French Word of the Day: Dis donc!

This handy little French expression is very common in France and once you get the hang of using it yourself, you'll start to sound like a real native.

French Word of the Day: Dis donc!
Photo: AFP

Why have we chosen Dis donc?

This is an expression you'll hear used a lot in everyday conversion and it's a great to drop in here and there yourself if you want to sound authentically French. 

So what exactly does it mean?

Dis donc has several translations into English. 

While it literally means 'say then' it would really be equivalent to 'wow', 'goodness', 'hey!', 'well,' and 'listen' and is usually used to express surprise or admiration. 

But it can also be used to reinforce a negative comment, such as in the following example: Dis donc, tu es à ma place, là! (Hey! you're in my spot!).

You can also tack on other words to give the expression a slightly different meaning. 

For example, Bah, dis donc! might sound more like a noise likely to come from a percussion instrument but if you use it in French conversation it means 'Well, I never!' or 'You don't say!'.

Similarly, Eh bien, dis donc! can also mean 'Well, I never!' or 'You don't say!' and if used in an ironic way means 'Oh don't mind me!' and 'That's quite alright!'. 

It's also worth noting that Dis donc is the tu form of this expression, the plural or formal vous form is Dites donc and you're much more likely to hear it conversation than in written form. 


Je ne savais pas qu'on pouvait passer par là dis donc! – Well, I didn't know we could go this way.
Dis donc, tu es très en beauté ce soir! – Wow, you look very beautiful this evening!
(The above two examples come from
Dites donc, j'ai vu vos grandparents samedi soir. – By the way, I saw your grandparents Saturday night.



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French Phrase of the Day: Syndrome de la bonne élève

Why being a good pupil can sometimes be … bad.

French Phrase of the Day: Syndrome de la bonne élève

Why do I need to know Syndrome de la bonne élève?

Feeling under-valued at work despite doing everything – and more – asked of you? You may have ‘good student syndrome’.

What does it mean?

Syndrome de la bonne élève – pronounced sin-dromm de la bon ell-evv – translates, as we’ve already hinted, as good student syndrome. 

You may well also see it written as syndrome du bon élève (pronounced sin-dromm doo bon ell-evv) – but this is predominantly a female issue.

It refers to someone in the workplace who tries their hardest to work to the rules, do all the jobs asked of them – and more – and yet is overlooked in favour of co-workers who don’t necessarily put in the same hard graft.

It’s not an official ‘syndrome’, but mental health experts do recognise it in many people – particularly women.

It is a hangover, according to features in magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire, from school days when girls are considered to be harder workers and less trouble than their boy counterparts.

Marie Claire labelled it a “destructive perfectionism … which affects the mental health of the women they become, while preventing them from embracing positions of responsibility’.’

Use it like this

Le syndrome de la bonne élève touche essentiellement les femmes dans le monde occidental. – Good student syndrome mainly affects women in the Western world.

Cette question d’éducation est d’autant plus marquante que le syndrome du « bon élève » affecte généralement les femmes – This question of education is all the more striking because “good student” syndrome generally affects women