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Quelconque and Quiconque

The words quelconque (any) and quiconque (anyone) can come in handy when you're talking about something general or non-specific in French. Though they look quite similar, you can easily tell these words apart by focusing on what comes before -conquequi (who) and quel (what, which). There are a few key differences between these words. While quelconque can refer to both people and things, quiconque only refers to people. And while quiconque functions as a relative or indefinite pronoun, quelconque functions as an adjective: 

 

Elle fouille la maison de fond en comble à la recherche d'un quelconque indice.
She rifles through the house from top to bottom in search of any clue.
Cap. 19, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Nos bébés ont été échangés... - Part 5

 

Mais la petite sirène était incapable de faire du mal à quiconque.
But the little mermaid was incapable of hurting anyone.
Cap. 41, Contes de fées: La petite sirène - Part 2

 

Quelconque and quiconque are very similar to two other expressions we discussed in a previous lessonn'importe quel and n'importe qui

 

Ils la postent dans n'importe quelle boîte aux lettres en oubliant pas de mettre leur adresse retour...
They mail it in any mailbox, not forgetting to put their return address...
Cap. 11, LCM: "Cher Père Noël..."

 

Et qui l'achète? -Ah, n'importe qui.
And who buys it? -Oh, anyone
Cap. 4-5, Le Journal: La bougie du sapeur

 

Note that while the quel in n'importe quel changes depending on the gender and number of the noun it modifies (n'importe quelle, n'importe quels, n'importe quelles), the quel in quelconque never changes. However, since quelconque is an adjective, it takes an "s" when modifying a plural noun:

 

Si vous avez de quelconques questions, n'hésitez pas à nous contacter. 
If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact us. 

 

Quiconque can mean "whoever" or "anyone who" in more formal contexts: 

 

Quiconque arrive en retard ne sera pas autorisé à entrer dans le théâtre. 
Anyone who arrives late will not be allowed to enter the theater. 

 

And quelconque is sometimes used as a pejorative meaning "ordinary," "second-rate," or "mediocre": 
 
 

Ce restaurant est très quelconque
That restaurant is very mediocre

 

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Walking Words

Daniel does a lot of walking in his Voyage en France series, showing us around some of France's most beautiful and historic cities and towns. He also uses several walking-related words during his tours:
 

Et d'emblée depuis cette promenade...
And right away from this walk...
Cap. 5, Voyage en France: Conflans-Sainte-Honorine - Part 3

 

In English, "promenade" is a somewhat formal word for a boardwalk or a leisurely stroll. But une promenade is the standard French term for "a walk" or, when you're going somewhere in a vehicle, "a ride" or "drive":

 

Hier nous avons fait une promenade en voiture
We went for a drive yesterday. 

 

Its verb form, se promener, means "to take a walk": 

 

Quand on se promène dans le vieux Conflans...
When we take a walk in Old Conflans...
Cap. 22, Voyage en France: Conflans-Sainte-Honorine - Part 3

 

Daniel also frequently uses the word une balade (not to be confused with une ballade, "a ballad"), which has the same meaning as une promenade:

 

Pendant votre balade dans le vieux Conflans...
During your walk in Old Conflans...
Cap. 28, Voyage en France: Conflans-Sainte-Honorine - Part 3

 

Just like une promenadeune balade also has a verb form, se balader:
 

À se balader avec lui dans les rues de Dakar, on mesure toute la dimension de l'artiste.
Strolling along the streets of Dakar with him, one gets a sense of the depths of the artist.
Cap. 28-29, Le Journal: Youssou N'Dour 

 

C'est très, très agréable de se balader avec ces bateaux sur la mer. 
It's very, very pleasant to go for a ride on those boats on the sea.
Cap. 33-34, Jean-Marc: La plage - Part 2

 

As you may know, marcher is the basic French verb for "to walk." But it's also often used informally to mean "to work," "to function," or "to go well": 

 

Non, c'est juste pour voir si tout marche bien.
No, it's just to see if everything is working well.
Cap. 2, Il était une fois - Les découvreurs: 9. Galilée - Part 5

 

Elle est chez les seniors. Et ça marche bien.
She's with the seniors. And it's going well.
Cap. 43, Actus de Quartier: Fête de quartier Python-Duvernois - Part 3

 

Just as you can say "that works" to mean "OK" or "sounds good to me," in French you can say ça marche:

 

Tu veux prendre un café aujourd'hui à quinze heures? -Ça marche!
Do you want to get coffee today at three p.m.? -That works!

