Lezioni Francese

Argomenti

It's All in the Past! - Part 2 - Second-Group Verbs

In our previous lesson, we covered the passé composé of first-group verbs, or -er verbs. In this lesson, we’ll explore second-group verbs, or verbs whose infinitives end in -ir

 

To make it easier to conjugate verbs, French grammarians divided them into three groups according to their infinitive endings. This broad classification also helps you determine their past participles, so it is worth noting which group a verb belongs to.

 

First-group or -er verbs: past participle -é

Second-group or -ir verbs: past participle -i

Third-group or -re, -oir, and irregular -ir verbs: past participle -u

 

Regular -ir verbs belong to the second-largest group of verbs in French. Regular verbs follow a predictable pattern, making them easier to conjugate than irregular verbs, which have their quirks.

 

Second-group -ir verbs follow the same basic rules as -er verbs in the passé composé, combining the auxiliaries avoir or être with the past participle.  

 

The main difference is that the past participle of regular -ir verbs ends in -i instead of .

 

For example, to form the past participle of finir (to finish), take out the r in finir and voilà! You have the past participle fini!

 

Après la mort de papa, elle a fini ses études

After dad's death, she finished her studies

Captions 7-8, Le Jour où tout a basculé - Mon père n'est pas mort - Part 9

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Interestingly, the expression finir par in the passé composé doesn’t mean to finish something. Instead, it describes an outcome, something that eventually happened or ended up happening:

 

Elle a gagné et j'ai fini par être chanteuse

It won and I ended up being a singer

Caption 13, Watt’s In - Indila : Dernière Danse Interview Exlu

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In any case, finir is a typical second-group verb that is handy to know, as you will be able to use it as a model to conjugate other similar verbs, like choisir (to choose):

 

Nous avons choisi de passer une semaine sur place à Aulnay.

We chose to spend a week on-site in Aulnay.

Caption 9, Banlieues françaises - jeunes et policiers, l'impossible réconciliation? - Part 1

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When describing where you grew up, you'll use the passé composé of the verb grandir:

 

J'ai grandi là.

I grew up here.

Caption 34, Actu Vingtième - Fête du quartier Python-Duvernois

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As you can see, conjugating second-group verbs in the passé composé is quite straightforward since they are regular verbs. 

 

Another thing worth noting is that in addition to being recognizable by their past participles, second-group verbs can also be classified by their present participles, which end in -issant: finissant (finishing), choisissant (choosing), grandissant (growing up), etc. This information will prove useful when you learn about irregular -ir verbs belonging to the third group. 

 

So, nous n'avons pas encore fini (we haven't finished yet), as there are more -ir verbs in store for you to explore in another lesson! For now, have a look at some of Patricia's videos on second-group verbs: Les verbes du 2ème groupeLes verbes du 2ème groupe les plus utilisés. And for a list of common second-group verbs, click here

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It's All in the Past! - Introducing the Passé Composé

When talking about things that happened in the past in French, you will most likely use the compound tense known as the passé composé.

 

It’s called a compound tense because it’s made of two parts, an auxiliary and a past participle.

 

In the example below, ai (have) is the auxiliary and pensé (thought) is the past participle. Together, they make up the passé composé.

 

J'ai pensé à vous hier.

I thought of you yesterday.

Caption 5, Le saviez-vous? - Conjugaison des verbes du 1er groupe au passé composé de l’indicatif

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In this lesson we will focus on conjugating verbs ending in -er (also known as first-group verbs) in the infinitive form or dictionary form, since they are the most common verbs.

 

To make up the passé composé, you conjugate the auxiliaries avoir (to have) or être (to be) in the present tense and add the past participle of the main verb. Most verbs take the auxiliary avoir and only a few take the auxiliary être, which we'll explore in a future lesson.

 

Les auxiliaires "être" et "avoir" sont utilisés pour conjuguer les formes composées.

The auxiliaries "être" and "avoir" are used to conjugate compound forms.

Caption 9, Manon et Clémentine - Conjugaison du verbe être

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Par exemple, le verbe "manger" avec "avoir". J'ai mangé une pomme.

For example, the verb "manger" [to eat] with "avoir." I ate an apple.

Caption 10, Manon et Clémentine Conjugaison du verbe être

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The passé composé is the equivalent of the simple past (I did) and the present perfect (I have done).   

 

So, for example, j’ai pensé can be translated as "I thought" or "I have thought" depending on the context. In any case, the auxiliary avoir cannot be dropped in French, as we do with "have" in English.

 

In her lesson on the passé composé, Patricia explains how to form a past participle:

 

Et le participe passé, c'est très simple. Il suffit de remplacer "er" par "é".

And the past participle is very simple. You just have to replace "er" with "é".

Captions 30-31, Le saviez-vous? Conjugaison des verbes du 1er groupe au passé composé de l’indicatif

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The -er ending that Patricia mentions is the ending of an infinitive verb, which will become a past participle ending in -é (don't forget the accent mark!). For example, take out the -er ending of préparer (to prepare) and replace it with -é to make up the past participle préparé (prepared). Note that préparer and préparé sound the same, as the -r ending of the infinitive form is always silent.

 

Et donc j'ai préparé une leçon très utile pour vous.

And so I prepared a very useful lesson for you.

Caption 7, Le saviez-vous? Conjugaison des verbes du 1er groupe au passé composé de l’indicatif

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Here's a final example of the passé composé:

 

Ils ont cuisiné hier, tous ensemble.

They cooked yesterday, all together.

Caption 51, Le saviez-vous? Conjugaison des verbes du 1er groupe au passé composé de l’indicatif

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Remember that you will need to be familiar with the present tense of avoir in order to form the passé composé.

 

For a complete conjugation of cuisiner (to cook) in the passé composé, check out Patricia’s lesson.

 

So far, we’ve focused on conjugating first-group, -er verbs, but there are many more to explore! We'll see you for another round of verbs in a future lesson!

