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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. 

 

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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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

 

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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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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Feeling in French: Sentir, Se sentir, Ressentir

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": sentirse 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 sentirressentir 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!

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Cette leçon a l'air très instructive!

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 newsletter@yabla.com.

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Une petite enquête sur "petit(e)"

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")

 

If you'd like to like to do your own petite enquête (investigation), you can do a search for petit or petite to find even more examples in Yabla videos. 

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Standing and Sitting

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 newsletter@yabla.com or tweet us @yabla.

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French Filler Words

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 heinquoi can stand alone to express incomprehension: Quoi? (What?) It's a little less informal than hein in this context.

 

 ("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, ...
Because actually, yesterday, we were going with some older kids, you know...
Cap. 79, Actus de Quartier: Fête de quartier Python-Duvernois

 

 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!

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The French Subjunctive, Part 2: Irregular Verbs

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 changes position: nous allions, vous alliezThen it goes back to where it was for the third-person plural: ils/elles aillent

 

Most forms of vouloir (to want) contain the letters euilleje 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 voulionsvous 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 newsletter@yabla.com.

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The French Subjunctive: Emotional and Hypothetical

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! 

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