French Lessons

Topics

Lessons for topic Vocabulary

Telling Stories and More with "Histoire"

In the latest segment of Le Jour où tout a basculé, Frédéric and Anne-Sophie meet Laetitia at a café to deliver some shocking news: their daughters were switched at birth. Upon hearing this, Laetitia is in a state of total disbelief. She says to the couple: 

 

Mais qu'est-ce que c'est que cette histoire?

But what is this all about?

Caption 38, Le Jour où tout a basculé - Nos bébés ont été échangés... - Part 5

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

Histoire is related to two English words, "history" and "story," and can mean either one depending on context:

 

Ici, donc une ville riche en culture et riche en histoire...

So here a town rich in culture and rich in history...

Caption 8, Lionel - à Wissembourg

 Play Caption

 

C'est vraiment une histoire d'amour, c'est parti d'une histoire d'amour.

It's really a love story, it started out as a love story.

Caption 4, Annie Chartrand - Sa musique

 Play Caption

 

But in informal expressions like qu'est-ce que c'est que cette histoire, the word means something more along the lines of "business" or "matter." It often has this meaning in the construction histoire de + noun: 

 

Ici tout est histoire de récup' [récupération], de quoi créer un beau Noël.

Here it's all a matter [or question] of recycling, enough to create a beautiful Christmas.

Caption 58, Alsace 20 - Alsace: les plus belles déco de Noël!

 Play Caption

 

When histoire de follows an infinitive, it means "in order to," "just to," or "so as to": 

 

Bats le beurre de citron, histoire de bien mélanger le tout.

Whisk the lemon butter, it's a matter of mixing it all well.

Caption 47, 4 Mains pour 1 Piano - Médaillon de Homard - Part 3

 Play Caption

 

Two other, less familiar ways of saying "in order to" are pour + infinitive and afin de + infinitive.

 

Be careful with the expression raconter des histoires. It can either mean "to tell stories" or "to tell lies":

 

La mère raconte des histoires aux enfants chaque soir. 
The mother tells stories to the children every night. 

 

Arrête de me raconter des histoires!
Stop telling me lies!

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

That's the story with histoire! If you have any questions or comments, please write to us at newsletter@yabla.com or tweet us @yabla.

Continue Reading

Wild and Crazy

In her latest video, Patricia gives us an overview of French synonyms, or words with the same basic meaning but different nuances and intensities. To demonstrate, she illustrates some examples of synonyms for "happy" and "angry." She repeatedly uses the expressionêtre fou/folle de (to be mad or wild with) to describe the more intense degrees of those emotions:

 

Elles sont folles de bonheur.

They are mad with happiness.

Caption 40, Le saviez-vous? - Les synonymes

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

You can use this expression to heighten just about any word describing an emotion:

 

Ils sont extatiques, fous de joie, béats.

They are ecstatic, overjoyed, blissful.

Captions 37-39, Le saviez-vous? - Les synonymes

 Play Caption

 

Elles sont folles de colèrefolles de rage, horripilées.

They are wild with anger, raging mad, incensed.

Captions 52-54, Le saviez-vous? - Les synonymes

 Play Caption

 

Or, you can use it with any other noun or pronoun to describe something or someone you're "crazy about": 

 

Non, je ne suis pas fou. Je suis seulement fou de vous!

No, I am not crazy. I'm only crazy about you!

Caption 6, Charles-Baptiste - Interview

 Play Caption

 

...qui montre la vie trépidante des jeunes, fous de voitures dans les années soixante-dix.

...that shows the hectic life of young people who are crazy about cars in the seventies.

Caption 8, L'auteur - Bernard Colin

 Play Caption

 

If you haven't already, check out Patricia's other videos in the Le saviez-vous? series for more of her excellent insights into French language and culture. 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or comments, please write to us at newsletter@yabla.com or tweet us @yabla.

Continue Reading

To the Bottom and Back

Did you know that the French word for the back of a space is the same as the word for the bottom of a space? The word is le fond, and determining its meaning is a question of perspective: 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Et l'on voit encore des vestiges, des traces de cette époque avec notamment dans le fond, une chapelle pour se recueillir...

And you can still see remains, traces from that time, with, in particular, in the back, a chapel for meditating...

Captions 36-37, Lionel - Verdun - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

L'eau de l'étang était si profonde que la princesse ne pouvait pas en voir le fond.

The pond water was so deep that the princess could not see the bottom of it.

Caption 7, Contes de fées - Le roi grenouille - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

We can tell what le fond means in each of these examples based on the type of space they're describing. The subject of the first example is the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Verdun. A chapel wouldn't be located on the bottom of a cathedral, but in the back. And in the second example, the princess is looking down into the pond, which means she's trying to see the bottom of it, not the back.

 

Whether it means "the back" or "the bottom," le fond refers to the depth of a space. But it can also refer to depth in a non-physical, metaphorical sense—even a spiritual one: 

 

"Om", ça signifie le fond cosmique qui est... le symbole de l'unité dans la diversité.

"Om" signifies the cosmic depth that is... the symbol of unity in diversity.

Caption 37, Paix et partage - Journée Internationale du yoga

 Play Caption

 

Fond is used in quite a few expressions, such as dans le fond and au fond, both meaning "basically":

 

Dans le fond, c'est des grosses feuilles de betterave.

Basically, they're big beet leaves.

Caption 13, Farmer François - Le stand de légumes

 Play Caption

 

Parce que au fond, le fait de payer un stand, ça sert aussi, euh, d'abord à se rencontrer...

Because basically, the act of paying for a booth, that also helps, uh, first of all to meet each other...

Captions 65-66, Actu Vingtième - Le vide-grenier

 Play Caption

 

Don't confuse au fond with à fond, which means "totally": 

 

Ah, que griller des feux. -Griller des verts, donc. -À fond.

Oh, just running lights. -Running green lights, then. -Totally.

Caption 49, Cap 24 - Les cyclistes parisiens sont-ils indisciplinés ?

 Play Caption

 

There's also de fond, an adjective phrase meaning "fundamental": 

 

Mais pour une baisse en rayon, la prochaine étape devrait être une réforme de fond.

