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French Expression of the Day: J'en ai marre

Genevieve Mansfield
Genevieve Mansfield - [email protected]
French Expression of the Day: J'en ai marre
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

No, this isn't the French way to refer to the legendary guitarist of The Smiths.

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Why do I need to know j'en ai marre?

Complaining is considered something of a hobby in France and this essential expression will help get you started.

What does it mean?

J'en ai marre - roughly pronounced john-ay mahr (very similar to Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr) - means 'I'm fed up', 'I'm sick of it' and 'It's getting on my nerves'.

The infinitive of the expression is en avoir marre ('to be fed up', 'to be sick of').

The expression, while informal, is not rude or impolite - as long as you're not telling someone that you're fed up of them to their face, of course.

According to some sources, it dates back to the late 19th/early 20th centuries and came from an old French verb se marer which meant 'to be bored'.

Others say the expression comes from the Spanish word 'mareo', which originally meant 'sea sickness' before it evolved to mean 'boredom'.

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However French linguist Alain Rey told French media Europe 1 that neither of these explanations is right, saying that the word marre actually comes from mar a slang word in France in the 1880s. The word meant the share of stolen goods after a theft: en avoir mar (to have one's share). This was then distorted to mean that you had had too much - or 'had enough'.

To express frustration in French, you can also say je n'en peux plus (I can't take it anymore).

Use it like this

J'en ai marre de tes retards incessants! - I've had it with you constantly being late!

J’en ai marre de ces grèves! Toujours la grève! - I'm fed up of these strikes! Always strikes!

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