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French word of the day: Précisions

These are an important part of life in France right now.

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

Why do I need to know précisions?

Because they're a key aspect of daily life and they also don't have quite the same meaning in English.

What does it mean?

It means, as English-speakers would probably guess, a clarification. But whereas in English precision is a quality, in French une précision can be a noun.

Précisions are particularly important right now, but are a regular feature of life in France around rules or regulations.

The lockdown announcements in France have generally followed the same pattern – someone, usually the president, makes an announcement about the broad framework of the new rules and then a couple of days later ministers and/or the prime minister offer fuller details. And it's these more detailed briefings or statements that are known as précisions.

For example 

Macron a annoncé que les magasins pourraient rouvrir, mais nous attendons une précision du premier ministre demain – Macron announced that shops could be able to reopen, but we're expecting fuller details from the prime minister tomorrow. 

Or, as in the headline below 'What to remember about the government's clarifications after Emmanuel Macron's speech'


Because it sounds so similar to the English word and has more-or-less the same meaning, don't be surprised if French people speaking English ask you 'Have you read the precisions on exercise?'

In fact after a while you'll probably start adopting it yourself.

READ ALSO The 9 'English' phrases that will only make sense if you live in France

Précision can also be used in the same way as the English word precision.

La restauration d'images historiques exige une grande précision et une grande dextérité – the restoration of historic pictures requires great precision and dexterity.


Une clarification – a clarification

Une mise au point – an update



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For members


French Expression of the Day: Avoir l’estomac dans les talons

A sensation you might feel around midi after skipping your morning croissant.

French Expression of the Day: Avoir l'estomac dans les talons

Why do I need to know avoir l’estomac dans les talons?

Because you might want to inform your friend waiting in the long restaurant line with you about just how hungry you actually are.

What does it mean?

Avoir l’estomac dans les talons usually pronounced ah-vwar leh-sto-mack dahn lay tah-lonn – literally means to have the stomach in the heels, but it really just means that you are extremely hungry. A British-English equivalent might be ‘my stomach thinks my throat’s been cut’.

As with saying ‘I’m starving’ you wouldn’t use this to talk about people who are genuinely at risk of starvation, it’s just a phrase to complain about being hungry and wanting something to eat.

The expression probably originated around the end of the 19th century, and there are a couple of different ideas about how it came to be.

The first is that it’s intended to paint a picture of your stomach narrowing so much that it goes all the way down to your heels. The second idea proposes that since ‘les talons’ (heels) is a homonym with ‘l’étalon’ (stallion), the phrase might actually be referring to horse meat. You might be so hungry that the only thing that could possibly satiate your empty stomach is a hearty portion of horse meat.

Finally, there’s simply the idea that a person walking a long distance would have severe pain in his heels (or feet), and his hunger is so intense that it is as bad as the pain from walking a long distance.

Regardless of where it comes from, this expression is a sure-fire way to communicate your need for nourishment (or perhaps a nice helping of horse).

 Use it like this

Je ne peux pas attendre plus longtemps dans cette longue file, j’ai l’estomac dans les talons. – I cannot wait in this long line much longer, I’m starving.

Je n’ai pas mangé le déjeuner hier et à 17h, j’avais l’estomac dans les talons. Tout le monde dans le bureau pouvait entendre mon estomac faire du bruit ! – I skipped lunch yesterday and by 5pm I was starving! Everyone in the office could hear my stomach making noise.