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Much Ado About Faire: When Faire Won't "Do"

The ubiquitous verb faire is a very versatile word. Not only can you use faire to talk about what you “do” or “make," but you can also use it in a myriad of situations, including when talking about the weather, feelings, and past events. Let’s explore some of the most common idiomatic expressions involving faire beyond doing and making.

 

Before we start focusing on faire as a verb, note that its past participle, fait (done/made), also works as a noun: le fait (the fact, the event).

 

Et le fait historique que l'on retient principalement ici à Bitche, c'est le siège de dix-huit cent soixante-dix

And the historical event that we mainly remember here in Bitche is the eighteen seventy siege

Captions 33-35, Lionel à la Citadelle de Bitche - Part 1

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You can read more about le fait in our lesson Getting the Facts Straight. But let's get back to faire as a verb. Early on in your French learning, you may have come across the construction il fait + noun/adjective to describe the weather. In this context, faire is equivalent to “to be." In the following video, Sophie and Edmée are enjoying a nice day out. Sophie says:

 

Il fait super beau aujourd'hui.

It's super nice out today.

Caption 1, Sophie et Edmée Le beau temps

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Here is another instance where faire translates as “to be”: the expression faire partie de (to be part of).

 

Et il faut savoir que jusqu'en mille huit cent soixante, la Villette ne faisait pas partie de la ville de Paris.

And you should know that until eighteen sixty, La Villette wasn't part of the city of Paris.

Captions 23-24, Adrien Quai de la Seine

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Faire is also used to convey how much time has passed in the construction ça fait + expression of time:

 

Et ça fait longtemps que tu veux devenir professeur?

And have you been wanting to become a teacher for a long time?

Caption 92, Claire et Philippe Le boulot d'enseignant

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This construction is equivalent to il y a + expression of time (it's been, ago). In Sophie et Edmée - Le beau temps, Sophie might have said:

 

Ça fait plus d’une semaine qu’il fait super beau. 

It's been super nice out for over a week.

 

Good weather is a perfect opportunity to faire un tour en vélo (go for a bike ride), as Amal suggests:

 

On va faire un petit tour

We're going to go for a little ride

Caption 28, Amal Vélib

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Note that you can use faire to talk about all kinds of sporting activities

 

Sophie and Edmée agree that on a sunny day, ça fait du bien (it feels good) to get out and about. Indeed, you can use the construction faire + noun/adverb to express how something feels, either in a positive or negative way:

 

Ouais, ça fait du bien un peu de pouvoir sortir et se promener.

Yeah, it kind of feels good to be able to go out and take a walk.

Captions 3-4, Sophie et Edmée Le beau temps

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Conversely, something might faire du mal rather than faire du bien:

 

Mais la petite sirène était incapable de faire du mal à quiconque.

But the little mermaid was incapable of hurting anyone.

Caption 41, Contes de fées La petite sirène - Part 2

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You can also say faire de la peine instead of faire du mal:

 

Ça me fait de la peine.

It pains me.

Caption 17, Sophie et Patrice Après Noël

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Speaking of feelings, you can reassure someone with the expression, Ne t’en fais pas! (Don’t worry!) That's what Nico tells Sam, who is worried about getting a job:

 

Ben, ne t'en fais pas. Je vais t'apprendre.

Well, don't worry about it. I'm going to teach you.

Caption 43, Extr@ Ep. 4 - Sam trouve du travail - Part 2

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In any case, Sam would be wise to act responsibly and avoid faire l’enfant (acting like a child) if he wants a job. As Margaux and Manon explain in their video on this subject, you can use faire to describe many different types of behavior and activities:

 

Attention, petite subtilité! Faire un enfant, c'est avoir un bébé. Mais faire l'enfant, c'est se comporter comme un enfant.

Careful, a slight subtlety! "Faire un enfant" is to have a baby. But "faire l'enfant" is to behave like a child.

Captions 17-18, Margaux et Manon Emplois du verbe faire

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In conclusion, ne vous en faites pas (don’t worry) if you’re not familiar with all the many uses of faire yet. Help is at hand! Allez faire un tour de nos vidéos sur Yabla (take a tour of our Yabla videos) and explore many more ways of using faire.

Continuer la lecture

The Measure of a Chef

The measure of a chef lies in the precise and careful measuring of ingredients to achieve consistent quality in every cooking endeavor. Rest assured: every cook can obtain good results, too, with the help of a few simple weighing and measuring devices readily available around the kitchen. Let’s find out what this equipment is called in French and how the system works.

 

As you may have noticed in Yabla's cooking videos, all the recipes use the French metric system as opposed to the imperial system. So, everything is given to you in grammes, kilogrammes (grams, kilograms) and mililitres, litres (milliliters, liters) instead of cups, pints, and ounces. In the video below, the chocolate log recipe calls for many ingredients, all of them measured in grammes (grams):

 

Ensuite, vous ajoutez cinquante grammes de beurre en morceaux

Then, you add fifty grams of butter cut in pieces

Captions 34-35, Il était une fois la pâtisserie Bûche de Noël

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That same recipe uses mililitres (mililiters) for liquids:

 

Vous ajoutez deux cent cinquante millilitres de crème chaude

You add two hundred fifty milliliters of hot cream

Caption 31, Il était une fois la pâtisserie Bûche de Noël

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If you are not familiar with the metric system, you can choose to convert measurements, which can be a complicated process, or you can simply use une balance (a kitchen scale) set to grammes. In the video below, the baker uses une balance électronique (an electronic scale):

 

Le boulanger a tout d'abord mesuré les ingrédients sur une balance électronique.

First of all, the baker measured the ingredients on an electronic scale.

Captions 5-6, Apprends les métiers Boulanger

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Alternatively, you can use a variety of devices such as un verre doseur (a measuring cup):

 

Tu rajoutes de la farine sans verre doseur, pas besoin

You add some flour without a measuring cup, no need

Captions 26-27, Sophie et Patrice Les crêpes

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Or, if precision is not crucial, you can resort to a drinking verre (glass), which is roughly equivalent to une tasse à mesurer (one measuring cup). (In France, drinking glasses generally come in smaller sizes than American ones.) In the video below, JB uses un verre d’eau (a glass of water) for his tarte aux mirabelles (mirabelle plum tart):

 

Et ensuite ajouter l'équivalent d'un verre d'eau

And then add the equivalent of a glass of water

Caption 17, JB La tarte aux mirabelles

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To measure smaller quantities, you can use une cuiller à mesurer (a measuring spoon). “A teaspoon” is une cuiller à café (“a coffee spoon") or une petite cuiller ("a small spoon"). Une cuiller à café holds cinq millilitres (five milliliters). In the video below, the cook adds a little flavor to his crêpes with une petite cuiller de rhum (a teaspoon of rum):

 

Comme on est entre adultes, une petite cuiller de rhum.

Since we're among adults, a teaspoon of rum.

Caption 77, LCM Recette: Crêpes

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The same recipe calls for deux cuillers à soupe (two tablespoons, literally "soup spoons") of melted butter:

 

Et deux cuillers à soupe de beurre demi-sel fondu.

And two tablespoons of melted, lightly salted butter.

Caption 49, LCM Recette: Crêpes

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Note that cuiller (spoon) has two spellings that are equally common: une cuiller or une cuillère. The pronunciation and gender remain the same.

 

You can also say une cuillerée (a spoonful) for indicating quantities, as in this natural remedy for sore throats:

 

Presser un citron bio. Ajouter deux cuillerées à café de miel pour les maux de gorge.

Squeeze an organic lemon. Add two teaspoons of honey for a sore throat.

 

Now that you know how to measure ingredients, you need to be able to turn on votre four (your oven) at the correct temperature. The oven can be set at various temperatures: doux, moyen, chaud (cool, medium, hot). In the video below, Sophie bakes her madeleines in un four chaud (a hot oven), approximately equivalent to 230-250 Celsius:

 

Et ensuite je mets à four chaud

And then I put it in a hot oven

Caption 63, Sophie et Patrice Les madeleines

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Indeed, France uses the metric system, which includes Celsius, while the US and a few other countries use Fahrenheit. To give you an idea, the most common baking temperature is 180 degrés Celsius, which is almost equivalent to 400 degrees Fahrenheit:

 

Et vous pouvez préchauffer votre four à cent quatre-vingts degrés.

And you can preheat your oven to one hundred eighty degrees [Celsius].

Caption 56, Il était une fois la pâtisserie Bûche de Noël

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In addition to oven temperatures set in Celsius, some gas ovens have un thermostat (a thermostat) ranging from 1 to 6. As indicated in the video below, thermostat cinq (thermostat five) is equivalent to 160 degrees Celsius:

 

On les placera au four à cent soixante degrés ou thermostat cinq, pendant quinze minutes.

We'll place them in the oven at one hundred sixty degrees [Celsius] or thermostat five, for fifteen minutes.

Captions 40-41, Aurélien et Automne Oreo fait maison - Part 2

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Now you that you can calculate quantities in French recipes, it’s time to measure your success in the kitchen and… in French!

 

Happy measuring!

Continuer la lecture

It's Baking Time!

In our previous lesson, we focused on vocabulary associated with the verb cuire (to cook). But cooking doesn’t happen in a vacuum. You will need a few essentials such as baking pans, bowls, and other kitchen utensils. Let’s find out what these things are called in French.

 

One of the must-have kitchen utensils is un saladier. Un saladier comes from the word salade (salad), so it’s “a salad bowl,” as its name would suggest. Having said that, un saladier can also accommodate any type of food or even liquids, acting as a mixing bowl. In the following video, Patrice and Sophie use un saladier (a mixing bowl) for their crêpe batter:

 

Tu rajoutes de la farine sans verre doseur, pas besoin, directement dans le saladier.

You add some flour without a measuring cup, no need, directly into the mixing bowl.

Captions 26-28, Sophie et Patrice Les crêpes

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Instead of un saladier, you can use un bol (a bowl) for mélanger (mixing) ingredients:

 

Mélange au bol oignons, mozzarella, on se gêne pas, champignons...

Mix in the bowl onions, mozzarella, don't be shy, mushrooms...

Caption 18, F&F Pizza Chez F&F - Part 2

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Traditionally, though, un bol is what most French people use to drink their café au lait (coffee with milk). In the video below, the restaurant owner shows us where the breakfast bols (bowls) and assiettes (plates) are available:

 

Nous avons des assiettes et des bols

We have plates and bowls

Caption 38, Nils L'auberge de jeunesse à Avignon

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In any case, you will need a utensil to stir the contents of your bol or saladier. You might use une cuillère/cuiller (a spoon) or un fouet (a whisk) to mix your ingredients. Automne isn’t sure which one she should use:

 

Tu mélanges, Automne. -Avec une cuiller ou un fouet? -Avec une cuiller.

You mix, Automne. -With a spoon or a whisk? -With a spoon.

