In our last lesson, we talked about the different words for kissing in French, and how the COVID pandemic has affected the French custom of la bise. Now we'll focus on hugging. Yes, French people hug too! However, there are differences. Unlike in Anglo-Saxon countries, where hugging is what la bise is to French people, hugging is not so prevalent in France. A hug is not used as a greeting, as full-body contact may be considered intrusive. Hugging is more of a private affair, a heartfelt show of affection. So, if you’re not comfortable with la bise, don’t think that you can make a compromise by giving a hug instead!
In fact, the word for “hug” doesn’t have a direct translation in French.
Instead, you’ll find a paraphrase: serrer dans ses bras (to squeeze in one's arms) or prendre dans ses bras (to hold in one’s arms).
J'aurais bien voulu, pour passer le temps te serrer dans mes bras amicalement
I really would have liked, to pass the time to squeeze you warmly in my arms
Captions 1-2, Babylon Circus - J'aurais bien vouluPlay Caption
Un câlin is a more familiar hug, more like a cuddle:
Que le mot soit doux comme un câlin
May the word be sweet like a cuddle
Caption 4, Les Nubians - Que le mot soit perlePlay Caption
You can also use the verbal phrase faire un câlin (to hug or cuddle). Sophie and Patrice even use it when talking about hugging their Christmas tree!
Moi, j'aime bien faire des câlins aux arbres. -Allez viens. On va lui faire un petit câlin.
I really like hugging trees. -Come on, we'll go give it a little hug.
Caption 86, Sophie et Patrice - Après NoëlPlay Caption
And you can give bisous, bises, and câlins in writing too, with no fear of contamination! It's equivalent to "kisses and hugs" at the end of a letter, text message, or email:
Bisous, câlins, Maman.
Kisses and hugs, Mom.
Caption 40, Extr@ Ep. 1 - L'arrivée de Sam - Part 1Play Caption
Finally, there's the more formal une étreinte, which is "an embrace," and its verbal form étreindre (to embrace):
J'aurais voulu que cette étreinte avec mon père dure éternellement.
I would have liked this embrace with my father to last forever.Play Caption
Le soir, on s'étreint, les deux pieds dans l'eau
In the evening, we embrace, both feet in the water
Caption 21, Duel - CaramelPlay Caption
The word embrasser is cognate with "embrace," but don't let that confuse you: it means "to kiss," not "to hug." See our last lesson for more on that.
The French might not hug each other as much as Americans do, but they have quite a few different ways of saying "hug"!
The COVID pandemic has forced French people to fundamentally rethink how they interact with each other. They will need to reconsider the way they typically greet and say goodbye to one another with a peck or two on each cheek, a kiss known as la bise.
Should this customary greeting, this deeply ingrained cultural habit of faire la bise be avoided during a pandemic?
In the video below, French Public Health authorities keep telling the inhabitants of the Grand-Est region to please stop kissing, which translates as s’embrasser:
Arrêtez de vous embrasser.
Stop kissing.Play Caption
Hold it! Does that mean that French people should stop kissing altogether? Not exactly. It simply means skipping the traditional peck or two on each cheek (la bise or s’embrasser sur la joue) every time you greet a friend or an acquaintance. The French health authorities are not specifically referring to romantic kissing.
Still, despite the risk of contamination, many French people are finding it difficult to abandon this tradition as it feels very awkward and unnatural to them, and they just can’t help themselves!
Beaucoup de Français ont un peu de mal à changer les habitudes, un peu de mal à oublier la bise.
Many French people are having a bit of trouble changing their habits, a bit of trouble forgetting the kiss on the cheek.
Captions 12-14, RMC Covid-19: faut-il encore se faire la bise?Play Caption
Cette mère de famille avoue embrasser la plupart de ses connaissances.
This mother admits to kissing most of her acquaintances.
Captions 43-44, RMC Covid-19: faut-il encore se faire la bise?Play Caption
Back in pre-COVID days, if you wanted to break the ice and exchange bises for the first time, you could just plunge ahead or you could simply ask, On se fait la bise? (Shall we give each other a peck on the cheek?). In a subtle way, asking or granting permission to exchange bises indicates the beginning of a friendship, in partnership with se tutoyer (using tu, the informal form of “you”).
But for now, the habit is hard to break. It’s usually de rigueur and not optional among family members. And it’s up to you to guess or decide how many bises you should exchange. Usually two will suffice, but that can vary.
The pressure to exchange la bise is greater on girls than boys as girls are expected to kiss everyone, regardless of gender. Girls especially feel the social pressure to exchange bises as they worry that they will come across as cold and unfriendly if they don’t kiss their friends and family members.
(Speaking of cold, la bise is also a cold northerly wind that bites your cheeks. We discussed this in a previous lesson.)
As for males, they aren’t expected to kiss everyone, and serrer la main (shaking hands) with male friends or relatives is acceptable.
If a man is feeling very gallant and old-fashioned, he can kiss a lady’s hand: faire un baiser sur la main. There’s even a special word for this: le baisemain (kissing someone’s hand as a mark of respect).
Although not so much used as a formal greeting anymore, le baiser remains a beautiful expression of love. Un baiser often refers to a romantic kiss:
Depuis que tu m'as laissé ce baiser fiévreux
Since you left me that feverish kiss
Caption 9, Charles-Baptiste Sale typePlay Caption
The verb baiser used to mean “to kiss,” and it was perfectly acceptable to use the term in formal circumstances and otherwise:
Il faut se mettre à genoux et baiser le pied de l'empereur. C'est la coutume.
