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French word of the day: Mouais

When you're not really sure whether you fully agree with something, this is the expression.

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

Why do I need to know mouais?

There are several ways to answer questions in the affirmative in French (oui, ouais, si, bien sûr, mais oui…) but it’s important to get the nuances right.

What does it mean?

Mouais is the contraction of a hesitating “hmm” sound and ouais, the informal French 'yes'. It is usually used to answer in the affirmative whilst also showing uncertainty or doubt and might be translated as 'kind of', 'not really' or just 'yes, but I’m not sure'.

It may also be used to express dissatisfaction or indifference.

Use it like this

Tu aimes le chocolat? Mouais, en fait, pas trop – 'Do you like chocolate? Kind of. Actually, not really'

Mouais, tu dois avoir raison – 'I guess so, you're probably right'

Tu as aimé le film? Mouais, ça ne casse pas trois pattes à un canard – 'Did you like the film? Not really, it’s nothing to write home about.'

Tu vois ce que je veux dire? Mouais, pas trop – 'Do you know what I mean? Not really.'


Bof – Not great, meh.

Not to be confused with…

Mouais is also the name of a French town in the Loire-Atlantique département, the inhabitants of which are called Mouaisiens


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For members


French Expression of the Day: Les plus modestes

Surprisingly, this phrase has nothing to do with provocative dress or bragging about your achievements.

French Expression of the Day: Les plus modestes

Why do I need to know les plus modestes ?

Because you might want to understand why “the most modest” are always called out in government announcements and in articles

What does it mean?

Les plus modestes – roughly pronounced lay ploos moe-dests – literally translates to “the most modest.” 

At first glance, this phrase in French might be misleading for anglophones because “modest” is a bit of a false-friend.

In English, one might think of a Jane Austen character who is very respectable and never shows too much skin, or perhaps just someone who is very self-deprecating about their own achievements.

But in the French phrase, les plus modestes means people who are on low incomes or generally don’t have much money.

You might also see the phrase “les ménages modestes” (low-income households). 

You will often hear this term when the French government or press are discussing subsidy plans or budgeting efforts to assist low-income families.

It’s different to les plus fragiles – which is also often used in government announcements but refers to people who vulnerable for health reasons, such as the elderly or people with long-term medical conditions.

Use it like this

Pour protéger les plus modestes, le gouvernement a annoncé une subvention spécifique pour aider à payer l’énergie. – To protect the most vulnerable households, the government has announced a specific subsidy to help pay for energy.

Même avec les interventions du gouvernement, l’inflation touchera surtout les plus modestes. – Even with government interventions, inflation will impact low-income households the most.