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How to Hug in French

In our last lesson, we talked about the different words for kissing in French, and how the COVID pandemic has affected the French custom of la bise. Now we'll focus on hugging. Yes, French people hug too! However, there are differences. Unlike in Anglo-Saxon countries, where hugging is what la bise is to French people, hugging is not so prevalent in France. A hug is not used as a greeting, as full-body contact may be considered intrusive. Hugging is more of a private affair, a heartfelt show of affection. So, if you’re not comfortable with la bise, don’t think that you can make a compromise by giving a hug instead! 

 

In fact, the word for “hug” doesn’t have a direct translation in French.

 

Instead, you’ll find a paraphrase: serrer dans ses bras (to squeeze in one's arms) or prendre dans ses bras (to hold in one’s arms).

 

J'aurais bien voulu, pour passer le temps te serrer dans mes bras amicalement

I really would have liked, to pass the time to squeeze you warmly in my arms

Captions 1-2, Babylon Circus - J'aurais bien voulu

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Un câlin is a more familiar hug, more like a cuddle:

 

Que le mot soit doux comme un câlin

May the word be sweet like a cuddle

Caption 4, Les Nubians - Que le mot soit perle

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You can also use the verbal phrase faire un câlin (to hug or cuddle). Sophie and Patrice even use it when talking about hugging their Christmas tree!

 

Moi, j'aime bien faire des câlins aux arbres. -Allez viens. On va lui faire un petit câlin

I really like hugging trees. -Come on, we'll go give it a little hug

Caption 86, Sophie et Patrice - Après Noël

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And you can give bisous, bises, and câlins in writing too, with no fear of contamination! It's equivalent to "kisses and hugs" at the end of a letter, text message, or email:

 

Bisous, câlins, Maman.

Kisses and hugs, Mom.

Caption 40, Extr@ Ep. 1 - L'arrivée de Sam - Part 1

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Finally, there's the more formal une étreinte, which is "an embrace," and its verbal form étreindre (to embrace):

 

J'aurais voulu que cette étreinte avec mon père dure éternellement.

I would have liked this embrace with my father to last forever.

Caption 25, Le Jour où tout a basculé À la recherche de mon père - Part 9

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Le soir, on s'étreint, les deux pieds dans l'eau

In the evening, we embrace, both feet in the water

Caption 21, Duel - Caramel

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The word embrasser is cognate with "embrace," but don't let that confuse you: it means "to kiss," not "to hug." See our last lesson for more on that.

 

The French might not hug each other as much as Americans do, but they have quite a few different ways of saying "hug"!

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To Kiss or Not to Kiss?

The COVID pandemic has forced French people to fundamentally rethink how they interact with each other. They will need to reconsider the way they typically greet and say goodbye to one another with a peck or two on each cheek, a kiss known as la bise.  

 

Should this customary greeting, this deeply ingrained cultural habit of faire la bise be avoided during a pandemic? 

 

In the video below, French Public Health authorities keep telling the inhabitants of the Grand-Est region to please stop kissing, which translates as s’embrasser:

 

Arrêtez de vous embrasser.

Stop kissing.

Caption 1, RMC Covid-19: faut-il encore se faire la bise?

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Hold it! Does that mean that French people should stop kissing altogether? Not exactly. It simply means skipping the traditional peck or two on each cheek (la bise or s’embrasser sur la joue) every time you greet a friend or an acquaintance. The French health authorities are not specifically referring to romantic kissing. 

 

Still, despite the risk of contamination, many French people are finding it difficult to abandon this tradition as it feels very awkward and unnatural to them, and they just can’t help themselves!

 

Beaucoup de Français ont un peu de mal à changer les habitudes, un peu de mal à oublier la bise.

Many French people are having a bit of trouble changing their habits, a bit of trouble forgetting the kiss on the cheek.

Captions 12-14, RMC Covid-19: faut-il encore se faire la bise?

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Cette mère de famille avoue embrasser la plupart de ses connaissances.

This mother admits to kissing most of her acquaintances.

Captions 43-44, RMC Covid-19: faut-il encore se faire la bise?

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Back in pre-COVID days, if you wanted to break the ice and exchange bises for the first time, you could just plunge ahead or you could simply ask, On se fait la bise? (Shall we give each other a peck on the cheek?). In a subtle way, asking or granting permission to exchange bises indicates the beginning of a friendship, in partnership with se tutoyer (using tu, the informal form of “you”).

 

But for now, the habit is hard to break. It’s usually de rigueur and not optional among family members. And it’s up to you to guess or decide how many bises you should exchange. Usually two will suffice, but that can vary. 

 

The pressure to exchange la bise is greater on girls than boys as girls are expected to kiss everyone, regardless of gender. Girls especially feel the social pressure to exchange bises as they worry that they will come across as cold and unfriendly if they don’t kiss their friends and family members.

 

(Speaking of cold, la bise is also a cold northerly wind that bites your cheeks. We discussed this in a previous lesson.)

 

As for males, they aren’t expected to kiss everyone, and serrer la main (shaking hands) with male friends or relatives is acceptable.

 

If a man is feeling very gallant and old-fashioned, he can kiss a lady’s hand: faire un baiser sur la main. There’s even a special word for this: le baisemain (kissing someone’s hand as a mark of respect). 

 

Although not so much used as a formal greeting anymore, le baiser remains a beautiful expression of love. Un baiser often refers to a romantic kiss:

 

Depuis que tu m'as laissé ce baiser fiévreux

Since you left me that feverish kiss

Caption 9, Charles-Baptiste Sale type

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The verb baiser used to mean “to kiss,” and it was perfectly acceptable to use the term in formal circumstances and otherwise:

 

Il faut se mettre à genoux et baiser le pied de l'empereur. C'est la coutume.

We must kneel and kiss the emperor's foot. It's the custom.

Caption 11, Il était une fois - les Explorateurs 15. Bruce et les sources du Nil - Part 6

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But beware! Baiser as a verb means something else entirely now! It’s slang for “to have sex.” But don’t worry: un baiser (a kiss) is safe to use in a sentence.

