French Expression of the Day: Tu m'étonnes

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French Expression of the Day: Tu m'étonnes
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

This French expression will help you show off your sarcastic side in French.


Why do I need to know tu m'étonnes?

Because in the vast majority if cases, it means the exact opposite of what you would think it means.

What does it mean?

Tu m'étonnes - roughly pronounced "to may ton" - translates precisely as 'you surprise me' but it's generally used in a sarcastic tone to mean the exact opposite.

Some English equivalents would be 'You don't say' or 'tell me something I don't know' or even 'no shit, Sherlock'. 

It's used to convey the sense that what a person has just said to you is boring, obvious or both.

For example, if your French friend arrives in the office complaining about rush hour traffic on the Paris ring road, you could respond tu m'étonnes.

As the use of the informal tu suggests, this is a phrase best used for friends, family and people you know well. It is probably best to avoid getting sarky with the kind of people you would use vous for (bosses, your mother-in-law, the judge overseeing your case).


And just a word of warning - be sure to pay attention to tone and context. Although it's more commonly used as a sarcastic phrase, tu m'étonnes can also be a sincere expression of surprise.

For example, a genuinely shocked and amazed person might say Vous parlez français, anglais, italien et chinois? Tu m'étonnes! (You speak French, English, Italian AND Chinese? You're amazing!)

Use it like this

Le serveur français m'a jeté un regard bizarre lorsque j'ai demandé que mon steak soit "bien cuit". / Tu m'étonnes! - The French waiter gave me a weird look when I ordered my steak 'well-done'. / You don't say!

Il y avait tellement de monde dans la file d'attente de la préfecture ! / Tu m'étonnes! - There were tons of people in line at the préfecture / Tell me something I don't know.


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