In this lesson, we'll introduce three different ways of saying "to look like" in French.
The first expression is ressembler à, which looks a lot like the English word "resemble" (but note the extra s) and is used in much the same way:
Chacun de tes gestes ressemble aux miens
Each of your gestures looks like mine
Cap. 2, Ina-Ich: Âme armée
Ressembler is always followed by à, except when à is replaced by an indirect object pronoun:
Elle me ressemble.
She looks like me.
Cap. 31, Le saviez-vous? - La conjugaison au au présent, au passé et au futur
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.
Cap. 41, Il était une fois... L'Espace: 6. La révolte des robots - Part 7
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.
Cap. 4, Plus belle la vie: 2772 - Part 3
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...
Cap. 1, Le Journal: Chocolats
On dirait qu'il va neiger.
It looks like it's going to snow.
The main difference between these expressions is that ressembler à is only used to compare similar things, whereas avoir l'air de/sembler and on dirait can also be used to convey an impression of something.
We hope this lesson lived up to its title! Feel free to tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to email@example.com.
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?
-Depuis toute petite. Oui, oui.
-But you wanted to make a living from music? You were attached to music?
-Since [I was] very little. Yes, yes.
Cap. 23-24, Alsace 20: Femmes d'exception - Christine Ott
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.
And as for my first girlfriend, one of my first girlfriends is still my wife.
Cap. 18, Mario Canonge: Ses propos - Part 1
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.
Cap. 13, Plus belle la vie: Episode 2771 - Part 3
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.
Cap. 12, Voyage dans Paris: Autour de l'Hôtel de Ville
...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.
Cap. 34, Joanna: Son nouvel appartement
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...
Cap. 25, Voyage dans Paris: Cité Florale
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")
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
Cap. 7, Christine and the Queens: Christine
Ça ne tient pas debout
It doesn't hold up
Cap. 9, Christine and the Queens: Christine
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.
Cap. 9, Canal 32: Les secrets des cailles des blés
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.
Cap. 17, Niko de La Faye: "Visages" - Part 1
Debout, une rose à la main
Standing up, a rose in hand
Cap. 17, Indila: Love Story
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.
Cap. 35, Joanna: Son quartier
Tout le reste du temps, je dors... là où je suis assise.
The rest of the time, I sleep... right where I'm sitting.
Cap. 15, Le Journal: Les navigateurs du Vendée Globe - Part 2
Thanks for reading! If you have a suggestion for a future lesson topic, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet us @yabla.
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.
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 comme pour les homards.
So, uh... it's the same method, right, for the vegetables as for the lobsters.
Cap. 36, 4 Mains Pour 1 Piano: Médaillon de Homard - Part 2
Il bouillonne bien, hein?
It's bubbling nicely, isn't it?
Cap. 52, 4 Mains Pour 1 Piano: Médaillon de Homard - Part 1
Enfin, j'ai déjà trois filles, hein!
After all, I already have three daughters, you know!
Cap. 39, Actu Vingtième: Vendanges parisiennes
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 rêve ultime, quoi, pour le fan…
Yeah, uh... that'd really be the ultimate dream, you know, for a fan…
Cap. 9, Alsace 20: Rammstein à Strasbourg
Also like hein, quoi can stand alone to express incomprehension: Quoi? (What?) It's a little less informal than hein in this context.
Là ("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 des grands, là...
Because actually, yesterday, we were going with some older kids, you know...
Cap. 79, Actus de Quartier: Fête de quartier Python-Duvernois
Là 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...
Cap. 6, Alsace 20: Météo des Maquilleurs
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?
Cap. 24, Il était une fois… l’Homme: 6. Le siècle de Périclès - Part 4
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.
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!
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.
Cap. 2, À la plage avec Lionel: La plage
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.
Cap. 14, Il était une fois - Les Amériques: 1. Les premiers Américains - Part 7
Quand il est mort, il y a eu un million de Parisiens qui ont suivi le cortège.
