French Lessons

Topics

Lessons for topic Vocabulary

A Not So Painful Lesson on Peine

Although this lesson is about peine (pain), it need not be painful. There are a variety of expressions using the word whose meaning does not involve “pain.” Let's explore both the painful aspects of the word peine and the idiomatic expressions derived from it. 

 

We'll start with the primary meaning of peine, the English cognate “pain.” In the song below, from the musical Pour la peine, set during the French Revolution, the word peine is part of the refrain depicting the turmoil of the times. Note that unlike "pain" in English, peine only refers to emotional pain or mental suffering in French: 

 

Au nom des larmes qui nous désarment, on doit pouvoir changer l'histoire pour la peine

In the name of the tears that disarm us, we must be able to change history for the pain

Caption 24, 1789: Les Amants de la Bastille Pour la peine

 Play Caption

 

In another part of the song, we come across a synonym of peine, douleur, which can refer to both emotional pain and physical pain. In this context, the word douleur means “sorrow”: 

 

On veut des rêves qui nous soulèvent, on veut des fleurs à nos douleurs

We want dreams that lift us up, we want flowers for our sorrows

Caption 7, 1789: Les Amants de la Bastille Pour la peine

 Play Caption

 

In any case, do use the word douleur, not peine, to describe physical pain, as in douleurs dentaires (dental pains):

 

Je connais ce que c'est ces douleurs dentaires.

I know what those dental pains are like.

Caption 21, Le saviez-vous? Conversation entre étrangers

 Play Caption

 

Going back to psychological pain, the word peine encompasses a range of feelings. For example, the expression faire de la peine (literally, to “make pain”) means to cause pain/sorrow or to elicit compassion and pity. In the video below, we know from the context that the speaker feels sorry for the person, in a compassionate way:

 

Elle me fait de la peine.

I feel sorry for her.

Caption 6, Le Jour où tout a basculé Notre appartement est hanté - Part 7

 Play Caption

 

However, there is a fine line between compassion and pity. In a less charitable context, one might say tu me fais de la peine (I pity you), showing utter contempt: 

 

T'es vraiment pitoyable mais tu fais vraiment de la peine.

You're really pathetic, but I really pity you.

Caption 6, Le Jour où tout a basculé Espion dans l'immeuble - Part 8

 Play Caption

 

Faire de la peine is a tricky construction that involves the use of indirect object pronouns (me, te, lui, nous, vous), which you can learn more about in this lesson. When you come across these, as in te fait de la peine in the video below, you may want to first consider the literal meaning (“is causing you pain”) to get at the true meaning ("is upsetting for you") dictated by the context:

 

Je... je sais que ce que je te demande te fait de la peine

I... I know that what I'm asking you is upsetting for you

Caption 31, Le Jour où tout a basculé Mon histoire d'amour est impossible - Part 6

 Play Caption

 

So, pay close attention to those personal pronouns! 

 

Je te fais de la peine. 

I hurt your feelings. 

 

Tu me fais de la peine.

You’re upsetting me.

 

You may need to turn the sentence around to understand the meaning, as we did earlier:

 

Elle me fait de la peine.

I feel sorry for her. (Literally, "she's causing me pain.")

 

Peine can also have the sense of “trouble/effort”:

 

C'est pas la peine.

It's not worth the trouble./It's not worth it.

Caption 77, Le Jour où tout a basculé Mon père s'oppose à ma passion - Part 4

 Play Caption

 

Likewise, peiner, the verbal form of peine, means “to struggle”:

 

Sabine peine à se débarrasser de Gabriela.

Sabine is struggling to get rid of Gabriela.

Caption 33, Le Jour où tout a basculé Ma mère fait tout pour briser mon couple - Part 3

 Play Caption

 

You can use either peine or peiner to express trouble or difficulty:

 

Il marche avec peine.

He walks with difficulty.

 

Il peine à marcher.

He struggles to walk./He has trouble walking.

 

Another variation here would be to use the expression à peine (barely/hardly):

 

Il peut à peine marcher.

He can barely walk.

 

On the other hand, it is of course possible to perform a task sans peine (without difficulty):

 

Mais lorsque Cendrillon entra sans peine avec son pied dans la chaussure...

But when Cinderella inserted her foot in the shoe without difficulty...

Caption 49, Contes de fées Cendrillon - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

But if you switch the preposition sans (without) to sous (under), the meaning will totally change!

 

J'ai fait pression sur Baptiste pour qu'il porte plainte contre Florence sous peine de couper les ponts

I put pressure on Baptiste so he would lodge a complaint against Florence under the threat of cutting off the bridges [all contact]

Captions 43-45, Le Jour où tout a basculé À l'audience - Volé par sa belle-mère ? - Part 8

 Play Caption

 

In a legal context, sous peine de means “under penalty of”:

 

Il est interdit donc sous peine d'amende

So it is forbidden, under penalty of a fine

Caption 34, Voyage en France Soissons - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

And then there's the ultimate punishment, la peine de mort (the death penalty). According to humorous singer Oldelaf, even the most minor offenses merit la peine de mort:

 

La peine de mort / Pour les mamies avec les cheveux tout violet

The death penalty / For grannies with completely purple hair

Captions 45-46, Oldelaf La peine de mort

 Play Caption

 


Thankfully, making mistakes while learning French is allowed at Yabla and will not incur any peine (pain or penalty). We hope this lesson en valait la peine (was worth it). Merci d’avoir pris la peine de lire tout ça! (Thank you for taking the trouble to read all this!)

Continue Reading

May the Force Be with You! (Que la force soit avec toi!)

The word force is self-explanatory. It means “force” or “strength." However, what makes the cognate force interesting is that it has other meanings besides “strength." Indeed, there are a variety of idiomatic expressions such as à force (over time), en force (in force), de force (by force), among others. 

 

Before we start focusing on the idiomatic expressions mentioned above, let’s look at force as a cognate. In the video below, Caroline notes that it takes a certain amount of force to play badminton:

 

Voilà. Y a beaucoup de... y a... de la force en fait.

There you are. There's a lot of... there's... force, in fact.

Caption 17, Caroline et le badminton

 Play Caption

 

“Force” being synonymous with “strength," it makes sense that la force also translates as “strength." For example, eating your vegetables, especially carrots, will give you plenty of force:

 

Cela donne beaucoup de force. Surtout les carottes, là.

It gives you a lot of strength. Especially the carrots here.

Caption 40, Actus Quartier Fête de quartier Python-Duvernois - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

Avoir de la force not only means “to have strength,” but also “to be strong”:

 

Il a beaucoup de force dans les bras.

He has very strong arms (literally, he has a lot of strength in the arms).

 

The word force loses its original meaning when combined with other nouns, as in un tour de force (an amazing feat, or, as we also say in English, a tour de force). In the video below, a fashion genius a réussi un tour de force (managed an amazing feat) by “turning a leather goods brand into a fashion brand to be reckoned with":

 

Le petit prodige du groupe LVMH, qui a réussi un tour de force

The little prodigy of the LVMH group, who managed an amazing feat

Caption 17, Le Journal Défilé de mode - Part 4

 Play Caption

 

While the gifted can réussir un tour de force, others, like the singer IAM, make un retour en force (a comeback, literally "a return in force"). Notice the switch to the preposition en here: 

 

Avec ce disque, IAM fait un retour en force.

With this album, IAM makes ​​a comeback.

Caption 9, LCM IAM fait son retour en force!

 Play Caption

 

By itself, en force means “in force” or “in large numbers”:

 

Seuls nos guerriers, et en force, peuvent y aller.

Only our warriors, and in numbers, can go there.

Caption 26, Il était une fois: les Explorateurs 15. Bruce et les sources du Nil - Part 6

 Play Caption

 

En force (in force/in large numbers) should not be confused with de force (by force). Again, pay attention to prepositions:

 

Alors ils m'ont embarqué au poste, de force.

So they took me to the police station, by force.

Caption 72, Le Jour où tout a basculé J'ai piégé mon fan - Part 6

 Play Caption

 

You can also combine force with other prepositions. The construction à force de + verb means "by doing/by dint of," implying some repetitive action. In other words, by continuing to be/do something, consequences will follow—some good, some bad, and some hilarious. In the video below, à force de maltraiter (by mistreating) the door a few too many times, Barbara and Isabelle caused their apartment number six to turn into a number nine, leading to all sorts of trouble:

 

Effectivement, à force de maltraiter cette pauvre porte d'entrée, la vis qui tenait le numéro a fini par tomber.

Indeed, by mistreating that poor entrance door, the screw that was holding up the number ended up falling off.

Captions 74-75, Mère & Fille C'est le bouquet

 Play Caption

 

On the other hand, you can expect a better outcome à force d’être sage (by being good). In his song "Petit Pays," rapper Gaël Faye describes the consequences of being trop sage:

 

À force d'être trop sage je me suis pendu avec mon auréole

By being too good I hanged myself with my halo

Caption 57, Gaël Faye Petit Pays

 Play Caption

 

The phrase c’est à force de can mean “it’s due to/it’s from" doing something. Magali tells Sébastien that his stomach pains are a result of his constantly pressuring her to leave her husband:

 

Mais ça, c'est à force de me presser.

But that's from pressuring me.

Caption 26, Le Jour où tout a basculé J'ai fait souffrir l'amant de ma femme - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

The expression à force can also stand on its own to mean “over time":

 

À force, Cynthia s'est mise à gruger mécaniquement sur les devis.

Over time, Cynthia started fudging the estimates automatically.

Caption 49, Le Jour où tout a basculé Mon patron m'oblige à mentir aux clients - Part 4

 Play Caption

 

Or “after a while”:

 

Non, du tout. C'est un petit peu fatigant à force, mais ils sont géniaux, donc, euh... -Ah bon.

No, not at all. It's a bit tiring after a while, but they're great, so, uh... -Ah, good.

Caption 76, Actus Quartier Fête de quartier Python-Duvernois - Part 5

 Play Caption

 

Finally, force is also a present-tense form of the verb forcer (to force/to force oneself):

 

Je me force un peu des fois

I force myself a bit sometimes

Caption 46, Giulia Sa marque de bijoux 'Desidero'

 Play Caption

 

There are more ways to use force as well. You can find some of them here.

 

And don't forget: à force de regarder (by watching) many Yabla videos, you will be able to improve your skills in French à force (over time). Thank you for reading this lesson!

 

Continue Reading

Painting the Sky

Who has not gazed at le ciel (the sky) to check the weather or enjoy a sunset or a sunrise? Indeed, the sky can take on many colors, from somber gray to magnificent sunset-red. There are many ways, colors, and expressions to describe the wild blue yonder. Poets, songwriters, weather forecasters, and ordinary people are all adept at describing le ciel. So, let's join them and explore some sky-related vocabulary. But first, let us find out where le ciel (the sky) is…

 

In this video, sweet cartoon character Piggeldy wants to know where le ciel (the sky) begins, and he asks his older brother Frédéric to take him there:

 

Piggeldy voulait savoir où commence le ciel.

Piggeldy wanted to know where the sky begins.