 

In addition to le baiser (kiss) and la bise (peck on each cheek), you may come across a couple of variations:

 

Le bisou, or “little kiss,” is warmer and more playful than la bise. The term is often used when talking to children, but also with good friends or lovers. It’s an expression of love and affection and is not typically used as a greeting like la bise

 

Et moi, j'ai pas droit à un petit bisou?

And me, don't I get a little kiss?

Caption 49, Le Jour où tout a basculé Mon histoire d'amour est impossible - Part 1

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Un bécot is a somewhat more intimate kiss, more like a “smooch.” In this video on school regulations regarding public displays of affection, students smooch (se bécotent) in school. You can watch the entire video to discover more slang words for kissing:

 

Cela dit, le règlement ne prévoit aucune sanction pour les amoureux qui se bécotent à l'école publique.

That said, the regulations do not allow for any sanctions against lovers who kiss at public school.

Caption 31, Le Journal Baisers interdits dans les couloirs!

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So there you have it: multiple ways of greeting and expressing love and affection in French, whether it be la bise, un bisou, un baiser, or un bécot. It may have to be une bise virtuelle à distance (a virtual, socially distanced kiss) or an elbow bump until we can kiss the pandemic goodbye!

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It All Sounds the Same to Me! - A Lesson on Homophones

Have you noticed that while some French words have many variations in spelling, they sound the same?

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For example, the words un verre, un ver, vers, and vert(s) share the same pronunciation yet have different meanings. That makes them homophones.

 

Homophones are especially common in French as the letters t, d, and s, when placed at the end of a word, are usually silent.

 

Check out Patricia’s video on homophones and homonyms, which she turned into a fun story.

 

Let’s examine the examples mentioned earlier.

 

Un verre can mean "a glass" or "a drink." The expression boire un verre means "to have a drink." Or, you can say prendre un verre.

 

On est tous là avec juste l'envie de passer un bon moment, de boire un verre

We are all here just with the desire to have a good time, to have a drink

Caption 52, Actu Vingtième Vendanges parisiennes

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Le verre also refers to the material itself. It means "glass," as in English:

 

Nous sommes maintenant chez le souffleur de verre de L'Isle-Adam.

We are now at the L'Isle-Adam glassblower's.

Caption 11, Voyage en France L'Isle-Adam - Part 4

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Speaking of verre, did you know that Cinderella’s slippers might originally have been made not of verre, but of vair (squirrel fur)?

 

Some scholars believe the original fable described pantoufles de vair (squirrel fur slippers), which became pantoufles de verre (glass slippers) in Charles Perrault's famous version. No one knows if he made a mistake or simply chose a new material for the slippers in his version of the fairy tale.

 

From squirrels to worms…. Un ver de terre is an earthworm, a critter that Claire and Philippe remember fondly in their La campagne video.

 

Alors elle prenait le petit ver de terre dans la main.

So she used to take the little earthworm in her hand.

Caption 71, Claire et Philippe La campagne

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And the poetically named ver solitaire (literally, "solitary worm") is the French word for "tapeworm”!

 

If the thought of many vers solitaires turns you off (vers being the plural of ver), let’s turn toward vers, an innocuous word that simply means "toward."

 

In the Actus Quartier video, this young lady is looking toward the future:

 

Je suis tournée vers l'avenir et vers tout ce qu'on va construire... 

I'm looking toward the future and toward all that we're going to build… 

Caption 40, Actus Quartier Fête de la rose au caviar rouge

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Vers also means "around," "about":

 

Plutôt vers deux heures du matin

Instead around two o'clock in the morning

Caption 60, Adrien Le métro parisien

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Now, for a more colorful version of this homophone, you have the word vert, which means "green." 

 

As you probably know, vert, like most adjectives, takes on masculine, feminine, and plural endings. For more information on adjective agreements, refer to previous lessons.

 

As mentioned earlier, -t and -s are often not pronounced at the end of a word. So vert (masculine singular) sounds exactly like verts (masculine plural). However, note that vert will become verte when agreeing with a feminine singular noun, and the t in verte will be pronounced! 

 

Donc, on va écrire "vert". Masculin. Sinon... "verte".

So we're going to write "green." Masculine. Otherwise... "green" [feminine].

Caption 28, Leçons avec Lionel Couleurs

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Now that you’ve acquainted yourself with homophones, you’ll be surprised how many you'll be able to spot! But if you haven't satisfied your appetite for homophones, click here to learn some more.

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Just Kidding!

The verb se moquer is used in two recent videos, in two slightly different senses:

 

Et il n'est pas le seul à se moquer.

And he's not the only one making fun.

Caption 40, d'Art d'Art - "Impression, soleil levant" - Monet

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Non mais tu te moques de moi?

No but are you kidding me?

Caption 61, Le Jour où tout a basculé - Ma fille et mon mari se sont fait berner - Part 3

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Se moquer means to make or poke fun, or to kid. If it takes an object, as in the second example, you have to add de after it (to make fun of someone). It's cognate with "to mock" in English, and can also have that sense, depending on context: 

 

Se moquer gentiment de personnages célèbres est très courant pendant la période de carnaval.

Gently mocking famous people is very common during the carnival period.

Caption 20, Le saviez-vous? - Le carnaval en France

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But se moquer has another meaning that isn't quite as obvious. It's the verb you use when you don't care about something, or more precisely, when you couldn't care less:

 

Je me moque des règles. 

I couldn't care less about the rules.

 

In more informal speech, se ficher is often used instead of se moquer in most of its senses:

 

On se fiche de nous ou quoi?

Are you kidding us or what?

Caption 5, Actus Quartier - Devant la SNCF

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Je me fiche des règles.

I couldn't care less about the rules.

 

Another way of saying "to make/poke fun" is taquiner (to tease):

 

Ne taquine pas ta sœur.

Don't tease your sister.