When he died, there were a million Parisians following the procession.
Cap. 15, Bertrand Pierre: Victor Hugo
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.
Cap. 47, Actus de quartier: Fête de quartier Python-Duvernois - Part 3
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.
Cap. 32, Actus de Quartier: Fête de la rose au caviar rouge
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!
If you’ve been following the latest drama series on Yabla French, Plus belle la vie, you know that Zoé has been fighting to prove her father Stéphane’s innocence after he was identified as a murder suspect. In the most recent 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.
Cap. 1-2, Plus belle la vie - Episode 2771: Part 2
If Zoé were feeling “not terrible,” that might suggest that she’s doing fairly well, but the rest of the video 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...
Cap. 2-3, TLT Toulouse: Dorfman mis en scène à Toulouse
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.
Cap. 3, Bande-annonce: La Belle et La Bête
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.
Just double-check whenever you come across it to make sure you aren’t in the midst of une terrible méprise (a terrible misunderstanding)!
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.
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.
Cap. 32, Le saviez-vous: D’où vient le nom de la France?
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...
Cap. 18, Alphabétisation des filles au Sénégal
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.
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.
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.
Cap. 14, Lionel à Metz: Part 1
“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.
Cap. 26-27, Micro-Trottoirs: Un rêve récurrent?
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 la recette, ben on a besoin des homards.
Well, to make this recipe, well, we need some lobsters.
Cap. 23, 4 Mains pour 1 Piano: Médaillon de Homard - Part 1
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.
Cap. 9, Margaux et Manon: Emplois du verbe faire
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.
Cap. 4, Le Journal: Marion Cotillard
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.
Cap. 8, De nouvelles découvertes avec Marion: Le Parc de la Villette
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.
Cap. 11-12, Voyage dans Paris: Le Treizième arrondissement de Paris - Part 2
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!
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).
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.
Cap. 10, Cap 24 - Paris 2ème: Alessandro joue le Pique-assiette!
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.
Cap. 20, Cap 24 - Paris 2ème: Alessandro joue le Pique-assiette!
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.
Cap. 19, Voyage dans Paris: Le Treizième arrondissement de Paris - Part 2
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.
Cap. 18, Marie et Sakhoura: Droits des enfants
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.
Cap. 26-27, Alsace 20: Pourquoi le bio est-il plus cher?
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...
Cap. 15, Cap 24 - Paris 2ème: Alessandro joue le Pique-assiette!
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
Cap. 25, Oldelaf: Je mange
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)!
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.
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).
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!
Oldelaf’s latest song featured on Yabla, “Vendredi” (Friday), is a sort of satirical ode to boring weekends:
I am bored
Je me sens tout chose
I feel peculiar
Cap. 41, Oldelaf: interprète “Vendredi”
You might have been able to guess that je m’ennuie means “I am bored” here because it contains the word ennui, which the English language borrowed from the French as a synonym for “boredom.” But in French, l’ennui and its related words don’t only have to do with being bored. They can also involve being bothered, worried, troubled, or annoyed. In this lesson, we’ll see how these multiple meanings play out—and we promise it won’t be boring!
First, there’s l’ennui, which usually just means “boredom”:
Je meurs d’ennui.
I’m dying of boredom.
However, if you pluralize l’ennui (les ennuis), you don’t get “boredoms,” but “problems” or “troubles”:
On évite certains ennuis
We avoid certain problems
Cap. 16, Le Village de la Bière: Ceci n’est pas un bar!
Quant à Socrate, il a de sérieux ennuis.
As for Socrates, he has serious troubles.
Cap. 27, Il était une fois… l’Homme: 6. Le siècle de Périclès - Part 6
(Speaking of philosophers with ennui(s), there's also l'ennui pascalien, or "Pascalian ennui," named after the seventeenth-century polymath Blaise Pascal. It corresponds to the notion of "existential ennui" in English.)
