For members


French word of the day: Pourboire

Don't be fooled by this expression, which - when used in a sentence - it can sound like someone is offering you a drink.

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

Why do I need to know pourboire? 

Because you'll probably think it's something different than it really is the first time you hear this expression.

What does it mean?

If you divide pourboire in two, you get pour and boire, which means 'to' and 'drink'.

Tu as ce qu'il faut pour le pourboire ? sounds a lot like 'have you got what you need to drink?'.

You would be forgiven to think that the person asking you this is offering to pay the next round.

But it really means something very different.

Pourboire is really the French word for 'tip', what you give your waitress if you're happy with your food or your barman if you found his cocktail-making skills particularly impressive.

The expression is similar to when some in the UK will say 'have a drink for yourself'.
Originally, the expression pourboire was used to signify exactly that – giving the receiver enough money so that they could treat themselves to a drink in return for their services. 
In general tipping is not such a big deal in France as in some other countries, particularly the USA, and the amount tipped generally reflects the phrase's original meaning – enough to buy a drink.
Use it like this
If you're unsure about how much to tip, ask;
Quel pourboire faut-il laisser ? – How much should we tip?
Quand donner un pourboire en France ? – When should you give a tip in France?
Le pourboire est-il inclus en France ? – Is the tip included in France?



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For members


French Expression of the Day: Faire son miel

Surprisingly, this phrase has nothing to do with beekeeping.

French Expression of the Day: Faire son miel

Why do I need to know faire son miel?

Because you might want to describe how you were able to buy a new wardrobe after the airline lost your luggage.

What does it mean?

Faire son miel – usually pronounced fair soan mee-ell – literally means to make your honey, or to make your own honey. In practice, this phrase actually means to take advantage of a situation, usually by turning a profit or to get the most out of a situation. 

The phrase comes from the idea that bees are actually profiteers: they take advantage of flowers in order to make honey. In the 16th century, this phrase was first put into use, and it followed the idea that bees fly up to the innocent flowers and steal their nectar and pollen for their own purposes. People began to use this as a way to describe people who take advantage of others or particular situations for their own benefit, or those who take things that do not belong to them.

Though the phrase is tied to the idea of turning a situation around for your own benefit, it is does not necessarily have a negative connotation. It can be used both for physical profit, or intellectual. It is somewhat similar to the English phrase of ‘making lemonade from lemons’ – taking a bad situation and making something good out of it.

In fact, French actually has another phrase that is quite similar to this one: faire son beurre, which is potentially even older than faire son miel

Use it like this

La compagnie aérienne a perdu nos sacs, avec tous nos vêtements dedans. Nous avons pu faire notre miel de la situation et acheter un nouvel ensemble de meilleurs vêtements avec l’argent de la compagnie aérienne! – The airline lost our bags, with all our clothes inside. We were able to take advantage of the situation by buying a whole new wardrobe on their dime!

Les oiseaux font leur miel de tous les nouveaux arbres plantés dans la ville. Ils profitent de ce nouvel espace pour faire leurs nids. – The birds are taking advantage of all the new trees being planted across the city. They are enjoying the new space to build their nests.

Le politicien a fait son miel des fonds supplémentaires et en a utilisé une partie pour son propre projet de construction. Ils pourraient le mettre en procès pour corruption. – The politician took advantage of the extra public funds for his own construction project. They might put him on trial for corruption.