Lezioni Francese

Argomenti

Lessons for topic Expressions

Se Passer: To Bypass and Pass By

The subject of Lionel's latest video is Article 49-3 of the French Constitution, which gives the prime minister the power to push through legislation without a parliamentary vote. The government most recently invoked Article 49-3 to push through a labor reform bill that has sparked much controversy in France. Public outcry over the bill culminated in the Nuit Debout protest movement, which Lionel has also been covering for Yabla. 

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In his video, Lionel uses the verb phrase se passer de (to bypass, to do without) to describe the government's action: 

 

Au final le gouvernement a décidé de passer en force, et s'est passé du vote de l'Assemblée Nationale et du Sénat.

In the end, the government decided to force its passage, and bypassed the vote of the National Assembly and the Senate.

Captions 8-9, Lionel L - Le 49-3

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The de in se passer de is crucial. If you remove it, you'll get a completely different expression, as Lionel demonstrates later on in the video: 

 

...et que d'ores et déjà nous pouvons comparer à ce qui s'est passé en France.

...and that already we can compare it to what happened in France.

Caption 23, Lionel L - Le 49-3

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By itself, se passer means "to happen" or "occur," as in the expression, Qu'est-ce qui se passe? (What's happening?/What's going on?) You'll also hear it in the impersonal expression il s'est passé...: 
 

Et il s'est passé quelque chose de complètement inédit pour moi...

And something happened that was completely new for me...

Caption 45, Watt’s In - Indila : Dernière Danse Interview Exlu

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But that's not all! Se passer can also mean "to pass" or "pass by" when referring to a period of time:

 

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Six mois se sont passés depuis ma dernière visite. 
Six months have passed since my last visit.


Stay tuned to Yabla to learn more about ce qui se passe (what's happening) throughout the French-speaking world!

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Cette leçon a l'air très instructive!

In this lesson, we'll introduce three different ways of saying "to look like" in French. 

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The first expression is ressembler à, which looks a lot like the English word "resemble" (but note the extra s) and is used in much the same way: 

 

Chacun de tes gestes ressemble aux miens

Each of your gestures looks like mine

Caption 2, Ina-Ich - Âme armée

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Ressembler is always followed by à, except when à is replaced by an indirect object pronoun: 

 

Elle me ressemble.

She looks like me.

Caption 31, Le saviez-vous? - La conjugaison au présent, au passé et au futur

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The second expression, avoir l'air de, is more informal and figurative than ressembler à. Its literal translation is "to have the air/appearance of," but it generally means "to look like" or "to seem": 

 

Tu n'as pas l'air de trouver ça suffisant, Psi.

You don't seem to think that's sufficient, Psi.

Caption 41, Il était une fois... L’Espace - 6. La révolte des robots

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Ce chien a l'air d'un loup. 
That dog looks like a wolf.

 

When the expression is in front of an adjective, the de is dropped: 

 

Ça a l'air délicieux, mais j'ai des crampes à l'estomac, je peux rien avaler.

It looks delicious, but I have stomach cramps, I can't swallow anything.

 

Avoir l'air (de) can often be replaced with the verb sembler (to seem): 

 

Tu ne sembles pas trouver ça suffisant, Psi. 
You don't seem to think that's sufficient, Psi. 

 

Ça semble délicieux, mais j'ai des crampes à l'estomac, je peux rien avaler.
It looks delicious, but I have stomach cramps, I can't swallow anything.

 

Finally, there's on dirait, which literally means "one would say," but is often used idiomatically to mean "it looks like":  

 

À première vue, on dirait une pharmacie, mais non...

At first glance, it looks like a pharmacy, but no...

Caption 1, Le Journal - Chocolats

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On dirait qu'il va neiger. 
It looks like it's going to snow. 

 

The main difference between these expressions is that ressembler à is only used to compare similar things, whereas avoir l'air de/sembler and on dirait can also be used to convey an impression of something. 

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We hope this lesson lived up to its title! Feel free to tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com.

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D'ailleurs, je vais ailleurs

Ailleurs is an adverb with a few different meanings. By itself, ailleurs means “elsewhere,” in both a literal and figurative sense:

 

On te souhaite, ben, beaucoup de réussite, si tu vas en Australie ou ailleurs.

We wish you, well, a great deal of success, whether you go to Australia, or elsewhere.

Captions 106-107, 4 Mains pour 1 Piano - Médaillon de Homard

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Désolé, je n’ai pas entendu la question. J’avais la tête ailleurs.

Sorry, I didn’t hear the question. My mind was elsewhere. 

 

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You can also find ailleurs in the more absolute phrases nulle part ailleurs (nowhere else) and partout ailleurs (everywhere else):

 

...et des poissons qu'on ne trouve nulle part ailleurs.

...and fish that one cannot find anywhere else.

Caption 15, Le Journal - L'île de Pâques

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La situation s’améliore partout ailleurs.

The situation is improving everywhere else.

 

Ailleurs can also be found in two common phrases that are used to add extra information to a topic. The first of these is par ailleurs (otherwise, additionally):

 

La préfecture du Rhône a par ailleurs mis en place un centre d'appel.

Additionally, the Rhône Prefecture has set up a call center.

Caption 33, Le Journal - La grippe aviaire

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The second phrase, d’ailleurs, has a wide range of meanings: 

 

C'est un très bon vin et d'ailleurs je vous conseille de le boire.

