French Lessons

Topics

Sometimes, Three Times

There are three different ways of saying "sometimes" in French, and they all have one thing in common: the word fois (time).

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

The first is quelquefois, which literally means "sometimes" (quelque = some; fois = times). Note that quelquefois is written as one word, like "sometimes," but unlike other quelque words such as quelque chose (something) and quelque part (somewhere):

 

Quelquefois, vous allez voir des produits qui ne correspondent pas à cette recette.

Sometimes, you'll see products that don't correspond to this recipe.

Caption 38, Le saviez-vous? - La Maison de l'Olive à Nice

 Play Caption

 

Then there's parfois (par = by, through, per; fois = times):

 

Je vais parfois au cinéma.

I sometimes go to the movies.

Caption 25, Le saviez-vous? - Les différentes négations

 Play Caption

 

Finally, there's des fois (literally "some times" or just "times"), which is a bit more familiar. It roughly corresponds to the English expression "at times": 

 

Je me force un peu des fois

I force myself a bit sometimes (at times)

à sortir de ma zone de confort.

to get out of my comfort zone.

Captions 46-47, Giulia - Sa marque de bijoux 'Desidero'

 Play Caption

 

There are a couple other ways of saying "sometimes" in French that use the other word for "time," temps. These are de temps en temps and de temps à autre, which both mean "from time to time," "every now and then," "once in a while," "occasionally":

 

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.

Caption 10, 4 Mains pour 1 Piano - Médaillon de Homard

 Play Caption

 

Je parle à mes amis d'université de temps à autre.

I talk to my college friends every now and then.

 

Just don't confuse any of these with the expressions for "sometime" and "some time." "Sometime" (meaning "eventually" or "at a later time") is un de ces jours (one of these days) or un jour ou l'autre (one day or another). And "some time" (meaning "a while") is quelque temps:

 

Un jour ou l'autre (Un de ces jours) on sera tous papa

One day or another we'll all be a dad (We'll all be a dad sometime)

Caption 28, Stromae - Papaoutai

 Play Caption

 

Et puis après, j'ai été célibataire quelque temps.

And then after that, I was single for a while (for some time).

Caption 26, Le Journal - L'âge et la fertilité

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

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

Vocabulary

C'est or il/elle est?

C'est and il/elle est are two common expressions used to describe people or things in French. Though they have the same meaning (he/she/it is), they're not interchangeable. So how do you know when to use which? It all depends on what comes after the verb est (is). Let's look at some examples. 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Il est (masculine) and elle est (feminine) are primarily used before an adjective alone, or before an adverb and adjective (such as très intelligent): 

 

Il s'appelle André. Il est très intelligent. 
His name is André. He's very smart. 

 

They're also used to describe someone's nationality, religion, or profession:

 

Elle est japonaise. Elle est bouddhiste. Elle est chimiste. 
She is Japanese. She is Buddhist. She is a chemist. 

 

Note the difference between the French and the English in that last sentence. You don't need an indefinite article (un, une) after il/elle est when talking about someone's profession. So you don't say elle est une chimiste, but simply elle est chimiste. 

 

C'est is used in pretty much every other circumstance. You'll find it before a modified noun, such as mon ami:

 

Il s'appelle André. C'est mon ami. [Not: il est mon ami.]
His name is André. He's my friend. 

 

Or before a disjunctive pronoun (moi, toi, lui, etc.):

 

Ah, oui, c'est moi. -C'est toi mais c'est vrai!

Oh, yes, it's me. -It's you, but it's true!

Caption 63, Actus Quartier - Fête de quartier Python-Duvernois - Part 3

 Play Caption

 

L'État, c'est moi.

The State, it is I (or "I am the State").

(attributed to King Louis XIV of France)

 

C'est can also come before a standalone adjective (such as c'est vrai in the example above), but only when you're making a general statement about a situation. If you're referring to something specific, then you use il/elle est:

 

Cette histoire n'est pas inventée. Elle est vraie. 
This story isn't made-up. It's true.  

 

If you're describing a group of people or things, then you need to use the plural forms of c'est and il/elle est. These are ce sont and ils/elles sont (they are):

 

Ah, ce sont les fameuses pommes de terre, euh... violettes.

Oh, these are the famous, uh... purple potatoes.

Caption 37, 4 Mains pour 1 Piano - Médaillon de Homard - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

Ne vous approchez pas des ours. Ils sont très dangereux. 
Don't go near the bears. They are very dangerous. 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

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

Grammar

"Être en train de": Process and Progress

Être en train de is a handy French expression that describes an event in progress. It's always followed by an infinitive and is often translated as "to be in the process of" or "to be in the middle of":

 

Donc, je suis en deuxième année là; je suis en train de... achever ma formation.

So, I'm in my second year now; I'm in the process of... completing my training.

Caption 25, 4 Mains pour 1 Piano - Médaillon de Homard - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

je suis en train de régler les meules pour que le grain soit correctement écrasé.

Here I am in the middle of setting the millstones so that the grain is crushed correctly.

Caption 4, Télé Lyon Métropole - Chaillé-les-Marais : Une biscuiterie 100 % familiale

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

But just as often, être en train de can simply be translated with the present progressive tense ("to be doing," "to be making," etc.):

 

Donc, en ce moment, on est en train de faire des truffes cacao.

So, right now, we're making cocoa truffles.