 

There are a few other verbs for "to kid" in French. If you want to say "I'm kidding" or "just kidding," use plaisanter or rigoler:

 

Je plaisante, pas du tout.

I'm kidding, not at all.

Caption 22, Elisa et Mashal - Mon chien Roméo

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Je ne ferai pas l'idiote. Non, je rigole.

I will not act like an idiot. No, I'm kidding.

Caption 52, Margaux et Manon - Conjugaison du verbe faire

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Rigoler is an informal synonym of rire (to laugh). So you can think of je rigole as "I'm just having a laugh." Plaisanter, the verb form of une plaisanterie (a joke), means "to joke" or "joke around." So je plaisante is more along the lines of "I'm just joking around."

 

If you want to say "you're kidding," as an exclamation, you can say, Tu plaisantes! Or, you can even just say, Tu parles! (literally, "You're talking!")

 

Tu parles. Impôts?

You're kidding. Taxes?

Caption 37, Patricia - Pas de crédit dans le monde des clones - Part 1

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And for the phrase "no kidding," you can use the phrase sans blague (no joke). For more on that and other joke-related expressions, see our lesson Telling Jokes in French.

 

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Leveling up with au niveau de

The expression au niveau de means "at the level of" or "on the level of." You can use this expression to talk about something that's physically level with something else:

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...pour avoir de l'eau au niveau des genoux, vous allez être emporté de ce côté. 

...having the water at knee level, you are going to be carried away to this side.

Captions 12-13, À la plage avec Lionel La plage

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La ville est au niveau de la mer.

The city is at sea level.

 

Or, as in English, it can refer to more general things, such as one's health or one's skills or abilities:

 

Ben, c'est vrai qu'au niveau de la santé, je le ressens parfois.

Well, it's true that on a health level, I feel it sometimes.

Captions 80-81, Amal et Caroline La cigarette

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Je ne suis pas au niveau des autres élèves.

I'm not at the (same) level as the other students.

 

Another way of saying "on a health level" is au niveau sanitaire. You'll often see "au niveau + adjective" (no de) used in this way: au niveau national (on a national level), au niveau économique (on an economic level), au niveau spirituel (on a spiritual level), etc.

 

But sometimes "on the level of" or "on an x level" isn't the most succinct translation of au niveau de. It's also equivalent to phrases such as "when it comes to," "regarding," and "in regards to":

 

Parce que... en France on a souvent tendance à faire des amalgames en particulier au niveau du sandwich, du kebab... -Au niveau des fromages...

Because... in France we often have a tendency to mix them together particularly when it comes to sandwiches, kebabs... -When it comes to cheeses...

Captions 54-57, Lionel et J.B. La salade grecque

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Ensuite au niveau de la selle, faut bien la régler à votre hauteur.

Then regarding the seat, you should really adjust it to your height.

Captions 35-36, Amal Vélib

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Even when referring to physical spaces, au niveau de doesn't necessarily imply that something is level with something else. It could just mean "near," "by," or "in the region/area of":

 

Bruce se rend compte qu'un autre cours d'eau rejoint son Nil au niveau de Khartoum.

Bruce realized that another river joined his Nile near Khartoum.

Caption 42, Il était une fois - les Explorateurs 15. Bruce et les sources du Nil - Part 7

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Au niveau de also functions as a simple preposition when used with body parts, in which case it means "in":

 

Je ressens une douleur au niveau de mon genou.

I feel a pain in my knee.

 

No matter your niveau de françaisau niveau de is a great expression to know! 

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French Art Vocabulary

In the series d'Art d'Art, new at Yabla French, you'll learn the stories behind some of the most famous works of European art. You'll also learn plenty of art-related vocab too! Here are some key words from the first two videos in the series, on the Mona Lisa and The Death of Marat:

 

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une œuvre - a work

"D'Art d'Art", c'est l'histoire d'une œuvre d'art.

"D'Art d'Art" is the story of a work of art.

Caption 3, d'Art d'Art "La Mort de Marat" - David

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When we talk about an artist's "œuvre" in English, we're usually referring to the artist's entire body of work. In French, une œuvre can have that same connotation, but it can also just mean a single work of art.

 

 

un tableau - a painting

Voyez la solennité antique quasi religieuse qui se dégage de ce tableau.

See the ancient, almost religious solemnity that emerges from this painting.

Captions 10-11, d'Art d'Art "La Mort de Marat" - David

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As we explained in a previous lesson, there are three French words for "painting": une peinture (cognate with "painting"), une toile (literally, "canvas"), and un tableau (literally, "little table"). 

 

 

un pinceau - a paintbrush

Sous son pinceau, la mort de Marat devient la mort de Jésus.

Under his brush, the death of Marat becomes the death of Jesus.

Captions 35-36, d'Art d'Art "La Mort de Marat" - David

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Un pinceau is a paintbrush, but it can also refer to a makeup brush (un pinceau de maquillage). It's related to the English word "pencil" (un crayon in French).

 

 

tracer - to trace, draw, write

les dernières lignes qu'il a tracées avec sa plume, désormais inerte, ce sont des noms destinés à la guillotine

the last words that he wrote out with his quill, now unmoving, are names [of those] intended for the guillotine

Captions 43-45, d'Art d'Art "La Mort de Marat" - David

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In an artistic sense, "to trace" usually just means to copy something by drawing over it. Tracer has that connotation too, but depending on context, it can also be a synonym of dessiner (to draw) and écrire (to write).

 

 

un cadre - a frame 

un chef-d'œuvre - a masterpiece

Ce jour-là, au musée du Louvre, à la place du chef-d'œuvre de Léonard de Vinci, il ne reste que le cadre.

That day, at the Louvre Museum, in the place of Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, only the frame remains.

Captions 10-12, d'Art d'Art "La Joconde" - Vinci

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Le cadre is the frame around a painting or photograph. But that's not all! It's also the word for "framework" (as in the expression dans le cadre de, "within the framework of"), the word for "setting" or "surroundings," and the word for "executive" or "manager." You could say le cadre contains a lot of meanings within its "frame."

