French Lessons


To the Bottom and Back

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



Et l'on voit encore des vestiges, des traces de cette époque

And you can still see remains, traces from that time,

avec notamment dans le fond, une chapelle pour se recueillir...

with, in particular, in the back, a chapel for meditating...

Captions 36-37, Lionel - Verdun

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L'eau de l'étang était si profonde que

The pond water was so deep that

la princesse ne pouvait pas en voir le fond.

the princess could not see the bottom of it.

Caption 7, Contes de fées - Le roi grenouille

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


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


"Om", ça signifie le fond cosmique qui est...

"Om" signifies the cosmic depth that is...

le symbole de l'unité dans la diversité.

the symbol of unity in diversity.

Caption 37, Paix et partage - Journée Internationale du yoga

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


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

Basically, they're big beet leaves.

Caption 13, Farmer François - Le stand de légumes

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Parce que au fond, le fait de payer un stand,

Because basically, the act of paying for a booth,

ça sert aussi, euh, d'abord à se rencontrer...

that also helps, uh, first of all to meet each other...

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

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


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

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

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

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


Mais pour une baisse en rayon,

But for a reduction on store shelves,

la prochaine étape devrait être une réforme de fond.

the next step should be a fundamental reform.

Caption 23, Le Journal - Contrôle des prix alimentaires

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


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Feeling in French: Sentir, Se sentir, Ressentir

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


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


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

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

Caption 12, Joanna - La course à pied: Récupération

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J'aime sentir la brise rafraîchissante sur mon visage.

I love feeling the cool breeze on my face.


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


Mais cette année on sent la crise, hein.

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

Caption 26, Actu Vingtième - Le vide-grenier

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


Peut-être que vous sentez les odeurs qui sortent des studios de temps en temps.

Maybe you smell the aromas that come out of the studios from time to time.

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

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

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

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


Très vite, elle se sent menacée.

Very soon, she feels threatened.

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

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Ah, je me sens mieux!

Ah, I feel better!

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

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


Vous voyez cette exigence que je ressentais...

You see this demand that I felt...

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

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

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

Caption 5, B-Girl Frak - La Danse

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


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


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