As we saw in the first example, the reflexive verb s’ennuyer means “to be bored.” But the non-reflexive verb ennuyer can either mean “to bore” or “to bother”:
Ça vous ennuie que je vous photographie?
Will it bother you that I photograph you?
Cap. 36, Le Journal: Marion Cotillard
Marc ennuie ses enfants avec ses longues histoires.
Marc is boring his kids with his long stories.
You’ll have to pay attention to context to determine whether ennuyer means “to bore” or “to bother.” In the case of the examples above, taking a photo of someone is probably more likely to bother them than bore them, and kids are probably more likely to be bored than bothered by their dad’s long stories. That said, sometimes ennuyer can have both meanings at once. For example, you could say that Marc is bothering his kids by boring them with his long stories. You could also say that he is annoying them—in fact, the word “annoy” is etymologically related to the word “ennui,” which should make this additional meaning of ennuyer easier to remember.
Context is also key with other ennui derivatives like ennuyeux/ennuyeuse (boring, annoying, tiresome) and ennuyé(e) (bored, annoyed, worried):
Y a rien à dire
There’s nothing to say
Cap. 40, Melissa Mars Music Videos: Et Alors!
Toutes ses questions sont vraiment ennuyeuses.
All his questions are really annoying.
On peut être fasciné, agacé, déçu, énervé par le ton, captivé par l'intrigue ou tout bêtement ennuyé...
We can be fascinated, annoyed, disappointed, upset by the tone, captivated by the plot, or, quite simply, bored...
Cap. 29-30, Manon et Clémentine: Vocabulaire du livre
Tu as l’air ennuyé. Mais ne t’inquiète pas! Tout ira bien.
You look concerned. But don’t worry! Everything will be all right.
Hopefully you aren’t bored, annoyed, bothered, or worried at the moment, but if you are, Oldelaf’s new video is a perfect antidote to all the various shades of ennui!
And for more information on the usage and history of the word "ennui" in English, check out this interesting article.
We’ve dealt with adjectives a lot in previous Yabla lessons, and in this one we’ll focus on five of them that all share one important feature. See if you notice something peculiar about the spelling of the French words for “new” and “old” in the following examples:
Donc je vais vous présenter mon nouvel appartement.
So I'm going to show you my new apartment.
Cap. 20, Joanna: Son nouvel appartement
Ce square a la particularité d'héberger le plus vieil arbre de Paris.
This square has the distinction of housing the oldest tree in Paris.
Cap. 27, Voyage dans Paris: Saint-Germain-des-Prés
You may already know that “new” in French is nouveau (masculine) and nouvelle (feminine), and that “old” is vieux (masculine) and vieille (feminine). So where did nouvel and vieil come from?
The answer is that, for a small group of adjectives, the masculine singular form changes when the adjective is followed by a noun starting with a vowel or a non-aspirated (mute) h. So instead of nouveau appartement, you have nouvel appartement, and instead of vieux arbre, you have vieil arbre.
If you think about it in terms of pronunciation, you might get a better sense of why this happens. The phrase nouvel appartement “flows” better than nouveau appartement because the l sound prevents the little pause that occurs when you move from the “eau” of nouveau to the “a” of appartement. French pronunciation places a heavy emphasis on words flowing together smoothly (a concept called “euphony”), an idea we previously touched on in our lesson on liaisons. This little rule is just another way of making sure the language sounds pleasing to the ear.
The three other descriptive adjectives that exhibit this spelling change are beau/bel/belle (beautiful), fou/fol/folle (mad, crazy), and mou/mol/molle (soft).
Je préfère un mol oreiller.
I prefer a soft pillow.
Le fol espoir d'un rendez-vous
The mad hope of a rendezvous
Cap. 15, Oldelaf: interprète “Bérénice”
Alors, qui me fait une offre pour ce bel athlète?
So, who's making me an offer for this handsome athlete?
