Tag Archive | French Phrases

The Infinitive

The French infinitive parallels many of the uses of the English present participle, which ends in -ing.

In French, the infinitive can be a verbal noun that functions as the subject of a sentence.

  • Trouver un bon travail n’est pas facile. | Finding a good job is not easy.
  • Mon but, c’est de travailler à Paris. | Working in paris is my goal.
  • Voir, c’est croire. | Seeing is believing.

The infinitive in French is used after prepositions.

  • avant de sortir | before going out

The French infinitive is often used for impersonal instructions.

  • Ralentir | Slow (on road signs)
  • Agiter avant emploi | Shake before using

The impersonal expressions il faut (one must, you have to), and il vaut mieux (it’s better to) are followed directly by an infinitive. These expressions are not conjugated for person, because impersonal il is the only possible subject. However, they are conjugated for tense.

Imparfait il fallait, il valait mieux
Passé Composé il a fallu, il a mieux valu
Futur il faudra, il vaudra mieux
Conditionnelle il faudrait, il vaudrait mieux
  • Quand est-ce que tu veux partir en vacances ? | When do you want to go on vacation?
  • J’aime prendre mes vacances en hiver. Toi ? | I like to take my vacation in the winter. How about you?
  • Moi, je préfère les prendre au printemps. | I like to take it in the spring.
  • Je déteste voyager quand il fait froid. | I hate to travel when it’s cold.
  • Tu comptes avertir Paul ? | Do you intend to alert Paul?
  • Oui, mais j’ai beau l’appeler. Il ne fait pas attention. | Yes, but it’s no use calling him. He pays no attention.
  • Il affirme pouvoir nous aider. | He affirms that he can help.
  • Nous devons accepter son offre. | We must accept his offer.
  • Il faut lui téléphoner, alors. | Then we must phone him.
  • Il vaut mieux lui envoyer un courriel. | It’s better to send him an email.

Have a great week, everyone!

Merci à vous !



Idioms & Expressions with Negative & Indefinite Words

It’s been awhile since I did an idioms post. Here’s one that is specific with negative and indefinite words.

Expressions with jamais:

  • jamais deux sans trois | Misfortunes always come in threes
  • à jamais | forever
  • à tout jamais | forever and ever
  • jamais de la vie ! | Not on your life!
  • il n’en manque jamais une ! | He’s always blundering/He always puts his foot in it

Expressions with quelque(s):

  • Il est trois heures et quelques | It’s a little past three
  • Je suis quelque peu déçu | I’m a little disappointed

Expressions with ni … ni:

  • Cette histoire n’a ni queue ni tête | This story doesn’t make any sense at all
  • Cela ne me fait ni chaud ni froid | It’s all the same to me/I don’t feel strongly

Expressions with rien:

  • de rien | you’re welcome
  • ça ne fait rien | it doesn’t matter/that’s ok (A response to “Pardon”.)
  • comme si de rien n’était | as if nothing had happened
  • si cela ne vous fait rien | if you don’t mind
  • Rien qu’à le voir, on sait qu’il est gentil | Just by looking at him you know he’s nice
  • Je veux te parler, rien que cinq minutes | I want to talk to you, just five minutes
  • rien ne sert de pleurer | it’s no use crying

Expressions with chacun:

  • chacun son goût/chacun ses goûts | everyone to his own taste/to each their own
  • chacun pour soi | every man for himself
  • chacun à son tour | each one in his turn

Expressions with certain:

  • d’un certain âge | middle-aged
  • elle a un certain charme | she has a certain charm

Expressions with ailleurs:

  • il est ailleurs/il a l’esprit ailleurs | he’s miles away (not paying attention)
  • d’ailleurs | moreover, besides
  • partout ailleurs | everywhere else

I’m hoping to post at least one idioms post every month. Have a wonderful week, everyone!

A la prochaine…


Verbs of Perception

Verbs of perception, such as voirregarderentendre, and écouter, and the verb laisser (to leave, let) are followed directly by the infinitive. The direct object of these verbs is the subject of the infinitive. If it is a noun, it can be placed either before or after the infinitive.

Nous voyons les enfants jouer.

Nous voyons jouer les enfants.

We see the children play.

On va entendre les trains siffler.

On va entendre siffler les trains.

We’ll hear the trains whistle.

Elle a laissé les étudiants entrer.

Elle a laissé entrer les étudiants.

She let the students come in.

When a direct object noun is replaced by a direct object pronoun in sentences with verbs of perception laisser, it must stand before the verb of perception or laisser.

Nous les voyons jouer. | We see them play.

On va les entendre siffler. | We’ll hear them whistle.

Elle les a laissé entrer. | She let them come in.

Verbs of perception and laisser may appear in sentences with two direct objects – a direct object of the verb of perception together with a direct object of the infinitive.

J’ai regardé les ouvriers construire le pont. | I saw the workers building the bridge.

