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Je craque! – The Verb Craquer

The verb craquer (to crack)—not to be confused with croquer (to crunch/bite)—is an interesting word as it can be used in a variety of ways, often in situations that involve strong emotions, either positive or negative. When used informally, craquer has many meanings that range from “breaking down” to “falling in love."

 

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In a negative context, craquer can mean to crack up, or crack under pressure:

 

François est dégoûté. Il craque.

François is disgusted. He's cracking up.

Caption 35, Oldelaf Le monde est beau

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Craquer can also describe something or someone cracking under pressure:

 

Continue à faire des films aussi flingués et les cités vont craquer.

Continue making gun movies like always and the housing estates are going to crack.

Captions 51-52, Alain Etoundi Allez tous vous faire enfilmer! - Part 1

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It can also refer to someone "giving in" or "caving":

 

Bon, j'ai craqué parce que...

Well, I caved because...

Caption 52, Le Jour où tout a basculé À l'audience - Arnaque en couple ? - Part 3

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While craquer means to crack under pressure, faire craquer quelqu’un means to cause someone to crack or to break someone’s spirit, like the mother in the video below who tried to faire craquer (break down) her son’s girlfriend:

 

Sa mère voulait me faire craquer.

His mother wanted to break me down.

Caption 34, Le Jour où tout a basculé Ma mère fait tout pour briser mon couple - Part 3

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At the other end of the spectrum, however, craquer can describe a positive experience. It's slang for “to fall in love." In the example below, the French pianist Christine Ott is asked:

 

C'est ce qui t'a fait craquer, toi, pour cet instrument?

Is that what made you fall in love with this instrument?

Caption 4, Alsace 20 Femmes d'exception: Christine Ott

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And the singer Melissa Mars "fell head over heels" for her project "Et Alors!":

 

Et voilà, donc du coup, ben évidemment j'ai craqué sur ce projet,

And there, so as a result, well of course I fell head over heels for this project,

Caption 23, Melissa Mars Et Alors!

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In the following example, shoppers "fell" for some Christmas ornaments:

 

Et ben on a craqué sur des choses un petit peu typiques, euh...

And, well, we fell for things that are a little bit typical, uh...

Caption 10, Alsace 20 Ouverture du marché de Noël de Colmar

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And, of course, craquer sur also means to fall for a person:

 

J'avais complètement craqué sur elle

I'd completely fallen for her

Caption 68, Le Jour où tout a basculé J'ai piégé mon fan - Part 2

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Likewise, faire craquer can mean to make someone fall for someone:

 

Je pouvais avouer, ouais, qu'elle m'a fait craquer

I could confess, yeah, that she made me fall for her

Captions 32-33, Harmelo Mets Ton Masque Ft. Jade L x Ghetto

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On a spookier note, craquer can mean to creak, as in the sound the floor makes in this couple’s haunted apartment:

 

Ah, c'est le plancher qui craque.

Ah, it's the floor that's creaking.

Caption 17, Le Jour où tout a basculé Notre appartement est hanté - Part 3

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And for a little bit of humor, craquer (to rip) can describe a wardrobe mishap. In this video, Elisa and Mashal look at old photographs, and Mashal remembers when her pants ripped in the middle:

 

Enfin, quand j'avais dansé mon pantalon qui avait craqué au mil'...

Well, when I'd been dancing, my pants, which had ripped in the mid'...

Caption 82, Elisa et Mashal Photos

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Or when referring to shoes, you can say that they are sur le point de craquer (about to burst). In "J'aurais bien voulu," the singer of the ska band Babylon Circus talks about his battered ego sagging down to his socks to the point that his godasses (shoes) are sur le point de craquer (about to burst):

 

J'ai l'ego dans les chaussettes et les godasses sur le point de craquer

My ego's in my socks and my shoes are about to burst

Caption 30, Babylon Circus J'aurais bien voulu

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There’s another colloquial expression that paints a similar picture, plein à craquer, which means “bursting at the seams” or “overcrowded”:

 

Les hôpitaux sont pleins à craquer.

The hospitals are completely overcrowded.

 

Don't confuse craquer with the English loanword cracker, which means "hacker":

 

Des crackers ont piraté le logiciel.

Some hackers hacked into the software. 

