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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Word of the Day: hein

Huh? What? Not sure what hein means? Or even how to pronounce it? Read on, please.

French Word of the Day: hein
Photo: Depositphotos
Why do I need to know hein?
 
French speakers pepper informal conversation with hein all the time. It’s one of those words that no one teaches in school, but will make you sound a lot more natural when you talk. 
 
What does it mean?
 
Hein is an interjection which is used to pose a question or seek confirmation. It is usually found at the end of a phrase, but also sometimes at the beginning or on its own, and serves a number of different purposes. 
 
Hein?, when it’s on its own or at the beginning of a phrase, is very similar to the English ‘huh?’ or ‘what?’, used to indicate that the speaker has not understood something and would like it to be repeated. As in, Hein? Qu’est-ce que tu as dit? – ‘Huh? What did you say?’
 
And just like ‘what?’, hein? used in this way can also indicate the surprise of the speaker, rather than that they have not heard what the person they are talking with has said: Hein? Tu as déjà fini? – ‘What? You already finished?’
 
It can also be used to insist on a response, even when the speaker may already suspect that they know the answer: Pourquoi est-ce que vous êtes en retard, hein? Vous êtes réveillé tard ? – ‘Why are you late, huh? Did you wake up late?’
 
Or to simply solicit the agreement of the listener, like ‘eh?’ or ‘right?’, especially at the end of the phrase. For example, Ce n’est pas si facile que ça, hein? – ‘It’s not so easy, right?’
 
Finally, hein can be used at the end of a phrase to emphasize what has just been said, as in Laissez-moi tranquille, hein! – Let me be, ok? (In this case, no question is actually being asked).
 
However hein is used, it's usually in an informal context, and is the kind of filler word you want to avoid in presentations at work or school.
 
How is it pronounced?
 
While written as hein, remember that the h is silent and the n is not actually an ‘n’, but signals the presence of a nasal vowel.
 
For those familiar with the International Phonetic Alphabet, hein is written as ɛ̃. For those who are not, the closest way to write it in English would probably be ‘uh?’, but rather than drawing the ‘u’ out, cut it short and hold your nose while you say it. Or better yet, watch the YouTube video below and hear a French person say it at least 15 times…
 
How do I use hein?
 
Still not sure how to use hein ? This video gives plenty of examples, explained by an actual Frenchman.
 
 

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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

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. 

Alternatives

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).

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