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Au moins or du moins?

Moins is a comparative word meaning "less" or "least" (its opposite, plus, means "more" or "most"). In this lesson, we'll focus on two common expressions with moinsau moins and du moins, both equivalent to "at least." How do we know when to use which?

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If you think about it, "at least" has (at least!) three usages. It can specify the minimum amount of something ("I need at least two cups of coffee every day"), it can emphasize a positive aspect of an otherwise negative situation ("The car was totaled, but at least we're all OK"), and it can alter the connotation of a previous statement ("That restaurant is terrible. At least that's what I've heard"). In general, au moins corresponds to the first two usages, and du moins to the third.

 

We use au moins when referring to a minimum amount. It's often followed by a number:

 

On fait au moins sept ou huit groupes différents.

We have at least seven or eight different bands.

Caption 5, French Punk - Frustration

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Tu pourras leur parler de ce que tu voudras, pourvu que tu parles au moins deux heures.

You'll be able to talk to them about whatever you like, as long as you speak for at least two hours.

Captions 3-4, Il était une fois... L’Espace - 6. La révolte des robots - Part 5

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Au moins is synonymous with au minimum in this sense: 

 

Pour jouer à la pétanque il faut au minimum deux joueurs.

To play pétanque, you need at the minimum two players.

Caption 5, Lionel - Les nombres

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But like "at least," au moins doesn't have to refer to a numerical minimum. It can also refer to the "bare minimum," as in the minimum you can do if you can't or don't want to do something else:

 

Bien entendu, il faut réapprendre ou tout au moins se remettre au niveau

Of course, it's necessary to relearn or at the very least get up to speed

Caption 24, Lionel - Le club de foot de Nancy - Part 2

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Au moins is a great expression to use when you're being optimistic or encouraging someone:

 

C'était pas comme t'imaginais, mais au moins tu essayes

It was not as you imagined, but at least you're trying

Captions 76-77, Watt’s In - Zaz : On Ira Interview Exclu

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Just don't confuse it with à moins (que), which means "unless":

 

Ne plus couper les forêts à moins que ce soit pour faire mes jolis calendriers

No longer cut down the forests unless it's to make my pretty calendars

Captions 3-5, Nouveaux Talents? - Adonis chante

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Du moins restricts the meaning of a previous statement. You can use it to modify or clarify what you just said:

 

Je suis le fou du village. Du moins, c'est ce que les gens disent.

I'm the village idiot. At least that's what people say.

Captions 68-69, Patrice Zana - L'artiste et ses inspirations - Part 2

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C'est parti pour quatre heures de réflexion. Du moins en théorie.

Time for four hours of recollection. At least in theory.

Captions 4-5, Le Journal - Le bac

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Du moins is more or less synonymous with en tout cas (in any event, anyway): en tout cas c'est ce que les gens disent (that's what people say, in any event); en tout cas en théorie (in theory, anyway).

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To get an even better sense of how to use these two expressions, just do a search for au moins and du moins on the Yabla site. 

The French Subjunctive: Emotional and Hypothetical

The French Subjunctive - Part 2

In this lesson, we'll be tackling the subjunctive, a verbal mood that expresses a wide range of situations, such as a wish, an obligation, a possibility, a doubt, or an emotion. Whereas the indicative mood simply describes something that happens, the subjunctive mood describes something that may happen, something you want to happen, something you're afraid will happen, and other hypothetical situations. It's the difference between the phrases "you are here" and "I wish you were here." 

 

The general rule for forming the subjunctive in French is to take the third-person plural (ils/elles) present indicative form of the verb, remove the -ent, and add the subjunctive endings: -e, -es, -e, -ions, -iez, and -ent. Take a look at this handy chart for a concise summary of the conjugation of regular subjunctive verbs. We'll go over irregular subjunctive conjugations in another lesson. 

 

Let's take the verbs dire (to say) and réfléchir (to think about) as examples. To conjugate them in the first-person singular subjunctive, we would go to the third-person present plural indicative (disent and réfléchissent), drop the -ent, and add the first-person singular subjunctive ending -e. The results are dise and réfléchisse

 

Qu’est-ce que tu veux que je te dise? 
What do you want me to tell you

Avec tout ce choix, il faut que je réfléchisse.

With all these choices, I have to think about it.

Caption 10, Il était une fois... L’Espace - 3. La planète verte - Part 3

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Besides the conjugation, the most important aspect of the French subjunctive is that it almost always follows the word que (that), as in the expressions tu veux que and il faut que above. Vouloir que (to want) and il faut que (it is necessary that) are among the large number of French expressions that require the subjunctive. You can find a detailed list of these expressions here.
   
The subjunctive is used to express some of the most basic emotions, such as happiness and sadness: 

 

On est vraiment très heureux que nos huit jeunes puissent partir.

We are truly very happy that our eight young people are able to go.

