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In the Mood for Envie

In "Dimanche soir" (Sunday Night), the slam poet Grand Corps Malade declares his love for his wife in beautiful lines such as: 

 

Je l'ai dans la tête comme une mélodie, alors mes envies dansent
I have her in my head like a melody, so my desires dance
Cap. 17, Grand Corps Malade - Dimanche soir

 

If you didn't see the translation, you might have guessed that envie means "envy." And you would have been right!

 

Vous ne connaissez que l'envie, la hâte, la rage de les tuer. 
You knew only envy, haste, the urge to kill them.
Cap. 60, Il était une fois... L’Espace - 3. La planète verte - Part 6

 

However, besides désir, envie is also the word for "desire." While un désir is a more general desire, envie connotes yearning, longing, or craving:
 

Il peut rester une envie intellectuelle.
There can remain a mental craving.
Cap. 129, Le Figaro - Elle a banni le sucre pendant un an - Part 1

 

If you think about it, this double meaning of envie makes a lot of sense, since envy is bound up with desire: if you envy (envier) someone, you covet what they have.

 

J'envie les caresses
envy the caresses
Cap. 18, Oldelaf - interprète "Bérénice"

 

Quitte à en crever de son histoire déçue, de son passé tant envié
Despite wanting to die from her disappointing history, her so envied past
Cap. 12, Yaaz - La place des anges

 

But envie isn't always so intense. The extremely common expression avoir envie de doesn't mean "to envy" or "yearn for," but simply "to want," "feel like," or "be in the mood for":

 

Vous avez pas envie de faire la sieste?
You don't feel like taking a nap?
Cap. 29, Actu Vingtième - Le Repas des anciens

 

J'ai envie d'une limonade.
I'm in the mood for a lemonade.

 

There's also the expression donner envie (literally, "to give desire"), which means "to make someone want something":

 

D'avoir des quantités de choses
Qui donnent envie d'autres choses
To have things in large quantities
That make you want other things
Cap. 4-5, Fréro Delavega - Foule Sentimentale

 

In English, we have the phrase "green with envy." But in French, one becomes "green with jealousy": vert(e) de jalousie. You can, however, make someone "pale with envy" (faire pâlir d'envie).

 

Finally, here's a bizarre quirk of the French language: envie is also the word for "birthmark" and "hangnail." What those have to do with envy and desire is an etymological mystery. 

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Pleasing with Plaire

The verb plaire is most often used in the expressions s'il vous plaît (formal) and s'il te plaît (informal), which, as you probably know, both mean "please"––or more accurately, "if it pleases you." "To please" is the basic meaning of plaire:

 

Ça peut pas leur plaire.
That can't please them.
Cap. 18, Le Journal - Yann Arthus Bertrand

 

Another way of saying "to please" is faire plaisir (literally, "to make pleasure"):

 

Je sais que ça va pas te faire plaisir
I know this isn't going to please you
Cap. 18, Le Jour où tout a basculé - Mon père s'oppose à ma passion - Part 7

 

If something pleases you, that means you like it. Indeed, plaire can also mean "to like" or "enjoy":

 

Une autre œuvre qui me plaît beaucoup
Another work that I like a lot
Cap. 35, Patrice Zana - L'artiste et ses inspirations - Part 2

 

OK, je te plais pas.
OK, you don't like me.
Cap. 52, Le Jour où tout a basculé - À la recherche de mon père - Part 4

 

Ce livre plaît à tout le monde.
Everyone enjoys that book.

 

We could certainly translate the above examples as "another work that pleases/appeals to me a lot," "OK, I'm not pleasing/appealing to you," and "that book is pleasing/appealing to everyone." But plaire is used a bit more generally than "to please," so you'll usually see it translated as "to like" or "enjoy" with the subject and object inverted (ce livre plaît à tout le monde = everyone enjoys that book). Note that plaire always takes an indirect object (plaire à quelqu'un, "to please/be pleasing to someone"). 

 

When plaire is reflexive (se plaire, literally "to please oneself"), it means "to be happy" or "to enjoy being somewhere":

 

Est-ce que tu t'plais?
Are you enjoying yourself here?
Cap. 4, Yabla à Nancy - Université Nancy 2

 

Elles se plaisent à Lindre
They like Lindre
Cap. 21, Lionel - à Lindre-Basse - Part 6

 

Or, in the plural, it can mean "to like one another," "to enjoy each other's company":

 

Ils se sont plu immédiatement.
They liked each other instantly.

 

And for life's unpleasant moments, there's the verb déplaire (to dislike, displease, irritate, upset):

 

Ses plaisanteries déplaisent à ma mère.
My mother doesn't like his jokes. (His jokes irritate my mother.)

 

There's also the expression n'en déplaise à (with all due respect to, with apologies to, no offense to):

 

Pas de fiole de cyanure, n'en déplaise à Shakespeare
No vial of cyanide, no offense to Shakespeare
Cap. 47, Grand Corps Malade - Roméo kiffe Juliette

 

We hope you're pleased with this lesson on plaire!

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Trees, Groves, and Orchards

In our latest Le saviez-vous? video, we visit La Maison de l'Olive, a store in Nice specializing in—you guessed it—olives. Like most of the Mediterranean region, the south of France is filled with olive trees, or oliviers:

 

Toute la cuisine méditerranéenne se fait avec l'huile d'olive. C'est la civilisation de l'olivier.
All Mediterranean cuisine is made with olive oil. It's the olive tree civilization.
Cap. 27-28, Le saviez-vous? - La Maison de l'Olive à Nice - Part 1

 

You might be familiar with the word olivier as a proper noun, Olivier, the French equivalent of "Oliver." But its basic meaning is "olive tree." In fact, like olivier, the names of most fruit and nut trees end in -ier in French. So, for example, an apple tree is un pommier (from une pomme), a cherry tree is un cerisier (from une cerise), a pear tree is un poirier (from une poire), and so on: 

 

Je parle surtout du cacaoyer, du bananier
I am talking especially about the cacao tree, the banana tree
Cap. 8, Grand Lille TV - Visite des serres de Tourcoing

 

Ils connaissent le mot café, mais ils ne connaissent [sic: savent] pas ce que c'est que le caféier...
They know the word "coffee," but they don't know what the coffee tree is...
Cap. 12, Grand Lille TV - Visite des serres de Tourcoing

 

Of course, there are some exceptions. A few of these tree names end in -yer, not -ier, such as cacaoyer above and noyer (walnut tree, from une noix). And a few just end in -er, namely oranger (orange tree) and pêcher (peach tree). Like most -er words, these trees are always masculine, even if the fruit or nut that grows on them is feminine. So you have un pêcher (a peach tree) but une pêche (a peach); un cerisier (a cherry tree) but une cerise (a cherry).