 

Now that you know all the different ways of saying "walk" in French, why not go take one? 

 

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Assister: To Witness and Assist

In one of our newest videos, an interviewer asks people on the street to talk about their most beautiful dreams and most terrifying nightmares. One woman describes a particularly unsettling nightmare: 

 

J'assiste à des accidents où y a des gens qui sont très blessés...
I witness accidents where there are people who are badly injured...
Cap. 83-84, Micro-Trottoirs: Rêves et cauchemars

 

She's not saying that she assists with these accidents (which would be even more unsettling!), but that she witnesses themThe phrase assister à doesn't mean "to assist," but rather "to witness" or "to attend":

 

Puisqu'un public assiste à une assemblée générale et à une réunion...
Because a crowd attends a general assembly and a meeting...
Cap. 8, Lionel L: Nuit Debout - Journée internationale - Part 2

 

"To attend" looks a lot like the French verb attendre, but like "to assist" and assister à, these two words are faux amis (false friends)—attendre means "to wait," not "to attend." 

 

But once you take away the àassister has the same meaning as its English cognate:  

 

Le sous-chef assiste le chef dans la cuisine. 
The sous-chef assists the chef in the kitchen. 

 

There are a number of other French verbs meaning "to assist," like aider (to help) and accompagner (to accompany):

 

J'ai aidé ma grand-mère à nettoyer la maison. 
helped my grandmother clean her house. 

 

...qui connaissent les parents et accompagnent les enfants les plus en retard
...who know the parents and assist the students who are the most behind
Cap. 29, Grand Corps Malade: Education nationale

 

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French Theater and Film Words

Our new videos this week feature a wealth of vocabulary related to the performing arts. In the first, our newest presenter Mathilde talks about the Comédie-Française, one of France's most iconic state theaters. Though the theater has the word comédie in its name (and was founded by one of France's greatest comic playwrights, Molière), it stages all kinds of theater pieces, both comic and tragic. In fact, the word comédie doesn't only mean "comedy." It can also mean "acting" in general. Likewise, un comédien/une comédienne is not merely "a comedian":

 

Donc la Comédie-Française aujourd'hui a environ soixante comédiens dans sa troupe, parmi les plus célèbres comédiens français.
So the Comédie-Française today has around sixty players in its troupe, among the most famous French actors.
Cap. 40-41, Mathilde: La Comédie-Française

 

You can also simply say un acteur/une actrice for "actor/actress." And if you want to specify that you're talking about a comic actor (i.e., a comedian), you can say un/une comique or un/une humoriste

 

The phrase jouer la comédie means "to act" or "to be an actor." Sometimes it's just shortened to jouer (which also means "to play"):

 

Ils jouent aussi pour d'autres théâtres. 
They also act for other theater companies.
Cap. 43, Mathilde: La Comédie-Française

 

Don't confuse that expression with faire de la comédie, which means "to make a fuss" or "a scene."

 

In this tragic tidbit about Molière's final performance, we find two interesting theater-related words: 

 

Molière serait mort en scène en interprétant le rôle mythique d'Argan dans une de ses plus célèbres pièces...
Molière supposedly died onstage while interpreting the mythic role of Argan in one of his most famous plays...
Cap. 36-38, Mathilde: La Comédie-Française

 

While une scène can refer to a scene in a play, it also refers to the stage on which the play is performed. The word for "play," une pièce, is short for pièce de théâtre (theater piece). 

 

Our second video takes us from the world of theater to the world of film. It documents a Chinese film festival in the town of Richelieu headed by one of France's most famous film directors, Claude Lelouch. The video contains not one but three different words for "director": 

 

...et des metteurs en scène prestigieux d'ailleurs qui ont des prix...
...and eminent film directors, incidentally, who won prizes...
Cap. 27, Festival du cinéma chinois: Coup d'envoi à Richelieu

 

Et pour rendre hommage à ces femmes si chères au cœur du cinéaste...
And to pay homage to these women who are so dear to the filmmaker's heart...
Cap. 40, Festival du cinéma chinois: Coup d'envoi à Richelieu

 

...en présence du réalisateur et de son actrice Anouk Aimée.
...in the presence of the director and of its actress Anouk Aimée.
Cap. 43, Festival du cinéma chinois: Coup d'envoi à Richelieu