But for a reduction on store shelves, the next step should be a fundamental reform.

Caption 23, Le Journal - Contrôle des prix alimentaires

 Play Caption

 

If you'd like to explore the many expressions using this word de fond en comble (from top to bottom), we recommend this WordReference entry

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or comments, please write to us at newsletter@yabla.com or tweet us @yabla.

Continue Reading

"Être en train de": Process and Progress

Être en train de is a handy French expression that describes an event in progress. It's always followed by an infinitive and is often translated as "to be in the process of" or "to be in the middle of":

 

Donc, je suis en deuxième année là; je suis en train de... achever ma formation.

So, I'm in my second year now; I'm in the process of... completing my training.

Caption 25, 4 Mains pour 1 Piano - Médaillon de Homard - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

je suis en train de régler les meules pour que le grain soit correctement écrasé.

Here I am in the middle of setting the millstones so that the grain is crushed correctly.

Caption 4, Télé Lyon Métropole - Chaillé-les-Marais : Une biscuiterie 100 % familiale

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

But just as often, être en train de can simply be translated with the present progressive tense ("to be doing," "to be making," etc.):

 

Donc, en ce moment, on est en train de faire des truffes cacao.

So, right now, we're making cocoa truffles.

Caption 7, Canadian Chocolate Seller - Chocolats

 Play Caption

 

In French, there is no difference between the present tense and the present progressive tense: on fait can mean both "we make" and "we are making." So the above example could also be written:

 

Donc, en ce moment, on fait des truffes cacao.
So, right now, we're making cocoa truffles. 

 

Être en train de emphasizes the fact that the activity is currently in progress (further emphasized above by en ce moment). In fact, "currently" is another possible translation of être en train de:

 

...je suis en train de travailler avec celui qui a fait 'Pulp Fiction',

...I'm currently working with the person who made 'Pulp Fiction,'

Caption 9, Melissa Mars - From Paris With Love

 Play Caption

 

You can also use être en train de to describe a continuing event in the past. In this case, it's synonymous with the imperfect tense: 

 

Quand j'ai fait cette photo, la baleine était en train de dormir.

When I took this picture, the whale was sleeping.

Caption 25, Le Journal - Sillonner & photographier les océans

 Play Caption

 

Quand j'ai fait cette photo, la baleine dormait.
When I took this picture, the whale was sleeping.

 

Here again, être en train de stresses the continuousness of the action: the whale was "in the process of" sleeping when the speaker took the picture. 

 

Être en cours de has the same meaning and function as être en train de, except it's usually followed by a noun instead of an infinitive:

 

Un immense chantier est en cours d'achèvement.

A huge construction project is being completed.

Caption 25, Voyage dans Paris - Cour de l'Industrie - Part 1

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

A final note: Make sure not to confuse en train with entrain, a noun meaning "enthusiasm" or "liveliness." Nous espérons que vous êtes en train d'étudier le français avec entrain! (We hope you're in the process of studying French with enthusiasm!)

Continue Reading

"Tromper": To Mislead and Be Mistaken

In the latest episode of "Le Jour où tout a basculé," Frédéric accuses his wife Anne-Sophie of cheating on him with her ex, but Anne-Sophie insists he's mistaken. Both of them use the verb tromper to state their cases:

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Quatre ans plus tôt, Anne-Sophie m'avait trompé. C'était une histoire sans lendemain.

Four years earlier, Anne-Sophie had cheated on me. It was a short-lived affair.

Caption 46, Le Jour où tout a basculé - Nos bébés ont été échangés... - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

Tu t'es toujours trompé avec lui.

You've always been mistaken about him.

Caption 10, Le Jour où tout a basculé - Nos bébés ont été échangés... - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

While Frédéric uses tromper to mean "to cheat" or "deceive," Anne-Sophie uses the reflexive form of the verb, se tromper, which means "to be mistaken" (literally, "to deceive oneself"). Frédéric also uses se tromper later in the video: 

 

Je m'étais pas trompé. Ce fameux soir, c'est un mail de son ex sur lequel je suis tombé.

I was not wrong. That famous evening, it was an email from her ex I came across.

Captions 49-50, Le Jour où tout a basculé - Nos bébés ont été échangés... - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

You'll have to stay tuned to find out who's really being deceived here. There's a lot more at stake in this episode than potential infidelity! 

 

Tromper isn't only reserved for marital dramas. It's the best verb to use whenever you've been duped, tricked, fooled, or misled (which hopefully isn't that often!): 

 

Le marchand m'a trompé. Il m'a vendu une montre cassée. 
The shopkeeper misled me. He sold me a broken watch. 

 

Being mistaken is usually not as serious as being cheated, so you'll often see se tromper used in more mundane situations. You can add de + a noun after it to specify what the person is mistaken about: 

 

Bonjour, pourrais-je parler à Christine? -Désolé, vous vous êtes trompé de numéro.
Hello, may I speak to Christine? -Sorry, you've got the wrong number. 

 

Je pense que nous nous sommes trompés de bus. 
I think we got on the wrong bus. 

 

You may be familiar with a painting technique known as "trompe-l'œil" (literally, "tricks the eye"), which creates an illusion of three-dimensionality. Daniel shows us an interesting example of this technique in a church in Provins:

 

Observez quelques instants au cœur de l'église cet effet de trompe-l'œil...

Observe for a few moments in the heart of the church this trompe-l'œil effect...

Captions 35-36, Voyage en France - La ville de Provins - Part 3

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

We hope this lesson has helped you tromper l'ennui (stave off boredom)!

Continue Reading

Se Passer: To Bypass and Pass By

The subject of Lionel's latest video is Article 49-3 of the French Constitution, which gives the prime minister the power to push through legislation without a parliamentary vote. The government most recently invoked Article 49-3 to push through a labor reform bill that has sparked much controversy in France. Public outcry over the bill culminated in the Nuit Debout protest movement, which Lionel has also been covering for Yabla. 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

In his video, Lionel uses the verb phrase se passer de (to bypass, to do without) to describe the government's action: 

 

Au final le gouvernement a décidé de passer en force, et s'est passé du vote de l'Assemblée Nationale et du Sénat.

