Hello and Have a Good Day!

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

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

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

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

In this weather report, the phrase toute la matinée emphasizes the durational aspect of matinée:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

C'est pour ça que je voulais vraiment absolument m'arrêter ici pendant pendant une année...

That's why I really absolutely wanted to stop here for a year....

Cap. 36-37, Le Québec parle aux Français: Part 2/1

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

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Up Close and Personal with "Auprès"

Auprès de is a French preposition that doesn’t have a direct English translation. It generally refers to a situation of proximity and has a range of meanings, including “beside,” “next to,” “with,” “among,” “by,” “at,” “close to,” and more. It’s one of those words whose definition almost entirely depends on context, so let’s take a look at how it’s used in some Yabla videos.

The most literal meaning of auprès de is “beside” or “next to,” referring to physical proximity (another expression for this is à côté de). At the end of the classic French fairy tale La Belle et la Bête (Beauty and the Beast), Belle wants nothing more than to be beside her beloved Beast:

Laissez-moi retourner auprès de lui; c'est mon seul souhait...
Let me return to his side; it's my only wish…
Cap. 42, Bande-annonce: La Belle et la Bête

On a less romantic note, you can also use auprès de to describe two things that are next to each other:

L’hôpital se trouve auprès du parc.
The hospital is located next to the park.

Auprès de doesn’t always refer to being directly beside someone or something. More generally, it can mean “with” (avec) or “among” (parmi) a group of people or things:

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

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

When looking at two people or things that are beside one another, or considering two ideas or situations in your head, it’s almost impossible not to compare them. Along those lines, in addition to “with,” auprès de can also mean “compared with” or "compared to": 

Nous sommes pauvres auprès de nos voisins.
We are poor compared to our neighbors. 

Auprès de is also used in more formal administrative and governmental contexts to mean “at” or “with,” usually to direct people to a certain department or office or to describe people connected to a department or office: 

Les visites ont donc lieu tous les jours et sont gratuites mais pensez à réserver auprès de l'Office du Tourisme de Tourcoing.
So visits take place every day and are free, but think about making a reservation at the Tourcoing Tourism Office.
Cap. 17-18, Grand Lille TV: Visite des serres de Tourcoing 

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

J’ai laissé un message auprès de ta secrétaire.
I left a message with your secretary. 

You may have noticed that auprès de looks very similar to another preposition, près de (near, nearly, around). Près de also describes proximity, but it implies a greater distance than auprès de. It’s a question of being near something versus being next to something. In the first green example sentence, the hospital is directly beside the park. But in the sentence, L’hôpital est près du parc, the hospital is just in the park’s general vicinity. 

So whether you’re talking about being snuggled up beside a loved one or just walking among a group of people, auprès de is the phrase to use. Try using it to describe what or who is next to you right now! 

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C'est l'intention qui compte!

If you’ve studied our recent lesson on French numbers, you should theoretically be able to count to a billion (compter jusqu’à un milliard) in French. But since no one has time to do that, let’s focus on some other, more practical uses of the verb compter

Counting doesn’t always involve numbers. For example, if you’re relying on someone to do something, you’re counting on (compter sur) them, as this Parisian chef is counting on us to visit his restaurant:

À vous aussi de venir ici, on compte sur vous.

Up to you to come here too, we're counting on you. 

Cap. 40, Cap 24: Découverte d’un restaurant parisien

You can also count on a future event to happen (or not happen). Bertrand Pierre is an extremely talented singer-songwriter, but for some reason he doesn’t expect to make it big. He expresses his pragmatism with the construction “compter + infinitive”:

Je compte pas devenir une star internationale, c'est pas ça que je veux dire.    

I'm not expecting to become an international star, that's not what I mean.

Cap. 22, Bertrand Pierre: Autre Chose 

Sometimes compter refers not to counting numbers, but containing them. If the subject of the verb compter is an inanimate object, it’s most likely describing contents:

Après un peu de lecture, dans une bibliothèque qui compte quarante mille volumes...     

