon bras.
If I had taken care of my shoulder, I would raise my arm.
Cap. 14-15, Le saviez-vous? - Le mode du conditionnel 

 

(J'avais soigné is actually a pluperfect construction, which Patricia reviews in another video.)

 

The conditional isn't only found in si clauses. You can also use it to express a request or a wish:

 

Pardon, excusez-moi, est-ce que vous pourriez m'aider à traverser la rue? 
Sorry, excuse me, could you help me cross the street?
Cap. 22, Cap 24: Alessandro Di Sarno se met à nu !

 

Je voudrais juste une rose.
I would just like a rose.
Cap. 11, Bande-annonce - La Belle et La Bête

 

As we discussed in a previous lesson, the conditional can also be used to express uncertainty or to report something you heard from someone else. In this case it's often translated with words like "apparently," "supposedly," "reportedly," etc.:

 

Le rire serait aussi bénéfique que le sport.
Laughter is apparently as good for you as sports.
Caption 14, Le Journal: Les effets bénéfiques du rire! 

 

In our next lesson, we'll show you how to construct the conditional in the past tense. In the meantime, be sure to check out Patricia's video on the future tense, which has a similar conjugation pattern to the conditional. You wouldn't want to get them confused!
 

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C'est or il/elle est?

C'est and il/elle est are two common expressions used to describe people or things in French. Though they have the same meaning (he/she/it is), they're not interchangeable. So how do you know when to use which? It all depends on what comes after the verb est (is). Let's look at some examples. 

 

Il est (masculine) and elle est (feminine) are primarily used before an adjective alone, or before an adverb and adjective (such as très intelligent): 

 

Il s'appelle André. Il est très intelligent. 
His name is André. He's very smart. 

 

They're also used to describe someone's nationality, religion, or profession:

 

Elle est japonaise. Elle est bouddhiste. Elle est chimiste. 
She is Japanese. She is Buddhist. She is a chemist. 

 

Note the difference between the French and the English in that last sentence. You don't need an indefinite article (un, une) after il/elle est when talking about someone's profession. So you don't say elle est une chimiste, but simply elle est chimiste. 

 

C'est is used in pretty much every other circumstance. You'll find it before a modified noun, such as mon ami:

 

Il s'appelle André. C'est mon ami. [Not: il est mon ami.]
His name is André. He's my friend. 

 

Or before a disjunctive pronoun (moi, toi, lui, etc.):

 

Ah, oui, c'est moi. -C'est toi mais c'est vrai! 
Oh, yes, it's me. -It's you, but it's true!
Cap. 63, Actus de Quartier: Fête de quartier Python-Duvernois - Part 3

 

L'État, c'est moi. 
The State, it is I (or "I am the State"; attributed to King Louis XIV of France). 

 

C'est can also come before a standalone adjective (such as c'est vrai in the example above), but only when you're making a general statement about a situation. If you're referring to something specific, then you use il/elle est:

 

Cette histoire n'est pas inventée. Elle est vraie. 
This story isn't made-up. It's true.  

 

If you're describing a group of people or things, then you need to use the plural forms of c'est and il/elle est. These are ce sont and ils/elles sont (they are):

 

Ah, ce sont les fameuses pommes de terre violettes.
Oh, they are the famous purple potatoes.
Cap. 37, 4 Mains pour 1 Piano: Médaillon de Homard - Part 1

 

Ne vous approchez pas des ours. Ils sont très dangereux. 
Don't go near the bears. They are very dangerous. 

 

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

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Words for Good and Bad

In a recent lesson, we talked about the words bon/bonne and mauvais/mauvaise, which respectively mean "good" and "bad," but can also mean "right" and "wrong" depending on context. It's easy to confuse these with the words bien and mal, which have similar meanings ("well" and "badly/poorly") but different functions. 