In the end, the government decided to force its passage, and bypassed the vote of the National Assembly and the Senate.

Captions 8-9, Lionel L - Le 49-3

 Play Caption

 

The de in se passer de is crucial. If you remove it, you'll get a completely different expression, as Lionel demonstrates later on in the video: 

 

...et que d'ores et déjà nous pouvons comparer à ce qui s'est passé en France.

...and that already we can compare it to what happened in France.

Caption 23, Lionel L - Le 49-3

 Play Caption


By itself, se passer means "to happen" or "occur," as in the expression, Qu'est-ce qui se passe? (What's happening?/What's going on?) You'll also hear it in the impersonal expression il s'est passé...: 
 

Et il s'est passé quelque chose de complètement inédit pour moi...

And something happened that was completely new for me...

Caption 45, Watt’s In - Indila : Dernière Danse Interview Exlu

 Play Caption


But that's not all! Se passer can also mean "to pass" or "pass by" when referring to a period of time:

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Six mois se sont passés depuis ma dernière visite. 
Six months have passed since my last visit.


Stay tuned to Yabla to learn more about ce qui se passe (what's happening) throughout the French-speaking world!

Continue Reading

Une leçon à ne pas manquer!

At the end of "Tango," new on Yabla this week, Mélanie Laurent sings: 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

Parce qu'au fond tu l'aimes bien, elle te manquerait je crois

Because deep down you really love her, you would miss her, I think

Caption 52, Mélanie Laurent - "Circus" & "Tango"

 Play Caption

 

When you're talking about missing someone in French, manquer is the verb to use. However, in this context, manquer actually means "to be missing" rather than "to miss." Though elle te manquerait might appear to mean "she would miss you" upon first glance, its literal translation is actually "she would be missing from you," which is just another (perhaps more romantic) way of saying "you would miss her." So when talking to someone close to you whom you haven't seen in a while, make sure to say tu me manques ("I miss you," literally "you're missing from me") rather than je te manque ("you miss me," literally "I'm missing from you").

 

On the other hand, manquer does mean "to miss" when you're talking about missing something in the sense of not being there for it. In this context it's synonymous with the verb rater

 

J'ai manqué [or ratéle bus. 
missed the bus. 

 

The expression "manquer de + infinitive" (or just "manquer + infinitive") means "to nearly do something." "Faillir + infinitive" has the same meaning:

 

Il a manqué d'être tué [or: Il a failli être tué]
He was nearly killed. 

 

But in the negative, this expression more often means "to not forget to do something": 

 

Ne manquez pas de vous arrêter au numéro treize de l'avenue Junot.

Don't forget to stop at number thirteen Avenue Junot.

Caption 12, Voyage dans Paris - Butte Montmartre

 Play Caption

 

Another common meaning of manquer is "to lack," usually in the expression "manquer de + noun":

 

L'hôpital manque de moyens, comme toutes nos formations sanitaires, hein?

The hospital lacks resources, like all our medical facilities, huh?

Caption 22, Le Journal - Hôpital ultra-moderne à Burkina Faso

 Play Caption

 

In fact, the noun form of manquerun manque, specifically means "a lack": 

 

J'ai compris qu'il y avait un manque énorme au niveau, euh, alimentaire.

I saw that there was an enormous lack at the, uh, alimentary level.

Caption 7, Alsace 20 - Mangez bien, mangez alsacien!

 Play Caption

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

Finally, manquer is also used in the impersonal expression "il manque + noun" ("x is missing"):

 

Il ne manque plus que l'argent nécessaire.

All that's missing is the necessary money.

Caption 6, Il était une fois - Les découvreurs - 13. Stephenson - Part 6

 Play Caption

 

Don't forget (ne manquez pas) to check out our new videos this week and feel free to tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com!

Continue Reading

Feeling in French: Sentir, Se sentir, Ressentir

In our last lesson, we looked at three different ways of saying "to look like" in French. We'll continue that pattern in this lesson by introducing the three different ways of saying "to feel": sentirse sentir, and ressentir. Though these verbs all look alike and have the same meaning, each of them is used in a different context. 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Sentir (related to "sense" in English) generally refers to feeling the physical effects of something, such as a post-run stretch or a cool breeze: 

 

Tu dois sentir une petite tension au niveau, au niveau musculaire.

You should feel a little tension at the level, at the muscular level.

Caption 12, Joanna - La course à pied: Récupération

 Play Caption

 

J'aime sentir la brise rafraîchissante sur mon visage.

I love feeling the cool breeze on my face.

 

Besides bodily sensations, sentir can refer to feeling any kind of external pressure: 

 

Mais cette année on sent la crise, hein.

But this year we're feeling the financial crisis, you know.

Caption 26, Actu Vingtième - Le vide-grenier

 Play Caption

 

But "feeling" isn't the only sense of sentir. It can also mean "to smell," both in terms of smelling something and giving off a scent: 

 

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.

Non, oh pas vraiment parce que nous, on est derrière les cuisines et puis ça sent!

No, oh not really because us, we're behind the stoves, and so it smells!

Captions 10-11, 4 Mains pour 1 Piano - Médaillon de Homard - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

When you make sentir reflexive (se sentir), it becomes less about external, physical feelings and more about internal, emotional ones. While sentir usually takes an object, se sentir usually precedes an adjective or adverb to describe a person's condition or state of mind: 

 

Très vite, elle se sent menacée.

Very soon, she feels threatened.

Caption 5, Le Jour où tout a basculé - Espion dans l'immeuble - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

Ah, je me sens mieux!

Ah, I feel better!

Caption 42, Cap 24 - Les bus sont-ils toujours en retard ?

 Play Caption

 

Finally, there's ressentir, which literally means "to feel again." That might give you a clue about this verb's connotations. Like se sentirressentir also refers to an interior feeling, but it's generally used to describe an intense emotion, something you strongly feel. Like sentir, it usually takes an object: 

 

Vous voyez cette exigence que je ressentais...

You see this demand that I felt...

Caption 23, Le Journal - Défilé de mode - Part 4

 Play Caption

 

C'était vraiment quelque chose que je ressentais, qui me rendait vraiment heureuse.