Captions 24-25, Aurélien et Automne Oreo fait maison - Part 1

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Or to speed things along, you can use un batteur (a hand mixer):

 

Tu n'as pas un batteur fantastique à nous proposer? -Si.

Don't you have a fantastic mixer to suggest to us? -Yes I do.

Captions 31-32, Aurélien et Automne Oreo fait maison - Part 1

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Un batteur électrique is an "electric mixer," used for fouetter les blancs en neige (beating egg whites until stiff):

 

Vous fouettez les blancs en neige

You beat the egg whites until stiff

Caption 44, Il était une fois la pâtisserie Bûche de Noël

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To mix cake batter, you might prefer a more robust appliance like un robot ménager (yes, a robot!). Un robot (a food processor) is a more modern device that can perform many functions, from mixing cake batter to making soups and even baking bread:

 

Quel robot de cuisine choisir? Découvrez notre sélection des meilleurs robots de cuisine, accompagné d'un comparatif détaillé.

Which food processor should you choose? Discover our top selection of food processors, with a detailed comparison.

 

Once your mixture is ready to be taken out of your robot, you will need une spatule to scrape the batter off the bowl. In the video below the chef is removing the dough from the cookie cutter using une spatule (a spatula):

 

On le défait, avec une petite spatule. Et on vient le poser à côté, prêt à aller au four.

We take it out, with a little spatula. And we go and place it aside, ready to go into the oven.

Caption 52, Alsace 20 Grain de Sel: le Lycée hôtelier Alexandre Dumas

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Then it’s time to mettre au four (bake) your creation. For this, you will need un moule à gâteau (a baking pan). (In other contexts, un moule can mean “a mold” as well.)

 

Et une fois cette action réalisée, je vais placer la pâte sur un papier sulfurisé, la mettre dans un moule

And once this is done, I'm going to place the dough on a piece of parchment paper, place it in a baking pan

Captions 20-22, JB La tarte aux mirabelles

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When you bake cookies or even a chocolate log, you will use une plaque (a baking tray):

 

Vous versez la préparation sur une plaque recouverte de papier cuisson.

You pour the mixture onto a baking tray covered with baking paper.

Caption 57, Il était une fois la pâtisserie Bûche de Noël

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Once this is done, you can serve your dessert in un plat (a dish):

 

Je la mets dans un plat.

I put it in a dish.

Caption 19, JB La polenta

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Now that you are familiar with some ustensiles (utensils) and kitchen essentials, you're all set to explore Yabla’s delicious food and cooking videos. Bonne cuisine! (Happy cooking!)

Continuer la lecture

What's Cooking?

The mention of French cuisine conjures up images of mouthwatering food prepared with loving care. How do ordinary French people manage to produce delicious meals every day? One of the key ingredients to success is how you cook the food. In this lesson, you will learn various expressions associated with cuire (cooking). À vos fourneaux! (Let’s get cooking!)

 

As mentioned earlier, the generic verb for “cooking” is cuire. In the video below, JB explains how he prefers to cuire ses légumes ensemble (cook his vegetables together) for his ratatouille:

 

En effet selon certaines traditions il faut les cuire séparément ou tous ensemble. Moi, je préfère les cuire tous ensemble.

Indeed, according to certain traditions, you have to cook them separately or all together. As for me, I prefer to cook them all together

Captions 16-18, JB La ratatouille

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As for Lucette, who is making apricot jam, she uses the expression faire cuire, which means the same thing as cuire (to cook):

 

Dans le temps, on les faisait cuire dans la bassine en cuivre,

In past times, we used to cook them in a copper basin,

Caption 6, Lucette La confiture d'abricots

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Lucette puts her apricots in une cocotte de cuisson (a cooker), a kind of Dutch oven for slow cooking: 

 

Je vais les mettre dans la cocotte de cuisson.

I'm going to put them in the cooker.

Caption 30, Lucette La confiture d'abricots

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On its own, the verb mettre usually means “to put," but mettre à cuire is yet another equivalent to cuire and faire cuire. Having said that, note that in the context of the video below, mettre à cuire departs from its usual meaning and translates as “to bake” since it’s implied that the food is going in the oven:

 

Et nous allons la mettre à cuire

And we're going to bake it

Caption 89, Christian Le Squer Comment cuisiner les figues

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In fact, there is no concise French equivalent of the verb “to bake”! You have to say cuire/faire cuire au four (literally, “to cook in the oven”). Watch JB bake a delicious Mirabelle plum tart in the video below:

 

Il s'agit de la faire cuire au four

It's a matter of baking it in the oven

Caption 36, JB La tarte aux mirabelles

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On the other hand, the verb enfourner is much more concise than its English translation, “to put/load into the oven." This skilled baker is going to enfourner les madeleines (put the madeleines in the oven):

 

Steven va à présent enfourner les madeleines.

Steven is now going to put the madeleines in the oven.

Caption 57, Lionel L'usine de madeleines de Liverdun - Part 2

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Then again, English has a verb for “steaming,” which doesn’t exist in French. You have to use the construction cuire + noun + à la vapeur (literally, “to cook with steam”):

 

Cuire les légumes à la vapeur permet de conserver les vitamines.

Steaming vegetables helps preserve vitamins.

 

Not only can you use the verb cuire to talk about steaming and baking, but you can also cuire at various temperatures: à feu doux (on low heat) or à feu vif (on high heat):

 

Tout dépend de la chaleur du feu; il faut toujours le faire à feu doux.

It all depends on the stove temperature; it always has to be done on low heat.

Caption 40, Alsace 20 Grain de Sel: Au Caveau de l'étable à Niederbronn-les-Bains

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Je fais revenir le tout à feu vif pendant trois minutes.

I brown everything over high heat for three minutes.

Caption 24, JB La ratatouille

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After browning (faire revenir) everything, JB turns down the heat to mijoter (simmer) his ratatouille:

 

Je laisse encore mijoter pour une quinzaine de minutes.

I let it simmer again for fifteen minutes or so.

Captions 38-39, JB La ratatouille

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You'll often see mijoter or its synonym, mitonner, in the expression mijoter/mitonner de bons petits plats, which translates as “cooking up nice little dishes." Yet no expression in English quite conveys the love, care, and time that goes into mijoter/mitonner des bons petits plats, which is exactly what the chef and his staff are doing in the video below:

 

En effet, le chef et l'équipe de cuisine s'emploient à leur mitonner de bons petits plats chaque jour.

Indeed, the chef and the kitchen staff are working on cooking up nice little dishes for them every day.

Caption 22, TV Tours Défendre les fromages au lait cru

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If spending hours in the kitchen is not for you, you can resort to le micro-ondes (the microvave). The grandmother in the video below needs a little technical help with son micro-ondes (her microwave):

 

Rien... savoir comment marcher le micro-ondes.

Nothing... just how to work the microwave.

Caption 66, Le Jour où tout a basculé Mes grands-parents sont infidèles - Part 7

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The word “microwave” only exists as a noun in French. If you want “to microwave," you have to again resort to the construction cuire + noun: cuire/faire cuire au micro-ondes (literally, "to cook in the microwave”):

 

Faire cuire au micro-ondes 5 à 10 minutes suivant la puissance du four. Mélanger.

Microwave for 5 to 10 minutes depending on the oven. Mix.

 

In conclusion, whatever cooking method you may prefer, you’re likely to use the verb cuire (to cook). Yabla cooking videos will help you mijoter de bons petits plats (cook up nice little dishes) while learning French. Thank you for spending time in our Yabla “kitchen”! Stay tuned for another lesson on kitchen-related vocabulary. 

 

À vos fourneaux! (Get cooking!)

 

Continuer la lecture

The Weird and Wonderful World of Verbs

French verbs take on many endings, which can be a challenge to a new learner. Not to mention that some irregular verbs bear little resemblance to their original infinitive forms when conjugated. And a small group of verbs have unique characteristics that may surprise you. So let’s take a tour of these weird and wonderful things called verbs.

 

Did you know that the shortest conjugated verb in French is only one letter long, a, as in il/elle a (he/she has)?

 

Et il a des révélations à lui faire.

And he has some revelations to make to him.

Caption 2, Le Jour où tout a basculé À la recherche de mon père - Part 9

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Speaking of short verbs, a few irregular past participles ending in -u are extremely short and depart from their infinitive forms. And to make matters worse, they look very similar. The past participles of savoir, croire, pouvoir, boire, voir, and devoir are su, cru, pu, bu, vu, and  (known, believed, was able to, drank, must have):

 

Ce que j'ai pu constater...

What I was able to observe...

Caption 23, Alphabétisation des filles au Sénégal

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Just a quick reminder that past participles sometimes have to agree in gender and number with their objects, which means they take on additional endings. In the following example, vu becomes vus to agree with the masculine plural object, les gens​:

 

...et les gens qu'elles avaient vus là-bas.

...and the people they had seen there.

Caption 21, Contes de fées La petite sirène - Part 1

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Verbs ending in -ut or -it, as in fut (was) and fit (did), are often the mark of the passé simple or past historic, which is a tense used in fairy tales and other literary or historical works:

 

La première chose qu'elle vit fut un grand bateau.

The first thing she saw was a large boat.

Caption 25, Contes de fées La petite sirène - Part 1

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Although the past historic is little used, you may come across it from time to time, so it is worth familiarizing yourself with its endings at least. Be aware, though, that some verbs in the past historic look the same as other verbs in the present tense. For example, elle vit (she saw) is a past historic form of voir, but elle vit (she lives) is also a present tense form of vivre:

 

Mais heureusement ton frère, bon, qui vit à Montréal...

But luckily your brother, well, who lives in Montreal...

Caption 36, Elisa et sa maman La technologie

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And sometimes, a verb conjugated in the same tense can have two different meanings, as in je suis (I am/I follow), which is the first-person singular present of both être (to be) and suivre (to follow). Usually, context is enough to guide you, but it could also be a trick question in an exam! In the video below, the poor koala is having an identity crisis:

 

Quoi? Je ne suis pas un koala? Mais alors, qui suis-je?

What? I'm not a koala? But then, who am I?

Caption 8, Les zooriginaux 3 Qui suis-je? - Part 1

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And here, you have both meanings of suis within the same caption:

 

Je suis bien d'accord, ils ne servent à rien. Allez, suis-moi.

I totally agree, they are of no use. Come on, follow me.

Caption 14, Les zooriginaux 2 Tel père tel fils - Part 4

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Speaking of present-tense tricks, the verbs vaincre (to defeat, vanquish) and convaincre (to convince) are the only verbs in the French language that have endings in -c and -csje convaincs (I convince), tu convaincs (you convince), il convainc (he convinces). This little nugget of knowledge might come in handy while playing Scrabble, but not so much in conversation.

 

The past participles of vaincre and convaincre are more straightforward: vaincu, convaincu:

 

Alors, te voici convaincu? Ne cherche pas ailleurs!

So, are you convinced? Don't look elsewhere!

