The phrase pas mal literally means "not bad," and like its English counterpart, it's often used to express an assessment of something:
La nourriture à ce restaurant n'est pas mal.
The food at that restaurant isn't bad.
C'est pas mal déjà!
That's not bad at all! [or: That's pretty good!]Play Caption
But just as often, pas mal is used not as a qualitative assessment, but a quantitative one. Take a look at this example from our video on Paris's Rue des Martyrs:
Y a pas mal de bars dans la rue.
There are quite a few bars on the street.
Caption 42, Adrien - Rue des MartyrsPlay Caption
Adrien isn't saying that the bars on the street "aren't bad." If he were, he might have said something like, Les bars dans la rue ne sont pas mal. Instead, he uses pas mal to indicate that there are "quite a few" bars on the street. When followed by de (of) plus a noun, pas mal can mean anything along the lines of "quite a few," "quite a bit," or "quite a lot":
C'est quelque chose qui est très important pour nous depuis pas mal de temps.
This is something that has been very important to us for quite a bit of time.Play Caption
When pas mal comes before an adjective, it means "a lot" or "pretty":
Ben c'est sûr que... c'est pas mal plus naturel.
Well, for sure... that's a lot more natural.
Caption 46, Bateau sport 100% électrique - Le Nautique 196 EPlay Caption
Ce livre est pas mal intéressant.
This book is pretty interesting.
And when referring to a verb, it means "really" or, again, "quite a bit/a lot":
J'essaie de rechercher pas mal le son.
I'm trying to really research the sound [or: I'm trying to research the sound quite a bit].
Caption 12, Phil Cambron - Ses révélationsPlay Caption
Here's an example sentence that contains both senses of pas mal:
Pas mal de nuages mais quand même des éclaircies, et au niveau des températures, c'est pas mal non plus.
Quite a few clouds but still some sunny spells, and as far as temperatures go, that's not bad either.
Captions 9-10, Alsace 20 - Météo des MaquilleursPlay Caption
But be careful: just because you see the words pas and mal next to each other doesn't necessarily mean you're dealing with the expression pas mal. Namely, when a verb phrase with mal (such as faire mal [to hurt] or le prendre mal [to take it the wrong way]) is negated, the pas mal portion doesn't mean "not bad" or "quite a bit"—it's just part of the negation:
Ça fait pas mal? -Non, non.
It doesn't hurt? -No, no.Play Caption
Ne le prends pas mal.
Don't take it the wrong way.
Thanks for reading! Tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the latest episode of Le Jour où tout a basculé, Sarah receives some troubling news from her son Nino that could put her job in jeopardy:
Sarah ne se doute pas un instant de la tournure des évènements.
Sarah doesn't suspect for a moment the turn of events.Play Caption
The verb douter looks a lot like the English verb "to doubt," and indeed, the two are exact cognates:
Et puis, je commençais aussi à douter.
And then, I also began to doubt.Play Caption
But se douter, the reflexive form of douter, doesn't mean "to doubt oneself," as you might expect. Instead, it means "to suspect" or "to guess":
Mais il ne se doute pas qu'à sa place va se présenter Edna, la complice de Louise.
But little does he know [he doesn't suspect] that in her place will be Edna, Louise's accomplice.Play Caption
If you're really certain about something, you can use the phrase se douter bien:
Avec un regard comme celui-là, on se doute bien qu'il a dû en voir.
With a look like this, one might well guess that he must have seen a lot.
Caption 1, Le Journal - Le photographe Cartier-BressonPlay Caption
Je me doute bien qu'il sait comment cuisiner.
I'm sure he knows how to cook.
Both douter and se douter can be followed by de or que. (Se) douter de always comes before a noun (as in Sarah ne se doute pas un instant de la tournure des évènements), while (se) douter que always comes before an independent clause (as in je me doute bien qu'il sait comment cuisiner).
But douter and se douter differ in another important way besides their meaning. While se douter que always takes the indicative mood (since it expresses a certainty or near certainty), douter que can take the indicative or the subjunctive depending on context. In general, douter que takes the subjunctive in the affirmative and the indicative in the negative:
Je doute qu'il sache comment cuisiner.
I doubt he knows how to cook.
Je ne doute pas qu'elle sait la meilleure façon d'y arriver.
I don't doubt she knows the best way to get there.
As you may recall, the subjunctive is used to express a wish, uncertainty, or doubt. So if you're saying you don't doubt something, it makes sense that you would use the indicative rather than the subjunctive in that case.
We'll be back with a new lesson soon, sans aucun doute (without a doubt)!
The adjectives sensé(e) and censé(e) are easy to confuse, since they have the same pronunciation and almost the same spelling (in other words, they're homophones). Sensé(e) is related to the English word "sense," and means "sensible," "reasonable," or "sane":
J'étais face à trois personnes que je considérais comme étant parfaitement sensées.
I was facing three people whom I considered to be perfectly sane.
Captions 80-81, Le Jour où tout a basculé - Notre appartement est hanté - Part 5Play Caption
Censé(e) might remind you of the words "census," "censor," or "censure," but it means something quite different. It's the word for "supposed," as in "supposed to do something." Just like "supposed to," it's nearly always preceded by the verb "to be" (être) and followed by an infinitive:
On est censé... faire réparer des objets qui ont quelques problèmes.