That it was something that I really felt, that made me really happy.

Caption 5, B-Girl Frak - La Danse

 Play Caption

 

Though ressentir is related to the English verb "to resent," it doesn't have the same meaning. Le ressentiment, however, does mean "resentment." 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Sometimes it's tough to talk about your feelings—no matter what language you're speaking. These three verbs will help you do it in French!

Continue Reading

Cette leçon a l'air très instructive!

In this lesson, we'll introduce three different ways of saying "to look like" in French. 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

The first expression is ressembler à, which looks a lot like the English word "resemble" (but note the extra s) and is used in much the same way: 

 

Chacun de tes gestes ressemble aux miens

Each of your gestures looks like mine

Caption 2, Ina-Ich - Âme armée

 Play Caption

 

Ressembler is always followed by à, except when à is replaced by an indirect object pronoun: 

 

Elle me ressemble.

She looks like me.

Caption 31, Le saviez-vous? - La conjugaison au présent, au passé et au futur

 Play Caption

 

The second expression, avoir l'air de, is more informal and figurative than ressembler à. Its literal translation is "to have the air/appearance of," but it generally means "to look like" or "to seem": 

 

Tu n'as pas l'air de trouver ça suffisant, Psi.

You don't seem to think that's sufficient, Psi.

Caption 41, Il était une fois... L’Espace - 6. La révolte des robots

 Play Caption

 

Ce chien a l'air d'un loup. 
That dog looks like a wolf.

 

When the expression is in front of an adjective, the de is dropped: 

 

Ça a l'air délicieux, mais j'ai des crampes à l'estomac, je peux rien avaler.

It looks delicious, but I have stomach cramps, I can't swallow anything.

 

Avoir l'air (de) can often be replaced with the verb sembler (to seem): 

 

Tu ne sembles pas trouver ça suffisant, Psi. 
You don't seem to think that's sufficient, Psi. 

 

Ça semble délicieux, mais j'ai des crampes à l'estomac, je peux rien avaler.
It looks delicious, but I have stomach cramps, I can't swallow anything.

 

Finally, there's on dirait, which literally means "one would say," but is often used idiomatically to mean "it looks like":  

 

À première vue, on dirait une pharmacie, mais non...

At first glance, it looks like a pharmacy, but no...

Caption 1, Le Journal - Chocolats

 Play Caption

 

On dirait qu'il va neiger. 
It looks like it's going to snow. 

 

The main difference between these expressions is that ressembler à is only used to compare similar things, whereas avoir l'air de/sembler and on dirait can also be used to convey an impression of something. 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

We hope this lesson lived up to its title! Feel free to tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com.

Continue Reading

Une petite enquête sur "petit(e)"

In this lesson, we'll take a look at some special uses of the elementary French word petit(e), which, as you probably already know, means "little," "small," or "short." Though it generally refers to something or someone of a small size, it can take on a variety of other related meanings. For example, since children are smaller than adults, petit(e) can also mean "little" as in "young": 

 

Mais tu voulais vivre de la musique? T'étais attachée à la musique?

But you wanted to make a living from music? You were attached to music?

Oui. -Ouais. -Depuis toute petite. Oui, oui.

Yes. -Yeah. -Since [I was] very little. Yes, yes.

Captions 24-25, Alsace 20 - Femmes d'exception: Christine Ott

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

In fact, if you turn the adjective into a (usually plural) noun, you get an informal word for "children":

 

Les petits sont à l'école.
The kids [or "little ones"] are in school.

 

But if you address someone as mon petit or ma petite, you're affectionately calling them "my dear." (You could also say mon chéri/ma chérie.

 

Speaking of affectionate uses of petit(e), the words for "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" are petit ami and petite amie (literally, "little friend"):

 

Et pour parler de ma première petite amie, l'une de mes premières petites amies est encore ma femme. Voilà.

And as for my first girlfriend, one of my first girlfriends is still my wife, so there.

Captions 24-25, Mario Canonge - Ses propos - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

Going back to petit(e) as in "young," the words for "granddaughter" and "grandson" are petite-fille ("little daughter") and petit-fils ("little son"). Note that these words are hyphenated, unlike petit ami/petite amie

 

Les parents de ma petite-fille sont morts dans un accident de voiture, et c'est moi qui l'élève.

The parents of my granddaughter died in a car accident, and I am the one raising her.

 

If you're only a little bit hungry, you might want to eat something with une petite cuillère (a teaspoon): 

 

Si vous avez une petite faim, je vous recommande de vous arrêter quelques minutes juste ici.

If you're feeling a little hungry, I recommend that you stop for a few minutes right here.

Captions 12-13, Voyage dans Paris - Autour de l'Hôtel de Ville

 Play Caption

...et pour finir, des couverts comme une fourchette, un couteau, ou une petite cuillère.

...and finally, some cutlery like a fork, a knife, or a teaspoon.

Caption 34, Joanna - Son nouvel appartement

 Play Caption

 

You can also use the word to give a rough approximation of something: 

 

Il y a une petite dizaine de places...

There are barely ten seats or so...

Caption 25, Voyage dans Paris - Cité Florale

 Play Caption

 

The number of expressions with petit(e) is by no means small! Here are a few more, just to give you un petit goût (a little taste): 

 

avoir une petite mine (to look pale)
avoir une petite pensée pour quelqu'un (to be thinking of someone) 
une petite douceur (a little something sweet)
en petite tenue (in one's underwear, scantily clad)
chercher la petite bête (to nitpick) 
à petite dose (in small doses)
une petite nature (a weakling)
une petite foulée (a trot) 
une petite voix (a quiet voice)
petit à petit l'oiseau fait son nid (every little bit helps; literally, "little by little the bird makes its nest")

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

If you'd like to like to do your own petite enquête (investigation), you can do a search for petit or petite to find even more examples in Yabla videos. 

