French Lessons

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Je craque! – The Verb Craquer

The verb craquer (to crack)—not to be confused with croquer (to crunch/bite)—is an interesting word as it can be used in a variety of ways, often in situations that involve strong emotions, either positive or negative. When used informally, craquer has many meanings that range from “breaking down” to “falling in love."

 

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In a negative context, craquer can mean to crack up, or crack under pressure:

 

François est dégoûté. Il craque.

François is disgusted. He's cracking up.

Caption 35, Oldelaf Le monde est beau

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Craquer can also describe something or someone cracking under pressure:

 

Continue à faire des films aussi flingués et les cités vont craquer.

Continue making gun movies like always and the housing estates are going to crack.

Captions 51-52, Alain Etoundi Allez tous vous faire enfilmer! - Part 1

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It can also refer to someone "giving in" or "caving":

 

Bon, j'ai craqué parce que...

Well, I caved because...

Caption 52, Le Jour où tout a basculé À l'audience - Arnaque en couple ? - Part 3

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While craquer means to crack under pressure, faire craquer quelqu’un means to cause someone to crack or to break someone’s spirit, like the mother in the video below who tried to faire craquer (break down) her son’s girlfriend:

 

Sa mère voulait me faire craquer.

His mother wanted to break me down.

Caption 34, Le Jour où tout a basculé Ma mère fait tout pour briser mon couple - Part 3

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At the other end of the spectrum, however, craquer can describe a positive experience. It's slang for “to fall in love." In the example below, the French pianist Christine Ott is asked:

 

C'est ce qui t'a fait craquer, toi, pour cet instrument?

Is that what made you fall in love with this instrument?

Caption 4, Alsace 20 Femmes d'exception: Christine Ott

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And the singer Melissa Mars "fell head over heels" for her project "Et Alors!":

 

Et voilà, donc du coup, ben évidemment j'ai craqué sur ce projet,

And there, so as a result, well of course I fell head over heels for this project,

Caption 23, Melissa Mars Et Alors!

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In the following example, shoppers "fell" for some Christmas ornaments:

 

Et ben on a craqué sur des choses un petit peu typiques, euh...

And, well, we fell for things that are a little bit typical, uh...

Caption 10, Alsace 20 Ouverture du marché de Noël de Colmar

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And, of course, craquer sur also means to fall for a person:

 

J'avais complètement craqué sur elle

I'd completely fallen for her

Caption 68, Le Jour où tout a basculé J'ai piégé mon fan - Part 2

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Likewise, faire craquer can mean to make someone fall for someone:

 

Je pouvais avouer, ouais, qu'elle m'a fait craquer

I could confess, yeah, that she made me fall for her

Captions 32-33, Harmelo Mets Ton Masque Ft. Jade L x Ghetto

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On a spookier note, craquer can mean to creak, as in the sound the floor makes in this couple’s haunted apartment:

 

Ah, c'est le plancher qui craque.

Ah, it's the floor that's creaking.

Caption 17, Le Jour où tout a basculé Notre appartement est hanté - Part 3

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And for a little bit of humor, craquer (to rip) can describe a wardrobe mishap. In this video, Elisa and Mashal look at old photographs, and Mashal remembers when her pants ripped in the middle:

 

Enfin, quand j'avais dansé mon pantalon qui avait craqué au mil'...

Well, when I'd been dancing, my pants, which had ripped in the mid'...

Caption 82, Elisa et Mashal Photos

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Or when referring to shoes, you can say that they are sur le point de craquer (about to burst). In "J'aurais bien voulu," the singer of the ska band Babylon Circus talks about his battered ego sagging down to his socks to the point that his godasses (shoes) are sur le point de craquer (about to burst):

 

J'ai l'ego dans les chaussettes et les godasses sur le point de craquer

My ego's in my socks and my shoes are about to burst

Caption 30, Babylon Circus J'aurais bien voulu

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There’s another colloquial expression that paints a similar picture, plein à craquer, which means “bursting at the seams” or “overcrowded”:

 

Les hôpitaux sont pleins à craquer.

