French Lessons

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Standing and Sitting

In her hit song "Christine," the French artist Christine and the Queens (aka Héloïse Letissier) plays with the phrase tenir debout:

 

Je ne tiens pas debout

I can't stand up

Caption 7, Christine and the Queens - Christine

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Ça ne tient pas debout

It doesn't hold up

Caption 9, Christine and the Queens - Christine

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The expression in the first caption is se tenir debout, which means "to stand up" (literally, "to hold oneself upright"). Since it's a reflexive expression, there should actually be a me in the caption (Je ne me tiens pas debout), but reflexive pronouns are often dropped in informal speech. 

 

Without the reflexive pronoun, tenir debout is an idiomatic expression meaning "to hold up" (its literal translation), "to add up," or "to make sense." 

 

Se mettre debout and se lever are two other common ways of saying "to stand up": 

 

Donc on se lève et l'effet de surprise les fait s'envoler dans le filet.

So we stand up and the surprise effect makes them fly into the net.

Caption 9, Canal 32 - Les secrets des cailles des blés

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Il s'est mis debout quand je suis entré dans la chambre. 
He stood up when I entered the room. 

 

These phrases describe the action of standing up, but if you wanted to describe someone who is already standing, you would use the phrase être debout or even just debout by itself: 

 

Par exemple lui, il était debout, elle, elle était allongée.

For example him, he was standing up, her, she was lying down.

Caption 17, Niko de La Faye - "Visages" - Part 1

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Debout, une rose à la main

Standing up, a rose in hand

Caption 17, Indila - Love Story

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We can't talk about standing up without also talking about sitting down! There are two expressions for sitting in French: s'asseoir (to sit) and être assis/assise (to be seated): 

 

Le Jardin du Joli Cœur est un tout petit parc où on peut s'asseoir tranquillement.

The Jardin du Joli Cœur is a very small park where you can sit quietly.

Caption 38, Joanna - Son quartier

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Tout le reste du temps, je dors... là où je suis assise.

The rest of the time, I sleep... right where I'm sitting.

Caption 15, Le Journal - Les navigateurs du Vendée Globe - Part 2

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Vocabulary

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.

Caption 25, Projet "Polygon" - PIIMS et la République des Images

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

Really beautiful people with… with really smooth skin.

Caption 34, Niko de La Faye - "Visages"

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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.

Captions 14-15, Le Journal - Les navigateurs du Vendée Globe

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

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

Caption 24, Manu le Malin - Album Biomechanik III

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Les épreuves commencent dès demain.

The exams begin as early as tomorrow.

Caption 28, Le Journal - Le baccalauréat

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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...

Caption 6, Alsace 20 - Mangez bien, mangez alsacien!

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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.)

Vocabulary

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