We must kneel and kiss the emperor's foot. It's the custom.Play Caption
But beware! Baiser as a verb means something else entirely now! It’s slang for “to have sex.” But don’t worry: un baiser (a kiss) is safe to use in a sentence.
In addition to le baiser (kiss) and la bise (peck on each cheek), you may come across a couple of variations:
Le bisou, or “little kiss,” is warmer and more playful than la bise. The term is often used when talking to children, but also with good friends or lovers. It’s an expression of love and affection and is not typically used as a greeting like la bise:
Et moi, j'ai pas droit à un petit bisou?
And me, don't I get a little kiss?Play Caption
Un bécot is a somewhat more intimate kiss, more like a “smooch.” In this video on school regulations regarding public displays of affection, students smooch (se bécotent) in school. You can watch the entire video to discover more slang words for kissing:
Cela dit, le règlement ne prévoit aucune sanction pour les amoureux qui se bécotent à l'école publique.
That said, the regulations do not allow for any sanctions against lovers who kiss at public school.
Caption 31, Le Journal Baisers interdits dans les couloirs!Play Caption
So there you have it: multiple ways of greeting and expressing love and affection in French, whether it be la bise, un bisou, un baiser, or un bécot. It may have to be une bise virtuelle à distance (a virtual, socially distanced kiss) or an elbow bump until we can kiss the pandemic goodbye!
Have you noticed that while some French words have many variations in spelling, they sound the same?
For example, the words un verre, un ver, vers, and vert(s) share the same pronunciation yet have different meanings. That makes them homophones.
Homophones are especially common in French as the letters t, d, and s, when placed at the end of a word, are usually silent.
Check out Patricia’s video on homophones and homonyms, which she turned into a fun story.
Let’s examine the examples mentioned earlier.
Un verre can mean "a glass" or "a drink." The expression boire un verre means "to have a drink." Or, you can say prendre un verre.
On est tous là avec juste l'envie de passer un bon moment, de boire un verre
We are all here just with the desire to have a good time, to have a drink
Caption 52, Actu Vingtième Vendanges parisiennesPlay Caption
Le verre also refers to the material itself. It means "glass," as in English:
Nous sommes maintenant chez le souffleur de verre de L'Isle-Adam.
We are now at the L'Isle-Adam glassblower's.
Caption 11, Voyage en France L'Isle-Adam - Part 4Play Caption
Speaking of verre, did you know that Cinderella’s slippers might originally have been made not of verre, but of vair (squirrel fur)?
Some scholars believe the original fable described pantoufles de vair (squirrel fur slippers), which became pantoufles de verre (glass slippers) in Charles Perrault's famous version. No one knows if he made a mistake or simply chose a new material for the slippers in his version of the fairy tale.
From squirrels to worms…. Un ver de terre is an earthworm, a critter that Claire and Philippe remember fondly in their La campagne video.
Alors elle prenait le petit ver de terre dans la main.
So she used to take the little earthworm in her hand.
Caption 71, Claire et Philippe La campagnePlay Caption
And the poetically named ver solitaire (literally, "solitary worm") is the French word for "tapeworm”!
If the thought of many vers solitaires turns you off (vers being the plural of ver), let’s turn toward vers, an innocuous word that simply means "toward."
In the Actus Quartier video, this young lady is looking toward the future:
Je suis tournée vers l'avenir et vers tout ce qu'on va construire...
I'm looking toward the future and toward all that we're going to build…
Caption 40, Actus Quartier Fête de la rose au caviar rougePlay Caption
Vers also means "around," "about":
Plutôt vers deux heures du matin
Instead around two o'clock in the morning
Caption 60, Adrien Le métro parisienPlay Caption
Now, for a more colorful version of this homophone, you have the word vert, which means "green."
As you probably know, vert, like most adjectives, takes on masculine, feminine, and plural endings. For more information on adjective agreements, refer to previous lessons.
As mentioned earlier, -t and -s are often not pronounced at the end of a word. So vert (masculine singular) sounds exactly like verts (masculine plural). However, note that vert will become verte when agreeing with a feminine singular noun, and the t in verte will be pronounced!
Donc, on va écrire "vert". Masculin. Sinon... "verte".
So we're going to write "green." Masculine. Otherwise... "green" [feminine].
Caption 28, Leçons avec Lionel CouleursPlay Caption
Now that you’ve acquainted yourself with homophones, you’ll be surprised how many you'll be able to spot! But if you haven't satisfied your appetite for homophones, click here to learn some more.
The verb se moquer is used in two recent videos, in two slightly different senses:
Et il n'est pas le seul à se moquer.
And he's not the only one making fun.Play Caption
Non mais tu te moques de moi?
No but are you kidding me?Play Caption
Se moquer means to make or poke fun, or to kid. If it takes an object, as in the second example, you have to add de after it (to make fun of someone). It's cognate with "to mock" in English, and can also have that sense, depending on context:
Se moquer gentiment de personnages célèbres est très courant pendant la période de carnaval.
Gently mocking famous people is very common during the carnival period.
Caption 20, Le saviez-vous? - Le carnaval en FrancePlay Caption
But se moquer has another meaning that isn't quite as obvious. It's the verb you use when you don't care about something, or more precisely, when you couldn't care less:
Je me moque des règles.
I couldn't care less about the rules.
In more informal speech, se ficher is often used instead of se moquer in most of its senses:
On se fiche de nous ou quoi?
Are you kidding us or what?
Caption 5, Actus Quartier - Devant la SNCFPlay Caption
Je me fiche des règles.
I couldn't care less about the rules.
Another way of saying "to make/poke fun" is taquiner (to tease):
Ne taquine pas ta sœur.
