For members


French phrase of the day: En faire une maladie

Nothing to do with Covid - this is a long-established phrase in France that speaks to an important aspect of the national character.

French phrase of the day: En faire une maladie
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know en faire une maladie?

Because it is a timely expression for a health crisis, but it also says a lot about France.

What does it mean?

En faire une maladie directly translates as 'to make a disease of it', which is a metaphor for saying that someone is making a big fuss over nothing.

It is similar to the English expressions 'making a mountain out of a molehill', 'to blow something out of proportion' or 'to make a big deal' about something.

READ ALSO: Nine French phrases that English really should have too

The en at the beginning of the expression means 'it', and it's important to remember not to leave it out: Tu en fais toute une maladie alors que ce n'est vraiment pas grave – you're making such a big deal out of it when it really doesn't matter.

En faire une maladie is often accompanied by toute – en faire toute une maladie – which makes it even more dramatic and means 'to make a WHOLE disease out of something', hinting at a hypochondriac's tendency of turning minor ills into warnings of deadly diseases.

Accusing someone of being overly dramatic is common practice in France, which the French language attests to through its long list of expressions reserved for this purpose.

Most of these are food-based – en faire tout un plat de (make a whole plate out of it), en faire tout un fromage de (make a whole cheese out of it), en faire tout un cake (make a whole cake out of it) – but there's also the mountain-molehill example –  en faire tout un montagne de – and the more basic one, en faire tout une histoire (make a whole story out of it).

En faire toute une maladie can be used just interchangeably with these and means, just like the others, that ce n'est pas la fin du monde – it's not the end of the world.

Use it like this

Ça va, pas la peine d’en faire une maladie. – It's ok, no need to make a big deal out of it.

Ma belle-mère en ferait toute une maladie si elle savait qu'on a laissé les enfants manger une glace avant le dîner. – My mother-in-law would make a huge deal out of it if she knew that we let the kids have ice cream before dinner.

On m'a fait toute une maladie juste parce que j'étais quelques minutes en retard. Je trouvais ça un peu injuste. – They made such a big deal about my being a few minutes late. I thought that was a bit unwarranted.  

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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.