Caption 1, Piggeldy et Frédéric Le ciel

 Play Caption

 

Piggeldy’s mission to reach the heavens (on foot, no less) is bound to fail because, as the saying goes, la limite, c'est le ciel (the sky is the limit):

 

La limite, c'est le ciel, tu sais de qui c'est

The sky is the limit, you know whose it is

Caption 53, Disiz la Peste Dans tes rêves

 Play Caption

 

Though it's impossible to walk up to le ciel, it is certainly possible to gaze at it and enjoy its bright blue hue. In his humorous song, "Cha Cha du Marin," singer Cré Tonnerre sings about a ciel bleu (blue sky) that reflects his happy mood:

 

Tout heureux, tout amoureux, tout bleu comme le ciel bleu

All happy, all in love, all blue as the blue sky

Caption 26, Cré Tonnerre Cha Cha du Marin

 Play Caption

 

In his video about dog training, trusty guide Lionel also enthuses over a ciel radieux (glorious sky) as he finishes his visit to a canine club:

 

Nous allons prendre congé sous ce ciel radieux, bleu-azur.

We're going to take our leave under this glorious, azure-blue sky.

Captions 52-53, Lionel au club canin - Part 5

 Play Caption

 

And in Metz, Lionel enjoys another ciel estival (summer sky):

 

Nous sommes donc ici toujours à Metz, sous un ciel estival, ciel bleu

So we're still here in Metz under a summer sky, a blue sky

Caption 1, Lionel à Metz - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

While un ciel estival is a blue summer sky, un ciel gris (a gray sky) usually means drab winter days. And yet, people like Sophie and Patrice see beauty in les dégradés du gris (the shades of gray) in the Parisian skies:

 

Entre les dégradés de gris du ciel et les dégradés de gris des toits c'est vrai c'est super beau, hein?

Between the shades of gray in the sky and the shades of gray of the roofs, it's true it's super beautiful, huh?

Captions 9-11, Sophie et Patrice Paris, c'est gris

 Play Caption

 

Still, most people seem to prefer un ciel dégagé (a clear sky) over un ciel couvert (an overcast sky) or un ciel nuageux (a cloudy sky):

 

Cette nuit le ciel est dégagé avec huit degrés pour les températures... Et puis pour la journée de jeudi un ciel couvert avec quinze degrés le matin

Tonight the sky is clear with eight-degree temperatures... And then for daytime on Thursday an overcast sky with fifteen degrees in the morning

Caption 9, 14, Grand Lille TV Prévisions Météo (Juin)

 Play Caption

 

Un ciel dégagé est plus agréable qu’un ciel nuageux.

A clear sky is more pleasant than a cloudy sky.

 

In any case, not everyone is as fond of gray skies as Sophie and Patrice. Most would agree with the speaker in the video below, who describes gray skies as maussade (gloomy) and pluvieux (rainy):

 

Malheureusement avec un ciel maussade et un peu pluvieux...

Unfortunately under a gloomy and somewhat rainy sky...

Caption 15, Lionel Le club de foot de Nancy - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

Sometimes the sky is bleak and pale instead of gray, and when it comes to describing pale skies, who does it better than renowned poet Charles Baudelaire? In his poem "À une passante" (To a Passersby), Baudelaire depicts a bleak sky with the adjective livide, which means “pale” or even “deathly pale." (Unlike its English cognate, the French livide does not mean “livid/angry.")

 

Dans son œil, ciel livide où germe l'ouragan

From her eye, pale sky where a hurricane grows

Caption 41, Le saviez-vous? "À une passante" de Charles Baudelaire

 Play Caption

 

Still on a bleak note, singer Zaz portrays the sky in an even gloomier way:

 

Je mettrais du ciel en misère

I would put some sky in misery

Caption 9, Zaz Si

 Play Caption

 

In yet another sad song, singer Lesieur laments over un ciel sans avenir (a sky without a future), projecting even sadder feelings, a sense of hopelessness into a sky that refuses to rain:

 

Un ciel qui vous oublie... -Un ciel sans avenir

A sky that's forgetting you... -A sky with no future

Caption 26, Lesieur Des Ricochets

 Play Caption

 

Thankfully, le ciel does not always spell gloom. What could be a happier sight than un arc-en-ciel (a rainbow, literally an “arc-in-the-sky”)? In his humorous song, Oldelaf sings the praises of the colors of the rainbow in his own unique way:

 

Et j'avoue que j'aime aussi / Toutes les couleurs de l'arc-en-ciel / Le rouge, le jaune, le vert-de-gris / Le pourpre, le mauve, même le bleu ciel

And I'll admit that I also like / All the colors of the rainbow / Red, yellow, verdigris / Purple, mauve, even sky blue

Captions 30-33, Oldelaf J'aime les bêtes

 Play Caption

 

If un arc-en-ciel is close to a heavenly sight, le ciel is most certainly heavenly. It's synonymous with “heaven” when talking about the afterlife:

 

...et que le roi est leur meilleur guide sur terre en attendant d'aller au ciel.

...and that the king is their best guide on earth while they wait to go to heaven.

Captions 45-46, d'Art d'Art Vitraux de la Sainte-Chapelle

 Play Caption

 

Whatever you may see or choose to see in le ciel, you are now armed with extra vocabulary that will enable you to better paint the sky in words—French words, of course—or just talk about the weather. Thank you for gazing at le ciel (the sky) or les cieux (the skies) with Yabla!

Continue Reading

Onomatopoeia and Interjections

Imitating the sound of an object or an animal is not easy to convey in writing, but it can be done! In fact, there is a special word derived from Greek for just that purpose, onomatopée (onomatopoeia), which is a close cousin to an interjection. (The distinction is open for debate as grammarians have conflicting views.)

 

Every language has its own version of onomatopoeia. For example, the sound of a rooster crowing will be rendered differently in various languages: 

 

• In French: cocorico

• In English: cock-a-doodle-doo

• In German: kikeriki

• In Italian: chicchirichì

 

Animal sounds are a great source of onomatopée:

 

Le coq fait cocorico tous les matins.

The rooster goes cock-a-doodle-doo every morning.

 

However, you might be surprised to know that in French, some onomatopoeias can double as interjections, a type of exclamation where the emphasis is not on the sound so much as the sentiment behind it. Indeed, in the video below, cocorico is more of an interjection, a cry for victory, and an expression of national pride, as the Gallic rooster is the symbol of France: 

 

Cocorico, bleu, blanc, rouge, pour nous les Nubians, pour la France

Cock-a-doodle-doo, blue, white, red, for us the Nubians, for France

Caption 33, Les Nubians Présentation

 Play Caption

 

Here is a more clear-cut example of onomatopoeia from the animal kingdom. A “French-speaking” dog goes ouaf! while its “English-speaking” counterpart goes "woof!" In the video below, "Ouaf!" is the name of a production involving dancing—and perhaps barking—dogs:

 

Des chiens dansants dans "Ouaf!"

Dancing dogs in "Woof!"

Caption 49, Extr@ Ep. 3 - Sam a un rendez-vous - Part 7

 Play Caption

 

Onomatopoeic words are not limited to representing animal noises. They can also mimic sounds of nature, such as plouf (splash), describing something falling into the water. Plouf is used as a noun in this video:

 

On fait un petit plouf et on se retrouve demain même heure

We're making a little splash and we're meeting again same time tomorrow

Caption 57, Le Mans TV Mon Village - Malicorne - Part 3

 Play Caption

 

Onomatopeoic words can also convey manmade sounds, such as loud explosions:

 

Et ça fait quoi le nucléaire pour les gens? -Ça fait boum!

And what does nuclear energy do to people? -It goes boom!

Caption 49, Manif du Mois Fukushima plus jamais ça

 Play Caption

 

The sound of gunfire, pan (bang), certainly qualifies as onomatopoeia:

 

Le fusil fait pan, pan, pan.

The gun goes bang, bang, bang.

 

However, in the example below, the focus is not so much on sound but instantaneity, making pan an interjection. The subject of this video is famous French photographer Cartier-Bresson, who knew when to click the shutter at just the right time:

 

Il y a une méditation. Dans la photo, il n'y en a pas. Pan!

It involves meditation. With photography, there is none. Snap!

Caption 21, Le Journal Le photographe Cartier-Bresson

 Play Caption

 

Like pan, the word paf will translate differently depending on whether we are talking about an onomatopoeia or an interjection. In the first instance, paf conveys the sound of something heavy hitting a hard surface:

 

Paf! Le livre est tombé par terre.

Thwack! The book fell on the floor.

 

In the second, paf is an interjection that conveys swift action. In this video, Sophie talks about quickly snipping cuttings in a public garden… without permission:

 

Paf! Tu coupes.

Bam! You cut.

Caption 44, Sophie et Patrice La maison verte

 Play Caption

 

Still with scissors in hand, Sophie uses tac instead of paf to imitate the snipping sound:

 

Tac! Je coupe et...

Snip! I cut and...

Caption 47, Sophie et Patrice La maison verte

 Play Caption

 

In another video, Sophie again uses tac to convey the sound of her homemade lamp turning on: Tac! (Click!)

 

Regarde, est-ce que ça marche? Tac!

Look, is it working? Click!

Caption 43, Sophie et Patrice Les lampes de Sophie - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

In yet another situation, Sophie says tac tac tac (tap tap tap) while making madeleines to imitate the sound of breaking eggs:

 

Tu prends tes trois œufs, tac tac tac.

You take your three eggs, tap tap tap.

Caption 40, Sophie et Patrice Les madeleines

 Play Caption

 

Fortunately, Sophie kept her fingers intact during all her ventures. If she hadn't, she might have used the interjections ouille! (ouch!) or aïe! (ow!)

 

Ouille là, c'est chaud, là!

Ouch, that's hot, there!

Caption 2, Il était une fois: Les Amériques 1. Les premiers Américains - Part 5

 Play Caption

 

 

Aïe! Mais pourquoi tu as fait ça?

Ow! Why did you do that?

Caption 11, Extr@ Ep. 10 - Annie proteste - Part 8

 Play Caption

 

Had she cut herself, she might have had to call on emergency services, with their distinctive sirens:

 

Pin-pon! Pin-pon!

Woo-woo! Woo-woo!  [sound made by a two-tone siren]

Caption 2, Les zooriginaux Repos corsé - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

As this lesson draws to a close, it’s time to breathe a sigh of relief—ouf! (phew!)—like the princess in the video below:

 

La princesse était très soulagée. -Ouf! Celle-là, je ne la reverrai pas de si tôt.

The princess was very relieved. -Phew! I won't be seeing that one again any time soon.

Captions 11-12, Contes de fées Le roi grenouille - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

For more examples of onomatopoeia, you may want to explore Yabla's animated series or simply browse through our video library. Ouf! La leçon est terminée! 

Continue Reading

Waste Not, Want Not

Let’s talk garbage! While it’s not something on everyone’s mind around the dinner table, it bears thinking about. France’s environmental concerns are real, and responsible citizens are looking for ways to safely and responsibly dispose of their garbage and unwanted goods. So, let’s embark on this dirty subject and look at some interesting vocabulary surrounding garbage and its disposal.

banner PLACEHOLDER

Let’s start with les ordures (garbage/trash/rubbish) and les détritus (scraps). In the video below, the speaker explains that seagulls are avid consumers of both:

 

Bah, c'est des oiseaux basiques qui volent au-dessus de l'eau et qui souvent uivent ne serait-ce que les détritus et les ordures.

Anyway, they're just regular birds that fly above the water and that often go after anything, even if it's just scraps and garbage.

Captions 24-25, Jean-Marc La plage - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

Détritus can sometimes mean “litter,” as there is no specific term for that type of waste:

 

On peut voir sur cette plage qui est très propre, elle est équipée comme il faut pour tout ce qui est détritus.