We're supposed to... bring items that have some problems for repair.
Caption 2, Actus Quartier - Repair CaféPlay Caption
On était censé n'avoir aucun souci, avoir des centrales complètement fiables.
They were supposed to have no concerns, to have totally reliable power plants.
Caption 25, Manif du Mois - Fukushima plus jamais çaPlay Caption
Alors que la police, elle est censée être là pour nous protéger.
While the police are supposed to be there to protect us.Play Caption
You can always say supposé(e) instead of censé(e), which might be a little easier to remember:
...son fameux pont qui était supposé être un lieu où [on] profitait de beaux panoramas.
...its famous bridge, which was supposed to be a place where you enjoy beautiful panoramas.Play Caption
Or you can use the verb devoir, especially in the past tense:
...bien qu'elle se demanda en quoi cela devait l'aider à se rendre au bal.
...although she wondered in what way that was supposed to help her get to the ball.
Captions 47-48, Contes de fées - Cendrillon - Part 1Play Caption
Whichever version of "supposed to" you use is perfectly sensé!
At the end of our last lesson, we introduced the question ça te dit (or ça vous dit), which literally means "does it say/speak to you," but is mostly used as an informal way of proposing something to someone. It's more or less equivalent to the English phrase "what do you say":
Du coup, je propose un apéro ce soir chez moi, dix-neuf heures. Ça vous dit?
So I propose an aperitif tonight at my place, seven p.m. What do you say?Play Caption
But ça te dit can be translated a number of other ways too, depending on its position in the sentence:
Alors, ça te dit?
So, are you interested?Play Caption
Ça te dit qu'on aille boire un thé?
How would you like to go have some tea?Play Caption
At the beginning of a sentence, ça te dit can precede either que or de. But be careful: the phrase ça te dit que requires the subjunctive, as you can see in the example above (qu'on aille). Ça te dit de, on the other hand, simply takes the infinitive:
Ça te dit d'aller boire un thé?
How would you like to go have some tea?
Ça te dit has another meaning too. If you're not sure whether someone is familiar with what you're referring to, you can use the expression to double-check:
Non. Je connais pas Saguenay. -Bien, voyons, le fleuve, tout ça... non, ça te dit rien?
No. I don't know Saguenay. -Come on, the river, all that... no, that doesn't mean anything to you?
Caption 53, Le Québec parle - aux Français - Part 1Play Caption
C'est situé dans le huitième arrondissement; je ne sais pas si ça vous dit quelque chose, mais voilà.
It's located in the eighth district; I don't know if that means anything to you, but there you go.
Caption 18, Paris Tour - Visite guidée de ParisPlay Caption
Ça vous dit de regarder de nouvelles vidéos sur Yabla?
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for our next lesson and tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to email@example.com.
In Part 2 of "Elle a banni le sucre pendant un an," Danièle Gerkens, a journalist at Elle magazine, talks about the health benefits she experienced after cutting sugar from her diet for one year. When the year was almost up, she was expecting to break her sugar fast with mountains of whipped cream, but it was actually a single piece of dark chocolate that did her in:
Je me disais que j'allais me rouler dans la chantilly, et cetera. Et puis en fait, plus ça arrivait, plus je me disais, mais... qu'est-ce que je vais faire?
I told myself that I was going to wallow in whipped cream, et cetera. And then in fact, the closer it came [to the end], the more I was wondering, but... what am I going to do?
Captions 102-104, Le Figaro - Elle a banni le sucre pendant un an - Part 2Play Caption
Note the two different translations of je me disais here: "I told myself" and "I was wondering." The reflexive verb se dire can mean a number of things depending on context, namely "to tell/say to oneself" and "to wonder/think." In a sense, these both mean the same thing: when you wonder or think about something, you're telling yourself about it.
When multiple people se disent, they could be thinking about something or telling themselves something, but they could also just be talking to each other:
Christine et Alice sont de meilleures amies. Elles se disent tout.
Christine and Alice are best friends. They tell each other everything.
Se dire can also mean "to say of oneself," or in other words, "to claim to be":
Le Charles de Gaulle, où la direction se dit d'abord victime de son image.
Charles de Gaulle, where the management claims first to be a victim of its image.Play Caption
Or se dire can simply mean "to be said," which has a few different connotations. Here Danièle is (somewhat cheekily) talking about something she thinks is taboo and can't be mentioned in public. Believe it or not, she's referring to her love of milk chocolate!
Je sais, ça se dit pas, mais j'adorais ça.
I know you're not supposed to say it, but that's what I loved.Play Caption
In its most general sense, se dire refers to anything that "is said" in everyday language:
Par contre, "faire le beau" se dit d'un chien qui se tient sur les pattes arrière pour réclamer un sucre.
On the other hand, "faire le beau" is said of a dog that stands on its hind legs to beg for a lump of sugar.
Captions 24-25, Margaux et Manon - Emplois du verbe fairePlay Caption
"Je n'ai pas des biscuits": ça se dit en français? -Non. Il faut dire: "je n'ai pas de biscuits".
