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Monter's Many Meanings

Monter is a French verb that can come in handy in many situations. We find the most basic meaning of the verb in our interview with Joanna, whose apartment is so tiny that her entire kitchen fits inside a cupboard! And although living on the ground floor means she doesn’t have to climb any stairs, she does have to climb a ladder to get to her bed

J’habite au rez-de-chaussée, donc je n’ai pas besoin de monter les escaliers. 

I live on the ground floor, so I don’t need to go up the stairs.

Cap. 6, L’appartement: de Joanna

C’est pour dormir, avec mon lit, et je dois monter à cette échelle.

It’s for sleeping, with my bed, and I have to climb this ladder.

Cap. 14, L’appartement: de Joanna

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Joanna uses the verb monter to describe going up the stairs and climbing the ladder. Although “to go up” is the verb's most basic meaning, there are quite a few others. For example, a price or a level of something can also monter:

Le prix de l’essence monte chaque année.

The price of gas rises every year. 

Jean-Marc also uses the verb to talk about getting inside his dream car:

À chaque fois que je monte dedans, j’y prends beaucoup de plaisir. 

Every time I get in, I enjoy it very much.

Cap. 12, Jean-Marc: Voiture de rêve 

The opposite of monter is descendre (to go down), and just as monter can refer to getting into a car or onto a bus or train, descendre refers to getting out or off:

On va monter dans le train à Bastille et descendre à République.

We’ll get on the train at Bastille and get off at République. 

Note that it’s monter dans le train (literally, “to go up into the train”) and descendre du train (to descend from the train).

When monter is used with a direct object, it can mean “to put up,” “set up,” “establish,” or “put together”:

C’était un peu une façon pour moi et de faire un film et de monter une pièce.

It was kind of a way for me to make not only a film but also to stage a play.

Cap. 17, TLT Toulouse: Dorfman mis en scène à Toulouse

Il a réussi à monter sa propre pizzeria.

He succeeded in opening his own pizzeria.

Cap. 3, Le Journal: Les microcrédits

Donc, le crapaud, il va falloir beaucoup plus de temps pour le monter.

So for the squat armchair, it will take much longer to put it together

Cap. 37, Le Tapissier: L’artisan et son travail

Speaking of direct objects, it’s good to know what to do with monter in the past tense (passé composé). Monter is one of the few verbs that usually takes the auxiliary être in the passé composé instead of avoir:

Joanna est montée à l’échelle. 

Joanna climbed the ladder.

But when monter takes a direct object and becomes transitive, it does take avoir:

Nous avons monté une pièce.

We staged a play.

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The passé composé is a very tricky aspect of French grammar. You can find a detailed introduction to it here.

This lesson just dips its toe into the verb’s numerous possibilities: you can also monter un film (edit a film), monter à cheval (ride a horse), monter un complot (hatch a plot), monter au combat (go to battle), monter des blancs d’œufs (whisk egg whites), and much more!

You can find a comprehensive list of monter's meanings on this site.

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Tu peux y arriver!

In this lesson, we’ll focus on the verb arriver, which has four different but equally common meanings. As you might guess, arriver is cognate with the English word “arrive,” which is the first meaning of the word:

On arrive au square de l’Opéra Louis Jouvet, que je trouve très joli aussi.

We arrive at the Opéra Louis Jouvet Square, which I also find very pretty.

Cap. 33, Mon Lieu Préféré: Place Édouard VII 

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Just as “arrive” doesn’t only refer to reaching a specific location (you can “arrive at” a solution, for example), arriver can also mean “to manage” or “succeed”:

On arrive enfin à se mettre d’accord.

We manage finally to come to an agreement.

Cap. 18, Rémy de Bores: Auteur

The expression y arriver specifically means “to make it” or “do it”:

Pour sortir des toilettes, c’est vraiment extrêmement étroit et avec le fauteuil, on y arrive....

To come out of the restroom, it’s really extremely narrow and you can do it with the wheelchair....

Cap. 18, Le Journal: Manifestation des paralysés 

And if someone is waiting for you and you’re on your way, you can use arriver to let them know that you’re coming (or arriving):

Dépêche-toi, Michel, je suis en retard! -Oui, j’arrive!

Hurry up, Michel, I’m late! -Yes, I’m coming

Car Ivan arrive; le cyclone progresse à trente kilomètres / heure.

Because Ivan is coming; the cyclone is moving at thirty kilometers per hour.

Cap. 11, Le Journal: La Martinique

The final meaning of arriver is “to happen.” In this sense, it is synonymous with the verb se passer:

Ce qui ne m’était pas arrivé depuis six ans

Which had not happened to me for six years

Cap. 24, Voyage en France: La Normandie – Cabourg

Qu’est-ce qui se passe?

What’s happening

There is also the expression il arrive que... (it happens that...), which is usually translated as “sometimes”:

Il arrive que les rêves se réalisent.

Sometimes dreams come true.

Note that il arrive que... takes the subjunctive.

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So whether someone or something is arriving, succeeding, coming, or happening, you can cover a lot of ground with the verb arriver. See if you can come up with sentences for each of its meanings! 

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Chez moi, c'est chez toi!

Chez is one of those few French words with no exact English equivalent. It’s a preposition that can be literally translated as "at the home of" or "at the establishment of," as Alex Terrier uses it when describing his early music influences

Ensuite j’ai découvert chez mes parents des disques trente-trois tours....

