For members


French word of the day: Nul

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

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

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'.)


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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For members


French Expression of the Day: C’est de la daube

A daube is a delicious and hearty French stew - but this expression is not something that you would aspire to.

French Expression of the Day: C’est de la daube

Why do I need to know c’est de la daube?

Because you might want to express your strong opinion on a movie/book/TV show you’ve just watched in informal but relatively polite society.

What does it mean?

C’est de la daube  – pronounced say de la dorb – translates as ‘it’s a piece of crap’ (rubbish, while a perfectly reasonable alternative, just doesn’t quite cut it) and is perfect for use in discussions about books, films and TV shows … there’s even a book about cinema called C’est de la daube (Chroniques de cinéma)

The phrase can also be used to describe things that have little value and can be discarded after use – or, basically, anything you want to describe as ‘crap’.

Famously, daube is a classic Provençal stew made with inexpensive beef braised in wine, vegetables, garlic, and herbes de Provence, and traditionally cooked in a daubière, a braising pan. The question, then, is how a delicious and hearty stew came to be used to describe something cheap and nasty and best avoided.

It’s thought that this phrase has its origins in the kitchen. According to Gaston Esnault in his “dictionnaire des argots”, ‘daube’ in this less-savoury context is a 19th-century word of Lyon origin to describe fruits and meat as being ‘spoiled’, applied to fruits and meats.

Notoriously, French programmers who like the Linux system often refer to Windows as Windaube…

Use it like this

C’est de la daube cette film – it’s crap, this film

Ton opinion, c’est de la daube – your opinion is rubbish