Can you say je n'ai pas des biscuits in French? -No. You have to say je n'ai pas de biscuits [I don't have any cookies].
Don't confuse ça se dit with ça te dit (or ça vous dit in the plural), which means "how does that sound" or "how would you like..." (literally, "does it speak to you"):
Ça te dit de réviser les multiples sens de l'expression "se dire"?
How would you like to review the multiple meanings of the expression se dire?
At the end of the second installment of Le Jour où tout a basculé - J'ai volé pour nourrir mon fils, Sarah uses an interesting construction to express remorse about something she did at work:
Et j'avais beau me dire que je l'avais fait pour Nino, j'avais vraiment honte.
And even though I told myself that I'd done it for Nino, I was really ashamed.Play Caption
Beau means "beautiful" or "handsome," but the expression "avoir beau + infinitive" doesn't have anything to do with beauty. It can mean a variety of things depending on context, but it generally describes a failed effort or something done in vain. Sometimes it's just a synonym of bien que, malgré, or quoique ("even though" or "although"), as in the example above:
T'as beau le travailler, ça ne vient pas.
Even though you work at it, it doesn't come.Play Caption
Ça a beau être une pizzeria, nos prix sont assez élevés pour le commun des mortels.
Although it's a pizzeria, our prices are pretty high for the everyday mortal.
Caption 5, F&F Pizza - Chez F&F - Part 1Play Caption
Or it can correspond to the English expressions "no matter what" or "no matter how hard":
Elle a beau faire, son copain la critique toujours.
No matter what she does, her boyfriend always criticizes her.
J'ai beau trimer, sans toi ma vie n'est qu'un décor qui brille, vide de sens.
No matter how hard I slave away, without you my life is just decor that shines, empty of meaning.
Caption 19, Indila - Dernière dansePlay Caption
When used with the verb essayer (to try), it means "try as one might":
Et j'ai eu beau essayer de le convaincre d'arrêter ses enfantillages, rien à faire.
And try as I might to convince him to stop his childish games, it was useless.Play Caption
And when used with être (to be), the expression is often translated as "may be" or "may well be":
Yseult a beau être jeune, elle sait bien où elle veut aller.
Yseult may be young, [but] she knows exactly where she wants to goPlay Caption
Tu as beau être désolé, tu m'as blessé profondément.
You may well be sorry, but you hurt me deeply.
Note that, while the English requires a "but" in both of these sentences, there's no need for a mais in the French. So you wouldn't say: Yseult a beau être jeune, mais elle sait bien où elle veut aller.
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for our next lesson and tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are two new videos dealing with food on Yabla this week. The first is the latest episode of Le Jour où tout a basculé, which focuses on a struggling frozen-food worker and her difficult son. The second is an interview with Christian Le Squer, the head chef at the three-Michelin-starred restaurant Le Cinq. Both videos contain a good number of interesting food-related words, which we'll go over in this lesson.
1. Des pâtes
Y a quoi pour le dîner? -Des pâtes.
What's for dinner? -Pasta.Play Caption
"Pasta" is a singular noun, but when you say you're having pasta for dinner, you don't mean you're just having one piece of pasta, right? That's why you say des pâtes (plural) in French when talking about a pasta meal. Une pâte (singular) refers to one piece of pasta, and it's also the word for "paste," "pastry," and "dough." Don't confuse it with le pâté, which means—you guessed it—"pâté."
Pourtant, ça empêche pas mes potes de bouffer de la viande.
Even so, that doesn't stop my buddies from eating meat.Play Caption
This is a very common slang word meaning "to eat." You can use it instead of the standard verb manger when speaking informally. And instead of la nourriture (food), you can say la bouffe.
3. Des plats surgelés
Sarah, quarante-cinq ans, est secrétaire dans une société de fabrication de plats surgelés.
Sarah, forty-five years old, is a secretary at a frozen-food manufacturing company.Play Caption
Des plats surgelés are frozen foods, but the term literally means "frozen dishes." Surgelé(e) is mostly used in food contexts and is often interchangeable with the related adjective congelé(e). The more general word for "frozen" is simply gelé(e).
4. Le couvert
Une quarantaine de couverts...
About forty place settings...
Caption 9, Christian Le Squer - Je ne fais que goûter!Play Caption
Couvert is the past participle of the verb couvrir (to cover), but when used as a noun (le couvert) it means "place setting" or "cutlery." This makes sense if you think about it, since when you set a table, you cover it with plates, glasses, and silverware. In fact, the phrase mettre le couvert means "to set the table," or literally, "to put down the place setting."
Faut la faire torréfier.
It's got to be roasted.
Caption 23, Christian Le Squer - Je ne fais que goûter!Play Caption
Christian Le Squer is referring to a hazelnut (une noisette) that he thinks needs to be roasted. Torréfier is mainly used when talking about roasting nuts or coffee beans. When you're roasting meat or vegetables, you use the verb rôtir or faire rôtir.
6. Une entrée
...viande, poisson, entrée, et sucrée.
...meat, fish, starters, and sweets.
