French Word of the Day: Grave!

It's got nothing to do with cemeteries but grave is a seriously useful word to know.

French Word of the Day: Grave!
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Why have we chosen grave?

This is a word that you’ll hear used in formal and colloquial French but the meaning can change depending on the context and the speaker. 

Confused already? Ce n’est pas grave, read on…

So what exactly does grave mean?

Grave comes from the Latin gravis meaning heavy, and in official French means 'serious'. 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, 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. 

So how can I use grave in spoken French? 

Cautiously! This is colloquial French, mostly used among young people so be aware of the context you’re in before you use it. Here are some different ways you might hear it in spoken French:

J’ai faim grave.

I’m so hungry.

C’est un peu loin, hein? – Grave!

It’s a bit far isn’t it? – Seriously!

Read Also:

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French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

This might look like a mix of Spanish and French, but it is definitely not Franish.

French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

Why do I need to know mettre le holà?

Because you might need to do this if your friends go from laughing with you to laughing at you. 

What does it mean?

Mettre le holà – pronounced meh-truh luh oh-la – literally means to put the ‘holà’ on something. You might be thinking this must be some clever mix of Spanish and French, but ‘holà’ actually has nothing to do with the Spanish greeting. 

This expression is a way to say that’s enough – or to ‘put the brakes on something.’

If a situation appears to be agitated, and you feel the need to intervene in order to help calm things down, then this might be the expression you would use. Another way of saying it in English might be to ‘put the kibosh on it.’

While the origins of ‘kibosh’ appear to be unknown, ‘holà’ goes back to the 14th century in France. Back then, people would shout “Ho! Qui va là?” (Oh, who goes there?) as an interjection to call someone out or challenge them. 

Over time this transformed into the simple holà, which you might hear on the streets, particularly if you engage in some risky jaywalking. 

A French synonym for this expression is ‘freiner’ – which literally means ‘to break’ or ‘put the brakes on,’ and can be used figuratively as well as literally. 

Use it like this

Tu aurais dû mettre le holà tout de suite. Cette conversation a duré bien trop longtemps, et il était si offensif. – You should have put a stop to that immediately. That conversation went on for too long, and he was so offensive. 

J’ai essayé de mettre le holà à la blague sur ma mère, mais ils étaient sans pitié. – I tried to put a stop to the joke about my mother, but they were merciless.