French word of the day: Nul

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French word of the day: Nul
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

If you want to bring a bit of a Mean Girls vibe to your everyday French chat, this one is for you.


Why do I need to know nul?

It’s a great way to criticise something without specifying why exactly that thing should be criticised.

READ ALSO: Eleven phrases that will let you complain like the French

What does it mean?

Nul means ‘zero’, but it’s also an expression meaning something is ‘bad’, ‘of poor quality’ or even ‘without value’.

You can also use it when you want to say that something or someone is ‘lame’ or simply ‘sucks’.

As you might have guessed already, the expression is particularly popular among French teens.

Just imagine a teenage girl screaming at her parents

Vous êtes trop nuls ! - You’re so lame!


You may use it about a thing:

J’ai commencé à regarder Titanic pour la première fois hier soir, mais je n’ai pas pu le finir. Tellement nul ce film ! - I started watching Titanic for the first time last night, but couldn’t finish it. What a crappy film!

You can also use it about yourself (nulle is the female version):

Je suis trop nul(le), j’ai complètement oublié l’anniversaire de ma mère - I’m such a bad person, I completely forgot my mum’s birthday

Honestly, anything can be described as nul. The weather, the food in the cafeteria at work, Parisians - you name it.

One very popular way of using nul is when reacting to someone telling you a story about something going wrong in their life.

Oh, c’est trop nul - Oh, that sucks.

It’s pretty great, actually, because it requires minimal brain power to understand and express why exactly that something 'sucks'. (The 'oh' part is key, though, so remember to put a lot of emotion into it. No one appreciates a flat 'trop nul'.)


One final context you might hear it in is sport, specifically un match nul.

However, in this case it doesn't mean that the game was terrible - un match nul means a draw or a tie (obviously some drawn games are dull, but it's possible to have a thriller that ends in a tie).


If you want other, more sophisticated ways of saying that something is nul, you could use:

Débile, con, idiot, incapable, incompétent, stupide - all to say that something or someone is ‘stupid’/’incompetent’

Ca craint (but this is very colloquial),  chiant (also colluqial), c’est ennuyeux or un cauchemar - for saying that something is ‘a pain’ or a nightmare.

Lamentable, inutile - for something that is 'pathetic' or ‘useless’



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Mary Jane Wilkie 2024/02/09 16:59
"Nul" is also used in the book titles such as "Computers for dummies." "L'ordinateur pour les nuls'.

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