French Lessons


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":



Mais surtout c'est toi

But most of all, it's you

Caption 30, Aldebert - La vie c'est quoi ?

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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,

But for one who appreciates painting,

ici, la lumière est particulièrement belle.

the light here is particularly beautiful.

Caption 8, Arles - Un Petit Tour d'Arles

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Les plages de la côte atlantique et en particulier

The beaches on the Atlantic coast and in particular

de la côte basque sont des plages très étendues.

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

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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!


The French Conditional - Part 1

The French Conditional - Part 2

In her latest lesson, Patricia introduces the conditional mood, used to describe hypothetical situations. Unlike the indicative mood, which refers to definite, certain actions or events, the conditional refers to anything indefinite or uncertain. The French conditional generally corresponds to "would" in English—"would go," "would say," "would run," etc. 


Conjugating the conditional is fairly straightforward. You just take the infinitive form of the verb and add the ending -ais, -ais, -ait, -ions, -iez, or -aient (though there are some exceptions to this rule). Let's take the verb parler (to talk) as an example:


je parlerais (I would talk)                        nous parlerions (we would talk)
tu parlerais (you [sing.] would talk)        vous parleriez (you [pl.] would talk)
il/elle parlerait (he/she would talk)          ils/elles parleraient (they would talk)



You may have noticed that these endings are the same as those used in the imperfect tense. In fact, you'll often see the conditional paired with the imperfect in si (if) clauses:


Que ferais-tu si tu gagnais à la loterie?  
What would you do if you won the lottery?


Si j'avais soigné mon épaule,

If I had taken care of my shoulder,

je lèverais mon bras.

I would raise my arm.

Captions 14-15, Le saviez-vous? - Le mode du conditionnel

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(J'avais soigné is actually a pluperfect construction, which Patricia reviews in another video.)


The conditional isn't only found in si clauses. You can also use it to express a request or a wish:


Pardon, excusez-moi,

Sorry, excuse me,

est-ce que vous pourriez m'aider à traverser la rue?

could you help me cross the street?

Caption 22, Cap 24 - Alessandro Di Sarno se met à nu !

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Je voudrais juste une rose.

I would just like a rose.

Caption 11, Bande-annonce - La Belle et La Bête

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As we discussed in a previous lesson, the conditional can also be used to express uncertainty or to report something you heard from someone else. In this case it's often translated with words like "apparently," "supposedly," "reportedly," etc.:


Le rire serait aussi bénéfique que le sport.

Laughter is apparently as good for you as sports.

Caption 16, Le Journal - Les effets bénéfiques du rire!

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In our next lesson, we'll show you how to construct the conditional in the past tense. In the meantime, be sure to check out Patricia's video on the future tense, which has a similar conjugation pattern to the conditional. You wouldn't want to get them confused!


Don't Forget About "Dont"!

In our last lesson, we introduced the word dont, a relative pronoun with a wide variety of uses. Let's start with the two most straightforward meanings of dont: "whose" and "including": 


...un riche marchand

...there was a rich merchant

dont la fille préférée s'appelait Belle.

whose favorite daughter was called Belle.

Caption 2, Bande-annonce - La Belle et la Bête

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Et grâce à lui,

And thanks to him,

j'ai rencontré beaucoup de gens très intéressants, dont Gilles Proulx.

I met lots of very interesting people, including Gilles Proulx.

Caption 29, Le Québec parle - aux Français

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It's usually pretty easy to distinguish these two uses of dont from context, but punctuation also provides a clue: dont is usually preceded by a comma when it means "including," but not when it means "whose."  


Now let's get into the grammar behind dont. Like all relative pronounsdont refers back to an element in the main clause (un riche marchand and gens très intéressants in the examples above). But in many cases, dont more specifically refers to the preposition de + a noun. To see how this plays out, let's look at how dont can be used to combine two sentences into one:

J'ai un chat. Le poil de mon chat est très doux.   
I have a cat. My cat's fur is very soft.
J'ai un chat dont le poil est très doux. 
I have a cat whose fur is very soft. 


As you can see, dont stands in for de and refers back to chat. It also prevents the redundancy of saying chat twice.


Dont often replaces the de used in fixed expressionssuch as être fier/fière de (to be proud of), parler de (to talk about), and avoir besoin de (to need):


Et puis il y a une chose dont Michel est particulièrement fier.

And then there is one thing that Michel is particularly proud of.

Caption 36, Le Journal - L'île de Pâques

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...dans la ville de Dongtan en Chine, dont nous avons déjà parlé. the city of Dongtan in China, about which we've already spoken.

Caption 17, Il était une fois: Notre Terre - 25. Technologies

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Voici le livre dont j'ai besoin.
Here is the book that I need. 


