Category Archives: Vocabulary

Cinq mots de plus

Five more words: all that stands between you and perfect French – a good vocabulary: Une espagnolette : a (window) catch;   Une esperluette : an ampersand;   L’escrime (nf) : fencing;   s’escrimer : to wear oneself out (doing something);   un esclandre … Continue reading

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Le parquet

Don’t pop your eyes out if you read or hear: ‘Le parquet a décrété l’arrestation de l’avocat.’ : ‘Le parquet’ here is not parquet flooring (although it can mean that, too) but the public prosecutor’s office. So the translation of this … Continue reading

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Une grasse matinée

‘Une grasse matinée’ is a lie-in. ‘Faire la grasse matinée’ is to lie in, to sleep late into the morning. (Chance would be a fine thing.) I have just had ‘un café onctueux’. This may sound like an oily, greasy … Continue reading

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Le rez-de-chausée

Un fait divers : a (short) news item; ‘La une à midi’ : if you know that ‘la une’ is the leading news item you will know that it can be at midi or at any other time of day. Or … Continue reading

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Une vache espagnol

To say you speak French badly you can say: ‘Je parle français comme une vache espagnole’ : ‘I speak French like a Spanish cow’. As a waggish Scottish friend likes to say: ‘Je parle français comme une vache écossaise’. If you … Continue reading

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L’humour (nm) et l’humeur (nf)

Confusing ‘humour’ and ‘humeur’ is a big mistake as ‘l’humour’ means ‘humour’, as one may expect, but ‘l’humeur’ is mood; more especially it is likely to mean a bad mood/ill humour: Un geste d’humeur : a bad-tempered gesture; dire quelquechose … Continue reading

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L’escalier (nm)

The last blog (‘L’esprit d’escalier : ‘to think of a quick reply too late’) may have made more sense if I had explained that un escalier is a staircase. Or, on second thoughts, perhaps it wouldn’t have made much difference. More … Continue reading

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L’esprit (d’escalier)

L’esprit (nm) can mean ‘spirit’ but often means ‘mind’: ‘avoir l’esprit lent/vif’ : ‘to be slow/quick witted’. ‘Avoir l’esprit d’escalier’ is to think of a quick reply too late; ‘avoir l’esprit de contradiction’ is to be argumentative, to contradict for its … Continue reading

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Cinq mots

Cinq mots : five words. Once you have passed ‘O’-level French (or whatever it’s called these days!)  there is nothing between you and speaking perfect french but a wider vocabulary and a basic grasp of the subjunctive (see previous entry). … Continue reading

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The beautiful subjunctive

No, I am not being sarcastic, and I’ll soon show you the reason I call it that. A big tip: do not study dry verb tables but try to get a grasp of the subjunctive from reading, as the same … Continue reading

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