Don't tease your sister.
There are a few other verbs for "to kid" in French. If you want to say "I'm kidding" or "just kidding," use plaisanter or rigoler:
Je plaisante, pas du tout.
I'm kidding, not at all.
Caption 22, Elisa et Mashal - Mon chien RoméoPlay Caption
Je ne ferai pas l'idiote. Non, je rigole.
I will not act like an idiot. No, I'm kidding.
Caption 52, Margaux et Manon - Conjugaison du verbe fairePlay Caption
Rigoler is an informal synonym of rire (to laugh). So you can think of je rigole as "I'm just having a laugh." Plaisanter, the verb form of une plaisanterie (a joke), means "to joke" or "joke around." So je plaisante is more along the lines of "I'm just joking around."
If you want to say "you're kidding," as an exclamation, you can say, Tu plaisantes! Or, you can even just say, Tu parles! (literally, "You're talking!")
Tu parles. Impôts?
You're kidding. Taxes?Play Caption
And for the phrase "no kidding," you can use the phrase sans blague (no joke). For more on that and other joke-related expressions, see our lesson Telling Jokes in French.
In the series d'Art d'Art, new at Yabla French, you'll learn the stories behind some of the most famous works of European art. You'll also learn plenty of art-related vocab too! Here are some key words from the first two videos in the series, on the Mona Lisa and The Death of Marat:
"D'Art d'Art", c'est l'histoire d'une œuvre d'art.
"D'Art d'Art" is the story of a work of art.
Caption 3, d'Art d'Art "La Mort de Marat" - DavidPlay Caption
When we talk about an artist's "œuvre" in English, we're usually referring to the artist's entire body of work. In French, une œuvre can have that same connotation, but it can also just mean a single work of art.
Voyez la solennité antique quasi religieuse qui se dégage de ce tableau.
See the ancient, almost religious solemnity that emerges from this painting.
Captions 10-11, d'Art d'Art "La Mort de Marat" - DavidPlay Caption
As we explained in a previous lesson, there are three French words for "painting": une peinture (cognate with "painting"), une toile (literally, "canvas"), and un tableau (literally, "little table").
Sous son pinceau, la mort de Marat devient la mort de Jésus.
Under his brush, the death of Marat becomes the death of Jesus.
Captions 35-36, d'Art d'Art "La Mort de Marat" - DavidPlay Caption
Un pinceau is a paintbrush, but it can also refer to a makeup brush (un pinceau de maquillage). It's related to the English word "pencil" (un crayon in French).
les dernières lignes qu'il a tracées avec sa plume, désormais inerte, ce sont des noms destinés à la guillotine
the last words that he wrote out with his quill, now unmoving, are names [of those] intended for the guillotine
Captions 43-45, d'Art d'Art "La Mort de Marat" - DavidPlay Caption
In an artistic sense, "to trace" usually just means to copy something by drawing over it. Tracer has that connotation too, but depending on context, it can also be a synonym of dessiner (to draw) and écrire (to write).
Ce jour-là, au musée du Louvre, à la place du chef-d'œuvre de Léonard de Vinci, il ne reste que le cadre.
That day, at the Louvre Museum, in the place of Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, only the frame remains.
Captions 10-12, d'Art d'Art "La Joconde" - VinciPlay Caption
Le cadre is the frame around a painting or photograph. But that's not all! It's also the word for "framework" (as in the expression dans le cadre de, "within the framework of"), the word for "setting" or "surroundings," and the word for "executive" or "manager." You could say le cadre contains a lot of meanings within its "frame."
Finally, we have un chef-d'œuvre. We can think of a masterpiece as an artist's "chief work," or the "chief" of the artist's entire œuvre.
The adverb surtout is actually two words combined: sur (over, above) and tout (all). Once you know that, its meaning is self-explanatory:
Et surtout n'oubliez rien.
And above all, don't forget anything.
Caption 9, Bande-annonce La Belle et La BêtePlay Caption
There are a couple different ways of saying "above all" in English, all of which are encompassed by surtout. There's "most of all":
Mais surtout c'est toi
But most of all, it's you
Caption 30, Aldebert La vie c'est quoi ?Play Caption
J'ai du mal à mentir, surtout quand c'est pas vrai
I find it hard to lie, especially when it's not true
Caption 29, Babylon Circus J'aurais bien vouluPlay Caption
And "particularly" or "in particular":
J'aime surtout la cuisine japonais.
I particularly like Japanese cuisine. / I like Japanese cuisine in particular.
Note, though, that "especially," "particularly," and "in particular" have more direct equivalents in French as well:
C'est le sujet qui nous intéresse tous spécialement aujourd'hui.
It's the subject that's especially of interest to all of us today.
Caption 62, Uderzo et Goscinny 1968Play Caption
Mais quand on est sensible à la peinture, ici, la lumière est particulièrement belle.
But for one who appreciates painting, the light here is particularly beautiful.
Caption 8, Arles Un Petit Tour d'Arles - Part 3Play Caption
Les plages de la côte atlantique et en particulier de la côte basque sont des plages très étendues.
the beaches on the Atlantic coast and in particular on the Basque coast are very vast beaches.
Caption 31, Voyage en France Saint-Jean-de-LuzPlay Caption
Surtout can also mean "mainly" or "mostly," which isn't quite the same as "above all":
En fait c'est ça surtout.
In fact that's it, mostly.Play Caption
Aujourd'hui j'ai surtout travaillé au bureau.
Today I mainly worked in the office.
In informal speech, surtout is also the equivalent of "whatever you do" or "be sure to":
Surtout, ne rate pas le prochain épisode de "Extra"!