Cap. 25, Il était une fois… l’Homme: 6. Le siècle de Périclès - Part 3
This phenomenon also occurs with the demonstrative adjective ce/cette (this, that), which becomes cet before a singular masculine noun starting with a vowel or mute h. So if we removed the word “handsome” from the sentence above, it would become:
Alors, qui me fait une offre pour cet athlète?
So, who’s making me an offer for this athlete?
Note that if another word beginning with a consonant (usually another adjective) is placed between the noun and the special form of the adjective, you don’t need to use the special form anymore. You can see this in the previous example, where you have ce bel athlète instead of cet bel athlète.
As you may have noticed, all of these adjectives belong to a small group of adjectives that go before the noun they modify. You can learn more about adjectives like this in our previous lesson on the subject. Also, remember that this spelling change only occurs with the masculine singular forms of these adjectives. The masculine plural forms (nouveaux, vieux, mous, fous, beaux, ces) don’t change before a noun beginning with a vowel or mute h. According to the rules of liaison, their endings are pronounced to indicate the plural.
Since this spelling change happens with such a small number of adjectives, the best way to learn it is probably just to memorize them. Here’s a little memory aid for you using fragments of all the example sentences in this lesson:
Cet homme a le fol espoir de trouver… (This man has the mad hope of finding…)
...le plus nouvel appartement de Paris. (...the newest apartment in Paris.)
...le plus vieil arbre de Paris. (...the oldest tree in Paris.)
...le plus mol oreiller de Paris. (...the softest pillow in Paris.)
...le plus bel athlète de Paris. (...the handsomest athlete in Paris.)
The verb importer has two different meanings: “to import” (goods or merchandise, or even a computer file) and “to be important” or “to matter.” You can use the phrase il importe as a more formal alternative to il est important (it is important) when giving a warning or instruction:
Il importe de se laver les mains avant de manger.
It is important to wash your hands before you eat.
But more often, you’ll see the verb used in two set expressions to refer to things that aren’t important, or whose specific identity doesn’t matter. The first of these expressions is peu importe, which means “little does it matter”:
Peu importe si je veux ça, mes larmes en vain, et peu importe des lendemains si je t’aime
Little does it matter if I want it, my tears in vain, and little do the tomorrows matter if I love you
Cap. 11, Peach FTL: L’Empreinte
The other expression is not as straightforward but probably even more common. Take a look at this sentence:
C'est le seul art que tu peux faire n'importe où, n'importe quand.
It's the only art that you can do anywhere, anytime.
Cap. 7-8, B-Girl Frak: La Danse
You’ll have to watch the video to find out what artform B-Girl Frak is referring to (though you might be able to guess from the title), but for now, let’s focus on the phrases n’importe où and n’importe quand. Literally translated, they mean “doesn’t matter where” and “doesn’t matter when,” which are roundabout ways of saying “anywhere” and “anytime.” In French, the construction “n’importe + interrogative word (où, quand, qui, quoi, comment, quel)” corresponds to English phrases beginning with “any” (anywhere, anytime, anyone, etc.).
Depending on context, this construction can function as a few different parts of speech. For instance, while n’importe où and n’importe quand act as adverbs, n’importe qui (anyone) and n’importe quand (anytime) act as indefinite pronouns:
Et qui l'achète? Ah, n'importe qui.
And who buys it? Ah, anyone.
Cap. 4-5, Le Journal: La bougie du sapeur
Le marché Dauphine, une véritable caverne d'Ali Baba, ici on trouve n'importe quoi.
The "Marché Dauphine" [Dauphine Market], a veritable Ali Baba's cave, here we find anything.
Cap. 2, Cap 24: Paris - Alessandro fait les Puces!
N’importe quoi can also be used more informally to mean “ridiculous” or “nonsense”:
Là, je trouve ça n'importe quoi, parce que, voilà, chacun a ses... a sa religion.
I think it's ridiculous because, you know, everyone has ... has his or her own religion.
Cap. 16, Grand Lille TV: Sondage - le voile intégral
If you want to be a bit more specific than “anyone” or “anything,” you can use the expression n’importe quel/quelles/quels/quelles, which is always followed by a noun:
Vous parlez comme n'importe quel homme.
