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French Expression of the Day: N'importe quoi

The Local France
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French Expression of the Day: N'importe quoi
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

If you are ever involved in an argument in France, and the chances are you will be, you are going to need this French expression.

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Why do I need to know n'importe quoi?

Because even if your language level is limited, you can get away with repeating this phrase over and over again during an argument.

What does it mean?

N'importe quoi - roughly pronounced nahm-pour-tuh-kwah - means 'no matter what', but it has a few different uses that can be translated as 'anything', 'whatever', 'nonsense', 'rubbish' or even 'bullshit!'.

For example you could say je ferais n'importe quoi pour apprendre français, which would translate as 'I'd do anything to learn French'.

But when it comes to arguing or disagreeing with someone you would use n'importe quoi when you want to suggest what someone has said is a load of rubbish or nonsense.

If your friend seems very confident that a trip to the préfecture is quick, efficient and can take place in under 10 minutes, you could tell them they are talking nonsense by saying tu dis n'importe quoi.

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And if you really want to stress that what the other person has said is really bonkers you can say it slowly like n'im... port...e quoi!'

And you can also abbreviate it in speech and in text messages to just 'n'imp' in the right environment. Such as discussing last night's drunken antics you could say hier soir, j'ai fait n'imp, which could translate as 'last night I was a complete chump'.

It can also be used in response to what people have done as well as what they have said. For example you might hear people say Macron vous faites n'importe quoi, meaning Macron 'you're doing it all wrong', or 'you're making a mess of it'. 

And you'll often hear parents saying something to their misbehaving children along the lines of arrete de faire n'importe quoi, which could translate as 'stop acting up' or 'stop messing around'.

Use it like this

Il mangera n'importe quoi - He will eat anything

Je peux ecrire sur n'importe quoi - I can write about anything

Les cochons peuvent voler / N'importe quoi. -  Pigs can fly / Bullshit.

Qu'est-ce que tu veux manger? / Ça m'est égal, n'importe quoi. - What do you want to eat? / I'm easy, anything.

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