Caption 10, Il était une fois: L’Espace 3. La planète verte - Part 4

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One verb that draws attention to itself not for its unique present-tense ending but for its unusual infinitive form is the verb se fiche (to not give a damn). Normally it should come with an -r at the end, like all infinitives, but many grammarians, including those at Larousse, make a case for se fiche as the infinitive. In any event, it makes for a vigorous debate among scholars and grammarians. As for most people, ils s’en fichent (they could care less) and use the more regular infinitive version, se ficher

 

Se fiche is most often a conjugated form of the present tense. In the following example, it takes on a different meaning: "kid" or "get a rise out of":

 

On se fiche de nous ou quoi?

Are you kidding us or what?

Caption 5, Actus Quartier Devant la SNCF

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Finally, some verb tenses have very exotic endings, even to the average French speaker! Endings such as -inssent, -assent, and -ussent, as in qu’ils vinssent/fassent/fussent (that they came/did/were) belong to the imperfect subjunctive, a tense that's hardly ever used. Most French speakers use the present subjunctive even when referring to the past: 

 

Je voulais que tu viennes.

I wanted you to come.

 

Very few would use the imperfect subjunctive, unless perhaps for a humorous effect: 

 

Je voulais que tu vinsses.

I wanted you to come.

 

While the imperfect subjunctive is a literary verb form, the present subjunctive is not, and is often used in casual conversation. For example, you will need the present subjunctive to say something as simple as “I’ve got to go":

 

Merci de m'avoir regardée sur Yabla. Maintenant faut que j'y aille.

Thanks for watching me on Yabla. I gotta go now.

Caption 39, B-Girl Frak Limoges

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Vaille que vaille (come what may), don’t hesitate to explore more wondrous verb oddities in your Yabla wanderings by taking full advantage of our videos and lessons. Thank you for reading. Maintenant il faut que nous y allions! Au revoir!

 
Continuer la lecture

Et c'est parti!

Partir normally means “to leave,” as in nous sommes partis (we left). However, c’est parti is an idiomatic expression that has little to do with its literal meaning, "it left." So, without further ado, let’s explore the various shades of meaning of this very popular catchphrase. C’est parti! (Here we go!)

 

When it’s clear from the context that we’re talking in the past tense, c’est parti has a fairly straightforward meaning: “it started." In the video below, the speaker discusses how the Belleville upcycling center began: 

 

Et puis voilà. C'est comme ça que c'est parti.

And there you are. That's how it started.

Caption 117, Actu Vingtième Le bleu dans les yeux, recyclerie de Belleville

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So far so good. However, c’est parti doesn't always refer to something in the past, despite its verb being in the past tense. In fact, c’est parti usually describes an event that hasn’t happened yet. It tells us that something is about to start. Moreover, c’est parti is often accompanied with an exclamation mark to reflect the enthusiasm of the person starting an activity:

 

Et nous, on goûte. Allez, c'est parti! Fourchettes! Bon appétit!

And we're going to taste it. OK, here we go! Forks out! Bon appétit!

Caption 116, 4 Mains pour 1 Piano Médaillon de Homard - Part 3

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You can even add a little color to the expression by saying, Cest parti, mon kiki! Kiki is a colloquial term for "throat," but it only appears here for the rhyme:

 

C’est parti, mon kiki! 

Let’s get cracking!

 

In any case, c’est parti used on its own is something people say when they want to get started, like Amal setting off on a bike ride in the following video:

 

Voilà! C'est parti.

There! Let's go.

Caption 46, Amal Vélib

 Play Caption

 

Later in the same video, you will find another variation in the English translation of c’est parti:

 

Voilà. C'est bon. Le vélo... Et c'est parti!

There. It's good. The bike... And off you go!

Caption 50, Amal Vélib

 Play Caption

 

Similarly, c’est parti can also mean “we’re off”:

 

C'est parti, on y va.

And we're off, here we go.

Caption 44, Delphine et Automne Le gâteau au yaourt - Part 2

 Play Caption

 

Saying c’est parti is a perfect way to announce the start of a race. It's equivalent to on y va (let’s go/here we go):

 

Bon ben c'est parti. -Top chrono, c'est parti.

Good, well, here we go. -Starting now, here we go.

Caption 37, Joanna La course à pied: Conseils

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Another variation of c’est parti is c’est parti pour (for) in combination with a time period, to indicate duration: 

 

C'est donc parti pour trois jours de concert. Au programme, musique classique et jazz

So it's off for a three-day concert. On the program: classical music and jazz

Caption 2, Grand Lille TV Un piano dans le métro!

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C’est parti pour can also introduce what’s coming, as in “it’s time for” something: 

 

Huit heures, le suspense prend fin. C'est parti pour quatre heures de réflexion.

Eight o'clock, the suspense is over. Time for four hours of recollection.

Caption 4, Le Journal Le bac

 Play Caption

 

You can also use c’est parti pour to discuss what you might expect. In the video below, Sophie and Patrice speculate about the weather. Sophie thinks “they are in for" some rain:

 

Ah mais là, on est parti pour une semaine, hein?

Ah but here, we'll be in it for a week, huh?

Caption 9, Sophie et Patrice La pluie

 Play Caption

 

Here Sophie replaces c'est with on est. Note, however, that on est parti is usually not an idiomatic expression, but retains its literal meaning (we left):

 

On est parti de Rome...

We left Rome...

Caption 48, Lionel et Automne Lionel retourne à l'école

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In addition to the phrase c’est parti pour, you can qualify c’est parti with an adverb like bien (well) or mal (badly) to indicate whether things are going to turn out well or badly. So, the expression t’es bien parti means “you’re off to a good start/on the right track”:

 

Je pense que t'es bien parti.

I think that you're on the right track.

Caption 109, 4 Mains pour 1 Piano Médaillon de Homard - Part 3

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And of course, c’est mal parti means the opposite, “to be off to a bad start," like Amal's awful singing:

 

C'est très mal parti quand tu... -J'ai fait cinq ans de conservatoire.

It's off to a very bad start when you... -I did five years of conservatory.

Caption 52, Amal et Caroline Je n'aime pas quand tu chantes

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Note that Caroline could have put it another way and said:

 

T’es très mal partie. 

You’re off to a very bad start.

 

Finally, you can add the suffix re- and say c’est reparti (here we go again) to indicate repetition, which can be meant as a good thing or a bad thing. In the video below, Nico expresses his frustration with Sam and says:

 

C'est reparti!

Here we go again!

Caption 19, Extr@ Ep. 4 - Sam trouve du travail - Part 7

 Play Caption

 

And Barbara is also frustrated with her mother, who does the same annoying thing over and over:

 

Et voilà, c'était reparti pour l'interrogatoire de police.

And then she went off again with the police interrogation.

Captions 39-40, Mère & Fille La soirée

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As you can see, there are many ways of interpreting c’est parti. In general, it's an idiomatic expression that marks the beginning of an action. With a little practice, you'll be able get a sense of its nuances in context. Keep watching Yabla videos, dear readers, and vous serez bien partis (you’ll be off to a great start)! Thank you for reading!

Continuer la lecture

The Art of Exercise

The French devote an average of two hours to physical activity each week. They love to walk. They also play sports and go to the gym. They like to exercise in various ways, but what expressions do the French use to convey the idea? How many ways are there to say “exercise” in French? Let’s find out in this lesson.

 

One form of exercise is faire du sport (playing sports), and according to Patricia in her video on Antibes, there is no shortage of people qui font leur sport (doing their sporting activities) in Antibes:

 

Des gens qui font leur sport également... du jogging, du roller, du skateboard, des arts martiaux

Also people who are doing their sporting activities... jogging, rollerskating, skateboarding, martial arts

Caption 17, Mon Lieu Préféré Antibes

 Play Caption

 

In addition, note that when you hear the French talk about faire du sport, they don’t necessarily mean practicing a sport. In fact, faire du sport simply means "to exercise":

 

Y a pas d'âge pour faire du sport.

There's no age for exercising.

Caption 68, Le Jour où tout a basculé Des hôtes pas comme les autres - Part 3

 Play Caption

 

People like Amal and Caroline often talk about how they wished they’d exercise more:

 

Ah, il faudrait que je fasse du sport. -C'est vrai? T'es prête à faire du sport?

Ah, I should exercise. -Is that true? Are you ready to exercise?

Captions 102-103, Amal et Caroline La cigarette

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Faire du sport is synonymous with faire de l’exercice (to exercise), so Amal could have said this instead:

 

Ah, il faudrait que je fasse de l’exercice.

Ah, I should exercise.

 

Note that when talking about exercising the body, you use the expression faire de l’exercice, which always comes with the definite article l’ (the). Faire un exercice, with the indefinite article un (a), has a slightly different meaning. It just means “to do an exercise." This can be a physical activity:

 

On va faire un petit exercice.

We're going to do a little exercise.

Caption 72, Marie & Jeremy Candice et son coach

 Play Caption

 

Or it can be any type of exercise, such as a learning exercise:

 

L'élève qu'on voit ouvrir son manuel pour faire un exercice, peut-être voir une partie de cours

The student that you see opening his book to do an exercise, maybe to see a part of the lesson

Caption 14, Le Journal Manuels scolaires

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As you many have noticed, exercice as a noun is more or less a direct cognate of "exercise." Its verb form, exercer, mainly means "to exercise" in the sense of exercising or practicing a profession:

 

Le prévenu encourt une interdiction d'exercer.

The defendant risks being banned from exercising his profession.

Caption 42, Le Jour où tout a basculé À l'audience: Mon chirurgien était ivre - Part 1

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The reflexive form s’exercer takes on another meaning: “to train” or “to practice” any type of activity.

 

On peut s’exercer à chanter.

One can practice singing.

 

Finally, “to exert oneself” in English is not s’exercer in French but rather se dépenser, with the emphasis on expending some energy. In the example below, aller se dépenser involves a physical workout:

 

Et si vous alliez vous dépenser avec Maxime?

What if you went for a workout with Maxime?

Caption 60, Le Jour où tout a basculé Des hôtes pas comme les autres - Part 3

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The term “workout” doesn’t have a direct translation in French. There are only equivalents like l’exercice physique (physical exercise):

 

Après l'exercice physique...

After the workout...

Caption 27, Le Jour où tout a basculé Des hôtes pas comme les autres - Part 4

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Or you could say un entraînement for “workout”:

 

Des vidéos d'entraînement.

Workout videos.

Caption 30, Sports Shop D'un sport à l'autre

 Play Caption

 

There you have it. Exercez-vous tous les jours avec Yabla en faisant des exercices! (Practice every day with Yabla by doing exercises!)

Continuer la lecture

Smartphone Vocabulary

In the Yabla video Sophie et Patrice - On m'a volé mon téléphone, Sophie had her phone stolen and shares her frustration with Patrice, who offers a few suggestions to solve her problem. In their conversation, you will learn plenty of phone-related vocabulary. Throughout the video, Sophie and Patrice use the generic term un téléphone, but they could have used the term un portable (a cell/mobile phone) instead:

 

Personne. -Personne. Sauf une fois, il s'est fait voler son... portable...