We could rewrite all of these examples using de:

Et puis Michel est particulièrement fier d'une chose. 
And then Michel is particularly proud of one thing.

Nous avons déjà parlé de la ville de Dongtan en Chine. 
We've already spoken about the city of Dongtan in China.

J'ai besoin de ce livre-ci. 
I need this book. 


That about covers it for dont! Though the scope of its applications can be a little daunting, it's a very useful and succinct word that will make your French sound very sophisticated. Don't neglect to use dont whenever you can! 


This and That - Part 2

This and That - Part 1

In our last lesson, we introduced the French demonstrative pronouns (celui, celle, ceux, celles), which combine with the suffixes ci (here) and  (there) to form expressions such as "this one," "that one," "these," and "those." In this lesson, we'll explore two other useful constructions featuring these pronouns.


The first is celui/celle/ceux/celles + de + noun, which is used to indicate ownership or possession. Here's a straightforward example from the Beauty and the Beast trailer: 


Je suis venue échanger ma vie contre celle de mon père.

I've come to exchange my life for that of my father.

Caption 26, Bande-annonce - La Belle et la Bête

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"That of my father" is the literal translation of celle de mon père, but the sentence could also have been translated as, "I've come to exchange my life for my father's." As we mentioned in the last lesson, the demonstrative pronoun has to agree in gender and number with the word it's referring to. In this case, the feminine singular celle refers to the feminine singular noun vie


The second construction is celui/celle/ceux/celles + qui, que, or dontQui (that, who) and que (that, whom) are relative pronouns, or words that introduce a dependent clause. While qui acts as the subject of the clause (usually followed by a verb), que acts as the object (usually followed by a noun or pronoun). With a demonstrative pronoun in front of them, they create expressions like "the one(s) that/who" (demonstrative pronoun + qui) and "the one(s) that/whom" (demonstrative pronoun + que): 


Vous savez... celui qui se trouve derrière la maison voisine.

You know... the one that's behind the house next door.

Caption 20, Il était une fois: Notre Terre - 9. Les écosystèmes

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...dans des situations un peu meilleures que situations that are a little bit better than

celles qu'ils avaient en arrivant.

the ones that they had when they arrived.

Caption 26, Le Journal - Les Restos du Cœur

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Cet homme n'est pas celui que j'ai vu hier. 
That man is not the one whom I saw yesterday. 


Dont is another relative pronoun that means "whose" or "of which": 


J'habite une maison dont les volets sont bleus.
I live in a house whose shutters are blue. 


The demonstrative pronoun + dont combination means "the one(s) whose" or "the one(s) of/about which." In this combination, dont often replaces an object preceded by de:

Tu parles de ma chemise rouge?

Are you talking about my red shirt?

-Non, celle dont je parle est bleue. 

-No, the one that I'm talking about is blue. 


So, to review, the three major constructions featuring demonstrative pronouns are:


-demonstrative pronoun + -ci or - (celui-cicelle-là, etc.)
-demonstrative pronoun + de + noun (celle de mon père)
-demonstrative pronoun + qui, que, or dont (celui que j'ai vu hier)


The two big takeaways here are that demonstrative pronouns always replace a previously mentioned noun (and must agree with it in gender and number) and are always accompanied by another word, whether the suffixes ci and , the preposition de, or the relative pronouns qui, que, and dont


That about covers it for demonstrative pronouns! If you have any suggestions for future lesson topics, feel free to tweet us @yabla or email us at


Terrible or Terrific?

In the French drama series Plus belle la vie the character Zoé has been fighting to prove her father Stéphane’s innocence after he was identified as a murder suspect. In one episode Stéphane asks Zoé how she’s holding up when she comes to visit him in prison:


Comment tu te sens?

How are you feeling?

-Pas terrible. Je sais que c'est pas toi qui as fait ça.

-Not great. I know it’s not you who did this.



If Zoé were feeling “not terrible,” that might suggest that she’s doing fairly well, but the rest of the episode suggests otherwise. In fact, pas terrible is an idiom meaning “not great.” Though terrible often has a negative sense as it does in English, it can also mean something along the lines of “formidable,” “huge,” or even “terrific”:


J'ai eu une chance terrible cette année.

I've been tremendously lucky this year.


The meaning of terrible really depends on context. So when the narrator of this news segment calls Roman Polanski’s Death and the Maiden “un film terrible,” we can assume he’s not giving the movie a bad review, but rather commenting on its harrowing subject matter: 


Une pièce du Chilien Ariel Dorfman,

A play by the Chilean Ariel Dorfman,

dont Polanski tira un film terrible avec

which Polanski made into a chilling film with

Sigourney Weaver et Ben Kingsley.

Sigourney Weaver and Ben Kingsley.