After a bit of reading, in a library that contains forty thousand volumes…

Cap. 39, Canal 32: Mesnil-Saint-Loup - Moines artisans 

Quite a few expressions are based on the noun form of compter, compte, which can mean “count,” “total,” or “account.” If you’re a Yabla subscriber, for example, you have un compte (an account) with us. Un compte can also mean “account” in a more figurative sense, as in the expression prendre en compte (to take into account):

Tous ces éléments-là sont importants aussi à prendre en compte...

All those elements there are also important to take into account...

Cap. 19, Le Journal: Grands prématurés

A very common expression with compte is se rendre compte, which means “to realize” or “become aware” (literally, “to give an account to oneself”). In the latest installment of our Il était une fois episode on Scottish explorer James Bruce, a shipmate reflects on the crew's recent discovery of Abyssinia:

Tu te rends compte, Luigi, nous repoussons les limites de l'inconnu.

You realize, Luigi, we're pushing the limits of the unknown.     

Cap. 1, Il était une fois - Les Explorateurs: 15. Bruce et les sources du Nil - Part 4 

Don’t forget that se rendre compte is a reflexive expression, and its meaning changes completely when you remove the se: instead of giving an account to yourself, you’re giving an account to someone else, i.e., reporting to them: 

On y va? -Oui, mais d'abord, on rend compte à Oméga.     

Shall we go? -Yes, but first we report to Omega.     

Cap. 24, Il était une fois - L’Espace: 3. La planète verte - Part 3 

We’ll end with a compte expression that deals with endings: en fin de compte (literally, “at the end of the account”), which can be translated as “ultimately,” “at the end of the day,” or “when all is said and done”: 

En fin de compte, un bateau qui est propulsé par une motorisation cent pour cent électrique. 

Ultimately, a boat that's propelled by one hundred percent electric power. 

Cap. 5, Bateau sport 100% électrique: Le Nautique 196 E     

Compte tenu de (taking into account) all of the different ways of using compter and compte, you might feel overwhelmed when trying to remember them all. But don’t worry if you can’t master them right away: c’est l’intention qui compte (it’s the thought that counts)! 

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Les noms en français

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

First there is le prénom (“first name,” literally “pre-name”), which is not to be confused with le pronom, or “pronoun” (le nom means both “name” and “noun”). This “Le Journal” video is all about first names, focusing on the most popular baby names in France: 

C'est un prénom qui passe bien pour une jeune fille, pour une dame 

It's a name that works well for a girl, for a woman 

Cap. 15, Le Journal: Choisir un nom d’enfant

After le prénom comes le deuxième prénom, which literally means “second first name,” i.e. “middle name.” Finally, there’s le nom de famille (“family name” or “surname”). 

Watch out for the word surnom, which is a faux ami of “surname.” Un surnom is “a nickname,” and its verbal form surnommer means “to nickname”: 

Et enfin, les habitants de la Butte aux Cailles sont surnommés les Cailleux.

And finally, the residents of the Butte aux Cailles are nicknamed the "Cailleux."

Cap. 35, Voyage dans Paris: La Butte aux Cailles

Surnommer comes from the verb nommer (to name, to call). When you make nommer reflexive (se nommer), it means “to be named” or “to be called”: 

Ce système de redistribution “intelligent” se nomme “smart grid”.

This “intelligent” redistribution system is called “smart grid.”

Cap. 18, Canal 32: Le futur de l’éolien se joue dans l’Aube 

You can also use se nommer to refer to a person’s name, but it’s a bit more formal in that context than its synonym s’appeler:

Ma mère se nomme Louise.

My mother is named Louise. 

There are other types of names besides your birth name (nom de naissance). If you’re a performer, for example, you might adopt a new name for your stage persona: 

C’est quoi ton nom de scène

What’s your stage name?