 

On the other hand, there's only one word for "screenwriter"—scénariste (from scénario, "screenplay" or "script"):

 

...mais surtout scénariste de bon nombre de films signés Lelouch.
...but more importantly screenwriter of a good number of films signed "Lelouch."
Cap. 10, Festival du cinéma chinois: Coup d'envoi à Richelieu

 

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When "Good" Means "Right" and "Bad" Means "Wrong"

Did you know that, in French, "good" can also mean "right," and "bad" can also mean "wrong"? This might sound sort of philosophical, but it's really just an issue of translation. Bon/bonne and mauvais/mauvaise are two of the most basic adjectives in French. They usually mean "good" and "bad" respectively, but depending on context, they can also mean "right" and "wrong": 

 

C'est la mauvaise réponse à la question. 
That's the wrong answer to the question. 

 

Vous pouvez aussi me donner deux numéros de compte. Je vous dirai lequel est le bon.
You can also give me two account numbers. I will tell you which is the right one.
Cap. 20-21, Patricia: Pas de crédit dans le monde des clones - Part 3

 

When bon/bonne and mauvais/mauvaise mean "right" and "wrong," they're often preceded by a definite article (le, la, les). For example, take a look at the difference between the phrases un bon moment and au (à + le) bon moment:

 

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...
Cap. 21, Arles: Un Petit Tour d'Arles - Part 3

 

Tout cet art, c'est de faire en sorte de mettre dans l'eau au bon moment, hein...
All this is an art to ensure that you put in the water at the right time, you see...
Cap. 8, Ostréiculture: Rencontre avec Gildas Mourier (Morbihan)

 

Using these adjectives isn't the only way to describe correctness and incorrectness. You can also use the verbal phrases avoir raison (to be right, literally "to have reason") and avoir tort (to be wrong, literally "to have fault"):

 

Oui, tu as raison. Je ne suis pas trop dans mon assiette.
Yes, you're right. I feel under the weather.
Cap. 25, Manon et Clémentine: Expressions toutes faites

 

J'ai peut-être eu tort de me fier à lui pour ce projet.
Maybe I was wrong to trust him with this project.
Cap. 53, Il était une fois - Les Amériques: 9. Cortés et les Aztèques - Part 3

 

In a previous lesson, we mentioned one other way to say "to be wrong"—se tromper:

 

Donc, tu crois que Colomb se trompe!
So you think that Columbus is wrong!
Cap. 6, Il était une fois - les Explorateurs: 10. Amerigo Vespucci - Part 3

 

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Getting the Facts Straight

In her new sci-fi series Pas de crédit dans le monde des clones, Patricia imagines a dystopian future in which all credit card companies have merged into one:

 

Du fait de nombreuses fusions, il ne reste plus qu'une société anonyme de cartes de crédit
Because of many mergers, there remains only one limited liability credit card company
Cap. 15, Pas de crédit dans le monde des clones: Part 1 

 

Du fait de is one of several French expressions that mean "because" (you can learn more about these expressions in our past lesson on the topic). It's also one of many expressions featuring the word fait, which you might recognize as a conjugation of the verb faire (to make, to do). But fait is also a noun meaning "fact"—du fait de literally means "from the fact of." In this lesson, we'll review some other "fact"-based expressions in French. 

 

Patricia uses a similar expression to du fait de earlier on in her video—de ce fait(therefore, literally "from this fact"):

 

De ce fait, toutes les procédures de paiement sont réalisées sans argent physique. 
Therefore, all payment procedures are performed without physical money. 
Cap. 13, Pas de crédit dans le monde des clones: Part 1 

 

Now that you know that fait means "fact," you can probably guess what en fait means. Alessandro uses it when interviewing a flea market vendor: 

 

Vous, c'est une véritable passion que vous partagez tous les jours en fait.
For you, it's a true passion that you share every day, in fact.
Cap. 6, Cap 24: Paris - Alessandro fait les Puces! - Part 1

 

The vendor responds in the next caption with another fait expression, tout à fait (exactly):

 

Oui, oui. Tout à fait
Yes, yes. Exactly.  
Cap. 7, Cap 24: Paris - Alessandro fait les Puces! - Part 1

 

Don't confuse en fait with au fait, which means "by the way" or "incidentally":
 

Ah, au fait, j'ai parlé à Vanessa de nos nouveaux voisins.
Oh, by the way, I spoke to Vanessa about our new neighbors.
Cap. 22, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Espion dans l'immeuble - Part 8 

 

En fait and au fait are easily confused not only because they look similar, but also because the t is pronounced in both of them. In most other instances of the word fait, the t is silent.  

