French Expression of the Day: j’en peux plus

At the end of your tether with someone or something? We have just the phrase for you . . .

French Expression of the Day: j'en peux plus
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Why do I need to know j'en peux plus?

Complaining is an essential part of French life and the more ways you can do it, the better you'll fit in. 

In fact, there are many different verbs for complaining – aside from se plaindre which is the most frequently used – including râler, rouspéter, ronchonner, grommeler, grogner and maugréer.

So, what does it mean?

J'en peux plus means 'I can't take it anymore', 'I've had it' or 'I can't do it anymore'. 

You might hear someone using this phrase while involved in an intense conversation on their phone on a cafe terrasse. 

The expression is informal and is used when the reason for the speaker's despair is obvious to the other person in the conversation, with the en (it) representing whatever that might be.  

It's important to note that the absolute correct version of this expression is je n'en peux plus but like so many phrases in French the ne is often dropped in everyday usage. 


Il arrive un moment de la journée où je n'en peux plus, et je suis pratiquement arrivé à ce point. – There comes a point in the day when I can't take it anymore and I have almost arrived at that point. 

Le bébé pleure tout le temps, j'en peux plus. – The baby cries all the time, I've had it. 

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French Expression of the Day: Système D

It might sound like a military operation, but you will probably have to use 'system D' at least once during your time in France.

French Expression of the Day: Système D

Why do I need to know Système D?

Because if your train was cancelled during a strike, or your childcare arrangements suddenly fall through, then you might need a ‘system D’.

What does it mean?

Système D roughly pronounced sis-tehm day – may sound like the name of a rock band or a computer programming device, but it has little to do with music or coding.

In reality, Système D is a French expression reserved for situations where one must be resourceful and inventive – it is defined as ‘the art of getting by’ or ‘making do’ or perhaps ‘cobbling it together’ and it has been used for several decades in France.

You might use this expression if you find yourself having to make do in a complicated scenario. For example, the French press said parents were forced to adapt after a recent strike closed schools for the day. One French article quoted a parent who said “On fait ce qu’on peut, c’est le système D” (We do what we can, it is a make-do situation).

The “D” part of Système D actually comes from the French word “débrouille (or se débrouiller)” which means “to get by” or to work to put things in order.

Use it like this

Ne vous inquiétez pas, Michel s’adaptera à n’importe quelle situation dans laquelle vous le mettez. C’est un expert du système D. – Don’t worry, Michel will adapt to any situation you put him in. He is very resourceful.

Se rendre au travail était le système D la semaine dernière, alors que toutes les options de transport étaient fermées en raison de la grève. Il fallait être très créatif. – Getting to work was a make-do situation last week, when all public transportation was closed due to the strike. You had to be really creative.