French expression of the day: À quoi bon

French expression of the day: À quoi bon
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Is this French expression the very essence of 2020?

Why do I need to know à quoi bon?

Because it's an expression that captures the spirit of 2020.

What does it mean?

If you have tried to translate 'what's the point' as quel est le but in French, you are likely not alone – but it's not the right way to go.

This is:

À quoi bon ? – What's the point?

À quoi bon can be a confusing expression because it, to foreign ears, sounds like aqua bon, which in turn sounds like some kind of special water drink. It's directly translated to 'at what good', which doesn't clear things up much either.

But once you get the hang of it, à quoi bon is pretty catchy.

It's a great way to express exasperation or fatigue when things seem a bit pointless (which, let's be honest, they frequently have this past year).

Use it like this

À quoi bon de se forcer à faire du sport à la maison lorsque c'est bientôt Noël et on va prendre du poids en bouffant de toute façon. – What's the point in forcing ourselves to exercise at home when it's nearly Christmas and we'll all gain weight by eating anyway.
À quoi bon regarder le discours de Macron. Ce n'est pas comme s'il va mettre fin au confinement. – What's the point in watching Macron's speech. It's not like he will put an end to lockdown.
On fait à dîner ? À quoi bon, cette pandémie m'a coupé l'appétit. – Shall we make dinner? What's the point, this pandemic has stolen my appetite. 

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