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Surtout, Above All

The adverb surtout is actually two words combined: sur (over, above) and tout (all). Once you know that, its meaning is self-explanatory:

 

Et surtout n'oubliez rien.

And above all, don't forget anything.

Caption 9, Bande-annonce La Belle et La Bête

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There are a couple different ways of saying "above all" in English, all of which are encompassed by surtout. There's "most of all":

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

Mais surtout c'est toi

But most of all, it's you

Caption 30, Aldebert La vie c'est quoi ?

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"Especially":

 

J'ai du mal à mentir, surtout quand c'est pas vrai

I find it hard to lie, especially when it's not true

Caption 29, Babylon Circus J'aurais bien voulu

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And "particularly" or "in particular":

 

J'aime surtout la cuisine japonais.
particularly like Japanese cuisine. / I like Japanese cuisine in particular.

 

Note, though, that "especially," "particularly," and "in particular" have more direct equivalents in French as well:

 

C'est le sujet qui nous intéresse tous spécialement aujourd'hui.

It's the subject that's especially of interest to all of us today.

Caption 62, Uderzo et Goscinny 1968

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Mais quand on est sensible à la peinture, ici, la lumière est particulièrement belle.

But for one who appreciates painting, the light here is particularly beautiful.

Caption 8, Arles Un Petit Tour d'Arles - Part 3

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Les plages de la côte atlantique et en particulier de la côte basque sont des plages très étendues.

the beaches on the Atlantic coast and in particular on the Basque coast are very vast beaches.

Caption 31, Voyage en France Saint-Jean-de-Luz

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Surtout can also mean "mainly" or "mostly," which isn't quite the same as "above all":

 

En fait c'est ça surtout

In fact that's it, mostly

Caption 37, Alsace 20 La chronique Mode de Caroline: mode éthique

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Aujourd'hui j'ai surtout travaillé au bureau.
Today I mainly worked in the office.

 

In informal speech, surtout is also the equivalent of "whatever you do" or "be sure to":

 

Surtout, ne rate pas le prochain épisode de "Extra"!

Whatever you do, don't miss the next episode of "Extra"!

Caption 10, Extr@ Ep. 5 - Une étoile est née - Part 1

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Surtout, regardez les vidéos les plus récentes sur Yabla French!
Be sure to check out the most recent Yabla French videos!

Vocabulary

Surprise, Surprise!

In the latest segment of Le Jour où tout a basculé - J'ai piégé mon fan, Alex uses a phrase whose meaning may surprise you:

 

Mais bon, c'était pour la bonne cause. Tu m'étonnes. Regarde.

But OK, it was for a good cause. You're not kidding. Look.

Captions 7-8, Le Jour où tout a basculé - J'ai piégé mon fan - Part 7

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

The literal translation of tu m'étonnes is "you surprise me," but it's often used as a set phrase meaning "you're not kidding," "no kidding," or "tell me something I don't know." Used in this way, it has the opposite meaning of its literal translation—the person is not surprised by what they just heard. Tu m'étonnes is very similar to the English expression "surprise, surprise," which is also used ironically to convey a lack of surprise. 

 

Sans blague is another phrase meaning "no kidding" or, more literally, "no joke." This one, however, can express surprise:

 

Je suis né le 3 novembre. -Sans blague! Moi aussi!
I was born on November 3. -No kidding! So was I!

 

The verb étonner has the same root as the English verb "to stun." It means "to surprise," "astonish," or "amaze":

 

Sur l'eau, il vit son reflet, totalement étonné

In the water, he saw his reflection, totally surprised

Caption 29, Contes de fées - Le vilain petit canard - Part 2

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Les héritiers de Jules Verne n'ont pas fini de nous étonner.

Jules Verne's heirs have never ceased to amaze us.

Caption 26, Le Journal - Le record du Tour de Monde!

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And the English "surprise" comes directly from the French surpris(e):

 

Je suis un peu surpris.

I'm a little surprised.

Caption 38, Lea & Lionel L - Le parc de Bercy - Part 1

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Unsurprisingly, the verb surprendre means "to surprise":
 

Tu vas mener l'attaque pour les surprendre.

You're going to lead the attack to surprise them.

Caption 28, Il était une fois - les Explorateurs - 15. Bruce et les sources du Nil - Part 2

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But it can also have the related meaning "to catch," "come upon," or "discover":

 

Louise surprend René et Edna en pleine conversation.

Louise catches René and Edna deep in conversation.

Caption 2, Le Jour où tout a basculé - Mes grands-parents sont infidèles - Part 8

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Just as there are two words for "to surprise" (étonner and surprendre) and two words for "surprised" (étonné[e] and surpris[e]), there are two words for "surprising": 

 

C'est pas étonnant que beaucoup de peintres soient venus s'installer ici sur Arles.

It's not surprising that many painters came to settle here in Arles.

Caption 12, Arles - Un Petit Tour d'Arles - Part 3

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C'est un endroit vraiment surprenant en plein cœur de Paris.

It's a really surprising place right in the heart of Paris.