Caption 34, Christian Le Squer - Je ne fais que goûter!Play Caption
In American English, "entrée" is another word for "main course." But une entrée actually means an "appetizer" or "starter" in French. It also means "an entrance." To remember this difference in meaning, just think of an appetizer as the "entrance" to a meal. If you'd like to learn the history of the word "entrée" in English, check out this interesting blog post.
And for more food-related words, see this Yabla lesson.
Lionel is back with his cousin Jean-Pierre, who, in addition to being a wildlife expert, is also a dog expert. With the help of his trusty border collie, Chic, Jean-Pierre gives Lionel some helpful pointers on training dogs.
In part two of the series, Jean-Pierre gives Chic a number of basic dog commands, which Chic performs perfectly. We'll go over some of those commands in this lesson. You may want to revisit our lessons on the imperative mood before reading on, since most of the commands are in that mood.
We'll start with the most basic ones—"come," "look," and "sit":
Viens! Regarde. Viens. Assis!
Come! Look. Come. Sit!
Captions 31-33, Lionel - au club canin - Part 2Play Caption
Of the above commands, can you spot the one that isn't in the imperative? If you guessed assis, you're correct! Assis is in fact the past participle of the verb s'asseoir (to sit) and literally means "seated." Jean-Pierre could also have said assieds-toi (sit), which is the true imperative of the verb s'asseoir, but assis is more commonly used as a command for dogs.
Jean-Pierre uses another past participle as a command a few captions later:
Go on, lie down.
Caption 39, Lionel - au club canin - Part 2Play Caption
Couché is the past participle of coucher (to go to bed), but to a well-trained dog, it's a command to "lie down."
After Jean-Pierre throws a ball, he says:
Prends! Voilà. Apporte.
Catch! That's it. Fetch.
Captions 50-52, Lionel - au club canin - Part 2Play Caption
Prends and apporte are imperative forms of the verbs prendre (to take) and apporter (to bring). So it makes sense that they also mean "catch" and "fetch."
Jean-Pierre uses another word for "catch" at another point in the video:
Tu sais attraper, là?
Can you catch, there?
Caption 35, Lionel - au club canin - Part 2Play Caption
Finally, he tells Chic to heel, or, literally, to "come to foot":
Viens au pied, là.
Come to foot [heel], there.
Caption 45, Lionel - au club canin - Part 2Play Caption
You'll also find a fair number of races de chiens (dog breeds) mentioned in this video:
un teckel - a dachshund
un dalmatien - a Dalmatian
un chien de chasse - a hunting dog
un berger allemand - a German shepherd
un chien terrier - a terrier (un terrier also means "a burrow")
un bâtard - a mutt
And of course, there's un border collie, like Chic!
Daniel Benchimol concludes his latest video, on the town of Montmorency, a little differently than he usually does. He introduces us to Philippe, the man behind the scenes of Daniel's numerous travel videos. Philippe does it all: he films, he directs, he edits. Daniel uses some basic film terminology in his description of Philippe:
Laissez-moi vous présenter mon compagnon de tournage, Philippe, qui réalise, qui monte et qui fait l'ensemble de ce que vous ne voyez pas.
Let me present to you my filming companion, Philippe, who directs, who edits, and who does everything that you don't see.
Captions 47-48, Voyage en France - Montmorency - Part 4Play Caption
Tournage comes from the verb tourner, which, as you might have guessed, means "to turn." But in movie parlance, tourner means "to film" (and le tournage means "filming" or "film shoot"). To remember this, just think of film reels turning on an old movie camera.
We discussed the verb réaliser in a previous lesson. Among its many meanings is "to direct" a film or stage production. The related word réalisateur (masculine) or réalisatrice (feminine) means "director" or "filmmaker"—in other words, the person who "realizes" the film.
Yabla has a lesson on monter as well! Its basic meanings are "to climb" and "to put up," but monter can also mean "to edit" a film. The English word "montage" refers to a specific technique of combining short clips to form a continuous sequence, but the French le montage refers more generally to the "editing" of a film.
Another Yabla video takes us to Concarneau in Brittany, where a film crew documented the town's rich maritime heritage. You'll find some interesting film-related words at the beginning of the video:
Moteur! Séance de tournage sur le port de Concarneau. En face de l'objectif, le maître du port.
Action! Filming session on the Concarneau harbor. In front of the camera lens, the harbormaster.Play Caption
Moteur usually just means "motor" or "engine," but here it means "Action!" This is actually a shortened version of the phrase silence, moteur, action! (literally, "silence, motor, action!"), the French equivalent of "lights, camera, action!" You can also say moteur, ça tourne, action! ("motor, it's filming, action!").
You might be wondering what a "camera lens" has to do with an "objective." If you consider that un objectif also means "an aim," the relationship might be clearer. A filmmaker or photographer aims their camera lens at their subject, so it makes sense that objectif is the word for "camera lens."
Our friend Lionel is known for his witty puns and excellent comedic timing. He even filmed a standup set for Yabla! Apparently, a good sense of humor runs in his family. In Lionel's latest video, his cousin Jean-Pierre cracks a joke about the Vosges mountain range:
Y a une blague à propos de... justement des Vosges du Nord. Quand on voit pas les Vosges du Nord, c'est qu'il pleut. Et quand on les voit bien, c'est qu'il va pleuvoir.
