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Hello and Have a Good Day!

Lesson 63. Vocabulary
In an introductory French class, Lionel gives a rundown of some basic ways to greet people in French:

C'est le soir. Bonne soirée.
It's the evening. Good evening.
Cap. 26,
Leçons avec Lionel: Salutations 

In English, a “soirée” is a fancy party usually held in the evening. Though the French word soirée can also refer to a party, its basic meaning is just “evening,” which isn’t quite as fancy. You can see from the example above that there is another French word for “evening”: le soir. Likewise, there is also another way to say “good evening”: bonsoir. So what’s the difference between le soir and la soirée and bonsoir and bonne soirée?

It’s not just that le soir is masculine and la soirée is feminine or that bonsoir is one word and bonne soirée is two. It’s more a question of emphasis: la soirée generally refers to the duration of an evening, whereas le soir just refers to a specific time. The difference is pretty subtle, and the words are often interchangeable, but it’s good to know that this pattern applies to other time-related words as well: matin/matinée (morning), jour/journée (day), and an/année (year). 

In this weather report, the phrase toute la matinée emphasizes the durational aspect of matinée
 
En effet, le soleil va briller de Wissembourg à Saint-Louis durant toute la matinée.
Indeed, the sun will shine from Wissembourg to Saint-Louis all morning long.
Cap. 3,
Alsace 20: Météo du 2 juillet 2010

If she just wanted to emphasize the specific time of day, the weather reporter could have said something like:

En effet, le soleil va briller de Wissembourg à Saint-Louis demain matin
Indeed, the sun will shine from Wissembourg to Saint-Louis tomorrow morning


Note that matinée never refers to a daytime theater performance or movie screening, as it does in English. In French, it just means "morning." To get another sense of morning as a duration of time, think about the French expression for “sleeping in,” faire la grasse matinée (literally, “fat morning”). When you sleep in, you spend a good amount of the morning (if not the whole morning, or toute la matinée!) in bed: 

Il travaille bien en classe; il ne fait jamais la grasse matinée!
He works hard in class; he never sleeps in!
Cap. 15,
Les zooriginaux: 2 - Tel père tel fils - Part 1 

The pattern continues with jour/journée. Notice the difference in meaning between toute la journée and tous les jours

Je suis sur la plage toute la journée.
I'm on the beach all day long.
Cap. 8,
Fred et Miami Catamarans: Fred et sa vie à Miami 

Je suis sur la plage tous les jours
I'm on the beach every day


Bonjour is the standard way to say “hello” (or “good day”), but as you may have guessed, you can also say bonne journée. Bonne journée is usually translated as “have a good day,” and this same distinction can be applied to bonsoir and bonne soirée. You'd tend to say bonjour/bonsoir when greeting someone and bonne journée/bonne soirée when leaving them. However, you generally won’t hear bon matin or bonne matinée in French—”good morning” is simply bonjour. And there is only one way to say “good afternoon” (bon après-midi) and “good night” (bonne nuit), which you only say before going to bed. 

Finally, there is an/année. Again, you would use an to refer to a specific year or number of years:

Dans trois ans, j’aurai trente ans.
In three years, I will be thirty years old. 


Une année is a one-year span, but it can also refer less precisely to a period of 11 or 13 months (whereas un an is strictly 12 months): 

C'est pour ça que je voulais vraiment absolument m'arrêter ici pendant pendant une année....
That's why I really absolutely wanted to stop here for a year....
Cap. 36-37,
Le Québec parle aux Français: Part 2/11

You can’t wish somebody a bon an in French, but you can certainly wish them a bonne année. In fact, bonne année happens to be the phrase for “Happy New Year," while "New Year's" (referring to the specific day) is le Nouvel An or le jour de l'An. Since the holidays are fast approaching, in addition to a bonne journée and a bonne soirée, we at Yabla also wish you a bonne année for le Nouvel An (a few months in advance)! 

Up Close and Personal with "Auprès"

Lesson 62. Vocabulary
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…
Cap. 42,
Bande-annonce: La Belle et la Bête

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, avez-vous enquêté auprès de tous les animaux?
Thalar, my dear friend, did you inquire among all the animals?
Cap. 40,
Les zooriginaux: 3. Qui suis-je? - Part 4 

Une fois que tu seras auprès des chefs, tu pourras leur parler de ce que tu voudras.
Once you're with the chiefs, you'll be able to talk to them about whatever you like.
Cap. 2-3,
Il était une fois… L’Espace: 6. La révolte des robots - Part 5 

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 mais pensez à réserver auprès de l'Office du Tourisme de Tourcoing.
So visits take place every day and are free, but think about making a reservation at the Tourcoing Tourism Office.
Cap. 17-18,
Grand Lille TV: Visite des serres de Tourcoing 

Aujourd'hui, par exemple, elle reçoit des chargés de mission auprès du gouvernement.
Today, for example, she meets with government representatives.
Cap. 33,
Le Journal: Les microcrédits 

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! 

C'est l'intention qui compte!