Cap. 33, Actu Vingtième: Le Repas des anciens 

Or, if you prefer the pen to the stage, you might take on a nom de plume:

"Voltaire" était le nom de plume de François-Marie Arouet. 

"Voltaire" was the pen name of François-Marie Arouet. 

In a previous lesson on the word mademoiselle, we talked about some recent changes that were made to the vocabulary used in French government documents. Among them is the abolition of the phrase nom de jeune fille (maiden name) in favor of nom de famille, and the phrase nom d’époux/nom d’épouse (married name) in favor of nom d’usage (used name).

So now, if you ever have the pleasure of filling out paperwork in French, you shouldn’t have to worry about writing your names in the wrong boxes! 

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Mille, Million, Milliard: Big Numbers in French

Numbers are an essential feature of every language, and learning them usually just involves a good amount of memorization. In his latest video, Lionel provides an excellent and comprehensive review of numbers in French and explains how some of the more complicated ones are constructed. This lesson will supplement Lionel’s expert counting knowledge with some additional number facts. We won’t spend time going over the basic French numbers, since Lionel did such a great job with that. Instead, we’ll focus on the big numbers (above 100) and on decimals.

Although there are quite a few numbers above 100 (cent), you really only need to know a few of them for the rest to fall into place. Besides cent, there’s mille (a thousand), un million (a million), and un milliard (a billion).

When dealing with the word cent, the most important thing to consider is whether or not it takes an s at the end (and thus becomes plural). It never does in the 100s, since you only have one hundred: cent un (101), cent vingt (120), cent quatre-vingts (180), etc.

Cent vingt-huit personnes ont été relogées ce soir.

One hundred twenty-eight people were rehoused this evening.

Cap. 20, Le Journal: La Coupe du Monde - Part 2

Once you get into the multiple hundreds, however, you do need an s after cent, except when cent is followed by another number. So if your rent is neuf cents dollars ($900) and your landlord is nice enough to raise it by only $50, your new rent will be neuf cent cinquante dollars ($950).

You won’t have to worry about adding an extra s to the word mille, which always stays singular:

En France, huit cent cinquante mille personnes sont atteintes de la maladie d'Alzheimer.

In France, eight hundred fifty thousand people are affected by Alzheimer's disease.

Cap. 19, TV Sud: Alzheimer - L’efficacité des Jardins de Sophia

But once you reach the millions, things get a bit trickier. Once again, an s is required when you’re talking about multiple millions (deux millions vs. un million). But unlike cent and mille, when you’re talking about one million, you need to say un million. That is, the word million never stands alone, yet you never say un cent or un mille as we would say "one hundred" or "one thousand" in English: 

Si j’avais un million de dollars, je parcourrais le monde.

If I had a million dollars, I would travel the world.

You might be wondering why there is a de in un million de dollars but there isn’t one in neuf cents dollars. That’s another rule for million: when the word is followed by a noun, you need a de in between. Note that all three of these million rules are also true for un milliard (a billion).

Numbers aren’t always as neat as 1,000,000 and 950. How do you deal with more unwieldy quantities like 950.23 or 3.6 in French? Take a look at this sentence from our video on the booming number of film shoots near the small town of Saint-Cyr-du-Gault:

En deux mille onze, la région a consacré deux virgule deux millions d'euros

In two thousand eleven, the area devoted two point two million euros

Cap. 22, TV Tours: Hollywood sur Loire!

You may know that virgule means “comma.” So why is it translated as “point” here? The answer is that French deals with decimals in a slightly different way than English does. While the above number would be written 2.2 million in English, in French it would be 2,2 millions

The general rule is that where English uses a period when writing numbers, French uses a comma, and vice versa. So while “one million” in English is 1,000,000, in French it’s 1.000.000. Alternately, un million can also be written 1 000 000, where the periods are replaced by single spaces.

What would you do with un million de dollars or deux virgule deux millions d’euros? Even if you aren’t a millionaire at this point in time, at least you now have the vocabulary to count to a billion in French!

