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Risky Business

In his latest video on the coronavirus pandemic, Lionel talks about the measures being taken to control the spread of the virus in France. Like everyone else in the world, French people are trying to minimize the risk of catching the virus by staying inside and wearing masks when they have to go out. 

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Though risk is a major theme of the video, when Lionel uses the verb risquer, he means something a bit different: 

 

Lors du déconfinement,

During reopening,

nous risquons de sortir avec des masques

we're likely going out with masks

et... les distanciations sociales

and... social distancing

risquent de durer un bon moment.

is likely going to last for quite some time.

Captions 35-38, Lionel L - La pandémie, un mois déjà

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We don't "risk" going out with masks on, nor does social distancing "risk" lasting for a while longer. (Quite the contary: these are the very measures that are reducing risk). Risquer often just means "to be likely" (être probable) or "there's a good chance that." The stakes don't have to be that high:

 

Cette année, Noël risque d'être très présent dans les rues.

This year, Christmas is bound to be very present on the streets.

Caption 22, TV Vendée - Le sapin de Noël décoré par les enfants

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But risquer can also mean "to risk" or "run the risk of":

 

Si ça continue à cuire, ça risque de perdre sa belle couleur.

If they continue to cook, they run the risk of losing their beautiful color.

Caption 57, 4 Mains pour 1 Piano - Médaillon de Homard

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Il a risqué sa vie pour sauver le chien.

He risked his life to save the dog. 

 

Its noun form, risque, can mean "risk," "danger," or "chance." Note that, though it ends in an e, risque is masculine: 

 

Le risque avec les lamas, c'est qu'en grandissant,

The danger with llamas is that as they grow up,

ils peuvent devenir agressifs.

they may become aggressive.

Caption 25, Angers 7 - Un lama en plein appartement

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There's also the adjective risqué, which you probably recognize. Though risqué can mean "racy" and "suggestive," as it does in English, it also just means "risky":

 

Pour elles c'est trop risqué de s'accrocher à la locomotive.

For them it's too risky to grab on to the engine.

Caption 47, Grand Corps Malade - Les Voyages en train

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Some say it's a good thing to take a lot of risks, but these days, that doesn't seem like the safest advice. Ne prenez pas de risque! (Don't take any risks!)

Vocabulary

Striking Agreements and Chords with Accord

We've touched on grammatical agreement in previous lessons, but in this one we're focusing on the word "agreement" itself. The French word for "agreement" is un accord, and its verbal form, accorder, means "to agree" or "to make an agreement":

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Et les accords, également. Savoir comment on accorde un adjectif à son sujet, par exemple.

And agreements too. Knowing how you make an adjective agree with its subject, for example.

Captions 11-12, Le saviez-vous? - Les bénéfices de la dictée

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Un accord is "an agreement" in all senses, not just a grammatical one. It can refer to an official agreement, something you might sign or seal:

 

Eh bien, scellons cet accord!

Well then, let's seal this agreement!

Caption 16, Il était une fois... l’Homme - 6. Le siècle de Périclès

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Or it can refer to a verbal agreement, to permission or consent:

 

Il me fallait aussi l'accord de ses parents.

I also needed the consent of her parents.

Caption 30, Le Jour où tout a basculé - Mon père s'oppose à ma passion

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It's pretty obvious that this is where the English word "accord" comes from. But did you know that accord is also the root of the word "chord"?

 

Ce morceau se joue sur trois accords.

This piece is played with three chords.

Caption 7, Leçons de guitare - Leçon 3

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(It's not, however, the root of the word "cord." That would be une corde—a cord, rope, or string.)

 

On another musical note, accord is also the word for "harmony" in a figurative sense, referring to a match, fit, rapport, or understanding: 

 

Le riesling ça reste quand même sur les huîtres un accord parfait.

Riesling still remains in perfect harmony with oysters.

Caption 71, Alsace 20 - 100 recettes pour 100 vins

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Alors c'est quoi le bon accord mets et vins?

So what is the good pairing of food and wine?

Caption 8, Alsace 20 - 100 recettes pour 100 vins

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Nous sommes en parfait accord.
We are in complete agreement/harmony.

 

But you're most likely to encounter accord in the expression d'accord, the French equivalent of "OK" or "all right":

 

D'accord, ça marche pour moi.
OK, that works for me.

 

D'accord is an abbreviated form of the phrase être d'accord, "to agree" or "to be in agreement":

 

On s'est quitté d'un commun accord, mais elle était plus d'accord que moi

We left each other with a mutual agreement, but she was more in agreement than I

Caption 51, Grand Corps Malade - Les Voyages en train

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Certaines personnes sont pas d'accord avec l'enfermement des animaux.

Some people don't agree with the confinement of animals.

Caption 21, Actus Quartier - Bêtes de scène ?

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D'accord, c'est tout pour cette leçon!

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. 

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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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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

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