 

(Un cracker can also be of the edible kind… a cracker!).

 

The noun un craque doesn’t refer to "cracking" at all. It's slang for un mensonge (a lie):

 

Mais si tous mes craques t'indiffèrent

But if all my lies leave you indifferent

Caption 28, Mademoiselle K (avec Zazie) Me taire te plaire

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The English noun “crack,” as in a crack in the wall, is une fissure in French, and the verb is fissurer (to crack), as mentioned in this video about the Liverdun Church during the Second World War:

 

Parce qu'elle a été fissurée pendant la dernière Guerre mondiale.

Because it was cracked during the last World War.

Caption 76, Lionel L'église de Liverdun - Part 2

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There are other instances when “crack” doesn’t translate as craquer in French. For example, “to crack a joke” is simply raconter une blague (to tell a joke), Lionel’s specialty in his Yabla videos:

 

Lionel adore raconter des blagues sur Yabla.

Lionel loves telling jokes on Yabla.

 

And when you "crack up" at a joke, you éclater de rire (burst out laughing):

 

Les blagues de Lionel me font toujours éclater de rire.

Lionel's jokes always crack me up.

 

One last thing you can do with craquer in French is craquer une allumette (strike a match):

 

On peut craquer une allumette pour voir dans le noir.

We can strike a match to see in the dark.


Nous espérons que vous avez craqué sur cette leçon (We hope you fell for this lesson)!

Vocabulary

Discovering and Retrieving

In French, there are two different verbs meaning “to find”: trouver and retrouver. Although the two verbs are often interchangeable, the major difference between them has to do with the difference between discovering and retrieving: while trouver usually refers to finding something new, retrouver (which is related to “retrieve”) usually refers to finding something you’ve lost. 

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If you go to the fantastic food market in Arles, you’ll be overwhelmed by the incredible amount of fresh cheeses you’ll find there: 

 

On trouve les meilleurs fromages de toutes les régions.

We find the best cheeses from all the regions.

Caption 17, Arles - Le marché d'Arles

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On a more emotional note, you might be determined to find a lost love, like the subject of this music video: 

 

Elle a juré de vous retrouver vite

She swore to find you again fast

Caption 11, Yaaz - La place des anges

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“To find” doesn’t only refer to finding a person or a thing. You can also find something intangible, like a concept, feeling, or physical state:

 

Comme il trouve pas la solution

Since he can't find a solution

Caption 26, Oldelaf - Le monde est beau

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J'ai fait un cauchemar et ne pouvais pas retrouver le sommeil. 
I had a nightmare and could not get back to sleep. 

 

In English, "to find" can also be a synonym for “to think,” when expressing an opinion. Likewise, trouver can be a synonym for the standard French words for "to think," penser and croire. Like the person in this video, we at Yabla find foreign language learning to be very important: 

 

Je trouve que c'est très important de... étudier les langues étrangères.

I think it's very important to... study foreign languages.

Caption 1, Allons en France - Pourquoi apprendre le français?

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When you make trouver and retrouver reflexive, their meanings become less straightforward. Take a look at this sentence, in which the explorer James Bruce expresses his certainty about the location of the source of the Nile: 

 

Et elle se trouve sûrement là-bas!

And it is certainly over there!

Caption 10, Il était une fois - les Explorateurs - 15. Bruce et les sources du Nil

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Elle se trouve literally means “it is found,” but se trouver can also be translated as “to be located” or simply “to be.” Don’t confuse this with the set expression il se trouve que..., which means “it just so happens that…” or “it turns out that…”:

Il se trouve que j’ai une autre paire de gants. 
It just so happens that I have another pair of gloves. 

When you make retrouver reflexive, it has the sense of being somewhere again or meeting again: 

 

Les Marseillais ne cachent pas le plaisir de se retrouver.

The Marseille residents are not hiding the pleasure of getting together again.

Caption 32, Alsace 20 - Rencontre avec les membres d'IAM

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On se retrouve au café après l'école?
Shall we meet at the café after school? 

 

Se retrouver can also refer to finding oneself in a particular situation: 

Je me suis retrouvé le bec dans l'eau.
found myself with my beak in the water. [I was left high and dry.]

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We hope you’ve found this lesson helpful and that you find everything you may have lost! 

Vocabulary

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