Être en train de is a handy French expression that describes an event in progress. It's always followed by an infinitive and is often translated as "to be in the process of" or "to be in the middle of":
Donc, je suis en deuxième année là; je suis en train d'achever ma formation.
So, I'm in my second year now; I'm in the process of completing my training.
Cap. 19, 4 Mains Pour 1 Piano: Médaillon de Homard - Part 1
Là je suis en train de régler les meules pour que le grain soit correctement écrasé.
Here I am in the middle of setting the millstones so that the grain is crushed correctly.
Cap. 4, Télé Lyon Métropole: Chaillé-les-Marais - Une biscuiterie 100 % familiale
But just as often, être en train de can simply be translated with the present progressive tense ("to be doing," "to be making," etc.):
Donc, en ce moment, on est en train de faire des truffes cacao.
So, right now, we're making cocoa truffles.
Cap. 7, Canadian Chocolate Seller: Chocolats
In French, there is no difference between the present tense and the present progressive tense: on fait can mean both "we make" and "we are making." So the above example could also be written:
Donc, en ce moment, on fait des truffes cacao.
So, right now, we're making cocoa truffles.
Être en train de emphasizes the fact that the activity is currently in progress (further emphasized above by en ce moment). In fact, "currently" is another possible translation of être en train de:
...je suis en train de travailler avec celui qui a fait "Pulp Fiction"
...I'm currently working with the person who made "Pulp Fiction"
Cap. 7, Melissa Mars: From Paris With Love
You can also use être en train de to describe a continuing event in the past. In this case, it's synonymous with the imperfect tense:
Quand j'ai fait cette photo, la baleine était en train de dormir.
When I took this picture, the whale was sleeping.
Cap. 25, Le Journal: Sillonner & photographier les océans
Quand j'ai fait cette photo, la baleine dormait.
When I took this picture, the whale was sleeping.
Here again, être en train de stresses the continuousness of the action: the whale was "in the process of" sleeping when the speaker took the picture.
Être en cours de has the same meaning and function as être en train de, except it's usually followed by a noun instead of an infinitive:
Un immense chantier est en cours d'achèvement.
A huge construction project is being completed.
Cap. 23, Voyage dans Paris: Cour de l'Industrie - Part 1
A final note: Make sure not to confuse en train with entrain, a noun meaning "enthusiasm" or "liveliness." Nous espérons que vous êtes en train d'étudier le français avec entrain! (We hope you're in the process of studying French with enthusiasm!)
In the latest episode of "Le Jour où tout a basculé," Frédéric accuses his wife Anne-Sophie of cheating on him with her ex, but Anne-Sophie insists he's mistaken. Both of them use the verb tromper to state their cases:
Quatre ans plus tôt, Anne-Sophie m'avait trompé. C'était une histoire sans lendemain.
Four years earlier, Anne-Sophie had cheated on me. It was a short-lived affair.
Cap. 40, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Nos bébés ont été échangés - Part 1
Tu t'es toujours trompé avec lui.
You've always been mistaken about him.
Cap. 8, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Nos bébés ont été échangés - Part 1
While Frédéric uses tromper to mean "to cheat" or "deceive," Anne-Sophie uses the reflexive form of the verb, se tromper, which means "to be mistaken" (literally, "to deceive oneself"). Frédéric also uses se tromper later in the video:
Je m'étais pas trompé. Ce fameux soir, c'est un mail de son ex sur lequel je suis tombé.
I was not wrong. That famous evening, it was an email from her ex I came across.
Cap. 43, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Nos bébés ont été échangés - Part 1
You'll have to stay tuned to find out who's really being deceived here. There's a lot more at stake in this episode than potential infidelity!
Tromper isn't only reserved for marital dramas. It's the best verb to use whenever you've been duped, tricked, fooled, or misled (which hopefully isn't that often!):
Le marchand m'a trompé. Il m'a vendu une montre cassée.
The shopkeeper misled me. He sold me a broken watch.
Being mistaken is usually not as serious as being cheated, so you'll often see se tromper used in more mundane situations. You can add de + a noun after it to specify what the person is mistaken about:
Bonjour, pourrais-je parler à Christine? -Désolé, vous vous êtes trompé de numéro.
Hello, may I speak to Christine? -Sorry, you've got the wrong number.
Je pense que nous nous sommes trompés de bus.
I think we got on the wrong bus.
You may be familiar with a painting technique known as "trompe-l'œil" (literally, "tricks the eye"), which creates an illusion of three-dimensionality. Daniel shows us an interesting example of this technique in a church in Provins:
Observez quelques instants au cœur de l'église cet effet de trompe-l'œil...
Observe for a few moments in the heart of the church this trompe-l'œil effect...
Cap. 33-34, Voyage en France: La ville de Provins - Part 3
We hope this lesson has helped you tromper l'ennui (stave off boredom)!
As we mentioned in our last lesson, a direct object is a noun that receives the action of a verb (such as "the ball" in "I throw the ball"). On the other hand, an indirect object indicates to whom or for whom the action is done (such as "my friend" in "I throw the ball to my friend"). Just as direct object pronouns replace direct objects (e.g. "I throw it to my friend"), indirect object pronouns replace indirect objects ("I throw the ball to him/her"). There are six indirect object pronouns in French:
me (to me) nous (to us)
te (to you) vous (to you)
lui (to him/her) leur (to them)
In French, an indirect object pronoun usually replaces "à (to) + a person." Unlike direct object pronouns, which can refer to either people or things, indirect object pronouns only refer to people.
