For members


French word of the day: Le bac

It's the infamous and notorious academic ordeal that has kept French teenagers awake throughout history. This year will be different.

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

Why do I need to know le bac?

Because it's the most important event in any high schooler's (academic) life here in France. 

What does it mean?

Le bac is short for le baccalauréat, which is the name of the French final exams in high school.

Le bac is a big deal in France. Lycéens (high schoolers) study night and day to prepare for a series of exams on every single subject they have studied. Most of the exams are held at the end of terminale (senior year), but a couple – like French – are at the end of première (second year).

Avoir le bac translates to ‘having le bac’ and means that you passed the package test.


Pour avoir le bac, il faut obtenir une moyenne de 10 minimum – In order to get le bac, you need a minimum average of 10 (of the total tests).

France uses a grading scheme that spans from 0 to 20, where everything below 10 means you failed. While a good grade can weigh up for a bad grade when calculating la moyenne du bac (your average grade of le bac), some grades count more than others.

If your overall result amounts to less than 10, that blows your chances of getting admitted to university out of the water.

No bac as usual this year

Everyone is talking about le bac in France today, after Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer acknowledged that, because of the coronavirus crisis, le bac could not be held in its usual form this year.

Since the beginning of the lockdown on March 17th many have doubted that the government would manage to go ahead with le bac as planned. Worried parents have also said their children were unable to properly prepare for it without normal access to their teachers and other school resources.

The roughly 740,000 senior year high schoolers in France will therefore see their final notes (grades) largely based on previous efforts – a tough blow for those who had already studied hard for the final exams.

Use le bac like this

J’ai eu le bac ! – I passed the bac!

You can ask a graduated high schooler

Tu as reussi ton bac ? – Did you pass the bac?

Or (even more commonly used)

Tu as eu ton bac ? Did you get the bac?

Tu as eu quelle mention? – What did get as feedback?

Heureusement j'ai eu une bonne note en histoire pour rattraper ma salle note de français – Luckily I got a good grade in history to make up for my horrible French grade.


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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.