 

Incidentally, when someone asks if you know how to faire le poirier, they're not wondering whether you can "make the pear tree," but whether you can do a headstand! The origin of this expression probably has to do with the rough resemblance between a headstand and a pear tree. But why not un pommier or un citronnier (a lemon tree)? Who knows! 

 

A group of fruit or nut trees is a grove (un bosquet) or an orchard (un verger). But the French word for "olive grove" is not un bosquet d'oliviers. It's une oliveraie:

 

En tout cas, en ce qui concerne les oliveraies qui sont sur les Alpes-Maritimes, elles ont été plantées par les Grecs.
In any case, with regard to the olive groves that are in the Alpes-Maritimes, they were planted by the Greeks. 
Cap. 32-34, Le saviez-vous? - La Maison de l'Olive à Nice - Part 1

 

Here we have another pattern: the words for fruit/nut groves or orchards generally end in -eraie or -aie. These words are always feminine. For instance:

 

une pomme - un pommier - une pommeraie
une cerise - un cerisier - une cerisaie 
une orange - un oranger - une orangeraie 
une châtaigne (a chestnut) - un châtaignier - une châtaigneraie 
une amande (an almond) - un amandier une amandaie 

 

Thanks for reading. Tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com.

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Declining Décliner

The word "decline" can mean "decrease," "deteriorate," "move downward," or "politely refuse." Its source, the French verb décliner, can have all of these meanings and more.

 

Most of these other meanings stem from a more specialized grammatical one. To "decline" a noun, pronoun, or adjective is to list all of its forms according to case, number, and gender. You don't have to worry about doing this in French—it only applies to certain languages, such as Latin and Ancient Greek. But décliner can refer to a similar activity of enumerating, presenting something in various forms, offering a range of something, laying out all its different facets.

 

Because décliner has such a wide variety of meanings, its translation is highly context-specific. For example, you can use it to talk about a fashion designer "presenting" all the styles of his latest collection on the runway:

 

Du blanc, du noir, presque exclusivement, tous les codes déclinés inlassablement
Almost exclusively white and black, all the styles presented tirelessly
Cap. 5, Le Journal - Défilé de mode - Part 2

 

Or you can use it in the sense of "depicting" several aspects of something:

 

...des travaux de couture d'une jeune femme qui décline un petit peu l'Alsace sur du tissu
...some sewing projects from a young woman who kind of depicts the various faces of Alsace on fabric
Cap. 18-19, Alsace 20 - Mangez bien, mangez alsacien!

 

Businesses often use décliner to advertise a product available in various forms. When Lionel visited a madeleine shop in Liverdun, the owner used it to refer to the different flavors she sells:

 

Nous l'avons déclinée à la mirabelle et à la bergamote.
We've adapted it with mirabelle plum and with bergamote orange.
Cap. 32-33, Lionel - La boutique de madeleines de Liverdun - Part 2

 

This restaurant owner in Nice uses décliner in a somewhat particular sense. He's not talking about the different forms of socca he offers, but rather all the times of day people order it:

 

Ça se décline comme ça, et on peut en manger vraiment à n'importe quelle heure.
It's available like that, and you can really eat it at any time.
Cap. 34-35, Le saviez-vous? - La socca, spécialité niçoise

 

If you see décliner on a form you're filling out, or hear it from an administrative official, you're being asked to provide information about yourself:

 

Déclinez votre nom et adresse.
State your name and address.

 

Don't forget that décliner also has all the senses of the English "decline": "decrease," "deteriorate," "move downward," "politely refuse."

 

We've now "declined" all the meanings of décliner!

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Surprise, Surprise!

In the latest segment of Le Jour où tout a basculé - J'ai piégé mon fan, Alex uses a phrase whose meaning may surprise you:

 

Mais bon, c'était pour la bonne cause. -Tu m'étonnes. Regarde.
But OK, it was for a good cause. -You're not kidding. Look.
Cap. 7-8, Le Jour où tout a basculé - J'ai piégé mon fan - Part 7

 

The literal translation of tu m'étonnes is "you surprise me," but it's often used as a set phrase meaning "you're not kidding," "no kidding," or "tell me something I don't know." Used in this way, it has the opposite meaning of its literal translation—the person is not surprised by what they just heard. Tu m'étonnes is very similar to the English expression "surprise, surprise," which is also used ironically to convey a lack of surprise. 

 

Sans blague is another phrase meaning "no kidding" or, more literally, "no joke." This one, however, can express surprise:

 

Je suis né le 3 novembre. -Sans blague! Moi aussi!
I was born on November 3. -No kidding! So was I!

 

The verb étonner has the same root as the English verb "to stun." It means "to surprise," "astonish," or "amaze":

 

Sur l'eau, il vit son reflet, totalement étonné
In the water, he saw his reflection, totally surprised
Cap. 29, Contes de fées - Le vilain petit canard - Part 2

 

Les héritiers de Jules Verne n'ont pas fini de nous étonner.
Jules Verne's heirs have never ceased to amaze us.
Cap. 26, Le Journal - Le record du Tour de Monde!

 

And the English "surprise" comes directly from the French surpris(e):

 

Je suis un peu surpris.
I'm a little surprised.
Cap. 38, Lea & Lionel L - Le parc de Bercy - Part 1

 

Unsurprisingly, the verb surprendre means "to surprise":
 
 

Tu vas mener l'attaque pour les surprendre.
You're going to lead the attack to surprise them.
Cap. 28, Il était une fois - les Explorateurs - 15. Bruce et les sources du Nil - Part 2

 

But it can also have the related meaning "to catch," "come upon," or "discover":

 

Louise surprend René et Edna en pleine conversation.
Louise catches René and Edna deep in conversation.
Cap. 2, Le Jour où tout a basculé - Mes grands-parents sont infidèles - Part 8 

 

Just as there are two words for "to surprise" (étonner and surprendre) and two words for "surprised" (étonné[e] and surpris[e]), there are two words for "surprising": 

 

C'est pas étonnant que beaucoup de peintres soient venus s'installer ici sur Arles.
It's not surprising that many painters came to settle here in Arles.
Cap. 12, Arles - Un Petit Tour d'Arles - Part 3

 

C'est un endroit vraiment surprenant en plein cœur de Paris.
It's a really surprising place right in the heart of Paris.
Cap. 14, Voyage dans Paris - Les Secrets de Belleville

 

Can you guess what la surprise and l'étonnement mean? Surprise, surprise! 