Nobody. -Nobody. Except once, he had his... cell phone stolen...

Caption 77, Actus Quartier Fête de quartier Python-Duvernois - Part 1

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Sophie and Patrice also didn’t use the English loanword un smartphone, which you might also hear:

 

Des témoignages que les visiteurs pourront bientôt découvrir sur leur smartphone

Accounts that visitors will soon be able to discover on their smartphone

Caption 13, Télévision Bretagne Ouest Concarneau: Un tournage sur la vie maritime

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Patrice simply uses the French cognate téléphone when he advises Sophie to faire bloquer son téléphone (have her phone blocked):

 

Tu as appelé pour faire bloquer le téléphone?

Did you call to have the phone blocked?

Caption 11, Sophie et Patrice On m'a volé mon téléphone

 Play Caption

 

It might preserve her privacy, since her whole répertoire (address book) was on her phone, as well as all her contacts:

 

Moi, j'ai... j'ai tout mon répertoire... Tu te rends compte? J'ai tous mes contacts.

I have... I have my whole address book... You realize? I have all my contacts.

Captions 6-7, Sophie et Patrice On m'a volé mon téléphone

 Play Caption

 

 

Losing her phone also means that Sophie can no longer access her agenda électronique (electronic calendar):

 

Mon agenda, il était dans... C'était mon agenda électronique dans mon téléphone.

My calendar was in... It was my electronic calendar in my phone.

Caption 52, Sophie et Patrice On m'a volé mon téléphone

 Play Caption

 

Unfortunately, she never thought to do une sauvegarde (a backup):

 

Pourquoi j'ai pas fait la sauvegarde?

Why didn't I do a backup?

Caption 78, Sophie et Patrice On m'a volé mon téléphone

 Play Caption

 

Still searching for a solution, Patrice asks Sophie if she has une puce (a chip) or une carte SIM (a SIM card) on another appareil (device): 

 

C'est la seule puce que tu as, euh... T'as pas un autre appareil avec la même carte SIM?

Is that the only chip that you have, uh... You don't have another device with the same SIM card?

Captions 58, 61, Sophie et Patrice On m'a volé mon téléphone

 Play Caption

 

You might be interested to know that in other situations, une puce is something entirely different. It’s actually "a flea"! In any case, Sophie has neither une puce nor une carte SIM on another appareilShe's going to have to call son opérateur (her provider):

 

Je vais appeler l'opérateur...

I'm going to call the provider...

Caption 84, Sophie et Patrice On m'a volé mon téléphone

 Play Caption

 

Sadly, it looks like Sophie and Patrice have run out of solutions. It might be time for her to start shopping for un nouveau portable (a new cellphone)—perhaps un smartphone compatible avec la 5G (a 5G smartphone)! 

Continuer la lecture

Arabic Words in the French Language

It’s no secret that many English words have become part of the French language. What is not so well-known, however, is how much Arabic has influenced European languages. From the Moorish occupation of Spain to the latest waves of North African immigrants, Arabs have had a strong presence in Europe. So, it’s no surprise that Arabic terms have crept into the French language. Let’s explore some of them.

 

Many of these words were adapted to sound more like French over time, so much so that French people use words of Arabic origin every day without realizing it. For example, a typical day may start with un café, derived from the Arabic word qahwa:

 

Les adultes boivent plus du café ou du thé

Adults drink coffee or tea more

Caption 9, Arles Le petit déjeuner

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Arab cuisine has also become part of the French cooking repertoire. For example, you can find the spicy Maghrebi sausage called merguez in most supermarkets nowadays. In the video below, Parisians can’t resist the smell of merguez:

 

les odeurs de merguez, de frites, euh...

the smells of merguez, of French fries, uh...

Caption 8, Manif du Mois La traditionnelle manif du 1er mai

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People even use Arabic terms when talking about routine activities, like aller au magasin (going to the store), a word borrowed from the Arabic makazin, which originally referred to a warehouse. The meaning of introduced words often departs from the original:

 

Alors, nous sommes dans un magasin.

So, we're in a shop.

Caption 24, Extr@ Ep. 2 - Sam fait du shopping - Part 3

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Other times, loanwords have remained close to the original Arabic meaning. French borrowed the term souk, which is a marketplace in Northern Africa. But the word has also become slang for a messy place and is often accompanied by an exclamation mark:

 

Quel souk!

What a mess!

 

The somewhat dated expression faire la nouba (to party) kept its Arabic sound but lost its original meaning. La nouba refers to traditional songs and dances performed by Algerian women. The term later became slang, first used in the military, for partying and living it up:

 

J’aime trop faire la nouba.

I love to party a lot.

 

While young people may not use the same Arabic expressions as their parents, today’s youth adopted their own new set of Arabic words to add to their vocabulary and complement their favorite verlan expressions. In his conversation with Anna, Louis greets her using the term wesh, borrowed directly from Algerian slang, which is equivalent to "hi," "yo," or "what's up":

 

Wesh ["salut" en arabe] Anna.

Wesh ["hi" in Arabic] Anna.

Caption 1, Anna et Louis Le vocabulaire des jeunes

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Louis also uses the word kiffer (to love). Kif originally served as a slang word for drugs, equivalent to "dope" or "hash" in English. By extension, the verb kiffer came to mean "to smoke hash." Nowadays, though, kiffer mostly functions as a general synonym of aimer:

 

En vrai, Louis, je kiffe bricoler

For real, Louis, I love tinkering

Caption 45, Anna et Louis J'ai besoin d'un coup de main

 Play Caption

 

Conversely, something that is pas kiffant is not fun:

 

Enfin c'était pas kiffant, quoi

Well, it wasn't fun, you know

Caption 14, Anna et Louis Hier soir

 Play Caption

 

Speaking of pas kiffant, you might hear someone in trouble use the expression avoir le seum, slang for being depressed, frustrated, or in a bad spot:

 

Moi, j'ai trop le seum.

Me, I'm really frustrated.

Caption 14, Sophie et Edmée Les études de médecine

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Ben, euh... moi j'ai un peu le seum

Well, uh... I'm kind of in a bad spot

Caption 8, Edmée et Fanny Les présidentielles à 20 ans

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The reason for all this seum (trouble) might be a lack of moula (moolah), which is one of several slang terms for money:

 

Pour les langages des jeunes et plus récemment: "la moula", "la moulaga", "les lovés", "les bifs" et "les waris."

In youth language, and more recently: "la moula" [moolah], "la moulaga," "les lovés," "les bifs," and "les waris."

Captions 24-26, Lionel L L'argent

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The lack of moula might well prompt the use of the Maghrebi expression c’est la hess ("it’s hell," "it’s a struggle"). Imagine a hungry teenager opening an empty refrigerator, saying:

 

Le frigo est vide, c’est vraiment la hess.

The fridge is empty, it’s hell.

 

The Algerian term hess or hass originally referred to licking the plate clean, in other words starving. 

 

As you may have noticed, many Arabic loanwords come into French as slang, and thus change from generation to generation. However, many of these words, such as café and magasin, have been part of the French vocabulary for many years, centuries even, and are not at all slang. In any case, there is no shortage of Arabic words in the French language. Watch for new ones in Yabla videos!

 
Continuer la lecture

The Language of Love

As the saying goes, French is the language of love. So, let’s take this opportunity to delve into peoples’ hearts and minds and discuss expressions featuring the theme of love, ever so present in conversations, literature, and songs. 

 

Grand Corps Malade sings about le grand amour (true love) in his song "Les Voyages en Train":

 

Le grand amour change forcément ton comportement

True love inevitably changes your behavior

Caption 13, Grand Corps Malade Les Voyages en train

 Play Caption

 

The masculine noun amour also exists in the plural form, as in the expression la saison des amours, which means "the season of love" when referring to humans:

 

Ah oui, oui, oui, c'est la saison des amours là.

Ah yes, yes, yes, it's the season of love now.

Caption 44, Lionel à Lindre-Basse - Part 5

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And "the mating season" when referring to animals:

 

Et là, c'est la saison des amours là?

And now, it's the mating season now?

Caption 43, Lionel à Lindre-Basse - Part 5

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The term conjoint (mate) applies to both the animal and the human kingdom:

 

Elles trouvent le temps long parce que le conjoint, il tarde à venir là.

They feel that time is moving slowly because their mate is taking his time to arrive now.

Caption 45, Lionel à Lindre-Basse - Part 5

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You'll often come across conjoint (partner/spouse) when filling out an administrative form:

 

L'utilisation du nom du conjoint nécessite certaines démarches.

Adopting a partner’s name requires certain steps.

 

Alternatively, you will also come across the word époux/épouse (spouse) which works in the same way as "spouse" in English—as a slightly more formal alternative to le mari (husband) and la femme (wife):

 

Voilà. Je désire prendre votre fille pour épouse.

Here's the deal. I want to take your daughter as my wife.

Caption 19, Il était une fois: l’Homme 6. Le siècle de Périclès - Part 3

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Vous acceptâtes de me prendre pour époux

You accepted to take me for a husband

Captions 26-27, Oldelaf interprète "Bérénice"

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Speaking of époux, young girls in fairy tales often dream of épouser (marrying) le Prince Charmant (Prince Charming):

 

Seule dans sa chambre elle rêve encore au Prince Charmant

Alone in her room she still dreams of Prince Charming

Caption 8, Wallen Donna

 Play Caption

 

These days, people might look for their Prince Charming on un site de rencontre (a dating site):

 

Je m'inscris sur un site de rencontre pour retraités.

I'm subscribing to a dating site for retirees.

Caption 12, Le Jour où tout a basculé Mes grands-parents sont infidèles - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

Of course, faire une rencontre (meeting someone) or rencontrer l’amour (finding love) can happen in any setting, even unusual ones, as Nico can attest in this video:

 

Nico rencontre l'amour à un feu rouge.

Nico finds love at a red light.

Caption 34, Extr@ Ep. 5 - Une étoile est née - Part 8

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With a little luck, Nico may have found une âme sœur (a soulmate):

 

Petites fées du cœur accueillent les âmes sœurs

Little love fairies welcome the soulmates

Captions 25-26, Melissa Mars Music Videos Army of Love

 Play Caption

 

In any case, Nico and his neighbors Sacha and Annie have a complicated love life. They are all amoureux (in love), but with the wrong people!

 

Elles ont un voisin, Nico, qui est amoureux de Sacha, et Annie est amoureuse de Nico.

They have a neighbor, Nico, who is in love with Sacha, and Annie is in love with Nico.

Captions 3-5, Extr@ Ep. 1 - L'arrivée de Sam - Part 1

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Nico wants Sacha to be sa petite amie (his girlfriend), while Annie wants Nico to be son petit ami (her boyfriend). They could simplify their lives by being amis (just friends), but that's not how love works! The adjective petit (little) is just an endearing term of affection that bears no relation to size at all. It simply implies a more exclusive relationship:

 

Ça va être ta petite amie qui doit être jalouse.