Caption 7, Canadian Chocolate Seller - Chocolats

 Play Caption

 

In French, there is no difference between the present tense and the present progressive tense: on fait can mean both "we make" and "we are making." So the above example could also be written:

 

Donc, en ce moment, on fait des truffes cacao.
So, right now, we're making cocoa truffles. 

 

Être en train de emphasizes the fact that the activity is currently in progress (further emphasized above by en ce moment). In fact, "currently" is another possible translation of être en train de:

 

...je suis en train de travailler avec celui qui a fait 'Pulp Fiction',

...I'm currently working with the person who made 'Pulp Fiction,'

Caption 9, Melissa Mars - From Paris With Love

 Play Caption

 

You can also use être en train de to describe a continuing event in the past. In this case, it's synonymous with the imperfect tense: 

 

Quand j'ai fait cette photo, la baleine était en train de dormir.

When I took this picture, the whale was sleeping.

Caption 25, Le Journal - Sillonner & photographier les océans

 Play Caption

 

Quand j'ai fait cette photo, la baleine dormait.
When I took this picture, the whale was sleeping.

 

Here again, être en train de stresses the continuousness of the action: the whale was "in the process of" sleeping when the speaker took the picture. 

 

Être en cours de has the same meaning and function as être en train de, except it's usually followed by a noun instead of an infinitive:

 

Un immense chantier est en cours d'achèvement.

A huge construction project is being completed.

Caption 25, Voyage dans Paris - Cour de l'Industrie - Part 1

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

A final note: Make sure not to confuse en train with entrain, a noun meaning "enthusiasm" or "liveliness." Nous espérons que vous êtes en train d'étudier le français avec entrain! (We hope you're in the process of studying French with enthusiasm!)

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. 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

Ah, je me sens mieux!

Ah, I feel better!

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

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!

Vocabulary

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. 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

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

 Play Caption

Il bouillonne bien, hein?

It's bubbling nicely, isn't it?

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

 Play Caption

Enfin, j'ai déjà trois filles, hein!

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

Caption 42, Actu Vingtième - Vendanges parisiennes

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

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

Getting Real with "Réaliser"

In a previous lesson, we explored the words compte and compter, which are used in a wide variety of expressions beyond their most basic meanings (“account” and “to count,” respectively). One of these expressions is se rendre compte, which literally means “to give an account to oneself,” but which is best translated as “to realize”: 

 

Et bien sûr nous allons aussi nous rendre compte que Metz est une ville riche par son patrimoine, son passé.

And of course we'll also realize that Metz is a rich city through its heritage, its past.

Captions 14-15, Lionel à Metz - Part 1

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

“To realize” also has a French cognate, réaliser. While réaliser can be used as a synonym of se rendre compte, it more often refers to realizing something in the sense of making something a reality, such as a goal or a dream: 

 

C'est un rêve qui va être chaud à réaliser: c'est pouvoir voir Michael Jackson.

It's a dream that's going to be hard to realize: it's being able to see Michael Jackson.

Captions 26-27, Micro-Trottoirs - Un rêve récurrent?

 Play Caption

 

While this sense of “to realize” is more of a formal and often technical term, réaliser is more commonly used as a synonym of faire (to make or to do). For example, “to realize a recipe” isn’t as common a phrase in English as réaliser une recette is in French: 

 

Ben, pour réaliser, euh, la recette, ben on a besoin des... des homards.

Well, to make, uh, this recipe, well we need some... some lobsters.

Caption 29, 4 Mains pour 1 Piano - Médaillon de Homard - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

Margaux and Manon even use réaliser in their definition of faire:

 

"Faire" veut dire construire ou fabriquer ou réaliser quelque chose de concret, de matériel.

"Faire" means to build or make or achieve something concrete, material.

Caption 9, Margaux et Manon - Emplois du verbe faire

 Play Caption

 

If you make the verb reflexive, it means "to become reality" or, in the case of wishes and dreams, "to come true":

Tous mes rêves se sont réalisés.
All my dreams came true.

 

Some other synonyms of réaliser are accomplir (to accomplish), exécuter (to execute, carry out), créer (to create), atteindre (to achieve), and achever (to finish, complete). 

 

Réaliser is also an important verb in film terminology, meaning “to direct.” In fact, its noun form, réalisateur, specifically means “film director”: 

 

Alors, c'est le réalisateur qui s'est battu pour elle.

So, it was the director who fought for her.

Caption 4, Le Journal - Marion Cotillard

 Play Caption

 

You can also use the word cinéaste, or “filmmaker,” instead of réalisateur. A “cineaste” in English is either a filmmaker or a film buff (or both!). 

 

Another noun form of réaliser is réalisation, which generally means “realization” or “fulfillment,” but can also mean “design” or “creation” in architectural parlance. As France contains a wealth of architectural treasures, you’ll come across this word a lot in Yabla travel videos: 

 

La réalisation architecturale du parc a été confiée en mille neuf cent quatre-vingt trois.

The park's architectural design was assigned in nineteen eighty-three.

Caption 8, De nouvelles découvertes avec Marion - Le Parc de la Villette

 Play Caption

 

Et à l'entrée, pour les amateurs d'architecture, il y a cette extraordinaire réalisation Le Corbusier.

And at the entrance, for architecture enthusiasts, there is this extraordinary Le Corbusier creation.

Captions 11-12, Voyage dans Paris - Le Treizième arrondissement de Paris

 Play Caption

 

We hope you realize all of your dreams and goals, whether they’re as small as making a recipe or as large as constructing a building, or as fun as learning French with Yabla!  

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Vocabulary

You May Also Like