Je jette le ballon à mon amie. / Je lui jette le ballon.
I throw the ball to my friend. / I throw her the ball [or "I throw the ball to her"].
The following example contains a mixture of direct and indirect pronouns. How did the speaker know when to use which?
Il m'a dit: "Je le garde". Ben, je lui ai dit: "Écoutez, expliquez aux quatre cents personnes...”
He told me, "I'm keeping it." Well, I told him, "Listen, explain to the four hundred people...”
Cap. 24, Actu Vingtième: Vendanges parisiennes
It all depends on whether the verb in question would normally be followed by the preposition à. Garder isn't followed by à: you would say garder quelque chose (to keep something), but never garder à quelque chose. If you watch the video, you'll know from context that the speaker is referring to le fromage (cheese). So instead of saying je garde le fromage, he uses the direct object pronoun le (je le garde). On the other hand, you would say dire à quelqu'un (to tell someone), but never dire quelqu'un. Because of that à, the speaker knows to use the indirect objects me and lui.
Here are some other examples of indirect object pronouns in action:
Si la nuit me parle de souvenirs passés
If the night speaks to me about past memories
Cap. 3-4, Boulbar: New York, 6 heures du matin
Mais je te donne plus que des mots
But I give you more than words
Cap. 12, Corneille: Comme un fils
Et là, je leur ai envoyé une petite nouvelle…
And here, I sent them a little short story…
Cap. 86, Claudine Thibout Pivert: 2ème Salon du livre et des vieux papiers Mazamet
We know these are indirect object pronouns because they all replace "à + person" in the verbal expressions parler à quelqu'un (to speak to someone), donner à quelqu'un (to give to someone), and envoyer à quelqu'un (to send to someone).
As you learned in our last lesson, when a direct object pronoun is followed by a verb in the past tense (passé composé), the past participle needs to agree in number and gender with the direct object pronoun. On the other hand, you don't have to worry about agreement in the passé composé with indirect object pronouns. That's why you have je leur ai envoyé in the example above and not je leur ai envoyés or je leur ai envoyées.
A direct object is a noun that receives the action of a verb, such as the word "cookie" in the sentence, "I'm eating the cookie." It generally answers the question "what?" or "whom?" ("What am I eating? The cookie.") A direct object pronoun replaces the direct object when the latter is already implied. So instead of "I'm eating the cookie," you could just say, "I'm eating it."
The French direct object pronouns are:
me (me) nous (us)
te (you) vous (you)
le (him, it) les (them, masculine and feminine)
la (her, it)
Direct object pronouns have the same function in French as they do in English, with a few important distinctions. The most notable of these is that whereas in English the direct object always comes after the verb, in French it always comes before (except in the imperative, as we discussed in a previous lesson):
Ce livre me fascine.
This book fascinates me.
Quand un copain t'appelle pour son déménagement
When a friend calls you to help him with his move
Cap. 4, Oldelaf: La Tristitude
The third-person singular direct object pronouns (le and la) have the same gender as the noun they refer to:
Le silence tue la souffrance, l'émoi
Silence kills suffering, the struggle
L'entends-tu, est-ce que tu le vois?
Do you hear it, do you see it?
Cap. 21-22, Indila: S.O.S.
La tarte à l'oignon! -Ouais, comment vous la faites? -Je la fais pas, je l'achète.
Onion tart! -Yeah, how do you make it? -I don't make it, I buy it.
Cap. 17, Actu Vingtième: Foire aux oignons
In the first example, the le of le vois refers to le silence. In the second, the la of la faites/la fais refers to la tarte à l'oignon. Both examples demonstrate another rule that applies to all singular direct object pronouns (me, te, le, and la): when the verb that comes after the pronoun begins with a vowel or silent h, the e or a of the pronoun is dropped and is replaced with an apostrophe (this is known as elision). That's why you have l'achète instead of la achète, l'entends instead of le entends, and t'appelle instead of te appelle.
Again, this only applies to singular direct object pronouns. With the plural pronouns, all you have to think about is number agreement. In the following examples, les refers to both the masculine plural ils and the feminine plural les pommes, and it doesn't change before a verb beginning with a vowel:
À l'assemblée, ils ont reçu un prix qui les touche mais les concerne peu…
At the assembly, they received a prize that touches them but concerns them little…
Cap. 25, Le Journal: Nouveaux artistes pluriculturels
Est-ce que tu aimes les pommes? -Non, je ne les aime pas.
Do you like apples? -No, I don't like them.
The only other tricky aspect of French direct object pronouns occurs in the past tense (passé composé). If you have a feminine singular, feminine plural, or masculine plural direct object pronoun before a verb in the passé composé, you need to make sure that the past participle agrees in number and gender with the noun you're referring to:
Je n'ai pas les jouets. Je les ai oubliés.
I don't have the toys. I forgot them.
Mais si toutes ces technologies existent depuis si longtemps, pourquoi est-ce qu'on ne les a pas utilisées?
But if all these technologies have existed for so long, why haven't we used them?
Cap. 3-4, Il était une fois - Notre Terre: 25. Technologies - Part 6
The root (masculine singular) forms of the above past participles are oublié and utilisé. But since jouets is masculine plural, we need to add an s to oublié to make it plural (oubliés). And since technologies is feminine plural, we need to add an e to utilisé to make it feminine and an s to make it plural (utilisées).
Stay tuned for part two of this series, which will focus on indirect object pronouns. À bientôt!