We can see on this beach, which is very clean, it's set up the way it should be for everything concerning litter.

Captions 26-27, Jean-Marc La plage - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

Though it mainly refers to garbage, ordure can also be used as an insult:

 

T'es vraiment la dernière des ordures.

You're really the worst scumbag ever.

Caption 59, Le Jour où tout a basculé À l'audience - Arnaque en couple ? - Part 3

 Play Caption

 

The best way to deal with détritus and (non-human) ordures is to dispose of it in poubelles (garbage cans):

 

On a des belles poubelles qui sont vertes, une très bonne initiative d'ailleurs.

We have some nice green garbage cans, a very good initiative by the way.

Caption 28, Jean-Marc La plage - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

The contents of the poubelles will end up in a déchetterie/déchèterie (waste collection center):

 

On dispose des objets dans une déchetterie.

Items are disposed of in a waste collection center.

 

Responsible citizens showing genuine concern for the planet may wonder what to do with their organic waste, such as old Christmas trees, which les ordures ménagères (household waste collection) won’t accept:

 

Nombreux sont ceux qui ne savent jamais quoi faire de leur sapin après Noël puisque les ordures ménagères n'en veulent pas toujours.

There are many who never know what to do with their fir trees after Christmas since household waste collections don't always want them.

Captions 14-15, TV Tours Une seconde vie pour vos sapins de Noël?

 Play Caption

 

Unfortunately, many Christmas trees end up being dumped illegally in des décharges sauvages (illegal dumps):

 

Un petit peu partout, euh... des décharges un petit peu sauvages.

A little bit all over, uh... dumping that is somewhat uncontrolled.

Caption 18, TV Tours Une seconde vie pour vos sapins de Noël?

 Play Caption

 

In Brittany, some people turn their déchets (waste) into “gold” by starting une filière de compostage (a composting stream):

 

Certaines tentent même de valoriser ces déchets dans une filière de compostage.

Some are even trying to capitalize on this waste in a composting stream.

Caption 33, Le Journal Marée verte en Bretagne

 Play Caption

 

In addition, French people are becoming more and more creative at finding ingenious solutions to reduce mounting waste by setting up des ressourceries (upcycling centers):

 

Aujourd'hui, c'est l'inauguration de la ressourcerie du vingtième arrondissement

Today is the inauguration of the upcycling center of the twentieth arrondissement

Captions 2-3, Actu Vingtième Le bleu dans les yeux, recyclerie de Belleville

 Play Caption

 

Others try to extend the life of their devices by repairing them:

 

On est censé faire réparer des objets qui ont quelques problèmes.

We're supposed to bring items that have some problems for repair.

Caption 2, Actus Quartier Repair Café

 Play Caption

 

Repairing objects instead of les jeter (throwing them away) prevents faire du gâchis (creating waste):

 

C'est important d'essayer de conserver les objets le plus longtemps possible au lieu de faire du gâchis.

It's important to try to keep objects for as long as possible instead of creating waste.

Captions 6-7, Actus Quartier Repair Café

 Play Caption

 

C'est d'inciter les gens à dépanner eux-mêmes, à chercher avant de jeter.

It's to incite people to fix things themselves, to try before throwing away.

Captions 47-48, Actus Quartier Repair Café

 Play Caption

 

 

Not only is it best to avoid throwing away manufactured goods, it’s also important to avoid gaspillage (squandering/wasting) natural resources such as water:

 

On va construire et opérer des usines de nourriture partout à travers le monde, et cela sans utiliser aucun produit de pesticide et aucun gaspillage d'eau.

We're going to build and operate food factories all over the world, and this without using any pesticide product or any wasting of water.

Captions 20-21, Agriculture verticale TerraSphere

 Play Caption

 

And what should we do with les eaux usées (waste water)? Clean it of course!

 

Mais on peut lui demander des tas d'autres choses, comme nettoyer les eaux usées, manger les déchets.

But we can request loads of other things from it, such as cleaning waste water, eating waste.

Captions 20-22, Il était une fois: Notre Terre 25. Technologies - Part 7

 Play Caption

 

So il n’y a pas de temps à perdre (there is no time to waste)! Now that you have expanded your vocabulary surrounding waste—déchets, gaspillage, ordures, eaux usées, gâchis—and are more aware of solutions such as déchetteries, ressourceries, and compostage, you will be better equipped to follow our Yabla videos on the subject, and maybe…help save the planet. 

Continue Reading

Much Ado About Faire: When Faire Won't "Do"

The ubiquitous verb faire is a very versatile word. Not only can you use faire to talk about what you “do” or “make," but you can also use it in a myriad of situations, including when talking about the weather, feelings, and past events. Let’s explore some of the most common idiomatic expressions involving faire beyond doing and making.

banner PLACEHOLDER

Before we start focusing on faire as a verb, note that its past participle, fait (done/made), also works as a noun: le fait (the fact, the event).

 

Et le fait historique que l'on retient principalement ici à Bitche, c'est le siège de dix-huit cent soixante-dix

And the historical event that we mainly remember here in Bitche is the eighteen seventy siege

Captions 33-35, Lionel à la Citadelle de Bitche - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

You can read more about le fait in our lesson Getting the Facts Straight. But let's get back to faire as a verb. Early on in your French learning, you may have come across the construction il fait + noun/adjective to describe the weather. In this context, faire is equivalent to “to be." In the following video, Sophie and Edmée are enjoying a nice day out. Sophie says:

 

Il fait super beau aujourd'hui.

It's super nice out today.

Caption 1, Sophie et Edmée Le beau temps

 Play Caption

 

Here is another instance where faire translates as “to be”: the expression faire partie de (to be part of).

 

Et il faut savoir que jusqu'en mille huit cent soixante, la Villette ne faisait pas partie de la ville de Paris.

And you should know that until eighteen sixty, La Villette wasn't part of the city of Paris.

Captions 23-24, Adrien Quai de la Seine

 Play Caption

 

Faire is also used to convey how much time has passed in the construction ça fait + expression of time:

 

Et ça fait longtemps que tu veux devenir professeur?

And have you been wanting to become a teacher for a long time?

Caption 92, Claire et Philippe Le boulot d'enseignant

 Play Caption

 

This construction is equivalent to il y a + expression of time (it's been, ago). In Sophie et Edmée - Le beau temps, Sophie might have said:

 

Ça fait plus d’une semaine qu’il fait super beau. 

It's been super nice out for over a week.

 

Good weather is a perfect opportunity to faire un tour en vélo (go for a bike ride), as Amal suggests:

 

On va faire un petit tour

We're going to go for a little ride

Caption 28, Amal Vélib

 Play Caption

 

Note that you can use faire to talk about all kinds of sporting activities

 

Sophie and Edmée agree that on a sunny day, ça fait du bien (it feels good) to get out and about. Indeed, you can use the construction faire + noun/adverb to express how something feels, either in a positive or negative way:

 

Ouais, ça fait du bien un peu de pouvoir sortir et se promener.

Yeah, it kind of feels good to be able to go out and take a walk.

Captions 3-4, Sophie et Edmée Le beau temps

 Play Caption

 

Conversely, something might faire du mal rather than faire du bien:

 

Mais la petite sirène était incapable de faire du mal à quiconque.

But the little mermaid was incapable of hurting anyone.

Caption 41, Contes de fées La petite sirène - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

You can also say faire de la peine instead of faire du mal:

 

Ça me fait de la peine.

It pains me.

Caption 17, Sophie et Patrice Après Noël

 Play Caption

 

Speaking of feelings, you can reassure someone with the expression, Ne t’en fais pas! (Don’t worry!) That's what Nico tells Sam, who is worried about getting a job:

 

Ben, ne t'en fais pas. Je vais t'apprendre.

Well, don't worry about it. I'm going to teach you.

Caption 43, Extr@ Ep. 4 - Sam trouve du travail - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

In any case, Sam would be wise to act responsibly and avoid faire l’enfant (acting like a child) if he wants a job. As Margaux and Manon explain in their video on this subject, you can use faire to describe many different types of behavior and activities:

 

Attention, petite subtilité! Faire un enfant, c'est avoir un bébé. Mais faire l'enfant, c'est se comporter comme un enfant.

Careful, a slight subtlety! "Faire un enfant" is to have a baby. But "faire l'enfant" is to behave like a child.

Captions 17-18, Margaux et Manon Emplois du verbe faire

 Play Caption

 

In conclusion, ne vous en faites pas (don’t worry) if you’re not familiar with all the many uses of faire yet. Help is at hand! Allez faire un tour de nos vidéos sur Yabla (take a tour of our Yabla videos) and explore many more ways of using faire.

Continue Reading

The Measure of a Chef

The measure of a chef lies in the precise and careful measuring of ingredients to achieve consistent quality in every cooking endeavor. Rest assured: every cook can obtain good results, too, with the help of a few simple weighing and measuring devices readily available around the kitchen. Let’s find out what this equipment is called in French and how the system works.

banner PLACEHOLDER

As you may have noticed in Yabla's cooking videos, all the recipes use the French metric system as opposed to the imperial system. So, everything is given to you in grammes, kilogrammes (grams, kilograms) and mililitres, litres (milliliters, liters) instead of cups, pints, and ounces. In the video below, the chocolate log recipe calls for many ingredients, all of them measured in grammes (grams):

 

Ensuite, vous ajoutez cinquante grammes de beurre en morceaux

Then, you add fifty grams of butter cut in pieces

Captions 34-35, Il était une fois la pâtisserie Bûche de Noël

 Play Caption

 

That same recipe uses mililitres (mililiters) for liquids:

 

Vous ajoutez deux cent cinquante millilitres de crème chaude

You add two hundred fifty milliliters of hot cream

Caption 31, Il était une fois la pâtisserie Bûche de Noël

 Play Caption

 

If you are not familiar with the metric system, you can choose to convert measurements, which can be a complicated process, or you can simply use une balance (a kitchen scale) set to grammes. In the video below, the baker uses une balance électronique (an electronic scale):

 

Le boulanger a tout d'abord mesuré les ingrédients sur une balance électronique.

First of all, the baker measured the ingredients on an electronic scale.

Captions 5-6, Apprends les métiers Boulanger

 Play Caption

 

Alternatively, you can use a variety of devices such as un verre doseur (a measuring cup):

 

Tu rajoutes de la farine sans verre doseur, pas besoin

You add some flour without a measuring cup, no need

Captions 26-27, Sophie et Patrice Les crêpes

 Play Caption

 

Or, if precision is not crucial, you can resort to a drinking verre (glass), which is roughly equivalent to une tasse à mesurer (one measuring cup). (In France, drinking glasses generally come in smaller sizes than American ones.) In the video below, JB uses un verre d’eau (a glass of water) for his tarte aux mirabelles (mirabelle plum tart):

 

Et ensuite ajouter l'équivalent d'un verre d'eau

And then add the equivalent of a glass of water

Caption 17, JB La tarte aux mirabelles

 Play Caption

 

To measure smaller quantities, you can use une cuiller à mesurer (a measuring spoon). “A teaspoon” is une cuiller à café (“a coffee spoon") or une petite cuiller ("a small spoon"). Une cuiller à café holds cinq millilitres (five milliliters). In the video below, the cook adds a little flavor to his crêpes with une petite cuiller de rhum (a teaspoon of rum):

 

Comme on est entre adultes, une petite cuiller de rhum.

Since we're among adults, a teaspoon of rum.