Caption 14, Voyage dans Paris - Les Secrets de Belleville

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Can you guess what la surprise and l'étonnement mean? Surprise, surprise! 

Vocabulary

Words for Good and Bad

In a recent lesson, we talked about the words bon/bonne and mauvais/mauvaise, which respectively mean "good" and "bad," but can also mean "right" and "wrong" depending on context. It's easy to confuse these with the words bien and mal, which have similar meanings ("well" and "badly/poorly") but different functions. 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Bon/bonne and mauvais/mauvaise are adjectives, which means they change according to the number and gender of the noun they modify:

 

Alors justement je crois que c'est vraiment une très bonne chose...

So, exactly, I think that it's really a very good thing...

Caption 56, Alsace 20 - 100 recettes pour 100 vins

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Il y a eu la destruction de la partie de maison existante qui était en très mauvais état.

There was the destruction of the existing part of the house that was in very bad shape.

Caption 22, Thomas - Thomas et sa maison

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On the other hand, bien and mal are adverbs, which can modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. Unlike adjectives, these never change in French: 

 

...un grand orfèvre parisien que Balzac connaissait bien.

who was a great Parisian goldsmith whom Balzac knew well.

Caption 28, Exposition - Balzac, architecte d'intérieurs

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Il paraît que les voyages en train finissent mal en général

It seems that train rides generally end badly

Caption 54, Grand Corps Malade - Les Voyages en train

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Just as it's ungrammatical to say "whom Balzac knew good" and "train rides generally end bad" in English, in French you can't say que Balzac connaissait bon or les voyages en train finissent mauvais. You have to use bien/mal

 

Bien and mal can also function as nouns. In philosophical terms, they refer to "good" and "evil":

 

Quelle est la différence entre le bien et le mal
What is the difference between good and evil

 

But they have more down-to-earth meanings as well. For instance, the plural les biens means "goods," as in commodities or possessions. And mal can also refer to illness or harm, as in the expressions avoir mal and faire mal:

 

J'ai mal à l'oreille.
I have an earache

 

Ne me fais pas mal
Don't hurt me! 

 

In everyday speech, bon and bien are also used as interjections, in which case they're more or less interchangeable. They both correspond to the English interjection "well" in this context:

 

Eh bien, j'espère que vous avez passé un bon moment, ici, sur Arles.

Well, I hope you had a good time here, in Arles.

Caption 21, Arles - Un Petit Tour d'Arles - Part 3

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Bon, il y a des raisons personnelles évidemment qui jouent.

Well, obviously there are personal reasons that come into play.

Caption 17, Alphabétisation - des filles au Sénégal

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

It's sometimes hard to tell the difference between good and bad, but at least now you know the difference between bon, mauvais, bien, and mal
 
Stay tuned for our next lesson and tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com.

Vocabulary

When "Good" Means "Right" and "Bad" Means "Wrong"

Did you know that, in French, "good" can also mean "right," and "bad" can also mean "wrong"? This might sound sort of philosophical, but it's really just an issue of translation. Bon/bonne and mauvais/mauvaise are two of the most basic adjectives in French. They usually mean "good" and "bad" respectively, but depending on context, they can also mean "right" and "wrong": 

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

C'est la mauvaise réponse à la question. 
That's the wrong answer to the question. 

 

Vous pouvez aussi me donner deux numéros de compte. Je vous dirai lequel est le bon.

You can also give me two account numbers. I will tell you which is the right one.

Captions 20-21, Patricia - Pas de crédit dans le monde des clones - Part 3

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When bon/bonne and mauvais/mauvaise mean "right" and "wrong," they're often preceded by a definite article (le, la, les). For example, take a look at the difference between the phrases un bon moment and au (à + le) bon moment:

 

Eh bien, j'espère que vous avez passé un bon moment, ici, sur Arles...

Well, I hope you had a good time here, in Arles...

Caption 21, Arles Un Petit Tour d'Arles - Part 3

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Tout cet art, c'est de faire en sorte de mettre dans l'eau au bon moment, hein...

All this is an art to ensure that you put in the water at the right time, you see...

Caption 8, Ostréiculture - Rencontre avec Gildas Mourier (Morbihan)

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Using these adjectives isn't the only way to describe correctness and incorrectness. You can also use the verbal phrases avoir raison (to be right, literally "to have reason") and avoir tort (to be wrong, literally "to have fault"):

 

Oui, tu as raison. Je ne suis pas trop dans mon assiette.

Yes, you're right. I'm not too much in my plate [I feel under the weather].

Caption 26, Manon et Clémentine - Expressions toutes faites

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J'ai peut-être eu tort de me fier à lui pour ce projet.

Maybe I was wrong to trust him with this project.

Caption 53, Il était une fois - Les Amériques - 9. Cortés et les Aztèques - Part 3

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

In a previous lesson, we mentioned one other way to say "to be wrong"—se tromper:

 

Donc, tu crois que Colomb se trompe!

So you think that Columbus is wrong!

Caption 6, Il était une fois - les Explorateurs - 10. Amerigo Vespucci - Part 3

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Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to write to us at newsletter@yabla.com or tweet us @yabla.

Vocabulary

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