The subject of Lionel's latest video is Article 49-3 of the French Constitution, which gives the prime minister the power to push through legislation without a parliamentary vote. The government most recently invoked Article 49-3 to push through a labor reform bill that has sparked much controversy in France. Public outcry over the bill culminated in the Nuit Debout protest movement, which Lionel has also been covering for Yabla.
In his video, Lionel uses the verb phrase se passer de (to bypass, to do without) to describe the government's action:
Au final le gouvernement a décidé de passer en force, et s'est passé du vote de l'Assemblée Nationale et du Sénat.
In the end, the government decided to force its passage, and bypassed the vote of the National Assembly and the Senate.
Cap. 7-8, Lionel L: Le 49-3
The de in se passer de is crucial. If you remove it, you'll get a completely different expression, as Lionel demonstrates later on in the video:
…et que d'ores et déjà nous pouvons comparer à ce qui s'est passé en France
…and that already we can compare it to what happened in France
Cap. 19, Lionel L: Le 49-3
By itself, se passer means "to happen" or "occur," as in the expression, Qu'est-ce qui se passe? (What's happening?/What's going on?) You'll also hear it in the impersonal expression il s'est passé...:
Et il s'est passé quelque chose de complètement inédit pour moi…
And something happened that was completely new for me…
Cap. 45, Watt’s In: Indila - Dernière Danse Interview Exclu
But that's not all! Se passer can also mean "to pass" or "pass by" when referring to a period of time:
Six mois se sont passés depuis ma dernière visite.
Six months have passed since my last visit.
Stay tuned to Yabla to learn more about ce qui se passe (what's happening) throughout the French-speaking world!
At the end of "Tango," new on Yabla this week, Mélanie Laurent sings:
Parce qu'au fond tu l'aimes bien, elle te manquerait je crois
Because deep down you really love her, you would miss her, I think
Cap. 52, Mélanie Laurent: “Circus” & “Tango”
When you're talking about missing someone in French, manquer is the verb to use. However, in this context, manquer actually means "to be missing" rather than "to miss." Though elle te manquerait might appear to mean "she would miss you" upon first glance, its literal translation is actually "she would be missing from you," which is just another (perhaps more romantic) way of saying "you would miss her." So when talking to someone close to you whom you haven't seen in a while, make sure to say tu me manques ("I miss you," literally "you're missing from me") rather than je te manque ("you miss me," literally "I'm missing from you").
On the other hand, manquer does mean "to miss" when you're talking about missing something in the sense of not being there for it. In this context it's synonymous with the verb rater:
J'ai manqué [or raté] le bus.
I missed the bus.
The expression "manquer de + infinitive" (or just "manquer + infinitive") means "to nearly do something." "Faillir + infinitive" has the same meaning:
Il a manqué d'être tué [or: Il a failli être tué].
He was nearly killed.
But in the negative, this expression more often means "to not forget to do something":
Ne manquez pas de vous arrêter au numéro treize de l'avenue Junot
Don't forget to stop at number thirteen Avenue Junot
Cap. 12, Voyage dans Paris: Butte Montmartre
Another common meaning of manquer is "to lack," usually in the expression "manquer de + noun":
L'hôpital manque de moyens, comme toutes nos formations sanitaires, hein?
The hospital lacks resources, like all our medical facilities, huh?
Cap. 22, Le Journal: Hôpital ultra-moderne à Burkina Faso
In fact, the noun form of manquer, un manque, specifically means "a lack":
J’ai compris qu'il y avait un manque énorme au niveau, euh... alimentaire
I saw that there was an enormous lack at the, uh... alimentary level
Cap. 7, Alsace 20: Mangez bien, mangez alsacien!
Finally, manquer is also used in the impersonal expression "il manque + noun" ("x is missing"):
Il ne manque plus que l'argent nécessaire.
All that's missing is the necessary money.
Cap. 6, Il était une fois - Les découvreurs: 13. Stephenson - Part 6
In our last lesson, we introduced the French imperative mood, which is used to express a command or a request. We concluded the lesson with a discussion of reflexive verbs, which become hyphenated in the imperative: for example, se souvenir (to remember) becomes souviens-toi! (remember!). In fact, any imperative verb followed by an object pronoun requires a hyphen:
Ouais, donne-moi l'info.
Yeah, give me the info.
Cap. 45, Plus belle la vie: Episode 2771 - Part 7
An imperative verb can even precede two object pronouns (and therefore two hyphens). For example, we could shorten the above sentence to:
Yeah, give it to me.
Let's break that down: donne is the imperative verb (give), la is the direct object pronoun ("it," referring to "the info"), and moi is the indirect object pronoun (to me). Note that in imperative expressions like this, the direct object pronoun always comes before the indirect object pronoun. You can learn more about French object pronouns here.
On the other hand, when you negate an imperative verb with object pronouns, the hyphens disappear and the pronouns move before the verb:
Ne te souviens pas.
Ne me la donne pas.
Don't give it to me.
Though we mentioned in our previous lesson that the imperative is nearly identical to the present indicative form of a verb, there are four very common verbs for which this is not the case: avoir (to have), être (to be), savoir (to know), and vouloir (to want). For these verbs, the imperative is nearly identical to their present subjunctive forms:
Mon ami, n’aie pas peur
My friend, don’t be afraid
Cap. 18, Arthur H et M: Est-ce que tu m’aimes?
Mais soyons prudents!
But let's be careful!
Cap. 17, Il était une fois - les Explorateurs: 10. Amerigo Vespucci - Part 4
Sachez qu'il y a de nombreux trains directs de Paris vers Trouville, Deauville.