 

Finally, we have un chef-d'œuvre. We can think of a masterpiece as an artist's "chief work," or the "chief" of the artist's entire œuvre. 

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Surtout, Above All

The adverb surtout is actually two words combined: sur (over, above) and tout (all). Once you know that, its meaning is self-explanatory:

 

Et surtout n'oubliez rien.

And above all, don't forget anything.

Caption 9, Bande-annonce La Belle et La Bête

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There are a couple different ways of saying "above all" in English, all of which are encompassed by surtout. There's "most of all":

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Mais surtout c'est toi

But most of all, it's you

Caption 30, Aldebert La vie c'est quoi ?

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"Especially":

 

J'ai du mal à mentir, surtout quand c'est pas vrai

I find it hard to lie, especially when it's not true

Caption 29, Babylon Circus J'aurais bien voulu

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And "particularly" or "in particular":

 

J'aime surtout la cuisine japonais.
particularly like Japanese cuisine. / I like Japanese cuisine in particular.

 

Note, though, that "especially," "particularly," and "in particular" have more direct equivalents in French as well:

 

C'est le sujet qui nous intéresse tous spécialement aujourd'hui.

It's the subject that's especially of interest to all of us today.

Caption 62, Uderzo et Goscinny 1968

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Mais quand on est sensible à la peinture, ici, la lumière est particulièrement belle.

But for one who appreciates painting, the light here is particularly beautiful.

Caption 8, Arles Un Petit Tour d'Arles - Part 3

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Les plages de la côte atlantique et en particulier de la côte basque sont des plages très étendues.

the beaches on the Atlantic coast and in particular on the Basque coast are very vast beaches.

Caption 31, Voyage en France Saint-Jean-de-Luz

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Surtout can also mean "mainly" or "mostly," which isn't quite the same as "above all":

 

En fait c'est ça surtout

In fact that's it, mostly

Caption 37, Alsace 20 La chronique Mode de Caroline: mode éthique

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Aujourd'hui j'ai surtout travaillé au bureau.
Today I mainly worked in the office.

 

In informal speech, surtout is also the equivalent of "whatever you do" or "be sure to":

 

Surtout, ne rate pas le prochain épisode de "Extra"!

Whatever you do, don't miss the next episode of "Extra"!

Caption 10, Extr@ Ep. 5 - Une étoile est née - Part 1

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Surtout, regardez les vidéos les plus récentes sur Yabla French!
Be sure to check out the most recent Yabla French videos!

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How to Talk About "Stuff"

Un machin doesn't mean "a machine" (that's une machine). In fact, it doesn't mean anything specific at all. It's a filler word, used when you're speaking generally or when you can't think of the proper word for something. It's an informal alternative to une chose (a thing), roughly equivalent to "thingy" or "thingamajig," or when plural, "stuff":

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C'est-à-dire... de la confiture et des machins comme ça

That is to say... jam and stuff like that

Caption 10, Sophie et Patrice Le petit-déjeuner

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D'abord, je mets un peu d'acétone parce que souvent y a des étiquettes, des machins avec de la colle.

First, I apply a little bit of acetone because often there are labels, stuff with glue. 

Captions 58-59, Sophie et Patrice Les lampes de Sophie - Part 1

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C'est quoi ce machin-là?

What is that thing?

 

Je savais que ça n'allait pas être le single, le machin...

I knew that it was not going to be the single, the whatever...

Caption 110, Watt’s In Maître Gims : J'me Tire Interview Exclu

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Un truc is another informal way of saying une chose. It's basically synonymous with un machin:

 

Mais y a un truc aussi qui se faisait avant, c'est que la police, ils intervenaient au collège...

But there was another thing that was done before, it's that the police went in to the middle school...

Captions 16-17, Banlieues françaises jeunes et policiers, l'impossible réconciliation? - Part 2

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Et on va aller acheter des trucs.

And we're gonna buy some stuff.

Caption 59, Actus Quartier Fête de quartier Python-Duvernois - Part 1

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But unlike un machinun truc can also mean "a trick":

 

Tout ça, c'est des trucs pour nous faire travailler encore plus!

All these are tricks to make us work even more!

Caption 42, Il était une fois - Notre Terre 25. Technologies - Part 6

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And there are a couple of idioms with truc that can't be replaced with machin

 

Je n'aime pas faire la fête. Ce n'est pas mon truc.
I don't like partying. It's not my thing.

 

Chacun son truc!
To each his own!

 

Likewise, there's one idiom that only uses machin:

 

Et quand je dis un grand ancien, ça veut pas dire un vieux machin, pas du tout.

And when I say a great elder, that doesn't mean an old so-and-so, not at all.

Captions 55-57, Uderzo et Goscinny 1968

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Un vieux machin is a grumpy old man, an old fogey. 

 

You can even use machin and truc as proper nouns when you don't know or can't remember someone's name. In this case they're capitalized:

 

Demande à Machin* de t'aider.
Demande à Truc de t'aider.
Ask what's-his-name to help you.

 

*As a proper noun, Machin becomes Machine in the feminine (Demande à Machine de t'aider/Ask what's-her-name to help you). Truc doesn't change.

 

There's also another expression you can use when you don't know someone's name: Monsieur Untel/Madame Unetelle

 

Demande à Monsieur Untel/Madame Unetelle de t'aider.
Ask Mr./Ms. so-and-so to help you.

 

So when you don't know the name of something or someone, or you're just talking about "stuff" in general, machin and truc are the words to use. 

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Risky Business

In his latest video on the coronavirus pandemic, Lionel talks about the measures being taken to control the spread of the virus in France. Like everyone else in the world, French people are trying to minimize the risk of catching the virus by staying inside and wearing masks when they have to go out. 

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Though risk is a major theme of the video, when Lionel uses the verb risquer, he means something a bit different: 

 

Lors du déconfinement, nous risquons de sortir avec des masques et... les distanciations sociales risquent de durer un bon moment.