You talk like any other man.
Cap. 28, Bande-annonce: La Belle et la Bête
Lequel, laquelle, lesquels, and lesquelles can be used to replace “quel/quelle/quels/quelles + noun” (more on that here). Likewise, you can also put n’importe in front of those words to express indifference:
Tu veux aller à la plage ou à la piscine? -N’importe laquelle.
Do you want to go to the beach or to the pool? -Either one.
Finally, there’s the adverb phrase n’importe comment, which literally means “any how,” but is usually translated as “any way” or “any which way.” The French house artist Toxic Avenger devoted an entire song to this phrase:
Bouge ton corps n'importe comment
Move your body any which way
Cap. 24, The Toxic Avenger: N’importe comment
In informal speech, you’ll even hear n’importe used as a standalone phrase to mean “it doesn’t matter” or “I don’t care” (or even just "whatever"). We hope that you do care about all of the different ways to use importer!
In French, there are two different verbs meaning “to find”: trouver and retrouver. Although the two verbs are often interchangeable, the major difference between them has to do with the difference between discovering and retrieving: while trouver usually refers to finding something new, retrouver (which is related to “retrieve”) usually refers to finding something you’ve lost.
If you go to the fantastic food market in Arles, you’ll be overwhelmed by the incredible amount of fresh cheeses you’ll find there:
On trouve les meilleurs fromages de toutes les régions
We find the best cheeses from all the regions
Cap. 17, Arles: Le marché d’Arles
On a more emotional note, you might be determined to find a lost love, like the subject of this music video:
Elle a juré de vous retrouver vite.
She swore to find you again fast.
Cap. 9, Yaaz: La place des anges
“To find” doesn’t only refer to finding a person or a thing. You can also find something intangible, like a concept, feeling, or physical state:
Comme il trouve pas la solution
Since he can't find a solution
Cap. 26, Oldelaf: Le monde est beau
J'ai fait un cauchemar et ne pouvais pas retrouver le sommeil.
I had a nightmare and could not get back to sleep.
In English, "to find" can also be a synonym for “to think,” when expressing an opinion. Likewise, trouver can be a synonym for the standard French words for "to think," penser and croire. Like the person in this video, we at Yabla find foreign language learning to be very important:
Je trouve que c'est très important de... étudier les langues étrangères.
I think it's very important to... study foreign languages.
Cap. 1, Allons en France: Pourquoi apprendre le français?
When you make trouver and retrouver reflexive, their meanings become less straightforward. Take a look at this sentence, in which the explorer James Bruce expresses his certainty about the location of the source of the Nile:
Et elle se trouve sûrement là-bas!
And it is certainly over there!
Cap. 9, Il était une fois - les Explorateurs: 15. Bruce et les sources du Nil - Part 5
Elle se trouve literally means “it is found,” but se trouver can also be translated as “to be located” or simply “to be.” Don’t confuse this with the set expression il se trouve que..., which means “it just so happens that…” or “it turns out that…”:
Il se trouve que j’ai une autre paire de gants.
It just so happens that I have another pair of gloves.
When you make retrouver reflexive, it has the sense of being somewhere again or meeting again:
Les Marseillais ne cachent pas le plaisir de se retrouver.
The Marseille residents are not hiding the pleasure of getting together again.
Cap. 32, Alsace 20: Rencontre avec les membres d’IAM
On se retrouve au café après l'école?
Shall we meet at the café after school?
Se retrouver can also refer to finding oneself in a particular situation:
Je me suis retrouvé le bec dans l'eau.
I found myself with my beak in the water. [I was left high and dry.]
We hope you’ve found this lesson helpful and that you find everything you may have lost!
In an introductory French class, Lionel gives a rundown of some basic ways to greet people in French:
C'est le soir. Bonne soirée.
It's the evening. Good evening.