 

Bon/bonne and mauvais/mauvaise are adjectives, which means they change according to the number and gender of the noun they modify:

 

Alors justement je crois que c'est vraiment une très bonne chose...
So, exactly, I think that it's really a very good thing...
Cap. 56, Alsace 20: 100 recettes pour 100 vins

 

...il y a eu la destruction de la partie de maison existante qui était en très mauvais état.
...there was the destruction of the existing part of the house that was in very bad shape.
Cap. 22, Thomas: Thomas et sa maison

 

On the other hand, bien and mal are adverbs, which can modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. Unlike adjectives, these never change in French: 

 

...un grand orfèvre parisien que Balzac connaissait bien
...a great Parisian goldsmith whom Balzac knew well
Cap. 28, Exposition: Balzac, architecte d'intérieurs

 

Il paraît que les voyages en train finissent mal en général
It seems that train rides generally end badly
Cap. 54, Grand Corps Malade: Les Voyages en train

 

Just as it's ungrammatical to say "whom Balzac knew good" and "train rides generally end bad" in English, in French you can't say que Balzac connaissait bon or les voyages en train finissent mauvais. You have to use bien/mal

 

Bien and mal can also function as nouns. In philosophical terms, they refer to "good" and "evil":

 

Quelle est la différence entre le bien et le mal
What is the difference between good and evil

 

But they have more down-to-earth meanings as well. For instance, the plural les biens means "goods," as in commodities or possessions. And mal can also refer to illness or harm, as in the expressions avoir mal and faire mal:

 

J'ai mal à l'oreille.
I have an earache

 

Ne me fais pas mal
Don't hurt me! 

 

In everyday speech, bon and bien are also used as interjections, in which case they're more or less interchangeable. They both correspond to the English interjection "well" in this context:

 

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

 

Bon, il y a des raisons personnelles évidemment qui jouent.
Well, obviously there are personal reasons that come into play.
Cap. 17, Alphabétisation: des filles au Sénégal

 

It's sometimes hard to tell the difference between good and bad, but at least now you know the difference between bon, mauvais, bien, and mal
 
Stay tuned for our next lesson and tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com.

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Unchanging Colors

In this lesson, we're going to discuss a somewhat tricky aspect of French color words. Like the vast majority of adjectives, most French color words agree in gender (masculine or feminine) and number (singular or plural) with the noun they modify. Let's take the adjective noir (black) as an example:

 

[Les cheveux] peuvent être noirs
[Hair] can be black.
Cap. 11, Le saviez-vous? - Le vocabulaire de la tête

 

Ensuite vous avez mon écharpe noire, une simple étole.
Then you have my black scarf, a simple wrap. 
Cap. 9, Fanny parle des saisons: S'habiller en hiver

 

In the first sentence, noir modifies the masculine plural noun cheveux ("hair" is always plural in French), so it takes the masculine plural ending -s (noirs). In the second sentence, noir modifies the feminine singular noun écharpe, so it takes the feminine singular ending -e (noire).

 

However, certain color adjectives are invariable—that is, they never change regardless of the gender and number of the noun. All of these adjectives are derived from nouns. Take orange for example. As in English, in French orange refers to both the color and the fruit (une orange). Though you can certainly have de multiples oranges (multiple oranges), the adjective form of the word never changes, even in the plural:

 

J'ai acheté des chaussures orange
I bought orange shoes. 

 

On the other hand, rouge (red) isn't invariable (since it's not derived from a noun), so it does change in the plural: 

 

Tu as acheté des chaussures rouges
You bought red shoes. 

 

Another common color adjective that never changes is marron. Un marron is a chestnut, but when used as an adjective, it just means "brown": 

 

Regardez ces chiens. Ils sont marron?
Look at these dogs. Are they brown?
Cap. 52, Leçons avec Lionel: Couleurs

 

The other word for brown, brun, is variable. In this example, it modifies the feminine plural noun feuilles (leaves): 

 

De tas de feuilles à moitié mortes... un jour vertes, un jour brunes
Lots of half-dead leaves... one day green, one day brown
Cap. 9-11, Stromae: Bienvenue chez moi

 

There's another word for "chestnut" too! It's une châtaigne. The related adjective châtain is variable and is often used to describe hair color:

 

[Les cheveux] peuvent être châtains. "Châtain", c'est marron. 
[Hair] can be chestnut-colored. "Chestnut" is brown.
Cap. 12-13, Le saviez-vous? - Le vocabulaire de la tête

 

Some other invariable color adjectives are: abricot (apricot), ardoise (slate), argent (silver), azur (azure), brique (brick), bronze (bronze), café (coffee), caramel (caramel), champagne (champagne), chocolat (chocolate).

 

There's one more instance of invariability you should be aware of when dealing with color words. When you use more than one adjective to designate a single color (like "light blue," "dark green," etc.), neither of the adjectives changes according to the noun it modifies. For example:

 

Il a les yeux bleu clair et les cheveux brun foncé
He has light blue eyes and dark brown hair

 

But: 

 

Il a les yeux bleus et les cheveux bruns.
He has blue eyes and brown hair

 

As you may have noticed, like many other adjectives, color adjectives always follow the noun in French. See our previous lesson for more information on that. And for a good introduction to colors in French, check out Lionel's video on the subject.