Continue Reading

Standing and Sitting

In her hit song "Christine," the French artist Christine and the Queens (aka Héloïse Letissier) plays with the phrase tenir debout:

 

Je ne tiens pas debout

I can't stand up

Caption 7, Christine and the Queens - Christine

 Play Caption

Ça ne tient pas debout

It doesn't hold up

Caption 9, Christine and the Queens - Christine

 Play Caption

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

The expression in the first caption is se tenir debout, which means "to stand up" (literally, "to hold oneself upright"). Since it's a reflexive expression, there should actually be a me in the caption (Je ne me tiens pas debout), but reflexive pronouns are often dropped in informal speech. 

 

Without the reflexive pronoun, tenir debout is an idiomatic expression meaning "to hold up" (its literal translation), "to add up," or "to make sense." 

 

Se mettre debout and se lever are two other common ways of saying "to stand up": 

 

Donc on se lève et l'effet de surprise les fait s'envoler dans le filet.

So we stand up and the surprise effect makes them fly into the net.

Caption 9, Canal 32 - Les secrets des cailles des blés

 Play Caption

Il s'est mis debout quand je suis entré dans la chambre. 
He stood up when I entered the room. 

 

These phrases describe the action of standing up, but if you wanted to describe someone who is already standing, you would use the phrase être debout or even just debout by itself: 

 

Par exemple lui, il était debout, elle, elle était allongée.

For example him, he was standing up, her, she was lying down.

Caption 17, Niko de La Faye - "Visages" - Part 1

 Play Caption

Debout, une rose à la main

Standing up, a rose in hand

Caption 17, Indila - Love Story

 Play Caption

 

We can't talk about standing up without also talking about sitting down! There are two expressions for sitting in French: s'asseoir (to sit) and être assis/assise (to be seated): 

 

Le Jardin du Joli Cœur est un tout petit parc où on peut s'asseoir tranquillement.

The Jardin du Joli Cœur is a very small park where you can sit quietly.

Caption 38, Joanna - Son quartier

 Play Caption

Tout le reste du temps, je dors... là où je suis assise.

The rest of the time, I sleep... right where I'm sitting.

Caption 15, Le Journal - Les navigateurs du Vendée Globe - Part 2

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

Thanks for reading! If you have a suggestion for a future lesson topic, feel free to email us at newsletter@yabla.com or tweet us @yabla.

Continue Reading

French Filler Words

If you're a Yabla subscriber, you may have noticed that we translate every word in the video captions, even if it's a repeated word or a filler word such as euh... (uh...). This allows you to really hear everything the speaker is saying and gives you a better understanding of everyday French speech patterns. In this lesson, we'll review some of the most common filler words and interjections that pop up in Yabla French videos. 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

While euh (uh) is pretty straightforward, hein is a filler word whose translation really depends on context. In general, it's used as an interrogative to mean anything from "right," to "isn't it," to "you know": 

 

Donc, euh... c'est le même système, hein, pour les légumes, euh... comme pour les homards.

So, uh... it's the same method, right, for the vegetables, uh... as for the lobsters.

Caption 54, 4 Mains pour 1 Piano - Médaillon de Homard - Part 2

 Play Caption

Il bouillonne bien, hein?

It's bubbling nicely, isn't it?

Caption 77, 4 Mains pour 1 Piano - Médaillon de Homard - Part 1

 Play Caption

Enfin, j'ai déjà trois filles, hein!

After all, I already have three daughters, you know!

Caption 42, Actu Vingtième - Vendanges parisiennes

 Play Caption

 

If you didn't quite catch something someone said, you can simply say, Hein? (Huh?) But like its English counterpart, this usage of hein is very informal. A more polite way of expressing the same sentiment is, Pouvez-vous répéter, s'il vous plaît? (Can you repeat that, please?)

 

The word quoi usually means "what," but as a filler word it has the same meaning as hein:

 

Ouais, euh... ça serait vraiment le... le rêve ultime, quoi, pour le fan...

Yeah, uh... that'd really be the... the ultimate dream, you know, for a fan...

Caption 9, Alsace 20 - Rammstein à Strasbourg

 Play Caption

 

Also like heinquoi can stand alone to express incomprehension: Quoi? (What?) It's a little less informal than hein in this context.

 

 ("here," "there," or "now") can also mean "you know," but it's often used as an informal way of adding emphasis: 

 

Parce qu'en fait hier, on allait... avec... avec, euh... avec des grands, ...

Because actually, yesterday, we were going... with... with, uh... with some older kids, you know...

Caption 80, Actus Quartier - Fête de quartier Python-Duvernois - Part 1

 Play Caption

 tu exagères! 

You're really exaggerating [going too far]!

 

Ben or eh ben (well) is another common filler word. It's a shortened form of bien, the standard word for "well": 

 

Les températures, eh ben, cela va être relativement facile, quatre degrés partout...

The temperature, well, that's going to be relatively easy, four degrees everywhere...

Caption 6, Alsace 20 - Météo des Maquilleurs

 Play Caption

 

You'll also find it in the expression, Ben oui! (But of course!)

 

Our final example contains two common interjections: 

 

Oh la la! Oh mais dis donc, non mais... oh, qu'est-ce qui se passe?

Oh my! Oh but you don't say, no but... oh, what's going on?

Caption 24, Il était une fois... l’Homme - 6. Le siècle de Périclès - Part 4

 Play Caption

 

The first has been adapted into English as "ooh la la!" But while "ooh la la" is a comical way of expressing attraction or excitement, oh la la (often shortened to oh la) is a more neutral expression of surprise (more like "oh my" in English). 

 

The second interjection, dis donc, literally means "say then," but is better translated by the phrase "you don't say" or a number of others

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

In short, if you ever find yourself at a loss for words in French, a filler word or an interjection is a good way to plug the gap!

Continue Reading

Qu'est-ce qu'il y a?

Il y a is probably one of the most common French expressions, and appears countless times in Yabla videos, which makes it a perfect lesson topic! Though it literally means "it has there," il y a is the equivalent of "there is" or "there are." You'll find it very useful when describing a location or a situation: 

 

Donc, en effet, il y a des vagues, il y a du courant. Le courant est fort.

So, indeed, there are waves, there is a current. The current is strong.

