For members


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


Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

This expression is more than just your last order at the boulangerie.

French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

Why do I need to know tarte à la crème ?

Because if someone uses this phrase to describe you, you should probably be a bit offended.

What does it mean?

Tarte à la crème – pronounced tart ah lah krem – literally refers to a cream filled tart, or a custard tart, in English. However, this expression has more to do than just baking. It is another way of describing something that is boring, predictable or commonplace.

This expression comes straight from Moliere himself. In the 17th century, there was a popular rhyming game called “Corbillon.” The phrase “Je vous passe mon corbillon” (I pass you by corbillon) is said, and then it is followed by “Qu’y met-on?” (What does one put on it?) To keep the rhyme up, people must respond with something ending in an -ON sound.

In the play, “L’Ecole des Femmes” (The School of Wives), one character says the ideal woman would respond to the question with “tarte à la crème” which is obviously the wrong answer. The right answer would be tarte à la citron (lemon tart). Molière did this on purpose to poke fun at the fact that disgruntled fans would send poor actors cream tarts to express their frustration.

It was a way of ridiculing his critics and showing he was unimpressed by their method of showing discontentment at his plays. Over time, the phrase went on to describe things that are commonplace or boring. It is often used to describe entertainment related topics, such as books, movies, or plays.

A synonym for this phrase in French might be banal and in English you might say something is ‘vanilla’ to describe something that is fairly unexciting.

Use it like this

Le film était vraiment tarte à la crème. Je ne recommande pas d’aller le voir au cinéma, vous pouvez attendre de le voir une fois qu’il sera gratuit en ligne. – The movie was really boring. I don’t recommend going to see it at the movies, you can simply wait to see it once it is free online.

Je pense que l’album est tarte à la crème. Elle a pris tellement d’idées d’autres artistes que ce n’est vraiment pas original du tout. – I think the album is predictable. She really took plenty of ideas from other artists and it was not original at all.