During reopening, we're likely going out with masks and... social distancing is likely going to last for quite some time.

Captions 35-38, Lionel L La pandémie, un mois déjà

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We don't "risk" going out with masks on, nor does social distancing "risk" lasting for a while longer. (Quite the contary: these are the very measures that are reducing risk). Risquer often just means "to be likely" (être probable) or "there's a good chance that." The stakes don't have to be that high:

 

Cette année, Noël risque d'être très présent dans les rues.

This year, Christmas is bound to be very present on the streets.

Caption 22, TV Vendée Le sapin de Noël décoré par les enfants

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But risquer can also mean "to risk" or "run the risk of":

 

Si ça continue à cuire, ça risque de perdre sa belle couleur.

If they continue to cook, they run the risk of losing their beautiful color.

Caption 57, 4 Mains pour 1 Piano Médaillon de Homard - Part 2

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Il a risqué sa vie pour sauver le chien.
He risked his life to save the dog. 

 

Its noun form, risque, can mean "risk," "danger," or "chance." Note that, though it ends in an e, risque is masculine: 

 

Le risque avec les lamas, c'est qu'en grandissant, ils peuvent devenir agressifs.

The danger with llamas is that as they grow up, they may become aggressive.

Caption 25, Angers 7 Un lama en plein appartement

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There's also the adjective risqué, which you probably recognize. Though risqué can mean "racy" and "suggestive," as it does in English, it also just means "risky":

 

Pour elles c'est trop risqué de s'accrocher à la locomotive.

For them it's too risky to grab on to the engine.

Caption 47, Grand Corps Malade Les Voyages en train

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Some say it's a good thing to take a lot of risks, but these days, that doesn't seem like the safest advice. Ne prenez pas de risque! (Don't take any risks!)

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Rest Assured!

In his conversation with Lionel, Lahlou describes his daughters' success in school and sports in an interesting way. He uses the verb assurer:

 

Les deux grandes franchement, elles assurent. Elles assurent super bien à l'école, au sport.

The two older girls, frankly, they're doing great. They're doing really well in school, in sports.

Captions 82-83, Lionel & Lahlou Être musulman - Part 2

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Elles assurent is a familiar way of saying "they're doing great," "they're doing a great job." Lahlou also could have used the preposition en to specify what the girls are succeeding in: elles assurent en maths (they're good at math), elles assurent en natation (they're good at swimming). 

 

More often, assurer means "to assure" or "ensure," or, when reflexive, "to make sure"/"to check":

 

Je vous assure qu'elle est là.

I assure you that it's there.

Caption 37, Le saviez-vous? Les verbes du 1er groupe les plus utilisés - Part 2

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Mais on doit s'assurer que le pneu est bien assis sur la jante et ne pas trop gonfler.

But we have to make sure/check that the tire is well-seated on the rim and that we don't inflate too much.

Caption 19, Sports Shop La mécanique d'un vélo

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Assurer has a few other meanings as well. It can mean "to secure" or "achieve":

 

Ses affiches et ses tableaux ont permis au Moulin Rouge d'assurer une notoriété rapide et internationale.

His posters and his paintings allowed the Moulin Rouge to achieve rapid international notoriety.

Captions 19-21, Amal et Caroline Moulin Rouge

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Il est difficile d'assurer un emploi en ce moment.
It's hard to secure a job these days.

 

It can mean "to take care of," "handle," or "deal with":

 

Je dois assurer l'école.

I have to take care of the school.

Caption 13, Les zooriginaux 3 Qui suis-je? - Part 2

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La brigade des pompiers assure l'extinction des incendies. 
The fire department takes care of putting out fires. 

 

Or it can mean "to insure," as in "to provide insurance coverage":

 

Notre maison est assurée.
Our house is insured

 

Likewise, its noun form assurance can either mean "insurance" or "assurance," or more precisely, "self-assurance," "confidence," "certainty":

 

Le stress au travail a en effet un coût, humain bien sûr, et économique pour l'assurance maladie: près de cinquante milliards d'euros.

Stress at work does indeed have a cost, a human one of course, and an economic one for national health insurance: close to fifty billion euros.

Captions 57-58, Le Journal Le stress au travail

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Il faut parler avec assurance pour convaincre les gens.
You have to speak with self-assurance/confidently in order to convince people.

 

So whether you're assuring, ensuring, making sure, or insuring, assurer is the verb to use. You can find even more ways of using it here

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Savoir: The More You Know

You may already know that the verb savoir means “to know.” But did you know that, when followed by an infinitive, it can also mean “to be able to” or “to manage to" (synonymous with pouvoir)?

 

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L'Observatoire Paris-Meudon... a su garder sa spécificité d'astrophysique

The Paris-Meudon Observatory... was able to keep its astrophysical specificity

Captions 18-20, Voyage en France Meudon - Part 4

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L’article a su le convaincre à recycler.

The article managed to convince him to recycle.

 

It’s easy to see that “know” wouldn’t really work in either of these examples, since their subjects aren’t human. You wouldn’t say that the Paris-Meudon Observatory “knew” how to keep its astrophysical specificity, nor that an article “knew” how to convince someone. 

 

On the other hand, there are plenty of cases where savoir plus an infinitive can go either way:

 

Pour quelqu'un qui sait faire la cuisine

For someone who knows how to cook

Caption 63, Alsace 20 Grain de Sel: le titre de Maître Restaurateur, c'est quoi?

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Bref, Jean de La Fontaine fait partie pour moi de ces auteurs intemporels qui à travers une forme littéraire intéressante a su toucher le fond de la nature humaine.

In a word, Jean de La Fontaine is for me one of those timeless authors who, through an interesting literary form, was able to reach the depth of human nature.

Captions 38-40, Le saviez-vous? Jean de La Fontaine - Part 1

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We could just as well switch the translations here: “someone who can cook”; “Jean de La Fontaine… knew how to reach the depth of human nature.” "To be able to" and "to know how to" are more or less synonymous, so it makes sense that they overlap in the same French verb.  