Whatever you do, don't miss the next episode of "Extra"!
Caption 10, Extr@ Ep. 5 - Une étoile est née - Part 1Play Caption
Surtout, regardez les vidéos les plus récentes sur Yabla French!
Be sure to check out the most recent Yabla French videos!
Un machin doesn't mean "a machine" (that's une machine). In fact, it doesn't mean anything specific at all. It's a filler word, used when you're speaking generally or when you can't think of the proper word for something. It's an informal alternative to une chose (a thing), roughly equivalent to "thingy" or "thingamajig," or when plural, "stuff":
C'est-à-dire... de la confiture et des machins comme ça
That is to say... jam and stuff like that
Caption 10, Sophie et Patrice Le petit-déjeunerPlay Caption
D'abord, je mets un peu d'acétone parce que souvent y a des étiquettes, des machins avec de la colle.
First, I apply a little bit of acetone because often there are labels, stuff with glue.
Captions 58-59, Sophie et Patrice Les lampes de Sophie - Part 1Play Caption
C'est quoi ce machin-là?
What is that thing?
Je savais que ça n'allait pas être le single, le machin...
I knew that it was not going to be the single, the whatever...
Caption 110, Watt’s In Maître Gims : J'me Tire Interview ExcluPlay Caption
Un truc is another informal way of saying une chose. It's basically synonymous with un machin:
Mais y a un truc aussi qui se faisait avant, c'est que la police, ils intervenaient au collège...
But there was another thing that was done before, it's that the police went in to the middle school...Play Caption
Et on va aller acheter des trucs.
And we're gonna buy some stuff.Play Caption
But unlike un machin, un truc can also mean "a trick":
Tout ça, c'est des trucs pour nous faire travailler encore plus!
All these are tricks to make us work even more!Play Caption
And there are a couple of idioms with truc that can't be replaced with machin:
Je n'aime pas faire la fête. Ce n'est pas mon truc.
I don't like partying. It's not my thing.
Chacun son truc!
To each his own!
Likewise, there's one idiom that only uses machin:
Et quand je dis un grand ancien, ça veut pas dire un vieux machin, pas du tout.
And when I say a great elder, that doesn't mean an old so-and-so, not at all.
Captions 55-57, Uderzo et Goscinny 1968Play Caption
Un vieux machin is a grumpy old man, an old fogey.
You can even use machin and truc as proper nouns when you don't know or can't remember someone's name. In this case they're capitalized:
Demande à Machin* de t'aider.
Demande à Truc de t'aider.
Ask what's-his-name to help you.
*As a proper noun, Machin becomes Machine in the feminine (Demande à Machine de t'aider/Ask what's-her-name to help you). Truc doesn't change.
There's also another expression you can use when you don't know someone's name: Monsieur Untel/Madame Unetelle:
Demande à Monsieur Untel/Madame Unetelle de t'aider.
Ask Mr./Ms. so-and-so to help you.
So when you don't know the name of something or someone, or you're just talking about "stuff" in general, machin and truc are the words to use.
In his latest video on the coronavirus pandemic, Lionel talks about the measures being taken to control the spread of the virus in France. Like everyone else in the world, French people are trying to minimize the risk of catching the virus by staying inside and wearing masks when they have to go out.
Though risk is a major theme of the video, when Lionel uses the verb risquer, he means something a bit different:
Lors du déconfinement, nous risquons de sortir avec des masques et... les distanciations sociales risquent de durer un bon moment.
During reopening, we're likely going out with masks and... social distancing is likely going to last for quite some time.
Captions 35-38, Lionel L La pandémie, un mois déjàPlay Caption
We don't "risk" going out with masks on, nor does social distancing "risk" lasting for a while longer. (Quite the contary: these are the very measures that are reducing risk). Risquer often just means "to be likely" (être probable) or "there's a good chance that." The stakes don't have to be that high:
Cette année, Noël risque d'être très présent dans les rues.
This year, Christmas is bound to be very present on the streets.Play Caption
But risquer can also mean "to risk" or "run the risk of":
Si ça continue à cuire, ça risque de perdre sa belle couleur.
If they continue to cook, they run the risk of losing their beautiful color.Play Caption
Il a risqué sa vie pour sauver le chien.
He risked his life to save the dog.
Its noun form, risque, can mean "risk," "danger," or "chance." Note that, though it ends in an e, risque is masculine:
Le risque avec les lamas, c'est qu'en grandissant, ils peuvent devenir agressifs.
The danger with llamas is that as they grow up, they may become aggressive.
Caption 25, Angers 7 Un lama en plein appartementPlay Caption
There's also the adjective risqué, which you probably recognize. Though risqué can mean "racy" and "suggestive," as it does in English, it also just means "risky":
Pour elles c'est trop risqué de s'accrocher à la locomotive.
For them it's too risky to grab on to the engine.
Caption 47, Grand Corps Malade Les Voyages en trainPlay Caption
Some say it's a good thing to take a lot of risks, but these days, that doesn't seem like the safest advice. Ne prenez pas de risque! (Don't take any risks!)
In his conversation with Lionel, Lahlou describes his daughters' success in school and sports in an interesting way. He uses the verb assurer:
Les deux grandes franchement, elles assurent. Elles assurent super bien à l'école, au sport.
The two older girls, frankly, they're doing great. They're doing really well in school, in sports.
Captions 82-83, Lionel & Lahlou Être musulman - Part 2Play Caption
Elles assurent is a familiar way of saying "they're doing great," "they're doing a great job." Lahlou also could have used the preposition en to specify what the girls are succeeding in: elles assurent en maths (they're good at math), elles assurent en natation (they're good at swimming).
