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!
Numbers are an essential feature of every language, and learning them usually just involves a good amount of memorization. In his latest video, Lionel provides an excellent and comprehensive review of numbers in French and explains how some of the more complicated ones are constructed. This lesson will supplement Lionel’s expert counting knowledge with some additional number facts. We won’t spend time going over the basic French numbers, since Lionel did such a great job with that. Instead, we’ll focus on the big numbers (above 100) and on decimals.
Although there are quite a few numbers above 100 (cent), you really only need to know a few of them for the rest to fall into place. Besides cent, there’s mille (a thousand), un million (a million), and un milliard (a billion).
When dealing with the word cent, the most important thing to consider is whether or not it takes an s at the end (and thus becomes plural). It never does in the 100s, since you only have one hundred: cent un (101), cent vingt (120), cent quatre-vingts (180), etc.
Cent vingt-huit personnes ont été relogées ce soir.
One hundred twenty-eight people were rehoused this evening.
Once you get into the multiple hundreds, however, you do need an s after cent, except when cent is followed by another number. So if your rent is neuf cents dollars ($900) and your landlord is nice enough to raise it by only $50, your new rent will be neuf cent cinquante dollars ($950).
You won’t have to worry about adding an extra s to the word mille, which always stays singular:
En France, huit cent cinquante mille personnes sont atteintes de la maladie d'Alzheimer.
In France, eight hundred fifty thousand people are affected by Alzheimer's disease.
But once you reach the millions, things get a bit trickier. Once again, an s is required when you’re talking about multiple millions (deux millions vs. un million). But unlike cent and mille, when you’re talking about one million, you need to say un million. That is, the word million never stands alone, yet you never say un cent or un mille as we would say "one hundred" or "one thousand" in English:
Si j’avais un million de dollars, je parcourrais le monde.
If I had a million dollars, I would travel the world.
You might be wondering why there is a de in un million de dollars but there isn’t one in neuf cents dollars. That’s another rule for million: when the word is followed by a noun, you need a de in between. Note that all three of these million rules are also true for un milliard (a billion).
Numbers aren’t always as neat as 1,000,000 and 950. How do you deal with more unwieldy quantities like 950.23 or 3.6 in French? Take a look at this sentence from our video on the booming number of film shoots near the small town of Saint-Cyr-du-Gault:
En deux mille onze, la région a consacré deux virgule deux millions d'euros
In two thousand eleven, the area devoted two point two million euros
Cap. 22, TV Tours: Hollywood sur Loire!
You may know that virgule means “comma.” So why is it translated as “point” here? The answer is that French deals with decimals in a slightly different way than English does. While the above number would be written 2.2 million in English, in French it would be 2,2 millions.
The general rule is that where English uses a period when writing numbers, French uses a comma, and vice versa. So while “one million” in English is 1,000,000, in French it’s 1.000.000. Alternately, un million can also be written 1 000 000, where the periods are replaced by single spaces.
What would you do with un million de dollars or deux virgule deux millions d’euros? Even if you aren’t a millionaire at this point in time, at least you now have the vocabulary to count to a billion in French!
You may recall our previous lesson on three adverbs that were false cognates, or words that look similar in two languages but mean different things. In French, these are called faux amis (literally, “false friends”), and there are too many French-English ones to count. In this lesson, we’ll just focus on four more, all from our most recent videos
We’ve been learning a lot about Galileo lately in the Il était une fois (Once Upon a Time) series, the third installment of which deals with the scientist’s experiments with pendulums, which move in a very specific way:
Vous allez voir que cet instrument va se balancer de moins en moins fort!
You'll see that this instrument is going to swing less and less intensely!
You may have expected se balancer to mean “to balance,” but it actually means “to swing.” “To balance” is tenir en équilibre (literally, “to hold in equilibrium”).
In part four of the series, we finally get to the revolutionary idea that made Galileo famous and ultimately cost him his life
Vous vous rendez compte, mon cher, qu'ils se trouvent des savants pour prétendre que la Terre n'est pas le centre de l'univers!
You realize, my dear friend, that there are scientists claiming that the earth is not the center of the universe!
Galileo didn’t “pretend” that the earth revolved around the sun—on the contrary, he was pretty sure of it! So sure, in fact, that he boldly “claimed” it. “To pretend” is faire semblant or feindre.