Nous écoutons les musiciens jouer  le morceau. | We are listening to the musicians play  the piece.

J’ai laissé ma fille manger ce dessert. | I let my daughter eat that dessert.

In general, the past participles of verbs of perception and laisser agree with a preceding direct object pronoun.

Je les ai vus construire le pont. | I saw them build the bridge.

Je l‘ai laissé manger ce dessert. | I let her eat that dessert.

Have a great week, everyone!

A bientôt !


Idiomatic Expressions

It’s good to learn the idiomatic expressions of a language you want to learn. Not everything is translated literally, and unless you learn these expressions, you’ll be left with scratching your head. So I’ve compiled a few of these helpful expressions for your reference. 🙂

Avoir le cul bordé de nouilles.

Literal translated: To have the ass surrounded by noodles.

Idiomatic expression: To be a lucky so-and-so.

Pédaler dans la semoule.

Literal translation: To pedal in semolina.

Idiomatic expression: To go around in circles.

L’habit ne fait pas le moine.

Literal translation: The habit doesn’t make the monk.

Idiomatic expression: The suit doesn’t make the man.

Chanter comme une casserole.

Literal translation: Sing like a saucepan.

Idiomatic expression: Someone who can’t sing/sings flat.

Avoir le cafard.

Literal translation: To have the cockroach.

Idiomatic expression: To feel blue/feel down.

Faut pas pousser mamie dans les orties!

Literal translation: Don’t push granny into the nettles!

Idiomatic expression: Don’t push your luck!

Être dans de beaux draps.

Literal translation: To be in beautiful sheets.

Idiomatic expression: To be in a right mess.

Noyer le poisson.

Literal translation: Drown the fish.

Idiomatic expression: Change the topic/confuse the issue.

Il pleut des cordes.

Literal translation: It’s raining ropes.

Idiomatic expression: It’s raining cats and dogs.

C’est la fin des haricots.

Literal translation: It’s the end of the beans.

Idiomatic expression: Nothing more can be done.

Il me court sur le haricot.

Literal translation: He’s running on my bean.

Idiomatic expression: He’s getting on my nerves.

Ça ne casse pas trois pattes à un canard.

Literal translation: It doesn’t break three legs of a duck.

Idiomatic expression: Nothing to write home about.

Faire une queue de poisson.

Literal translation: Make a fish tail.

Idiomatic expression: Cut someone off.

Avoir le cul entre deux chaises.

Literal translation: To have one’s ass between two chairs.

Idiomatic expression: To sit on the fence.

Revenons à nos moutons.

Literal translation: Let’s come back to our sheep.

Idiomatic expression: Let’s get back to business/get back on track.

Manger les pissenlits par la racine.

Literal translation: Eat the dandelions by the root.

Idiomatic expression: Push up daisies.

Avaler des couleuvres.

Literal translation: To swallow snakes.

Idiomatic expression: To be gullible.

Être rond comme une queue de pelle.

Literal translation: To be round as a shovel handle.

Idiomatic expression: Drunk as a skunk.

I hope everyone is having a great week! Let me know if you like posts like this, and I can make more. Also, if anyone is having difficulty understanding the idiomatic expressions in English, let me know and I’ll be happy to explain it. I know a lot of my readers come from non-English speaking countries, and English isn’t their first language.

Merci à vous !


Giving Explanations

Part 2 to last weeks post on offering and asking for explanations.

Constructions for giving explanations rely heavily on prepositions/prepositional phrases, conjunctions, or verbs of explanation.

Prepositions/Prepositional Phrases

Il n’a pa pris la voiture à cause du brouillard. | He didn’t take the cause because of the fog.

La bibliothèque sera fermée le mardi en raison des congés annuels. | The library will be closed on Tuesdays due to staff holidays.

Le stock est épuisé en vertu des demandes exceptionnelles. | Supplies have been exhausted due to exceptional demand.

Par suite d‘encombrements, nous ne pouvons pas répondre à votre appel. | Since all the lines are engaged, we cannot answer your call.

Grâce à sa générosité, nous pourrons réparer l’église. | Thanks to his generosity, we will be able to repair the church.

Les fouilles ont été achevées à l’aide d‘une prestation municipale. | The excavations were completed with the help of a grant from the local council.

Ils augmenteront leur chiffre d’affaires au moyen d‘un investissement considérable. | They’ll increase their turnover thanks to large scale investment.

Devant les accusations, il a dû retirer sa candidature. | In view of the accusations, he had to withdraw from the election.

Malgré la pluie, on est sortis. | We went out despite the rain.

Le concert a eu lieu en dépit des protestations des résidents. | The concert took place despite protests from residents.

Faute de personnel, nous sommes obligés de fermer à midi. | Due to staff shortages, we have to shut down at noon.

Conjunctions Which Indicate an Explanation

Je ne peux pas venir parce que j’ai un dîner ce soir. | I can’t come because I’ve got a dinner tonight.