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Logement pour tous!

In early 2018, a group of protesters gathered in front of the headquarters of the SNCF (Société nationale des chemins de fer français [French National Railway Company]) to demand that the company convert its empty buildings into public housing:

 

Logement! -Pour qui? -Pour tous!
Housing! -For whom? -For everyone! 
Cap. 18-20, Actus Quartier - Devant la SNCF

 

Logement is the word for "housing" or "lodging" in general, but it can also refer more specifically to an apartment, house, or home: 

 

j'aurais pas pu avoir mon logement
I wouldn't have been able to get my apartment
Cap. 57, Actus Quartier - Devant la SNCF

 

lorsque j'avais pas mon logement
when I didn't have my home
Cap. 110, Actus Quartier - Devant la SNCF

 

The verbal form of logementloger, means "to house" or "to accommodate." It's synonymous with héberger:

 

ces beaux immeubles vides pour héberger, pour loger les personnes qui sont à la rue
these beautiful empty buildings to house, to provide housing for people who are on the street
Cap. 16-17, Actus Quartier - Devant la SNCF

 

On the flip side, loger can also mean "to be housed," "to stay," or "to live":

 

Je loge chez mon amie
I'm staying at my friend's place.

 

If someone is mal logé, they're living in poor housing conditions:
 

La honte, la honte à ce pouvoir qui fait la guerre aux mal-logés.
Shame, shame on this authority that's waging war on the poorly housed.
Cap. 27-28, Actus Quartier - Devant la SNCF

 

And if someone is homeless, they're SDF—an acronym for sans domicile fixe (without a fixed abode):

 

Moi, je suis là parce que je suis SDF. Je suis sans domicile fixe.
Me, I'm here because I'm homeless. I'm without a fixed abode.
Cap. 98-99, Actus Quartier - Devant la SNCF

 

Another word for "homeless" is sans-abri (without shelter).

 

Many people lucky enough to have a fixed abode pay un loyer (rent) to un/une propriétaire (a landlord/landlady):

 

j'ai de quoi payer un loyer
I have enough to pay rent
Cap. 120, Actus Quartier - Devant la SNCF

 

La propriétaire a vendu son appartement
The landlady sold her apartment
Cap. 103, Actus Quartier - Devant la SNCF

 

Propriétaire is also the word for "owner." Un propriétaire foncier is a property owner, such as the SNCF:

 

Faut quand même savoir que la SNCF, c'est le deuxième propriétaire foncier du pays après l'État.
You should know, however, that the SNCF is the second largest property owner in the country after the State.
Cap. 42-44, Actus Quartier - Devant la SNCF

 

You'll find two words for "building" in this video—immeuble and bâtiment:

 

Vous avez vu dimanche le bel immeuble vide
On Sunday you saw the beautiful empty building
Cap. 9, Actus Quartier - Devant la SNCF

 

Parce qu'ils ont des bâtiments vides, complètement vides
Because they have empty buildings, completely empty
Cap. 29, Actus Quartier - Devant la SNCF

 

While both are general terms for "building," un immeuble can also be an "apartment building" or "apartment block," which is what the protesters are hoping the SNCF will provide for those in need.

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Un Truc: A (Not So) Tricky Thing

In this lesson, we're going to discuss a very common word that isn't very specific. It's un truc, an informal word for "thing" (une chose has the same meaning). You can use it when you're not quite sure what an object is called:

 

J'attends que le truc passe parce que ça fait un petit bruit...
I'm waiting for the thing to pass because it's making a little noise...
Cap. 82, Lea - Cour Saint-Émilion

 

Or when you're talking about something abstract:

 

On n'a plus de souvenirs. C'est ça, le truc aussi.
We don't have any more memories. That's the thing too.
Cap. 25-26, Elisa et sa maman

 

When someone says "it's not my thing," they're saying they don't really like it (it's not their cup of tea) or they're not really good at it (it's not their forte). There's an exact cognate of this expression in French—ce n'est pas mon truc:

 

La baignade, c'est pas mon truc. -Oh, moi non plus!
Swimming isn't my thing. -Oh, me neither!
Cap. 26, Il était une fois - Notre Terre - 25. Technologies - Part 5

 

Un truc means "a thing," but it often translates as "something." It's a more informal way of saying quelque chose (something):

 

Tu sais je vais te dire un truc. Tu sais ce que c'est qu'une utopie?
You know, I'll tell you something. Do you know what a utopia is?
Cap. 70, Actus Quartier - Manif anti-nucléaire à Bastille

 

Manon, à toi de commencer. Dis-moi un petit truc en français.
Manon, your turn to start. Tell me a little something in French.
Cap. 3, Manon et Clémentine - Virelangues

 

Sometimes, un truc (or des trucs) is just "stuff" in general:

 

Je sais pas encore mais en tout cas je sais que je veux créer un truc.
I don't know yet, but in any case I know that I want to create stuff.
Cap. 58, Watt’s In - Louane : Avenir Interview Exclu

 

But there is one instance in which truc does have a specific meaning. It's also the word for "trick," as in a magic trick or a clever way of doing something:

 

Moi, j'ai un truc miraculeux
Me, I have a miraculous trick
Cap. 2, Le Mans TV - Benjamin Perrot: "La rébellion du combiné"

 

You'll find a synonym for truc in the next caption:

 

Une astuce qui ne coûte rien
trick that costs nothing
Cap. 3, Le Mans TV - Benjamin Perrot: "La rébellion du combiné"

 

Besides ce n'est pas mon truc, there are two expressions with truc with close English cognates. The first is avoir le truc:

 

Je n'ai pas le truc pour ça.
don't have the knack for it. 

 

Tu commences à avoir le truc.
You're getting the hang of it.