Prétendre is followed by que when you're making a claim ("to claim that..."), but when you're claiming a specific thing for yourself, you use prétendre à:
Il peut prétendre à une allocation chômage.
He can claim unemployment benefits.
On a different note, there’s no pretending that the angora rabbits on the Croix de Pierre Farm aren’t adorable, or that their breeder doesn’t take the utmost care to make sure that they’re warm and cozy:
Le plus galère pour eux c'est quand tu les épiles et que le temps n'est pas très au beau ou qu'il gèle très fort.
The toughest time for them is when you shear them and that the weather is not very nice or that there is a very hard frost.
Cap. 19-20, Ferme de la Croix de Pierre: Les lapins
Il gèle is an impersonal expression (more on those in this lesson) meaning “it’s freezing” or “there’s a frost,” and it comes from the verb geler. That may look like it might mean “to gel”—and indeed, the noun le gel means both “frost” and “gel”—but “to gel” is more like prendre forme (to take shape).
Finally, we’ll leave the French countryside for Montreal, where Geneviève Morissette has been making waves on the music scene as a singer-songwriter and as the host of the “Rendez-Vous de la Chanson Vivante” (Meetings of the Living Song) festival:
Ça fait deux ans que je les anime.
I've been hosting them for two years.
Geneviève certainly animates the festival with her impassioned lyrics and powerful voice (and animer can in fact mean “to animate” or “enliven”), but in this context the verb means “to host” or “present.” We could also say that Geneviève is l’animatrice (“host” or “presenter”) of the festival.
Faux amis can be tricky (not to mention a bit sneaky), so be on the lookout for them when watching Yabla videos. Whenever you spot one you don’t know, you can just click on it to add it to your flashcards list. Then, once you review your flashcards, you’ll have it mastered in no time! Bonne chance (“good luck,” not “good chance”)!
In our last lesson, we talked about the word plus (more) and how its different pronunciations affect its meaning. Now let’s take a look at the opposite of plus—moins (fewer, less)—which only has one pronunciation, but no fewer meanings!
Like plus, moins is an adverb of comparison, and can modify both adjectives and nouns. When it modifies an adjective, it’s usually followed by que to form the comparative phrase “less than.” In his video on French breakfast customs, Éric observes that cereal is less popular in France than it is in English-speaking countries:
Et puis les céréales, mais c'est moins commun que chez vous, qu'aux États-Unis, qu'en Angleterre.
And then cereal, but that's less common than where you come from, than in the United States, than in England.
Cap. 37-38, Arles: Le petit déjeuner
When modifying a noun, moins is usually followed by de:
Il y a moins de bêtes à chasser.
There are fewer animals to hunt.
You can even make moins a noun by putting le in front of it, in which case it means “the least”:
C’est le moins que je puisse faire.
That’s the least that I can do.
When you put an adjective after le moins, the adjective becomes superlative:
C'est le livre le moins cher et presque tous les éditeurs ont une collection de poche.
This is the cheapest book, and almost all publishers have a paperback collection.
Moins is also the basis for several common expressions. There’s the phrase à moins que (unless), which Adonis uses when singing about what he believes is the only acceptable reason for cutting down trees:
À moins que ce soit pour faire mes jolis calendriers
Unless it’s to make my pretty calendars
Cap. 4-5, Nouveaux Talents: Adonis chante
Try not to confuse à moins que with au moins, which means “at least”:
Tout le monde connaît le Père Noël, tout le monde lui a écrit au moins une fois..
Everybody knows Santa Claus, everybody's written him at least once...
Finally, there’s de moins en moins (“fewer and fewer” or “less and less”):
Ça peut aider aussi à sauver les animaux, à ce qu'ils soient de moins en moins abandonnés.
That can also help save animals so that fewer and fewer are abandoned.
Since moins is a quantitative word like plus, it makes sense that it can be used with numbers as well. You’ll hear it the most often as a number modifier in expressions involving temperature, time, and basic arithmetic:
Et voilà, me voilà parée pour sortir par moins zéro, moins quinze degrés.
And there we have it, here I am dressed to go out in below zero, negative fifteen degrees.
Il est dix heures moins le quart.
It’s a quarter to ten.
Deux plus cinq moins trois égale quatre.
Two plus five minus three equals four.