It's your girlfriend who must be jealous.

Caption 20, Le Jour où tout a basculé J'ai piégé mon fan - Part 4

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Instead of using the term petit ami/petite amie, they could have said une petite copine (a girlfriend) or un petit copain (a boyfriend).

 

Traditionally, the next step is to progress from petits amis to mari et femme (husband and wife), and perhaps to sing together, like the couple in the video below:

 

Tout comme sa femme, le mari chante bien.

Just like his wife, the husband sings well.

Caption 56, Le saviez-vous? "Non plus", forme négative de "aussi" - Part 1

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But before jumping into marriage, the pair may first se fiancer (become engaged). Hence the term un fiancé/une fiancée, which English borrowed from French:

 

Comme par exemple... ta fiancée? T'en as une? C'est ça?

Like, for example... your fiancée? You have one? Is that right?

Caption 46, Le Jour où tout a basculé À la recherche de mon père - Part 4

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Fiancés might celebrate their fiançailles (engagement) with an engagement party, though perhaps not as grandiosely as Anne of Austria and Louis the Thirteenth, who had the famous Place des Vosges in Paris built for the occasion:

 

...à l'occasion des fiançailles de Louis Treize et d'Anne d'Autriche.

...on the occasion of the engagement of Louis the Thirteenth and Anne of Austria.

Caption 16, De nouvelles découvertes avec Marion La place des Vosges

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Les fiançailles usually lead to another celebration, the wedding (le mariage or la noce):

 

...à l'occasion de son mariage entre mille huit cent quatre-vingt-douze et mille neuf cent deux.

on the occasion of his wedding, between eighteen ninety-two and nineteen hundred two.

Caption 36, Le Mans TV Mon Village - Malicorne - Part 5

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La noce se fera en automne.

The wedding will take place in the fall. 

 

Two things worth noting about the word un mariage (marriage). It’s spelled with only one r, and it can mean either “wedding” (the ceremony) or “marriage" (the relationship). La noce, however, only means "wedding."

 

While marriage is usually a union based on love, in some cases, a marriage might be un mariage blanc, which literally means “white/blank marriage,” as Patricia explains in her video:

 

Un mariage blanc, c'est un mariage arrangé, ou pas consommé.

A white marriage is an arranged marriage, or not consummated.

Captions 56-57, Le saviez-vous? La couleur blanche et ses expressions - Part 2

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Usually though, a marriage is a happy occasion on which la mariée (the bride) and le mari (the groom) exchange vows:

 

La mariée et le marié sont aussi au rendez-vous

The bride and the groom are also at the rendez-vous

Caption 16, Amadou et Mariam Beaux dimanches

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Many newlyweds (nouveaux mariés) go on une lune de miel (honeymoon):

 

Celle-là, c'était l'année de notre rencontre. Et notre lune de miel.

That one was the year we met. And our honeymoon.

Captions 35-36, Le Jour où tout a basculé À la recherche de mon passé - Part 3

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Of course, le mariage is not everyone’s cup of tea. Some people may decide to vivre en couple (to live together as a couple) instead. The word couple can refer to the number of people in the relationship, as in English, or to the relationship itself:

 

Notre couple allait mal.

Our relationship was going badly.

Caption 57, Le Jour où tout a basculé À la recherche de mon passé - Part 8

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Finally, those who remain unattached are called célibataires (single), like the lady mentioned in this video:

 

Et elle est toujours célibataire.

And she's still single.

Caption 90, Le Jour où tout a basculé À la recherche de mon passé - Part 5

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On November 25th, la Sainte-Catherine (Saint Catherine’s Day), single, unmarried young girls celebrate their catherinette by saying a special prayer for a suitor, before they reach the age of twenty-five. 

 

As much as le grand amour (true love) may seem like the perfect recipe for happiness, one cannot vivre d’amour et d’eau fraiche (live on love alone). On the other hand, as the Beatles' song goes, all you need is love!

 
Continuer la lecture

How to Feel Good about Fille, Fil, and Fils

How do you pronounce ville (city) and fille (daughter)? In all logic, the pronunciation should be the same, but is it? The French language has its idiosyncrasies that make learning interesting and challenging at times. Words like ville, fille, fil, fils (city, daughter, thread, son) have their own stories to tell. Are you ready? 

 

Words ending in -ille (with a double ll), such as brille (shines) and fille (girl/daughter), follow a specific pronunciation rule. The -ille sound is roughly equivalent to the sound “ee-yuh” in English, as in “giddy-up."

 

Listen to Sam, who sees the sunny side of life in this video, and pay attention to the way he says brille:

 

Le soleil brille dehors.

The sun is shining outside.

Caption 17, Extr@ Ep. 9 - Du boulot pour Sam et Nico! - Part 1

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Most words ending in -ille end with same “ee-yuh” sound. Hence, it’s no surprise to hear that brille (shines) rhymes with fille (girl/daughter):

 

Sa fille lui expliqua et lui demanda conseil.

His daughter explained it to him and sought his counsel.

Caption 42, Contes de fées Le roi grenouille - Part 1

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However, you guessed it, there are exceptions! No need to panic, though, as there are only three: mille, tranquille, ville (thousand, tranquil, city). In these words, the -ille is pronounced differently, like “eel” in English. (Note, however, that the word for "eel," anguille, rhymes with fille!)

 

Listen to the way mille, tranquille, and ville are pronounced in the following videos:

 

Notre amour brillera de mille feux

Our love will shine a thousand fires

Caption 10, Alsace 20 Colonel Reyel en session live acoustique!

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L'avantage, c'est qu'on peut s'y promener de façon vraiment tranquille

The advantage is that you can walk here in a really tranquil fashion

Caption 17, Antoine La Butte-aux-Cailles

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Nous sommes maintenant dans la vieille ville de Chartres

We are now in the old town of Chartres

Caption 6, Voyage en France La Ville de Chartres

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If a word ends in -ile, with a single l, this is no longer an issue, as you simply sound the l as you would normally.

 

Et des automobiles qui se suivent en file et défilent

And of automobiles that follow in line and drive past

Caption 15, Il était une fois: Les découvreurs 9. Galilée - Part 1

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The feminine noun la file (line) has a masculine homophone, le fil (thread/wire), with no e at the end. They both sound the same but mean different things:

 

la prêtresse grecque qui déroula son fil

the Greek priestess who unravelled her thread

Caption 9, d'Art d'Art "La mélancolie d'une belle journée" - Chirico

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In the plural form, le fil becomes les fils (threads/wires), and they share the same pronunciation since the s in the plural is always silent:

 

Bon, enfin. -Et les fils?

Well, anyway. -And the wires?

Caption 1, Sophie et Patrice Les lampes de Sophie - Part 2

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So far so good. However, the word fils has another trick up its sleeve! Les fils (threads/wires) could also be les fils (sons). Fortunately, these two words are easy to tell apart as they have a different pronunciation. When talking about les fils (sons), the l is silent while the final s is pronounced.

 

Il transmit à ses fils tout ce qu'il possédait.

He passed on to his sons everything he possessed.

Caption 5, Contes de fées Le chat botté - Part 1

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Furthermore, le fils (the son) also ends in a sounded s, even though it’s singular:

 

Il cherche son fils à l'école.

He looks/is looking for his son at school.

Caption 9, Farid et Hiziya Chercher et trouver

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The only way to tell how to pronounce fils—and whether it's referring to threads, wires, or sons—is through context. 

 

Merci mille fois (many thanks) for following le fil (the thread) of this newsletter!

Continuer la lecture

French Words with the Letter Z... Or, How to Improve Your Scrabble Score

This lesson is brought to you by the letter Z. Why the letter Z? Because few French nouns contain the letter Z. On the other hand, most verbs do, which is a handy thing to know when playing French Scrabble, as the letter Z is a high-scoring letter. 

 

Almost all verbs in the second-person plural vous (you) end in -ez, as in vous savez (you know). What’s more, this is the case in pretty much all moods and tenses.

 

In the present tense:

 

Et toujours, vous savez, la langue est toujours liée à la culture.

And always, you know, a language is always tied to its culture.

Caption 42, Allons en France Pourquoi apprendre le français?

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In the imperfect tense: 

 

Le saviez-vous?

Did you know?

Caption 1, Le saviez-vous? L'art culinaire français

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In the future tense:

 

Maintenant vous saurez que à chaque fois que vous entendez un verbe qui se termine par le son "é", c'est un verbe du premier groupe

Now you will know that each time you hear a verb that ends with the sound "é," it's a first-group verb

Captions 42-45, Le saviez-vous? Les verbes du 1er groupe

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In the conditional mood:

 

Sauriez-vous jouer au Scrabble en français?

Could you play French Scrabble?

 

While most verbs conjugated with vous (you) end in -ez, there are not as many nouns ending in Z. But a few of them are very commonly used, such as chez (at/to the home of), le riz (rice), le nez (nose), le raz-de-marée (tidal wave), and le rez-de-chaussée (ground floor):

 

Bienvenue chez moi

Welcome to my home

Caption 7, Stromae Bienvenue chez moi

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Elles mangent du riz.

They  are eating rice.

Caption 28, Farid et Hiziya Boire et manger

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ce Milanais qui vous peignait une courgette en guise de nez

this Milanese man who painted you a zucchini as a nose

Captions 23-24, d'Art d'Art "Les quatre saisons" - Arcimboldo

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Mieux encore, les racines des palétuviers amortissent les effets des raz-de-marée et des fameux tsunamis.

Better still, the mangrove roots absorb the impact of tidal waves and notorious tsunamis.

Captions 19-20, Il était une fois: Notre Terre 9. Les écosystèmes - Part 7

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J'habite au rez-de-chaussée, donc je n'ai pas besoin de monter les escaliers.

I live on the ground floor, so I don't need to go up the stairs.

Caption 6, Joanna Son appartement

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As you can hear in the examples above, Z at the end of a word is almost always silent in French. So then why do we pronounce the Z in gaz (gas), for example? That’s because it's usually pronounced in words of foreign origin:

 

Factures: téléphone, gaz, électricité.

Bills: telephone, gas, electricity.

Caption 30, Extr@ Ep. 1 - L'arrivée de Sam - Part 1

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Le français a une bande passante qui fait mille, deux mille hertz

French has a bandwidth that measures one thousand, two thousand hertz

Caption 34, Lionel Langue sous hypnose

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When Z comes at the beginning or in the middle of a word, it is always sounded just as it is in English. Here are a couple of interjections starting with Z:

 

Allez, zou!

Come on, let's go!

Caption 111, Claire et Philippe La campagne

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Je pourrais dire "zut" aussi.

I could also say "zut" [darn].

Caption 8, Le saviez-vous? Les expressions inspirées de la musique - Part 2

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You'll also find the letter Z in certain numerals, such as quinze (fifteen), seize (sixteen), and zéro (zero): 

 

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.

