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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Word of the Day: ‘Ça y est!’

You'll use this term on a daily basis in France so it's one you need to know.

French Word of the Day: 'Ça y est!'
Photo: Deposit photos

Why have we chosen it?

“Ça y est” is one of those expressions that pops up all the time in spoken French, and sounds deceptively simple.

“Ça” comes from “cela” meaning “it” and “est” is a form of the verb “to be”. “Y” would usually refer to a place, but in this instance just acts as a connector between the two other words.

So, literally, it means “it is there.” But the words are pronounced altogether as one so it sounds more like “sigheeay” than “ça y est”.

But while the individual words might be familiar, just piecing them together won’t really help you get to grips with how to use (or understand) this expression.

So, what does it mean?

“Ça y est” is mostly used to acknowledge either the beginning or end of something, perhaps an activity. You'll often see it written with an exclamation mark because it expresses relief or excitement.

When used before an event it can help to give a feeling of anticipation. You might hear commentators use it before a sports match or a friend use it before they go on holiday to mean something like “here we are” or “this is it” or “we're off”.

Using “ça y est” at the end of event normally implies a bit of relief that it’s over. You might hear someone use it after they’ve just finished doing something difficult or that took a while meaning “all done!”, “finished!” or “that's it!, or “at last!”

For example you could say “ça y est, j'ai fini” to mean “that's it, I'm finished”.

This expression is less used in writing although you might come across it written informally as “sayez” in a text message.

Although we can see it used in some headlines such as the ones below.

“That's it, Belgium are finally on top of the world ahead of France”, reads the first one. While the second one refers to the start of the new school term. “Back to school in Seine-Saint-Denis: This is it, it's time”

 

“Ca y est” can also be used as a question to ask if someone has finished or if they have understood something. So in English it be translated to “got it?”

Examples

1.    Ça y est, je suis en vacances !
That's it. I’m on holiday !

2.    Ça y est. C’est parti.
Here we go. They’re off !

3.    Tu as fini ? – Oui, ça y est !
Have you finished ? – Yes, I’m done !

4.    Ça y est, j’ai trouvé mes clés!

I’ve done it, I found my keys !

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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

This expression is more than just your last order at the boulangerie.

French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

Why do I need to know tarte à la crème ?

Because if someone uses this phrase to describe you, you should probably be a bit offended.

What does it mean?

Tarte à la crème – pronounced tart ah lah krem – literally refers to a cream filled tart, or a custard tart, in English. However, this expression has more to do than just baking. It is another way of describing something that is boring, predictable or commonplace.

This expression comes straight from Moliere himself. In the 17th century, there was a popular rhyming game called “Corbillon.” The phrase “Je vous passe mon corbillon” (I pass you by corbillon) is said, and then it is followed by “Qu’y met-on?” (What does one put on it?) To keep the rhyme up, people must respond with something ending in an -ON sound.

In the play, “L’Ecole des Femmes” (The School of Wives), one character says the ideal woman would respond to the question with “tarte à la crème” which is obviously the wrong answer. The right answer would be tarte à la citron (lemon tart). Molière did this on purpose to poke fun at the fact that disgruntled fans would send poor actors cream tarts to express their frustration.

It was a way of ridiculing his critics and showing he was unimpressed by their method of showing discontentment at his plays. Over time, the phrase went on to describe things that are commonplace or boring. It is often used to describe entertainment related topics, such as books, movies, or plays.

A synonym for this phrase in French might be banal and in English you might say something is ‘vanilla’ to describe something that is fairly unexciting.

Use it like this

Le film était vraiment tarte à la crème. Je ne recommande pas d’aller le voir au cinéma, vous pouvez attendre de le voir une fois qu’il sera gratuit en ligne. – The movie was really boring. I don’t recommend going to see it at the movies, you can simply wait to see it once it is free online.

Je pense que l’album est tarte à la crème. Elle a pris tellement d’idées d’autres artistes que ce n’est vraiment pas original du tout. – I think the album is predictable. She really took plenty of ideas from other artists and it was not original at all.

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