Cap. 26, Leçons avec Lionel: Salutations
In English, a “soirée” is a fancy party usually held in the evening. Though the French word soirée can also refer to a party, its basic meaning is just “evening,” which isn’t quite as fancy. You can see from the example above that there is another French word for “evening”: le soir. Likewise, there is also another way to say “good evening”: bonsoir. So what’s the difference between le soir and la soirée and bonsoir and bonne soirée?
It’s not just that le soir is masculine and la soirée is feminine or that bonsoir is one word and bonne soirée is two. It’s more a question of emphasis: la soirée generally refers to the duration of an evening, whereas le soir just refers to a specific time. The difference is pretty subtle, and the words are often interchangeable, but it’s good to know that this pattern applies to other time-related words as well: matin/matinée (morning), jour/journée (day), and an/année (year).
In this weather report, the phrase toute la matinée emphasizes the durational aspect of matinée:
En effet, le soleil va briller de Wissembourg à Saint-Louis durant toute la matinée.
Indeed, the sun will shine from Wissembourg to Saint-Louis all morning long.
Cap. 3, Alsace 20: Météo du 2 juillet 2010
If she just wanted to emphasize the specific time of day, the weather reporter could have said something like:
En effet, le soleil va briller de Wissembourg à Saint-Louis demain matin.
Indeed, the sun will shine from Wissembourg to Saint-Louis tomorrow morning.
Note that matinée never refers to a daytime theater performance or movie screening, as it does in English. In French, it just means "morning." To get another sense of morning as a duration of time, think about the French expression for “sleeping in,” faire la grasse matinée (literally, “fat morning”). When you sleep in, you spend a good amount of the morning (if not the whole morning, or toute la matinée!) in bed:
Il travaille bien en classe; il ne fait jamais la grasse matinée!
He works hard in class; he never sleeps in!
Cap. 15, Les zooriginaux: 2 - Tel père tel fils - Part 1
The pattern continues with jour/journée. Notice the difference in meaning between toute la journée and tous les jours:
Je suis sur la plage toute la journée.
I'm on the beach all day long.
Cap. 8, Fred et Miami Catamarans: Fred et sa vie à Miami
Je suis sur la plage tous les jours.
I'm on the beach every day.
Bonjour is the standard way to say “hello” (or “good day”), but as you may have guessed, you can also say bonne journée. Bonne journée is usually translated as “have a good day,” and this same distinction can be applied to bonsoir and bonne soirée. You'd tend to say bonjour/bonsoir when greeting someone and bonne journée/bonne soirée when leaving them. However, you generally won’t hear bon matin or bonne matinée in French—”good morning” is simply bonjour. And there is only one way to say “good afternoon” (bon après-midi) and “good night” (bonne nuit), which you only say before going to bed.
Finally, there is an/année. Again, you would use an to refer to a specific year or number of years:
Dans trois ans, j’aurai trente ans.
In three years, I will be thirty years old.
Une année is a one-year span, but it can also refer less precisely to a period of 11 or 13 months (whereas un an is strictly 12 months):
C'est pour ça que je voulais vraiment absolument m'arrêter ici pendant pendant une année...
That's why I really absolutely wanted to stop here for a year....
Cap. 36-37, Le Québec parle aux Français: Part 2/1
You can’t wish somebody a bon an in French, but you can certainly wish them a bonne année. In fact, bonne année happens to be the phrase for “Happy New Year," while "New Year's" (referring to the specific day) is le Nouvel An or le jour de l'An. Since the holidays are fast approaching, in addition to a bonne journée and a bonne soirée, we at Yabla also wish you a bonne année for le Nouvel An (a few months in advance)!
Auprès de is a French preposition that doesn’t have a direct English translation. It generally refers to a situation of proximity and has a range of meanings, including “beside,” “next to,” “with,” “among,” “by,” “at,” “close to,” and more. It’s one of those words whose definition almost entirely depends on context, so let’s take a look at how it’s used in some Yabla videos.
