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!