French expression of the day: Au fait

French expression of the day: Au fait
This phrase is widely used in English - but has a totally different meaning in France and is helpful in making your conversation sound more natural.

Why do I need to know au fait?

Well first of all, as an English speaker you may need to unlearn it. In English being au fait with something means being familiar with it or up to date with something. For example 'I spent my summers working as a lifeguard on Blackpool beach, so I'm completely au fait with the rules around safe swimming'.

In France however, you need to say you rester au fait de if you want to say that you've stayed up to date with something, or you could use au courant de to say you are familiar with something.

Au fait on its own has a different meaning.

So what does it mean in French?

It means by the way, or incidentally and is a nice little phrase to drop into conversation if you want to sound a little less formal.

So you could say Au fait, j'aime bien ta nouvelle coupe de cheveux – By the way, I really like your new haircut.

Or Au fait, j'ai déjà ajouté du sucre à ça – Incidentally, I already put sugar in that.

It can go at the end of a sentence too – Je te drague, au fait – I'm flirting with you, by the way. (Although if you need to inform someone you are flirting you may not be doing it right, but that's a whole other article.)

And when you're saying fait the 't' is always pronounced.

Don't confuse it with

Similar sounding, but with a different meaning is en fait, which means in fact.

Tout le monde pense qu'elle est antipathique. En fait, elle est simplement timide – Everybody thinks she's unfriendly. In reality, she's just shy.
En fait is usually, although not always, used as a contradiction while another similar sounding phrase – en effet – is used to confirm something.
En effet means indeed or in actual fact.
Il n'est pas trop tard, alors? En effet, vous arrivez juste à temps – It's not too late, then? In actual fact, you've arrived just in time.
For more French words and expressions, check out our French word of the Day section.


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  1. It means “by the way” or “incidentally” and is a nice little phrase to drop into conversation if you want to sound a little less formal.

    Try the quote marks when offering translations . . .

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