Then I discovered at my parents’ place some thirty-three rpm records....

Cap. 11, Alex Terrier: Le musicien et son jazz 

It can also be used in front of a surname to indicate a family household:

Chez les Marchal, le bac c’est une affaire de famille.

At the Marchals', the bac is a family affair.

Cap. 23, Le Journal: Le baccalauréat - Part 1 

(Note that French surnames don’t take an extra s when pluralized: les Marchal.)

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Or it can be used with disjunctive pronouns (moi, toi, soi, etc.) to mean "at my house," "at your house," or even just "at home":

L'hiver, les gens préfèrent rester chez eux....

In the winter, people prefer to stay at home....  

Cap. 1, Fanny parle des saisons: La Bouffe 

You can also use chez for businesses, offices, restaurants, and other commercial locations: 

Je suis pizzaman chez F&F Pizza, un shift par semaine. 

I’m a pizza man at F&F Pizza, one shift per week.

Cap. 2, F&F Pizza: Chez F&F - Part 1 

J’ai rendez-vous chez le dentiste et je suis en retard!

I have an appointment at the dentist and I’m late!

Cap. 10, Micro-Trottoirs: Art ou science? 

But chez doesn’t only refer to buildings! Quite often, you will also see it used more figuratively. For example, just as "at home" can mean "in one’s house," "in one's country/native land," and just "familiar" in general, chez soi (or chez nous, chez moi, etc.) carries all those meanings as well: 

On se sentait absolument chez nous.

We felt right at home.

Cap. 22, Les Nubians: Le multiculturalisme 

Finally, when describing something "about" or "in" a person, "among" a group of people, or "in the work of" an author or artist, chez is the word to use: 

Je l’ai retrouvée, je l’ai vue chez toutes les femmes, toutes les filles

I recognized it, I saw it in all the women, all the girls

Cap. 53, Alphabétisation: des filles au Sénégal

Les pâtes sont très populaires chez les Italiens.

Pasta is very popular among Italians

Il y a beaucoup de figures bizarres chez Salvador Dalí.

There are many bizarre figures in the work of Salvador Dalí.

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We chez Yabla encourage you to speak French as much as you can chez vous

 

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Three "Faux Amis"

Take a look at these three words: éventuellement, actuellement, forcément. If you read one of our previous lessons, you would probably guess that these words are all adverbs. And you would be right! You might also guess that they mean "eventually," "actually," and "forcefully." No such luck this time. These words are all false cognates (or faux amis, literally "false friends"), which are words that look similar in two languages but mean different things. French and English share too many faux amis to include in one lesson, so for now we'll focus on these three deceptive adverbs.

Éventuellement is synonymous with possiblement, which means "possibly" (no false friends there!). It can also be more specifically translated as "when necessary" or "if needed." 

Éventuellement dans... dans telle ou telle de... situation...

Possibly, in... in such and such a... situation...

Cap. 19, Actu Vingtième: La burqa 

Aujourd'hui il y a dix-sept médicaments disponibles, utilisés éventuellement en combinaison.

Today there are seventeen medications available, sometimes used in combination.

Cap. 17, Le Journal: Le sida

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"Eventually" is usually translated as finalement (finally) or tôt ou tard (sooner or later):

J'ai décidé finalement de ne pas aller à la fête.

I eventually decided not to go to the party. 

Nous y arriverons tôt ou tard

We'll get there eventually

Our second adverb, actuellement, is not "actually," but "currently" or "presently": 

Actuellement sans travail, ils résident aujourd'hui près de Saintes, en France....

Currently unemployed, they now live near Saintes, in France....

Cap. 3, Le Journal: Les Français de Côte d'Ivoire

"Actually" in French is en fait (in fact):

Et... pour imaginer le texte, en fait j'ai eu une vision dans ma tête.

And... to imagine the lyrics, actually I had a vision in my head.

Cap. 16, Melissa Mars: On "Army of Love"

And in case this wasn't complicated enough, "currently" has a faux ami of its own: couramment (fluently).

Nicole parle couramment cinq langues.

Nicole speaks five languages fluently

Finally, forcément means "necessarily" or "inevitably." "Forcefully" is simply avec force or avec vigueur:

Je l'aime bien, mais... enfin, ce n'est pas forcément le meilleur qui soit....

I like him all right, but... well, he's not necessarily the best there is....

Cap. 14, Interviews à Central Park: Discussion politique

This one actually makes sense if you break up the word. Like many adverbs, forcément is made up of an adjective (forcé) plus the ending -ment, which corresponds to the English adverbial ending -ly. Forcé(e) means "forced," so forcément literally means "forcedly" or "done under force," i.e., "necessarily."

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Actuellement and éventuellement are also made up of an adjective plus -ment, and their adjectives are also false cognates: actuel(le) means "current" (not "actual") and éventuel(le) means "possible" (not "eventual"). These words have noun forms as well: les actualités are the news or current events, and une éventualité is a possibility. (Interestingly, éventualité is a cognate of "eventuality," another word for "possibility.") 

