French Word of the Day: alors

Stumped by what this extremely common French word actually means? Et alors? -- Now you've got the perfect opportunity to find out.

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

French speakers pepper conversation with alors all the time. It's one of those words that you can go by years without knowing exactly what it means, but will make you sound a lot more natural when you talk. 

What does it mean?

Alors has several meanings. 

It can be used to mean 'then' or 'in that case'. For example, Si tu sais conduire, alors tu peux prendre la voiture. (If you can drive, then you can take the car.)

Or it can mean 'so', 'well' and in informal conversation, 'so then'. 

For example Alors, raconte ce qui s'est passé! (So, tell me what happened!/Well? Tell me what happened!)

Or, Alors, ton nouveau voisin, il est comment? which means 'So then, what's your new neighbour like?'
Alors can also be used as part of an expression, such as in the case of Ça alors! which is used to express shock and is the equivalent of 'goodness!', 'my goodness!' and 'goodness me!', or even 'well,well!' in English. 
Or you might hear someone shout in an exasperated manner Merde alors! which means 'For crying out loud!' or 'For goodness' sake!'
Another common expression including alors is Et alors? which means 'So what?' and is often said in a sarcastic tone. 
For example you might say Tu n'y crois pas? Et alors? (You don't believe it? So what?)
How is it pronounced?
Remember to make sure you can hear that French 'r' when pronouncing alors
Here's a YouTube video to help you pronounce it perfectly



Member comments

  1. Alors on its own is often used. When I ate in a café I often sighed and said Alors. There then was a sort word mexican wave with everyone saying Alors. Also Bon Alors is often used. I have tried Mal Alors but I am told this does not make sense.

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French phrase of the Day: Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines

Being patronised by a Frenchman? Roll out this phrase.

French phrase of the Day: Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines

Why do I need to know ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines?

Because someone might be trying to take you for a fool.

What does it mean?

Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines – pronounced ne me pren pah pour un lapan de see sem-enn – translates as ‘don’t take me for a six-week-old rabbit’, and is a go-to phrase to warn people not to mistake you for a fool, someone who doesn’t understand what’s going on.

The podcast Hit West from French regional newspaper Ouest-France suggests that the ‘six weeks’ comes from the age a rabbit is weaned at, and must therefore be ready to survive on its own.

And why a rabbit at all? Well no-one really seems very sure. Rabbits don’t get a good rap in the French language though, to stand someone up is poser un lapin in French.

English-language metaphor equivalents may be, “I didn’t come down in the last shower”, “I wasn’t born yesterday”, or, as Line of Duty’s DCI Hastings might say, “I didn’t float up the Lagan in a bubble”.

Use it like this

Honestly, keep it simple. If someone’s speaking to you in a patronising manner, simply say: Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines.

Ouest France suggests that this is the ‘more elegant’ way to request that people don’t take you for a fool. It’s not offensive, but it might be a little old-fashioned. 


You can use the more basic version of this phrase – Ne me prends pas pour une idiote (don’t take me for a fool) or the slightly more punchy Ne me prends pas pour un con (don’t take me for a moron).