French Word of the Day: pfff

It's a word which is really more of a sound, but despite that it's a bit of a classic of French conversation. Here's a look at what 'Pfff' means (and which movement you need to coincide it with).

French Word of the Day: pfff
Photo: Depositphotos

Why do I need to know pfff?

It might sound (and look) a bit silly but this word is a staple of French conversation. 

Used in the right way, it will give your spoken French a bit of native attitude. 

So, what does it mean?

Pfff often goes hand in hand with a facial expression that exudes boredom or dislike because it is used to convey contempt, disdain and scorn. 

The French use it when somebody is saying something they consider to be stupid, ridiculous, pathetic so much so that they are at a loss for a real answer and are reduced to saying pfff

There isn't an exact translation in English, but it could be compared to sighing loudly when someone is speaking and some might even make a similar noise to the French pfff to go with it. 

Here's an example of this noise in use: Pfff, elle n'avait rien d'exceptionnel cette femme. – Pfff, there was nothing exceptional about that woman. 

Or, Pfff, c'est n'importe quoi – 'Pfff, whatever'. 

Remember that while it is very common, it is still colloquial and is certainly one to avoid using in front of your boss. 

For more French Expressions and French Words of the Day you can CLICK HERE to see our full list




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French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

This expression is more than just your last order at the boulangerie.

French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

Why do I need to know tarte à la crème ?

Because if someone uses this phrase to describe you, you should probably be a bit offended.

What does it mean?

Tarte à la crème – pronounced tart ah lah krem – literally refers to a cream filled tart, or a custard tart, in English. However, this expression has more to do than just baking. It is another way of describing something that is boring, predictable or commonplace.

This expression comes straight from Moliere himself. In the 17th century, there was a popular rhyming game called “Corbillon.” The phrase “Je vous passe mon corbillon” (I pass you by corbillon) is said, and then it is followed by “Qu’y met-on?” (What does one put on it?) To keep the rhyme up, people must respond with something ending in an -ON sound.

In the play, “L’Ecole des Femmes” (The School of Wives), one character says the ideal woman would respond to the question with “tarte à la crème” which is obviously the wrong answer. The right answer would be tarte à la citron (lemon tart). Molière did this on purpose to poke fun at the fact that disgruntled fans would send poor actors cream tarts to express their frustration.

It was a way of ridiculing his critics and showing he was unimpressed by their method of showing discontentment at his plays. Over time, the phrase went on to describe things that are commonplace or boring. It is often used to describe entertainment related topics, such as books, movies, or plays.

A synonym for this phrase in French might be banal and in English you might say something is ‘vanilla’ to describe something that is fairly unexciting.

Use it like this

Le film était vraiment tarte à la crème. Je ne recommande pas d’aller le voir au cinéma, vous pouvez attendre de le voir une fois qu’il sera gratuit en ligne. – The movie was really boring. I don’t recommend going to see it at the movies, you can simply wait to see it once it is free online.

Je pense que l’album est tarte à la crème. Elle a pris tellement d’idées d’autres artistes que ce n’est vraiment pas original du tout. – I think the album is predictable. She really took plenty of ideas from other artists and it was not original at all.