Caption 8, Télé Lyon Métropole - Sport dans la ville & Afrique du Sud

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Je suis triste que mon ami ne vienne pas au concert avec nous. 
I'm sad that my friend isn't coming to the concert with us. 

 

It's also used in a number of conjunctive phrases such as pourvu que (as long as), bien que (even though), and avant que (before):

 

Tu pourras leur parler de ce que tu voudras, pourvu que tu parles au moins deux heures.

you'll be able to talk to them about whatever you like, as long as you speak for at least two hours.

Captions 3-4, Il était une fois... L’Espace - 6. La révolte des robots - Part 5

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J'aime le karaoké bien que je ne chante pas très bien. 
I love karaoke even though I don't sing very well. 

...avant que leurs enseignements ne soient exploités par l'industrie.

...before their lessons are exploited by industry.

Caption 22, Le Journal - 2000 mètres sous les mers

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As the above example demonstrates, some subjunctive constructions (like avant que) require a ne without a pas (known as a ne explétif) before the verb. See our previous lesson for an in-depth look at this special use of ne.
  
Some phrases, such as penser que (to think that), only take the subjunctive in the negative: 

 

Je ne pense pas que ça serve à grand-chose, ce que tu comptes faire.

I don't think it's going to help much, what you're planning to do.

 

If we make that sentence affirmative, we'll need to change servir from the subjunctive to the indicative:

 

Je pense que ça sert à beaucoup de choses, ce que tu comptes faire.
I think it's going to help a lot, what you're planning to do.  

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To sum up, the subjunctive is used after a vast number of expressions that convey a wide variety of subjective and hypothetical states. This multitude of usages makes learning the subjunctive no easy feat, but the fact that the subjunctive almost always follows the word que makes it a little less daunting. So if there's one thing you should take away from this lesson, it's that whenever you see a verb after the word que, there's a good chance it should be in the subjunctive! 

Grammar

Up Close and Personal with "Auprès"

Auprès de is a French preposition that doesn’t have a direct English translation. It generally refers to a situation of proximity and has a range of meanings, including “beside,” “next to,” “with,” “among,” “by,” “at,” “close to,” and more. It’s one of those words whose definition almost entirely depends on context, so let’s take a look at how it’s used in some Yabla videos.

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The most literal meaning of auprès de is “beside” or “next to,” referring to physical proximity (another expression for this is à côté de). At the end of the classic French fairy tale La Belle et la Bête (Beauty and the Beast), Belle wants nothing more than to be beside her beloved Beast:

 

Laissez-moi retourner auprès de lui; c'est mon seul souhait...

Let me return to his side; it's my only wish...

Caption 45, Bande-annonce - La Belle et La Bête

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On a less romantic note, you can also use auprès de to describe two things that are next to each other:

L’hôpital se trouve auprès du parc.
The hospital is located next to the park.

Auprès de doesn’t always refer to being directly beside someone or something. More generally, it can mean “with” (avec) or “among” (parmi) a group of people or things:

 

Thalar, mon cher ami, avez-vous enquêté auprès de tous les animaux?

Thalar, my dear friend, did you inquire among all the animals?

Caption 40, Les zooriginaux - 3 Qui suis-je?

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Une fois que tu seras auprès des chefs, tu pourras leur parler de ce que tu voudras.

Once you're with the chiefs, you'll be able to talk to them about whatever you like.

Captions 2-3, Il était une fois... L’Espace - 6. La révolte des robots

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When looking at two people or things that are beside one another, or considering two ideas or situations in your head, it’s almost impossible not to compare them. Along those lines, in addition to “with,” auprès de can also mean “compared with” or "compared to": 

Nous sommes pauvres auprès de nos voisins.
We are poor compared to our neighbors. 

Auprès de is also used in more formal administrative and governmental contexts to mean “at” or “with,” usually to direct people to a certain department or office or to describe people connected to a department or office: 

 

Les visites ont donc lieu tous les jours et sont gratuites mais pensez à réserver auprès de l'Office du Tourisme de Tourcoing.

So visits take place every day and are free, but think about making a reservation at the Tourcoing Tourism Office.

Captions 17-18, Grand Lille TV - Visite des serres de Tourcoing

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Aujourd'hui, par exemple, elle reçoit des chargés de mission auprès du gouvernement.

Today, for example, she meets with government representatives.

Caption 34, Le Journal - Les microcrédits

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J’ai laissé un message auprès de ta secrétaire.
I left a message with your secretary. 

 

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You may have noticed that auprès de looks very similar to another preposition, près de (near, nearly, around). Près de also describes proximity, but it implies a greater distance than auprès de. It’s a question of being near something versus being next to something. In the first green example sentence, the hospital is directly beside the park. But in the sentence, L’hôpital est près du parc, the hospital is just in the park’s general vicinity. 

So whether you’re talking about being snuggled up beside a loved one or just walking among a group of people, auprès de is the phrase to use. Try using it to describe what or who is next to you right now! 

Vocabulary

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