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.
I couldn't believe my eyes.Play Caption
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!Play Caption
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
Caption 30, Indila - Love StoryPlay Caption
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?
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.Play Caption
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.
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;
So, I'm in my second year now;
je suis en train de... achever ma formation.
I'm in the process of... completing my training.
Caption 25, 4 Mains pour 1 Piano - Médaillon de HomardPlay Caption
Là je suis en train de régler les meules pour que
Here I am in the middle of setting the millstones so that
le grain soit correctement écrasé.
the grain is crushed correctly.Play Caption
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.
Caption 7, Canadian Chocolate Seller - ChocolatsPlay Caption
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,'
Caption 9, Melissa Mars - From Paris with LovePlay Caption
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.Play Caption
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.
Caption 25, Voyage dans Paris - Cour de l'IndustriePlay Caption
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!)
The subject of Lionel's latest video is Article 49-3 of the French Constitution, which gives the prime minister the power to push through legislation without a parliamentary vote. The government most recently invoked Article 49-3 to push through a 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,
In the end, the government decided to force its passage,
et s'est passé du vote de l'Assemblée Nationale et du Sénat.
and bypassed the vote of the National Assembly and the Senate.
Captions 8-9, Lionel L - Le 49-3Play Caption
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.
Caption 23, Lionel L - Le 49-3Play Caption
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...Play Caption
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!
In this lesson, we'll introduce three different ways of saying "to look like" in French.
The first expression is ressembler à, which looks a lot like the English word "resemble" (but note the extra s) and is used in much the same way:
Chacun de tes gestes ressemble aux miens
Each of your gestures looks like mine
Caption 2, Ina-Ich - Âme arméePlay Caption
Ressembler is always followed by à, except when à is replaced by an indirect object pronoun:
Elle me ressemble.
She looks like me.Play Caption
The second expression, avoir l'air de, is more informal and figurative than ressembler à. Its literal translation is "to have the air/appearance of," but it generally means "to look like" or "to seem":
Tu n'as pas l'air de trouver ça suffisant, Psi.
You don't seem to think that's sufficient, Psi.Play Caption
Ce chien a l'air d'un loup.
That dog looks like a wolf.
When the expression is in front of an adjective, the de is dropped:
Ça a l'air délicieux, mais j'ai des crampes à l'estomac, je peux rien avaler.
It looks delicious, but I have stomach cramps, I can't swallow anything.
Avoir l'air (de) can often be replaced with the verb sembler (to seem):
Tu ne sembles pas trouver ça suffisant, Psi.
You don't seem to think that's sufficient, Psi.
Ça semble délicieux, mais j'ai des crampes à l'estomac, je peux rien avaler.
It looks delicious, but I have stomach cramps, I can't swallow anything.
Finally, there's on dirait, which literally means "one would say," but is often used idiomatically to mean "it looks like":
À première vue, on dirait une pharmacie, mais non...
At first glance, it looks like a pharmacy, but no...
Caption 1, Le Journal - ChocolatsPlay Caption
On dirait qu'il va neiger.
It looks like it's going to snow.
The main difference between these expressions is that ressembler à is only used to compare similar things, whereas avoir l'air de/sembler and on dirait can also be used to convey an impression of something.
We hope this lesson lived up to its title! Feel free to tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to email@example.com.
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,
We wish you, well, a great deal of success,
si tu vas en Australie ou ailleurs.
whether you go to Australia, or elsewhere.
Captions 106-107, 4 Mains pour 1 Piano - Médaillon de HomardPlay Caption
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.
Caption 15, Le Journal - L'île de PâquesPlay Caption
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.
Caption 33, Le Journal - La grippe aviairePlay Caption
The second phrase, d’ailleurs, has a wide range of meanings:
C'est un très bon vin et
It's a very good wine and
d'ailleurs je vous conseille de le boire.
I recommend that you drink it, for that matter.
Caption 4, Actu Vingtième - Vendanges parisiennesPlay Caption
C'est d'ailleurs lui qui préface le livre.
He's the one who prefaces the book, by the way.
Caption 10, Alsace 20 - 100 recettes pour 100 vinsPlay Caption
Un très beau lieu d'ailleurs.