We hope you are plus ou moins satisfait(e) (more or less satisfied) with our presentation of plus and moins! And for any math whizzes out there, here’s an informative article on French math vocabulary beyond addition and subtraction. Why not try learning (or relearning) geometry in French?
Given that (étant donné que) it's the season of Thanksgiving (or Le Jour de l’Action de Grâce in Canadian French), let’s commemorate the act of giving by exploring the French verb for “to give,” donner. Besides thanks, there is an infinite number of things you can give, so we’ll focus on some specific expressions with donner that are featured in our videos.
Let’s start by giving some thanks to our favorite tour guide, Daniel Benchimol, who likes to close his always informative travel videos with the phrase donner rendez-vous:
Je vous donne rendez-vous très rapidement pour d’autres découvertes.
I’ll meet you very soon for some other discoveries.
Daniel is literally “giving you a rendezvous,” and you can accept his gift by watching his latest tour, which will take you around Paris’s beautiful Bastille neighborhood.
It’s also good to give thanks for the rights (les droits) that we’re granted every day, whether our human rights or the occasional promotional perk:
Une place de concert achetée donne droit également à une entrée gratuite au château
A purchased concert seat also entitles you to a free entry to the castle.
Cap. 27-28, TV Tours: Ouverture du 3ème festival de Chambord
And let’s not forget about what we can give back to others, even if it’s just a helping hand:
Je viens là et puis je leur donne un petit coup de main.
I come here and then I give them a bit of a helping hand.
If you’re dealing with someone stubborn, you might not want to give them anything or get anything from them—you might just want them to give in (se donner):
Seul face à Beethoven encore et toujours, Beethoven qui résiste et qui se donne et s’enfuit...
Alone in front of Beethoven, as always, Beethoven who resists and who gives in and runs away...
Cap. 18, Le Journal: Gstaad
As a gift to you for being such great Yabla subscribers, here is a list of some other useful expressions with donner. Think of it as a bit of a donnant donnant (give and take) situation. For even more donner-related expressions, see our previous lesson on the word maldonne.
donner de sa personne - to give a lot of oneself, go out of one’s way
donner à penser que - to suggest, lead to believe
donner faim/soif/chaud/froid - to make hungry/thirsty/hot/cold
donner sur - to look out onto
donner dans - to lapse into
se donner à fond - to go all out, give it one’s all
se donner du mal - to go to a lot of trouble
donner du fil à retordre - to give a hard time, give the runaround
se donner en spectacle - to make a spectacle of oneself
s'en donner à cœur joie - to enjoy wholeheartedly
In any language, it’s good to know how to explain the reasons for things. It’s great to say j’aime la langue française (I love the French language), but it’s even better to be able to say why (pourquoi) you love it. This lesson will show you some words that all answer the question, Pourquoi?
The most basic response to "why" is "because," and the most basic translation of "because" in French is parce que. This Frenchman in New York City uses parce que to explain why the Big Apple’s Bastille Day celebration makes him feel at home:
Je pense que c’est bien parce que ça crée une atmosphère française.
I think it’s a good thing because it creates a French atmosphere.
In English, "because" can refer either to the reason behind something or the cause of something. The difference is subtle, but the French might help clear it up. Whenever you want to say "because of" something, use à cause de instead of parce que:
J’ai pourtant passé une nuit horrible et triste à cause de toi!
Yet I spent a horrible and sad night because of you!
It helps that "because" and à cause de both include the word "cause"! Note that à cause de is most often used in negative or neutral situations—its more positive counterpart is grâce à (thanks to):
J'ai passé une nuit merveilleuse grâce à toi!
I spent a marvelous night thanks to you!
"Because" is not the only word that answers "why," nor is parce que (or à cause de) the only phrase that answers pourquoi. There’s also "since," or puisque:
C’est peut-être le temps de se préparer justement, puisque tout arrive très vite.
It may indeed be time to get ready, since everything happens very quickly.
Note that puisque is one word, while parce que is two. Why is that, you may ask? Unfortunately that’s a question that has no real answer!
Another way to give a reason for something is with the word "as," which in this case translates to car:
Je vais au marché, car j’ai repéré une petite robe
I’m going to the market, as I noticed a little dress
You can also translate car more formally as "for" ("I’m going to the market, for I noticed a little dress"). Incidentally, the French word for a car that you drive is une voiture, but attention: un car (or un autocar) is also a vehicle in French—it means "coach," as in the kind of bus you might take on a long journey (a city bus is called un autobus).
