For members


French word of the Day: Attestation

A word much beloved in France's true religion - bureaucracy.

French word of the Day: Attestation
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know attestation?

It's very topical at the moment, but if you live in France at any time you will frequently be asked to provide une attestation.

What does it mean?

Its simple translation is certificate but that doesn't really convey how central this plays in French life.

At presents it's particularly important as every trip outside the home requires an attestation de déplacement dérogatoire – the official form that certifies your trip is necessary.


But the attestation itself is far from new and different ones will be required throughout your life in France.

There's the attestation du travail – something that proves you are in work, either a contract, formal letter offering you a job or declaration from your employer. This is often required, especially when renting property

Or the attestation de domicile, which relates to proof of where your live.

Slightly different is the attestation sur l'honneur – certificate on your honour, more usually translated as affadavit.

If you don't have the required official paperwork, in certain cases you are allowed to swear a declaration on your honour that something is true. Although the language sounds slightly old-fashioned this has status as a legal document, so if you are found to have lied on one there could be consequences.

For more of the slightly arcane language of France's bureaucracy, click here.



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For members


French Expression of the Day: Découvrir le pot aux roses

You might do this while gardening or while reading the tabloids.

French Expression of the Day: Découvrir le pot aux roses

Why do I need to know découvrir le pot aux roses?

Because if you enjoy celebrity gossip, then you probably will find good use for this phrase

What does it mean?

Découvrir le pot aux roses – pronounced day-coov-rear le pot-oh rose – literally translates to ‘to discover the pot of roses.’ 

You might use this expression when finding out about some exciting gossip or maybe when discovering what your partner secretly planned for your anniversary, as this phrase in actuality is what you would say when you learn something secret or hidden. 

In English, when discussing secrets, you might say someone has ‘spilled the beans’ or ‘let the cat out of the bag,’ but the French phrase is more about the person who has found out about the hidden item or truth, not the person who told it, as it ‘spill the beans’.

The origins of this French expression are not what you might expect, historically, the phrase has little to do with the flowers.

During the Middle Ages, the verb ‘découvrir’ had the meaning of ‘to lift a lid’ and at the time the phrase ‘pot aux roses’ referred to a small box that wealthy women used to store their perfumes, as well as their makeup. They often used these boxes to keep secrets, letters, or notes that they did not want others to stumble upon.

Use it like this

Pendant l’afterwork, Sarah a raconté à tout le monde les secrets les plus fous sur la vie privée du patron. Je ne comprends pas comment elle a réussi à découvrir le pot aux roses. – During the work happy hour, Sarah told us all about the wildest secrets of our boss’ personal life. I don’t understand how she managed to unearth that gossip.

Il a découvert le pot aux roses lorsqu’il s’est connecté à l’ordinateur de son colocataire pour regarder simplement son mail. – He discovered the secret when he logged onto his roommate’s laptop to just check his email.