 

The second is chacun son truc (literally, "each his/her thing"), synonymous with chacun ses goûts (there's no accounting for taste; literally, "each his/her tastes"):

 

J'aime les chats. Tu aimes les chiens. Chacun son truc! / Chacun ses goûts!
I like cats. You like dogs. To each his own!

 

Vous commencez à avoir le truc pour "truc"!  Stay tuned for our next lesson and tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com.

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A Rendezvous with Rendez-Vous

The word rendez-vous is the second-person plural imperative form of the verb se rendre ("to go" or "to present oneself"). It literally means "go!" or "present yourself!" But rather than a command, you'll hear it most often used as a noun—un rendez-vous. In English, "a rendezvous" is another word for "a meeting." Un rendez-vous means that and much more, as you'll see in this lesson.

 

If you're a regular Yabla French user, you'll recognize this word from the final caption of nearly every video in our Voyage en France series:

 

Je vous donne rendez-vous très bientôt pour de nouvelles découvertes. 
I will meet you very soon for some new discoveries.
Cap. 50, Voyage en France - Mont-Valérien

 

Donner rendez-vous à (literally, "to give meeting to") is to arrange to meet someone, to set up a date or an appointment with someone. Indeed, besides "a meeting," un rendez-vous can also be "a date" or "an appointment": 

 

C'est au premier rendez-vous qu'ils franchissent le pas
It's on the first date that they take that step
Cap. 5, Grand Corps Malade - Roméo kiffe Juliette

 

J'ai rendez-vous chez le dentiste et je suis en retard!
I have an appointment at the dentist and I'm late!
Cap. 10, Micro-Trottoirs - Art ou science?

 

Note the discrepancy between the French and the English in that last example: when talking about having an appointment with someone, you don't have to say j'ai un rendez-vousJ'ai rendez-vous will suffice.

 

In French, you don't "make" an appointment with someone—you "take" (prendre) one:

 

Aujourd'hui, on va apprendre à prendre rendez-vous chez le médecin.
Today we're going to learn how to make an appointment at the doctor's.
Cap. 1, Manon et Clémentine - Rendez-vous chez le médecin

 

And if something is by appointment only, it's sur rendez-vous ("on appointment"):

 

au trente-neuf rue Saint-Pavin des Champs sur rendez-vous
at thirty-nine Saint-Pavin des Champs Street by appointment
Cap. 38, Le Mans TV - Le Mans: Ouverture d'un nouvel atelier d'artistes

 

Un rendez-vous can refer both to a meeting and a meeting place:

 

Ce château était un rendez-vous de chasse.
This castle was a rendezvous point for hunting.
Cap. 26, Le Mans TV - Mon Village - Malicorne - Part 5

 

Here's an interesting example that uses rendez-vous in more of a metaphoric sense: 

 

Le soleil est au rendez-vous pour ce nouveau numéro de la découverte de la ville de Provins.
The sun is present for this new episode of the discovery of the city of Provins.
Cap. 2, Voyage en France - La ville de Provins - Part 3

 

The sun is "at the meeting" for this new episode—in other words, the sun is out. Être au rendez-vous means "to be present." The expression is used in the negative in Part 1 of Le Jour où tout a basculé - J'ai piégé mon fan to describe an actress's lack of success in recent years:

 

Sophie est une comédienne célèbre, mais depuis quelques années le succès n'est plus au rendez-vous.
Sophie is a famous actress, but success has been hard to come by for several years.
Cap. 1-2, Le Jour où tout a basculé - J'ai piégé mon fan - Part 1

 

Mais depuis deux ans, le succès n'est plus vraiment au rendez-vous.
But for the last two years, success has been somewhat elusive.
Cap. 41, Le Jour où tout a basculé - J'ai piégé mon fan - Part 1

 

That about does it for this lesson. Nous vous donnons rendez-vous très bientôt pour une nouvelle leçon (We'll meet you very soon for a new lesson)!

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Passing Time with Passer

In the latest installment of Le Jour où tout a basculé, we find two very different uses of the verb passer. The first is a direct cognate of the English verb "to pass," referring to time passing:

 

Quatre mois ont passé.
Four months have passed.
Cap. 30, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Mon père s'oppose à ma passion - Part 6

 

The second, referring to taking an exam, is a false cognate. You might assume that passer son bac means "to pass one's baccalaureate exam." But that's wrong! Passer in this context actually means "to take":  

 

J'ai passé mon bac.
took my baccalaureate.
Cap. 41, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Mon père s'oppose à ma passion - Part 6

 

If you want to talk about passing an exam, use the verb réussir (to succeed):

 

Demain il réussira son examen.
Tomorrow he will pass his exam.
Cap. 27, Le saviez-vous? - Conjugaison des verbes du 2ème groupe au futur simple

 

Passer's other meanings are more predictable. You can use it transitively (i.e., with an object) to to talk about passing something to someone:

 

Passe le micro. 
Pass the mic. 
Cap. 54, Arles: Le marché d'Arles

 

Or you can use it intransitively (without an object) to describe someone passing by or passing from one place to another:

 

Tous les ans, effectivement, nous demandons à Saint-Nicolas de passer.
Every year, in fact, we ask Saint Nicholas to pass by.
Cap. 44, Grand Lille TV: Focus - la tradition de Saint-Nicolas

 

Et maintenant on va passer en cuisine avec le chef.
And now we'll go into the kitchen with the chef.
Cap. 33, Parigot: Le bistrot

 

Just as you can "pass time" (or "spend time") in English, you can passer du temps in French: 

 

Et puis ça permet de passer un bon petit moment ensemble.
And then it allows us to spend a good bit of time together.
Cap. 47, Actus Quartier: Fête de quartier Python-Duvernois - Part 2

 

The expression passer pour means "to pass for," as in "to be taken for" or "seem like":

 

La maîtrise des synonymes vous permettra donc d'élargir votre vocabulaire, 

mais aussi, de ne pas passer pour un psychopathe.
Mastering synonyms will therefore allow you to broaden your vocabulary, but also to not be taken for a psychopath.
Cap. 23-24, Le saviez-vous? - Les synonymes

 

As passer is such a versatile verb, it's no surprise that it's used in many, many common expressions. We'll pass along a handful of them to you:

 

passer à autre chose - to move on to something else
passer à l'acte - to take action
passer à la caisse - to pay/checkout
passer à la télévision - to be on TV
passer à table - to sit down for a meal (also has the figurative meaning "to snitch" or "spill the beans")
passer un coup de fil - to make a phone call
passer de la musique - to put on some music
passer au bloc - to go under the knife/have surgery
passer au peigne fin - to go over with a fine-tooth comb
passer à côté de - to miss/miss out on
laisser passer sa chance - to miss one's chance

 

You can find even more expressions on this WordReference page.