Know that there are numerous trains direct from Paris toward Trouville, Deauville.
Cap. 35, Voyage en France: La Normandie - Cabourg
The imperative form of vouloir is mostly used in the second-person plural (veuillez) as a formal way of saying "please":
Veuillez ne pas quitter. Vous allez être mise en relation avec notre secrétariat.
Please stay on the line. You will be connected to our secretary's office.
Cap. 5, Manon et Clémentine: Rendez-vous chez le médecin
That about covers it for the imperative! Don't forget (n'oubliez pas) to check out our new videos this week and don't hesitate (n'hésitez pas) to tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In our last lesson, we looked at three different ways of saying "to look like" in French. We'll continue that pattern in this lesson by introducing the three different ways of saying "to feel": sentir, se sentir, and ressentir. Though these verbs all look alike and have the same meaning, each of them is used in a different context.
Sentir (related to "sense" in English) generally refers to feeling the physical effects of something, such as a post-run stretch or a cool breeze:
Tu dois sentir une petite tension au niveau musculaire.
You should feel a little tension at the muscular level.
Cap. 12, Joanna: La course à pied - Récupération
J'aime sentir la brise rafraîchissante sur mon visage.
I love feeling the cool breeze on my face.
Besides bodily sensations, sentir can refer to feeling any kind of external pressure:
Mais cette année on sent la crise, hein.
But this year we're feeling the financial crisis, you know.
Cap. 25, Actu Vingtième: Le vide-grenier
But "feeling" isn't the only sense of sentir. It can also mean "to smell," both in terms of smelling something and giving off a scent:
Peut-être que vous sentez les odeurs qui sortent des studios de temps en temps.
Maybe you smell the aromas that come out of the studios from time to time.
Non, oh pas vraiment parce que nous, on est derrière les cuisines et puis ça sent!
No, oh not really because us, we're behind the stoves, and so it smells!
Cap. 9-10, 4 Mains Pour 1 Piano: Médaillon de Homard - Part 1
When you make sentir reflexive (se sentir), it becomes less about external, physical feelings and more about internal, emotional ones. While sentir usually takes an object, se sentir usually precedes an adjective or adverb to describe a person's condition or state of mind:
Très vite, elle se sent menacée.
Very soon, she feels threatened.
Cap. 5, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Espion dans l'immeuble - Part 1
Ah, je me sens mieux!
Ah, I feel better!
Cap. 42, Cap 24: Les bus sont-ils toujours en retard ?
Finally, there's ressentir, which literally means "to feel again." That might give you a clue about this verb's connotations. Like se sentir, ressentir also refers to an interior feeling, but it's generally used to describe an intense emotion, something you strongly feel. Like sentir, it usually takes an object:
Vous voyez cette exigence que je ressentais…
You see this demand that I felt…
Cap. 20, Le Journal: Défilé de mode - Part 4
C'était vraiment quelque chose que je ressentais, qui me rendait vraiment heureuse.
It was something that I really felt, that made me really happy.
Cap. 5, B-Girl Frak: La danse
Though ressentir is related to the English verb "to resent," it doesn't have the same meaning. Le ressentiment, however, does mean "resentment."
Sometimes it's tough to talk about your feelings—no matter what language you're speaking. These three verbs will help you do it in French!
In this lesson, we'll introduce three different ways of saying "to look like" in French.
The first expression is ressembler à, which looks a lot like the English word "resemble" (but note the extra s) and is used in much the same way:
Chacun de tes gestes ressemble aux miens
Each of your gestures looks like mine
Cap. 2, Ina-Ich: Âme armée
Ressembler is always followed by à, except when à is replaced by an indirect object pronoun:
Elle me ressemble.
She looks like me.
Cap. 31, Le saviez-vous? - La conjugaison au au présent, au passé et au futur
The second expression, avoir l'air de, is more informal and figurative than ressembler à. Its literal translation is "to have the air/appearance of," but it generally means "to look like" or "to seem":
Tu n'as pas l'air de trouver ça suffisant, Psi.
You don't seem to think that's sufficient, Psi.
Cap. 41, Il était une fois... L'Espace: 6. La révolte des robots - Part 7
Ce chien a l'air d'un loup.
That dog looks like a wolf.
When the expression is in front of an adjective, the de is dropped:
Ça a l'air délicieux, mais j'ai des crampes à l'estomac, je peux rien avaler.
It looks delicious, but I have stomach cramps, I can't swallow anything.
Cap. 4, Plus belle la vie: 2772 - Part 3
Avoir l'air (de) can often be replaced with the verb sembler (to seem):
Tu ne sembles pas trouver ça suffisant, Psi.
You don't seem to think that's sufficient, Psi.
Ça semble délicieux, mais j'ai des crampes à l'estomac, je peux rien avaler.
It looks delicious, but I have stomach cramps, I can't swallow anything.
Finally, there's on dirait, which literally means "one would say," but is often used idiomatically to mean "it looks like":
À première vue, on dirait une pharmacie, mais non...
At first glance, it looks like a pharmacy, but no...
Cap. 1, Le Journal: Chocolats
On dirait qu'il va neiger.
It looks like it's going to snow.
The main difference between these expressions is that ressembler à is only used to compare similar things, whereas avoir l'air de/sembler and on dirait can also be used to convey an impression of something.
We hope this lesson lived up to its title! Feel free to tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to email@example.com.