More often, assurer means "to assure" or "ensure," or, when reflexive, "to make sure"/"to check":
Je vous assure qu'elle est là.
I assure you that it's there.Play Caption
Mais on doit s'assurer que le pneu est bien assis sur la jante et ne pas trop gonfler.
But we have to make sure/check that the tire is well-seated on the rim and that we don't inflate too much.
Caption 19, Sports Shop La mécanique d'un véloPlay Caption
Assurer has a few other meanings as well. It can mean "to secure" or "achieve":
Ses affiches et ses tableaux ont permis au Moulin Rouge d'assurer une notoriété rapide et internationale.
His posters and his paintings allowed the Moulin Rouge to achieve rapid international notoriety.
Captions 19-21, Amal et Caroline Moulin RougePlay Caption
Il est difficile d'assurer un emploi en ce moment.
It's hard to secure a job these days.
It can mean "to take care of," "handle," or "deal with":
Je dois assurer l'école.
I have to take care of the school.
Caption 13, Les zooriginaux 3 Qui suis-je? - Part 2Play Caption
La brigade des pompiers assure l'extinction des incendies.
The fire department takes care of putting out fires.
Or it can mean "to insure," as in "to provide insurance coverage":
Notre maison est assurée.
Our house is insured.
Likewise, its noun form assurance can either mean "insurance" or "assurance," or more precisely, "self-assurance," "confidence," "certainty":
Le stress au travail a en effet un coût, humain bien sûr, et économique pour l'assurance maladie: près de cinquante milliards d'euros.
Stress at work does indeed have a cost, a human one of course, and an economic one for national health insurance: close to fifty billion euros.
Captions 57-58, Le Journal Le stress au travailPlay Caption
Il faut parler avec assurance pour convaincre les gens.
You have to speak with self-assurance/confidently in order to convince people.
So whether you're assuring, ensuring, making sure, or insuring, assurer is the verb to use. You can find even more ways of using it here.
You may already know that the verb savoir means “to know.” But did you know that, when followed by an infinitive, it can also mean “to be able to” or “to manage to" (synonymous with pouvoir)?
L'Observatoire Paris-Meudon... a su garder sa spécificité d'astrophysique
The Paris-Meudon Observatory... was able to keep its astrophysical specificity
Captions 18-20, Voyage en France Meudon - Part 4Play Caption
L’article a su le convaincre à recycler.
The article managed to convince him to recycle.
It’s easy to see that “know” wouldn’t really work in either of these examples, since their subjects aren’t human. You wouldn’t say that the Paris-Meudon Observatory “knew” how to keep its astrophysical specificity, nor that an article “knew” how to convince someone.
On the other hand, there are plenty of cases where savoir plus an infinitive can go either way:
Pour quelqu'un qui sait faire la cuisine
For someone who knows how to cookPlay Caption
Bref, Jean de La Fontaine fait partie pour moi de ces auteurs intemporels qui à travers une forme littéraire intéressante a su toucher le fond de la nature humaine.
In a word, Jean de La Fontaine is for me one of those timeless authors who, through an interesting literary form, was able to reach the depth of human nature.
Captions 38-40, Le saviez-vous? Jean de La Fontaine - Part 1Play Caption
We could just as well switch the translations here: “someone who can cook”; “Jean de La Fontaine… knew how to reach the depth of human nature.” "To be able to" and "to know how to" are more or less synonymous, so it makes sense that they overlap in the same French verb.
Just note that the other verb for "to know," connaître, doesn't have this extra connotation. While savoir means "to know how to" or "to be aware of," connaître means "to know someone" or "to be acquainted/familiar with."
In our last lesson, we discussed the expression on se croirait (literally, "one would believe oneself"), which means "it feels like." Now we'll take a look at a similar expression: on dirait. Both are impersonal expressions using a verb in the conditional. On dirait literally means "one would say," but it's also a synonym of il semble (it seems/looks like).
When introducing a clause, on dirait is followed by que:
On dirait que les gens sortent de la terre
It looks like people are coming out of the ground
Caption 31, Lionel - En studio d'enregistrementPlay Caption
But when it comes before a standalone noun ("it looks like x"), you don't need the que:
On dirait un serpent à pattes.
It looks like a serpent with paws.Play Caption
You can also use on dirait by itself, without introducing a noun or clause:
C'est ton jour de chance, on dirait.
It's your lucky day, it seems.
Caption 11, Marie & Jeremy - MonopolyPlay Caption
Je suis rouge de colère.
I'm red with anger.
On dirait pas.
It doesn't look like it.
Captions 1-2, Sophie et Patrice - Les couleursPlay Caption
Depending on context, on dirait can mean something more specific than "it seems/looks like":
On dirait que t'as huit ans
You act like an eight year old
Caption 45, Mika - Elle me ditPlay Caption
On dirait... on dirait Cluzet!
It sounds... it sounds like Cluzet [French actor]!Play Caption
And sometimes it comes closer to its literal meaning:
Belle, c'est un mot qu'on dirait inventé pour elle...
Beauty, it's a word you could say was invented for her...
[Beauty, it's a word that seems to have been invented for her...]Play Caption
But be careful: dire is a very common verb, so you'll just as often encounter on dirait used in a literal sense.
On dirait pas "as-tu", axe verbe en premier, sujet en deuxième...
We wouldn't say "have you," verb in first position, subject in second...
Caption 31, Le Québec parle - aux FrançaisPlay Caption
On dirait que cette leçon est terminée!