 

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned and tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com.

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Coin coin!

In a recent video, Lionel samples some beer at a local market in the town of Toul. In classic Lionel fashion, he delivers a witty pun: 

 

Quand on boit de la bière Coin Coin il faut vivre dans une pièce sans coins.
When you drink "Coin Coin" [Quack Quack] beer, you need to live in a room without corners.
Cap. 36-37, Lionel: Les bières artisanales Coin Coin

 

The name of the beer is derived from the onomatopoeic expression coin coin, or "quack quack," as in the sound a duck makes (check out this page for some more French animal sounds). When not repeated, the word coin has several meanings. As Lionel demonstrates, un coin usually means "a corner." He's talking specifically about the corner of a room, but un coin can also be a street corner: 

 

au coin de la rue Fabre et de la rue Laurier
at the corner of Rue Fabre [Fabre Street] and Rue Laurier [Laurier Street]
Cap. 39, Canadian Chocolate Seller: Chocolats

 

The other word for "corner" in French is angle (which literally means "angle," as you may have guessed). So you could just as easily say l'angle de la pièce (the corner of the room) or l'angle de la rue (the street corner). 

 

Sometimes, un coin can refer not simply to a street corner, but to a broader area of a town or city:

 

De l'extérieur, on dit que c'est un coin... un quartier chaud.
Outsiders say that this is an area... a rough neighborhood.
Cap. 29, Actus de Quartier: Fête de quartier Python-Duvernois - Part 3

 

Or it can have a more general locational meaning, like "spot" or "place":

 

J'ai trouvé un coin sympa au bord de l'eau. 
I found a nice spot on the waterfront. 

 

There's also the adjectival phrase du coin, which refers to all things local: 

 

Pas de polémique: qu'ils soient du coin ou qu'ils viennent de loin...
No argument: whether they're from around here or from far away...
Cap. 14, Le Journal: Un automne bien chaud

 

Nous sommes allés au bistrot du coin
We went to the local bistro. 

 

Coin is a false cognate of the English word "coin." The word for "coin" is pièce, which also means "room," as in Lionel's example above. Try not to get them confused! 

 

C'est la pièce de dix euros qui représente la région.
It's the ten-euro coin that represents the region.
Cap. 2, Normandie TV: La pièce de 10 euros bas-normande 

 

You can find many expressions featuring coin on this page. Keep them dans un coin de la tête (at the back of your mind) for whenever you speak French! 

 

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Getting Angry in French

We all know that when you're angry about something, it's better to talk about your emotions than to keep them pent up inside. If you ever need to vent in French, there are several constructions you can use to express your anger.

 

Two of these constructions employ the French word for anger, la colère (related to the English word "choleric," meaning "bad-tempered" or "irritable"). As in English, there's a distinction in French between being angry (être en colère) and getting angry (se mettre en colère, literally, "to put oneself in anger"):

 

J'étais très en colère contre Harold.
I was very angry at Harold.
Cap. 28, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Notre appartement est hanté - Part 6

 

...elle devenait nerveuse, elle se mettait en colère.
...she became nervous, she got angry.
Caption 3, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Mon père n'est pas mort - Part 2

 

Note the preposition contre in the example above. Whereas in English you can be angry "at" or "with" someone, in French you're angry "against" someone. 

 

If you're really angry about something, you can use the construction fou/folle de (which we discussed in a previous lesson): 

 

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

 

Besides expressions with colère, the other main way of describing anger in French is with the adjective fâché(e) (angry) or the reflexive verb se fâcher (to get angry):

 

Tu es fâché contre Léon?
Are you angry with Leon?
Cap. 2, Les zooriginaux: Léa jacta est - Part 3

 

Ça va, vieux, te fâche pas!
It's OK, old pal, don't get upset!
Cap. 22, Il était une fois... L’Espace: 3. La planète verte - Part 3

 

Don't confuse the adjective fâché(e) with the adjective fâcheux/fâcheuse, which has a slightly more subdued meaning. It can mean anything along the lines of "annoying," "unfortunate," "regrettable," or "aggravating":

 

C'est fâcheux qu'il ne puisse pas venir. 
It's unfortunate that he can't come. 

 

We hope there was nothing in this lesson that made you angry! Stay tuned for our next lesson and tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com.

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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. 
 

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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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