There's a joke about... precisely about the Northern Vosges. When you don't see the Northern Vosges, it's because it's raining. And when you see them clearly, it means that it's going to rain.
Captions 85-90, Lionel - à Lindre-Basse - Part 7Play Caption
If you didn't laugh at Jean-Pierre's joke, you probably had to be there (near the Northern Vosges, that is).
Une blague doesn't only refer to a verbal joke. It can also be a trick or a prank you play on someone:
On va leur faire une bonne blague!
We're going to play a nice trick on them!Play Caption
Une farce and un tour are the other words for "trick," "prank," or "practical joke":
Une farce joyeuse et de franche gaieté.
A joyous prank with uninhibited gaiety.Play Caption
Ils ont plus d'un tour dans leur sac.
They have more than one trick in their bag [up their sleeves].Play Caption
There's also another word for "joke": une plaisanterie. This example explains what happens in your body when you laugh at a joke:
Vous savez que ce sont les lèvres glottiques qui sous l'effet d'une plaisanterie se mettent à vibrer.
You know that it's the glottic folds that start vibrating when a joke is told.
Captions 8-9, Le Journal - Les effets bénéfiques du rire!Play Caption
So how do you say "to crack a joke" or "to tell a joke" in French? You can either say raconter une plaisanterie or raconter une blague:
Il aime raconter des plaisanteries [or des blagues] grivoises.
He loves to tell dirty jokes.
But if you're talking about "joking" or "joking/messing around," then you use the verbs plaisanter or blaguer:
Ils blaguaient tout le temps pendant leur enfance.
They always used to joke around when they were little.
Tu plaisantes! Je ne crois pas ça. -Non, je ne plaisante pas!
You're kidding! I don't believe that. -No, I'm not kidding!
Thanks for reading! We'll be back soon with a new lesson. Sans blague! (No joke!)
Animals are generally (and perhaps unjustly) considered to be less intelligent than humans, which explains why the French word bête can mean both "beast" and "stupid":
Après tout, c'est bête la guerre.
After all, war is stupid.Play Caption
The related noun bêtise can mean anything along the lines of "stupidity" or "idiocy." You can use it in a general sense to talk about "something stupid":
Après les parents, ils me disent, quand ils font une bêtise...
Later the parents tell me, when they do something stupid...Play Caption
Or you might use it to refer to something more specific, such as a mistake. Une bêtise isn't just any old mistake, but a particularly stupid one:
Vous allez réparer vos bêtises.
You're going to repair your stupid mistakes.Play Caption
Of course, if you tell someone he or she has made a stupid mistake, you could be implying that the person him or herself is stupid. Une erreur is a more neutral word for "mistake" that doesn't connote stupidity:
Elle fait une terrible erreur.
She's making a terrible mistake.Play Caption
The plural bêtises is often used to refer to "nonsense," "mischief," or any kind of naughty behavior:
Arrête tes bêtises.
Stop your nonsense.
Mais si on fait des bêtises, on sait jamais...
But if we get into mischief, you never know...
Caption 90, Actu Vingtième - Le Repas des anciensPlay Caption
If you argue with someone over des bêtises, you're arguing over nothing:
Mes enfants se disputent toujours pour des bêtises.
My kids are always arguing with each other over nothing.
When it comes to learning a language, there's no such thing as a stupid mistake. So don't fret if you forget an accent mark or type in the wrong word in a Yabla game—you've just made a simple erreur, not une bêtise!
For fun, here's an 80s throwback for you: Sabine Paturel's "Les Bêtises," which was a smash hit in France in 1986.
In our previous lessons on the French conditional, we briefly mentioned si (if) clauses, which express the possibility or likelihood of an event. These are comparable to "if/then" constructions in English, as in "if you didn't want to go, then you should have said something" or "if I rest now, I'll have more energy later." French si clauses are made up of two parts: a condition (e.g. "if I rest now") and a result ("I'll have more energy later"). They come in three different forms, each expressing different likelihoods and employing different verb tenses and moods. Let's break them down one by one.
1. Si + present-tense verb
The first type of si clause describes a possible or likely event. It expresses what could or will probably happen if a present condition is met. When the "condition" part (si + verb) of the clause is in the present tense, the "result" part can be in the present, imperative, or future:
Si on surveille pas, elle les prend et puis elle les fait tomber un par un.
If we don't watch, she takes them and then makes them fall one by one.
Caption 23, Angers 7 - Un lama en plein appartementPlay Caption
Donc si vous pouvez éviter de sortir, évitez.
So if you can avoid going out, avoid it.
Caption 7, Alsace 20 - Météo des MaquilleursPlay Caption
Même aujourd'hui, si on me fait chanter, je chanterai.
Even today, if you make me sing, I'll sing.
Caption 55, Actu Vingtième - Le Repas des anciensPlay Caption
2. Si + imperfect verb
The second type describes something that's contrary to the present situation or unlikely to happen. Here the si is followed by an imperfect verb and the "result" part of the clause requires the conditional:
Si on avait pas tant de bénévoles... cela serait pas possible.
If we didn't have so many volunteers... it wouldn't be possible.