Caption 77, LCM Recette: Crêpes

 Play Caption

 

The same recipe calls for deux cuillers à soupe (two tablespoons, literally "soup spoons") of melted butter:

 

Et deux cuillers à soupe de beurre demi-sel fondu.

And two tablespoons of melted, lightly salted butter.

Caption 49, LCM Recette: Crêpes

 Play Caption

 

Note that cuiller (spoon) has two spellings that are equally common: une cuiller or une cuillère. The pronunciation and gender remain the same.

 

You can also say une cuillerée (a spoonful) for indicating quantities, as in this natural remedy for sore throats:

 

Presser un citron bio. Ajouter deux cuillerées à café de miel pour les maux de gorge.

Squeeze an organic lemon. Add two teaspoons of honey for a sore throat.

 

Now that you know how to measure ingredients, you need to be able to turn on votre four (your oven) at the correct temperature. The oven can be set at various temperatures: doux, moyen, chaud (cool, medium, hot). In the video below, Sophie bakes her madeleines in un four chaud (a hot oven), approximately equivalent to 230-250 Celsius:

 

Et ensuite je mets à four chaud

And then I put it in a hot oven

Caption 63, Sophie et Patrice Les madeleines

 Play Caption

 

Indeed, France uses the metric system, which includes Celsius, while the US and a few other countries use Fahrenheit. To give you an idea, the most common baking temperature is 180 degrés Celsius, which is almost equivalent to 400 degrees Fahrenheit:

 

Et vous pouvez préchauffer votre four à cent quatre-vingts degrés.

And you can preheat your oven to one hundred eighty degrees [Celsius].

Caption 56, Il était une fois la pâtisserie Bûche de Noël

 Play Caption

 

In addition to oven temperatures set in Celsius, some gas ovens have un thermostat (a thermostat) ranging from 1 to 6. As indicated in the video below, thermostat cinq (thermostat five) is equivalent to 160 degrees Celsius:

 

On les placera au four à cent soixante degrés ou thermostat cinq, pendant quinze minutes.

We'll place them in the oven at one hundred sixty degrees [Celsius] or thermostat five, for fifteen minutes.

Captions 40-41, Aurélien et Automne Oreo fait maison - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

Now you that you can calculate quantities in French recipes, it’s time to measure your success in the kitchen and… in French!

 

Happy measuring!

Continue Reading

It's Baking Time!

In our previous lesson, we focused on vocabulary associated with the verb cuire (to cook). But cooking doesn’t happen in a vacuum. You will need a few essentials such as baking pans, bowls, and other kitchen utensils. Let’s find out what these things are called in French.

banner PLACEHOLDER

One of the must-have kitchen utensils is un saladier. Un saladier comes from the word salade (salad), so it’s “a salad bowl,” as its name would suggest. Having said that, un saladier can also accommodate any type of food or even liquids, acting as a mixing bowl. In the following video, Patrice and Sophie use un saladier (a mixing bowl) for their crêpe batter:

 

Tu rajoutes de la farine sans verre doseur, pas besoin, directement dans le saladier.

You add some flour without a measuring cup, no need, directly into the mixing bowl.

Captions 26-28, Sophie et Patrice Les crêpes

 Play Caption

 

Instead of un saladier, you can use un bol (a bowl) for mélanger (mixing) ingredients:

 

Mélange au bol oignons, mozzarella, on se gêne pas, champignons...

Mix in the bowl onions, mozzarella, don't be shy, mushrooms...

Caption 18, F&F Pizza Chez F&F - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

Traditionally, though, un bol is what most French people use to drink their café au lait (coffee with milk). In the video below, the restaurant owner shows us where the breakfast bols (bowls) and assiettes (plates) are available:

 

Nous avons des assiettes et des bols

We have plates and bowls

Caption 38, Nils L'auberge de jeunesse à Avignon

 Play Caption

 

In any case, you will need a utensil to stir the contents of your bol or saladier. You might use une cuillère/cuiller (a spoon) or un fouet (a whisk) to mix your ingredients. Automne isn’t sure which one she should use:

 

Tu mélanges, Automne. -Avec une cuiller ou un fouet? -Avec une cuiller.

You mix, Automne. -With a spoon or a whisk? -With a spoon.

Captions 24-25, Aurélien et Automne Oreo fait maison - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

Or to speed things along, you can use un batteur (a hand mixer):

 

Tu n'as pas un batteur fantastique à nous proposer? -Si.

Don't you have a fantastic mixer to suggest to us? -Yes I do.

Captions 31-32, Aurélien et Automne Oreo fait maison - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

Un batteur électrique is an "electric mixer," used for fouetter les blancs en neige (beating egg whites until stiff):

 

Vous fouettez les blancs en neige

You beat the egg whites until stiff

Caption 44, Il était une fois la pâtisserie Bûche de Noël

 Play Caption

 

To mix cake batter, you might prefer a more robust appliance like un robot ménager (yes, a robot!). Un robot (a food processor) is a more modern device that can perform many functions, from mixing cake batter to making soups and even baking bread:

 

Quel robot de cuisine choisir? Découvrez notre sélection des meilleurs robots de cuisine, accompagné d'un comparatif détaillé.

Which food processor should you choose? Discover our top selection of food processors, with a detailed comparison.

 

Once your mixture is ready to be taken out of your robot, you will need une spatule to scrape the batter off the bowl. In the video below the chef is removing the dough from the cookie cutter using une spatule (a spatula):

 

On le défait, avec une petite spatule. Et on vient le poser à côté, prêt à aller au four.

We take it out, with a little spatula. And we go and place it aside, ready to go into the oven.

Caption 52, Alsace 20 Grain de Sel: le Lycée hôtelier Alexandre Dumas

 Play Caption

 

Then it’s time to mettre au four (bake) your creation. For this, you will need un moule à gâteau (a baking pan). (In other contexts, un moule can mean “a mold” as well.)

 

Et une fois cette action réalisée, je vais placer la pâte sur un papier sulfurisé, la mettre dans un moule

And once this is done, I'm going to place the dough on a piece of parchment paper, place it in a baking pan

Captions 20-22, JB La tarte aux mirabelles

 Play Caption

 

When you bake cookies or even a chocolate log, you will use une plaque (a baking tray):

 

Vous versez la préparation sur une plaque recouverte de papier cuisson.

You pour the mixture onto a baking tray covered with baking paper.

Caption 57, Il était une fois la pâtisserie Bûche de Noël

 Play Caption

 

Once this is done, you can serve your dessert in un plat (a dish):

 

Je la mets dans un plat.

I put it in a dish.

Caption 19, JB La polenta

 Play Caption

 

Now that you are familiar with some ustensiles (utensils) and kitchen essentials, you're all set to explore Yabla’s delicious food and cooking videos. Bonne cuisine! (Happy cooking!)

Continue Reading

What's Cooking?

The mention of French cuisine conjures up images of mouthwatering food prepared with loving care. How do ordinary French people manage to produce delicious meals every day? One of the key ingredients to success is how you cook the food. In this lesson, you will learn various expressions associated with cuire (cooking). À vos fourneaux! (Let’s get cooking!)

banner PLACEHOLDER

As mentioned earlier, the generic verb for “cooking” is cuire. In the video below, JB explains how he prefers to cuire ses légumes ensemble (cook his vegetables together) for his ratatouille:

 

En effet selon certaines traditions il faut les cuire séparément ou tous ensemble. Moi, je préfère les cuire tous ensemble.

Indeed, according to certain traditions, you have to cook them separately or all together. As for me, I prefer to cook them all together

Captions 16-18, JB La ratatouille

 Play Caption

 

As for Lucette, who is making apricot jam, she uses the expression faire cuire, which means the same thing as cuire (to cook):

 

Dans le temps, on les faisait cuire dans la bassine en cuivre,

In past times, we used to cook them in a copper basin,

Caption 6, Lucette La confiture d'abricots

 Play Caption

 

Lucette puts her apricots in une cocotte de cuisson (a cooker), a kind of Dutch oven for slow cooking: 

 

Je vais les mettre dans la cocotte de cuisson.

I'm going to put them in the cooker.

Caption 30, Lucette La confiture d'abricots

 Play Caption

 

On its own, the verb mettre usually means “to put," but mettre à cuire is yet another equivalent to cuire and faire cuire. Having said that, note that in the context of the video below, mettre à cuire departs from its usual meaning and translates as “to bake” since it’s implied that the food is going in the oven:

 

Et nous allons la mettre à cuire

And we're going to bake it

Caption 89, Christian Le Squer Comment cuisiner les figues

 Play Caption

 

In fact, there is no concise French equivalent of the verb “to bake”! You have to say cuire/faire cuire au four (literally, “to cook in the oven”). Watch JB bake a delicious Mirabelle plum tart in the video below:

 

Il s'agit de la faire cuire au four

It's a matter of baking it in the oven

Caption 36, JB La tarte aux mirabelles

 Play Caption

 

On the other hand, the verb enfourner is much more concise than its English translation, “to put/load into the oven." This skilled baker is going to enfourner les madeleines (put the madeleines in the oven):

 

Steven va à présent enfourner les madeleines.

Steven is now going to put the madeleines in the oven.

Caption 57, Lionel L'usine de madeleines de Liverdun - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

Then again, English has a verb for “steaming,” which doesn’t exist in French. You have to use the construction cuire + noun + à la vapeur (literally, “to cook with steam”):

 

Cuire les légumes à la vapeur permet de conserver les vitamines.

Steaming vegetables helps preserve vitamins.

 

Not only can you use the verb cuire to talk about steaming and baking, but you can also cuire at various temperatures: à feu doux (on low heat) or à feu vif (on high heat):

 

Tout dépend de la chaleur du feu; il faut toujours le faire à feu doux.

It all depends on the stove temperature; it always has to be done on low heat.

Caption 40, Alsace 20 Grain de Sel: Au Caveau de l'étable à Niederbronn-les-Bains

 Play Caption

 

Je fais revenir le tout à feu vif pendant trois minutes.

I brown everything over high heat for three minutes.

Caption 24, JB La ratatouille

 Play Caption

 

After browning (faire revenir) everything, JB turns down the heat to mijoter (simmer) his ratatouille:

 

Je laisse encore mijoter pour une quinzaine de minutes.

I let it simmer again for fifteen minutes or so.

Captions 38-39, JB La ratatouille

 Play Caption

 

You'll often see mijoter or its synonym, mitonner, in the expression mijoter/mitonner de bons petits plats, which translates as “cooking up nice little dishes." Yet no expression in English quite conveys the love, care, and time that goes into mijoter/mitonner des bons petits plats, which is exactly what the chef and his staff are doing in the video below:

 

En effet, le chef et l'équipe de cuisine s'emploient à leur mitonner de bons petits plats chaque jour.

Indeed, the chef and the kitchen staff are working on cooking up nice little dishes for them every day.

Caption 22, TV Tours Défendre les fromages au lait cru

 Play Caption

 

If spending hours in the kitchen is not for you, you can resort to le micro-ondes (the microvave). The grandmother in the video below needs a little technical help with son micro-ondes (her microwave):

 

Rien... savoir comment marcher le micro-ondes.

Nothing... just how to work the microwave.

Caption 66, Le Jour où tout a basculé Mes grands-parents sont infidèles - Part 7

 Play Caption

 

The word “microwave” only exists as a noun in French. If you want “to microwave," you have to again resort to the construction cuire + noun: cuire/faire cuire au micro-ondes (literally, "to cook in the microwave”):

 

Faire cuire au micro-ondes 5 à 10 minutes suivant la puissance du four. Mélanger.