Caption 2, À la plage avec Lionel - La plage

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

As the above example demonstrates, il y a remains unchanged regardless of whether its object is singular (du courant) or plural (des vagues). It does change, however, according to the tense of the sentence. Here it is in the imperfect, passé composé, and future tenses: 

 

Il y avait un lièvre mais, tu vois, il courait trop vite.

There was a hare, but you see, it was running too fast.

Caption 15, Il était une fois - Les Amériques - 1. Les premiers Américains

 Play Caption

 

Quand il est mort, il y a eu un million ... Parisiens qui ont suivi, euh, le cortège.

When he died, there were a million ... Parisians following, uh, the procession.

Caption 15, Bertrand Pierre - Victor Hugo

 Play Caption

 

Il y aura beaucoup de tableaux à voir au musée.
There will be many paintings to see at the museum. 

 

Il y a can also be used to indicate the passage of time, in which case it usually means "ago":

 

On a commencé il y a dix minutes.

We started ten minutes ago.

Caption 47, Actus Quartier - Fête de quartier Python-Duvernois

 Play Caption

 

You can also use the phrase il y a... que to express the same thing, though in this case it usually means "for" or "since":

Il y a trois mois que j'habite à Paris. 
I've lived in Paris for three months. 

Incidentally, you could rewrite the above sentence three different ways, all with the same meaning: 

Ça fait trois mois que j'habite à Paris. 
Voilà trois mois que j'habite à Paris. 
J'habite à Paris depuis trois mois. 

Another more informal way of using il y a is when you notice someone looking sad or upset and you ask them: Qu'est-ce qu'il y a? (What's wrong?) Even more informally, you can shorten that question to: Qu'y a-t-il? If you're wondering why there's suddenly a "t" and two hyphens there, check out our lesson on inversion for a full explanation. 

It's very common for il y a to be shortened to y a in casual speech:

 

C'est festif, euh... Y a de la barbe à papa.

It's festive, uh... There's cotton candy.

Caption 32, Actus Quartier - Fête de la rose au caviar rouge

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

To sum up, let's review all the uses of il y a in a short dialogue: 

Qu'est-ce qu'il y a? -Je suis en colère parce qu'il y a trop de tableaux au musée du Louvre. Il y a trois mois que j'habite à Paris et je n'ai pas encore tout vu!
What's wrong? -I'm mad because there are too many paintings in the Louvre. I've lived in Paris for three months and I still haven't seen everything!

Continue Reading

Terrible or Terrific?

In the French drama series Plus belle la vie the character Zoé has been fighting to prove her father Stéphane’s innocence after he was identified as a murder suspect. In one episode Stéphane asks Zoé how she’s holding up when she comes to visit him in prison:

 

Comment tu te sens? -Pas terrible. Je sais que c'est pas toi qui as fait ça.

How are you feeling? -Not great. I know it’s not you who did this.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

If Zoé were feeling “not terrible,” that might suggest that she’s doing fairly well, but the rest of the episode suggests otherwise. In fact, pas terrible is an idiom meaning “not great.” Though terrible often has a negative sense as it does in English, it can also mean something along the lines of “formidable,” “huge,” or even “terrific”:

 

J'ai eu une chance terrible cette année.

I've been tremendously lucky this year.

 

The meaning of terrible really depends on context. So when the narrator of this news segment calls Roman Polanski’s Death and the Maiden un film terrible,” we can assume he’s not giving the movie a bad review, but rather commenting on its harrowing subject matter: 

 

Une pièce du Chilien Ariel Dorfman, dont Polanski tira un film terrible avec Sigourney Weaver et Ben Kingsley.

A play by the Chilean Ariel Dorfman, which Polanski made into a chilling film with Sigourney Weaver and Ben Kingsley.

Captions 2-3, TLT Toulouse - Dorfman mis en scène à Toulouse

 Play Caption

 

Though it can be easy for English speakers to misunderstand the meaning of terrible, there are many occasions when it directly translates as "terrible," as in this trailer for Beauty and the Beast:

 

Lors d'une terrible tempête, le marchand perdit sa fortune,

During a terrible storm, the merchant lost his fortune,

Caption 3, Bande-annonce - La Belle et La Bête

 Play Caption

 

You might be wondering why we have une terrible tempête here but un film terrible and une chance terrible above. The answer will help you decipher the adjective's meaning: when terrible comes before the noun, it usually means "terrible," but when it comes after the noun, it usually means "tremendous," "formidable," or something similar.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Just double-check whenever you come across it to make sure you aren’t in the midst of une terrible méprise (a terrible misunderstanding)!

Continue Reading

D'où viens-tu?

Our latest video asks the question, D'où vient le nom de la France? (Where does France's name come from?) As you'll learn from the video, the name comes from les Francs (the Franks), the Germanic people who settled in the region in ancient times, when it was known as Gaul.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

If you ask a French person, D'où viens-tu? (Where are you from?), he or she might say, Je viens de la France (I come from France). But there are two other ways of saying the same thing:

Je suis français(e).
I am French

Je suis un Français/une Française.
I am a Frenchman/a Frenchwoman.

 

Here, you can see an important rule that applies to all French demonyms (or words referring to the inhabitants of a place): when used as an adjective (as in the first example), they're written all in lowercase, but when used as a noun (as in the second), their first letter is capitalized. 

 

You can see this distinction played out in this caption from the video: 

 

Les plus anciens ancêtres connus des Français sont des peuples gaulois.

The oldest known ancestors of the French are the Gallic people.

Caption 32, Le saviez-vous? - D'où vient le nom de la France?

 Play Caption

 

While les Français is a noun, gaulois is an adjective. As an alternative, we could rewrite the sentence by flipping the parts of speech and changing the capitalization accordingly:

Les plus anciens ancêtres connus du peuple français sont les Gaulois
The oldest known ancestors of the French people are the Gauls.

 

On a related note, the names of languages in French are always lowercase: whereas le Français means "the Frenchman," le français means "the French language." And whereas demonyms can change gender and number, language names are always masculine and singular. So you can have le Français (the Frenchman), les Français (the Frenchmen/French people), la Française (the Frenchwoman), and les Françaises (the Frenchwomen), but you can only have le français (the French language).