The hospitals are completely overcrowded.

 

Don't confuse craquer with the English loanword cracker, which means "hacker":

 

Des crackers ont piraté le logiciel.

Some hackers hacked into the software. 

 

(Un cracker can also be of the edible kind… a cracker!).

 

The noun un craque doesn’t refer to "cracking" at all. It's slang for un mensonge (a lie):

 

Mais si tous mes craques t'indiffèrent

But if all my lies leave you indifferent

Caption 28, Mademoiselle K (avec Zazie) Me taire te plaire

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The English noun “crack,” as in a crack in the wall, is une fissure in French, and the verb is fissurer (to crack), as mentioned in this video about the Liverdun Church during the Second World War:

 

Parce qu'elle a été fissurée pendant la dernière Guerre mondiale.

Because it was cracked during the last World War.

Caption 76, Lionel L'église de Liverdun - Part 2

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There are other instances when “crack” doesn’t translate as craquer in French. For example, “to crack a joke” is simply raconter une blague (to tell a joke), Lionel’s specialty in his Yabla videos:

 

Lionel adore raconter des blagues sur Yabla.

Lionel loves telling jokes on Yabla.

 

And when you "crack up" at a joke, you éclater de rire (burst out laughing):

 

Les blagues de Lionel me font toujours éclater de rire.

Lionel's jokes always crack me up.

 

One last thing you can do with craquer in French is craquer une allumette (strike a match):

 

On peut craquer une allumette pour voir dans le noir.

We can strike a match to see in the dark.


Nous espérons que vous avez craqué sur cette leçon (We hope you fell for this lesson)!

Vocabulary

Morning and Evening: Matin/soir vs. matinée/soirée

In our last lesson, we discussed the differences in meaning between the two ways of saying "day" in French, le jour and la journée. The masculine term jour refers to a specific moment in time, or a unit of time with an emphasis on quantity, while its feminine counterpart journée emphasizes quality, content, and duration. We also mentioned that there were other words pairs, namely matin/matinée (morning), soir/soirée (evening), and an/année (year), that work similarly. 

 

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In this lesson, we will focus on the word pairs soir/soirée and matin/matinée.

 

Like jour (day), matin (morning) and soir (evening/night) indicate a point in time. You can use them to specify the time of day, as in six heures du matin (six o’clock in the morning).

 

To clarify whether it’s morning or afternoon on the twelve-hour clock, simply add du matin (in the morning) and du soir (in the evening) to the time:

 

New York, six heures du matin

New York, six o'clock in the morning

Caption 2, Boulbar New York, 6 heures du matin

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(Du matin is equivalent to “a.m.” and du soir is equivalent to “p.m.”).

 

You can also combine matin/soir with other time expressions, as in le lendemain matin/le lendemain soir (the next morning/evening):

 

Le lendemain matin, Jean-Paul est rongé par la culpabilité.

The next morning, Jean-Paul is consumed with guilt.

Caption 1, Le Jour où tout a basculé Mon histoire d'amour est impossible - Part 6

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Similarly, you can pair matin/soir with hier (yesterday). In the example below, we have hier soir (last night): 

 

T'étais où hier soir?

Where were you last night?

Caption 42, Le Jour où tout a basculé J'ai volé pour nourrir mon fils - Part 7

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The nouns le soir and le matin aren't necessarily accompanied by an adverb of time. They can be used on their own to indicate a time of day. In the example below, the restaurant owner explains how many people typically come for lunch or dinner:

 

Cinquante personnes le midi, cinquante personnes le soir

Fifty people at noon, fifty people in the evening

Captions 31-32, Christian Le Squer Je ne fais que goûter!

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In the example below, Elisa and Mashal discuss what they usually have for breakfast, and Elisa is surprised to hear that Mashal likes to eat a slice of chicken le matin (in the morning).

 

Le matin? -Ouais. Une tranche de poulet le matin?

In the morning? -Yeah. A slice of chicken in the morning?