The final French expression for giving a reason conveniently includes the word "reason" (raison) within it. The expression is en raison de, usually translated as "due to":
Cette race de géants va disparaître en raison d’une gravité terrestre devenue trop forte
This race of giants was to disappear due to a terrestrial gravity which had grown too powerful
Cap. 40-41, La Conspiration d’Orion: Conspiration 1/4
If you think the idea of a "race of giants" is totally unreasonable, watch the Conspiration d’Orion series and see if its conspiracy theories might convince you otherwise....
We hope that the reason you give when someone asks why your French is so amazing is: parce que j’utilise Yabla tous les jours (because I use Yabla every day)!
In keeping with the Yabla French tradition of presenting three words that look or sound the same but mean different things (see our lessons on des, dés, and dès and si, si, and si), here are three more: quand, quant, and qu’en.
Of the three words, quand is the one you might be the most familiar with. It means “when,” both as an interrogative adverb (e.g. When are you going?) and as a conjunction (e.g. I’m going when I get off work).
In their discussion on multiculturalism, the R&B sister duo Les Nubians use quand as an adverb to speculate on a sort of global passport that would allow us all to become “universal citizens”:
Quand est-ce qu’on invente le passeport?
When will they invent the passport?
Cap. 25, Les Nubians: Le multiculturalisme
As an interrogative adverb, quand can sometimes be replaced with à quel moment... or à quelle heure... (at what time…?).
While Les Nubians are looking to the future, Axel reflects on the past in his tour of Paris’s Luxembourg Gardens, using quand as a conjunction:
Je me rappelle quand j’étais petit, quand j’étais avec mes copains.
I remember when I was little, when I was with my friends.
The other adverbial form of “when” is lorsque:
Lorsque je vous vois, je tressaille
When I see you, I quiver
Quand is also used fairly often in the expression quand même, which means “still,” “even though,” or “all the same”:
Pas mal de nuages mais quand même des éclaircies
Quite a few clouds but still some sunny spells
Cap. 9, Alsace 20: Météo des Maquilleurs
The words quand and quant are only off by one letter, so make sure not to confuse them in writing. Quant is always followed by à or one of its variants (à la, au, aux) and means “as for” or “regarding”:
Quant à l’adresse du destinataire, il s’agit du Père Noël.
As for the recipient’s address, it’s Santa Claus.
An expression to replace quant à is en ce qui concerne (concerning): En ce qui concerne l'adresse du destinataire, il s'agit du Père Noël.
Less confusable in writing is qu’en, which nevertheless sounds the same as quand and quant. Qu’en is a contraction of the relative pronoun que and the indefinite pronoun en and is used in phrases like:
What do you think about that?
As you may know, en replaces phrases beginning with de (or de la, du, des), so the above sentence could also be written as: Que penses-tu de cela?
So what do you think about these three homonyms? (Quant à vous, qu'en pensez-vous?) We hope this lesson helped clear up any confusion you may have had!
The French words encore and toujours have a few different meanings, but they share one in common: "still." Because of this shared meaning, it’s easy to confuse these two very common words. Let’s take an in-depth look at both of them to see where they merge and diverge.
In general, when you're using "still" in the sense of continuity (i.e. "to still be doing something"), encore and toujours are interchangeable. For example, "he is still on the phone" could be both il est encore au téléphone and il est toujours au téléphone.
Besides "still," the basic meanings of encore and toujours are:
encore: more/another, again, yet
toujours: always, anyway/anyhow
Let’s start with encore. In their video for "La place des anges" (The Angels’ Place), the Belgian band Yaaz manages to fit two of encore’s meanings into one sad little line:
Elle a encore peur, elle a encore pleuré
She is still afraid, she has cried again
Cap. 13, Yaaz: La place des anges
Hopefully she’ll be feeling better soon! On a different note, encore can also mean "another" or "more" (as in "one more," "two more," etc.), as the band Dahlia uses it in this song lyric:
Encore une fois, encore une autre, et encore une voix, encore un manque
One more time, another one, and one more voice, another lack
Cap. 25, Dahlia: Contre courant
So now do you see why a band’s return to the stage is called an "encore"? It’s because the audience wants to see them once again!
Along these same lines, encore + a noun usually means "more of something," like food at the dinner table:
Vous voulez encore du pain?