There's an interesting expression in Sophie and Patrice's latest video on Paris's twentieth arrondissement: on se croirait (literally, "one would think/believe oneself"). It means "to feel like," or more specifically, to feel like you're in a different setting than the one you're in now. Whenever Sophie and Patrice are in the center of Paris, for instance, they feel like they're in Euro Disney:
Ça ressemble maintenant à Euro Disney, quoi.
It looks like Euro Disney now, you know.
On se croirait à Euro Disney un petit peu.
It feels like Euro Disney a little bit.
Captions 20-21, Sophie et Patrice - Le vingtième arrondissementPlay Caption
And in Extr@, when Sacha smells a strong fragrance upon walking into her apartment, she feels like she's in a perfume shop:
Qu'est-ce que c'est que cette odeur?
What's that smell?
On se croirait dans une parfumerie.
It's like we're in a perfume shop.
Captions 19-20, Extr@ - Ep. 3 - Sam a un rendez-vousPlay Caption
In English we use "you'd think" in a similar way to on se croirait:
On se croirait même dans une ambiance de campagne.
You'd even think you were in a country atmosphere.
Caption 27, Le Québec parle - aux FrançaisPlay Caption
Alors on se croirait pas du tout à Paris,
So you wouldn't think you're in Paris at all,
et on a énormément de verdure.
and you have lots of greenery.
Captions 13-14, Antoine - La Butte-aux-CaillesPlay Caption
You can also use the phrase avoir l'impression de (to feel like, to get the impression that) to express this feeling of being elsewhere:
On n'a plus l'impression d'être à Paris.
You don't feel like you're in Paris anymore.
Caption 62, Actu Vingtième Vendanges parisiennesPlay Caption
If you're playing Dorothy in a French adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, you might even say:
Toto, on ne se croirait plus dans le Kansas!
Toto, it doesn't feel like we're in Kansas anymore!
Or, in a more accurate translation of the line:
Toto, je n'ai plus l'impression d'être dans le Kansas!
Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore!
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for our next lesson and tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to email@example.com.
The French have a long history of protesting, from the storming of the Bastille to the student protests of May 1968 to the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) movement today. Our latest video, from Le Monde, covers a strike on December 5, 2019 during which thousands of people across the country took to the streets to protest the pension reforms proposed by then Prime Minister Édouard Philippe. As you can imagine, the video contains a lot of vocabulary related to protests, which we'll examine here.
Un mouvement très suivi en France,
A very well-attended action in France,
et quelques tensions entre manifestants et forces de l'ordre.
and some tension between demonstrators and police.Play Caption
Un mouvement can be a social movement or protest movement (such as le mouvement des gilets jaunes), but it can also be a protest in its own right, or, as above, an "action."
Un mouvement wouldn't be un mouvement without des manifestants ("demonstrators" or "protesters"). Manifestant comes from une manifestation, which is the word for "protest" or "demonstration":
Les manifestations se sont déroulées dans environ soixante-dix villes.
Demonstrations took place in about seventy cities.Play Caption
But sometimes une manifestation is less political than a protest. It can just be an "event":
Cette manifestation attire des touristes du monde entier.
This event attracts tourists from around the entire world.
Caption 28, Le saviez-vous? Le carnaval en FrancePlay Caption
Or simply an "expression" of something (this sense is the closest to "manifestation" in English):
Il y aura entrave à l'épanouissement affectif,
There will be obstacles to emotional fulfillment,
à la manifestation des sentiments...
to the expression of feelings...
Captions 4-5, Le Mans TV - Horoscope: ScorpionPlay Caption
However, the slang term une manif specifically refers to a protest. We have a whole Yabla series centered around this word: Manif du Mois (Protest of the Month).
But let's get back to the December 5 protest, which, like many protests in France, was launched by des syndicats (unions):
Le mouvement a été lancé par des syndicats...
The action was started by unions...Play Caption
The syndicats didn't just call for un mouvement, but une grève:
L'appel à la grève n'a pas souffert du froid hivernal.
The call to strike didn't suffer from the winter cold.Play Caption
Some of the protests turned violent, which prompted the Prime Minister, in his response, to make a distinction between les manifestants and les casseurs—the rioters, or literally, "the breakers" (from casser, "to break"):
Y a eu quelques villes
There were a few cities
où on a constaté des débordements
where we observed some violent outbreaks,
souvent liés à la présence de casseurs
often linked to the presence of rioters
qui ne venaient pas pour manifester.
who didn't come to protest.Play Caption
Un débordement is "a flood" or "an overflowing," but its figurative meaning is more violent: "an outbreak," "outburst," or, when plural (des débordements), any kind of wild or uncontrolled behavior.
There are three different ways of saying "sometimes" in French, and they all have one thing in common: the word fois (time).
The first is quelquefois, which literally means "sometimes" (quelque = some; fois = times). Note that quelquefois is written as one word, like "sometimes," but unlike other quelque words such as quelque chose (something) and quelque part (somewhere):
Quelquefois, vous allez voir des produits qui ne correspondent pas à cette recette.
Sometimes, you'll see products that don't correspond to this recipe.
Caption 38, Le saviez-vous? - La Maison de l'Olive à NicePlay Caption
Then there's parfois (par = by, through, per; fois = times):
Je vais parfois au cinéma.
I sometimes go to the movies.
Caption 25, Le saviez-vous? - Les différentes négationsPlay Caption
Finally, there's des fois (literally "some times" or just "times"), which is a bit more familiar. It roughly corresponds to the English expression "at times":
Je me force un peu des fois
I force myself a bit sometimes (at times)
à sortir de ma zone de confort.
to get out of my comfort zone.