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Punctuation in French

When learning to speak a language, we mostly focus on words. But when learning to write that language, it’s equally important to think about what goes on between the words—that is, how they’re punctuated. While there are many similarities between English and French punctuation, there are some important differences that you’ll need to know when writing your next brilliant essay in French

The major French punctuation marks are easily recognizable: there’s le point (period), la virgule (comma), les deux-points (colon), le point-virgule (semicolon), le point d’exclamation (exclamation point), and le point d’interrogation (question mark).

Speaking of what goes on between words, one of the major differences between French and English punctuation has to do with spacing. Generally, colons, semicolons, exclamation points, and question marks are all preceded by a space: 

Lesquelles préférez-vous : les pommes ou les oranges ? -Les pommes !

Which do you prefer: apples or oranges? -Apples!

There is one set of French punctuation that might not look very familiar to English readers. This sentence alludes to them using an idiom:

C'est la "morale du film", entre guillemets.

That's the quote-unquote "moral of the film."

Cap. 27, Télé Grenoble: La famille Maudru

The phrase entre guillemets literally means "between guillemets." Guillemets are the French version of quotation marks, and they look like this: « ». So the above sentence could be more accurately written: C’est la « morale du film », entre guillemets. 

Notice that the comma is placed outside the guillemets, as are all other punctuation marks. Also, there is always a space after the first guillemet and another one before the second.  

Written French looks different on the page than it does in Yabla captions. Manon and Clémentine have already given us a thorough lesson on book-related vocabulary—now we’ll take an excerpt from one of their helpful skits and show you what it might look like in book form. Here’s the original, from their video on visiting the doctor:

Bonjour! j'ai pris un rendez-vous pour cet après-midi avec le docteur Séléno-Gomez, mais j'ai un empêchement. -Bien. C'est à quel nom? -C'est au nom de Manon Maddie. -Ah oui. Madame Maddie à dix-sept heures quarante-cinq

Hi! I made an appointment for this afternoon with Doctor Séléno-Gomez, but I have an engagement. -Fine. It's under what name? -It's under the name Manon Maddie. -Oh yes. Ms. Maddie at five forty-five.

Cap. 42-45, Manon et Clémentine: Rendez-vous chez le médecin

And here’s how that might look as dialogue in a novel:

« Bonjour ! dit Manon. J’ai pris un rendez-vous pour cet après-midi avec le docteur Séléno-Gomez, mais j'ai un empêchement.

—Bien. C'est à quel nom ? répond Florence.

—C'est au nom de Manon Maddie.

—Ah oui. Madame Maddie à dix-sept heures quarante-cinq ».

This is certainly different from what you would find in an English-language novel! The major difference is that, unlike quotation marks, guillemets are used to mark off the entire dialogue, not a change of speaker, which is instead indicated by a dash (un tiret).

You won’t have to worry too much about punctuation here at Yabla. We use a special style tailored to work well with the Yabla Player. But it’s always good to know proper punctuation when writing in any language, whether you’re fluent in it or just learning it. If you’re looking for something to inspire you to write in French, here are the first few lines of Marcel Proust’s classic novel À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time), as presented by Manon and Clémentine: 

"Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure. Parfois, à peine ma bougie éteinte, mes yeux se fermaient si vite que je n'avais pas le temps de me dire: 'Je m'endors'."

"For a long time, I used to go to bed early. Sometimes, my candle barely put out, my eyes would close so quickly that I had not even time to say to myself, 'I am falling asleep.'"

Cap. 81-83, Manon et Clémentine: Vocabulaire du livre 

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Four More "Faux Amis"

You may recall our previous lesson on three adverbs that were false cognates, or words that look similar in two languages but mean different things. In French, these are called faux amis (literally, “false friends”), and there are too many French-English ones to count. In this lesson, we’ll just focus on four more, all from our most recent videos

We’ve been learning a lot about Galileo lately in the Il était une fois (Once Upon a Time) series, the third installment of which deals with the scientist’s experiments with pendulums, which move in a very specific way:

Vous allez voir que cet instrument va se balancer de moins en moins fort!