 

Finally, another way of answering the question d'où viens-tu is with the expression être originaire de (to be originally from/to be a native of). Aïssa Maïga uses this expression in her video on promoting literacy among girls and women in Senegal: 

 

Vu le fait que je sois originaire du Sénégal et aussi du Mali...

Seeing as I am originally from Senegal and also from Mali...

Caption 18, Alphabétisation - des filles au Sénégal

 Play Caption

 

Aïssa is a French actress with origins in Senegal and Mali, or in other words: Aïssa est une actrice française, originaire du Sénégal et du Mali. 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

For practice, try describing where you're from in French in a few different ways. You can find a thorough list of French demonyms here

 

Continue Reading

Getting Real with "Réaliser"

In a previous lesson, we explored the words compte and compter, which are used in a wide variety of expressions beyond their most basic meanings (“account” and “to count,” respectively). One of these expressions is se rendre compte, which literally means “to give an account to oneself,” but which is best translated as “to realize”: 

 

Et bien sûr nous allons aussi nous rendre compte que Metz est une ville riche par son patrimoine, son passé.

And of course we'll also realize that Metz is a rich city through its heritage, its past.

Captions 14-15, Lionel à Metz - Part 1

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

“To realize” also has a French cognate, réaliser. While réaliser can be used as a synonym of se rendre compte, it more often refers to realizing something in the sense of making something a reality, such as a goal or a dream: 

 

C'est un rêve qui va être chaud à réaliser: c'est pouvoir voir Michael Jackson.

It's a dream that's going to be hard to realize: it's being able to see Michael Jackson.

Captions 26-27, Micro-Trottoirs - Un rêve récurrent?

 Play Caption

 

While this sense of “to realize” is more of a formal and often technical term, réaliser is more commonly used as a synonym of faire (to make or to do). For example, “to realize a recipe” isn’t as common a phrase in English as réaliser une recette is in French: 

 

Ben, pour réaliser, euh, la recette, ben on a besoin des... des homards.

Well, to make, uh, this recipe, well we need some... some lobsters.

Caption 29, 4 Mains pour 1 Piano - Médaillon de Homard - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

Margaux and Manon even use réaliser in their definition of faire:

 

"Faire" veut dire construire ou fabriquer ou réaliser quelque chose de concret, de matériel.

"Faire" means to build or make or achieve something concrete, material.

Caption 9, Margaux et Manon - Emplois du verbe faire

 Play Caption

 

If you make the verb reflexive, it means "to become reality" or, in the case of wishes and dreams, "to come true":

Tous mes rêves se sont réalisés.
All my dreams came true.

 

Some other synonyms of réaliser are accomplir (to accomplish), exécuter (to execute, carry out), créer (to create), atteindre (to achieve), and achever (to finish, complete). 

 

Réaliser is also an important verb in film terminology, meaning “to direct.” In fact, its noun form, réalisateur, specifically means “film director”: 

 

Alors, c'est le réalisateur qui s'est battu pour elle.

So, it was the director who fought for her.

Caption 4, Le Journal - Marion Cotillard

 Play Caption

 

You can also use the word cinéaste, or “filmmaker,” instead of réalisateur. A “cineaste” in English is either a filmmaker or a film buff (or both!). 

 

Another noun form of réaliser is réalisation, which generally means “realization” or “fulfillment,” but can also mean “design” or “creation” in architectural parlance. As France contains a wealth of architectural treasures, you’ll come across this word a lot in Yabla travel videos: 

 

La réalisation architecturale du parc a été confiée en mille neuf cent quatre-vingt trois.

The park's architectural design was assigned in nineteen eighty-three.

Caption 8, De nouvelles découvertes avec Marion - Le Parc de la Villette

 Play Caption

 

Et à l'entrée, pour les amateurs d'architecture, il y a cette extraordinaire réalisation Le Corbusier.

And at the entrance, for architecture enthusiasts, there is this extraordinary Le Corbusier creation.

Captions 11-12, Voyage dans Paris - Le Treizième arrondissement de Paris

 Play Caption

 

We hope you realize all of your dreams and goals, whether they’re as small as making a recipe or as large as constructing a building, or as fun as learning French with Yabla!  

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Continue Reading

A Free Sampling of French Food and Drink Words

Alessandro is a pique-assiette (freeloader, literally “plate-stealer”) in his latest video, in which he walks down Paris’s Rue Montorgueil to take advantage of all the free samples (des échantillons gratuits) along the street. As the theme of this video is eating and drinking, you’ll find several different words for those two activities besides the standard verbs manger (to eat) and boire (to drink).

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

One of the great things about the Rue Montorgueil is that you can basically eat an entire meal for free just by sampling all the delicacies (though we encourage you to support the local businesses by making some purchases too!): 

 

Et on peut déguster tout gratuitement. En fait, on peut se nourrir rue Montorgueil gratuitement.

And you can sample everything for free. In fact, you can eat on Rue Montorgueil for free.

Captions 11-12, Cap 24 - Paris 2ème : Alessandro joue le Pique-assiette!

 Play Caption

 

Besides “to sample” or “to taste,” déguster can also mean “to savor” or “to enjoy.” Make sure you don’t confuse it with dégoûter, which has a very different meaning: “to disgust.” On the other hand, goûter is more or less interchangeable with déguster

 

Allons-y! Nous allons goûter.

Let's go! We are going to sample.

Caption 23, Cap 24 - Paris 2ème : Alessandro joue le Pique-assiette!

 Play Caption

 

The noun forms of these two verbs are a bit different, however. Whereas une dégustation is “a tasting” or “a sampling,” un goûter is “a snack” (while le goût refers to a person’s sense of taste or to the flavor of food). 

Se nourrir literally means “to nourish oneself,” but it’s mostly used as a synonym for manger to mean “to eat.” It’s also synonymous with s’alimenter, and both verbs mean “to feed” when they’re non-reflexive (nourrir, alimenter). Alimenter can also mean “to supply,” as in a reservoir that supplies a city with water: 

 

Il alimente un cinquième à peu près de la ville de Paris en eau naturelle.

It supplies about one-fifth of the city of Paris with natural water.

