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It All Sounds the Same to Me! - A Lesson on Homophones

Have you noticed that while some French words have many variations in spelling, they sound the same?

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For example, the words un verre, un ver, vers, and vert(s) share the same pronunciation yet have different meanings. That makes them homophones.

 

Homophones are especially common in French as the letters t, d, and s, when placed at the end of a word, are usually silent.

 

Check out Patricia’s video on homophones and homonyms, which she turned into a fun story.

 

Let’s examine the examples mentioned earlier.

 

Un verre can mean "a glass" or "a drink." The expression boire un verre means "to have a drink." Or, you can say prendre un verre.

 

On est tous là avec juste l'envie de passer un bon moment, de boire un verre

We are all here just with the desire to have a good time, to have a drink

Caption 52, Actu Vingtième Vendanges parisiennes

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Le verre also refers to the material itself. It means "glass," as in English:

 

Nous sommes maintenant chez le souffleur de verre de L'Isle-Adam.

We are now at the L'Isle-Adam glassblower's.

Caption 11, Voyage en France L'Isle-Adam - Part 4

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Speaking of verre, did you know that Cinderella’s slippers might originally have been made not of verre, but of vair (squirrel fur)?

 

Some scholars believe the original fable described pantoufles de vair (squirrel fur slippers), which became pantoufles de verre (glass slippers) in Charles Perrault's famous version. No one knows if he made a mistake or simply chose a new material for the slippers in his version of the fairy tale.

 

From squirrels to worms…. Un ver de terre is an earthworm, a critter that Claire and Philippe remember fondly in their La campagne video.

 

Alors elle prenait le petit ver de terre dans la main.

So she used to take the little earthworm in her hand.

Caption 71, Claire et Philippe La campagne

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And the poetically named ver solitaire (literally, "solitary worm") is the French word for "tapeworm”!

 

If the thought of many vers solitaires turns you off (vers being the plural of ver), let’s turn toward vers, an innocuous word that simply means "toward."

 

In the Actus Quartier video, this young lady is looking toward the future:

 

Je suis tournée vers l'avenir et vers tout ce qu'on va construire... 

I'm looking toward the future and toward all that we're going to build… 

Caption 40, Actus Quartier Fête de la rose au caviar rouge

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Vers also means "around," "about":

 

Plutôt vers deux heures du matin

Instead around two o'clock in the morning

Caption 60, Adrien Le métro parisien

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Now, for a more colorful version of this homophone, you have the word vert, which means "green." 

 

As you probably know, vert, like most adjectives, takes on masculine, feminine, and plural endings. For more information on adjective agreements, refer to previous lessons.

 

As mentioned earlier, -t and -s are often not pronounced at the end of a word. So vert (masculine singular) sounds exactly like verts (masculine plural). However, note that vert will become verte when agreeing with a feminine singular noun, and the t in verte will be pronounced! 

 

Donc, on va écrire "vert". Masculin. Sinon... "verte".

So we're going to write "green." Masculine. Otherwise... "green" [feminine].

Caption 28, Leçons avec Lionel Couleurs

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Now that you’ve acquainted yourself with homophones, you’ll be surprised how many you'll be able to spot! But if you haven't satisfied your appetite for homophones, click here to learn some more.

On se croirait: When You Feel Like You're Somewhere Else

There's an interesting expression in Sophie and Patrice's latest video on Paris's twentieth arrondissement: on se croirait (literally, "one would think/believe oneself"). It means "to feel like," or more specifically, to feel like you're in a different setting than the one you're in now. Whenever Sophie and Patrice are in the center of Paris, for instance, they feel like they're in Euro Disney:

 

Ça ressemble maintenant à Euro Disney, quoi.

It looks like Euro Disney now, you know.

On se croirait à Euro Disney un petit peu. 

It feels like Euro Disney a little bit. 

Captions 20-21, Sophie et Patrice - Le vingtième arrondissement

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And in Extr@, when Sacha smells a strong fragrance upon walking into her apartment, she feels like she's in a perfume shop:

 

Qu'est-ce que c'est que cette odeur?

What's that smell?

On se croirait dans une parfumerie.

It's like we're in a perfume shop.

Captions 19-20, Extr@ - Ep. 3 - Sam a un rendez-vous

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In English we use "you'd think" in a similar way to on se croirait:

 

On se croirait même dans une ambiance de campagne.

You'd even think you were in a country atmosphere.

Caption 27, Le Québec parle - aux Français

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Alors on se croirait pas du tout à Paris,

So you wouldn't think you're in Paris at all,

et on a énormément de verdure.

and you have lots of greenery.

Captions 13-14, Antoine - La Butte-aux-Cailles

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You can also use the phrase avoir l'impression de (to feel like, to get the impression that) to express this feeling of being elsewhere: 

 

On n'a plus l'impression d'être à Paris. 