Caption 14, Fanny parle des saisons S'habiller en hiver

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Now that you’ve zipped through this lesson, we trust that you will apply this newfound knowledge with le zeste (zest) and le zèle (zeal)!

Continuer la lecture

Gender of Inanimate Nouns and Concepts

Memorizing the gender of nouns referring to things is one of the most difficult parts of learning French, as assigning gender to an object or concept is unfamiliar to native English speakers. Is there any logic to this process? In many cases, it seems arbitrary, and there’s no way of guessing. Fortunately, some categories of nouns do follow logical rules. 

 

For example, it is indeed possible to identify the gender of a country based on its ending. La France is a feminine noun because it ends in e. (Note that we say la France even though it’s a proper noun. Unlike in English, all names of countries are preceded by an article in French.)

 

Le nom de la France vient du mot "Franc"

The name of France comes from the word "Franc" [Frank]

Caption 3, Le saviez-vous? D'où vient le nom de la France?

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That said, there are always exceptions. Even though it also ends in an e, le Mexique (Mexico) is masculine:

 

Maintenant avec leur aide, partons sur-le-champ conquérir le Mexique!

Now with their aid, let's leave at once to conquer Mexico!

Caption 29, Il était une fois: Les Amériques 9. Cortés et les Aztèques - Part 8

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But as for countries that don’t end in an e, it’s easy! They are automatically masculine: le Canada, le Japon, le Luxembourg (Canada, Japan, Luxembourg).

 

Pierre Trudeau, Premier Ministre du Canada, a dit que c'était une loi de fou.

Pierre Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, said it was a crazy law.

Caption 28, Le Québec parle aux Français - Part 3

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What about cities? Do they follow the same rule as countries? Not exactly. The Académie Française (the official French language watchdog, if you will) doesn’t give a definite answer, noting that people tend to prefer masculine although feminine is often used in literary contexts. 

 

In the video below, we can tell that Paris is masculine because of the masculine past participle traversé (intersected):

 

Car Paris était traversé à l'époque par un aqueduc

For Paris was intersected at the time by an aqueduct

Caption 39, Voyage dans Paris Le Treizième arrondissement de Paris - Part 2

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French speakers often get around the gender ambiguity by using the expression c’est (it’s), which always requires a masculine agreement. Instead of saying Paris est belle or Paris est beau (Paris is beautiful), Sophie uses the phrase c’est + masculine to describe Paris:

 

C'est beau Paris comme ça.

Paris is beautiful like this.

Caption 1, Sophie et Patrice Paris, c'est gris

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The gender of languages is much more clear-cut. All languages are masculine, from le français (French) to le thaï (Thai):

 

Je crois que le français est une langue géniale.

I believe that French is a great language.

Caption 11, Allons en France Pourquoi apprendre le français?

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Note, however, that if you say "the French language" or "the Thai language" instead of just "French" or "Thai," you have to use the feminine, because the word langue (language) is feminine: la langue françaisela langue thaïe.

 

Most foreign words are also masculine, in particular sports names and terms borrowed from English. It’s a simple matter of putting a masculine article like le (the) in front of the loanword:

 

Il aime le football.

He likes soccer.

Caption 33, Lionel L Les liaisons et le h aspiré

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On the other hand, native French sports terms are either masculine or feminine. For example, we have two words for “bicycle”: le vélo, which is masculine, and la bicyclette, which is feminine.

 

Tu peux faire du vélo

You can ride a bike

Caption 31, Amal et Caroline Le Parc de la Villette

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Most inanimate nouns follow no predictable pattern when it comes to gender. When we talk about feelings, for example, we say le bonheur (happiness) but la joie (joy): 

 

Y a de la joie. On est avec les petits.

There's good cheer. We are with the little ones.

Caption 45, Actu Vingtième Fête du quartier Python-Duvernois

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C'est quand le bonheur?

When is happiness?

Caption 9, Cali C'est quand le bonheur

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To complicate things further, some words take both genders, and their meaning changes depending on whether they're masculine or feminine (we discuss this at length in our lesson One Word, Two Genders). For example, un livre is "a book," but une livre is "a pound": 

 

L'extérieur d'un livre s'appelle la couverture.

The outside of a book is called the cover.

Caption 4, Manon et Clémentine Vocabulaire du livre

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Une livre équivaut à environ quatre cent cinquante-quatre grammes. 

One pound is equal to around four hundred fifty-four grams.

 

And there is a small group of noun pairs that have slightly different meanings in the masculine and feminine that aren't conveyed in English. For example, the words an and année both mean "year," but the masculine an emphasizes a point in time or a unit of time, while the feminine année stresses duration: 

 

Un manuscrit de mille deux cents ans

A one thousand two hundred year old manuscript

Caption 9, Télé Lyon Métropole Un manuscrit vieux de 1200 ans découvert à Lyon

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Ça fait des années et des années qu'ils cherchent à être logés.

For years and years they've sought housing.

Captions 35-36, Actus Quartier Devant la SNCF

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Whether you’ve been studying French pendant des années (for years) or you’ve only just begun, with practice, remembering the gender of nouns will become easier. Thank you for reading the final lesson of this series!

 
Continuer la lecture

Gender of Nouns Referring to Animals

Like many other types of nouns, nouns referring to animals often have both male and female versions, and sometimes even separate names for each gender. Many of them, however, are exclusively masculine or feminine, as we'll see in this lesson.

 

Nouns referring to animals work in a comparable way to those referring to people. The most common way to feminize a noun is to add an -e at the end, and, in many cases, double the final consonant, as in un chien/une chienne (a male dog/a female dog). Note that whenever you double a final consonant, the normally silent consonant (like the -n in chien) becomes pronounced, as you can hear in the example below: 

 

Certains noms masculins vont doubler leur consonne finale. Un chien donne... -une chienne, deux "n", "e". Et un chat donne une chatte, deux "t", "e".

Some masculine nouns will double their final consonant. "Un chien" [dog] gives... -"une chienne," two "n's," "e." And "un chat" [a cat] gives "une chatte," two "t's," "e."

Captions 25-27, Manon et Simon - Le masculin et le féminin

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On a side note, you may want to exercise caution when using the words chatte and chienne, as they can both be offensive terms referring to women.

 

Here is another example of a noun that changes spelling and pronunciation in the feminine form. The word for "lion" follows the same pattern as chien/chienne:

 

Tu as vu? Le papa lion et la maman lionne se suivent partout.

Did you see? The dad lion and the mom lioness follow each other everywhere.

Caption 23, Les zooriginaux - Léa jacta est - Part 1

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On the other hand, some animal nouns ending in -n don’t double their final consonant in the feminine, as in un lapin/une lapine (male/female rabbit), but the change in pronunciation still applies. Pay attention to the nasal -in sound in this fairy tale video:

 

Il y attrapa un beau lapin gras et le mit dans sa bourse.

He caught a nice fat rabbit there and put it in his purse.

Caption 25, Contes de fées - Le chat botté - Part 1

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Likewise, un renard (a fox), with a silent d, doesn’t have a double consonant in the feminine, but the d will be pronounced: une renarde

 

Le renard femelle adulte s’appelle la renarde.

An adult female fox is called a vixen.

 

Sometimes, in addition to the -e ending, there are some unexpected spelling changes in the feminine, as in un loup/une louv(male/female wolf):

 

Par exemple, un loup donne... -une louve.

For example, "un loup" [a male wolf] gives... -"une louve" [a female wolf].

Caption 53, Manon et Simon - Le masculin et le féminin

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As in un prince (a prince) and une princesse (a princess), some animal nouns take the suffix -esse in the feminine:

 

Un âne? -Une ânesse. -Bien!

"Un âne" [a donkey]? -"Une ânesse" [a jenny]. -Good!

Caption 41, Manon et Simon - Le masculin et le féminin

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In short, there are diverse ways to feminize an animal noun. However, many animals have separate names for male and female specimens, as in English. For example: une vache/un taureau (a cow/a bull).

 

Et là on voit déjà si c'est une vache ou des taureaux [sic: un taureau]? -Là, c'est une femelle.

And can we already tell here if it's a cow or a bull? -Here, it's a female.

Caption 43, Lionel à la ferme

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Male and female animal names can be quite specialized and hard to remember. If you don’t know the special name for a female animal, you can do what Automne does in the video below and refer to her as, for example, la maman cochon (the mommy pig) or le cochon femelle (the female pig) instead of the more technical term la truie (the sow). (The term cochonne actually exists, but usually it means something entirely different! It’s a way of insulting a sloppy human, or "a pig"—une cochonne for females and un cochon for males.)

 

Y a même le bébé de la maman cochon.

There's even the mommy pig's baby.

Caption 56, Lionel et Automne - Playmobil

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Fortunately, there is no need to be technical in everyday situations. If gender is not important or unknown, we tend to use the generic masculine, like the couple does in the video below:

 

Premièrement, le chat met des poils partout.

First, the cat sheds fur everywhere.

Caption 8, Marie & Jeremy - Le chat

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In fact, most nouns referring to animals don’t have feminine and masculine versions—they only come in one gender, assigned arbitrarily regardless of the sex of the animal. In this case, you will need to memorize the gender of the animal along with its name as there is no logic or way of guessing.

 

For example, some insects, like une mouche (a fly), are always feminine. Some rodents are feminine, as in une souris (a mouse), while others are masculine, as in un écureuil (a squirrel). Some snakes are masculine, as in un serpent (a snake), or feminine, as in une vipère (a viper). Some birds are feminine, as in une hirondelle (a swallow), and some are masculine, as in un perroquet (a parrot).

 

In the video below, apart from le lion, all the names of the endangered species—la panthère (panther), la girafe (giraffe), l'autruche (ostrich), and l'hyène (hyena)—are feminine in gender, but don't necessarily refer to individual females: 

 

Certaines espèces ont quasiment disparu, telles que la panthère, autruche, hyène, girafe et lion.

Some species have almost disappeared, such as the panther, ostrich, hyena, giraffe, and lion.

Captions 27-30, Nader Fakhry - À la recherche des derniers éléphants - Part 1

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As these nouns only have one grammatical gender, you will need to specify the sex of the animal with the term mâle (male) or femelle (female). In the documentary below, the speaker refers to une panthère femelle (a female panther):

 

Malgré la présence d'une panthère femelle juste à côté...

Despite the presence of a female panther right next door...

Caption 20, Le Journal - Espèces en voie de disparition

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There you have it! We’ve explored some of the grammatical quirks and intricacies of the animal kingdom. Remember that not all animal names have a masculine and feminine counterpart, but only a single grammatical gender just like nouns referring to objects, which will be the topic of our next lesson. So stay tuned!

Continuer la lecture

The Gender of Job Titles

In our previous lesson on nouns referring to humans, we learned that many nouns have dual genders that often end in -e in the feminine, which is especially useful for the feminization of job titles. In this lesson, we’ll focus on the many ways to feminize a job title and discuss what happens when there is no feminine equivalent. 