Do you want some more bread?
Encore can also mean "yet," usually in the sense of "not yet" (pas encore):
Donc elle est pas encore prête pour la ferme.
So it’s not ready for the farm yet.
Now let’s explore toujours. Daniel Benchimol uses it as "still" when orienting us on his tour of the Normandy town of Honfleur:
Toujours à Honfleur, nous sommes maintenant sur la place Sainte-Catherine.
Still in Honfleur, we are now in Sainte-Catherine Square.
And Fred uses it as "always" to describe the perpetually perfect weather in Miami:
Il fait toujours chaud, toujours beau, toujours agréable.
It’s always warm, always nice, always pleasant.
You can remember this meaning by breaking the word down: toujours is a combination of the words tous (all) and jours (days), so it literally means "all days."
The final meaning of toujours is "anyway":
Je ne vais probablement pas gagner à la loterie, mais je vais toujours essayer.
I probably won’t win the lottery, but I’m going to try anyway.
Since both of these words have quite a few meanings, context is key when determining which one they’re referring to. So if you receive a text message after a first date that reads, Tu as toujours envie de me voir?, don't freak out! Your potential love interest isn't asking you if you always feel like seeing him or her, but rather if you still feel like seeing him or her. You're just being asked out on a second date! Context is also important when the two words are used in the same sentence:
Il y a encore autre chose que nous t'avons toujours caché!
There is still another thing that we've always hidden from you!
We could rehash this subject encore et toujours (again and again), but maybe it’s best for you to explore these words on your own by looking out for them in the Yabla French videos. They should pop up quite often!
The verbs "to bring" and "to take" are often interchangeable in English, but their French equivalents are much more specific, and knowing when to use them can be a bit tricky. French actually has four different translations of these two simple verbs: amener, emmener, apporter, and emporter.
You can see that each of these verbs begins with a- or em- and ends with mener or porter. Keeping that in mind will help you determine when to use which verb. You can break it down like this:
1. The verbs ending in mener are only used for things that can move (namely people, animals, or vehicles). The verbs ending in porter are only used for inanimate objects. Mener means "to lead" and porter means "to carry"—you’re more likely to "lead" people and animals and "carry" inanimate objects.
2. The verbs beginning with a- refer to bringing something or someone to another place or another person (emphasis on the arrival or destination; remember that à means "to" in French). The verbs beginning with em- refer to taking something or someone with you, away from the original location (emphasis on the departure or the journey).
The first rule is pretty straightforward, but context is key for the second one. Let’s explore them both by looking at these two examples:
Ils avaient emmené avec eux quelques animaux d’élevage
They had brought with them a few farm animals
Ils avaient emporté des tonnes de conserves?
Did they bring tons of canned food?
Farm animals are living, breathing creatures, and canned food is just about as inanimate as you can get, so it makes sense that emmené was used in the first sentence and emporté was used in the second. But why the em-verbs instead of the a-verbs? The words avec eux help us to see where the emphasis lies—not on where they brought the animals and food, but on the fact that they brought things with them.
Now let’s take a look at amener and apporter:
Aujourd’hui notre rendez-vous nous amène dans l’est de Paris
Today our rendezvous brings us to the east of Paris
Cap. 1, Voyage dans Paris: Belleville
Vous voulez que je vous apporte une paire pour que vous puissiez comparer?
Do you want me to bring you a pair so that you can compare?
Our rendezvous with tour guide Daniel Benchimol is "bringing" us to the east of Paris, so amener is used here, since we’re all animate human beings. On the other hand, Manon brings Margaux a pair of inanimate shoes to try on, so she uses apporter. In both cases, the emphasis is on where we and the shoes are being brought—to the east of Paris and to Margaux.
As a final example, let's see how one situation can call for both types of verbs. We already saw that apporter was the right verb to use when Manon asked Margaux if she wanted her to bring her a pair of shoes to try on. But if the shoes don't fit, Margaux could say to Manon:
Emportez-les, elles sont trop petites.
Take them away, they're too small.
She wants Manon to bring the shoes back with her (not necessarily to any particular place), so emporter is the right fit here.
This is a lot to take in, so you might need some time to chew it over. In fact, why not go to a restaurant and review it all over a nice meal? If you decide to amener un ami (bring a friend) you'll want to have it sur place (to stay); if you're alone you might want to take it à emporter (to go)!