Captions 2-3, TLT Toulouse - Dorfman mis en scène à Toulouse

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Though it can be easy for English speakers to misunderstand the meaning of terrible, there are many occasions when it directly translates as "terrible," as in this trailer for Beauty and the Beast:


Lors d'une terrible tempête, le marchand perdit sa fortune.

During a terrible storm, the merchant lost his fortune.

Caption 3, Bande-annonce - La Belle et La Bête

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You might be wondering why we have une terrible tempête here but un film terrible and une chance terrible above. The answer will help you decipher the adjective's meaning: when terrible comes before the noun, it usually means "terrible," but when it comes after the noun, it usually means "tremendous," "formidable," or something similar.


Just double-check whenever you come across it to make sure you aren’t in the midst of une terrible méprise (a terrible misunderstanding)!


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Important Phrases with "Importer"

The verb importer has two different meanings: “to import” (goods or merchandise, or even a computer file) and “to be important” or “to matter.” You can use the phrase il importe as a more formal alternative to il est important (it is important) when giving a warning or instruction:

Il importe de se laver les mains avant de manger. 
It is important to wash your hands before you eat. 


But more often, you’ll see the verb used in two set expressions to refer to things that aren’t important, or whose specific identity doesn’t matter. The first of these expressions is peu importe, which means “little does it matter”:


Peu importe si je veux ça, mes larmes en vain,

Little does it matter if I want it, my tears in vain,

et peu importe des lendemains si je t'aime

and little do the tomorrows matter if I love you

Caption 11, Peach FTL - L'Empreinte

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The other expression is not as straightforward but probably even more common. Take a look at this sentence:


C'est le seul art que tu peux faire n'importe où, n'importe quand.

It's the only art that you can do anywhere, anytime.

Captions 7-8, B-Girl Frak - La Danse

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You’ll have to watch the video to find out what artform B-Girl Frak is referring to (though you might be able to guess from the title), but for now, let’s focus on the phrases n’importe où and n’importe quand. Literally translated, they mean “doesn’t matter where” and “doesn’t matter when,” which are roundabout ways of saying “anywhere” and “anytime.” In French, the construction “n’importe + interrogative word (où, quand, qui, quoi, comment, quel)” corresponds to English phrases beginning with “any” (anywhere, anytime, anyone, etc.).

Depending on context, this construction can function as a few different parts of speech. For instance, while n’importe où and n’importe quand act as adverbs, n’importe qui (anyone) and n’importe quand (anytime) act as indefinite pronouns: 


Et qui l'achète? Ah, n'importe qui.

And who buys it? Ah, anyone.

Captions 4-5, Le Journal - La bougie du sapeur

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Le marché Dauphine,

The "Marché Dauphine" [Dauphine Market],

une véritable caverne d'Ali Baba, ici on trouve n'importe quoi.

a veritable Ali Baba's cave, here we find anything.

Caption 2, Cap 24 - Paris : Alessandro fait les Puces!

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N’importe quoi can also be used more informally to mean “ridiculous” or “nonsense”: 


Là, je trouve ça n'importe quoi, parce que, voilà,

I think it's ridiculous because, you know,

chacun a ses... a sa religion.

everyone has ... has his or her own religion.

Caption 16, Grand Lille TV - Sondage: le voile intégral

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If you want to be a bit more specific than “anyone” or “anything,” you can use the expression n’importe quel/quelles/quels/quelles, which is always followed by a noun: 


Vous parlez comme n'importe quel homme.

You talk like any other man.

Caption 31, Bande-annonce - La Belle et La Bête

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Lequel, laquelle, lesquels, and lesquelles can be used to replace “quel/quelle/quels/quelles + noun” (more on that here). Likewise, you can also put n’importe in front of those words to express indifference:

Tu veux aller à la plage ou à la piscine? -N’importe laquelle
Do you want to go to the beach or to the pool? -Either one

Finally, there’s the adverb phrase n’importe comment, which literally means “any how,” but is usually translated as “any way” or “any which way.” The French house artist Toxic Avenger devoted an entire song to this phrase: 


Bouge ton corps n'importe comment

Move your body any which way

Caption 24, The Toxic Avenger - N'importe comment

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In informal speech, you’ll even hear n’importe used as a standalone phrase to mean “it doesn’t matter” or “I don’t care” (or even just "whatever"). We hope that you do care about all of the different ways to use importer!


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.


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,

Thalar, my dear friend,

avez-vous enquêté auprès de tous les animaux?

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,

Once you're with the chiefs,

tu pourras leur parler de ce que tu voudras.

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

So visits take place every day and are free,

mais pensez à réserver auprès de l'Office du Tourisme de Tourcoing.

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,

Today, for example,

elle reçoit des chargés de mission auprès du gouvernement.

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. 



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! 


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