You'll see that this instrument is going to swing less and less intensely!

Cap. 11, Il était une fois - Les découvreurs: 9. Galilée - Part 3

You may have expected se balancer to mean “to balance,” but it actually means “to swing.” “To balance” is tenir en équilibre (literally, “to hold in equilibrium”).

In part four of the series, we finally get to the revolutionary idea that made Galileo famous and ultimately cost him his life

Vous vous rendez compte, mon cher, qu'ils se trouvent des savants pour prétendre que la Terre n'est pas le centre de l'univers!

You realize, my dear friend, that there are scientists claiming that the earth is not the center of the universe!

Cap. 22-23, Il était une fois - Les découvreurs: 9. Galilée - Part 4

Galileo didn’t “pretend” that the earth revolved around the sun—on the contrary, he was pretty sure of it! So sure, in fact, that he boldly “claimed” it. “To pretend” is faire semblant or feindre.

Prétendre is followed by que when you're making a claim ("to claim that..."), but when you're claiming a specific thing for yourself, you use prétendre à

Il peut prétendre à une allocation chômage.

He can claim unemployment benefits. 

On a different note, there’s no pretending that the angora rabbits on the Croix de Pierre Farm aren’t adorable, or that their breeder doesn’t take the utmost care to make sure that they’re warm and cozy:

Le plus galère pour eux c'est quand tu les épiles et que le temps n'est pas très au beau ou qu'il gèle très fort.

The toughest time for them is when you shear them and that the weather is not very nice or that there is a very hard frost.

Cap. 19-20, Ferme de la Croix de Pierre: Les lapins

Il gèle is an impersonal expression (more on those in this lesson) meaning “it’s freezing” or “there’s a frost,” and it comes from the verb geler. That may look like it might mean “to gel”—and indeed, the noun le gel means both “frost” and “gel”—but “to gel” is more like prendre forme (to take shape).

Finally, we’ll leave the French countryside for Montreal, where Geneviève Morissette has been making waves on the music scene as a singer-songwriter and as the host of the “Rendez-Vous de la Chanson Vivante” (Meetings of the Living Song) festival: 

Ça fait deux ans que je les anime.

I've been hosting them for two years.

Cap. 4, Geneviève Morissette: À propos de la musique

Geneviève certainly animates the festival with her impassioned lyrics and powerful voice (and animer can in fact mean “to animate” or “enliven”), but in this context the verb means “to host” or “present.” We could also say that Geneviève is l’animatrice (“host” or “presenter”) of the festival.

Faux amis can be tricky (not to mention a bit sneaky), so be on the lookout for them when watching Yabla videos. Whenever you spot one you don’t know, you can just click on it to add it to your flashcards list. Then, once you review your flashcards, you’ll have it mastered in no time! Bonne chance (“good luck,” not “good chance”)!

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Less Is More with "Moins"

In our last lesson, we talked about the word plus (more) and how its different pronunciations affect its meaning. Now let’s take a look at the opposite of plusmoins (fewer, less)—which only has one pronunciation, but no fewer meanings! 

Like plus, moins is an adverb of comparison, and can modify both adjectives and nouns. When it modifies an adjective, it’s usually followed by que to form the comparative phrase “less than.” In his video on French breakfast customs, Éric observes that cereal is less popular in France than it is in English-speaking countries: 

Et puis les céréales, mais c'est moins commun que chez vous, qu'aux États-Unis, qu'en Angleterre.

And then cereal, but that's less common than where you come from, than in the United States, than in England.

Cap. 37-38, Arles: Le petit déjeuner 

When modifying a noun, moins is usually followed by de:

Il y a moins de bêtes à chasser.  

There are fewer animals to hunt.  