Microwave for 5 to 10 minutes depending on the oven. Mix.

 

In conclusion, whatever cooking method you may prefer, you’re likely to use the verb cuire (to cook). Yabla cooking videos will help you mijoter de bons petits plats (cook up nice little dishes) while learning French. Thank you for spending time in our Yabla “kitchen”! Stay tuned for another lesson on kitchen-related vocabulary. 

 

À vos fourneaux! (Get cooking!)

 

Continue Reading

Et c'est parti!

Partir normally means “to leave,” as in nous sommes partis (we left). However, c’est parti is an idiomatic expression that has little to do with its literal meaning, "it left." So, without further ado, let’s explore the various shades of meaning of this very popular catchphrase. C’est parti! (Here we go!)

banner PLACEHOLDER

When it’s clear from the context that we’re talking in the past tense, c’est parti has a fairly straightforward meaning: “it started." In the video below, the speaker discusses how the Belleville upcycling center began: 

 

Et puis voilà. C'est comme ça que c'est parti.

And there you are. That's how it started.

Caption 117, Actu Vingtième Le bleu dans les yeux, recyclerie de Belleville

 Play Caption

 

So far so good. However, c’est parti doesn't always refer to something in the past, despite its verb being in the past tense. In fact, c’est parti usually describes an event that hasn’t happened yet. It tells us that something is about to start. Moreover, c’est parti is often accompanied with an exclamation mark to reflect the enthusiasm of the person starting an activity:

 

Et nous, on goûte. Allez, c'est parti! Fourchettes! Bon appétit!

And we're going to taste it. OK, here we go! Forks out! Bon appétit!

Caption 116, 4 Mains pour 1 Piano Médaillon de Homard - Part 3

 Play Caption

 

You can even add a little color to the expression by saying, Cest parti, mon kiki! Kiki is a colloquial term for "throat," but it only appears here for the rhyme:

 

C’est parti, mon kiki! 

Let’s get cracking!

 

In any case, c’est parti used on its own is something people say when they want to get started, like Amal setting off on a bike ride in the following video:

 

Voilà! C'est parti.

There! Let's go.

Caption 46, Amal Vélib

 Play Caption

 

Later in the same video, you will find another variation in the English translation of c’est parti:

 

Voilà. C'est bon. Le vélo... Et c'est parti!

There. It's good. The bike... And off you go!

Caption 50, Amal Vélib

 Play Caption

 

Similarly, c’est parti can also mean “we’re off”:

 

C'est parti, on y va.

And we're off, here we go.

Caption 44, Delphine et Automne Le gâteau au yaourt - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

Saying c’est parti is a perfect way to announce the start of a race. It's equivalent to on y va (let’s go/here we go):

 

Bon ben c'est parti. -Top chrono, c'est parti.

Good, well, here we go. -Starting now, here we go.

Caption 37, Joanna La course à pied: Conseils

 Play Caption

 

Another variation of c’est parti is c’est parti pour (for) in combination with a time period, to indicate duration: 

 

C'est donc parti pour trois jours de concert. Au programme, musique classique et jazz

So it's off for a three-day concert. On the program: classical music and jazz

Caption 2, Grand Lille TV Un piano dans le métro!

 Play Caption

 

C’est parti pour can also introduce what’s coming, as in “it’s time for” something: 

 

Huit heures, le suspense prend fin. C'est parti pour quatre heures de réflexion.

Eight o'clock, the suspense is over. Time for four hours of recollection.

Caption 4, Le Journal Le bac

 Play Caption

 

You can also use c’est parti pour to discuss what you might expect. In the video below, Sophie and Patrice speculate about the weather. Sophie thinks “they are in for" some rain:

 

Ah mais là, on est parti pour une semaine, hein?

Ah but here, we'll be in it for a week, huh?

Caption 9, Sophie et Patrice La pluie

 Play Caption

 

Here Sophie replaces c'est with on est. Note, however, that on est parti is usually not an idiomatic expression, but retains its literal meaning (we left):

 

On est parti de Rome...

We left Rome...

Caption 48, Lionel et Automne Lionel retourne à l'école

 Play Caption

 

In addition to the phrase c’est parti pour, you can qualify c’est parti with an adverb like bien (well) or mal (badly) to indicate whether things are going to turn out well or badly. So, the expression t’es bien parti means “you’re off to a good start/on the right track”:

 

Je pense que t'es bien parti.

I think that you're on the right track.

Caption 109, 4 Mains pour 1 Piano Médaillon de Homard - Part 3

 Play Caption

 

And of course, c’est mal parti means the opposite, “to be off to a bad start," like Amal's awful singing:

 

C'est très mal parti quand tu... -J'ai fait cinq ans de conservatoire.

It's off to a very bad start when you... -I did five years of conservatory.

Caption 52, Amal et Caroline Je n'aime pas quand tu chantes

 Play Caption

 

Note that Caroline could have put it another way and said:

 

T’es très mal partie. 

You’re off to a very bad start.

 

Finally, you can add the suffix re- and say c’est reparti (here we go again) to indicate repetition, which can be meant as a good thing or a bad thing. In the video below, Nico expresses his frustration with Sam and says:

 

C'est reparti!

Here we go again!

Caption 19, Extr@ Ep. 4 - Sam trouve du travail - Part 7

 Play Caption

 

And Barbara is also frustrated with her mother, who does the same annoying thing over and over:

 

Et voilà, c'était reparti pour l'interrogatoire de police.

And then she went off again with the police interrogation.

Captions 39-40, Mère & Fille La soirée

 Play Caption


As you can see, there are many ways of interpreting c’est parti. In general, it's an idiomatic expression that marks the beginning of an action. With a little practice, you'll be able get a sense of its nuances in context. Keep watching Yabla videos, dear readers, and vous serez bien partis (you’ll be off to a great start)! Thank you for reading!

Continue Reading

The Art of Exercise

The French devote an average of two hours to physical activity each week. They love to walk. They also play sports and go to the gym. They like to exercise in various ways, but what expressions do the French use to convey the idea? How many ways are there to say “exercise” in French? Let’s find out in this lesson.

banner PLACEHOLDER

One form of exercise is faire du sport (playing sports), and according to Patricia in her video on Antibes, there is no shortage of people qui font leur sport (doing their sporting activities) in Antibes:

 

Des gens qui font leur sport également... du jogging, du roller, du skateboard, des arts martiaux

Also people who are doing their sporting activities... jogging, rollerskating, skateboarding, martial arts

Caption 17, Mon Lieu Préféré Antibes

 Play Caption

 

In addition, note that when you hear the French talk about faire du sport, they don’t necessarily mean practicing a sport. In fact, faire du sport simply means "to exercise":

 

Y a pas d'âge pour faire du sport.

There's no age for exercising.

Caption 68, Le Jour où tout a basculé Des hôtes pas comme les autres - Part 3

 Play Caption

 

People like Amal and Caroline often talk about how they wished they’d exercise more:

 

Ah, il faudrait que je fasse du sport. -C'est vrai? T'es prête à faire du sport?

Ah, I should exercise. -Is that true? Are you ready to exercise?

Captions 102-103, Amal et Caroline La cigarette

 Play Caption

 

Faire du sport is synonymous with faire de l’exercice (to exercise), so Amal could have said this instead:

 

Ah, il faudrait que je fasse de l’exercice.

Ah, I should exercise.

 

Note that when talking about exercising the body, you use the expression faire de l’exercice, which always comes with the definite article l’ (the). Faire un exercice, with the indefinite article un (a), has a slightly different meaning. It just means “to do an exercise." This can be a physical activity:

 

On va faire un petit exercice.

We're going to do a little exercise.

Caption 72, Marie & Jeremy Candice et son coach

 Play Caption

 

Or it can be any type of exercise, such as a learning exercise:

 

L'élève qu'on voit ouvrir son manuel pour faire un exercice, peut-être voir une partie de cours

The student that you see opening his book to do an exercise, maybe to see a part of the lesson

Caption 14, Le Journal Manuels scolaires

 Play Caption

 

As you many have noticed, exercice as a noun is more or less a direct cognate of "exercise." Its verb form, exercer, mainly means "to exercise" in the sense of exercising or practicing a profession:

 

Le prévenu encourt une interdiction d'exercer.

The defendant risks being banned from exercising his profession.

Caption 42, Le Jour où tout a basculé À l'audience: Mon chirurgien était ivre - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

The reflexive form s’exercer takes on another meaning: “to train” or “to practice” any type of activity.

 

On peut s’exercer à chanter.

One can practice singing.

 

Finally, “to exert oneself” in English is not s’exercer in French but rather se dépenser, with the emphasis on expending some energy. In the example below, aller se dépenser involves a physical workout:

 

Et si vous alliez vous dépenser avec Maxime?

What if you went for a workout with Maxime?

Caption 60, Le Jour où tout a basculé Des hôtes pas comme les autres - Part 3

 Play Caption

 

The term “workout” doesn’t have a direct translation in French. There are only equivalents like l’exercice physique (physical exercise):

 

Après l'exercice physique...

After the workout...

Caption 27, Le Jour où tout a basculé Des hôtes pas comme les autres - Part 4

 Play Caption

 

Or you could say un entraînement for “workout”:

 

Des vidéos d'entraînement.

Workout videos.

Caption 30, Sports Shop D'un sport à l'autre

 Play Caption

 

There you have it. Exercez-vous tous les jours avec Yabla en faisant des exercices! (Practice every day with Yabla by doing exercises!)

Continue Reading

Smartphone Vocabulary

In the Yabla video Sophie et Patrice - On m'a volé mon téléphone, Sophie had her phone stolen and shares her frustration with Patrice, who offers a few suggestions to solve her problem. In their conversation, you will learn plenty of phone-related vocabulary. Throughout the video, Sophie and Patrice use the generic term un téléphone, but they could have used the term un portable (a cell/mobile phone) instead:

 

Personne. -Personne. Sauf une fois, il s'est fait voler son... portable...

Nobody. -Nobody. Except once, he had his... cell phone stolen...

Caption 77, Actus Quartier Fête de quartier Python-Duvernois - Part 1

 Play Caption

banner PLACEHOLDER

Sophie and Patrice also didn’t use the English loanword un smartphone, which you might also hear:

 

Des témoignages que les visiteurs pourront bientôt découvrir sur leur smartphone

Accounts that visitors will soon be able to discover on their smartphone

Caption 13, Télévision Bretagne Ouest Concarneau: Un tournage sur la vie maritime

 Play Caption

 

Patrice simply uses the French cognate téléphone when he advises Sophie to faire bloquer son téléphone (have her phone blocked):

 

Tu as appelé pour faire bloquer le téléphone?

Did you call to have the phone blocked?

Caption 11, Sophie et Patrice On m'a volé mon téléphone

 Play Caption

 

It might preserve her privacy, since her whole répertoire (address book) was on her phone, as well as all her contacts:

 

Moi, j'ai... j'ai tout mon répertoire... Tu te rends compte? J'ai tous mes contacts.

I have... I have my whole address book... You realize? I have all my contacts.

Captions 6-7, Sophie et Patrice On m'a volé mon téléphone

 Play Caption

 

 

Losing her phone also means that Sophie can no longer access her agenda électronique (electronic calendar):

 

Mon agenda, il était dans... C'était mon agenda électronique dans mon téléphone.

My calendar was in... It was my electronic calendar in my phone.