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Most profession names are masculine in French, regardless of whether they refer to men or women:

 

On a donc un kit de montage complet opérationnel à la portée d'un bon bricoleur ou d'un plombier

So we have a completely operational mounting kit within the capability of a good handyman or a plumber

Captions 30-31, Salon Eco Habitat: Primacalc, système anti-calcaire

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When no feminine title is available, we default to masculine. So, when referring to a woman pilot, for instance, we would simply say un pilote or une femme pilote (a woman pilot). (You may come across the feminine title une pilote, but it's relatively rare.)

 

Deux femmes pilotes parlent de leurs parcours : sexisme et regard des passagers.

Two female pilots talk about their journeys: sexism and passengers’ stares.

 

We also resort to the masculine when referring to a profession in general, as in les enseignants (teachers), or when we don’t know the gender of the person in question:

 

Parce que je dispose d'excellents liens avec les enseignants de mon master,

Because I have excellent connections with my master's degree instructors

Caption 66, QuestionEntretien: Pourquoi vous et pas un autre ? - Part 3

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For all that, many job titles do have a feminine equivalent, which often ends in -e, as in une députée (a female deputy):

 

Madame George Pau-Langevin, la députée de la quinzième circonscription

Ms. George Pau-Langevin, the deputy for the fifteenth constituency

Caption 92, Actu Vingtième: Le bleu dans les yeux, recyclerie de Belleville

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Note that you can only add an extra -e to an accented -é (-ée). Nouns that already end in -e (no accent) don’t change in the feminine form, as in un/une dentiste (a male/female dentist), the profession chosen by the girl’s schoolmate in the following video from Côte d'Ivoire:

 

Je veux être une dentiste.

I want to be a dentist.

Caption 96, Nader Fakhry: L'école pour tous

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(Bear in mind that usually, you would omit the article un/une when the job title comes directly after the verb être, but this may vary from one French-speaking country to another.)

 

In many cases, though, feminizing a job title is not as simple as adding an -e and requires making changes to the noun. 

 

Sometimes switching to feminine will cause a change in pronunciation for words ending with a consonant, as in un enseignant/une enseignante (teacher). The t in enseignante (female teacher) is sounded, but the t in enseignant (male teacher) is not:

 

Je suis enseignante de français langue étrangère, à l'Université Nancy Deux

I am an instructor of French as a foreign language at the University of Nancy Two

Caption 2, Yabla à Nancy: Université Nancy 2

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Other times, you will need to add a grave accent (è) and an extra -e to nouns ending in -er, as in infirmier/infirmière (male/female nurse). The suffix -er becomes -ère:

 

Je voulais être médecin. -C'est vrai? -Ouais, et je suis infirmière.

I wanted to be a doctor. -Is that true? -Yeah, and I am a nurse.

Caption 55, Micro-Trottoirs: Rêves d’enfants

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Nouns ending in -en often change to -enne in the feminine, as in chirurgien/chirurgienne (male/female surgeon). In the following example, we have the masculine version, un chirurgien, with a silent -n

 

Françoise Artigues accuse son chirurgien, le docteur Cujasse

Françoise Artigues is accusing her surgeon, Doctor Cujasse

Caption 1, Le Jour où tout a basculé -  À l'audience: Mon chirurgien était ivre - Part 1

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Nouns ending with the suffix -eur in the masculine form are a little bit more complicated, as they can take on different endings in the feminine. 

 

Un professeur (a male professor) simply becomes une professeur in the feminine or, less often, une professeure

 

Et j'ai pris sa suite avec la même professeur [or professeure] en fait.

And I followed in her footsteps with the same teacher, actually.

Caption 42, LCM Concert: La Folia à l'abbaye Saint-Victor

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Un auteur (a male author) can be feminized in two different ways. You can call a female author une auteure, a term borrowed from Canada, or you can say une autrice, the suffix -trice being more popular in France:

 

Enfin, en 2012, l’Académie française propose à son tour l’adoption du mot « auteure ». 

Finally in 2012, the Académie Française in turn proposes the adoption of the word “auteure” (female author).

 

Indeed, in Canada, they use the -eure suffix, as in traducteure (female translator), more frequently than in France, where they say traductrice instead:

 

Euh, ça m'a permis beaucoup de voyager et d'être parfois même la traducteure pour mon père ou ma mère

Uh, it's allowed me to travel a lot and to sometimes even be the translator for my dad or my mom

Captions 21-22, Annie Chartrand: Grandir bilingue

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The French usually prefer to use the suffix -trice, as in un acteur/une actrice. In the example below, Melissa Mars introduces herself as une actrice (an actress), among other things:

 

Bonjour! Je suis Melissa Mars. Je suis actrice, chanteuse, française ou martienne.

Hello! I am Melissa Mars. I'm an actress, singer, French or Martian.

Caption 1, Melissa Mars: Melissa et son premier album

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She also introduces herself as a singer, une chanteuse. Here we have yet another feminine form of -eur: -euse. So une chanteuse is un chanteur in the masculine, and une serveuse (a waitress) is un serveur (a waiter):

 

La serveuse t'aime bien Nico.

The waitress likes you, Nico.

Caption 16, Extr@ Ep. 6 - Le jour du loto - Part 5

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You might also see the suffix -esse, as in docteur/doctoresse (male/female doctor) and maître/maîtresse (school master/schoolmistress), but it's pretty dated.

 

The Académie Française, the French authority on language, has introduced many new feminine job titles, but it’s up to people to adopt them. Sometimes, women themselves don’t systematically adopt newly feminized titles. In the following video, the female judge introduces herself as le juge Beaulieu (Judge Beaulieu) even though she could have introduced herself as la juge:

 

Bonjour, je suis le juge Beaulieu.

Hello, I am Judge Beaulieu.

Caption 31, Le Jour où tout a basculé: À l'audience - Arnaque en couple ? - Part 1

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As you can see, the feminization of job titles is a work in progress, fraught with ambiguity and, sometimes, controversy. Just be sure to follow the correct grammatical rules applying to both masculine and feminine titles, as they are not negotiable in most cases.

 

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for our next lesson on the gender of nouns referring to animals.

 
Continuer la lecture

Gender of Nouns Referring to Humans

In our previous lesson we learned that all French nouns have a gender, and that it is up to the speaker to remember whether a word is masculine or feminine. In this lesson, we’ll focus on the gender of nouns referring to humans, which is usually predictable, although occasionally some situations require making difficult choices.

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For the most part, assigning gender to nouns referring to people is straightforward, as it coincides with the gender of the person. For example, you would expect the word frère (brother) to be masculine, and sœur (sister) to be feminine. 

 

We also learned that masculine nouns are typically introduced by un/le (a/the), as in un frère (a brother):

 

Il est comme un grand frère pour moi.

He's like a big brother to me.

Caption 40, Le Jour où tout a basculé - J'ai escroqué mon assurance ! - Part 1

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Feminine nouns are preceded by une/la (a/the), as in une sœur (a sister):

 

Hé Sam! Et peut-être qu'elle a une amie ou une sœur...

Hey Sam! And maybe she has a friend or a sister...

Caption 39, Extr@ - Ep. 6 - Le jour du loto - Part 3

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It is also possible to introduce a noun with other little words or determiners, in addition to the articles un/une and le/la mentioned above. In the example below, to express her feelings toward her deceased father, the daughter uses various turns of phrase: mon père (my father), un père (a father), l’image du père idéal (the image of the ideal father):

 

C'est mon père.... J'ai eu un père. Il était loin de l'image du père idéal

He's my father.... I had a father. He was far from the image of the ideal father

Captions 11, 39-40, Le Jour où tout a basculé Mon père n'est pas mort - Part 8

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A few nouns, like enfant (child), can be preceded by either a masculine or a feminine article, as those words refer to people of any gender:

 

Elle a un enfant et c'est...

She has a child [masculine] and she's...

Caption 43, Le Jour où tout a basculé - Ma mère fait tout pour briser mon couple - Part 2

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Je suis une enfant du monde

I am a child [feminine] of the world

Caption 31, Indila - Dernière danse

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Usually, though, a given noun will have a masculine and a feminine version. Many feminine nouns end in -e (though not all nouns ending in -e are feminine, as we'll see below). So, we have two words for “friend": une amie (a female friend) and un ami (a male friend).

 

Et c'est une amie à moi canadienne

And it's a Canadian friend of mine

Caption 18, Amal et Caroline - Quartier du Louvre

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When used as nouns, nationalities are capitalized and also take an -e in the feminine form. For example, a Frenchwoman is une Française, and a Frenchman is un Français:

 

Les habitants de la France, les Françaises et les Français, sont plus de soixante-six millions.

The inhabitants of France, Frenchwomen and Frenchmen, are more than sixty-six million.

Caption 19, Le saviez-vous? - D'où vient le nom de la France?

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Here is another example with nationalities. Note that you pronounce the s in Française, which is a "z" sound, but not in Français. When a noun ends with a silent consonant in the masculine form, that letter usually becomes sounded in the feminine form:

 

Parce que c'est l'histoire toute simple d'un amour entre un Américain et une Française.

Because it's the very simple story of a love between an American boy and a French girl.

Captions 47-48, Extr@ - Ep. 5 - Une étoile est née - Part 2

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Endings in -e are especially useful for the femininization of job titles:

 

Madame George Pau-Langevin, la députée de la quinzième circonscription

Ms. George Pau-Langevin, the deputy for the fifteenth constituency

Caption 92, Actu Vingtième - Le bleu dans les yeux, recyclerie de Belleville

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Here, la député(the female deputy) is the feminine form of le député (the male deputy).

 

Some masculine nouns already end in -e and therefore are equivalent to their feminine counterparts, as in un artiste/une artiste (a male/female artist). In this case, only the article in front determines the gender. Karine Rougier, for example, refers to herself as une artiste:

 

Du coup, le processus pour devenir une artiste, je pense que... il est à l'intérieur de moi

So, the process to become an artist, I think that... it's inside me

Captions 42-43, Le saviez-vous? - Karine Rougier présente son art - Part 4

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However, there are times when people use the masculine form of the job title even when referring to women. This happens for various reasons, some of them subtle. Earlier in the video series on Karine Rougier, the curator of the gallery introduces her as un artiste, not une artiste. Why?

 

It’s because the speaker is using the term artiste in a generic sense. He is talking about the tradition of giving carte blanche to an artist (in general) every year and is not referring to Karine Rougier specifically yet:

 

Comme chaque année au mois d'octobre, nous faisons une carte blanche à un artiste. Et cette année, c'est Karine Rougier

Like every year in the month of October, we're giving carte blanche to an artist. And this year, it's Karine Rougier

Captions 3-5, Le saviez-vous? - Karine Rougier présente son art - Part 1

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In the following video, the speaker also uses the masculine because he's speaking in generic terms about un élève (a student) of unknown gender:

 

Ce sac à dos est à un élève, non?

