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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": 



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.

You can also give me two account numbers.

Je vous dirai lequel est le bon.

I will tell you which is the right one.

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

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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

Well, I hope you

avez passé un bon moment, ici, sur Arles...

had a good time here, in Arles...

Caption 21, Arles - Un Petit Tour d'Arles

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Tout cet art, c'est de faire en sorte de mettre dans l'eau

All this is an art to ensure that you put in the water

au bon moment, hein...

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.

Yes, you're right.

Je ne suis pas trop dans mon assiette.

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

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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

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