Caption 52, Sophie et Patrice On m'a volé mon téléphone

 Play Caption

 

Unfortunately, she never thought to do une sauvegarde (a backup):

 

Pourquoi j'ai pas fait la sauvegarde?

Why didn't I do a backup?

Caption 78, Sophie et Patrice On m'a volé mon téléphone

 Play Caption

 

Still searching for a solution, Patrice asks Sophie if she has une puce (a chip) or une carte SIM (a SIM card) on another appareil (device): 

 

C'est la seule puce que tu as, euh... T'as pas un autre appareil avec la même carte SIM?

Is that the only chip that you have, uh... You don't have another device with the same SIM card?

Captions 58, 61, Sophie et Patrice On m'a volé mon téléphone

 Play Caption

 

You might be interested to know that in other situations, une puce is something entirely different. It’s actually "a flea"! In any case, Sophie has neither une puce nor une carte SIM on another appareilShe's going to have to call son opérateur (her provider):

 

Je vais appeler l'opérateur...

I'm going to call the provider...

Caption 84, Sophie et Patrice On m'a volé mon téléphone

 Play Caption

 

Sadly, it looks like Sophie and Patrice have run out of solutions. It might be time for her to start shopping for un nouveau portable (a new cellphone)—perhaps un smartphone compatible avec la 5G (a 5G smartphone)! 

Continue Reading

Arabic Words in the French Language

It’s no secret that many English words have become part of the French language. What is not so well-known, however, is how much Arabic has influenced European languages. From the Moorish occupation of Spain to the latest waves of North African immigrants, Arabs have had a strong presence in Europe. So, it’s no surprise that Arabic terms have crept into the French language. Let’s explore some of them.

banner PLACEHOLDER

Many of these words were adapted to sound more like French over time, so much so that French people use words of Arabic origin every day without realizing it. For example, a typical day may start with un café, derived from the Arabic word qahwa:

 

Les adultes boivent plus du café ou du thé

Adults drink coffee or tea more

Caption 9, Arles Le petit déjeuner

 Play Caption

 

Arab cuisine has also become part of the French cooking repertoire. For example, you can find the spicy Maghrebi sausage called merguez in most supermarkets nowadays. In the video below, Parisians can’t resist the smell of merguez:

 

les odeurs de merguez, de frites, euh...

the smells of merguez, of French fries, uh...

Caption 8, Manif du Mois La traditionnelle manif du 1er mai

 Play Caption

 

People even use Arabic terms when talking about routine activities, like aller au magasin (going to the store), a word borrowed from the Arabic makazin, which originally referred to a warehouse. The meaning of introduced words often departs from the original:

 

Alors, nous sommes dans un magasin.

So, we're in a shop.

Caption 24, Extr@ Ep. 2 - Sam fait du shopping - Part 3

 Play Caption

 

Other times, loanwords have remained close to the original Arabic meaning. French borrowed the term souk, which is a marketplace in Northern Africa. But the word has also become slang for a messy place and is often accompanied by an exclamation mark:

 

Quel souk!

What a mess!

 

The somewhat dated expression faire la nouba (to party) kept its Arabic sound but lost its original meaning. La nouba refers to traditional songs and dances performed by Algerian women. The term later became slang, first used in the military, for partying and living it up:

 

J’aime trop faire la nouba.

I love to party a lot.

 

While young people may not use the same Arabic expressions as their parents, today’s youth adopted their own new set of Arabic words to add to their vocabulary and complement their favorite verlan expressions. In his conversation with Anna, Louis greets her using the term wesh, borrowed directly from Algerian slang, which is equivalent to "hi," "yo," or "what's up":

 

Wesh ["salut" en arabe] Anna.

Wesh ["hi" in Arabic] Anna.

Caption 1, Anna et Louis Le vocabulaire des jeunes

 Play Caption

 

Louis also uses the word kiffer (to love). Kif originally served as a slang word for drugs, equivalent to "dope" or "hash" in English. By extension, the verb kiffer came to mean "to smoke hash." Nowadays, though, kiffer mostly functions as a general synonym of aimer:

 

En vrai, Louis, je kiffe bricoler

For real, Louis, I love tinkering

Caption 45, Anna et Louis J'ai besoin d'un coup de main

 Play Caption

 

Conversely, something that is pas kiffant is not fun:

 

Enfin c'était pas kiffant, quoi

Well, it wasn't fun, you know

Caption 14, Anna et Louis Hier soir

 Play Caption

 

Speaking of pas kiffant, you might hear someone in trouble use the expression avoir le seum, slang for being depressed, frustrated, or in a bad spot:

 

Moi, j'ai trop le seum.

Me, I'm really frustrated.

Caption 14, Sophie et Edmée Les études de médecine

 Play Caption

 

Ben, euh... moi j'ai un peu le seum

Well, uh... I'm kind of in a bad spot

Caption 8, Edmée et Fanny Les présidentielles à 20 ans

 Play Caption

 

The reason for all this seum (trouble) might be a lack of moula (moolah), which is one of several slang terms for money:

 

Pour les langages des jeunes et plus récemment: "la moula", "la moulaga", "les lovés", "les bifs" et "les waris."

In youth language, and more recently: "la moula" [moolah], "la moulaga," "les lovés," "les bifs," and "les waris."

Captions 24-26, Lionel L L'argent

 Play Caption

 

The lack of moula might well prompt the use of the Maghrebi expression c’est la hess ("it’s hell," "it’s a struggle"). Imagine a hungry teenager opening an empty refrigerator, saying:

 

Le frigo est vide, c’est vraiment la hess.

The fridge is empty, it’s hell.

 

The Algerian term hess or hass originally referred to licking the plate clean, in other words starving. 

 

As you may have noticed, many Arabic loanwords come into French as slang, and thus change from generation to generation. However, many of these words, such as café and magasin, have been part of the French vocabulary for many years, centuries even, and are not at all slang. In any case, there is no shortage of Arabic words in the French language. Watch for new ones in Yabla videos!

 
Continue Reading

The Language of Love

As the saying goes, French is the language of love. So, let’s take this opportunity to delve into peoples’ hearts and minds and discuss expressions featuring the theme of love, ever so present in conversations, literature, and songs. 

banner PLACEHOLDER

Grand Corps Malade sings about le grand amour (true love) in his song "Les Voyages en Train":

 

Le grand amour change forcément ton comportement

True love inevitably changes your behavior

Caption 13, Grand Corps Malade Les Voyages en train

 Play Caption

 

The masculine noun amour also exists in the plural form, as in the expression la saison des amours, which means "the season of love" when referring to humans:

 

Ah oui, oui, oui, c'est la saison des amours là.

Ah yes, yes, yes, it's the season of love now.

Caption 44, Lionel à Lindre-Basse - Part 5

 Play Caption

 

And "the mating season" when referring to animals:

 

Et là, c'est la saison des amours là?

And now, it's the mating season now?

Caption 43, Lionel à Lindre-Basse - Part 5

 Play Caption

 

The term conjoint (mate) applies to both the animal and the human kingdom:

 

Elles trouvent le temps long parce que le conjoint, il tarde à venir là.

They feel that time is moving slowly because their mate is taking his time to arrive now.

Caption 45, Lionel à Lindre-Basse - Part 5

 Play Caption

 

You'll often come across conjoint (partner/spouse) when filling out an administrative form:

 

L'utilisation du nom du conjoint nécessite certaines démarches.

Adopting a partner’s name requires certain steps.

 

Alternatively, you will also come across the word époux/épouse (spouse) which works in the same way as "spouse" in English—as a slightly more formal alternative to le mari (husband) and la femme (wife):

 

Voilà. Je désire prendre votre fille pour épouse.

Here's the deal. I want to take your daughter as my wife.

Caption 19, Il était une fois: l’Homme 6. Le siècle de Périclès - Part 3

 Play Caption

 

Vous acceptâtes de me prendre pour époux

You accepted to take me for a husband

Captions 26-27, Oldelaf interprète "Bérénice"

 Play Caption

 

Speaking of époux, young girls in fairy tales often dream of épouser (marrying) le Prince Charmant (Prince Charming):

 

Seule dans sa chambre elle rêve encore au Prince Charmant

Alone in her room she still dreams of Prince Charming

Caption 8, Wallen Donna

 Play Caption

 

These days, people might look for their Prince Charming on un site de rencontre (a dating site):

 

Je m'inscris sur un site de rencontre pour retraités.

I'm subscribing to a dating site for retirees.

Caption 12, Le Jour où tout a basculé Mes grands-parents sont infidèles - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

Of course, faire une rencontre (meeting someone) or rencontrer l’amour (finding love) can happen in any setting, even unusual ones, as Nico can attest in this video:

 

Nico rencontre l'amour à un feu rouge.

Nico finds love at a red light.

Caption 34, Extr@ Ep. 5 - Une étoile est née - Part 8

 Play Caption

 

With a little luck, Nico may have found une âme sœur (a soulmate):

 

Petites fées du cœur accueillent les âmes sœurs

Little love fairies welcome the soulmates

Captions 25-26, Melissa Mars Music Videos Army of Love

 Play Caption

 

In any case, Nico and his neighbors Sacha and Annie have a complicated love life. They are all amoureux (in love), but with the wrong people!

 

Elles ont un voisin, Nico, qui est amoureux de Sacha, et Annie est amoureuse de Nico.

They have a neighbor, Nico, who is in love with Sacha, and Annie is in love with Nico.

Captions 3-5, Extr@ Ep. 1 - L'arrivée de Sam - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

Nico wants Sacha to be sa petite amie (his girlfriend), while Annie wants Nico to be son petit ami (her boyfriend). They could simplify their lives by being amis (just friends), but that's not how love works! The adjective petit (little) is just an endearing term of affection that bears no relation to size at all. It simply implies a more exclusive relationship:

 

Ça va être ta petite amie qui doit être jalouse.

It's your girlfriend who must be jealous.

Caption 20, Le Jour où tout a basculé J'ai piégé mon fan - Part 4

 Play Caption

 

Instead of using the term petit ami/petite amie, they could have said une petite copine (a girlfriend) or un petit copain (a boyfriend).

 

Traditionally, the next step is to progress from petits amis to mari et femme (husband and wife), and perhaps to sing together, like the couple in the video below:

 

Tout comme sa femme, le mari chante bien.

Just like his wife, the husband sings well.

Caption 56, Le saviez-vous? "Non plus", forme négative de "aussi" - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

But before jumping into marriage, the pair may first se fiancer (become engaged). Hence the term un fiancé/une fiancée, which English borrowed from French:

 

Comme par exemple... ta fiancée? T'en as une? C'est ça?

Like, for example... your fiancée? You have one? Is that right?

Caption 46, Le Jour où tout a basculé À la recherche de mon père - Part 4

 Play Caption

 

Fiancés might celebrate their fiançailles (engagement) with an engagement party, though perhaps not as grandiosely as Anne of Austria and Louis the Thirteenth, who had the famous Place des Vosges in Paris built for the occasion:

 

...à l'occasion des fiançailles de Louis Treize et d'Anne d'Autriche.

...on the occasion of the engagement of Louis the Thirteenth and Anne of Austria.

Caption 16, De nouvelles découvertes avec Marion La place des Vosges

 Play Caption

 

Les fiançailles usually lead to another celebration, the wedding (le mariage or la noce):

 

...à l'occasion de son mariage entre mille huit cent quatre-vingt-douze et mille neuf cent deux.

on the occasion of his wedding, between eighteen ninety-two and nineteen hundred two.

