For members


French phrase of the day: Changement d’échelle

If you're a DIY enthusiast you might already know the word échelle, but this phrase does not involve any real ladders.

French phrase of the day: Changement d'échelle
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know changement d’échelle?

Because it’s a common expression that doesn’t actually involve real ladders.

What does it mean?

Un changement is French for ‘change’ – un changement   and une échelle means ‘a ladder’ or ‘a scale’.

Changement d’échelle is inspired by the English expression ‘scale up’, and can be loosely translated as ‘changing strategies’, ‘changing approach’, ‘restructuring’ or ‘transform’.

It all depends on the context, but generally it means moving from one thing to something ‘better’. Businesses use it often to talk about big shifts, but you can also use it about speeding up a process.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex promised “un changement d’échelle” of the vaccination programme with the arrival of mass-vaccination centres in early April.

Here, le changement d’échelle was a metaphor for moving up one level in the vaccination programme, injecting many more doses of the Covid vaccine each day. 

However a changement d’échelle doesn’t necessarily involve going faster, it can also be a change of approach to life, such as moving towards a sustainable diet.

You can talk about faire un changement d’échelle – to make a change of scale – or changer d’échelle  – to change the scale. 

A similar expression is changer de cap, which means ‘to change course’.

Use it like this

Il faut très vite changer d’échelle pour la campagne vaccinale si on veut sortir du confinement ce printemps. – We have to change the pace of the vaccination campaign if we want to exit lockdown this spring.

Notre stratégie est d’accélérer le changement d’échelle des circuits courts. – Our strategy is to accelerate the shift towards short food supply chains.

Le changement d’échelle commence a porter des fruits. – The change of pace has begun to bear fruit.

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For members


French Expression of the Day: La Première ministre

A brand new coinage in the French language that reflects the changing times.

French Expression of the Day: La Première ministre

Why do I need to know la Première ministre?

Because France has one now.

What does it mean?

La Première ministre – usually pronounced lah prem-ee-air mean-east-ruh– translates as “the prime minister,” but this spelling is different from what you might be used to seeing.

This title is feminised, indicating that the prime minister in question is a woman. Under former PMs such as Jean Castex, the masculine title Le Premier ministre was used.

Élisabeth Borne made headlines on May 16th not only because she was appointed as France’s second female prime minister, but also because she will be the first to use the feminisation of the work title: Madame la Première ministre. The female prime minister who held the position before her, Edith Cresson, used the masculine version of the title.

Feminising work titles has been controversial in France, and most titles like “le Premier ministre” have been automatically put in masculine form.

But in 2019, France’s infamous Academie Francaise, which polices the French language and typically resists any sweeping changes to it, changed their stance and said there was “no obstacle in principle” to the wholesale feminisation of job titles. 

Use it like this

Le Président Emmanuel Macron a fait une annonce importante. Élisabeth Borne est la Première ministre. – President Emmanuel Macron made an important announcement: Élisabeth Borne is the prime minister.

“Madame la Première ministre, qui avez-vous choisi pour diriger votre nouveau gouvernement ?” a demandé le journaliste. – “Madame Prime Minister, who have you chosen to lead your new government?” asked the journalist.