Captions 46-47, Giulia - Sa marque de bijoux 'Desidero'Play Caption
There are a couple other ways of saying "sometimes" in French that use the other word for "time," temps. These are de temps en temps and de temps à autre, which both mean "from time to time," "every now and then," "once in a while," "occasionally":
Peut-être que vous sentez les odeurs qui sortent des studios de temps en temps.
Maybe you smell the aromas that come out of the studios from time to time.
Caption 10, 4 Mains pour 1 Piano - Médaillon de HomardPlay Caption
Je parle à mes amis d'université de temps à autre.
I talk to my college friends every now and then.
Just don't confuse any of these with the expressions for "sometime" and "some time." "Sometime" (meaning "eventually" or "at a later time") is un de ces jours (one of these days) or un jour ou l'autre (one day or another). And "some time" (meaning "a while") is quelque temps:
Un jour ou l'autre (Un de ces jours) on sera tous papa
One day or another we'll all be a dad (We'll all be a dad sometime)
Caption 28, Stromae - PapaoutaiPlay Caption
Et puis après, j'ai été célibataire quelque temps.
And then after that, I was single for a while (for some time).
Caption 26, Le Journal - L'âge et la fertilitéPlay Caption
Thanks for reading! Tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The conjunction or pops up in two of our new videos this week:
Or la gravité est présente partout.
But gravity is present everywhere.
Caption 79, Le Monde - L’astrologie fonctionne-t-elle ?Play Caption
Or, je n'étais pas de garde et surtout j'étais saoul.
But, I wasn't on call and above all I was drunk.Play Caption
Or is not a particularly common conjunction, but it's a good one to know nonetheless (just don't confuse it with the English "or," which is ou in French). It's a synonym of mais (but, yet) and related words like cependant, néanmoins, pourtant, toutefois (however, nevertheless):
Or, il y en a un quatrièmeque nous décrit ici en détail un grand voyageur qui se nomme Amerigo Vespucci.
However, there's a fourth one that a great explorer named Amerigo Vespucci describes to us here in detail.Play Caption
You'll also see or used as a more general conjunction, equivalent to "now" or "well," often to introduce a new or oppositional fact:
Cette pièce a été remplacée ensuite par celle-ci
This coin was replaced later by this one
au début vingtième siècle.
in the early twentieth century.
Or c'est à peu près la même, mais modernisée pour l'époque.
Now, it's more or less the same, but modernized for the era.
Captions 16-18, Georges - Breizh NumismatPlay Caption
Je croyais qu'il allait me demander en mariage ce soir-là. Or, il ne l'a pas fait.
I thought he was going to ask me to marry him that night. Well, he didn't do it.
As you can see here, or always comes at the beginning of a sentence or clause when used as a conjunction. You could even call it a "transition word." But or isn't only a conjunction! It also happens to be the word for "gold":
Il doit y avoir une mine d'or.
There must be a gold mine here.Play Caption
L'or is both the color gold and the element. Its adjective form is doré(e):
Il m'a donné une bague de fiançailles dorée.
He gave me a gold engagement ring.
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for our next lesson and tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to email@example.com.
The preposition dans can mean "in," "inside," or "into," depending on context. For example, elle est dans la maison could either be "she is in the house" or "she is inside the house," and elle va dans la maison could be "she goes inside the house" or "she goes into the house." In this lesson, we'll focus on "inside" (and its opposite, "outside"), which has a few other translations besides dans.
The first is dedans. Unlike dans, which is a preposition, dedans usually functions as an adverb. It can either mean "inside" or "indoors":
Là y'a nouveau jeu. Ils doivent deviner combien il y a de bonbons dedans.
There's a new game. They have to guess how many candies there are inside.Play Caption
Je n'aime pas rester dedans toute la journée.
I don't like staying indoors all day.
Like "inside," dedans can also be used as a noun:
Le dedans de l'église est très sombre.
The inside of the church is very dark.
We could also say l'intérieur de l'église est très sombre (the interior of the church is very dark), or simply il fait très sombre dans l'église (it's very dark inside the church). In fact, l'intérieur is the other word for "inside" in French. You'll often see it in the phrase à l'intérieur (de), which can also mean "within":
Maintenant, on va la laisser reposer
Now we are going to let it rest
pour que les levures à l'intérieur puissent permettre à notre pâte d'être aérée.
so that the yeast inside can allow our dough to be airy.
Captions 32-33, Alsace 20 - Grain de Sel: le Lycée hôtelier Alexandre DumasPlay Caption
Alors des maisons, c'est très rare d'en trouver, euh...
So [standalone] houses, it's very rare to find them, uh...
à l'intérieur de Paris, je vous le promets.
within Paris, I promise you.
Captions 19-20, Antoine - La Butte-aux-CaillesPlay Caption
We could easily rewrite these two examples using dedans and dans: les levures dedans (the yeast inside), en trouver dans Paris (find them in Paris).
Now let's move "outside." Though French has a general word for "in" (dans), it doesn't have one for "out." However, dedans and à l'intérieur (de) do have direct opposites: dehors and à l'extérieur (de).
Dehors functions in the exact same way as dedans, as an adverb or noun:
Dois-je payer pour ce qu'ils font dehors?
Should I pay for what they do outside?
Caption 20, Alain Etoundi - Allez tous vous faire enfilmer!Play Caption
Le dehors de la maison est plus joli que le dedans.
The outside of the house is nicer than the inside.
There's also the phrase en dehors de, which means "outside of" in both a literal and figurative sense:
Parce qu'il y a énormément de personnes qui vont travailler en dehors de Paris.