 

If someone has done a good job on something, you can say, Bien fait! (Well done!) In this case fait isn't a noun but the past participle of the verb faire:

 

Oui, chef. Bien fait!
Yes, chief. Well done!
Cap. 6, Il était une fois... L'Espace: 3. La planète verte - Part 2 

 

As a noun, fait doesn't only mean "fact." It can also mean "event" or "occurrence" depending on the context:

 

Cette histoire est inspirée de faits réels.
This story is inspired by real events.
Cap. 29, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Espion dans l'immeuble - Part 1 

 

This lesson is now a fait accompli (accomplished fact). Thanks for reading! 

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Telling Stories and More with "Histoire"

In the latest segment of Le Jour où tout a basculé, Frédéric and Anne-Sophie meet Laetitia at a café to deliver some shocking news: their daughters were switched at birth. Upon hearing this, Laetitia is in a state of total disbelief. She says to the couple: 

 

Mais qu'est-ce que c'est que cette histoire?
But what is this all about?
Cap. 37, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Nos bébés ont été échangés... - Part 5

 

Histoire is related to two English words, "history" and "story," and can mean either one depending on context:

 

Ici, donc une ville riche en culture et riche en histoire...
So here a town rich in culture and rich in history...
Cap. 8, Lionel: À Wissembourg

 

C'est vraiment une histoire d'amour, c'est parti d'une histoire d'amour.
It's really a love story, it started out as a love story.
Cap. 4, Annie Chartrand: Sa musique

 

But in informal expressions like qu'est-ce que c'est que cette histoire, the word means something more along the lines of "business" or "matter." It often has this meaning in the construction histoire de + noun: 

 

Ici tout est histoire de récup, de quoi créer un beau Noël.
Here it's all a matter [or questionof recycling, enough to create a beautiful Christmas.
Cap. 53, Alsace 20: Alsace - les plus belles déco de Noël!

 

When histoire de follows an infinitive, it means "in order to," "just to," or "so as to": 

 

Bats le beurre de citron, histoire de bien mélanger le tout.
Whisk the lemon butter, in order to mix it all well.
Cap. 33, 4 Mains pour 1 Piano: Médaillon de Homard - Part 3

 

Two other, less familiar ways of saying "in order to" are pour + infinitive and afin de + infinitive.

 

Be careful with the expression raconter des histoires. It can either mean "to tell stories" or "to tell lies":

 

La mère raconte des histoires aux enfants chaque soir. 
The mother tells stories to the children every night. 

 

Arrête de me raconter des histoires!
Stop telling me lies!

 

That's the story with histoire! If you have any questions or comments, please write to us at newsletter@yabla.com or tweet us @yabla.

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Wild and Crazy

In her latest video, Patricia gives us an overview of French synonyms, or words with the same basic meaning but different nuances and intensities. To demonstrate, she illustrates some examples of synonyms for "happy" and "angry." She repeatedly uses the expressionêtre fou/folle de (to be mad or wild with) to describe the more intense degrees of those emotions:

 

Elles sont folles de bonheur.
They are mad with happiness.
Cap. 17, Le saviez-vous? - Les synonymes

 

You can use this expression to heighten just about any word describing an emotion:

 

Ils sont extatiques, fous de joie, béats.
They are ecstatic, overjoyed, blissful. 
Cap. 17, Le saviez-vous? - Les synonymes

 

Elles sont folles de colèrefolles de rage, horripilées. 
They are wild with angerraging mad, incensed. 
Cap. 52-54, Le saviez-vous? - Les synonymes

 

Or, you can use it with any other noun or pronoun to describe something or someone you're "crazy about": 

 

Non, je ne suis pas fou. Je suis seulement fou de vous!
No, I am not crazy. I'm only crazy about you!
Cap. 6, Charles-Baptiste: Interview

 

...qui montre la vie trépidante des jeunes, fous de voitures dans les années soixante-dix.
...that shows the hectic life of young people who are crazy about cars in the seventies.
Cap. 8, L'auteur: Bernard Colin

 

If you haven't already, check out Patricia's other videos in the Le saviez-vous? series for more of her excellent insights into French language and culture. 