English and French share so many faux amis that there are entire books dedicated to the subject. But if you're not itching to memorize them all right away, you can learn why there are so many of them in this article

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Au revoir, mademoiselle

Well, it's official. French Prime Minister François Fillon has declared that the title mademoiselle (Miss) will no longer be included on any government forms or documents. The decision comes after months of campaigning by two French feminist groups, Osez le féminisme! (Dare To Be Feminist!) and Les Chiennes de garde (The Watchdogs), who argue that the term places an unfair emphasis on a woman's marital status. Mademoiselle literally means "my young lady" (ma + demoiselle), just as madame comes from "my lady" and monsieur "my lord." Monsieur has long been used to identify both single and married men, as the archaic male equivalent of mademoiselle, mon damoiseau, never became an honorific title. Now madame will be used for all women, whether single or married, and is thus best translated as "Ms." instead of "Mrs."   

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The Prime Minister's order will also replace nom de jeune fille (maiden name) and nom patronymique (patronymic) with nom de famille (family name), and nom d'époux/nom d'épouse (married name) with nom d'usage (used name). 
 
Like "Ms." and "Mr." in English, madame and monsieur are usually abbreviated and capitalized when preceding a name:
 
Mes professeurs préférés sont Mme Fournier et M. Martin.
My favorite teachers are Ms. Fournier and Mr. Martin.
 
Note that there is no period after Mme, but there is one after M. (The abbreviation for mademoiselle, Mlle, also has no period.)
 
You can use madame and monsieur by themselves to address a person as "ma'am" or "sir":
 
Madame, qu'est-ce que vous avez préparé, vous?
Ma'am, what about you, what did you prepare?
 
 
 
Ne riez pas, monsieur, c'est très sérieux.
Do not laugh, sir, it's quite serious.
 
Madame and monsieur are used quite a bit more often in French than "ma'am" or "sir" in English. When you enter a shop, for example, you’re more likely to hear Bonjour, madame/monsieur! rather than just Bonjour
 
When referring to a third person, madame and monsieur can also be used for "lady" and "gentleman": 
 
Non, c'est madame qui a préparé le riz.
No, it's the lady who prepared the rice.
 
 
Y a un beau monsieur là de quatre-vingt-treize ans qui veut vous inviter, hein!
There's a handsome ninety-three-year-old gentleman here who wants to invite you, you know!
 

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Sometimes, you might see madame, monsieur, and mademoiselle in the plural (mesdames, messieurs, mesdemoiselles), especially when someone or something is being introduced:
 
Mesdames et messieurs, sans plus tarder, voici Hugo Bonneville.
Ladies and gentlemen, without further delay, here is Hugo Bonneville.
 
Monsieur le Premier Ministre (Mr. Prime Minister) may have banned mademoiselle from official use, but that probably won't cause the singer Mademoiselle K to change her stage name. You can watch the video for her song Me taire te plaire (Keeping Quiet to Please You), featuring Zazie, right here on Yabla French. 
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Si, Si, Si!

Si is a little French word that mainly corresponds to three little English words: "if," "so," and "yes." Although these are three very different words, it’s usually easy to tell which one si is referring to in context. So let’s see what si can do!                

Most of the time, you’ll probably hear si used to mean "if," as Bertrand Pierre uses it in his emotional song Si vous n’avez rien à me dire (with text by Victor Hugo, of Les Misérables fame): 

Si vous n'avez rien à me dire / Pourquoi venir auprès de moi?

If you have nothing to say to me / Why come up to me?

Captions 1-2, Bertrand Pierre: Si vous n'avez rien à me dire 

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Note that when si meaning "if" is followed by il ("he" or "it") or ils ("they," masculine), it is contracted to s'. This is perhaps most commonly seen in the expression for "please," s’il vous plaît (formal) or s’il te plaît (informal), which literally translates to "if it pleases you."

Si can also be used to indicate a contrast or opposition, in which case it means "whereas":                   

Si Émilie aime la musique rock, Henri la déteste.

Whereas Émilie loves rock music, Henri hates it. 

Since si and "so" look quite similar, it shouldn’t be too hard to remember this meaning of the word. Just keep in mind that si refers to the adverb "so" (as in "so happy"), not to "so" as a conjunction (as in "move so I can see"):

Pourquoi si long et pourquoi si las, tenir à bout de bras?

Why so long and why so weary, to hold at arm's length?

Caption 26, Dahlia: Contre courant  

One of the first words you learn in French is the word for "yes," oui, but sometimes si can also mean "yes" (as it does in Spanish and Italian). However, si only means "yes" in a very specific context: when someone is contradicting a negative question or statement. In case that sounds kind of convoluted, here's an example:       

Non! Il n'est pas bien, Sarkozy! -Si, si, si. -Si, il est bien.

No! He's not good, Sarkozy! -Yes, yes, yes. -Yes, he's good.

Captions 15-17, Interviews à Central Park: Discussion politique

If oui were used here instead of si, the speaker would just be confirming the negative statement ("Yes, Sarkozy is not good"). On the other hand, si takes a negative proposition ("He's not good, Sarkozy!") and turns it into a positive one ("Yes, he's good"). This is why it can come in very handy when you want to correct someone or express a contrary opinion. 

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To conclude, here are two expressions with si that you might find useful: si ça se trouve... ("maybe" or "it could be the case that") and si ce n'est que... (apart from the fact that):

Si ça se trouve, Georges n'a jamais terminé ses études.

It could be that Georges never finished school.

Nous n'avons rien en commun, si ce n'est que nous sommes tous les deux français. 

We have nothing in common apart from the fact that we are both French. 