Caption 19, Voyage dans Paris - Le Treizième arrondissement de Paris

 Play Caption

 

Of course, it's also possible to nourish your soul rather than your stomach, as in the expression se nourrir d'amour et d'eau fraîche (literally, "to nourish oneself with love and fresh water") or vivre d'amour et d'eau fraîche ("to live on love and fresh water"). It corresponds to the English expressions "to live on love alone" or "to be madly in love." It's also a more romantic way of saying "to be irresponsible" or "carefree."
 

La nourriture is the general word for “food,” while un aliment refers to a piece of food (or a “foodstuff”). And l’alimentation has a wide variety of meanings, including “food,” “feeding,” “groceries,” “supply,” “diet,” and “nutrition.” It's typically used in a broader, more abstract way:

 

Tu dois pouvoir bénéficier d'une alimentation suffisante, saine et équilibrée.

You must be able to receive adequate, healthy, and balanced nutrition.

Caption 20, Marie et Sakhoura - Droits des enfants

 Play Caption

 

Par contre, si vous êtes dans un rythme d'alimentation biologique, vous allez réfléchir à votre consommation.

However, if you're following an organic diet, you're going to think about your consumption.

Captions 26-27, Alsace 20 - Pourquoi le bio est-il plus cher?

 Play Caption

 

Rue Montorgueil also has a lot to offer in terms of beverages, including some delicious smoothies:
 

Une fois que vous avez picolé gratuitement les smoothies gratuits, donc les fruits et légumes...

Once you've downed the free smoothies for free, so the fruit and vegetables...

Caption 18, Cap 24 - Paris 2ème : Alessandro joue le Pique-assiette!

 Play Caption

 

Picoler is a slang term for boire that usually refers to alcoholic beverages, but can also refer to “downing” or “knocking back” any kind of drink. 

The most common slang word for manger is bouffer, which, as a noun, is also a slang word for “food”: 

 

Quand je réalise que la bouffe est un problème

When I realize that food is a problem

Caption 25, Oldelaf - Je mange

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

Oldelaf’s music video is full of food-related vocabulary, as Oldelaf depicts himself not as a mere pique-assiette, but as a total glouton (glutton). The words you learned in this lesson should come in handy in any culinary situation, whether you’re nibbling on free samples in Rue Montorgueil (goûter dans la rue Montorgueuil) or pigging out at home (bouffer à la maison)! 

Continue Reading

Légendes dites urbaines

Our latest Grand Lille TV video focuses on the end of an urban legend: a house in Villeneuve D'Ascq that was said to be haunted is now being torn down. Urban legends are dubious by nature, so speaking about them usually involves expressing some degree of doubt, suspicion, or uncertainty. In fact, the news report on the ex-haunted house in Villeneuve D'Ascq demonstrates a few different ways to express doubt, suspicion, or uncertainty, or simply relay something that may or may not have actually happened. 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

The first expression comes in the video title itself, Clap de fin pour la maison dite hantée (End of the so-called haunted house). Un clap de fin is a filmmaking term referring to the clapperboard used to mark the end of a scene. More importantly, the word dite (the feminine singular past participle of dire, "to say") is used here as an adjective meaning "so-called." Think of it as a sort of disclaimer indicating that Grand Lille TV doesn't officially believe the house was haunted. 

 

But dit as an adjective doesn't always have to be a disclaimer—like "so-called," it can also just refer to a commonly used name for something. Since it's an adjective, it always agrees in gender and number with the noun it modifies:

C'est un petit peu le cœur du quartier dit de la nouvelle Athènes.
It's kind of the heart of the so-called "Nouvelle Athènes" (New Athens) neighborhood.
Cap. 16, Voyage dans Paris: Le 10ème Arrondissement - Part 2

 

The next expression tells us the source of the alleged haunting using a tricky verb conjugation:

La présence d'un fantôme d'un enfant qui aurait été tué par ses parents à l'époque
The presence of the ghost of a child who had supposedly been killed by his parents at the time
Cap. 5, Grand Lille TV: Clap de fin pour la maison dite hantée

 

What we're dealing with here (besides a heartbreaking story) is the past conditional tense (also called the "conditional perfect"). It's formed by combining the conditional form of the auxiliary verb (avoir or être) with the past participle of the main verb. In this example, we actually have two past participles (été and tué) because the sentence is in the passive voice ("been killed"). 

 

The French conditional usually corresponds to the word "would": un enfant qui aurait été tué literally means "a child who would have been killed." But, as we discussed in a previous lesson, the conditional is also used to relate an uncertain fact or event, in which case it's often translated using words like "supposedly," "reportedly," or "apparently" without the conditional "would." We can tell that this is the best translation of the past conditional here because "a child who would have been killed" doesn't make sense in the context of the video. In general, context is key for determining whether the French conditional is a "true conditional" ("would be") or an expression of doubt or uncertainty ("is supposedly"). 

 

Our last two expressions are packed into one caption: 

C'était soi-disant... une maison qui... devait être hantée. 
It was a so-called... a house that... was supposed to be haunted.
Cap. 13, Grand Lille TV: Clap de fin pour la maison dite hantée

 

First we have another word for "so-called," soi-disant, which is also used in English (as in "a soi-disant artist," or a self-proclaimed artist). Unlike the adjective dit, which goes after the noun, soi-disant goes before the noun (une soi-disant maison hantée, "a so-called haunted house") and doesn't change in gender or number. 

 

The speaker hesitated a bit here and chose not to use soi-disant in the end. Instead, he used the verb devoir, which usually means "to have to" or "must," but can also mean "to be supposed to," both in the sense of having a duty and of supposedly being or doing something. Incidentally, soi-disant can also be used as an adverb meaning "supposedly," so the speaker also could have said, une maison qui était soi-disant hantée (a house that was supposedly haunted).

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

For practice, try finding some straightforward sentences expressing a fact and turn them into expressions of doubt, suspicion, or uncertainty using the examples above. Beginners can play around with dit and soi-disant, while more advanced learners can tackle the past conditional. As an alternative, try writing about your favorite urban legend in French! 

Continue Reading