 

Just note that the other verb for "to know," connaîtredoesn't have this extra connotation. While savoir means "to know how to" or "to be aware of," connaître means "to know someone" or "to be acquainted/familiar with." 

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On dirait une leçon sur "on dirait"!

In our last lesson, we discussed the expression on se croirait (literally, "one would believe oneself"), which means "it feels like." Now we'll take a look at a similar expression: on dirait. Both are impersonal expressions using a verb in the conditional. On dirait literally means "one would say," but it's also a synonym of il semble (it seems/looks like). 

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When introducing a clause, on dirait is followed by que:

 

On dirait que les gens sortent de la terre

It looks like people are coming out of the ground

Caption 31, Lionel En studio d'enregistrement - Part 2

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But when it comes before a standalone noun ("it looks like x"), you don't need the que:

 

On dirait un serpent à pattes.

It looks like a serpent with paws.

Caption 16, Il était une fois - les Explorateurs 10. Amerigo Vespucci - Part 6

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You can also use on dirait by itself, without introducing a noun or clause:

 

C'est ton jour de chance, on dirait.

It's your lucky day, it seems.

Caption 11, Marie & Jeremy Monopoly

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Je suis rouge de colère. -On dirait pas.

I'm red with anger. -It doesn't look like it.

Captions 1-2, Sophie et Patrice Les couleurs

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Depending on context, on dirait can mean something more specific than "it seems/looks like":

 

On dirait que t'as huit ans

You act like an eight year old

Caption 45, Mika Elle Me Dit

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On dirait... on dirait Cluzet!

It sounds... it sounds like Cluzet [French actor]!

Caption 71, Alsace 20 Laurent Chandemerle, l'homme aux 100 voix

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And sometimes it comes closer to its literal meaning:

 

Belle, c'est un mot qu'on dirait inventé pour elle...

Beauty, it's a word you could say was invented for her...

[Beauty, it's a word that seems to have been invented for her...]

Caption 64, Alsace 20 Laurent Chandemerle, l'homme aux 100 voix

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But be careful: dire is a very common verb, so you'll just as often encounter on dirait used in a literal sense.

 

On dirait pas "as-tu", axe verbe en premier, sujet en deuxième

We wouldn't say "have you," verb in first position, subject in second

Caption 31, Le Québec parle aux Français - Part 4

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On dirait que cette leçon est terminée!

 

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On se croirait: When You Feel Like You're Somewhere Else

There's an interesting expression in Sophie and Patrice's latest video on Paris's twentieth arrondissement: on se croirait (literally, "one would think/believe oneself"). It means "to feel like," or more specifically, to feel like you're in a different setting than the one you're in now. Whenever Sophie and Patrice are in the center of Paris, for instance, they feel like they're in Euro Disney:

 

Ça ressemble maintenant à Euro Disney, quoi. On se croirait à Euro Disney un petit peu. 

It looks like Euro Disney now, you know. It feels like Euro Disney a little bit. 

Captions 20-21, Sophie et Patrice Le vingtième arrondissement

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And in Extr@, when Sacha smells a strong fragrance upon walking into her apartment, she feels like she's in a perfume shop:

 

Qu'est-ce que c'est que cette odeur? On se croirait dans une parfumerie.

What's that smell? It's like we're in a perfume shop.

Captions 19-20, Extr@ Ep. 3 - Sam a un rendez-vous - Part 4

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In English we use "you'd think" in a similar way to on se croirait:

 

On se croirait même dans une ambiance de campagne.

You'd even think you were in a country atmosphere.

Caption 27, Le Québec parle aux Français - Part 6

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Alors on se croirait pas du tout à Paris, et on a énormément de verdure.

So you wouldn't think you're in Paris at all, and you have lots of greenery.

Captions 13-14, Antoine La Butte-aux-Cailles

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You can also use the phrase avoir l'impression de (to feel like, to get the impression that) to express this feeling of being elsewhere: 

 

On n'a plus l'impression d'être à Paris. 

You don't feel like you're in Paris anymore.

Caption 62, Actu Vingtième Vendanges parisiennes

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If you're playing Dorothy in a French adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, you might even say:

 

Toto, on ne se croirait plus dans le Kansas!
Toto, it doesn't feel like we're in Kansas anymore!

 

Or, in a more accurate translation of the line:

 

Toto, je n'ai plus l'impression d'être dans le Kansas!
Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore!

 

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for our next lesson and tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com.

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French Protest Words

The French have a long history of protesting, from the storming of the Bastille to the student protests of May 1968 to the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) movement today. Our latest video, from Le Monde, covers a strike on December 5, 2019 during which thousands of people across the country took to the streets to protest the pension reforms proposed by Prime Minister Édouard Philippe. As you can imagine, the video contains a lot of vocabulary related to protests, which we'll examine here. 

 

Un mouvement très suivi en France, et quelques tensions entre manifestants et forces de l'ordre.

A very well-attended action in France, and some tension between demonstrators and police.

Captions 1-2, Le Monde Grève du 5 décembre 2019 : les manifestations massives en images

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Un mouvement can be a social movement or protest movement (such as le mouvement des gilets jaunes), but it can also be a protest in its own right, or, as above, an "action."

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Un mouvement wouldn't be un mouvement without des manifestants ("demonstrators" or "protesters"). Manifestant comes from une manifestation, which is the word for "protest" or "demonstration":

 

Les manifestations se sont déroulées dans environ soixante-dix villes.

Demonstrations took place in about seventy cities.

Captions 10-11, Le Monde Grève du 5 décembre 2019 : les manifestations massives en images

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But sometimes une manifestation is less political than a protest. It can just be an "event":

 

Cette manifestation attire des touristes du monde entier.

This event attracts tourists from around the entire world.

Caption 28, Le saviez-vous? Le carnaval en France

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Or simply an "expression" of something (this sense is the closest to "manifestation" in English):

 

Il y aura entrave à l'épanouissement affectif, à la manifestation des sentiments...