Il faudra augmenter les contrôles de sécurité puisqu‘il y a un risque d’attentat. | Security risks will have to be increased since there is a risk of an attack.

Elle a reçu sa formation au Mexique, ce qui fait qu‘elle parle bien espagnol. | She did her training in Mexico, which means she speaks Spanish well.

Nous avons perdu deux employés, si bien que le courrier a pris du retard. | We’ve lost two members of staff, so we’re behind with this mail.

On a besoin d’un étudiant en sciences naturelles. Voilà pourquoi j’ai pensé à toi. | We need someone studying biology. That’s why I thought of you.

Cet auteur est très apprécié, car il traite un sujet d’actualité. | This author is highly thought of because he writes about a topical subject.

Je me chargerai des invitations, à condition que vous m’envoyiez la liste des adresses. | I’ll take care of the invitations, provided that you send me the address list.

Nous sommes rentrés hier, bien qu‘ils / quoiqu‘ils aient voulu nous garder un jour de plus. | We came back yesterday, although they wanted us to stay a day longer.

Je n’ai pas sonné de peur quede crainte que vous ne soyez déjà couché. | I didn’t ring the bell in case you were already in bed.

Verbal Constructions Used to Give an Explanation

L’érosion résulte surtout des intempéries. | The erosion is mainly caused by adverse weather.

La querelle provenait d‘un conflit de tempéraments. | The quarrel stemmed from a clash of temperaments.

Ce sujet de doléance remontait aux conditions de vie à l’époque. | This grievance could be traced to living conditions at the time.

On peut attribuer son succès à son enthousiasme. | His/Her success can be attributed to his/her enthusiasm.

La crise s’explique par le manque d’investissement. | The crisis can be explained by the lack of investment.

Have a great week, everyone!

A la prochaine…


Asking for and Offering Explanations

Something to note before going into this lesson, the verb expliquer is used to translate “to explain”, but the reflexive form s’expliquer often translates to “to quarrel”, or “to have a fight”, and une explication can suggest an acrimonious change of views.

Ils se sont expliqués hier. | They fought yesterday.

Asking Someone for an Explanation

This may be a neutral request for information, or a demand that the person addressed should justify him/herself.

Est-ce que vous pourriez m’expliquer les modes d’emploi ? | Could you explain the instructions to me?

Tu peux m’expliquer ce qui se passe ? | Can you explain to me what’s happening?

Je vous demanderais de m’expliquer votre décision. | May I ask you to explain your decision?

J’espère du moins que vous pourrez expliquer votre absence. | I trust you can account for your absence.

Comment voulez-vous justifier ce retard ? | How do you intend to justify this delay?

Offering an Explanation

Here are some examples of how to give your explanation to someone.

Vous aimeriez que je vous explique la structure de notre société ? | Would you like me to explain to you our company’s structure?

Si tu veux, je peux te montrer comment l’appareil fonctionne. | If you’ like, I’ll show you how the machine works.

Permettez que je vous explique notre raisonnement. | Allow me to explain our reasoning to you.

Si vous permettez, j’essayerai d’éclairer la raison de ce malentendu ? | May I try to explain the reason for this misunderstanding?

Il voulait me fair comprendre les obstacles. | He wanted to explain the obstacles to me.

Mon collègue pourra vous rendre compte de nos progrès. | My colleague will be able to tell you about our progress.

Je dois m’excuser de ma conduite hier. | I must apologise for my conduct yesterday.

Je ne veux pas y aller. Je vais prétexter un rendez-vous. | I don’t want to go. I’ll make the excuse that I’ve got a meeting.

There will be a part 2 to this post, so be sure to come back next Thursday for that post! I hope everyone is having a great week!

A bientôt !


Accepting Apologies

This is part 2 to last week’s Making Apologies post. This week we’ll learn what to say when we accept these apologies.

To accept an apology without reservation:

Ce n’est pas grave. | It doesn’t matter.

Je t’en prie. / Je vous en prie. | Don’t mention it./Forget it.

Il n’y a pas de quoi. | That’s alright.

Ne t’en fais pas. / Ne vous en faites pas. | Don’t worry.

N’en parlons plus. | Let’s forget it.

To accept an apology, but stress that the fault must not happen again:

Ça va, pourvu que tu ne recommences pas. (especially to children) | That’s alright, just don’t do it again.

Je vous excuse, mais vous devriez faire mieux attention à l’avenir. | I forgive you, but you should take more care in the future.

Espérons du moins que cela ne se reproduira pas. | Let’s hope it does not happen again.

Some less formal and more colloquial responses:

Pas de problème ! | No problem!

Il n’y a pas de mal ! | No harm!

Pas de soucis ! No worries!

Very short post this week. I try to bring you guys enough content in each post, so I apologise for the brevity of this post! Look at how I’m apologising on an apologies post (not intentional!). Now what would you say in response? En français. 🙂

A la prochaine…