 

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To the Bottom and Back

Did you know that the French word for the back of a space is the same as the word for the bottom of a space? The word is le fond, and determining its meaning is a question of perspective: 

 

Et l'on voit encore des vestiges, des traces de cette époque avec notamment dans le fond

une chapelle pour se recueillir...
And you can still see remains, traces from that time, with, in particular, in the back, a chapel for meditating...
Cap. 32-33, Lionel: Verdun - Part 2

 

L'eau de l'étang était si profonde que la princesse ne pouvait pas en voir le fond.
The pond water was so deep that the princess could not see the bottom of it.
Cap. 7, Conte de fées: Le roi grenouille - Part 1

 

We can tell what le fond means in each of these examples based on the type of space they're describing. The subject of the first example is the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Verdun. A chapel wouldn't be located on the bottom of a cathedral, but in the back. And in the second example, the princess is looking down into the pond, which means she's trying to see the bottom of it, not the back.

 

Whether it means "the back" or "the bottom," le fond refers to the depth of a space. But it can also refer to depth in a non-physical, metaphorical sense—even a spiritual one: 

 

"Om", ça signifie le fond cosmique qui est le symbole de l'unité dans la diversité.
"Om" signifies the cosmic depth that is the symbol of unity in diversity.
Cap. 31, Paix et partage: Journée Internationale du yoga

 

Fond is used in quite a few expressions, such as dans le fond and au fond, both meaning "basically":

 

Dans le fondc'est des grosses feuilles de betterave.
Basically, they're big beet leaves. 
Cap. 13, Farmer François: Le stand de légumes

 

Parce que au fond, le fait de payer un stand, ça sert aussi d'abord à se rencontrer... 
Because basically, the act of paying for a booth, that also helps first of all to meet each other...
Cap. 61-62, Actu-Vingtième: Le vide-grenier

 

Don't confuse au fond with à fond, which means "totally": 

 

Ah, que griller des feux. -Griller des verts, donc. -À fond.
Oh, just running lights. -Running green lights, then. -Totally.
Cap. 49, Cap 24: Les cyclistes parisiens sont-ils indisciplinés?

 

There's also de fond, an adjective phrase meaning "fundamental": 

 

Mais pour une baisse en rayon, la prochaine étape devrait être une réforme de fond
But for a reduction in stores, the next step should be a fundamental reformation
Cap. 22, Le Journal: Contrôle des prix alimentaires

 

If you'd like to explore the many expressions using this word de fond en comble (from top to bottom), we recommend this WordReference entry

 

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Expressions with "En"

In part three of "Le Jour où tout a basculé: Nos bébés ont été échangés," one of our new videos this week, Anne-Sophie and Frédéric receive some shocking paternity test results that throw a wrench into their already troubled marriage. Less scandalously, the video also features three common set phrases featuring the pronoun en. Though en usually replaces de + a noun, it doesn't really translate to anything in these three idioms. It's just along for the ride. 

 

Anne-Sophie uses the first expression, ne pas en croire ses yeux (to not believe one's eyes), when describing her reaction to the unbelievable test results: 

 

Je n'en croyais pas mes yeux.
couldn't believe my eyes.
Cap. 5, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Nos bébés ont été échangés... - Part 3

 

Later, when she calls Frédéric to tell him the news, she says: 

 

Rappelle-moi de toute urgence. Je t'en supplie!
Call me back urgently. I beg you!
Cap. 12, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Nos bébés ont été échangés... - Part 3

 

Je t'en supplie (or je vous en supplie in formal speech) is an impassioned, urgent way of saying "please" (just like "I beg you" or "I implore you" in English). It's very similar to another en idiom, je t'en prie, which can mean the same thing:

 

Je t'en prie, arrête, arrête
I'm begging you, stop, stop
Cap. 30, Indila: Love Story 

 

But unlike je t'en supplie, je t'en prie can also mean "you're welcome": 

 

Oh, je t'en prie, y a pas de quoi, hein.
Oh, you're welcome. Don't mention it, OK?
Cap. 15, Plus belle la vie: 2772 - Part 5

 

The narrator uses the most idiomatic of these expressions when describing Frédéric's state of mind: 

 

Il lui en veut toujours mais la donne va bientôt changer.
He is still mad at her, but the situation will soon change. 
Cap. 16, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Nos bébés ont été échangés... - Part 3

 

Vouloir means "to want," but en vouloir à means "to be mad at." The en makes quite a difference here! Note the indirect object pronoun lui in this example, which stands for à + elle, as we mentioned in a previous lesson.