Caption 36, Le Mans TV Mon Village - Malicorne - Part 5

 Play Caption

 

La noce se fera en automne.

The wedding will take place in the fall. 

 

Two things worth noting about the word un mariage (marriage). It’s spelled with only one r, and it can mean either “wedding” (the ceremony) or “marriage" (the relationship). La noce, however, only means "wedding."

 

While marriage is usually a union based on love, in some cases, a marriage might be un mariage blanc, which literally means “white/blank marriage,” as Patricia explains in her video:

 

Un mariage blanc, c'est un mariage arrangé, ou pas consommé.

A white marriage is an arranged marriage, or not consummated.

Captions 56-57, Le saviez-vous? La couleur blanche et ses expressions - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

Usually though, a marriage is a happy occasion on which la mariée (the bride) and le mari (the groom) exchange vows:

 

La mariée et le marié sont aussi au rendez-vous

The bride and the groom are also at the rendez-vous

Caption 16, Amadou et Mariam Beaux dimanches

 Play Caption

 

Many newlyweds (nouveaux mariés) go on une lune de miel (honeymoon):

 

Celle-là, c'était l'année de notre rencontre. Et notre lune de miel.

That one was the year we met. And our honeymoon.

Captions 35-36, Le Jour où tout a basculé À la recherche de mon passé - Part 3

 Play Caption

 

Of course, le mariage is not everyone’s cup of tea. Some people may decide to vivre en couple (to live together as a couple) instead. The word couple can refer to the number of people in the relationship, as in English, or to the relationship itself:

 

Notre couple allait mal.

Our relationship was going badly.

Caption 57, Le Jour où tout a basculé À la recherche de mon passé - Part 8

 Play Caption

 

Finally, those who remain unattached are called célibataires (single), like the lady mentioned in this video:

 

Et elle est toujours célibataire.

And she's still single.

Caption 90, Le Jour où tout a basculé À la recherche de mon passé - Part 5

 Play Caption

 

On November 25th, la Sainte-Catherine (Saint Catherine’s Day), single, unmarried young girls celebrate their catherinette by saying a special prayer for a suitor, before they reach the age of twenty-five. 

 

As much as le grand amour (true love) may seem like the perfect recipe for happiness, one cannot vivre d’amour et d’eau fraiche (live on love alone). On the other hand, as the Beatles' song goes, all you need is love!

 
Continue Reading

French Words with the Letter Z... Or, How to Improve Your Scrabble Score

This lesson is brought to you by the letter Z. Why the letter Z? Because few French nouns contain the letter Z. On the other hand, most verbs do, which is a handy thing to know when playing French Scrabble, as the letter Z is a high-scoring letter. 

banner PLACEHOLDER

Almost all verbs in the second-person plural vous (you) end in -ez, as in vous savez (you know). What’s more, this is the case in pretty much all moods and tenses.

 

In the present tense:

 

Et toujours, vous savez, la langue est toujours liée à la culture.

And always, you know, a language is always tied to its culture.

Caption 42, Allons en France Pourquoi apprendre le français?

 Play Caption

 

In the imperfect tense: 

 

Le saviez-vous?

Did you know?

Caption 1, Le saviez-vous? L'art culinaire français

 Play Caption

 

In the future tense:

 

Maintenant vous saurez que à chaque fois que vous entendez un verbe qui se termine par le son "é", c'est un verbe du premier groupe

Now you will know that each time you hear a verb that ends with the sound "é," it's a first-group verb

Captions 42-45, Le saviez-vous? Les verbes du 1er groupe

 Play Caption

 

In the conditional mood:

 

Sauriez-vous jouer au Scrabble en français?

Could you play French Scrabble?

 

While most verbs conjugated with vous (you) end in -ez, there are not as many nouns ending in Z. But a few of them are very commonly used, such as chez (at/to the home of), le riz (rice), le nez (nose), le raz-de-marée (tidal wave), and le rez-de-chaussée (ground floor):

 

Bienvenue chez moi

Welcome to my home

Caption 7, Stromae Bienvenue chez moi

 Play Caption

 

Elles mangent du riz.

They  are eating rice.

Caption 28, Farid et Hiziya Boire et manger

 Play Caption

 

ce Milanais qui vous peignait une courgette en guise de nez

this Milanese man who painted you a zucchini as a nose

Captions 23-24, d'Art d'Art "Les quatre saisons" - Arcimboldo

 Play Caption

 

Mieux encore, les racines des palétuviers amortissent les effets des raz-de-marée et des fameux tsunamis.

Better still, the mangrove roots absorb the impact of tidal waves and notorious tsunamis.

Captions 19-20, Il était une fois: Notre Terre 9. Les écosystèmes - Part 7

 Play Caption

 

J'habite au rez-de-chaussée, donc je n'ai pas besoin de monter les escaliers.

I live on the ground floor, so I don't need to go up the stairs.

Caption 6, Joanna Son appartement

 Play Caption

 

As you can hear in the examples above, Z at the end of a word is almost always silent in French. So then why do we pronounce the Z in gaz (gas), for example? That’s because it's usually pronounced in words of foreign origin:

 

Factures: téléphone, gaz, électricité.

Bills: telephone, gas, electricity.

Caption 30, Extr@ Ep. 1 - L'arrivée de Sam - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

Le français a une bande passante qui fait mille, deux mille hertz

French has a bandwidth that measures one thousand, two thousand hertz

Caption 34, Lionel Langue sous hypnose

 Play Caption

 

When Z comes at the beginning or in the middle of a word, it is always sounded just as it is in English. Here are a couple of interjections starting with Z:

 

Allez, zou!

Come on, let's go!

Caption 111, Claire et Philippe La campagne

 Play Caption

 

Je pourrais dire "zut" aussi.

I could also say "zut" [darn].

Caption 8, Le saviez-vous? Les expressions inspirées de la musique - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

You'll also find the letter Z in certain numerals, such as quinze (fifteen), seize (sixteen), and zéro (zero): 

 

Et voilà, me voilà parée pour,  sortir par, moins zéro, moins quinze degrés.

And there we have it, here I am dressed to go out in below zero, negative fifteen degrees.

Caption 14, Fanny parle des saisons S'habiller en hiver

 Play Caption

 

Now that you’ve zipped through this lesson, we trust that you will apply this newfound knowledge with le zeste (zest) and le zèle (zeal)!

Continue Reading

Gender of Nouns Referring to Animals

Like many other types of nouns, nouns referring to animals often have both male and female versions, and sometimes even separate names for each gender. Many of them, however, are exclusively masculine or feminine, as we'll see in this lesson.

banner PLACEHOLDER

Nouns referring to animals work in a comparable way to those referring to people. The most common way to feminize a noun is to add an -e at the end, and, in many cases, double the final consonant, as in un chien/une chienne (a male dog/a female dog). Note that whenever you double a final consonant, the normally silent consonant (like the -n in chien) becomes pronounced, as you can hear in the example below: 

 

Certains noms masculins vont doubler leur consonne finale. Un chien donne... -une chienne, deux "n", "e". Et un chat donne une chatte, deux "t", "e".

Some masculine nouns will double their final consonant. "Un chien" [dog] gives... -"une chienne," two "n's," "e." And "un chat" [a cat] gives "une chatte," two "t's," "e."

Captions 25-27, Manon et Simon - Le masculin et le féminin

 Play Caption

 

On a side note, you may want to exercise caution when using the words chatte and chienne, as they can both be offensive terms referring to women.

 

Here is another example of a noun that changes spelling and pronunciation in the feminine form. The word for "lion" follows the same pattern as chien/chienne:

 

Tu as vu? Le papa lion et la maman lionne se suivent partout.

Did you see? The dad lion and the mom lioness follow each other everywhere.

Caption 23, Les zooriginaux - Léa jacta est - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

On the other hand, some animal nouns ending in -n don’t double their final consonant in the feminine, as in un lapin/une lapine (male/female rabbit), but the change in pronunciation still applies. Pay attention to the nasal -in sound in this fairy tale video:

 

Il y attrapa un beau lapin gras et le mit dans sa bourse.

He caught a nice fat rabbit there and put it in his purse.

Caption 25, Contes de fées - Le chat botté - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

Likewise, un renard (a fox), with a silent d, doesn’t have a double consonant in the feminine, but the d will be pronounced: une renarde

 

Le renard femelle adulte s’appelle la renarde.

An adult female fox is called a vixen.

 

Sometimes, in addition to the -e ending, there are some unexpected spelling changes in the feminine, as in un loup/une louv(male/female wolf):

 

Par exemple, un loup donne... -une louve.

For example, "un loup" [a male wolf] gives... -"une louve" [a female wolf].

Caption 53, Manon et Simon - Le masculin et le féminin

 Play Caption

 

As in un prince (a prince) and une princesse (a princess), some animal nouns take the suffix -esse in the feminine:

 

Un âne? -Une ânesse. -Bien!

"Un âne" [a donkey]? -"Une ânesse" [a jenny]. -Good!

Caption 41, Manon et Simon - Le masculin et le féminin

 Play Caption

 

In short, there are diverse ways to feminize an animal noun. However, many animals have separate names for male and female specimens, as in English. For example: une vache/un taureau (a cow/a bull).

 

Et là on voit déjà si c'est une vache ou des taureaux [sic: un taureau]? -Là, c'est une femelle.

And can we already tell here if it's a cow or a bull? -Here, it's a female.

Caption 43, Lionel à la ferme

 Play Caption

 

Male and female animal names can be quite specialized and hard to remember. If you don’t know the special name for a female animal, you can do what Automne does in the video below and refer to her as, for example, la maman cochon (the mommy pig) or le cochon femelle (the female pig) instead of the more technical term la truie (the sow). (The term cochonne actually exists, but usually it means something entirely different! It’s a way of insulting a sloppy human, or "a pig"—une cochonne for females and un cochon for males.)

 

Y a même le bébé de la maman cochon.

There's even the mommy pig's baby.

Caption 56, Lionel et Automne - Playmobil

 Play Caption

 

Fortunately, there is no need to be technical in everyday situations. If gender is not important or unknown, we tend to use the generic masculine, like the couple does in the video below:

 

Premièrement, le chat met des poils partout.

First, the cat sheds fur everywhere.

Caption 8, Marie & Jeremy - Le chat

 Play Caption

 

In fact, most nouns referring to animals don’t have feminine and masculine versions—they only come in one gender, assigned arbitrarily regardless of the sex of the animal. In this case, you will need to memorize the gender of the animal along with its name as there is no logic or way of guessing.

 

For example, some insects, like une mouche (a fly), are always feminine. Some rodents are feminine, as in une souris (a mouse), while others are masculine, as in un écureuil (a squirrel). Some snakes are masculine, as in un serpent (a snake), or feminine, as in une vipère (a viper). Some birds are feminine, as in une hirondelle (a swallow), and some are masculine, as in un perroquet (a parrot).

 

In the video below, apart from le lion, all the names of the endangered species—la panthère (panther), la girafe (giraffe), l'autruche (ostrich), and l'hyène (hyena)—are feminine in gender, but don't necessarily refer to individual females: 

 

Certaines espèces ont quasiment disparu, telles que la panthère, autruche, hyène, girafe et lion.

Some species have almost disappeared, such as the panther, ostrich, hyena, giraffe, and lion.