The most literal meaning of auprès de is “beside” or “next to,” referring to physical proximity (another expression for this is à côté de). At the end of the classic French fairy tale La Belle et la Bête (Beauty and the Beast), Belle wants nothing more than to be beside her beloved Beast:
Laissez-moi retourner auprès de lui; c'est mon seul souhait...
Let me return to his side; it's my only wish…
Cap. 42, Bande-annonce: La Belle et la Bête
On a less romantic note, you can also use auprès de to describe two things that are next to each other:
L’hôpital se trouve auprès du parc.
The hospital is located next to the park.
Auprès de doesn’t always refer to being directly beside someone or something. More generally, it can mean “with” (avec) or “among” (parmi) a group of people or things:
Thalar, mon cher ami, avez-vous enquêté auprès de tous les animaux?
Thalar, my dear friend, did you inquire among all the animals?
Cap. 40, Les zooriginaux: 3. Qui suis-je? - Part 4
Une fois que tu seras auprès des chefs, tu pourras leur parler de ce que tu voudras.
Once you're with the chiefs, you'll be able to talk to them about whatever you like.
Cap. 2-3, Il était une fois… L’Espace: 6. La révolte des robots - Part 5
When looking at two people or things that are beside one another, or considering two ideas or situations in your head, it’s almost impossible not to compare them. Along those lines, in addition to “with,” auprès de can also mean “compared with” or "compared to":
Nous sommes pauvres auprès de nos voisins.
We are poor compared to our neighbors.
Auprès de is also used in more formal administrative and governmental contexts to mean “at” or “with,” usually to direct people to a certain department or office or to describe people connected to a department or office:
Les visites ont donc lieu tous les jours et sont gratuites mais pensez à réserver auprès de l'Office du Tourisme de Tourcoing.
So visits take place every day and are free, but think about making a reservation at the Tourcoing Tourism Office.
Cap. 17-18, Grand Lille TV: Visite des serres de Tourcoing
Aujourd'hui, par exemple, elle reçoit des chargés de mission auprès du gouvernement.
Today, for example, she meets with government representatives.
Cap. 33, Le Journal: Les microcrédits
J’ai laissé un message auprès de ta secrétaire.
I left a message with your secretary.
You may have noticed that auprès de looks very similar to another preposition, près de (near, nearly, around). Près de also describes proximity, but it implies a greater distance than auprès de. It’s a question of being near something versus being next to something. In the first green example sentence, the hospital is directly beside the park. But in the sentence, L’hôpital est près du parc, the hospital is just in the park’s general vicinity.
So whether you’re talking about being snuggled up beside a loved one or just walking among a group of people, auprès de is the phrase to use. Try using it to describe what or who is next to you right now!
If you’ve studied our recent lesson on French numbers, you should theoretically be able to count to a billion (compter jusqu’à un milliard) in French. But since no one has time to do that, let’s focus on some other, more practical uses of the verb compter.
Counting doesn’t always involve numbers. For example, if you’re relying on someone to do something, you’re counting on (compter sur) them, as this Parisian chef is counting on us to visit his restaurant:
À vous aussi de venir ici, on compte sur vous.
Up to you to come here too, we're counting on you.
You can also count on a future event to happen (or not happen). Bertrand Pierre is an extremely talented singer-songwriter, but for some reason he doesn’t expect to make it big. He expresses his pragmatism with the construction “compter + infinitive”:
Je compte pas devenir une star internationale, c'est pas ça que je veux dire.
I'm not expecting to become an international star, that's not what I mean.
Cap. 22, Bertrand Pierre: Autre Chose
Sometimes compter refers not to counting numbers, but containing them. If the subject of the verb compter is an inanimate object, it’s most likely describing contents:
Après un peu de lecture, dans une bibliothèque qui compte quarante mille volumes...