Captions 34-35, Farmer François - Le stand de légumesPlay Caption
Je pourrais aller au cinéma avec toi si je n'étais pas malade.
I could go to the movies with you if I weren't sick.
As you can see from the above example, the "result" doesn't always have to follow the "condition"—it can just as easily be placed before it. So we could rewrite the "Farmer François" sentence as: Cela serait pas possible si on avait pas tant de bénévoles (it wouldn't be possible if we didn't have so many volunteers). As long as both parts of a si clause are in the right tense/mood, it doesn't matter which comes first.
3. Si + pluperfect verb
The final type of si clause is a lot like the second type, but a bit more complex. It describes something that's contrary to a past event—for instance, something you wish had happened or regret not having done. In other words, it expresses an impossibility. The pluperfect is paired with the past conditional here:
Si j'avais su, je serais venu avec deux chevaux.
If I had known, I would have come with two horses.Play Caption
Hier j'aurais levé le bras pour appeler le taxi si j'avais d'abord soigné mon épaule.
Yesterday I would have raised my arm to hail the taxi if I had treated my shoulder first.
Captions 39-41, Le saviez-vous? - Le mode du conditionnelPlay Caption
To learn about some other meanings of si besides "if," check out this lesson. And if you have any suggestions for future lesson topics, feel free to tweet us @yabla or email us at email@example.com.
As Patricia mentions in her recent video, the French conditional mood only comes in two tenses: present and past. While the present conditional expresses something you would do, the past conditional expresses something you would have done. We discussed the present conditional in our previous lesson, so now we'll focus on the past.
The past conditional is a compound tense, which means it's made up of multiple parts. Two parts, to be exact: an auxiliary verb (avoir or être) in the conditional, plus the past participle of the main verb. Here's an example of the verb pouvoir (to be able to) in the past conditional:
On aurait pu les cuire individuellement, mais euh, là ça va le faire.
We could've cooked them individually, but uh, here, this'll do it.Play Caption
Like most verbs, pouvoir combines with the auxiliary verb avoir (to have) in compound past tenses. But as Patricia explains in another video, some verbs combine with être (to be) in those instances, such as the verbs aller (to go) and naître (to be born):
Je serais allé à la plage mais il faisait trop froid.
I would have gone to the beach, but it was too cold.
L'histoire officielle dit que ce drapeau serait né sous la Révolution française de dix-sept cent quatre-vingt-neuf.
Official history says that this flag was supposedly born under the French Revolution of seventeen eighty-nine.
Captions 6-7, Le saviez-vous? - Histoire du drapeau françaisPlay Caption
The important thing to remember is that in the past tense, you only need to conjugate the auxiliary verb in the conditional, not the main verb (so you wouldn't say on aurait pourrait or je serais irais, for instance).
It's easy to confuse the past conditional with the pluperfect (or plus-que-parfait) tense, which is used to describe things that happened in the remote past. Both constructions contain an auxiliary verb followed by a past participle (in the pluperfect, the auxiliary verb is in the imperfect tense, not the conditional), and you'll often find both of them in sentences containing si (if) clauses:
Hier, j'aurais levé le bras pour appeler le taxi si j'avais d'abord soigné mon épaule.
Yesterday, I would have raised my arm to hail the taxi if I had treated my shoulder first.
Captions 39-41, Le saviez-vous? - Le mode du conditionnelPlay Caption
We'll talk about si clauses in further detail in a future lesson. In the meantime, you might want to check out the song Si by Zaz, which contains a good number of si clauses and verbs in the conditional.
In her latest lesson, Patricia introduces the conditional mood, used to describe hypothetical situations. Unlike the indicative mood, which refers to definite, certain actions or events, the conditional refers to anything indefinite or uncertain. The French conditional generally corresponds to "would" in English—"would go," "would say," "would run," etc.
Conjugating the conditional is fairly straightforward. You just take the infinitive form of the verb and add the ending -ais, -ais, -ait, -ions, -iez, or -aient (though there are some exceptions to this rule). Let's take the verb parler (to talk) as an example:
je parlerais (I would talk) nous parlerions (we would talk)
tu parlerais (you [sing.] would talk) vous parleriez (you [pl.] would talk)
il/elle parlerait (he/she would talk) ils/elles parleraient (they would talk)
You may have noticed that these endings are the same as those used in the imperfect tense. In fact, you'll often see the conditional paired with the imperfect in si (if) clauses:
Que ferais-tu si tu gagnais à la loterie?
What would you do if you won the lottery?
Si j'avais soigné mon épaule, je lèverais mon bras.
If I had taken care of my shoulder, I would raise my arm.
Captions 14-15, Le saviez-vous? - Le mode du conditionnelPlay Caption
(J'avais soigné is actually a pluperfect construction, which Patricia reviews in another video.)
The conditional isn't only found in si clauses. You can also use it to express a request or a wish:
Pardon, excusez-moi, est-ce que vous pourriez m'aider à traverser la rue?
Sorry, excuse me, could you help me cross the street?
Caption 22, Cap 24 - Alessandro Di Sarno se met à nu !Play Caption
Je voudrais juste une rose.