This tiny word is probably one of the most versatile in the French language. So now that you know all about si, here's a challenge for you: try writing a two-sentence dialogue using as many meanings of the word as you can. Just use this lesson as a guide, and it'll be easier than you think! 

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See here, see there!

Voilà is a very common word in French, and depending on the context, it can take a number of different meanings, the most general of which is "there/here it is." In grammatical terms, voilà is categorized as a presentative, or a word that is used to introduce something. Voilà comes from the imperative phrase vois là (see there), which makes the presentative nature of the word even more apparent. At its most basic, voilà is used to present a specific object or person

Donc voilà mon super falafel, avec de l’aubergine grillée....

So here is my super falafel, with grilled eggplant....

Caption 8, Mon Lieu Préféré: Rue des Rosiers - Part 2     

Ah! Ben tiens, voilà Socrate.

Oh! Well look, here comes Socrates.

Caption 8, Il était une fois... L’Homme: 6. Le siècle de Périclès - Part 5

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In these two examples, we see how voilà can be used to direct our attention to both an object (Caroline's "super falafel") and a person (Socrates). But when voilà isn't literally presenting us with something, it is often used as a way of emphasizing a statement:

La poésie c'est comme l'amour: c'est le plus court chemin entre deux êtres. Voilà.

Poetry is like love: it's the shortest path between two people. There.

Caption 34, Marché de la Poésie: Des poètes en tout genre

In a sense, you could say that voilà is "presenting" us here with the metaphor on poetry that precedes it. But on a slightly less articulate note, when voilà is used for emphasis, it often acts as a sort of filler word, used when someone wants to end one topic and move on to another:

Euh... voilà. Après, l'inspiration, elle... elle vient de plein de sources diverses et variées.

Uh... there you are. Well, inspiration, it... it comes from a lot of different and varied sources.

Caption 45, Niko de La Faye: "Visages" - Part 2

You can also use voilà to affirm another person's statement:

Voilà, vous pouvez même voir le petit bateau en photo, euh... ici.

That's right, you can even see the little boat in the picture, uh... here.

Caption 50, Arles: Le marché d'Arles

Or you can use it to express a period of time:

Voilà près de sept ans que les professionnels du bois attendaient ça.

For nearly seven years, the lumber business has been waiting for this.

Caption 4, Le Journal: Firewood

Because voilà can be used in so many different situations, it is often tricky to translate ("there," "here," "there you go," "there you have it," "that's it," "there you are," and so on). And since no English word can really capture voilà's breadth of meaning, sometimes it's best not to translate it at all. In fact, the difficulty of translating voilà might be why it's become an (often humorous) English exclamation as well.

Now let's take a look at voilà's sister word, voici (from vois ici, "see here"). Like voilà, voici is also a presentative, but whereas voilà can either mean "there it is" or "here it is," voici usually just means "here it is." And unlike voilà, voici isn't used for emphatic or filler purposes, but almost exclusively for introducing or presenting a specific person or thing:

Nous voici devant une des quatre Statues de la Liberté que l'on peut trouver dans la ville de Paris.

Here we are in front of one of the four Statues of Liberty that you can find in the city of Paris.

Caption 23, Voyage dans Paris: Jardin du Luxembourg

You can get a better sense of the difference between voici and voilà when they are both used in the same sentence:

Voici ma maison et voilà celle de mon ami.

Here is my house and there is my friend's.

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As you can see, voilà is used to point out something at a distance, whereas voici indicates something close by. The difference between voici and voilà is similar to the difference between ceci (this) and cela (that). In fact, another way of translating the sentence above would be, "this is my house and that is my friend's."

You've probably heard voilà used in English before, but voici hasn't really managed to make the crossover. Besides the fact that voilà is often hard to translate (voici is much more straightforward), this could also be because voilà often acts as a standalone phrase (Voilà!), whereas voici generally doesn't. But don't underestimate a good voici when speaking French: if you want people to notice something that's right in front of them, it's the word to use!

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Bienvenue

In this lesson, we'll take a look at some of the different ways of welcoming people in French, all involving the word bienvenue (welcome).

 

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In English, you usually welcome people to a particular place: “welcome to my house,” “welcome to New York,” and so on. In French, however, any number of prepositions can follow bienvenue, depending on their object:

 

Bonjour et bienvenue sur Yabla.

Hello and welcome to Yabla.

Cap. 1, Yabla à Nancy: Le masculin et le féminin

Bienvenue dans la plus chic des stations alpines, Gstaad.

Welcome to the most fashionable of the Alpine ski resorts, Gstaad.

Cap. 3, Le Journal: Gstaad 

Bienvenue au théâtre, mes amis!

Welcome to the theater, my friends!

Cap. 18, Il était une fois... L’Homme: 6. Le siècle de Périclès – Part 2 

 

The choice of preposition specifies the kind of place where you are being welcomed. In the first example, Yabla is a website, and if you are on a website, you are sur un site web. So here you are literally being welcomed “onto” the website. In the second example, you are being welcomed “into” a ski resort, dans une station alpine. And in the third example, you are being welcomed to the theater: au théâtre.

 

Another way to welcome someone in French is with the expression être le bienvenu / la bienvenue / les bienvenus / les bienvenues (to be welcome):

 

Que les visiteurs soient les bienvenus sous mon toit.

May visitors be welcome under my roof.