 

When you make this expression reflexive (s'en vouloir), it doesn't mean "to be mad at oneself," but rather "to feel guilty": 

 

Je m'en veux vraiment de ne pas t'avoir cru; je suis vraiment désolée.
I feel really guilty for not having believed you; I'm really sorry.
Cap. 3, Plus belle la vie: 2773 - Part 7

 

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or comments, please write to us at newsletter@yabla.com or tweet us @yabla.

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"Être en train de": Process and Progress

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!)

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"Tromper": To Mislead and Be Mistaken

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)!

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French Object Pronouns, Part 2: Indirect Object Pronouns

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

 

Feel free to tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com. Thanks for reading!

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French Object Pronouns, Part 1: Direct Object Pronouns

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 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 achètel'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! 

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Se Passer: To Bypass and Pass By

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!

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Une leçon à ne pas manquer!

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 ratéle bus. 
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 manquerun 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

 

Don't forget (ne manquez pas) to check out our new videos this week and feel free to tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com!

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The French Imperative, Part 2

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: 

 

Ouais, donne-la-moi.
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. 
Don't remember

 

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 newsletter@yabla.com.

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The French Imperative

In one of our new videos this week, Patricia recites Charles Baudelaire's "L'Horloge" (The Clock), a gloomy but rousing poem about the passage of time and the importance of memory. We'll leave it up to you to analyze the many existential questions this poem raises. Instead, in this lesson, we'll focus on a more basic aspect of the poem: its repeated use of the imperative mood, which expresses a command or request. You'll find a particularly ominous instance of the imperative in the poem's final line: 

 

Où tout te dira: Meurs, vieux lâche! il est trop tard!
When all will say to you: Die, old coward! It is too late!
Cap. 25, Le saviez-vous? - La poésie française: Baudelaire - Part 2

 

The imperative is fairly simple to learn, since it only exists in the second-person singular (tu), second-person plural (vous), and first-person plural (nous) forms, and because it's conjugated almost exactly like the present indicative. To make a verb imperative, you just take the present indicative tuvous, or nous form and drop the pronoun. That's it! So in the example above, meurs is the present indicative tu form of the verb mourir (to die). If Baudelaire had left in the tu, he would have had: Tu meurs, vieux lâche! (You are dying, old coward!) But by simply removing the tu, he changed the meaning to something much more forceful.

 

The only tricky aspect of the imperative comes with verbs ending in -er. While -ir and -re verbs are exactly the same in the present indicative and the imperative, there's a special rule for conjugating -er verbs in the imperative in the tu form: in addition to dropping the tu, you also drop the -s at the end of the verb: 

 

Tu manges tes légumes. / Mange tes légumes. 
You are eating your vegetables. / Eat your vegetables. 

 

You don't have to worry about changing the verb in the nous and vous forms: 

 

Nous mangeons nos légumes. / Mangeons nos légumes.
We are eating our vegetables. / Let's eat our vegetables. 

 

Vous mangez vos légumes. / Mangez vos légumes. 
You are eating your vegetables. / Eat your vegetables. 

 

In "L'Horloge," Baudelaire makes frequent use of the command souviens-toi (remember):

 

Souviens-toi que le Temps est un joueur avide
Qui gagne sans tricher, à tout coup! c'est la loi.

Remember that Time is a greedy player
Who wins without cheating, every time! It's the law.
Cap. 18-19, Le saviez-vous? - La poésie française: Baudelaire - Part 2

 

You might be wondering why there's a toi after souviens. The reason is that with reflexive verbs such as se souvenir (to remember), the object pronoun moves after the verb in the imperative. So instead of tu te souviens (you remember), you have souviens-toi (not souviens-te). Instead of nous nous souvenons (we remember) and vous vous souvenez (you remember), you have souvenons-nous (let's remember) and souvenez-vous (remember). Here's another example with s'asseoir (to sit): 

 

Assieds-toi.
Have a seat.
Cap. 4, Le Jour où tout a basculé: À la recherche de mon père - Part 7 

 

We'll continue our discussion of the imperative in our next lesson. In the meantime, why not read some more Baudelaire

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