It's a very good wine and I recommend that you drink it, for that matter.

Caption 4, Actu Vingtième - Vendanges parisiennes

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C'est d'ailleurs lui qui préface le livre.

He's the one who prefaces the book, by the way.

Caption 10, Alsace 20 - 100 recettes pour 100 vins

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Un très beau lieu d'ailleurs.

A very beautiful place, incidentally.

Caption 66, LCM - Concert: La Folia à l'abbaye Saint-Victor

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Both d’ailleurs and par ailleurs can be placed pretty much anywhere in a sentence. For instance, we could easily move the phrases from the middle of the sentence to the beginning in the examples above: 

 

Par ailleurs, la préfecture du Rhône a mis en place un centre d’appel

D’ailleurs, c’est lui qui préface le livre.

 

An easy way to learn the difference between these very similar phrases is to learn synonyms for them. Par ailleurs is generally synonymous with d’autre part and d’un autre côté (otherwise, on the other hand), while d’ailleurs is synonymous with du reste (furthermore), en outre (besides), and de plus (moreover). In other words, while d’ailleurs tends to be used to confirm what was previously said, par ailleurs is more often used to contradict it or provide an alternative. 

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That pretty much covers all the uses of this word, but if you’re interested in looking ailleurs for some more translations and example sentences, this Larousse entry is a handy summary of everything we mentioned above.

 

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Prendre pour acquis - Taking for granted

You can tell from his soulful singing that Corneille is a sweet and sensitive man—but there is one thing we just can’t take for granted: knowing how to express that we are taking something for granted! First, take a look at what Corneille croons:

Et si je prends pour acquis mes chances / Fais-moi peur que plus jamais j’y pense

And if I take my luck for granted / Scare me so that I don't think of it ever again 

Captions 26-27, Corneille: Comme un fils

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Corneille says that he doesn’t want to take his chances (his luck) for granted. The infinitive of this verb phrase is prendre pour acquis. As you may have guessed, it literally translates as “to take for acquired,” but what it really means is “to take for granted.” This phrase is popular in French Canada, where Corneille eventually settled after leaving Africa.

Now, if you are a real stickler for grammar, you are probably thinking that, because chances is feminine in gender and plural in number, Corneille should have made the adjective agree, using acquises instead of the masculine and singular acquis. However, in actual practice, French Canadians often don’t make the acquis in prendre pour acquis agree with the noun to which it refers, though some make the argument that they should.

Tenir pour acquis is the more traditional way to express the same sentiment, and is considered more “correct” (if not more popular). In France, both prendre pour acquis and tenir pour acquis are understood, but sound a bit formal and old-fashioned. The French prefer the phrase considérer comme acquis for use in common, everyday speech.

Ne considère pas mon amour comme acquis, ou tu risquerais de me voir partir

Don't take my love for granted, or one day you may find me gone.

So far we have been talking about “to take for granted” in the sense of under-appreciating your blessings. That’s all well and good, but what if you want to talk about “taking something for granted” in its alternate sense, that of “taking something as a given,” or “taking something as self-evident”? Similar to English, prendre pour acquis serves double duty, and can be used to express this meaning of “to take for granted” as well. Once again, this usage is more commonly heard in Canada, while a contemporary French person is more likely to just say that he or she is “sure” of the thing.

J’ai pris pour acquis que le facteur viendrait tous les jours, mais je me suis trompé. [Canada] 

J’étais sûr que le facteur viendrait tous les jours, mais je me suis trompé. [France]

I took for granted that the mailman would come daily, but I was wrong.

Nous prenons pour acquis que le prix de l’essence va augmenter. [Canada]

Nous sommes sûrs que le prix de l’essence va augmenter. [France]

We take for granted that the price of gas will go up.

Allant de soi (literally, “going from itself”) means being “obvious” or “a given.” When we place considérer comme before it, we get considérer comme allant de soi, which literally means “to consider as obvious” or “to consider as a given." This can often be best translated as “to take as self-evident” and is frequently used in scholarly writing.

La plupart des gens acceptent comme allant de soi que chaque ville-région n’ait qu’un seul gouvernement municipal.

Most people seem to regard it as self-evident that every city-region needs a single municipal government.

[from “Globalization Does Not Need Amalgamation” in Policy Options (Nov. 1999), a bilingual Canadian journal of public policy]

A related phrase that means “it's a given” is ça va de soi (literally, "it goes from itself"). This phrase, which is widely used in both France and Canada, is usually translated using the common English phrase “it goes without saying.” There is a more “proper” and formal version, cela va de soi, which is more often used in writing and less in casual conversation.

Sommes-nous heureux avec les résultats de l’élection? Ça va de soi! [Casual]

Sommes-nous heureux avec les résultats de l’élection? Cela va de soi! [Formal]

Are we happy with the election results? It goes without saying!

It is not at all unusual to hear a sentence begin with Ça va de soi que… as we see in the example below, but once again, we find there is a more formal version. Il va de soi que… is considered more “proper” and is therefore the construction you are more likely to see in written texts.

Ça va de soi que les Américains fondent beaucoup d’espoir sur leur nouveau président. [Less formal]

Il va de soi que les Américains fondent beaucoup d’espoir sur leur nouveau président. [More formal]

It goes without saying that Americans are hopeful about their new president.

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There are many other ways and variations of expressing both meanings of “to take for granted” in French. If you’d like to learn a few more, read this interesting discussion.

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