Lesson 61. Vocabulary
If you’ve studied our recent lesson on French numbers, you should theoretically be able to count to a billion (compter jusqu’à un milliard) in French. But since no one has time to do that, let’s focus on some other, more practical uses of the verb compter
 
Counting doesn’t always involve numbers. For example, if you’re relying on someone to do something, you’re counting on (compter sur) them, as this Parisian chef is counting on us to visit his restaurant:
 
À vous aussi de venir ici, on compte sur vous.
Up to you to come here too, we're counting on you. 
 
You can also count on a future event to happen (or not happen). Bertrand Pierre is an extremely talented singer-songwriter, but for some reason he doesn’t expect to make it big. He expresses his pragmatism with the construction “compter + infinitive”:
 
Je compte pas devenir une star internationale, c'est pas ça que je veux dire.    
I'm not expecting to become an international star, that's not what I mean.
 
Sometimes compter refers not to counting numbers, but containing them. If the subject of the verb compter is an inanimate object, it’s most likely describing contents:
 
Après un peu de lecture, dans une bibliothèque qui compte quarante mille volumes...     
After a bit of reading, in a library that contains forty thousand volumes…
 
Quite a few expressions are based on the noun form of compter, compte, which can mean “count,” “total,” or “account.” If you’re a Yabla subscriber, for example, you have un compte (an account) with us. Un compte can also mean “account” in a more figurative sense, as in the expression prendre en compte (to take into account):
 
Tous ces éléments-là sont importants aussi à prendre en compte...
All those elements there are also important to take into account...
 
A very common expression with compte is se rendre compte, which means “to realize” or “become aware” (literally, “to give an account to oneself”). In the latest installment of our Il était une fois episode on Scottish explorer James Bruce, a shipmate reflects on the crew's recent discovery of Abyssinia:
 
Tu te rends compte, Luigi, nous repoussons les limites de l'inconnu.    
You realize, Luigi, we're pushing the limits of the unknown.     
 
Don’t forget that se rendre compte is a reflexive expression, and its meaning changes completely when you remove the se: instead of giving an account to yourself, you’re giving an account to someone else, i.e., reporting to them: 
 
On y va? -Oui, mais d'abord, on rend compte à Oméga.     
Shall we go? -Yes, but first we report to Omega.     
 
We’ll end with a compte expression that deals with endings: en fin de compte (literally, “at the end of the account”), which can be translated as “ultimately,” “at the end of the day,” or “when all is said and done”: 
 
En fin de compte, un bateau qui est propulsé par une motorisation cent pour cent électrique. 
Ultimately, a boat that's propelled by one hundred percent electric power. 
 
Compte tenu de (taking into account) all of the different ways of using compter and compte, you might feel overwhelmed when trying to remember them all. But don’t worry if you can’t master them right away: c’est l’intention qui compte (it’s the thought that counts)! 

Les noms en français

Lesson 60. Vocabulary

If someone asks you what your name is in French (Comment t’appelles-tu?), you probably know to respond with the phrase je m’appelle… (my name is…). But what’s in a name? Or, more specifically, what are the different parts of a French name?  

First there is le prénom (“first name,” literally “pre-name”), which is not to be confused with le pronom, or “pronoun” (le nom means both “name” and “noun”). This “Le Journal” video is all about first names, focusing on the most popular baby names in France: 
 
C'est un prénom qui passe bien pour une jeune fille, pour une dame 
It's a name that works well for a girl, for a woman 
 
After le prénom comes le deuxième prénom, which literally means “second first name,” i.e. “middle name.” Finally, there’s le nom de famille (“family name” or “surname”). 
 
Watch out for the word surnom, which is a faux ami of “surname.” Un surnom is “a nickname,” and its verbal form surnommer means “to nickname”: 
 
Et enfin, les habitants de la Butte aux Cailles sont surnommés les Cailleux.
And finally, the residents of the Butte aux Cailles are nicknamed the "Cailleux."
 
Surnommer comes from the verb nommer (to name, to call). When you make nommer reflexive (se nommer), it means “to be named” or “to be called”: 
 
Ce système de redistribution “intelligent” se nomme “smart grid”.
This “intelligent” redistribution system is called “smart grid.”
 
You can also use se nommer to refer to a person’s name, but it’s a bit more formal in that context than its synonym s’appeler:
 
Ma mère se nomme Louise.
My mother is named Louise. 
 
There are other types of names besides your birth name (nom de naissance). If you’re a performer, for example, you might adopt a new name for your stage persona: 
 
C’est quoi ton nom de scène
What’s your stage name?
 
Or, if you prefer the pen to the stage, you might take on a nom de plume:
 
"Voltaire" était le nom de plume de François-Marie Arouet. 
"Voltaire" was the pen name of François-Marie Arouet. 
 
In a previous lesson on the word mademoiselle, we talked about some recent changes that were made to the vocabulary used in French government documents. Among them is the abolition of the phrase nom de jeune fille (maiden name) in favor of nom de famille, and the phrase nom d’époux/nom d’épouse (married name) in favor of nom d’usage (used name).
 
So now, if you ever have the pleasure of filling out paperwork in French, you shouldn’t have to worry about writing your names in the wrong boxes! 

 

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