French Lessons


When Rester Won't Rest

Sometimes, the meaning of a French word is easy to guess when it looks similar to an English word. However, for every cognate, there are just as many false cognates. And yet, il en reste encore beaucoup (there are still many more) that are worthy of our attention. In this lesson, we will look at the word rester, which—you guessed it—is un faux ami (a false cognate) and doesn’t mean “to rest." So what does it really mean? 


The basic meaning of rester is “to stay/to remain.” In the example below, it means “to stay put”: 


Bouge pas de là, Léon. Tu restes ici!

Do not move from here, Leon. You stay here!

Caption 5, Les zooriginaux - 3 Qui suis-je?

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A more forceful variation of Tu restes ici! is the idiomatic expression Reste tranquille! (Keep still!), which is often used to control restless children:


Restez tranquilles, les enfants!

Keep still, children!


You can also use rester (to stay) for all sorts of situations, as in rester en contact (to stay in contact):


Par ailleurs, Manon est restée en contact avec Émilie.

Moreover, Manon stayed in contact with Émilie.

Caption 30, Le Jour où tout a basculé - Nos bébés ont été échangés...

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Rester also means "to remain,” as we mentioned earlier. The tour guide at Joan of Arc's house uses rester to tell us where Joan’s family lived for a long time:


Mais le principal de sa famille est effectivement restée en Lorraine.

But the majority of her family indeed remained in Lorraine.

Caption 56, Lionel - La maison de Jeanne d'Arc

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It’s important to note that rester is one of the few verbs that require the auxiliary être (to be) in the passé composé. Patricia discusses this in a video on the subject:


Et comme tu es resté(e) concentré(e) depuis toutes ces leçons

And since you've remained focused for all these lessons

Caption 5, Le saviez-vous? - Exception dans les verbes du 1er groupe au passé composé

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Rester is also used in the present tense, of course. For example, we have the expression ça reste (that remains). In the example below, ça (that) becomes redundant in English and is therefore omitted: 


Ouais, très bonne question.

Yeah, very good question.

Donc, le plat du jour c'est sûr, ça reste un produit d'appel.

So the daily special certainly remains a promotional product.

Caption 17, Alsace 20 - Grain de Sel: Au Caveau de l'étable à Niederbronn-les-Bains

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Ça reste sometimes means “it's/these are still”:


Rappeler effectivement aux gens que ça reste des produits de confiserie, c'est pas une mauvaise mesure

Indeed, to remind people that these are still sweets, it's not a bad idea

Caption 14, Le Journal - Publicité anti-calories

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On a l'impression d'être secoué, mais ça reste très agréable.

You have the feeling of being shaken, but it's still very pleasant.

Caption 16, À la plage avec Lionel - La plage

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Il reste encore (there is still) the expression il reste (there remains), which we will discuss in a future lesson. Merci d’être resté(e) concentré(e) pendant toute cette leçon (thank you for staying focused throughout this lesson)!


The Preposition à : "to," "at," or "from"?

In her video on the famous French writer Victor Hugo, Patricia recites an excerpt from Hugo's poem "À l'Arc de Triomphe," a tribute to the city of Paris. The title of the poem means "At the Arc de Triomphe," but in another context à l'Arc de Triomphe could also mean "to the Arc de Triomphe." "At" and "to" are the most common meanings of the preposition à. But as we see several times in this video, à can also mean "from" when paired with certain verbs:



Cette science universelle

This universal science

Qu'il emprunte à tous les humains;

That it borrows from all humans;

Captions 46-47, Le saviez-vous? - La poésie de Victor Hugo

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Puis il rejette aux peuples blêmes

Then it rejects from pallid people

Leurs sceptres et leurs diadèmes,

Their scepters and their diadems,

Captions 48-49, Le saviez-vous? - La poésie de Victor Hugo

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À tout peuple, heureux, brave ou sage,

From all people, happy, brave, or wise,

Il prend ses lois, ses dieux, ses mœurs.

It takes their laws, their gods, their customs.

Captions 42-43, Le saviez-vous? - La poésie de Victor Hugo

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The verbal phrases here are emprunter quelque chose à quelqu'un (to borrow something from someone), prendre quelque chose à quelqu'un (to take something from someone), and rejeter quelque chose à quelqu'un (to reject something from someone). Though de is the more general equivalent of "from," you can't use de in verbal phrases like these–you have to use à.


The indirect object of these phrases (that is, what follows the à) is usually a person: "to x something from (à) someone."


Cacher (to hide) and voler (to steal) are two other common verbs that take à instead of de:


Je vais cacher les cadeaux de Noël à mes enfants.
I'm going to hide the Christmas gifts from my kids.


Marc a volé de l'argent à Sophie.
Marc stole money from Sophie.


Another very common verb with à is acheter (to buy). Be careful with this one though: acheter quelque chose à quelqu'un can either mean "to buy something from somebody" or "to buy something for somebody." You'll need to figure out the meaning from context:


Marc a acheté une bague au bijoutier.
Marc bought a ring from the jeweler. 


Marc a acheté une bague à Sophie.
Marc bought a ring for Sophie.


But with other verbs—such as permettre à (to enable/allow), rappeler à (to remind), and coûter à (to cost)—the à doesn't translate to anything at all:


De permettre à quarante mille femmes et jeunes filles au Sénégal,

To enable forty thousand women and young girls in Senegal,

euh... d'être alphabétisées.

uh... to become literate.

Captions 3-4, Alphabétisation - des filles au Sénégal

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Rappeler effectivement aux gens que ça reste des produits de confiserie, c'est pas une mauvaise mesure.

Indeed, to remind people that these are still sweets, it's not a bad idea.

Caption 14, Le Journal - Publicité anti-calories

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Et la différence, cela ne coûte quasiment rien à Martine.

And the difference costs Martine practically nothing.

Caption 57, Alsace 20 - Alsace: les plus belles déco de Noël!

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There are a good number of other verb phrases with à where the à means "from" or just isn't translated. Here are some of the more common ones:


arracher à (to remove from)
commander à (to order)
défendre à (to forbid/ban)
demander à (to ask)
enlever à (to take away from) 
épargner à (to spare)
éviter à (to save/spare)
garantir à (to guarantee)
pardonner à (to forgive)
refuser à (to refuse/deny)
souhaiter à (to wish)


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