There will be obstacles to emotional fulfillment, to the expression of feelings...

Captions 4-5, Le Mans TV Horoscope: Scorpion

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However, the slang term une manif specifically refers to a protest. We have a whole Yabla series centered around this word: Manif du Mois (Protest of the Month). 

 

But let's get back to the December 5 protest, which, like many protests in France, was launched by des syndicats (unions): 

 

Le mouvement a été lancé par des syndicats...

The action was started by unions...

Caption 15, Le Monde Grève du 5 décembre 2019 : les manifestations massives en images

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The syndicats didn't just call for un mouvement, but une grève:

 

L'appel à la grève n'a pas souffert du froid hivernal.

The call to strike didn't suffer from the winter cold.

Caption 7, Le Monde Grève du 5 décembre 2019 : les manifestations massives en images

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Some of the protests turned violent, which prompted the Prime Minister, in his response, to make a distinction between les manifestants and les casseurs—the rioters, or literally, "the breakers" (from casser, "to break"):

 

Y a eu quelques villes où on a constaté des débordements souvent liés à la présence de casseurs qui ne venaient pas pour manifester.

There were a few cities where we observed some violent outbreaks, often linked to the presence of rioters who didn't come to protest.

Captions 30-33, Le Monde Grève du 5 décembre 2019 : les manifestations massives en images

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Un débordement is "a flood" or "an overflowing," but its figurative meaning is more violent: "an outbreak," "outburst," or, when plural (des débordements), any kind of wild or uncontrolled behavior. 

 

For more videos featuring demonstrations and protests, do a search for manifestation or manif on Yabla French. 
 

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Sometimes, Three Times

There are three different ways of saying "sometimes" in French, and they all have one thing in common: the word fois (time).

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The first is quelquefois, which literally means "sometimes" (quelque = some; fois = times). Note that quelquefois is written as one word, like "sometimes," but unlike other quelque words such as quelque chose (something) and quelque part (somewhere):

 

Quelquefois, vous allez voir des produits qui ne correspondent pas à cette recette

Sometimes, you'll see products that don't correspond to this recipe

Caption 38, Le saviez-vous? La Maison de l'Olive à Nice - Part 2

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Then there's parfois (par = by, through, per; fois = times):

 

Je vais parfois au cinéma.

I sometimes go to the movies.

Caption 25, Le saviez-vous? Les différentes négations - Part 3

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Finally, there's des fois (literally "some times" or just "times"), which is a bit more familiar. It roughly corresponds to the English expression "at times": 

 

Je me force un peu des fois à sortir de ma zone de confort.

I force myself a bit sometimes [at times] to get out of my comfort zone.

Captions 46-47, Giulia Sa marque de bijoux 'Desidero'

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There are a couple other ways of saying "sometimes" in French that use the other word for "time," temps. These are de temps en temps and de temps à autre, which both mean "from time to time," "every now and then," "once in a while," "occasionally":

 

Peut-être que vous sentez les odeurs qui sortent des studios de temps en temps.

Maybe you smell the aromas that come out of the studios from time to time.

Caption 10, 4 Mains pour 1 Piano Médaillon de Homard - Part 1

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Je parle à mes amis d'université de temps à autre. 
I talk to my college friends every now and then.

 

Just don't confuse any of these with the expressions for "sometime" and "some time." "Sometime" (meaning "eventually" or "at a later time") is un de ces jours (one of these days) or un jour ou l'autre (one day or another). And "some time" (meaning "a while") is quelque temps:

 

Un jour ou l'autre [Un de ces jours] on sera tous papa

One day or another we'll all be a dad [We'll all be a dad sometime]

Caption 28, Stromae Papaoutai

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Et puis après, j'ai été célibataire quelque temps.

And then after that, I was single for a while [for some time].

Caption 26, Le Journal L'âge et la fertilité

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

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Or: A Golden Word

The conjunction or pops up in two of our new videos this week:

Or la gravité est présente partout.

But gravity is present everywhere.

Caption 79, Le Monde L’astrologie fonctionne-t-elle ?

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Or, je n'étais pas de garde et surtout j'étais saoul.

But, I wasn't on call and above all I was drunk.

Captions 85-86, Le Jour où tout a basculé À l'audience: Mon chirurgien était ivre - Part 1

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Or is not a particularly common conjunction, but it's a good one to know nonetheless (just don't confuse it with the English "or," which is ou in French). It's a synonym of mais (but, yet) and related words like cependant, néanmoins, pourtant, toutefois (however, nevertheless):

 

Or, il y en a un quatrième que nous décrit ici en détail un grand voyageur qui se nomme Amerigo Vespucci.

However, there's a fourth one that a great explorer named Amerigo Vespucci describes to us here in detail.

Captions 34-35, Il était une fois - les Explorateurs 10. Amerigo Vespucci - Part 7

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You'll also see or used as a more general conjunction, equivalent to "now" or "well," often to introduce a new or oppositional fact:

 

Cette pièce a été remplacée ensuite par celle-ci au début vingtième siècle. Or c'est à peu près la même, mais modernisée pour l'époque.

This coin was replaced later by this one in the early twentieth century. Now, it's more or less the same, but modernized for the era.

Captions 16-18, Georges Breizh Numismat

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Je croyais qu'il allait me demander en mariage ce soir-là. Or, il ne l'a pas fait.
I thought he was going to ask me to marry him that night. Well, he didn't do it.

 

As you can see here, or always comes at the beginning of a sentence or clause when used as a conjunction. You could even call it a "transition word." But or isn't only a conjunction! It also happens to be the word for "gold":

 

Il doit y avoir une mine d'or.

There must be a gold mine here.

Caption 39, Il était une fois - les Explorateurs 10. Amerigo Vespucci - Part 3

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L'or is both the color gold and the element. Its adjective form is doré(e):

 

Il m'a donné une bague de fiançailles dorée.
He gave me a gold engagement ring.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

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