You don't feel like you're in Paris anymore.

Caption 62, Actu Vingtième Vendanges parisiennes

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If you're playing Dorothy in a French adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, you might even say:

 

Toto, on ne se croirait plus dans le Kansas!
Toto, it doesn't feel like we're in Kansas anymore!

 

Or, in a more accurate translation of the line:

 

Toto, je n'ai plus l'impression d'être dans le Kansas!
Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore!

 

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for our next lesson and tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com.

French Object Pronouns - Part 2 - Indirect Object Pronouns

French Objects Pronouns - Part 1

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As we mentioned in our last lesson, a direct object is a noun that receives the action of a verb (such as "the ball" in "I throw the ball"). On the other hand, an indirect object indicates to whom or for whom the action is done (such as "my friend" in "I throw the ball to my friend"). Just as direct object pronouns replace direct objects (e.g. "I throw it to my friend"), indirect object pronouns replace indirect objects ("I throw the ball to him/her"). There are six indirect object pronouns in French: 


me (to me)              nous (to us)
te (to you)               vous (to you)
lui (to him/her)        leur (to them)


In French, an indirect object pronoun usually replaces "à (to) + a person." Unlike direct object pronouns, which can refer to either people or things, indirect object pronouns only refer to people.
 

Je jette le ballon à mon amie. / Je lui jette le ballon.
I throw the ball to my friend. / I throw her the ball [or "I throw the ball to her"].


The following example contains a mixture of direct and indirect pronouns. How did the speaker know when to use which? 
 

Il m'a dit: "Je le garde". Ben, je lui ai dit: "Écoutez, expliquez aux quatre cents personnes..."

He told me, "I'm keeping it." Well, I told him, "Listen, explain to the four hundred people..."

Caption 24, Actu Vingtième - Vendanges parisiennes

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It all depends on whether the verb in question would normally be followed by the preposition à. Garder isn't followed by à: you would say garder quelque chose (to keep something), but never garder à quelque chose. If you watch the video, you'll know from context that the speaker is referring to le fromage (cheese). So instead of saying je garde le fromage, he uses the direct object pronoun le (je le garde). On the other hand, you would say dire à quelqu'un (to tell someone), but never dire quelqu'un. Because of that à, the speaker knows to use the indirect objects me and lui


Here are some other examples of indirect object pronouns in action:

 

Si la nuit me parle De souvenirs passés

If the night speaks to me About past memories

Captions 3-4, Boulbar - New York, 6 heures du matin

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Mais je te donne plus que des mots

But I give you more than words

Caption 12, Corneille - Comme un fils

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Et là, je leur ai envoyé une petite nouvelle...

And here, I sent them a little short story...

Caption 86, Claudine Thibout Pivert - 2ème Salon du livre et des vieux papiers Mazamet

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We know these are indirect object pronouns because they all replace "à + person" in the verbal expressions parler à quelqu'un (to speak to someone), donner à quelqu'un (to give to someone), and envoyer à quelqu'un (to send to someone).

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As you learned in our last lesson, when a direct object pronoun is followed by a verb in the past tense (passé composé), the past participle needs to agree in number and gender with the direct object pronoun. On the other hand, you don't have to worry about agreement in the passé composé with indirect object pronouns. That's why you have je leur ai envoyé in the example above and not je leur ai envoyés or je leur ai envoyées

 

Feel free to tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com. Thanks for reading!

Grammar

French Filler Words

If you're a Yabla subscriber, you may have noticed that we translate every word in the video captions, even if it's a repeated word or a filler word such as euh... (uh...). This allows you to really hear everything the speaker is saying and gives you a better understanding of everyday French speech patterns. In this lesson, we'll review some of the most common filler words and interjections that pop up in Yabla French videos. 

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While euh (uh) is pretty straightforward, hein is a filler word whose translation really depends on context. In general, it's used as an interrogative to mean anything from "right," to "isn't it," to "you know": 

 

Donc, euh... c'est le même système, hein, pour les légumes, euh... comme pour les homards.

So, uh... it's the same method, right, for the vegetables, uh... as for the lobsters.

Caption 54, 4 Mains pour 1 Piano - Médaillon de Homard - Part 2

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Il bouillonne bien, hein?

It's bubbling nicely, isn't it?

Caption 77, 4 Mains pour 1 Piano - Médaillon de Homard - Part 1

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Enfin, j'ai déjà trois filles, hein!

After all, I already have three daughters, you know!

Caption 42, Actu Vingtième - Vendanges parisiennes

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If you didn't quite catch something someone said, you can simply say, Hein? (Huh?) But like its English counterpart, this usage of hein is very informal. A more polite way of expressing the same sentiment is, Pouvez-vous répéter, s'il vous plaît? (Can you repeat that, please?)