Cap. 9, Il était une fois... L’Homme: 6. Le siècle de Périclès – Part 3

Ben, vous êtes les bienvenus à découvrir de visu...

So, everyone is welcome to come in and see with their own eyes...

Cap. 28, Galerie “Art Up Déco”: La galerie d’art

 

Literally translated, the expression vous êtes les bienvenus means something like, “you are the welcome ones.” 

 

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Note that bienvenue used as a greeting (either alone or at the beginning of a sentence) is a feminine noun, short for je vous souhaite la bienvenue (literally, “I wish you welcome”). Therefore, its spelling doesn’t change. On the other hand, the bienvenu/e/s after être le/la/les is an adjective used as a noun that must agree with its subject. So you would write, Vous êtes les bienvenus/bienvenues en France, but not, Bienvenus/Bienvenues en France! The correct form would be: Bienvenue en France! 

 

You can also put the above expression in the imperative form:

 

Soyez les bienvenus chez moi.

Welcome to my home.

 

It is also very common to see bienvenu/bienvenue used to express a wish, as in this sentence:

 

Vos suggestions seraient les bienvenues

Your suggestions would be welcome.

 

And if you’re in Quebec, you’ll hear bienvenue used by itself to mean “you’re welcome.” So when you say merci (thank you) to a French person, he or she will respond with de rien or je vous en prie. But a French Canadian will answer, Bienvenue!

 

As you can see, you have a lot of options with this one elementary word. But no matter how you use it, you’ll definitely make people feel welcome!

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Either/Or

There are two ways of saying "either... or..." in French, and they both involve repeating one word. The first is the construction soit... soit.... Soit is a conjunction that marks a set of alternatives, and it is also spelled the same as the third-person present subjunctive form of the verb être (to be):  

Les médecins étaient soit morts, soit partis.

The doctors were either dead or gone.

Cap. 4, TV8 Mont Blanc: De retour du Haïti

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A similar construction with soit is que ce soit... que ce soit..., which can best be translated as "be it... or...":  

que ce soit déposer dans le sable, que ce soit déposer dans la neige....

be it landing on sand, or on snow....

Cap. 25, Le Journal: École de pilotage

The second way of saying "either... or..." is ou... ou.... Ou by itself just means "or" (not to be confused with , "where"), but when it is repeated to describe two or more choices or alternatives, the first ou means "either":

Ou vous pouvez le laisser tout simplement sur la plage, ou vous en servir comme cendrier.

You could either simply leave it on the beach or you could use it as an ashtray.

Cap. 15, Jean-Marc: La plage - Part 1

Sometimes, bien can be added to ou to emphasize the distinction:

Ou bien il est très heureux, ou bien il est misérable. 

Either he's very happy or he's miserable.    

Note that you will often see a comma separating the alternatives soit... soit... and ou... ou... (soit morts, soit partis). 

Now that we've learned how to say "either... or...," we'll move on to its opposite, "neither... nor...." There is only one way to say this in French: ni... ni....

Ni vu ni connu

Neither seen nor known [on the sly]

When using ni... ni... with verb phrases, add a ne in front of the verb:

Nous ne sommes ni les premiers, ni les derniers.

We are neither the first nor the last.

Cap. 3, La Conspiration d’Orion: Conspiration 2/4 - Part 2

Sometimes, you might just find a single ni:

Cette femme habite un monde sans foi ni loi...              

This woman inhabits a world without faith or law...            

Cap. 19, Le Journal: Milady 

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So now, if you're ever asked to recite the unofficial creed of the US Postal Service in French, you won't hesitate to say:

"Ni la neige, ni la pluie, ni la chaleur, ni la nuit n'empêchent de fournir leur carrière avec toute la célérité possible".

"Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." 

(The creed is actually a line from Herodotus.)

 

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Des, Dés, Dès

In a previous lesson, we introduced a trio of words that are spelled the same except for their accent marks: côté, côte, and cote. We will examine a similar trio in this lesson: des, dés, and dès

You might already know that des is a contraction of de and les. It is always followed by a plural noun, and can be used as a preposition to mean "of," "from," or "by," or as an article to mean "some" or "a few." Note that when des is used as an article, it is often left untranslated.

Ce monde des images, habité par les images, dans les images

This world of images, inhabited by images, in the images

Cap. 24, Projet "Polygon": PIIMS et la République des Images

Des gens super beaux avec des... peaux super lisses

Really beautiful people with... really smooth skin

Cap. 31, Niko de la Faye: "Visages" - Part 1

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When you place an acute accent on the e of des, you get the French word for "dice": les dés (le dé in the singular). In the kitchen, you might hear the expression couper en dés (to dice). And if you're sewing by hand, it might be helpful to use un dé à coudre (a thimble; literally, a "sewing dice"). 

Le backgammon se joue avec des dés.

Backgammon is played with dice

With a grave accent, des becomes dès, a preposition meaning "starting from," "as early as," or "since." Here are some examples of this versatile little word from our video library: 

Près de trois cent mille personnes venues dès l'aube applaudir les héros des océans

Nearly three hundred thousand people who came as early as dawn to applaud the heroes of the oceans

Cap. 14, Le Journal: Les navigateurs du Vendée Globe - Part 1

Et j'ai toujours eu, euh... dès les, les premières fois où j'ai découvert...

And I've always, uh... ever since I first discovered...

Cap. 19, Manu le Malin: Album Biomecanik III - Part 1

Les épreuves commencent dès demain.