I would just like a rose.
Caption 11, Bande-annonce - La Belle et La BêtePlay Caption
As we discussed in a previous lesson, the conditional can also be used to express uncertainty or to report something you heard from someone else. In this case it's often translated with words like "apparently," "supposedly," "reportedly," etc.:
Le rire serait aussi bénéfique que le sport.
Laughter is apparently as good for you as sports.
Caption 16, Le Journal - Les effets bénéfiques du rire!Play Caption
In our next lesson, we'll show you how to construct the conditional in the past tense. In the meantime, be sure to check out Patricia's video on the future tense, which has a similar conjugation pattern to the conditional. You wouldn't want to get them confused!
C'est and il/elle est are two common expressions used to describe people or things in French. Though they have the same meaning (he/she/it is), they're not interchangeable. So how do you know when to use which? It all depends on what comes after the verb est (is). Let's look at some examples.
Il est (masculine) and elle est (feminine) are primarily used before an adjective alone, or before an adverb and adjective (such as très intelligent):
Il s'appelle André. Il est très intelligent.
His name is André. He's very smart.
They're also used to describe someone's nationality, religion, or profession:
Elle est japonaise. Elle est bouddhiste. Elle est chimiste.
She is Japanese. She is Buddhist. She is a chemist.
Note the difference between the French and the English in that last sentence. You don't need an indefinite article (un, une) after il/elle est when talking about someone's profession. So you don't say elle est une chimiste, but simply elle est chimiste.
C'est is used in pretty much every other circumstance. You'll find it before a modified noun, such as mon ami:
Il s'appelle André. C'est mon ami. [Not: il est mon ami.]
His name is André. He's my friend.
Or before a disjunctive pronoun (moi, toi, lui, etc.):
Ah, oui, c'est moi. -C'est toi mais c'est vrai!
Oh, yes, it's me. -It's you, but it's true!Play Caption
L'État, c'est moi.
The State, it is I (or "I am the State").
(attributed to King Louis XIV of France)
C'est can also come before a standalone adjective (such as c'est vrai in the example above), but only when you're making a general statement about a situation. If you're referring to something specific, then you use il/elle est:
Cette histoire n'est pas inventée. Elle est vraie.
This story isn't made-up. It's true.
If you're describing a group of people or things, then you need to use the plural forms of c'est and il/elle est. These are ce sont and ils/elles sont (they are):
Ah, ce sont les fameuses pommes de terre, euh... violettes.
Oh, these are the famous, uh... purple potatoes.Play Caption
Ne vous approchez pas des ours. Ils sont très dangereux.
Don't go near the bears. They are very dangerous.
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for our next lesson and tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In a recent lesson, we talked about the words bon/bonne and mauvais/mauvaise, which respectively mean "good" and "bad," but can also mean "right" and "wrong" depending on context. It's easy to confuse these with the words bien and mal, which have similar meanings ("well" and "badly/poorly") but different functions.
Bon/bonne and mauvais/mauvaise are adjectives, which means they change according to the number and gender of the noun they modify:
Alors justement je crois que c'est vraiment une très bonne chose...
So, exactly, I think that it's really a very good thing...
Caption 56, Alsace 20 - 100 recettes pour 100 vinsPlay Caption
Il y a eu la destruction de la partie de maison existante qui était en très mauvais état.
There was the destruction of the existing part of the house that was in very bad shape.
Caption 22, Thomas - Thomas et sa maisonPlay Caption
On the other hand, bien and mal are adverbs, which can modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. Unlike adjectives, these never change in French:
...un grand orfèvre parisien que Balzac connaissait bien.
who was a great Parisian goldsmith whom Balzac knew well.
Caption 28, Exposition - Balzac, architecte d'intérieursPlay Caption
Il paraît que les voyages en train finissent mal en général
It seems that train rides generally end badly
Caption 54, Grand Corps Malade - Les Voyages en trainPlay Caption
Just as it's ungrammatical to say "whom Balzac knew good" and "train rides generally end bad" in English, in French you can't say que Balzac connaissait bon or les voyages en train finissent mauvais. You have to use bien/mal.
Bien and mal can also function as nouns. In philosophical terms, they refer to "good" and "evil":
Quelle est la différence entre le bien et le mal?
What is the difference between good and evil?
But they have more down-to-earth meanings as well. For instance, the plural les biens means "goods," as in commodities or possessions. And mal can also refer to illness or harm, as in the expressions avoir mal and faire mal:
J'ai mal à l'oreille.
I have an earache.
Ne me fais pas mal!
Don't hurt me!
In everyday speech, bon and bien are also used as interjections, in which case they're more or less interchangeable. They both correspond to the English interjection "well" in this context:
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.
Caption 21, Arles - Un Petit Tour d'Arles - Part 3Play Caption
Bon, il y a des raisons personnelles évidemment qui jouent.
Well, obviously there are personal reasons that come into play.
Caption 17, Alphabétisation - des filles au SénégalPlay Caption
It's sometimes hard to tell the difference between good and bad, but at least now you know the difference between bon, mauvais, bien, and mal!
Stay tuned for our next lesson and tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to email@example.com.
