For members


French Word of the Day: S’éclater

We've covered how to complain in French, but what about when you need to show genuine enthusiasm?

French Word of the Day: S'éclater

Why do I need to know s'éclater?

Because sometimes you need to be really enthusiastic about an experience. We've given you plenty of vocab to complain in French (and explained how the French themselves got their reputation for ceaseless grumbling) but today is about enthusiasm.

What does it mean?

The literal translation of the verb s'éclater is to explode or to burst, but if you hear it in casual conversation it's more likely to mean a great time or a brilliant experience. It's roughly equivalent to “having a ball” in English or “having a great laugh” or “having great fun”.

So if you're trying to convince a friend to come to salsa dancing classes you could say C'est rigolo et on va bien s'éclater! – It's going to be loads of fun!

Comment s'est passé ton voyage à Hambourg? C'était génial, on s'est éclatés! – “How was your trip to Hamburg? It was great, we had great fun!” 

If you use it with “we” you would say nous nous sommes eclatés – “we had great fun” or with just “I” it would be je me suis éclaté – “I had a ball”.

Or you could ramp it up a bit more by saying On s'est vraiment éclatés meaning “we really had a great time”.

And if you want to talk about something you used to do in the past that was fun, you could say On y allait quand j'étais enfant, et on s'est toujours éclatés, meaning “we used to go when I was a kid and always had a great laugh.” 

It's certainly a casual phrase, and more well used by young people, but it's a good way to convey a bit of cheery enthusiasm for something.


Any other meanings?

In its more serious sense it can mean to explode in both the literal and the metaphorical sense, although if you're talking about a bomb exploding you would be more likely to use the verb exploser.

Les conduites pourraient geler ou même éclater si on les laissait du côté froid de l'isolant – The pipes could freeze and burst if they are left outside the insulation.
Quand la crise economique va-t-elle éclater? – When is the economic crisis going to break? 



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For members


French Expression of the Day: Une vache à lait

This might sound like the cheese for children, but it actually has nothing to do with dairy products.

French Expression of the Day: Une vache à lait

Why do I need to know une vache à lait ?

Because if someone describes a potential investment opportunity like this, you might want to consider it.

What does it mean?

Une vache à lait – roughly pronounced oon vash ah lay – translates precisely to ‘a cow with milk’ or ‘a dairy cow.’ However, this phrase has little to do with farming, cheese, or milk.

In practice, une vache à lait is almost synonymous with the English term “cash cow” – or something or someone that is a moneymaker or source of profit. 

The phrase in French comes from the middle of the 16th century and evokes an image of a cow who is being milked without protest, allowing for the farmer to profit off of it. It was gradually extended to people and business ventures as a way of talking about profitability. 

Sometimes, this expression can have a negative connotation, particularly if a person is being called a vache à lait. This would be akin to saying that they are being financially exploited without realising it. 

Use it like this

L’achat de Snapchat a été une vache à lait pour Mark Zuckerberg et Facebook. – The purchase of Snapchat was a moneymaker for Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook.

Les parents ont été accusés d’utiliser leur enfant comme une vache à lait en l’inscrivant à des publicités. Ils ont trouvé cette accusation offensante. – The parents were accused of using their child as a cash cow by signing them up for commercials. They found this accusation offensive.