French expression of the day: A l’arrache

French expression of the day: A l'arrache
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Did we do this à l’arrache? Read and find out.

Why do I need to know à l’arrache?

If someone accuses you of doing something à l’arrache, you will be better to whip up a good response (à l’arrache).

What does it mean?

A l’arrache is French colloquial slang for doing something quickly and without care – ‘on the hoof’ or 'winging it' in English.

Doing something à l’arrache implies improvising. If you discover the same morning that today is your day give an important talk at work, your presentation will be made à l’arrache – last minute and not very meticulously.

Although it is not something to be particularly proud of, French people tend to sometimes use à l’arrache as a way of lowering the expectations of others.

Let’s say that you find out too late that you were supposed to bring a cake to a dinner party. You might use à l’arrache as an excuse when arriving at the party, even if you’re pretty sure that your cake isn’t that bad.

Je suis désolé, j’avais oublié donc ca a été fait un peu à l’arrache – I am so sorry, I’d forgotten all about it so I had to throw this together last minute.

However the most common way of using the expression is through criticism. A teacher might tell her student that:

Jean, cet article n’a pas de fond. Je sens que tu l’as fait à l’arrache. – Jean, this article is lacking depth. I think you did this on the hoof.

If you've got the time and aren't rushing off to complete a last-minute task, check out this hilarious video by Canal + where the main comedian does a little song about à l’arrache midway. 


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