French Word of the Day: Grave

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French Word of the Day: Grave
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

This French word has nothing to do with cemeteries.


Why do I need to know grave?

Because this is a word that you will see used in both in formal and colloquial French, but its meaning can change depending on the context and the speaker. 

What does it mean?

Grave - roughly pronounced grah-vuh - does not have to do with death and cemeteries. The word comes from the Latin gravis meaning heavy, and in official French it means 'serious'.

Tombe is the French word 'grave' as one might use the term in English. As for grave in the French language, you might read about une faute grave (serious misconduct) or un blessé grave (seriously injured person) in the news. 

You’ve probably also heard plenty of French people say ce n’est pas grave, meaning 'it doesn’t matter' or 'it’s not a problem' in conversations. 

However in spoken French, particularly among young people, the word grave on its own has started to pepper conversations as a kind of intensifier used to show agreement. 

It can be used as a response (meaning something like 'indeed' or 'seriously'), to confirm an opinion. For example, your friend might say: Tu ne trouves pas que c'est bon? (It's good, don't you think). To which you could respond: Grave! (Absolutely!).

It could also confirm a fact like, Vous avez perdu le match? (Did you lose the match?). Grave! (Totally!).


Similarly, grave can also be used in a sentence to emphasize a point being made, such as the very familiar ça claque grave! (It's so awesome!). Throwing grave into conversations as an adverb in this way isn’t technically correct usage, but it certainly is very common. 

Keep in mind that using grave as a response is quite informal and this usage of the word is mostly done among young people.


Use it like this

C’est un peu loin, hein?/ Grave! - It’s a bit far isn’t it?/ Seriously!

La blessure était-elle grave ? - Was the injury serious?

Il joue grave bien, ce gars-là - That guy plays really well.



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