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French word of the Day: Psy

If you want to truly go native in France then you might need to see one of these - and no, we're not talking about the Korean singer.

French word of the Day: Psy
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know psy?

It's a common abbreviation which seems particularly pertinent right now.

What does it mean?

Psy is an abbreviation of psychiatre (psychiatrist) or psychologue (psychologist) or a more general term for anyone employed within the profession of psychology or counselling.

It is commonly used in everyday conversation in France is roughly the same way as 'shrink' in English.

Its pronunciation can catch language learners out.

Firstly it rhymes with 'me' not with 'pie' and secondly the 'p' is more or less silent, but has a very soft presence at the beginning of the word. 

Check out the video below for some examples of the 'ps' sound in French.


It's an informal abbreviation, but it's not offensive and in fact it's even been used by the government recently with a 'chèque psy' scheme for students – essentially vouchers to allow any students struggling with lockdown to get free access to counselling or psychological help.

Seeing a psy is common in France and there's no sense of shame attached to it – a YouGov poll from 2017 showed that one third of French people had been to a psychologist and France has one of the highest number of psychologists per 100,000 people in Europe.

READ ALSO Why do so many French people see a 'shrink'?

All of which means you are likely to hear people talking about it if you're chatting to French friends.

Use it like this

Apéro vendredi? Je ne peux pas, j'ai un rendez-vous avec mon psy – Drinks on Friday? I can't, I have an appointment with my shrink

Il proteste un peu trop, nous dirait un psy – He's protesting a little too much, a shrink would tell us

Trouver le temps de voir mon psy entre les rendez-vous avec mon avocat pour le divorce – c'est ma vie maintenant – Finding the time to see my analyst in between appointments with the divorce lawyer – that's my life right now




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For members


French Expression of the Day: Un de ces quatres

The perfect response to that invitation you don't really want to say a firm yes to.

French Expression of the Day:  Un de ces quatres

Why do I need to know un de ces quatres?

Because you will probably hear this phrase while trying to make plans with someone in French

What does it mean?

Un de ces quatres – usually pronounced uhn duh say cat-truhs – translates exactly to “one of these fours.” If taken literally the phrase really does not make any sense in French or English. But in actuality, it means “one of these days,” “at some point,” or just “soon.”

This expression is a shortening of “one of these four mornings to come,” which was first used in the second half of the 19th century. It designates a time that is sometime in the near future, but still rather indeterminate.

In French, the number ‘four’ is often used in expressions to refer to imprecise, or small, quantities. Some people say this is because four is the number for the seasons and cardinal points (North, South, East, West), so saying ‘one of these four’ shows a level of ambiguity. But unfortunately we don’t really know exactly how (or why) this phrase arose.

If you want another way of saying this, you can always stick with the regular “un de ces jours” (one of these days).

Use it like this

J’ai été tellement occupée ces derniers temps mais nous devrons prendre un verre un de ces quatres. – I’ve been so busy lately, but we have to grab a drink one of these days.

Il m’a dit qu’il nettoierait la salle de bain un de ces quatres, donc je suppose que ça n’a pas encore été fait. – He told me he would clean the bathroom one of these days, so I guess it hasn’t been done yet.