French Expression of the Day: Tant pis

This expression is extremely common in France and like so many others, it can be tricky to guess what it means. Here's a look at 'tant pis' and how you can use it.

French Expression of the Day: Tant pis

Why did we choose tant pis?

It's a expression that you'll hear frequently used in everyday conversation. On top of that, it's one that's almost impossible to guess the meaning of and sometimes it's not even clear which context to use it in because you'll hear it said in such a variety of tones. And you need to know how to pronounce it.

So, what does it mean?

Literally speaking, tant pis means 'so much the worse'. 

The reason why it can be said in different tones depending on the situation is that it can mean something fairly mild like 'oh well' but it can also mean 'tough' or 'tough luck'. 

It can express a disappointed resignation and it can also be an expression that is full of accusation.
When used in the most extreme sense, the English equivalent of tant pis would be an angry 'too damn bad' or 'tough'.
But most commonly, you'll see it said with a casual shrug and a smile to mean 'oh well' or never mind'.
That means that it's important to be comfortable you know how to use it properly before you try it out, in case you end up sounding more rude than you meant to.
It's pronounced more like “ton pee” that tant pis, but definitely has nothing to do with urine.


A synonym in French could be c'est dommage, or quel dommage (what a shame) and  if something disappointing or sad has happened a more appropriate synonym would be c'est dur (that's hard).


Il n'y a plus de lait. Tant pis, je boirai mon café noir! – There is no more milk. Oh well! I'll drink my coffee black. 

Si ça ne t'intéresse pas, tant pis pour toi, je le proposerai à quelqu'un d'autre. – If it doesn't interest you, too bad for you, I'll suggest it to someone else.

(The above two examples are from

C'est tant pis pour lui. – That's just too damn bad for him.


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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