Because there are so many people who go to work outside of Paris.
Captions 47-48, Adrien - Le métro parisienPlay Caption
En dehors de ça, je ne vois aucune autre solution.
Outside of that, I don't see any other solution.
Sometimes you'll see hors de rather than dehors de:
J'aurais du mal à vivre hors de Paris maintenant.
I'd have trouble living outside of Paris now.
Captions 38-39, Elisa et sa maman - Comment vas-tu?Play Caption
But hors (de) usually means "outside" figuratively, along the lines of "beyond," "without," or "excluding":
C'est hors de question!
That's out of the question!
Le loyer est de 600 euros hors charges.
The rent is 600 euros excluding utilities.
Finally, there's à l'extérieur, the opposite of à l'intérieur:
Ce quartier-là, à l'extérieur, il a quand même une certaine réputation...
This neighborhood, on the outside, it has a certain reputation, nevertheless...Play Caption
Ça m'a permis d'aller travailler à l'extérieur de ce pays.
It's allowed me to work outside of this country.
Caption 24, Annie Chartrand - Grandir bilinguePlay Caption
Il y a des gargouilles sur l'extérieur de la cathédrale.
There are gargoyles on the cathedral's exterior.
Now you know all the ways of saying "inside" and "outside" inside and out!
In a previous lesson, we discussed the words finalement and enfin, which both mean "finally" but have different connotations. Now we'll look at the related phrase à la fin, which can also mean "finally," but is more aptly translated as "in the end":
Comme une larme à la fin de l'histoire
Like a tear at the end of the storyPlay Caption
However, like enfin, which is often used as a filler word equivalent to "well," "I mean," "in any case," or "come on," à la fin also has a more colloquial meaning. It's used to express frustration, when you've had enough of something and want it to be done with, or when you're fed up with someone's behavior:
Tu deviens ridicule à la fin avec cette histoire.
You're becoming ridiculous with this story at this point.Play Caption
Mais qu'est-ce que t'as à la fin avec ce garçon?
But what is it with you and this boy, ultimately?Play Caption
Mais arrête à la fin!
But stop it already!Play Caption
In this sense, à la fin overlaps with enfin, which can also be used to express frustration:
Mais enfin, relève-toi!
Come on, stand up!Play Caption
You can even use the two in the same sentence, when you're really frustrated:
Enfin de quoi vous parlez à la fin?
Well, what are you talking about now?Play Caption
Mais enfin, elle est dingue, cette histoire à la fin!
But come on, this story is crazy now!Play Caption
But that's not all! There's yet another word that's used informally for this purpose: encore (still, again). Patricia gives a succinct explanation of this in her video on encore and toujours:
Enfin le mot "encore" peut désigner l'impatience
Finally, the word "encore" can indicate impatience
ou le mécontentement par rapport à un événement
or dissatisfaction with regard to an event
qui se répète ou continue.
that repeats or continues.
Par exemple, la phrase: Quoi encore?
For example, the sentence: What now? [What is it now?]
Captions 17-21, Le saviez-vous? - Utilisation de "encore" et "toujours"Play Caption
Patricia also uses two phrases meaning "to be fed up with" or "to be sick/tired of" in this video—en avoir assez de and en avoir marre de:
Ah! Encore lui!
Ah! Him again!
C'est clair, ça veut dire que on en a assez de le voir.
It's clear, it means that we're tired of seeing him.
On en a marre de lui.
We're sick of him.
Captions 25-28, Le saviez-vous? - Utilisation de "encore" et "toujours"Play Caption
You now have all you need to vent your frustrations in French!
While preparing a gâteau aux pommes with Marie, Jeremy uses the phrase grâce à several times when noting the utensils they use to add the ingredients:
On ajoute cent grammes de sucre mesurés avec précision grâce à un mesureur.
We add one hundred grams of sugar measured precisely thanks to a measuring cup.
Captions 10-11, Marie & Jeremy - Le gâteau aux pommesPlay Caption
Ensuite on mélange grâce à un fouet avec vivacité et énergie.
Then we mix using a whisk with speed and energy.
Captions 14-15, Marie & Jeremy - Le gâteau aux pommesPlay Caption
Ensuite, grâce à une petite balance de cuisine.
Then, with the help of a small kitchen scale.
Caption 16, Marie & Jeremy - Le gâteau aux pommesPlay Caption
"Thanks to" is the closest equivalent to grâce à in English. Though Jeremy uses it to talk about inanimate objects, you can just as well use it to refer to a person, someone you're literally thanking:
Merci beaucoup. Grâce à vous, ce mariage, c'était formidable.
Thank you very much. Thanks to you this wedding was great.Play Caption
Grâce has the same Latin root as the Spanish gracias and the Italian grazie, which both mean "thanks." It's also the source of the English word "grace." Like "grace," la grâce (don't forget the circumflex) can mean "elegance," "pardon," and "mercy":
Par lui, tout est grâce et lumière et beauté
Through it, all is grace and light and beautyPlay Caption
La grâce des membres de l'Arche de Zoé pourrait intervenir la semaine prochaine.
The pardoning of the members of Zoe's Ark could occur next week.
Caption 22, Le Journal - L'Arche de ZoéPlay Caption
Les vénérables vieillards, plusieurs fois centenaires, n'ont pas connu grâce.
The venerable old men, centenarians several times over, did not get any mercy.Play Caption
As you might have guessed, "mercy" is the literal meaning of merci. So when you say "thank you" in French, you're really saying "mercy." And when you say "thanks to" something or someone, you're really saying "grace"!