Cap. 8, Il était une fois - Les Amériques: 1. Les premiers Américains - Part 9 

You can even make moins a noun by putting le in front of it, in which case it means “the least”: 

C’est le moins que je puisse faire. 

That’s the least that I can do. 

When you put an adjective after le moins, the adjective becomes superlative: 

C'est le livre le moins cher et presque tous les éditeurs ont une collection de poche.

This is the cheapest book, and almost all publishers have a paperback collection.

Cap. 36, Manon et Clémentine: Vocabulaire du livre 

Moins is also the basis for several common expressions. There’s the phrase à moins que (unless), which Adonis uses when singing about what he believes is the only acceptable reason for cutting down trees: 

À moins que ce soit pour faire mes jolis calendriers

Unless it’s to make my pretty calendars 

Cap. 4-5, Nouveaux Talents: Adonis chante

Try not to confuse à moins que with au moins, which means “at least”: 

Tout le monde connaît le Père Noël, tout le monde lui a écrit au moins une fois..

Everybody knows Santa Claus, everybody's written him at least once...

Cap. 3, Télé Miroir: Adresse postale du Père Noël

Finally, there’s de moins en moins (“fewer and fewer” or “less and less”):

Ça peut aider aussi à sauver les animaux, à ce qu'ils soient de moins en moins abandonnés.

That can also help save animals so that fewer and fewer are abandoned.

Cap. 12, Grand Lille TV: Des photos contre l’abandon des animaux 

Since moins is a quantitative word like plus, it makes sense that it can be used with numbers as well. You’ll hear it the most often as a number modifier in expressions involving temperature, time, and basic arithmetic: 

Et voilà, me voilà parée pour sortir par moins zéro, moins quinze degrés.

And there we have it, here I am dressed to go out in below zero, negative fifteen degrees.

Cap. 11, Fanny parle des saisons: S’habiller en hiver

Il est dix heures moins le quart. 

It’s a quarter to ten. 

Deux plus cinq moins trois égale quatre.

Two plus five minus three equals four. 

We hope you are plus ou moins satisfait(e) (more or less satisfied) with our presentation of plus and moins! And for any math whizzes out there, here’s an informative article on French math vocabulary beyond addition and subtraction. Why not try learning (or relearning) geometry in French? 

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Pronouncing "Plus"

If you listen to Jean-Marc’s description of Mediterranean beaches versus those in western France and the eastern United States, you might be struck by the way he pronounces the word plus (more):

Les plages sont beaucoup plus petites, avec beaucoup plus de gens.

The beaches are a lot smaller, with a lot more people.

Cap. 8, Jean-Marc: La plage - Part 1 

Did you notice that he didn’t pronounce the “s” in the first instance of plus, but did pronounce it in the second? That’s no inconsistency on his part—Jean-Marc is actually obeying the tricky pronunciation rules of this common little adverb. 

The general rule of thumb for plus is fairly easy to remember: when it’s used to mean more of something (plus de...), the “s” is pronounced; when it’s used in a negative sense (ne… plus [no more], non plus [neither]), the “s” is not pronounced:

Je ne savais plus qui j'étais.

I didn't know who I was anymore.

Cap. 17, Melissa Mars: Mozart, L’opéra rock - Part 1 

Mais toi non plus tu n'as pas changé.

But you, you have not changed either.

Cap. 25, Le Journal: Retour sur scène de Julio Iglesias 

This becomes especially important in informal conversation, when a lot of French speakers tend to drop the ne in negative constructions. So if someone says je veux plus de pain and they don’t pronounce the “s,” you can tell that they don’t want any more bread even though they left out the ne. If they do pronounce the “s,” you can pass them the bread basket! 

A different rule applies when plus is used comparatively, i.e., when it’s followed by an adjective. In that case, the “s” is usually not pronounced (like when Jean-Marc says plus petites in the first example), unless the adjective begins with a vowel: 

Voici celle qui est sans doute la maison la plus illuminée d'Alsace.

Here is what is without a doubt the most illuminated house in Alsace.