The exams begin as early as tomorrow. 

Cap. 23, Le Journal: Le baccalauréat - Part 2

Although dès is frequently used on its own, you'll also sometimes see it coupled with another word, notably in the expressions dès que (as soon as, whenever) and dès lors (from then on, since then, consequently, therefore):

Tout de suite, en fait dès que je suis arrivée ici, euh...

Right away, in fact as soon as I arrived here, uh...

Cap. 6, Alsace 20: Mangez bien, mangez alsacien!

Dès lors, elle n'est jamais retournée à la maison.

From then on, she never returned home.

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Now that you're familiar with the difference between des, dés, and dès, let's see if you can decipher this sneaky little sentence:

Le magicien a su piper des dés dès l'âge de cinq ans. 

(The magician knew how to load dice from the age of five.)

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Le rez-de-chaussée

Take a look at the following captions and see if you notice anything unusual:

Et si vous regardez bien au deuxième étage, il y a une magnifique frise

And if you look closely at the third floor, there is a magnificent frieze

Caption 14, Voyage dans Paris: Butte Montmartre

Donc vous voyez la petite lumière rouge en... au premier étage?

So do you see the little red light in... on the second floor?          

Caption 31, Mon Lieu Préféré: Rue des Rosiers - Part 1

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Although it might seem like we’ve made some errors in our translations, the number discrepancy you see is actually completely accurate. This is because the floors of French buildings are not numbered in the same way that American floors are.

As you can see, a given French floor is always one number lower than a given American floor: le deuxième étage corresponds to the third floor, not the second, and le dix-huitième étage corresponds to the nineteenth floor, not the eighteenth.

The explanation for this is simple: the French (and most other Europeans) don’t count the ground floor of a building when numbering its stories, whereas Americans do. The French word for "ground floor" is rez-de-chaussée, and the floor above le rez-de-chaussée is le premier étage (the second floor). In American English, "ground floor" and "first floor" are generally synonymous and thus can both be used for rez-de-chaussée. So when you’re in a French elevator, instead of seeing a button marked "G" for "ground floor," you’ll see one marked "RC" for rez-de-chaussée.

Note, however, that French-Canadian speakers have adopted the US system, so you won't have to worry about subtracting floor numbers when you're in Quebec (you can learn some more about Canadian French in this lesson). You'll notice this when listening to Annie Chartrand, a French-Canadian musician, describe her childhood home:

J'habitais au deuxième étage avec mes parents et au premier étage, c'était un bar taverne....

I lived on the second floor with my parents and on the first floor, there was a bar-tavern....

Captions 21-22: Annie Chartrand: Sa musique

Here is a little table to review:

 In France  In the U.S.  In Quebec

 le rez-de-chaussée       

 first floor         

 le rez-de-chaussée/le premier étage

 le premier étage

 second floor

 le deuxième étage

 le deuxième étage

 third floor

 le troisième étage

Therefore, a three-story house in the US (first floor + second floor + third floor) is the same as une maison à deux étages in France (rez-de-chaussée + premier étage + deuxième étage) and une maison à trois étages in Quebec (rez-de-chaussée/premier étage + deuxième étage + troisième étage)

To make this a bit easier, you could take the word étage to mean specifically an upstairs floor in France. Indeed, one way of saying "upstairs" in French is à l’étage (the other way is en haut, while "downstairs" is en bas). In that case, le premier étage could be translated more precisely as "the first upstairs floor," i.e., the second floor.

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A side note: To remember the word rez-de-chaussée, a bit of etymology might be useful. Une chaussée is another word for "road," and rez is Old French for ras, meaning "flat" or "level" (think of the word "razor"). The ground floor is called le rez-de-chaussée in French because it is level with the road.

And for an in-depth discussion of floor numbering around the world, see this Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storey#Numbering 

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La bise

In this weather forecast for the Mont Blanc area, you'll come across a word with a very specific meteorological meaning: la bise. Translated as "north wind," la bise is more precisely a chilly wind that passes through certain areas of eastern France and Switzerland (you can find a more detailed and scientific account of this phenomenon here). Some French windows might feature un brise-bise (literally, "breaks" or "stops the north wind"), a small curtain usually made of lace that covers only a portion of the window. These are definitely more decorative than functional

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On an unrelated note, une bise is also an informal way of saying "a kiss." You might hear it most often in the expression faire la bise, which refers to the customary French greeting of giving someone a peck (or more than one!) on both cheeks. This helpful article breaks down when and how to use this very common gesture: http://french.about.com/library/weekly/aa051801f.htm.

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Cette leçon de français, ce n'est pas de la petite bière!

Who doesn't like to quietly sip a beer? 

...s'attabler au comptoir et boire tranquillement sa bière...

...sit at the counter and quietly sip his beer...

Captions 11–12, Le Village de la Bière: Ceci n'est pas un bar!

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But at the Village de la Bière, in Strasbourg, a sip is all that you are going to get, as this emporium of brew has only une licence-dégustation (tasting license). This permits them to supply you with a mere sampling of, for example, une bière brune (dark beer), une bière blonde (light-colored beer), or une bière rousse (brown ale), before you settle on the bouteille de bière (bottle of beer) that most meets your approval. (You won't find many canettes de bière or "cans of beer" in this establishment!)