Captions 5-6, Elisa et Mashal Petit-déjeuner

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Unlike in English, you don't need a preposition in French to say "in the evening/in the morning." You can simply say le soir/le matin (in the evening/morning). 

 

When the time is less specific or crucial, and the emphasis is on what happened during that time, it’s better to use the feminine version dans la matinée/soirée (in the morning/evening). This time, the preposition dans (in) is included.

 

Let’s look at what Alexandre and Sophie were doing dans la soirée (in the evening) in the example below. What matters most is what happened during the evening—Alexandre calling Sophie:

 

Dans la soirée, Alexandre appelle Sophie.

In the evening, Alexandre calls Sophie.

Caption 7, Le Jour où tout a basculé J'ai piégé mon fan - Part 3

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In the next example, Alexandre calls Sophie at a different time: en fin de matinée (in the late morning). Since timing is approximate, we use matinée

 

Alex, l'agent de Sophie, m'a appelée en fin de matinée.

Alex, Sophie's agent, called me in the late morning.

Caption 15, Le Jour où tout a basculé J'ai piégé mon fan - Part 6

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You can substitute matinée (morning) with soirée (evening) here: en fin de soirée (in the late evening).

 

When estimating how long it might take to perform a task, use the suffix -ée to indicate duration. In the example below, the person needs la matinée (the whole morning or the better part of the morning) to do her shopping:

 

Je vais faire des courses. J'en ai pour la matinée.

I'm going to do some shopping. I'll be out for the morning.

Caption 2, Le Jour où tout a basculé Mon histoire d'amour est impossible - Part 6

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When describing how much you can accomplish in the span of a morning, you say dans une matinée (in a morning). Watch the video below to find out how many madeleines this amazing baker makes dans une matinée (in a morning):

 

Mais vous, tout seul, dans une matinée, vous faites combien de madeleines?

But you by yourself, how many madeleines do you make in a morning?

Caption 53, Lionel L'usine de madeleines de Liverdun - Part 2

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Unlike the baker in the example above, the lady in the video below decides to prendre la matinée (take the morning off):

 

Elle a pris sa matinée aujourd'hui.

She took her morning off today.

Caption 41, Le Jour où tout a basculé J'ai volé pour nourrir mon fils - Part 5

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Taking the morning off is a great opportunity to faire la grasse matinée (to sleep in; literally, "to do the fat morning"). That is precisely what the animal in this funny zoo recommends doing while on holiday:

 

Pas question. Vacances égalent grasse matinée.

Out of the question. Vacations equal sleeping in.

Caption 33, Les zooriginaux Repos corsé - Part 3

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And if you’re in the mood, you can watch a matinée performance. Une matinée can stretch into an early afternoon, the start of the day for very late risers.

 

For evening people, how you spend la soirée (the evening) is more important. In the video below, Cinderella was having such a good night out that la soirée (the evening) flew by:

 

Avec la musique et la danse, la soirée passa comme dans un rêve.

With the music and the dancing, the evening passed like in a dream.

Captions 21-22, Contes de fées Cendrillon - Part 2

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Elisa and Mashal also remember a memorable evening, cette soirée (that evening), as they look at old photos:

 

C'est vrai. Je me rappelle de cette soirée.

That's true. I remember that evening.

Caption 53, Elisa et Mashal Photos

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If it had been a formal event, une soirée (a soirée), Elisa and Mashal might have worn une robe de soirée (an evening gown). 

 

On the other hand, une robe de soirée (an evening gown) would not be appropriate for a job interview, as Mashal jokingly points out:

 

On va pas se ramener, euh... -Avec une robe de soirée, quoi.

We're not going to show up, uh... -In an evening gown, right?

Caption 67, Elisa et Mashal CV

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In any case, it’s always good form to wish someone bonne soirée (have a good evening) when parting ways, and save bonsoir (good evening) for the beginning of the evening, as it’s a greeting.

 

Now that we’ve explored soir/soirée (evening) and matin/matinée (morning), we’re ready to tackle an/année (year) in a future and final lesson.

 
Vocabulary

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