 

And to learn about the reflexive form of passerse passer, check out our lesson Se Passer: To Bypass and Pass By.

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One Word, Two Genders

You may know that all French nouns are either masculine or feminine, but did you know that some nouns can be both? A word like après-midi (afternoon), for example, can be either masculine or feminine depending on the speaker's preference:

 

Vous deux, là, qu'est-ce que vous allez faire de beau cet après-midi?
You two, here, what are you going to do that's exciting this afternoon?
Cap. 57, Actus Quartier: Fête de quartier Python-Duvernois - Part 1

 

On passe une super après-midi.
You spend a great afternoon.
Cap. 90, LCM: Rétine argentique, le paradis des photographes

 

Un après-midi (masculine) and une après-midi (feminine) both mean "an afternoon." But usually, when a word's gender changes, its meaning changes too. Take the word mode, for example. La mode (feminine) means "fashion," but le mode (masculine) means "mode" or "(grammatical) mood":

 

Le milieu de la mode est aussi touché hein, forcément.
The world of fashion is also affected, you know, necessarily.
Cap. 36, Cap 24: Paris - Alessandro fait les Puces! - Part 1

 

Le temps présent fait partie du mode indicatif.
The present tense is part of the indicative mood.
Cap. 10, Le saviez-vous?: Le mode indicatif, c'est quoi?

 

Like mode, a lot of dual-gender words end in -e. Another common one is poste. When masculine, it means "post" as in "position" or "job" (among other things), and when feminine, it means "post" as in "post office" or "mail":

 

J'ai trouvé mon premier poste de libraire
I found my first bookseller position
Cap. 3, Gaëlle: Librairie "Livres in Room"

 

Si je venais à gagner, vous m'enverrez mon chèque par la poste.
If I were to win, you'll send me my check in the mail.
Cap. 27, Patricia: Pas de crédit dans le monde des clones - Part 2

 

You'll most often find the word livre in its masculine form, meaning "book." When feminine, it means "pound," as in the unit of weight and currency:

 

L'extérieur d'un livre s'appelle la couverture.
The outside of a book is called the cover.
Cap. 4, Manon et Clémentine: Vocabulaire du livre

 

Une livre équivaut à environ quatre cent cinquante-quatre grammes. 
One pound is equal to around four hundred fifty-four grams. 

 

Voile has related meanings in both its masculine and feminine forms. Both refer to things made of fabric—a veil (un voile) and a sail (une voile): 

 

Un niqab, c'est donc un voile intégral qui ne laisse voir que les yeux.
So a niqab is a full-length veil that only shows the eyes.
Cap. 10, Cap Caen Normandie TV: Danse - Héla Fattoumi se dévoile

 

Il a une seule voile
It has a single sail.
Cap. 11, Fred et Miami Catamarans: Les Bateaux

 

This video takes you on a tour (un tour) of Paris, making a requisite stop at the Eiffel Tower (la Tour Eiffel):

 

La Tour Eiffel, qui est le symbole de la France.
The Eiffel Tower, which is the symbol of France. 
Cap. 20, Paris Tour: Visite guidée de Paris


Gender can be tricky in French, doubly so when you're dealing with words that can be both masculine and feminine. Remembering them is just a matter of practice. You can find a comprehensive list of dual-gender words on this page.

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Pas de souci!

If you have any worries, concerns, or problems in a French-speaking country, souci is the word to use to express your predicament. In the first two senses ("worry" and "concern"), it's synonymous with inquiétude

 

Ne te fais pas de souci. Fais-moi confiance!
Don't worry. Trust me!
Cap. 6, Il était une fois... l’Homme: 6. Le siècle de Périclès - Part 4

 

Alors, le souci, quand elles en font deux, c'est que si elles sont pas très bonnes productrices de lait...
So the concern, when they have two, is that if they are not very good producers of milk...
Cap. 4, Ferme de la Croix de Pierre: Les chèvres

 

Pas d'inquiétude. De nos jours, le pont est protégé d'un grillage.
No worries. Nowadays, the bridge is protected by a wire fence. 
Cap. 29, De nouvelles découvertes avec Marion: Le parc des Buttes Chaumont

 

Souci and inquiétude both have verbal forms (se soucier, s'inquiéter) and adjectival forms (soucieux/soucieuse, inquiet/inquiète): 

 

Sans se soucier [or: s'inquiéterde dévoiler ses sentiments
Without worrying about revealing her feelings
Cap. 7, Vous avez du talent: Paulin - "Elle"

 

Donc si vous êtes un petit peu soucieux [or: inquiet] de votre santé...
So if you're a little bit concerned about your health...
Cap. 16, Voyage dans Paris: Cité Florale

 

Un souci is also "a problem" or "an issue" you might have with something—for instance, if there's something wrong with a bike you've rented: 

 

...si y a aucun souci avec les pédales.
...if there's any problem with the pedals.
Cap. 34, Amal: Vélib

 

Et si y a le moindre souci avec un vélo...
And if there's the slightest issue with a bike...
Cap. 57, Amal: Vélib

 

But un souci doesn't always involve a sense of frustration or anxiety. It can also mean "a concern," as in something you really care about and pay a lot of attention to. 

 

Le souci du détail est un dogme.
Concern over detail [or: Attention to detail] is a dogma.
Cap. 27, Le Journal: Chocolats

 

Nous avons un grand souci de l'environnement. 
We have a great concern for [or: We really care about] the environment. 

 

There are also the expressions par souci de and dans un souci de, both meaning "in the interest of" or "for the sake of":

 

Si une partie de Lyon a été retenue, c'est d'abord par souci de [or: dans un souci decohérence.
If a portion of Lyon has been contained, it is primarily for the sake of coherence.
Cap. 11, Le Journal: La grippe aviaire - Part 2

 

Finally, souci is also the word for "marigold." So while the informal expression pas de souci most often means "no worries," it can also mean "no marigolds"!