In this lesson, we'll take a look at some special uses of the elementary French word petit(e), which, as you probably already know, means "little," "small," or "short." Though it generally refers to something or someone of a small size, it can take on a variety of other related meanings. For example, since children are smaller than adults, petit(e) can also mean "little" as in "young":
-Mais tu voulais vivre de la musique? T'étais attachée à la musique?
-Depuis toute petite. Oui, oui.
-But you wanted to make a living from music? You were attached to music?
-Since [I was] very little. Yes, yes.
Cap. 23-24, Alsace 20: Femmes d'exception - Christine Ott
In fact, if you turn the adjective into a (usually plural) noun, you get an informal word for "children":
Les petits sont à l'école.
The kids [or "little ones"] are in school.
But if you address someone as mon petit or ma petite, you're affectionately calling them "my dear." (You could also say mon chéri/ma chérie.)
Speaking of affectionate uses of petit(e), the words for "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" are petit ami and petite amie (literally, "little friend"):
Et pour parler de ma première petite amie, l'une de mes premières petites amies est encore ma femme.
And as for my first girlfriend, one of my first girlfriends is still my wife.
Cap. 18, Mario Canonge: Ses propos - Part 1
Going back to petit(e) as in "young," the words for "granddaughter" and "grandson" are petite-fille ("little daughter") and petit-fils ("little son"). Note that these words are hyphenated, unlike petit ami/petite amie:
Les parents de ma petite-fille sont morts dans un accident de voiture, et c'est moi qui l'élève.
The parents of my granddaughter died in a car accident, and I am the one raising her.
Cap. 13, Plus belle la vie: Episode 2771 - Part 3
If you're only a little bit hungry, you might want to eat something with une petite cuillère (a teaspoon):
Si vous avez une petite faim, je vous recommande de vous arrêter quelques minutes juste ici.
If you're feeling a little hungry, I recommend that you stop for a few minutes right here.
Cap. 12, Voyage dans Paris: Autour de l'Hôtel de Ville
...et pour finir, des couverts comme une fourchette, un couteau, ou une petite cuillère.
...and finally, some cutlery like a fork, a knife, or a teaspoon.
Cap. 34, Joanna: Son nouvel appartement
You can also use the word to give a rough approximation of something:
Il y a une petite dizaine de places...
There are barely ten seats or so...
Cap. 25, Voyage dans Paris: Cité Florale
The number of expressions with petit(e) is by no means small! Here are a few more, just to give you un petit goût (a little taste):
avoir une petite mine (to look pale)
avoir une petite pensée pour quelqu'un (to be thinking of someone)
une petite douceur (a little something sweet)
en petite tenue (in one's underwear, scantily clad)
chercher la petite bête (to nitpick)
à petite dose (in small doses)
une petite nature (a weakling)
une petite foulée (a trot)
une petite voix (a quiet voice)
petit à petit l'oiseau fait son nid (every little bit helps; literally, "little by little the bird makes its nest")
In her hit song "Christine," the French artist Christine and the Queens (aka Héloïse Letissier) plays with the phrase tenir debout:
Je ne tiens pas debout
I can't stand up
Cap. 7, Christine and the Queens: Christine
Ça ne tient pas debout
It doesn't hold up
Cap. 9, Christine and the Queens: Christine
The expression in the first caption is se tenir debout, which means "to stand up" (literally, "to hold oneself upright"). Since it's a reflexive expression, there should actually be a me in the caption (Je ne me tiens pas debout), but reflexive pronouns are often dropped in informal speech.
Without the reflexive pronoun, tenir debout is an idiomatic expression meaning "to hold up" (its literal translation), "to add up," or "to make sense."
Se mettre debout and se lever are two other common ways of saying "to stand up":
Donc on se lève et l'effet de surprise les fait s'envoler dans le filet.
So we stand up and the surprise effect makes them fly into the net.
Cap. 9, Canal 32: Les secrets des cailles des blés
Il s'est mis debout quand je suis entré dans la chambre.
He stood up when I entered the room.
These phrases describe the action of standing up, but if you wanted to describe someone who is already standing, you would use the phrase être debout or even just debout by itself:
Par exemple lui, il était debout, elle, elle était allongée.
For example, him, he was standing up; her, she was lying down.
Cap. 17, Niko de La Faye: "Visages" - Part 1
Debout, une rose à la main
Standing up, a rose in hand
Cap. 17, Indila: Love Story
We can't talk about standing up without also talking about sitting down! There are two expressions for sitting in French: s'asseoir (to sit) and être assis/assise (to be seated):
Le Jardin du joli Cœur est un tout petit parc où on peut s'asseoir tranquillement.
The Jardin du Joli Cœur is a very small park where you can sit quietly.
Cap. 35, Joanna: Son quartier
Tout le reste du temps, je dors... là où je suis assise.
The rest of the time, I sleep... right where I'm sitting.
Cap. 15, Le Journal: Les navigateurs du Vendée Globe - Part 2
Thanks for reading! If you have a suggestion for a future lesson topic, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet us @yabla.
If you're a Yabla subscriber, you may have noticed that we translate every word in the video captions, even if it's a repeated word or a filler word such as euh... (uh...). This allows you to really hear everything the speaker is saying and gives you a better understanding of everyday French speech patterns. In this lesson, we'll review some of the most common filler words and interjections that pop up in Yabla French videos.
While euh (uh) is pretty straightforward, hein is a filler word whose translation really depends on context. In general, it's used as an interrogative to mean anything from "right," to "isn't it," to "you know":
Donc, euh... c'est le même système, hein, pour les légumes comme pour les homards.