After a bit of reading, in a library that contains forty thousand volumes…
Quite a few expressions are based on the noun form of compter, compte, which can mean “count,” “total,” or “account.” If you’re a Yabla subscriber, for example, you have un compte (an account) with us. Un compte can also mean “account” in a more figurative sense, as in the expression prendre en compte (to take into account):
Tous ces éléments-là sont importants aussi à prendre en compte...
All those elements there are also important to take into account...
Cap. 19, Le Journal: Grands prématurés
A very common expression with compte is se rendre compte, which means “to realize” or “become aware” (literally, “to give an account to oneself”). In the latest installment of our Il était une fois episode on Scottish explorer James Bruce, a shipmate reflects on the crew's recent discovery of Abyssinia:
Tu te rends compte, Luigi, nous repoussons les limites de l'inconnu.
You realize, Luigi, we're pushing the limits of the unknown.
Don’t forget that se rendre compte is a reflexive expression, and its meaning changes completely when you remove the se: instead of giving an account to yourself, you’re giving an account to someone else, i.e., reporting to them:
On y va? -Oui, mais d'abord, on rend compte à Oméga.
Shall we go? -Yes, but first we report to Omega.
We’ll end with a compte expression that deals with endings: en fin de compte (literally, “at the end of the account”), which can be translated as “ultimately,” “at the end of the day,” or “when all is said and done”:
En fin de compte, un bateau qui est propulsé par une motorisation cent pour cent électrique.
Ultimately, a boat that's propelled by one hundred percent electric power.
Compte tenu de (taking into account) all of the different ways of using compter and compte, you might feel overwhelmed when trying to remember them all. But don’t worry if you can’t master them right away: c’est l’intention qui compte (it’s the thought that counts)!
If someone asks you what your name is in French (Comment t’appelles-tu?), you probably know to respond with the phrase je m’appelle… (my name is…). But what’s in a name? Or, more specifically, what are the different parts of a French name?
First there is le prénom (“first name,” literally “pre-name”), which is not to be confused with le pronom, or “pronoun” (le nom means both “name” and “noun”). This “Le Journal” video is all about first names, focusing on the most popular baby names in France:
C'est un prénom qui passe bien pour une jeune fille, pour une dame
It's a name that works well for a girl, for a woman
Cap. 15, Le Journal: Choisir un nom d’enfant
After le prénom comes le deuxième prénom, which literally means “second first name,” i.e. “middle name.” Finally, there’s le nom de famille (“family name” or “surname”).
Watch out for the word surnom, which is a faux ami of “surname.” Un surnom is “a nickname,” and its verbal form surnommer means “to nickname”:
Et enfin, les habitants de la Butte aux Cailles sont surnommés les Cailleux.
And finally, the residents of the Butte aux Cailles are nicknamed the "Cailleux."
Surnommer comes from the verb nommer (to name, to call). When you make nommer reflexive (se nommer), it means “to be named” or “to be called”:
Ce système de redistribution “intelligent” se nomme “smart grid”.
This “intelligent” redistribution system is called “smart grid.”
You can also use se nommer to refer to a person’s name, but it’s a bit more formal in that context than its synonym s’appeler:
Ma mère se nomme Louise.
My mother is named Louise.
There are other types of names besides your birth name (nom de naissance). If you’re a performer, for example, you might adopt a new name for your stage persona:
C’est quoi ton nom de scène?
What’s your stage name?
Cap. 33, Actu Vingtième: Le Repas des anciens
Or, if you prefer the pen to the stage, you might take on a nom de plume:
"Voltaire" était le nom de plume de François-Marie Arouet.
"Voltaire" was the pen name of François-Marie Arouet.
In a previous lesson on the word mademoiselle, we talked about some recent changes that were made to the vocabulary used in French government documents. Among them is the abolition of the phrase nom de jeune fille (maiden name) in favor of nom de famille, and the phrase nom d’époux/nom d’épouse (married name) in favor of nom d’usage (used name).
So now, if you ever have the pleasure of filling out paperwork in French, you shouldn’t have to worry about writing your names in the wrong boxes!