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People and Individuals

Did you know that in French, "a person" is always feminine, regardless of their gender? That is, the word personne is always feminine, even when it refers to a male person. Our friend Farmer François refers to himself as une personne (not un personne) when talking to us about his vegetable stand: 

 

Moi, je suis une personne qui est né dans la banlieue.
Me, I'm someone who was born in the suburbs.
Cap. 48, Farmer François: Le stand de légumes

 

And in another video, a woman describes a male friend of hers as la seule personne (not le seul personne):

 

C'était un Français, bien sûr. C'est la seule personne que je connais à West Berlin.
It was a Frenchman, of course. He's the only person I knew in West Berlin.
Cap. 18-19, Le Journal: Le mur de Berlin s'écroule

 

On the flip side, "an individual" is always masculine: 

 

Ce n'est pas Bérangère qui la regarde mais un individu pour le moins étrange.
It's not Bérangère who is watching her but a rather strange individual.
Cap. 10, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Espion dans l'immeuble - Part 2

 

Elle est un individu sain. 
She is a healthy individual.

 

There's an interesting combination of personne and individu in this article about the recent evacuation of Mont-Saint-Michel. The subject of the article is a man who made threats against police at the popular French tourist destination. He's designated as both il (referring to individu) and elle (referring to personne):

 

Selon Ouest-France, l'individu aurait affirmé vouloir «tuer des policiers». Descendu de la navette, il se serait ensuite volatilisé avant l'arrivée des gendarmes.... Plusieurs témoins ont signalé cette personne alors qu'elle rentrait sur le site touristique, a annoncé la gendarmerie.


According to Ouest-France, the individual expressed a desire to "kill police officers." After getting off the shuttle, he reportedly disappeared before the officers arrived.... Several witnesses identified this person when he returned to the tourist site, the police reported. 

 

Don't forget that personne can also be used as a pronoun in combination with ne, meaning "no one":

 

Maintenant on dit: "Il n'y a pas un chat", pour parler d'un endroit où il n'y a personne.
Now one says, "There's not one cat" [not a soul] to talk about a place where there isn't anyone.
Cap. 13, Manon et Clémentine: Mots et animaux

 

Personne ne peut vivre là-dedans!
No one could live in there!
Cap. 16, Il était une fois - les Explorateurs: 10. Amerigo Vespucci - Part 4

 

Stay tuned for Patricia's upcoming video on ne... personne and similar expressions, part of her series on negation

 

Thanks to Michael H. for bringing this topic to our attention! 

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A Lesson in Pieces

The latest episode of Le Jour où tout a basculé begins with a homeless man asking pedestrians for une petite pièce, which is not "a little piece," but rather "a small coin" or "some small change":

 

Monsieur, s'il vous plaît, une petite pièce, un petit ticket restaurant...
Sir, please, a small coin, a small restaurant voucher...
Cap. 30, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Mon père s'oppose à ma passion - Part 1

 

Vous n'auriez pas une petite pièce?
You wouldn't have some small change?
Cap. 35, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Mon père s'oppose à ma passion - Part 1

 

Une pièce is short for une pièce de monnaie, "a piece of change." Monnaie is where we get the English word "money" (l'argent in French), but it actually means "change" or "currency":

 

Nous allons récupérer de la monnaie.
We're going to retrieve some change.
Cap. 50, Lionel: Voyage en train - Part 1

 

Une pièce can also be short for une pièce de théâtre ("a theater piece"), that is, "a play":

 

En général, on prenait la pièce d'un auteur connu.
We usually picked a play from a well-known author.
Cap. 33, Flora et le théâtre

 

And its meanings don't stop there. Une pièce is also "a room," which you might think of as a "piece" of a building:

 

Mais venez avec moi, dans l'autre pièce.
But come with me into the other room.
Cap. 25, Il était une fois - Notre Terre: 9. Les écosystèmes - Part 7

 

Sometimes, une pièce is just a plain old "piece," whether referring to a piece or part of something else:

 

Ce puzzle a cinq cents pièces
This puzzle has five hundred pieces.

 

J'ai besoin d'une pièce détachée pour mon vélo. 
I need a spare part for my bike. 

 

Or referring to an item or object, such as a piece of art or an article of clothing:

 

Ici, chaque pièce "d'art de la table" est unique.
Here, every piece of "table art" is unique.
Cap. 9, Canal 32: Mesnil-Saint-Loup - moines artisans

 

Alors que c'est un ciré de création en pièce unique, quoi.
Although it's a unique piece, a designer raincoat, you know.
Cap. 27, Lyon: La Croix-Rousse - Part 2

 

You might also see pièce used as an adverb, generally when referencing the price of something. In this case it means "each" or, in a more direct translation, "apiece": 

 

Les livres d'occasion coûtent un euro pièce
The used books cost one euro each [or: apiece]. 

 

For even more pieces of information about the word pièce, see this extensive Larousse entry.

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Idiomatic Animals

While discussing pigeons in Paris with his friend Lea, Lionel brings up an amusing French idiom referencing those ubiquitous city birds:

 

Alors se faire pigeonner en français, c'est vraiment se faire arnaquer, se faire avoir par une personne qui vous a soutiré de l'argent. 
So "se faire pigeonner" [to be taken for a ride] in French is really to get ripped off, to be had by a person who has extracted money from you.
Cap. 54-59, Lea & Lionel L: Le parc de Bercy - Part 1

 

Se faire pigeonner literally means "to be taken for a pigeon." In English too, "a pigeon" can refer to someone who's gullible or easily swindled. Pigeons get a bad rap in both languages! 

 

Let's take a look at some more animal expressions and idioms used in Yabla videos. Here's another bird-related one:

 

Oui. J'avoue être un peu poule mouillée.
Yes. I admit to being a bit of a wet hen [a wimp].
Cap. 23, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Notre appartement est hanté - Part 3 

 

Calling someone poule mouillée is equivalent to calling them "chicken." A slightly less pejorative poultry-inspired moniker is un canard:

 

Qu'ils me disent que je m'affiche, qu'ils me traitent de canard
That they'll say that I am showing off, that they'll call me a duck [a slave to love]
Cap. 6-7, Grand Corps Malade: Comme une évidence

 

Un canard is a person who's so lovestruck they'll do whatever their partner desires. Believe it or not, it's also a slang term for "newspaper." There's even a famous French newspaper called Le Canard enchaîné (The Chained Duck), which Lionel discusses in a few other videos

 

Don't confuse canard with cafard, the word for "cockroach." When used metaphorically, cafard means "depression" or "the blues":

 

Mon cafard me lâche moins souvent qu'autrefois
My blues don't let me go as much as before
Cap. 8, Debout Sur Le Zinc: Les mots d'amour

 

The expression avoir le cafard means "to be depressed," or literally, "to have the cockroach." And there's the adjective cafardeux/cafardeuse, which can mean either "depressing" or "depressed." Encountering a cockroach in your home can certainly be depressing, to say the least!

