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French Expression of the Day: C'est pas terrible

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French Expression of the Day: C'est pas terrible
Photo: Depositphotos
10:37 CEST+02:00
This one of the most common -- and confusing -- French expressions around. Here, we take a look at what 'c'est pas terrible' really means.

Why do I need to know c'est pas terrible?

This expression is one of the more confusing ones you'll hear in France, and trust us when we say you'll hear it all the time. 

So, what does it mean?

It literally means 'It's not terrible' but unfortunately for English speakers the French word 'terrible' is a semi-false friend and it can also mean 'terrific' as well as 'terrible'.

That means that if someone says, C'est terrible they can either mean 'it's terrible' or 'it's terrific'/'it's great'. 

However, getting back to today's expression, when you put the negative pas before it, terrible is always translated into its more positive meanings of 'terrific' or 'great'.

So, that means pas terrible actually means 'not great' rather than 'not terrible' as you would be forgiven for thinking. 

Phew. 

There is also a difference between how you would use it in formal and informal settings.

For example, in a formal setting you would be more likely to say Ce n'est pas terrible (It isn't great) while in an informal one you would drop the ne and say C'est pas terrible

Here are some examples to make it clearer:

Julien adore ce resto, mais à mon avis, ce n'est pas terrible. - Julien loves this restaurant, but I don't think it's that great.
 
Ce film est pas terrible alors je serais toi, je n'irais pas le voir. - The film's not exactly great, I wouldn't go and see it if I were you.
 
Qu'est-ce que tu as pensé de ce livre ? - Pas terrible. - What did you think of that book? - (It was) nothing special.
 
Alternatives

To get a similar meaning across, you could also say: de qualité moyenne (of average quality) or pas très bien (not very good).

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