Owner Alain Pesez is passionate about his calling, and he will guide you through a vast selection:

J'ai entre trois et quatre cents sortes de bières... un assortiment qui bouge, qui varie et on vend de la bière des quatre coins du monde.

I have between three and four hundred kinds of beers... a selection that changes, that varies, and we sell beer from the four corners of the world.

Captions 6–7, Le Village de la Bière: Des bières de partout

Stocking over three hundred types of beer in one single shop is no small feat! We might even say, Ce n'est pas de la petite bière! On the surface, we might read that as, "This is not a little beer!" but, in actuality, this expression means "It's no small thing/It's no small matter" or "It's really something/It's a big deal." The expression dates back to the eighteenth century, when une petite bière was a weak, poor-quality beer, created by reusing the grains from an earlier batch.

The phrase can not only imply that a matter is significant, but also that something or someone is of high caliber, of quality.

Un Nikon, c'est un très bon appareil photo. Ce n'est pas de la petite bière.

A Nikon is a very good camera. It's not a piece of junk.

These days, you might drink a high-quality bière pression (draft beer) to accompany a tarte flambée at your local Flam's:

Donc c'est tout de suite plus sympathique accompagnée d'une petite bière pression

So it's nicer right away accompanied by a small draft beer

Caption 27, Le restaurant "Flam's": Les Tartes

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Bière pression originates in un baril (a barrel/keg) and flows out of le robinet (the tap) and into une chope (a mug). Of course, you might prefer un panaché with your meal: that's a very popular mixture of beer and lemonade.

There is another meaning of bière that has nothing to do with fermenting grains to create a delightful effervescent beverage. The expressions mettre quelqu'un en bière and la mise en bière both refer to placing a body into a bière or "coffin." Note that, apart from these expressions, "coffin" is usually not referred to as une bière, but rather un cercueil.

On that note, remember that life is short! Tune in to these and hundreds of other fun and interesting authentic videos here at Yabla that will help quench your thirst for French mastery!

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Découvrez des centaines de vidéos chez Yabla!

When you think vineyards, you probably conjure up images of rolling hills and sprawling fields, lush with grapevines planted in neat rows. So it may surprise you to learn that vineyards aren't just for la campagne. In fact, that most urban of French locales, la grande ville de Paris, has a few grapevines of its own!

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Our favorite Parisian tour guide, Daniel Benchimol, takes us around the neighborhood known as La Butte Bergeyre, which, believe it or not, is home to a couple of vineyards. It's surprising such a tiny neighborhood could fit a vineyard—after all, there are only ten or so streets:

Il y a en tout une dizaine de rues avec des très, très jolies villas.

There are a total of about ten streets with very, very pretty villas. 

Caption 11, Voyage dans Paris: Butte Bergeyre

Take a look at the word dizaine. On first glance, an English speaker might be tempted to translate this as its phonological cousin, "dozen." But dizaine actually means "about ten." Why the similarity? "Dozen" comes from the Old French dozaine, and its modern French equivalent is douzaine.

As you can probably guess by now, -aine as a suffix added to numbers indicates an approximation of quantity. So, une dizaine is "about ten," une douzaine is "about twelve" (a dozen), une trentaine is "about thirty," and so on. "Dozen" is the only similar word of this type in English, but who's to say we couldn't one day have a "tenzen" or a "thirtyzen" too?

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Masculin féminin: quelques faits précis

A Yabla French subscriber recently asked an interesting question about a caption in one of our videos

L'éco-musée du pays de Rennes ... s'en est occupé...

The eco-museum of the county of Rennes ... took it upon itself...

Captions 16–17, Le Journal: Gourmet en Bretagne

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Shouldn't, the subscriber asked, the participle actually be occupée—with an extra e—to match the subject eco-musée? After all, the word-ending -ée most often denotes a feminine word in French—so wouldn't the verb need to agree in gender here? As it turns out, even though musée ends in -ée, it is actually a masculine noun. So occupé is correct. Musée is not the only word that's masculine despite ending in -ée.

Moi, je me souviens à l'époque, même que j'étais dans un lycée d'filles...

I remember in those days, even though I was in an all-girls high school...

Caption 21, Le Journal: Baisers interdits dans les couloirs!

Like musée, the noun lycée—even a lycée filled with girls and only girls—is masculine, which we can tell here because it's preceded by the masculine article un. Un ("a," masc.) or le ("the," masc.) are the right determiners to use with lycée or musée, and not une ("a," fem.) or la ("the," fem.), as one may have expected with such an ending.

What other nouns end with -ée but are nevertheless masculine words? The most commonly used are:

un athée (an atheist)

à l'apogée (at the peak)

un camée (a cameo)

un mausolée (a mausoleum)

un trophée (a trophy)

un macchabée (a stiff, also a Maccabee)

un pygmée (a pygmy)

un scarabée (a beetle)

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A front row seat to learning French!

C'est dans sa loge qu'on a retrouvé Buridane

It's in her dressing room that we caught up with Buridane 

Caption 1, Télé Lyon Métropole: Buridane 

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Did you catch the interview with the lovely chanteuse Buridane? It took place backstage, in her loge, what we would call her "dressing room." However, on the other side of the curtain, loge can also refer to box seating, usually private, elevated, and not cheap—a nice place from which to watch the show. Sport and theater fans will recognize that we have the same word in English: "loge" seating areas offer a bird's-eye view in a luxurious setting. It's from this meaning that we get the common French expression être aux premières loges, which means "to have a great view," or "front row seats."