So, uh... it's the same method, right, for the vegetables as for the lobsters.
Cap. 36, 4 Mains Pour 1 Piano: Médaillon de Homard - Part 2
Il bouillonne bien, hein?
It's bubbling nicely, isn't it?
Cap. 52, 4 Mains Pour 1 Piano: Médaillon de Homard - Part 1
Enfin, j'ai déjà trois filles, hein!
After all, I already have three daughters, you know!
Cap. 39, Actu Vingtième: Vendanges parisiennes
If you didn't quite catch something someone said, you can simply say, Hein? (Huh?) But like its English counterpart, this usage of hein is very informal. A more polite way of expressing the same sentiment is, Pouvez-vous répéter, s'il vous plaît? (Can you repeat that, please?)
The word quoi usually means "what," but as a filler word it has the same meaning as hein:
Ouais, euh... ça serait vraiment le rêve ultime, quoi, pour le fan…
Yeah, uh... that'd really be the ultimate dream, you know, for a fan…
Cap. 9, Alsace 20: Rammstein à Strasbourg
Also like hein, quoi can stand alone to express incomprehension: Quoi? (What?) It's a little less informal than hein in this context.
Là ("here," "there," or "now") can also mean "you know," but it's often used as an informal way of adding emphasis:
Parce qu'en fait hier, on allait avec des grands, là...
Because actually, yesterday, we were going with some older kids, you know...
Cap. 79, Actus de Quartier: Fête de quartier Python-Duvernois
Là tu exagères!
You're really exaggerating [going too far]!
Ben or eh ben (well) is another common filler word. It's a shortened form of bien, the standard word for "well":
Les températures, eh ben, cela va être relativement facile, quatre degrés partout...
The temperature, well, that's going to be relatively easy, four degrees everywhere...
Cap. 6, Alsace 20: Météo des Maquilleurs
You'll also find it in the expression, Ben oui! (But of course!)
Our final example contains two common interjections:
Oh la la! Oh mais dis donc, non mais... oh, qu'est-ce qui se passe?
Oh my! Oh but you don't say, no but... oh, what's going on?
Cap. 24, Il était une fois… l’Homme: 6. Le siècle de Périclès - Part 4
The first has been adapted into English as "ooh la la!" But while "ooh la la" is a comical way of expressing attraction or excitement, oh la la (often shortened to oh la) is a more neutral expression of surprise (more like "oh my" in English).
The second interjection, dis donc, literally means "say then," but is better translated by the phrase "you don't say" or a number of others.
In short, if you ever find yourself at a loss for words in French, a filler word or an interjection is a good way to plug the gap!
In our last lesson, we introduced the general rule for conjugating French verbs in the present subjunctive: take the third-person plural (ils/elles) present indicative form of the verb, remove the -ent, and add the subjunctive endings: -e, -es, -e, -ions, -iez, and -ent.While this rule applies to the vast majority of verbs, some of the most common French verbs have irregular subjunctive conjugations.
In this video about a tile factory in Courboissy, we find two irregular subjunctive verbs in the same caption, both introduced by the phrase pour que (in order that, so that):
Alors soit pour que ça soit respirant, pour que vous ayez une maison respirante…
So either in order for it to be breathable, so that you have a breathable house…
Cap. 36, Salon Eco Habitat: Terres cuites de Courboissy
The first verb is être (to be), which is conjugated as follows in the subjunctive: je sois, tu sois, il/elle/on soit, nous soyons, vous soyez, ils/elles soient. Note that the first soit in the above caption is not the same as the third-person subjunctive form of être—it's a separate word meaning "either." See our lesson Either/Or for more information on that.
The second verb, avoir (to have), looks like this in the subjunctive: j'aie, tu aies, il/elle/on ait, nous ayons, vous ayez, ils/elles aient.
Like the first-person subjunctive forms of avoir, those of aller (to go) also begin withai-: j'aille, tu ailles, il/elle/on aille.
Si vous voulez que je m'en aille
If you want me to go away
Cap. 17, Bertrand Pierre: Si vous n’avez rien à me dire
But in the nous and vous forms, the i changes position: nous allions, vous alliez. Then it goes back to where it was for the third-person plural: ils/elles aillent.
Most forms of vouloir (to want) contain the letters euille: je veuille, tu veuilles, il/elle/on veuille, ils/elles veuillent.
…il n'y a rien d'autre à faire qu'à attendre que le vent veuille bien se lever.
…there's nothing else to do but wait until the wind finally decides to pick up.
Cap. 15-16, Il était une fois - les Explorateurs: 10. Amerigo Vespucci - Part 1
But its nous and vous forms look a little different: nous voulions, vous vouliez.
Faire (to make or to do) and pouvoir (to be able to) both have a double s in the subjunctive:
Maintenant qu'on est en numéro trois, il faut qu'on fasse quatre, cinq, six.
Now that we are on step three, we have to do four, five, six.
Cap. 34, B-Girl Frak: Le “6-Step”
Et maintenant pose ton assiette en or devant moi pour que je puisse manger son contenu.
And now set your gold plate before me so that I can eat its contents.
Cap. 4-5, Contes de fées: Le roi grenouille - Part 2
The full subjunctive conjugations of these verbs are:
je fasse, tu fasses, il/elle/on fasse, nous fassions, vous fassiez, ils/elles fassent
je puisse, tu puisses, il/elle/on puisse, nous puissions, vous puissiez, ils/elles puissent
Finally, there's savoir (to know), which has a ch in the subjunctive: je sache, tu saches, il/elle/on sache, nous sachions, vous sachiez, ils/elles sachent.