 

Though dogs are as beloved in France as they are in other countries, the word chien (dog) typically means "bad" or "nasty" when used as an adjective:

 

Fais demain quand le présent est chien
Make tomorrow when the present is bad
Cap. 3, Corneille: Comme un fils

 

You'll find chien in a couple of idioms involving bad weather, such as un temps de chien (nasty weather) and un coup de chien (a storm):

 

On va avoir un coup de chien, regarde!
We're going to have a dog's blow [stormy weather], look!
Cap. 55, Il était une fois - les Explorateurs: 10. Amerigo Vespucci - Part 5

 

You can also say un temps de cochon (pig weather) instead of un temps de chien:

 

Et aujourd'hui on a pas un temps de cochon par contre.
And today we don't have pig weather [rotten weather] however.
Cap. 22, Lionel: La Cathédrale de Toul - Part 2

 

In American English, "pigs" is a slang term for "cops." But the French call them vaches (cows):

 

Mort aux vaches, mort aux cons!
Death to the cows ["pigs," i.e., cops], death to the jerks!
Cap. 5, Patrice Maktav: La Rue

 

Finally, they don't celebrate April Fools' Day in France, but rather "April Fish":

 

En tout cas j'espère que ce n'est pas un poisson d'avril.
In any event, I hope that it's not an April fish [April fool].
Cap. 21, Lionel: à Lindre-Basse - Part 5

 

You can find out more about the poisson d'avril tradition here. And be sure to check out Manon and Clémentine's video Mots et animaux to learn some more expressions featuring cats, dogs, and wolves.

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To Doubt or Not to Doubt

In the latest episode of Le Jour où tout a basculé, Sarah receives some troubling news from her son Nino that could put her job in jeopardy:

 

Sarah ne se doute pas un instant de la tournure des évènements.
Sarah doesn't suspect for a moment the turn of events. 
Cap. 2-3, Le Jour où tout a basculé: J'ai volé pour nourrir mon fils - Part 6

 

The verb douter looks a lot like the English verb "to doubt," and indeed, the two are exact cognates: 

 

Et puis, je commençais aussi à douter.
And then, I also began to doubt.
Cap. 26, Le Jour où tout a basculé: À la recherche de mon père - Part 3

 

But se douter, the reflexive form of douter, doesn't mean "to doubt oneself," as you might expect. Instead, it means "to suspect" or "to guess": 

 

Mais il ne se doute pas qu'à sa place va se présenter Edna, la complice de Louise.
But little does he know [he doesn't suspect] that in her place will be Edna, Louise's accomplice.
Cap. 63-65, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Mes grands-parents sont infidèles - Part 4

 

If you're really certain about something, you can use the phrase se douter bien:

 

Avec un regard comme celui-là, on se doute bien qu'il a dû en voir.
With a look like this, one might well guess that he must have seen a lot.
Cap. 1, Le Journal: Le photographe Cartier-Bresson

 

Je me doute bien qu'il sait comment cuisiner.
I'm sure he knows how to cook.

 

Both douter and se douter can be followed by de or que. (Se) douter de always comes before a noun (as in Sarah ne se doute pas un instant de la tournure des évènements), while (se) douter que always comes before an independent clause (as in je me doute bien qu'il sait comment cuisiner).

 

But douter and se douter differ in another important way besides their meaning. While se douter que always takes the indicative mood (since it expresses a certainty or near certainty), douter que can take the indicative or the subjunctive depending on context. In general, douter que takes the subjunctive in the affirmative and the indicative in the negative: 

 

Je doute qu'il sache comment cuisiner.
I doubt he knows how to cook.

 

Je ne doute pas qu'elle sait la meilleure façon d'y arriver.   
I don't doubt she knows the best way to get there.

 

As you may recall, the subjunctive is used to express a wish, uncertainty, or doubt. So if you're saying you don't doubt something, it makes sense that you would use the indicative rather than the subjunctive in that case. 

 

We'll be back with a new lesson soon, sans aucun doute (without a doubt)!

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Sensé(e) or Censé(e)?

The adjectives sensé(e) and censé(e) are easy to confuse, since they have the same pronunciation and almost the same spelling (in other words, they're homophones). Sensé(e) is related to the English word "sense," and means "sensible," "reasonable," or "sane": 

 

J'étais face à trois personnes que je considérais comme étant parfaitement sensées.
I was facing three people whom I considered to be perfectly sane.
Cap. 80-81, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Notre appartement est hanté - Part 5

 

Censé(e) might remind you of the words "census," "censor," or "censure," but it means something quite different. It's the word for "supposed," as in "supposed to do something." Just like "supposed to," it's nearly always preceded by the verb "to be" (être) and followed by an infinitive: 
 

On est censé faire réparer des objets qui ont quelques problèmes. 
We're supposed to bring items that have some problems for repair.
Cap. 2, Actus de Quartier: Repair Café

 

On était censé n'avoir aucun souci, avoir des centrales complètement fiables...
They were supposed to have no concerns, to have totally reliable power plants...
Cap. 25, Manif du Mois: Fukushima plus jamais ça

 

Alors que la police, elle est censée être là pour nous protéger.
While the police are supposed to be there to protect us.
Cap. 14, Banlieues françaises: jeunes et policiers, l'impossible réconciliation? - Part 2

 

You can always say supposé(e) instead of censé(e), which might be a little easier to remember:

 

...son fameux pont qui était supposé être un lieu où [on] profitait de beaux panoramas.
...its famous bridge, which was supposed to be a place where you enjoy beautiful panoramas.
Cap. 26-27, De nouvelles découvertes avec Marion: Le parc des Buttes Chaumont

 

Or you can use the verb devoir, especially in the past tense:

 

...bien qu'elle se demanda en quoi cela devait l'aider à se rendre au bal.
...although she wondered in what way that was supposed to help her get to the ball.
Cap. 47-48, Contes de fées: Cendrillon - Part 1

 

Whichever version of "supposed to" you use is perfectly sensé!

