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French expression of the day: Grouille-toi

This sounds like something French frogs do, but it's really not.

French expression of the day: Grouille-toi
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know grouille-toi?

Because if someone shouts it at you, it's good not having to waste time finding out what it means.

What does it mean?

Grouiller has nothing to do with grenouille, which is French for 'frog'.

It's a word that can mean 'to swarm', 'mill about', or 'crowd', but it's mostly used to say 'get a move on'. 

Grouille-toi – hurry up.

It's a bit colloquial and usually combined with the informal form of 'you', tu. The politer version would be grouillez-vous, but you wouldn't really say that. You could use dépêchez-vous, which means the same but is more polite, but generally you wouldn't tell someone to hurry if they are a person you address with vous.

Grouillez-vous however works well if you're shouting at your pals at the soccer field.

If you turn it around and say 'I'm hurrying', you need to add a me: je me grouille.

Likewise, 'you are hurrying' becomes tu te grouilles.

Use it like this

Grouille-toi ! On va être en retard. – Hurry up! We're going to be late.

Oui, je sais, ne t'inquiète pas, je me grouille. – Yes, I know, don't worry, I'm hurrying.

On se grouille ! – Let's hurry!


Dépêche-toi – hurry up

Magne-toi – hurry up

Bouge-toi – hurry up

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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.