For members


French word of the day: Epauler

When French people give a shoulder, it's rarely cold. Here's why.

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

Why do I need to know épauler?

Because you don’t want to translate it into the English expression of ‘giving someone a cold shoulder’.

What does it mean?

Quite the opposite. Epauler literally means ‘to shoulder’, but it really is a way of expressing 'help', 'support' or 'backup'.

The English equivalent would be 'giving someone a leg-up' or 'having someone's back'.

It's a versatile verb and can also mean 'reinforce' or strengthen. Use it in the same way you would use soutenir (support) or donner un coup de main (giving a helping hand).

It's not quite the same as se serrer les coudes (locking elbows), which means 'standing together'. Both are actions of solidarity, they're just a little different. Whereas se serrer les coudes is about helping each other, épauler implies someone helping someone else.

Use it like this

Je t'épaules. – I've got your back.

Tu m'épaules ? – You've got my back?
Ne t'inquiètes pas, on va t'épauler. – Don't worry, we'll help you.
Tous les jours après l'école il épaulait ses parents en faisant les ménages. – Every day after school he helped his parents by cleaning the house.
Le gouvernement français a mis en place plusieurs mesures pour épauler les entreprises impactées par le coronavirus. – The French government has put in place a series of measures to support business affected by the coronavirus.
Soutenir – support
Appuyer – back up
Assister – assist
Donner un coup de main – giving a helping hand

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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.