Cap. 4, Alsace 20: Alsace - les plus belles déco de Noël!

If the adjective begins with a vowel, the “s” of plus is pronounced like a “z” to follow the rules of liaison, which you can learn about in our previous lesson on that subject.

The “s” is also pronounced when plus is used at the end of a sentence to mean “more” and when it is used as a noun (le plus):

Du coup, ils ont commencé à être plus proches de moi et à me parler plus.

So they started to be closer to me and to talk to me more

Cap. 33, B-Girl Frak: Limoges 

Qui peut le plus peut le moins.

He who can do more can do less. 

So to sum up, here’s a general breakdown of the pronunciation of plus:

The “s” is pronounced:

-in the expression plus de....

-when plus is followed by an adjective beginning with a vowel.

-when plus is at the end of a sentence and means “more.”

-when plus is used as a noun.  

The “s” is not pronounced:

-in negative plus constructions (ne… plus, non plus).

-when plus is followed by an adjective beginning with a consonant. 

Nous espérons que c'est un peu plus clair maintenant! (We hope that this is a bit clearer now!) Since it’s such a common word, plus appears in quite a large number of Yabla videos—you can find a list of them here. And stay tuned for a lesson on the opposite of plusmoins (less)—coming soon to Yabla. 

Thanks to subscriber Felicity S. for suggesting this lesson topic!

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C'est donnant donnant: French Expressions with "Donner"

Given that (étant donné que) it's the season of Thanksgiving (or Le Jour de l’Action de Grâce in Canadian French), let’s commemorate the act of giving by exploring the French verb for “to give,” donner. Besides thanks, there is an infinite number of things you can give, so we’ll focus on some specific expressions with donner that are featured in our videos. 

Let’s start by giving some thanks to our favorite tour guide, Daniel Benchimol, who likes to close his always informative travel videos with the phrase donner rendez-vous

Je vous donne rendez-vous très rapidement pour d’autres découvertes. 

I’ll meet you very soon for some other discoveries.

Cap. 33, Voyages dans Paris: Les Secrets de la Bastille 

Daniel is literally “giving you a rendezvous,” and you can accept his gift by watching his latest tour, which will take you around Paris’s beautiful Bastille neighborhood. 

It’s also good to give thanks for the rights (les droits) that we’re granted every day, whether our human rights or the occasional promotional perk: 

Une place de concert achetée donne droit également à une entrée gratuite au château

A purchased concert seat also entitles you to a free entry to the castle.

Cap. 27-28, TV Tours: Ouverture du 3ème festival de Chambord 

And let’s not forget about what we can give back to others, even if it’s just a helping hand: 

Je viens là et puis je leur donne un petit coup de main.

I come here and then I give them a bit of a helping hand.

Cap. 24, Actus de Quartier: Fête de quartier Python-Duvernois - Part 3 

If you’re dealing with someone stubborn, you might not want to give them anything or get anything from them—you might just want them to give in (se donner): 

Seul face à Beethoven encore et toujours, Beethoven qui résiste et qui se donne et s’enfuit...

Alone in front of Beethoven, as always, Beethoven who resists and who gives in and runs away...

Cap. 18, Le Journal: Gstaad 

As a gift to you for being such great Yabla subscribers, here is a list of some other useful expressions with donner. Think of it as a bit of a donnant donnant (give and take) situation. For even more donner-related expressions, see our previous lesson on the word maldonne.

donner de sa personne - to give a lot of oneself, go out of one’s way

donner à penser que - to suggest, lead to believe

donner faim/soif/chaud/froid - to make hungry/thirsty/hot/cold 

donner sur - to look out onto 

donner dans - to lapse into

se donner à fond - to go all out, give it one’s all 

se donner du mal - to go to a lot of trouble

donner du fil à retordre - to give a hard time, give the runaround

se donner en spectacle - to make a spectacle of oneself 

s'en donner à cœur joie - to enjoy wholeheartedly

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