 

The word quoi usually means "what," but as a filler word it has the same meaning as hein:

 

Ouais, euh... ça serait vraiment le... le rêve ultime, quoi, pour le fan...

Yeah, uh... that'd really be the... the ultimate dream, you know, for a fan...

Caption 9, Alsace 20 - Rammstein à Strasbourg

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Also like heinquoi can stand alone to express incomprehension: Quoi? (What?) It's a little less informal than hein in this context.

 

 ("here," "there," or "now") can also mean "you know," but it's often used as an informal way of adding emphasis: 

 

Parce qu'en fait hier, on allait... avec... avec, euh... avec des grands, ...

Because actually, yesterday, we were going... with... with, uh... with some older kids, you know...

Caption 80, Actus Quartier - Fête de quartier Python-Duvernois - Part 1

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 tu exagères! 

You're really exaggerating [going too far]!

 

Ben or eh ben (well) is another common filler word. It's a shortened form of bien, the standard word for "well": 

 

Les températures, eh ben, cela va être relativement facile, quatre degrés partout...

The temperature, well, that's going to be relatively easy, four degrees everywhere...

Caption 6, Alsace 20 - Météo des Maquilleurs

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You'll also find it in the expression, Ben oui! (But of course!)

 

Our final example contains two common interjections: 

 

Oh la la! Oh mais dis donc, non mais... oh, qu'est-ce qui se passe?

Oh my! Oh but you don't say, no but... oh, what's going on?

Caption 24, Il était une fois... l’Homme - 6. Le siècle de Périclès - Part 4

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The first has been adapted into English as "ooh la la!" But while "ooh la la" is a comical way of expressing attraction or excitement, oh la la (often shortened to oh la) is a more neutral expression of surprise (more like "oh my" in English). 

 

The second interjection, dis donc, literally means "say then," but is better translated by the phrase "you don't say" or a number of others

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In short, if you ever find yourself at a loss for words in French, a filler word or an interjection is a good way to plug the gap!

Vocabulary

D'ailleurs, je vais ailleurs

Ailleurs is an adverb with a few different meanings. By itself, ailleurs means “elsewhere,” in both a literal and figurative sense:

 

On te souhaite, ben, beaucoup de réussite, si tu vas en Australie ou ailleurs.

We wish you, well, a great deal of success, whether you go to Australia, or elsewhere.

Captions 106-107, 4 Mains pour 1 Piano - Médaillon de Homard

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Désolé, je n’ai pas entendu la question. J’avais la tête ailleurs.

Sorry, I didn’t hear the question. My mind was elsewhere. 

 

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You can also find ailleurs in the more absolute phrases nulle part ailleurs (nowhere else) and partout ailleurs (everywhere else):

 

...et des poissons qu'on ne trouve nulle part ailleurs.

...and fish that one cannot find anywhere else.

Caption 15, Le Journal - L'île de Pâques

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La situation s’améliore partout ailleurs.

The situation is improving everywhere else.

 

Ailleurs can also be found in two common phrases that are used to add extra information to a topic. The first of these is par ailleurs (otherwise, additionally):

 

La préfecture du Rhône a par ailleurs mis en place un centre d'appel.

Additionally, the Rhône Prefecture has set up a call center.

Caption 33, Le Journal - La grippe aviaire

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The second phrase, d’ailleurs, has a wide range of meanings: 

 

C'est un très bon vin et d'ailleurs je vous conseille de le boire.

It's a very good wine and I recommend that you drink it, for that matter.

Caption 4, Actu Vingtième - Vendanges parisiennes

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C'est d'ailleurs lui qui préface le livre.

He's the one who prefaces the book, by the way.

Caption 10, Alsace 20 - 100 recettes pour 100 vins

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Un très beau lieu d'ailleurs.

A very beautiful place, incidentally.

Caption 66, LCM - Concert: La Folia à l'abbaye Saint-Victor

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Both d’ailleurs and par ailleurs can be placed pretty much anywhere in a sentence. For instance, we could easily move the phrases from the middle of the sentence to the beginning in the examples above: 

 

Par ailleurs, la préfecture du Rhône a mis en place un centre d’appel

D’ailleurs, c’est lui qui préface le livre.

 

An easy way to learn the difference between these very similar phrases is to learn synonyms for them. Par ailleurs is generally synonymous with d’autre part and d’un autre côté (otherwise, on the other hand), while d’ailleurs is synonymous with du reste (furthermore), en outre (besides), and de plus (moreover). In other words, while d’ailleurs tends to be used to confirm what was previously said, par ailleurs is more often used to contradict it or provide an alternative. 

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That pretty much covers all the uses of this word, but if you’re interested in looking ailleurs for some more translations and example sentences, this Larousse entry is a handy summary of everything we mentioned above.

 

Expressions

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