Comment tu veux que je le sache moi?
How do you want [expect] me to know?
Cap. 26, Plus belle la vie: Episode 2771 - Part 2
Congrats! You're now fully capable of conjugating any French verb in the present subjunctive. Feel free to send us any suggestions for future lesson topics by tweeting us @yabla or emailing us at email@example.com.
In this lesson, we'll be tackling the subjunctive, a verbal mood that expresses a wide range of situations, such as a wish, an obligation, a possibility, a doubt, or an emotion. Whereas the indicative mood simply describes something that happens, the subjunctive mood describes something that may happen, something you want to happen, something you're afraid will happen, and other hypothetical situations. It's the difference between the phrases "you are here" and "I wish you were here."
The general rule for forming the subjunctive in French is to take the third-person plural (ils/elles) present indicative form of the verb, remove the -ent, and add the subjunctive endings: -e, -es, -e, -ions, -iez, and -ent. Take a look at this handy chart for a concise summary of the conjugation of regular subjunctive verbs. We'll go over irregular subjunctive conjugations in another lesson.
Let's take the verbs dire (to say) and réfléchir (to think about) as examples. To conjugate them in the first-person singular subjunctive, we would go to the third-person present plural indicative (disent and réfléchissent), drop the -ent, and add the first-person singular subjunctive ending -e. The results are dise and réfléchisse:
Qu’est-ce que tu veux que je te dise?
What do you want me to tell you?
Cap. 32, Plus belle la vie: Episode 2771 - Part 2
Avec tout ce choix, il faut que je réfléchisse.
With all these choices, I have to think about it.
Cap. 10, Il était une fois… L’Espace: 3. La planète verte - Part 3
Besides the conjugation, the most important aspect of the French subjunctive is that it almost always follows the word que (that), as in the expressions tu veux que and il faut que above. Vouloir que (to want) and il faut que (it is necessary that) are among the large number of French expressions that require the subjunctive. You can find a detailed list of these expressions here.
The subjunctive is used to express some of the most basic emotions, such as happiness and sadness:
On est vraiment très heureux que nos huit jeunes puissent partir.
We are truly very happy that our eight young people are able to go.
Cap. 8, Télé Lyon Métropole: Sport dans la ville & Afrique du Sud
Je suis triste que mon ami ne vienne pas au concert avec nous.
I'm sad that my friend isn't coming to the concert with us.
It's also used in a number of conjunctive phrases such as pourvu que (as long as), bien que (even though), and avant que (before):
Tu pourras leur parler de ce que tu voudras, pourvu que tu parles au moins deux heures.
You'll be able to talk to them about whatever you like, as long as you speak for at least two hours.
Cap. 3-4, Il était une fois... L'Espace: 6. La révolte des robots - Part 5
J'aime le karaoké bien que je ne chante pas très bien.
I love karaoke even though I don't sing very well.
...avant que leurs enseignements ne soient exploités par l'industrie.
...before their lessons are exploited by industry.
Cap. 21, Le Journal: 2000 mètres sous les mers
As the above example demonstrates, some subjunctive constructions (like avant que) require a ne without a pas (known as a ne explétif) before the verb. See our previous lesson for an in-depth look at this special use of ne.
Some phrases, such as penser que (to think that), only take the subjunctive in the negative:
Je ne pense pas que ça serve à grand-chose, ce que tu comptes faire.
I don't think it's going to help much, what you're planning to do.
Cap. 29, Plus belle la vie: 2772 - Part 3
If we make that sentence affirmative, we'll need to change servir from the subjunctive to the indicative:
Je pense que ça sert à beaucoup de choses, ce que tu comptes faire.
I think it's going to help a lot, what you're planning to do.
To sum up, the subjunctive is used after a vast number of expressions that convey a wide variety of subjective and hypothetical states. This multitude of usages makes learning the subjunctive no easy feat, but the fact that the subjunctive almost always follows the word que makes it a little less daunting. So if there's one thing you should take away from this lesson, it's that whenever you see a verb after the word que, there's a good chance it should be in the subjunctive!
Il y a is probably one of the most common French expressions, and appears countless times in Yabla videos, which makes it a perfect lesson topic! Though it literally means "it has there," il y a is the equivalent of "there is" or "there are." You'll find it very useful when describing a location or a situation:
Donc, en effet, il y a des vagues, il y a du courant. Le courant est fort.
So, indeed, there are waves, there is a current. The current is strong.
Cap. 2, À la plage avec Lionel: La plage
As the above example demonstrates, il y a remains unchanged regardless of whether its object is singular (du courant) or plural (des vagues). It does change, however, according to the tense of the sentence. Here it is in the imperfect, passé composé, and future tenses:
Il y avait un lièvre mais, tu vois, il courait trop vite.
There was a hare, but you see, it was running too fast.
Cap. 14, Il était une fois - Les Amériques: 1. Les premiers Américains - Part 7
Quand il est mort, il y a eu un million de Parisiens qui ont suivi le cortège.
When he died, there were a million Parisians following the procession.
Cap. 15, Bertrand Pierre: Victor Hugo
Il y aura beaucoup de tableaux à voir au musée.
There will be many paintings to see at the museum.
Il y a can also be used to indicate the passage of time, in which case it usually means "ago":
On a commencé il y a dix minutes.
We started ten minutes ago.