Captions 27-30, Nader Fakhry - À la recherche des derniers éléphants - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

As these nouns only have one grammatical gender, you will need to specify the sex of the animal with the term mâle (male) or femelle (female). In the documentary below, the speaker refers to une panthère femelle (a female panther):

 

Malgré la présence d'une panthère femelle juste à côté...

Despite the presence of a female panther right next door...

Caption 20, Le Journal - Espèces en voie de disparition

 Play Caption

 

There you have it! We’ve explored some of the grammatical quirks and intricacies of the animal kingdom. Remember that not all animal names have a masculine and feminine counterpart, but only a single grammatical gender just like nouns referring to objects, which will be the topic of our next lesson. So stay tuned!

Continue Reading

Verlan – The New Slang

Do you know what Parlez-vous céfran means? It’s Parlez-vous français? (Do you speak French?) in verlan, a form of slang in which a word’s syllables are inverted. In verlan, français (French) becomes céfran. The term verlan is itself an instance of verlan, standing for l’envers ("backward" or “back to front”), as Lionel puts it in his lesson:

 

"Verlan", c'est "l'envers" à l'envers.

"Verlan" is "l'envers" [backward] reversed.

Caption 5, Lionel L - Le verlan

 Play Caption

 

banner PLACEHOLDER

Although verlan is widely used among young people today, the practice of reversing syllables goes back a long way (and is not exclusive to the French language). French Enlightenment writer François-Marie Arouet, aka Voltaire, is said to have made up his pen name by reversing the syllables of his hometown of Airvault. More recently, singer/rapper/songwriter Stromae (né Paul Van Haver) built his stage name around the word maestro, which in verlan became Stromae! Verlan was even used as a coded language among prisoners during World War II. 

 

But it was not until the seventies and eighties that verlan really started to take off and become a form of expression for the disenfranchised in the poorer suburbs of Paris. It became part of the language of immigrants, namely second-generation French North Africans straddling two cultures, who called themselves beurs (arabes in verlan). (Incidentally, the term rebeu, a variation of beur, has become so mainstream that it is now entered in Le Petit Robert dictionary!)

 

The term beur (Arab), featured in the video below, is part of the catchphrase black, blanc, beur (black, white, Arab), which has become a symbol of racial diversity:

 

La Marianne, c'est le symbole de la République avant tout. Je vous dirais qu'elle soit noire, beur, ou blanche, c'est pareil.

Above all, Marianne is the symbol of the Republic. I'm telling you, whether she's black, Arab, or white, it's all the same.

Captions 16-17, Le Journal - Marianne

 Play Caption

 

By the same token, immigrants don’t want to abandon their roots and compromise their values to fit in. According to filmmaker Alain Etoundi, minorities are misrepresented in French movies, such as the comedy Les Kaïra, in which black characters are stereotyped as funny, harmless rogues. The title of the movie Les Kaïra is based on caillera, the verlan term for racaille (riffraff, scum):

 

Vous aimez valider des films de pseudo "Kaïra" ["caillera", verlan "racaille"]

You like to endorse pseudo-"Kaïra" films [riffraff]

Caption 26, Alain Etoundi - Allez tous vous faire enfilmer! - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

In addition to movies, music, especially hip-hop, helped verlan spread beyond the suburbs from the nineties onwards. In 2013, Congolese-born hip-hop artist Maître Gims made liberal use of verlan in his song "Bella":

 

Les gens du coin ne voulaient pas la "cher-lâ" [lâcher]

The local people would not leave her alone

Caption 54, Maître Gims - Bella

 Play Caption

 

Turning two-syllable words into verlan is quite straightforward. In the example above, Maître Gims just switches the syllables of lâcher (to let go/to leave alone) around to make cher-. But with one-syllable words, it’s a little trickier. For example, pieds (feet) becomes iep:

 

Rends-moi bête comme mes "iep" [pieds]

Make me stupid as my feet [thick as a brick]

Caption 59, Maître Gims - Bella

 Play Caption

 

And chien (dog) becomes iench:

 

Je suis l'ombre de ton "iench" [chien]

I am the shadow of your dog

Caption 61, Maître Gims - Bella

 Play Caption

 

Rapper Grand Corps Malade also uses verlan in his song "Roméo kiffe Juliette" (Romeo Likes Juliet):

 

Le père de Roméo est vénère [énervé], il a des soupçons

Romeo's father is irritated, he has suspicions

Caption 25, Grand Corps Malade - Roméo kiffe Juliette

 Play Caption

 

And in "Plan B", Grand Corps Malade refers to a girlfriend as a meuf:

 

Quand ta meuf c'est Kardashian et que tu rêves d'une vie planquée

When your chick is a Kardashian and you dream of a secluded life

Caption 21, Grand Corps Malade - Plan B

 Play Caption

 

The word femme (“woman” or “wife") becomes meuf in verlan, which can also mean “girlfriend” or, more slangily, "chick."

 

As singers have popularized the use of verlan, it's become part of everyday conversations among young people. In the video below, Elisa uses verlan in a conversation with her mother, whom she accuses of being relou (annoying): 

 

Bah oui! T'es... t'es super relou ["lourd" en verlan], on le sait hein!

Well yes! You're... you're really annoying, we know that, right?

Caption 8, Elisa et sa maman - Comment vas-tu?

 Play Caption

 

It's not just people who can be relou. Activities like housework can be as well:

 

Et très vite j'allais comprendre qu'il y avait plus relou que le ménage.

And very quickly I was going to understand that there were more frustrating things than housework.

Captions 73-74, Mère & Fille Tâches ménagères

 Play Caption

 

As you can see, verlan words pepper conversations and songs all across the French-speaking world. If you want to try your hand at verlan, just switch some syllables around, and don’t forget check out the videos featured in this Blaya (Yabla) lesson!

Continue Reading

Je craque! – The Verb Craquer

The verb craquer (to crack)—not to be confused with croquer (to crunch/bite)—is an interesting word as it can be used in a variety of ways, often in situations that involve strong emotions, either positive or negative. When used informally, craquer has many meanings that range from “breaking down” to “falling in love."

 

banner PLACEHOLDER

 

In a negative context, craquer can mean to crack up, or crack under pressure:

 

François est dégoûté. Il craque.

François is disgusted. He's cracking up.

Caption 35, Oldelaf Le monde est beau

 Play Caption

 

Craquer can also describe something or someone cracking under pressure:

 

Continue à faire des films aussi flingués et les cités vont craquer.

Continue making gun movies like always and the housing estates are going to crack.

Captions 51-52, Alain Etoundi Allez tous vous faire enfilmer! - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

It can also refer to someone "giving in" or "caving":

 

Bon, j'ai craqué parce que...

Well, I caved because...

Caption 52, Le Jour où tout a basculé À l'audience - Arnaque en couple ? - Part 3

 Play Caption

 

While craquer means to crack under pressure, faire craquer quelqu’un means to cause someone to crack or to break someone’s spirit, like the mother in the video below who tried to faire craquer (break down) her son’s girlfriend:

 

Sa mère voulait me faire craquer.

His mother wanted to break me down.

Caption 34, Le Jour où tout a basculé Ma mère fait tout pour briser mon couple - Part 3

 Play Caption

 

At the other end of the spectrum, however, craquer can describe a positive experience. It's slang for “to fall in love." In the example below, the French pianist Christine Ott is asked:

 

C'est ce qui t'a fait craquer, toi, pour cet instrument?

Is that what made you fall in love with this instrument?

Caption 4, Alsace 20 Femmes d'exception: Christine Ott

 Play Caption

 

And the singer Melissa Mars "fell head over heels" for her project "Et Alors!":

 

Et voilà, donc du coup, ben évidemment j'ai craqué sur ce projet,

And there, so as a result, well of course I fell head over heels for this project,

Caption 23, Melissa Mars Et Alors!

 Play Caption

 

In the following example, shoppers "fell" for some Christmas ornaments:

 

Et ben on a craqué sur des choses un petit peu typiques, euh...

And, well, we fell for things that are a little bit typical, uh...

Caption 10, Alsace 20 Ouverture du marché de Noël de Colmar

 Play Caption

 

And, of course, craquer sur also means to fall for a person:

 

J'avais complètement craqué sur elle

I'd completely fallen for her

Caption 68, Le Jour où tout a basculé J'ai piégé mon fan - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

Likewise, faire craquer can mean to make someone fall for someone:

 

Je pouvais avouer, ouais, qu'elle m'a fait craquer

I could confess, yeah, that she made me fall for her

Captions 32-33, Harmelo Mets Ton Masque Ft. Jade L x Ghetto

 Play Caption

 

On a spookier note, craquer can mean to creak, as in the sound the floor makes in this couple’s haunted apartment:

 

Ah, c'est le plancher qui craque.

Ah, it's the floor that's creaking.

Caption 17, Le Jour où tout a basculé Notre appartement est hanté - Part 3

 Play Caption

 

And for a little bit of humor, craquer (to rip) can describe a wardrobe mishap. In this video, Elisa and Mashal look at old photographs, and Mashal remembers when her pants ripped in the middle:

 

Enfin, quand j'avais dansé mon pantalon qui avait craqué au mil'...

Well, when I'd been dancing, my pants, which had ripped in the mid'...

Caption 82, Elisa et Mashal Photos

 Play Caption

 

Or when referring to shoes, you can say that they are sur le point de craquer (about to burst). In "J'aurais bien voulu," the singer of the ska band Babylon Circus talks about his battered ego sagging down to his socks to the point that his godasses (shoes) are sur le point de craquer (about to burst):

 

J'ai l'ego dans les chaussettes et les godasses sur le point de craquer

My ego's in my socks and my shoes are about to burst

Caption 30, Babylon Circus J'aurais bien voulu

 Play Caption

 

There’s another colloquial expression that paints a similar picture, plein à craquer, which means “bursting at the seams” or “overcrowded”:

 

Les hôpitaux sont pleins à craquer.

The hospitals are completely overcrowded.

 

Don't confuse craquer with the English loanword cracker, which means "hacker":

 

Des crackers ont piraté le logiciel.

Some hackers hacked into the software. 

 

(Un cracker can also be of the edible kind… a cracker!).

 

The noun un craque doesn’t refer to "cracking" at all. It's slang for un mensonge (a lie):

 

Mais si tous mes craques t'indiffèrent

But if all my lies leave you indifferent

Caption 28, Mademoiselle K (avec Zazie) Me taire te plaire

 Play Caption

 

The English noun “crack,” as in a crack in the wall, is une fissure in French, and the verb is fissurer (to crack), as mentioned in this video about the Liverdun Church during the Second World War:

 

Parce qu'elle a été fissurée pendant la dernière Guerre mondiale.

Because it was cracked during the last World War.

Caption 76, Lionel L'église de Liverdun - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

There are other instances when “crack” doesn’t translate as craquer in French. For example, “to crack a joke” is simply raconter une blague (to tell a joke), Lionel’s specialty in his Yabla videos:

 

Lionel adore raconter des blagues sur Yabla.

Lionel loves telling jokes on Yabla.

 

And when you "crack up" at a joke, you éclater de rire (burst out laughing):

 

Les blagues de Lionel me font toujours éclater de rire.

Lionel's jokes always crack me up.

 

One last thing you can do with craquer in French is craquer une allumette (strike a match):

 

On peut craquer une allumette pour voir dans le noir.

We can strike a match to see in the dark.


Nous espérons que vous avez craqué sur cette leçon (We hope you fell for this lesson)!

Continue Reading
123...78