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Ça se dit en français?

In Part 2 of "Elle a banni le sucre pendant un an," Danièle Gerkens, a journalist at Elle magazine, talks about the health benefits she experienced after cutting sugar from her diet for one year. When the year was almost up, she was expecting to break her sugar fast with mountains of whipped cream, but it was actually a single piece of dark chocolate that did her in:

 

Je me disais que j'allais me rouler dans la chantilly, et cetera. Et puis en fait, plus ça arrivait, plus je me disais, mais qu'est-ce que je vais faire?
I told myself that I was going to wallow in whipped cream, et cetera. And then in fact, the closer it came [to the end], the more I was wondering, but what am I going to do?
Cap. 102-104, Le Figaro: Elle a banni le sucre pendant un an - Part 2

 

Note the two different translations of je me disais here: "I told myself" and "I was wondering." The reflexive verb se dire can mean a number of things depending on context, namely "to tell/say to oneself" and "to wonder/think." In a sense, these both mean the same thing: when you wonder or think about something, you're telling yourself about it. 

 

When multiple people se disent, they could be thinking about something or telling themselves something, but they could also just be talking to each other: 

 

Christine et Alice sont de meilleures amies. Elles se disent tout. 
Christine and Alice are best friends. They tell each other everything.

 

Se dire can also mean "to say of oneself," or in other words, "to claim to be":

 

Le Charles de Gaulle, où la direction se dit d'abord victime de son image.
Charles de Gaulle [Hospital], where the management claims first of all to be a victim of its image.
Cap. 29, Le Journal: Hôpital ultra-moderne à Burkina Faso

 

Or se dire can simply mean "to be said," which has a few different connotations. Here Danièle is (somewhat cheekily) talking about something she thinks is taboo and can't be mentioned in public. Believe it or not, she's referring to her love of milk chocolate! 

 

Je sais, ça se dit pas, mais j'adorais ça.
I know you're not supposed to say it, but that's what I loved.
Cap. 112, Le Figaro: Elle a banni le sucre pendant un an - Part 2

 

In its most general sense, se dire refers to anything that "is said" in everyday language:

 

Par contre, "faire le beau" se dit d'un chien qui se tient sur les pattes arrière pour réclamer un sucre.
On the other hand, faire le beau is said of a dog that stands on its hind legs to beg for a lump of sugar.
Cap. 24-25, Margaux et Manon: Emplois du verbe faire

 

"Je n'ai pas des biscuits": ça se dit en français? -Non. Il faut dire: "je n'ai pas de biscuits".
Can you say je n'ai pas des biscuits in French? -No. You have to say je n'ai pas de biscuits [I don't have any cookies].

 

Don't confuse ça se dit with ça te dit (or ça vous dit in the plural), which means "how does that sound" or "how would you like..." (literally, "does it speak to you"):

 

Ça te dit de réviser les multiples sens de l'expression "se dire"? 
How would you like to review the multiple meanings of the expression se dire

 

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Bouffer de la bonne bouffe

There are two new videos dealing with food on Yabla this week. The first is the latest episode of Le Jour où tout a basculé, which focuses on a struggling frozen-food worker and her difficult son. The second is an interview with Christian Le Squer, the head chef at the three-Michelin-starred restaurant Le Cinq. Both videos contain a good number of interesting food-related words, which we'll go over in this lesson. 

 

1. Des pâtes

Y a quoi pour le dîner? -Des pâtes.
What's for dinner? -Pasta.
Cap. 3-4, Le Jour où tout a basculé: J'ai volé pour nourrir mon fils - Part 1  

"Pasta" is a singular noun, but when you say you're having pasta for dinner, you don't mean you're just having one piece of pasta, right? That's why you say des pâtes (plural) in French when talking about a pasta meal. Une pâte (singular) refers to one piece of pasta, and it's also the word for "paste," "pastry," and "dough." Don't confuse it with le pâté, which means—you guessed it—"pâté."

 

 

2. Bouffer

Pourtant, ça empêche pas mes potes de bouffer de la viande.
Even so, that doesn't stop my buddies from eating meat.
Cap. 49,  Le Jour où tout a basculé: J'ai volé pour nourrir mon fils - Part 1  

This is a very common slang word meaning "to eat." You can use it instead of the standard verb manger when speaking informally. And instead of la nourriture (food), you can say la bouffe.

 

 

3. Des plats surgelés

Sarah est secrétaire dans une société de fabrication de plats surgelés.
Sarah is a secretary at a frozen-food manufacturing company.
Cap. 35, Le Jour où tout a basculé: J'ai volé pour nourrir mon fils - Part 1  

Des plats surgelés are frozen foods, but the term literally means "frozen dishes." Surgelé(e) is mostly used in food contexts and is often interchangeable with the related adjective congelé(e). The more general word for "frozen" is simply gelé(e). 

 

 

4. Le couvert 

Une quarantaine de couverts...
About forty place settings...
Cap. 9, Christian Le Squer: Je ne fais que goûter!

Couvert is the past participle of the verb couvrir (to cover), but when used as a noun (le couvert) it means "place setting" or "cutlery." This makes sense if you think about it, since when you set a table, you cover it with plates, glasses, and silverware. In fact, the phrase mettre le couvert means "to set the table," or literally, "to put down the place setting." 

 

 

5. Torréfier 

Faut la faire torréfier.
It's got to be roasted.
Cap. 23, Christian Le Squer: Je ne fais que goûter!

Christian Le Squer is referring to a hazelnut (une noisette) that he thinks needs to be roasted. Torréfier is mainly used when talking about roasting nuts or coffee beans. When you're roasting meat or vegetables, you use the verb rôtir or faire rôtir

 

 

6. Une entrée

viande, poisson, entrée, et sucrée
meat, fish, starters, and sweets
Cap. 34, Christian Le Squer: Je ne fais que goûter!

In American English, "entrée" is another word for "main course." But une entrée actually means an "appetizer" or "starter" in French. It also means "an entrance." To remember this difference in meaning, just think of an appetizer as the "entrance" to a meal. If you'd like to learn the history of the word "entrée" in English, check out this interesting blog post.

 

And for more food-related words, see this Yabla lesson

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