French expression of the day: On s’adapte

French expression of the day: On s'adapte
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
All foreigners that have stayed in France will have had to do this on some level or other.

Why do I need to know on s'adapte?

It is useful when talking about both big and small changes.

What does it mean?

S'adapter is French for 'to adapt' or 'to adjust' (to a situation).

On s'adapte, which directly translates to 'we adapt' or 'we adjust', is commonly used in France. It also implies 'we'll be fine' or 'we'll manage', indicating that the someone or something making the adjustment is flexible and able to get with the times.

French online dictionary l'Internaute defines it as “changing to better correspond . . . or deal with an environment or a situation”. 

You can use it for small and big adjustments alike. It can be a startup changing its whole business model to survive an economic crisis; an animal species developing its exterior to survive global warming; or just someone having lunch one hour later than usual because they wanted to wait for a colleague – ils se sont tous adaptés, 'they all adjusted'.

Use it like this

Avec le confinement, on s'est adapté. On fait des économies où on peut, on ne dépense quasiment plus rien. – With the lockdown, we've got used to saving where we can.

Tu finis le travail à quelle heure ce soir ? Dis-moi lorsque tu penses partir et on s'adaptera pour l'apéro. – What time do you get off work tonight? Let me know when you think you will be leaving and we'll plan the aperitif accordingly.

En France les restaurants ne servent pas forcément des plats chauds à 16h30. Ca fait trois mois qu'elle est ici, il faut qu'elle s'adapte un peu aux habitudes françaises. – In France restaurants don't necessarily serve hot meals at 4.30pm. She's been here for three months now, she has to get used to French habits.


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