Where else will you find une loge? Out in the country! A rustic cabin (or "lodge") of the kind used by skiers, hunters, or park rangers is also called a loge.

Finally, if you enter a French building, bourgeois or not, beware of the loge du concierge or "caretaker's apartment." You won’t sneak past unnoticed, even if you tiptoe... so be sure to have a good reason to be there!

And just as loge can be "lodge," logement can mean "lodging," as in housing or a place to stay. Take this example, where retirement-age protesters point out that Sarkozy doesn't quite share their concerns:

Et lui, il a pas de souci de voiture, il a pas de souci de logement...

And him, he has no car worries, he has no housing worries...

Caption 22, Le Journal: À la retraite en France

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There's also the verb loger, which, as you may now be able to guess, means "to house" or "provide accommodation for."

See if you can spot any other lodging-related words in our videos!

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Heart, Soul, and Lung!

Soul Sisters

After watching her scour the desert Mad Max–style for clues to track down her amour perdu in the video for "Love Machine," we know that Melissa Mars is a romantic. Her "Army of Love" video also gives us a few clues—on how to speak the language of love, en français.

Petites fées du cœur / Accueillent les âmes sœurs

Little love fairies / Welcome the soulmates

Captions 25–26, Melissa Mars: Army of Love

If you know that the word âme is "soul" and the word sœur means "sister," you might think that Melissa is referring to her many Mini-Me's as "soul sisters." Actually, âme sœur is French for "soulmate," and even though the term is of the female persuasion, it can apply to any member of a happy couple. In French, guys can be soul sisters too!

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The "Lung" of Things

Our favorite friendly tour guide, Daniel Benchimol, gives us a look in living color at the history-rich, up-and-coming Paris quartier of Belleville.

As sometimes happens with urban areas that were once on the sketchy side, Belleville has recently gentrified. These days, it's home to a thriving diverse community. You'll see people from all walks of life strolling along the Rue de Belleville and the Boulevard de Belleville. (It's easy to know you're in the right neighborhood. Just look at the street signs!) 

There's even a Parc de Belleville:

Nous sommes ici dans le Parc de Belleville, qui est vraiment le... le poumon de ce quartier.

We're here in the Parc de Belleville [Belleville Park], which is really the... the lungs of this neighborhood.

Captions 11–12, Voyage dans Paris: Belleville

Notice that Daniel tells us the park is le poumon of the neighborhood—"the lung" of the hood—just as Central Park is sometimes called "the lungs" of New York City, thanks to the fresh air it offers.

Les Bellevillois are known for their distinctive fun and funky accents. Wondering what they sound like? Just listen to France's favorite songbird, Édith Piaf. La Môme hails from the streets—the rues and boulevards—of Belleville!

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What do your mother, your mayor, and the sea have in common?

Give up? Start thinking in French. Do you see it now? They're all French homophones! So what are the tricks to distinguishing between mère, maire, and mer

Let’s start off where life itself does—with our proud moms. In French, your mother is your mère.

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Annie Chartrand, from Quebec, recalls the limited English ability of her own mère (as well as her père, her father).

Si je pense à mes parents, à mon père et ma mère, ils parlent anglais, mais c'est un peu plus, comme on dit en bon québécois, "baragouiné".

If I think of my parents, my dad or my mom, they speak English, but it's a bit more like, as we say in good Quebecois French, baragouiné.

Caption 12–13, Annie Chartrand: Grandir bilingue

Charles Baptiste, from Paris, sings of something nobody wants their mother to do (nobody nice anyway) in the song Je sais:

Tandis que ma mère se met à pleurer

Whereas my mother starts crying

Caption 21, Charles Baptiste: Je sais

Let's move away from such sadness (we hope Charles's mère is feeling better) to our second homophone: maire (mayor).

One way to distinguish this word from its homophones: maire (mayor) is a masculine noun and so is preceded by the masculine article le. But la mère (the mother) and la mer (the sea) are both feminine. Note that more people nowadays are using la maire to refer to a female mayor (see our lesson about the feminization of professions in French), although the officially correct term is la mairesse.

The mayor of Groslay, a town north of Paris, is not very popular… He banned chicken in municipal lunchrooms because of fears of avian flu.

L'interdiction du maire a également déclenché la colère des agriculteurs.

The mayor's ban has also triggered the anger of the farmers.

Caption 9, Le Journal: Le poulet dans les cantines

However, some mayors are less cautious than others. The mayor of Lille, for example, not only supported protesters who recklessly (and illegally) switched off street lighting in the city center, she joined their rally, French flag in hand!

Et c'est toujours au nom du service public que la maire de Lille soutient les agents d'EDF en grève.

And it is still in the name of the public service that the mayor of Lille supports the EDF agents on strike.

Caption 18, Le Journal: Grève de l'EDF à Lille – Part 1

Let's move on to our last homophone: la mer (the sea).

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La mer is often a romantic image in popular songs. (Who doesn't love a little Charles Trenet?) Lyon-based ska band Babylon Circus sings about the sea in a song about dreams and lost hopes:

Les rames étaient trop courtes pour atteindre le niveau de la mer

The oars were too short to reach sea level

Caption 12, Babylon Circus: J'aurais bien voulu

So now, no more confusion between la mère (the mother), le maire (the mayor), and la mer (the sea)!

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