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French expression of the day: C’est ça !

A very common French expression, but do you know what it means?

French expression of the day: C’est ça !
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know c’est ça ?

Because it's a common and versatile expression, often used in a way  that your French teacher won't teach you.

What does it mean ?

Literally, c’est ça translates to ‘that’s it’, in the sense that you got something right.

For example, if you’re asking for confirmation that you have understood something correctly, and the person you're asking answers c’est ça, it means 'exactly' or 'that's right'.

C'est ça here takes the same meaning as voilà, so 'you got it', 'there you go'.

Beware, however, that c'est ça is also widely used to express sarcasm or skepticism, just like you'd use 'right' or 'sure' in English.

If somebody tells you they're a secret member of the British royal family, you could answer, ouaisc’est ça !, your tone dripping of sarcasm.

If your boss tells you that they expect you to answer emails at 3am on Sundays, you could jokingly say c’est ça. (If the boss doesn't take that well and you realise that he or she was serious, you might want to think about finding a different job).

Also, if someone tells a dumb joke and you cannot master to produce a laugh, just say, hehe, c'est ça..

If you’re not sure about the way a French person is using c’est ça while talking to you, it's all in the tone.

Use it like this

J’ai entendu dire que tes parents habitaient dans un château dans le sud de la France. Oui, c’est ça ! – I heard that your parents were living in a castle in the south of France. Yes, right!

Je te jure que je ne t’ai jamais trompé. C’est ça, oui.. – I swear I’ve never cheated on you. Yes, right…

Est-ce que tu pourrais garder les enfants, faire un gâteau, ranger la maison et faire le ménage ? C’est ça oui ! – Could you take care of the kids, bake a cake, tidy the house and clean it ? Sure!


Exactement – Exactly

Bien sûr  – Of course

Mais oui – Yeah sure

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French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

This might look like a mix of Spanish and French, but it is definitely not Franish.

French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

Why do I need to know mettre le holà?

Because you might need to do this if your friends go from laughing with you to laughing at you. 

What does it mean?

Mettre le holà – pronounced meh-truh luh oh-la – literally means to put the ‘holà’ on something. You might be thinking this must be some clever mix of Spanish and French, but ‘holà’ actually has nothing to do with the Spanish greeting. 

This expression is a way to say that’s enough – or to ‘put the brakes on something.’

If a situation appears to be agitated, and you feel the need to intervene in order to help calm things down, then this might be the expression you would use. Another way of saying it in English might be to ‘put the kibosh on it.’

While the origins of ‘kibosh’ appear to be unknown, ‘holà’ goes back to the 14th century in France. Back then, people would shout “Ho! Qui va là?” (Oh, who goes there?) as an interjection to call someone out or challenge them. 

Over time this transformed into the simple holà, which you might hear on the streets, particularly if you engage in some risky jaywalking. 

A French synonym for this expression is ‘freiner’ – which literally means ‘to break’ or ‘put the brakes on,’ and can be used figuratively as well as literally. 

Use it like this

Tu aurais dû mettre le holà tout de suite. Cette conversation a duré bien trop longtemps, et il était si offensif. – You should have put a stop to that immediately. That conversation went on for too long, and he was so offensive. 

J’ai essayé de mettre le holà à la blague sur ma mère, mais ils étaient sans pitié. – I tried to put a stop to the joke about my mother, but they were merciless.