French phrase of the day: Mine de rien

French phrase of the day: Mine de rien
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Knowing how to keep your 'nothing face' is essential learning in France.

Why do I need to know mine de rien?

Because it’s common and tricky to grasp the meaning of when you try and translate it directly.

What does it mean?

Mine de rien, which loosely translates as ‘nothing face’ or ‘facial expression that says nothing’, is the French way of saying that someone is acting ‘casual’, ‘nonchalant’, ‘indifferent’ or ‘cool as a cucumber’.

Mine is a French word that refers to your facial or bodily expression. De rien directly translates as ‘of nothing’, but is most often used to say ‘you’re welcome’ following a ‘thank you’.

However here it actually means ‘nothing’, as mine de rien is that face you make when you pretend to be totally indifferent even if you’re boiling inside.

You DO rather than ARE mine de rien in French. You combine it with the verb faire (to do). Faire mine de means ‘to pretend’ in French, so faire mine de rien – pretend like nothing is wrong.

French online dictionary l’Internaute says the expression “seems to have originated” at the end of the 17th century, but doesn’t state exactly how.

Another online dictionary, l’Expressio, points out that mine is often used in French to refer to a person’s appearance. For example avoir bonne mine (looking good), or avoir sale mine (looking tired or dragged).

Use it like this

Il m’a vraiment blessé, mais j’ai fait mine de rien pour qu’il ne le voie pas. – He really hurt me, but I pretended like nothing was wrong so that he wouldn’t notice.

Elle adore faire mine de rien lorsque les adultes parlent, mais en vrai elle se souvient de toutes les conversations. – She loves to pretend to be completely indifferent when the grownups talk, but really she’s remembering every conversation.

Ça ne dérange pas tes parents que tu fumes ? / Si, mais ils font mine de rien pour qu’on ne se dispute pas. – Doesn’t it bother your parents that you smoke? / Yes, but they pretend like it doesn’t so as to avoid getting into an argument.

Don’t confuse it with..

Mine de rien can also mean ‘after all’, as in: on avait attendu très longtemps, mine de rien – after all, we had waited a very long time.

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