French Word of the Day: sans déconner

If you’ve ever wanted to be surprised, sceptical or sarcastic in French but didn’t know how, you need to know this expression.

French Word of the Day: sans déconner
Photo: Deposit photos

Why do I need to know sans déconner?

If you’ve ever wanted to be surprised, sceptical or sarcastic in French but didn’t know how, you need to know this expression.

It’s an informal or colloquial interjection that you can use all the time to help your French conversations flow more naturally.

What does it mean?

The phrase translates literally as ‘without (sans) play the fool’ (déconner), or 'without talk nonsense’ or ‘ without joke around'. 

The meaning of sans déconner, often shortened to sans déc in more informal situations, has a lot to do with context and pronunciation. A good translation is ‘no kidding’ which can also change meaning depending on when and how you say it.

One way to use sans déconner is to mean ‘seriously’ or ‘I kid you not’ when you want to emphasise a point. For example, you might say, sans déconner, j'adore ce truc, vraiment. (Seriously, I really loved it.)

You can also use sans déc to mean ‘really?’, or ‘no way!’ when something surprises you or you’re a little sceptical about something.  Used this way it’s often a response to another statement, for example, –J’ai gagné 10 000 euros le mois dernier. – Sans déc'? (I earned 10 000 euros last month? –Really?/ No way) 

In this example using sans déc to show surprise or scepticism all comes down to how it’s said, so make sure you pay attention to intonation, facial expressions and gestures when you hear this phrase or want to use it yourself. 

A third way to use sans déconner is as a sarcastic response to someone stating the obvious. Imagine saying ‘no kidding’ with a heavy eye roll or think of how ‘duh’ was used in the 90s and you’ll get an idea of how you might say it. And here’s an example: -Il pleut. – sans déc. (-It’s raining. – No kidding.)

Although this expression is used by young people all the time in France, it’s not appropriate for all situations because déconner is a mild swear word. 

Some synonyms to use if you’re in more polite company are carrément (which is still informal but not rude, and translates as ‘totally’ or ‘really?’), sans blague (‘without joking’) or sans rire (‘without laughing.’)

How can I use sans déc?

Sans dec! Arrete c'est vrai?

No kidding! Wait, is that true?

Sans déconner? T'as eu ce T-shirt pour 10€?

Seriously, you got that t-shirt for 10€?

(The above examples are from

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

This might look like a mix of Spanish and French, but it is definitely not Franish.

French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

Why do I need to know mettre le holà?

Because you might need to do this if your friends go from laughing with you to laughing at you. 

What does it mean?

Mettre le holà – pronounced meh-truh luh oh-la – literally means to put the ‘holà’ on something. You might be thinking this must be some clever mix of Spanish and French, but ‘holà’ actually has nothing to do with the Spanish greeting. 

This expression is a way to say that’s enough – or to ‘put the brakes on something.’

If a situation appears to be agitated, and you feel the need to intervene in order to help calm things down, then this might be the expression you would use. Another way of saying it in English might be to ‘put the kibosh on it.’

While the origins of ‘kibosh’ appear to be unknown, ‘holà’ goes back to the 14th century in France. Back then, people would shout “Ho! Qui va là?” (Oh, who goes there?) as an interjection to call someone out or challenge them. 

Over time this transformed into the simple holà, which you might hear on the streets, particularly if you engage in some risky jaywalking. 

A French synonym for this expression is ‘freiner’ – which literally means ‘to break’ or ‘put the brakes on,’ and can be used figuratively as well as literally. 

Use it like this

Tu aurais dû mettre le holà tout de suite. Cette conversation a duré bien trop longtemps, et il était si offensif. – You should have put a stop to that immediately. That conversation went on for too long, and he was so offensive. 

J’ai essayé de mettre le holà à la blague sur ma mère, mais ils étaient sans pitié. – I tried to put a stop to the joke about my mother, but they were merciless.