In this lesson, we're going to discuss a somewhat tricky aspect of French color words. Like the vast majority of adjectives, most French color words agree in gender (masculine or feminine) and number (singular or plural) with the noun they modify. Let's take the adjective noir (black) as an example:
Ils peuvent être noirs.
It can be black.
Caption 11, Le saviez-vous? - Le vocabulaire de la têtePlay Caption
Ensuite vous avez mon écharpe noire, une simple étole.
Then you have my black scarf, a simple wrap.Play Caption
In the first sentence, noir modifies the masculine plural noun cheveux ("hair" is always plural in French), so it takes the masculine plural ending -s (noirs). In the second sentence, noir modifies the feminine singular noun écharpe, so it takes the feminine singular ending -e (noire).
However, certain color adjectives are invariable—that is, they never change regardless of the gender and number of the noun. All of these adjectives are derived from nouns. Take orange for example. As in English, in French orange refers to both the color and the fruit (une orange). Though you can certainly have de multiples oranges (multiple oranges), the adjective form of the word never changes, even in the plural:
J'ai acheté des chaussures orange.
I bought orange shoes.
On the other hand, rouge (red) isn't invariable (since it's not derived from a noun), so it does change in the plural:
Tu as acheté des chaussures rouges.
You bought red shoes.
Another common color adjective that never changes is marron. Un marron is a chestnut, but when used as an adjective, it just means "brown":
Regardez ces chiens. Ils sont marron?
Look at these dogs. Are they brown?
Caption 52, Leçons avec Lionel - CouleursPlay Caption
The other word for brown, brun, is variable. In this example, it modifies the feminine plural noun feuilles (leaves):
De tas de feuilles à moitié mortes... Un jour vertes, un jour brunes
Lots of half-dead leaves... One day green, one day brown
Captions 9-11, Stromae - Bienvenue chez moiPlay Caption
There's another word for "chestnut" too! It's une châtaigne. The related adjective châtain is variable and is often used to describe hair color:
Ils peuvent être châtains. Châtain, c'est marron.
It can be chestnut-colored. "Chestnut" is brown.
Captions 12-13, Le saviez-vous? - Le vocabulaire de la têtePlay Caption
Some other invariable color adjectives are: abricot (apricot), ardoise (slate), argent (silver), azur (azure), brique (brick), bronze (bronze), café (coffee), caramel (caramel), champagne (champagne), chocolat (chocolate).
There's one more instance of invariability you should be aware of when dealing with color words. When you use more than one adjective to designate a single color (like "light blue," "dark green," etc.), neither of the adjectives changes according to the noun it modifies. For example:
Il a les yeux bleu clair et les cheveux brun foncé.
He has light blue eyes and dark brown hair.
Il a les yeux bleus et les cheveux bruns.
He has blue eyes and brown hair.
As you may have noticed, like many other adjectives, color adjectives always follow the noun in French. See our previous lesson for more information on that. And for a good introduction to colors in French, check out Lionel's video on the subject.
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned and tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In a recent video, Lionel samples some beer at a local market in the town of Toul. In classic Lionel fashion, he delivers a witty pun:
Quand on boit de la bière Coin Coin il faut vivre dans une pièce sans coins.
When you drink "Coin Coin" [Quack Quack] beer, you need to live in a room without corners.
Captions 36-37, Lionel - Les bières artisanales Coin CoinPlay Caption
The name of the beer is derived from the onomatopoeic expression coin coin, or "quack quack," as in the sound a duck makes (check out this page for some more French animal sounds). When not repeated, the word coin has several meanings. As Lionel demonstrates, un coin usually means "a corner." He's talking specifically about the corner of a room, but un coin can also be a street corner:
Au coin de la rue Fabre et de la rue Laurier.
At the corner of Rue Fabre [Fabre Street] and Rue Laurier [Laurier Street].
Caption 39, Canadian Chocolate Seller - ChocolatsPlay Caption
The other word for "corner" in French is angle (which literally means "angle," as you may have guessed). So you could just as easily say l'angle de la pièce (the corner of the room) or l'angle de la rue (the street corner).
Sometimes, un coin can refer not simply to a street corner, but to a broader area of a town or city:
De l'extérieur, on dit que c'est un coin... un quartier chaud.
Outsiders say that this is an area... a rough neighborhood.Play Caption
Or it can have a more general locational meaning, like "spot" or "place":
J'ai trouvé un coin sympa au bord de l'eau.
I found a nice spot on the waterfront.
There's also the adjectival phrase du coin, which refers to all things local:
Pas de polémique: qu'ils soient du coin ou qu'ils viennent de loin...
No argument: whether they're from around here or from far away...
Caption 14, Le Journal - Un automne bien chaudPlay Caption
Nous sommes allés au bistrot du coin.
We went to the local bistro.
Coin is a false cognate of the English word "coin." The word for "coin" is pièce, which also means "room," as in Lionel's example above. Try not to get them confused!
C'est la pièce de dix euros, euh, qui représente la région.
It's the ten-euro coin, uh, that represents the region.Play Caption
You can find many expressions featuring coin on this page. Keep them dans un coin de la tête (at the back of your mind) for whenever you speak French!
Tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to email@example.com.