SHARE
COPY LINK

FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Expression of the Day: En fait

En fait, you probably hear this all the time. But how do you use it?

French Expression of the Day: En fait
Photo: Depositphotos
Why do I need to know en fait?
 
This is one of those expressions that will help your French to sound more natural and fluid, as well as adding a little bit of rhetorical flair to your arguments.
 
What does it mean?
 
En fait (‘ɑ̃ fɛt’ – the ‘t’ in fait is always pronounced) can be translated literally as ‘in fact’, though it can also mean ‘actually’ or ‘in reality’.
 
For example, Il devient tard. En fait, je crains qu’il soit trop tard pour rien changer, means ‘It’s getting late. In fact, I’m afraid that it’s too late to change anything.’
 
The expression en fait is most frequently used to contradict a previously made statement or assumption and set the record straight, as in the following example: 
 
J’avais pensé qu’il serait là ce soir, mais en fait il travaille demain. – ‘I thought he was going to be there this evening, but he’s actually working tomorrow.’
 
Or Est-ce que ça veut dire que tu ne viens pas ? – En fait, si, je viens.
‘Does that mean that you’re not coming? – Actually, yes, I am coming.’
 
And, in the case of a common misperception,
 
Tout le monde pense qu’elle est antipathique. En fait, elle est simplement timide.
‘Everybody thinks she’s unfriendly. In reality, she’s just shy.’
 
Not to be confused with…
 
en effet or au fait. These expressions sound similar to en fait, but have different meanings.
 
En effet is used solely to confirm a previous supposition (whereas en fait implies a contradiction), a function often carried out by the English word ‘indeed’. As in, Il n’est pas trop tard, alors ? – En effet, vous arrivez juste à temps. ‘It’s not too late, then? Indeed, you’ve arrived just in time.’ 
 
And au fait actually is used like ‘by the way’, as in, Au fait, peux-tu acheter du lait quand tu passeras par le supermarché, s’il te plaît ? – ‘By the way, can you please buy some milk when you stop by the supermarket?’
 
Master the difference between the three expressions, and your French will become even more natural and nuanced. 
 
 

Member comments

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

FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Word of the Day: Bordéliser

This French expression is not the kindest, but it will certainly get your point across.

French Word of the Day: Bordéliser

Why do I need to know bordéliser?

Because when things feel chaotic, you might want to use this word.

What does it mean?

Bordéliser roughly pronounced bore-del-ee-zay – comes from the swear word “bordel” which means brothel.

In popular usage, bordel is used to describe a mess or a chaotic environment, and bordéliser turns the bordel into a verb – meaning to make or create disorder, disaster or chaos. 

During periods of unrest in France, you may hear people blame one group for causing the problem by using this expression. Keep in mind that bordéliser is not polite language – the English equivalent might be to “fuck (or screw) something up”.

One popular theory says that the root word bordel comes from medieval French – at the time, sex workers were explicitly not allowed to work near the ports, so they were relegated to wooden huts or small houses – or bordes, in French –  away from the city.

You may also hear another French expression that uses the same root word: “c’est le bordel”. 

This literally translates to “it’s a brothel” but it is used to describe a situation that’s untidy, messy or chaotic, both literally and figuratively as in  ‘what a bloody mess!’ or ‘it’s mayhem!’ or ‘what a disaster!’

Use it like this

Le militant accuse le gouvernement de bordéliser le pays avec sa réforme impopulaire. – The activist accuses the government of “fucking up” the country with its unpopular reform.

Tu as bordélisé l’appartement et notre dynamique de colocation en achetant le singe comme animal de compagnie. Qu’est-ce qui t’a pris ? – You have screwed up the apartment and our roommate dynamic by buying the monkey as a pet. What were you thinking?

SHOW COMMENTS