French Word of the Day: machin

If you're reading this, chances are you already know a thing or two about French. And you might have noticed that the French word for thing - 'machin' - keeps cropping up. So how is it used and what does it mean exactly?

French Word of the Day: machin
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Why do I need to know machin?

French people use this word all the time because it's so handy and once you know what it means — and how to use it — no doubt you will too. 

What does it mean?

Machin literally means 'thing' and it's used as a familiar catchall word used to describe anything you don't remember the name of.

When it's used in this situation it translates as 'thingy', 'thingummy' or 'thingamajig'. 

But machin can also be used to belittle something or someone, and is often used with irony. The idea is that if an object or person is described as a 'thing', they can't be very important.

For example, someone you don't like may be described as Monsieur machin chose which means 'Mister so and so'.

But machin can also slightly change its meaning when it's used with certain other words.

This is when it gets really confusing, so hold on .

There are a few other words in French that mean 'thing' and that are regularly used: 'truc', 'bidule' or 'chose'. They're not negative when they're used on their own but can be when combined with machin.

For example, je ne m'en sors pas au travail avec tous ces bidules machins choses! meaning 'I am struggling at work with all this stuff to do!'

Word origin

Machin comes from the French word machine which has the same meaning as the English word 'machine'.

But its origin as a deprecating term is often traced back to a speech made by the General de Gaulle in 1960, in which he described the UN as ce vieux machin. At the time, France was pondering whether or not it should join the international organisation as it struggled to cling on to its colonies.

Some other examples

Here are some examples of how to use machin in everyday life.
1. Il faut ranger ton bureaux, tous ces machins là ne servent à rien! – You must tidy up your desk, all these things are useless!

2. C'est quoi ce machin? – What on earth is that?

3. Il faut parler honnêtement aux gens et ne pas leur dire horizon machin chose – 'You have to be honest with people, and not tell them that things will be done at such and such a date'


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French Expression of the Day: Chanter faux

This is definitely not lip synching.

French Expression of the Day: Chanter faux

Why do I need to know Chanter faux ?

Because if you were not blessed with a beautiful singing voice, then this might be a good phrase to know. 

What does it mean?

Chanter faux – pronounced shahn-tay foe – literally means to ‘fake sing.’ You might assume this expression would mean ‘lip sync’ in French, but its true meaning is to sing out of tune. (Lip synching is chanter en playback).

It joins a chorus of other French expressions about bad singing, like chanter comme une casserole (to sing like a saucepan) or chanter comme une seringue (to sing like a siren).  

Chanter faux is actually the most correct way to describe someone being off key, so it might be a better option than comparing another’s voice to a cooking utensil. 

You might have seen this expression pop up recently amid the drought, as people call for rain dances and rain singing (where there is no shame in singing badly).

Use it like this

Pendant l’audition pour la pièce, Sarah a chanté faux. Malheureusement, elle n’a pas obtenu le rôle. – During her audition for the play, Sarah sang out of tune. Sadly, she did not get a role.

Si on fait un karaoké, tu verras comme je chante mal. Je chante vraiment faux, mais je m’en fiche. Il s’agit de s’amuser. – If we do karaoke you will see how badly I sing. I am really out of tune, but I don’t care. It’s all about having fun.