This backpack belongs to a student, right?

Caption 25, Conversations au parc - Ep. 3: C'est à qui ce sac à dos ?

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Whenever there is no way of identifying the gender of a person, French speakers often default to the masculine. When the couple in the example below expresses a desire to avoir un enfant (have a child) one day, they're not specifically talking about a boy, but rather a child of any gender:

 

Quelle décision? Avoir un enfant.

What decision? To have a child.

Captions 6-7, Le Jour où tout a basculé - À la recherche de mon passé - Part 2

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To recap, while the masculine usually applies to males, it's also used when the gender is not known, or when it refers to people in a generic sense. The use of the feminine is more straightforward, as it applies exclusively to women and girls. The difficulty here lies in which ending you’re going to use, as not all feminine nouns end in -e. Many of them look different from their masculine counterparts, especially job titles and animals, both of which will be explored in future lessons.

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Gender Reveal: Masculine and Feminine Nouns

Unlike in English, all nouns are either masculine or feminine in French, without exception, whether they refer to a person, an animal, or an inanimate object. So, every time you learn a new word, you will also need to memorize its gender, which is one of the difficulties of the French language. 

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As Lionel remarks in his lesson, English speakers don’t have to worry about the gender of nouns:

 

Voilà. Vous êtes chanceux en anglais: vous avez pas tous ces problèmes de sexe et de langue...

There you have it. You are lucky in English: you don't have all these gender and language problems...

Caption 24, Lionel L - Les genres

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Perhaps we can blame the Romans for this predicament, as most Romance languages (derived from Latin) assign a gender to nouns. For example, in Spanish, masculine nouns end in o, as in chico (boy), and feminine nouns end in a, as in chica (girl). In French, you can’t always guess the gender of a noun by its ending. Instead, it’s better to check the article that comes before it. 

 

Masculine nouns are preceded by the masculine indefinite article un (a) or the definite article le (the). For example, we say un garçon (a boy) or le garçon (the boy), and therefore garçon is masculine:

 

Le masculin s'utilise par exemple pour le mot "garçon". C'est masculin: "Le garçon".

The masculine is used, for example, for the word "garçon." It's masculine: "Le garçon" [the boy].

Caption 5, Yabla à Nancy - Le masculin et le féminin

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Feminine nouns are introduced by the indefinite article une (a) or the definite article la (the). The noun fille (girl) is feminine, so we say une fille (a girl) or la fille (the girl):

 

Le féminin s'utilise pour le mot "fille", par exemple, "la fille."

The feminine is used for the word "fille," for example, "la fille" [the girl].

Caption 7, Yabla à Nancy - Le masculin et le féminin

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So far so good. It seems quite logical to ascribe a feminine gender to une fille (a girl) and a masculine gender to un garçon (a boy).

 

However, when it comes to inanimate objects, you'd think it would make more sense to assign them a neuter gender, or “it”. Unfortunately, there is no such thing in French. So, an object or concept is arbitrarily either masculine or feminine. There is often no rhyme or reason for this, as Lionel jokingly points out:

 

Pourquoi est-ce que la chaise est une femme? Je sais pas.

Why is the chair a woman? I don't know.

Caption 6, Lionel L - Les genres

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Since there’s little logic in the gender-assigning process, it’s up to you to memorize the gender of each noun and match it with the correct article: le (the) or un (a) for masculine and la (the) or une (a) for feminine. Or you could talk about everything in multiples, as the plural has its definite advantages. Why? Because you don’t need to worry about feminine and masculine articles! Les ("the," plural) and des (some) work for both masculine and feminine plural nouns:

 

Au pluriel, on utilise le mot "les". Ça marche pour le masculin et pour le féminin.

In the plural, we use the word "les." That works for the masculine and for the feminine.

Caption 16, Yabla à Nancy - Le masculin et le féminin

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So:

 

Une maison (a house) becomes des maisons (houses).

 

La maison (the house) becomes les maisons (the houses).

 

Un garçon (a boy) becomes des garçons (boys).

 

Le garçon (the boy) becomes les garçons (the boys).

 

In addition to les (the) and des (some) pairing with both masculine and feminine plural nouns, the definite singular article l’ (another form of “the”) can also go with either gender, as in l’arbre ("the tree," masculine) or l’idée ("the idea," feminine). 

 

Note that l' is only used with a noun starting with a vowel or silent h. In other words, le and la turn into l’ in front of a vowel or silent hThis phenomenon is called euphony, which is when a word is modified for a purely phonetic purpose, without changing its meaning.

 

Thus, we can’t say le arbre in French. As Patricia explains, we have to say l’arbre:

 

Je ne dis pas: "Voici le arbre". Je dis: "Voici l'arbre".

I don't say: "Voici le arbre" [here's the tree]. I say: "Voici l'arbre" [here's the tree].

Captions 34-37, Le saviez-vous? - L'élision - Part 1

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And the same rule applies to feminine nouns. Instead of la oreille (the ear), we say:

 

L'oreille.

"L'oreille" [the ear].

Caption 20, Le saviez-vous? - L'élision - Part 1

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To summarize, here's a table outlining the gender of nouns and articles in French:

 

Masculine singular Masculine plural Feminine singular Feminine plural
un chapeau (a hat) des chapeaux (hats) une maison (a house) des maisons (houses)
le chapeau (the hat) les chapeaux (the hats) la maison (the house) les maisons (the houses)
l'arbre (the tree) les arbres (the trees) l'amitié (the friendship) les amitiés (the friendships)

 

Once you’ve memorized the gender of a noun, it’s a matter of using the correct article mentioned in the table. 

 

Fortunately, if you forget the gender of a word, you can always consult a dictionary. However, you should know that nouns usually aren't listed with un/une or le/la in front. Instead, gender will often appear in the form of an abbreviation: nm (nom masculin, masculine noun) and nf (nom féminin, feminine noun). You'll also see npl (nom pluriel, plural noun). 

 

So far, we’ve covered the basics of the gender of nouns and articles, but there is a lot more to explore. Dans une prochaine leçon (in a future lesson), we’ll discuss nouns referring to people and animals.

 

Until then, happy reading!

 
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Verlan – The New Slang

Do you know what Parlez-vous céfran means? It’s Parlez-vous français? (Do you speak French?) in verlan, a form of slang in which a word’s syllables are inverted. In verlan, français (French) becomes céfran. The term verlan is itself an instance of verlan, standing for l’envers ("backward" or “back to front”), as Lionel puts it in his lesson:

 

"Verlan", c'est "l'envers" à l'envers.

"Verlan" is "l'envers" [backward] reversed.

Caption 5, Lionel L - Le verlan

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Although verlan is widely used among young people today, the practice of reversing syllables goes back a long way (and is not exclusive to the French language). French Enlightenment writer François-Marie Arouet, aka Voltaire, is said to have made up his pen name by reversing the syllables of his hometown of Airvault. More recently, singer/rapper/songwriter Stromae (né Paul Van Haver) built his stage name around the word maestro, which in verlan became Stromae! Verlan was even used as a coded language among prisoners during World War II. 

 

But it was not until the seventies and eighties that verlan really started to take off and become a form of expression for the disenfranchised in the poorer suburbs of Paris. It became part of the language of immigrants, namely second-generation French North Africans straddling two cultures, who called themselves beurs (arabes in verlan). (Incidentally, the term rebeu, a variation of beur, has become so mainstream that it is now entered in Le Petit Robert dictionary!)

 

The term beur (Arab), featured in the video below, is part of the catchphrase black, blanc, beur (black, white, Arab), which has become a symbol of racial diversity:

 

La Marianne, c'est le symbole de la République avant tout. Je vous dirais qu'elle soit noire, beur, ou blanche, c'est pareil.

Above all, Marianne is the symbol of the Republic. I'm telling you, whether she's black, Arab, or white, it's all the same.

Captions 16-17, Le Journal - Marianne

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By the same token, immigrants don’t want to abandon their roots and compromise their values to fit in. According to filmmaker Alain Etoundi, minorities are misrepresented in French movies, such as the comedy Les Kaïra, in which black characters are stereotyped as funny, harmless rogues. The title of the movie Les Kaïra is based on caillera, the verlan term for racaille (riffraff, scum):

 

Vous aimez valider des films de pseudo "Kaïra" ["caillera", verlan "racaille"]

You like to endorse pseudo-"Kaïra" films [riffraff]

Caption 26, Alain Etoundi - Allez tous vous faire enfilmer! - Part 1

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In addition to movies, music, especially hip-hop, helped verlan spread beyond the suburbs from the nineties onwards. In 2013, Congolese-born hip-hop artist Maître Gims made liberal use of verlan in his song "Bella":

 

Les gens du coin ne voulaient pas la "cher-lâ" [lâcher]

The local people would not leave her alone

Caption 54, Maître Gims - Bella

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Turning two-syllable words into verlan is quite straightforward. In the example above, Maître Gims just switches the syllables of lâcher (to let go/to leave alone) around to make cher-. But with one-syllable words, it’s a little trickier. For example, pieds (feet) becomes iep:

 

Rends-moi bête comme mes "iep" [pieds]

Make me stupid as my feet [thick as a brick]

Caption 59, Maître Gims - Bella

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And chien (dog) becomes iench:

 

Je suis l'ombre de ton "iench" [chien]

I am the shadow of your dog

Caption 61, Maître Gims - Bella

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Rapper Grand Corps Malade also uses verlan in his song "Roméo kiffe Juliette" (Romeo Likes Juliet):

 

Le père de Roméo est vénère [énervé], il a des soupçons

Romeo's father is irritated, he has suspicions

Caption 25, Grand Corps Malade - Roméo kiffe Juliette

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And in "Plan B", Grand Corps Malade refers to a girlfriend as a meuf:

 

Quand ta meuf c'est Kardashian et que tu rêves d'une vie planquée

When your chick is a Kardashian and you dream of a secluded life

Caption 21, Grand Corps Malade - Plan B

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The word femme (“woman” or “wife") becomes meuf in verlan, which can also mean “girlfriend” or, more slangily, "chick."

 

As singers have popularized the use of verlan, it's become part of everyday conversations among young people. In the video below, Elisa uses verlan in a conversation with her mother, whom she accuses of being relou (annoying): 

 

Bah oui! T'es... t'es super relou ["lourd" en verlan], on le sait hein!

Well yes! You're... you're really annoying, we know that, right?

Caption 8, Elisa et sa maman - Comment vas-tu?

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It's not just people who can be relou. Activities like housework can be as well:

 

Et très vite j'allais comprendre qu'il y avait plus relou que le ménage.

And very quickly I was going to understand that there were more frustrating things than housework.

Captions 73-74, Mère & Fille Tâches ménagères

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As you can see, verlan words pepper conversations and songs all across the French-speaking world. If you want to try your hand at verlan, just switch some syllables around, and don’t forget check out the videos featured in this Blaya (Yabla) lesson!

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