A very beautiful place, incidentally.
Caption 66, LCM - Concert: La Folia à l'abbaye Saint-VictorPlay Caption
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.
You can tell from his soulful singing that Corneille is a sweet and sensitive man—but there is one thing we just can’t take for granted: knowing how to express that we are taking something for granted! First, take a look at what Corneille croons:
Et si je prends pour acquis mes chances /
And if I take my luck for granted /
Fais-moi peur que plus jamais j'y pense
Scare me so that I don't think of it ever again
Captions 26-27, Corneille - Comme un filsPlay Caption
Corneille says that he doesn’t want to take his chances (his luck) for granted. The infinitive of this verb phrase is prendre pour acquis. As you may have guessed, it literally translates as “to take for acquired,” but what it really means is “to take for granted.” This phrase is popular in French Canada, where Corneille eventually settled after having to leave Rwanda.
Now, if you are a real stickler for grammar, you are probably thinking that, because chances is feminine in gender and plural in number, Corneille should have made the adjective agree, using acquises instead of the masculine and singular acquis. However, in actual practice, French Canadians often don't make the acquis in prendre pour acquis agree with the noun to which it refers, though some make the argument that they should.
Tenir pour acquis is the more traditional way to express the same sentiment, and is considered more "correct" (if not more popular). In France, both prendre pour acquis and tenir pour acquis are understood, but sound a bit formal and old-fashioned. The French prefer the phrase considérer comme acquis for use in common, everyday speech.
Ne considère pas mon amour comme acquis, ou tu risquerais de me voir partir
Don't take my love for granted, or one day you may find me gone.
So far we have been talking about “to take for granted” in the sense of under-appreciating your blessings. That’s all well and good, but what if you want to talk about “taking something for granted” in its alternate sense, that of “taking something as a given,” or “taking something as self-evident”? Similar to English, prendre pour acquis serves double duty, and can be used to express this meaning of “to take for granted” as well. Once again, this usage is more commonly heard in Canada, while a contemporary French person is more likely to just say that he or she is “sure” of the thing.
J’ai pris pour acquis que le facteur viendrait tous les jours, mais je me suis trompé. [Canada]
J’étais sûr que le facteur viendrait tous les jours, mais je me suis trompé. [France]
I took for granted that the mailman would come daily, but I was wrong.
Nous prenons pour acquis que le prix de l’essence va augmenter. [Canada]
Nous sommes sûrs que le prix de l’essence va augmenter. [France]
We take for granted that the price of gas will go up.
Allant de soi (literally, “going from itself”) means being “obvious” or “a given.” When we place considérer comme before it, we get considérer comme allant de soi, which literally means “to consider as obvious” or “to consider as a given." This can often be best translated as “to take as self-evident” and is frequently used in scholarly writing.
La plupart des gens acceptent comme allant de soi que chaque ville-région n’ait qu’un seul gouvernement municipal.
Most people seem to regard it as self-evident that every city-region needs a single municipal government.
[from “Globalization Does Not Need Amalgamation” in Policy Options (Nov. 1999), a bilingual Canadian journal of public policy]
A related phrase that means “it's a given” is ça va de soi (literally, "it goes from itself"). This phrase, which is widely used in both France and Canada, is usually translated using the common English phrase “it goes without saying.” There is a more “proper” and formal version, cela va de soi, which is more often used in writing and less in casual conversation.
Sommes-nous heureux avec les résultats de l’élection? Ça va de soi! [Casual]
Sommes-nous heureux avec les résultats de l’élection? Cela va de soi! [Formal]
Are we happy with the election results? It goes without saying!
It is not at all unusual to hear a sentence begin with Ça va de soi que… as we see in the example below, but once again, we find there is a more formal version. Il va de soi que… is considered more “proper” and is therefore the construction you are more likely to see in written texts.
Ça va de soi que les Américains fondent beaucoup d’espoir sur leur nouveau président. [Less formal]
Il va de soi que les Américains fondent beaucoup d’espoir sur leur nouveau président. [More formal]
It goes without saying that Americans are hopeful about their new president.
There are many other ways and variations of expressing both meanings of “to take for granted” in French. If you’d like to learn a few more, read this interesting discussion.