Cap. 47, Actus de quartier: Fête de quartier Python-Duvernois - Part 3
You can also use the phrase il y a... que to express the same thing, though in this case it usually means "for" or "since":
Il y a trois mois que j'habite à Paris.
I've lived in Paris for three months.
Incidentally, you could rewrite the above sentence three different ways, all with the same meaning:
Ça fait trois mois que j'habite à Paris.
Voilà trois mois que j'habite à Paris.
J'habite à Paris depuis trois mois.
Another more informal way of using il y a is when you notice someone looking sad or upset and you ask them: Qu'est-ce qu'il y a? (What's wrong?) Even more informally, you can shorten that question to: Qu'y a-t-il? If you're wondering why there's suddenly a "t" and two hyphens there, check out our lesson on inversion for a full explanation.
It's very common for il y a to be shortened to y a in casual speech:
C'est festif, euh... Y a de la barbe à papa.
It's festive, uh... There's cotton candy.
Cap. 32, Actus de Quartier: Fête de la rose au caviar rouge
To sum up, let's review all the uses of il y a in a short dialogue:
Qu'est-ce qu'il y a? -Je suis en colère parce qu'il y a trop de tableaux au musée du Louvre. Il y a trois mois que j'habite à Paris et je n'ai pas encore tout vu!
What's wrong? -I'm mad because there are too many paintings in the Louvre. I've lived in Paris for three months and I still haven't seen everything!
Imagine your friend is trying to decide on a shirt to wear to a party and asks for your opinion. In French, there are two main forms that question could take:
Quelle chemise préfères-tu?
Which shirt do you prefer?
Laquelle de ces chemises préfères-tu?
Which of these shirts do you prefer?
There's a slight but important difference between these two questions. Though quelle and laquelle both mean "which," laquelle more specifically means "which one." Since laquelle is a pronoun, you can simplify the second sentence and just say, Laquelle préfères-tu? (Which one do you prefer?) However, you can't simplify the first one (Quelle préfères-tu?) because quelle is an adjective and therefore always precedes a noun.
Note that quelle and laquelle agree in number (singular) and gender (feminine) with the noun they refer to, chemise. Their other forms are quel/lequel (masculine singular), quels/lesquels (masculine plural), and quelles/lesquelles (feminine plural). As you can see, the pronoun is formed by combining the definite article le, la, or les with the corresponding form of quel.
Besides introducing a question, lequel/laquelle/lesquels/lesquelles can also be used after a preposition. Here they are in action with the prepositions sur (on) and dans (in):
Le territoire sur lequel ils sont installés…
The territory on which they have settled…
Cap. 40, Actus de Quartier: Fête de quartier Python-Duvernois - Part 4
Par exemple, j'ai ma deuxième robe, dans laquelle je chante mon duo.
For example, I have my second dress, in which I sing my duet.
Cap. 25, Melissa Mars: Mozart, L'opéra rock - Part 1
Watch out for the prepositions à (to) and de (of, from) in this construction. Just as à + le becomes au instead of à le, and de + le becomes du instead of de le, à + lequel and de + lequel become auquel (to which) and duquel (from which, of which, about which). In all forms except the feminine singular (à laquelle, de laquelle), à and de combine with the pronoun to form one word:
Masculine singular: duquel (de + lequel), auquel (à + lequel)
Masculine plural: desquels (de + lesquels), auxquels (à + lesquels)
Feminine plural: desquelles (de + lesquelles), auxquelles (à + lesquelles)
An important note about duquel/de laquelle/desquels/desquelles: these constructions are often replaced by the word dont, the subject of our previous lesson. So instead of a sentence like:
Voici le livre duquel je t'ai parlé hier.
Here is the book about which I spoke to you yesterday.
You would more often hear:
Voici le livre dont je t'ai parlé hier.
Here is the book I spoke to you about yesterday.
However, you have to use duquel, de laquelle, etc., whenever the de is part of a prepositional phrase such as près de (near), à côté de (next to), or loin de (far from):
Il est bordé des quais de Valmy et de Jemmapes au bord duquel se trouve le fameux Hôtel du Nord.
It is bordered by the Quais de Valmy and Jemmapes, along which is found the famous Hôtel du Nord.
Cap. 32-33, De nouvelles découvertes avec Marion: Le canal Saint-Martin
Another important note: Though it's common in English to end a clause with a preposition like "about" or "from," you can never do this with de, duquel/de laquelle, etc., or dont. For example, you can say "the book I spoke to you about," but you can never say le livre je t'ai parlé duquel or le livre je t'ai parlé dont. You can only say le livre duquel je t'ai parlé or le livre dont je t'ai parlé (the book about which I spoke to you).
Thanks for reading! Tweet us @yabla or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, feedback, or suggestions for future lesson topics.
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 dont la fille préférée s'appelait Belle.
...a rich merchant whose favorite daughter was called Belle.
Cap. 2, Bande-annonce: La Belle et la Bête
Et grâce à lui, j'ai rencontré beaucoup de gens très intéressants, dont Gilles Proulx.
And thanks to him, I met lots of very interesting people, including Gilles Proulx.
Cap. 29, Le Québec parle aux Français - Part 2
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 pronouns, dont 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 expressions, such 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.
Cap. 35, Le Journal: L'île de Pâques
...dans la ville de Dongtan en Chine, dont nous avons déjà parlé.
...in the city of Dongtan in China, about which we've already spoken.
Cap. 17, Il était une fois... Notre Terre: 25. Technologies - Part 8
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!