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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French phrase of the day: Porter ses fruits

Why it's great to wear your fruit in France instead of just eating it.

French phrase of the day: Porter ses fruits
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know porter ses fruits?

Because it’s a common expression that doesn’t translate literally.

What does it mean?

Porter ses fruits directly translates as ‘wear one’s fruits’, which sounds like an odd thing to do – unless, of course, you are channelling former Paris resident Josephine Baker wearing skirts made out of bananas.

However, the expression is a metaphor, signifying that something is ‘paying off’, ‘have an effect’ or ‘have an impact’.

If something porte ses fruits, it means that it’s working and producing the desired results, here using the secondary meaning of the verb porter – to bear or to carry.

The exact meaning depends on the context, but often the English equivalent would be ‘bearing fruit’.

You would think it should be porter des fruits, as in ‘bear fruit’, and not ses fruits, as in ‘its fruits’, but the correct version is indeed wearing ‘one’s fruit’, ‘its fruits’ or ‘their fruit’ (leurs fruits) when plural.

Les fruits (the fruit) in question can be anything from economic growth to increased support for a reform, to fewer people smoking following an anti-smoking campaign.

Whatever the initiative, strategy, reform or measure aimed to do: Ça porte ses fruits ! – It’s paying off!

French commentators have used it about countries that are now reopening, such as the UK, US and Israel, as a manner of saying that their anti-Covid vaccination campaigns are ‘paying off’. 

The tweet below says that “despite its flaws, the vaccination campaign is paying off in Europe, where the situation is improving – nearly – everywhere.”

Use it like this

On espère que le confinement va porter ses fruits dans quelques semaines et qu’on pourra enfin rouvrir nos cafés. – We hope that the lockdown will bear fruit in a few weeks and that we can finally reopen our cafés.

Le travail que vous avez fait porte ses fruits ! Nous avons eu d’excellents retours de la part de nos clients. – The work you have done is paying off! We have had excellent feedback from our customers.

Attendons que les mesures portent leurs fruits. Il ne faut pas prendre de décision prématuré. – Let’s wait for the measures to have an effect. We must not make premature decisions.

Member comments

  1. exit, pursued by a pear Pear, @DavidTibet:

    “I am surprised that there aren’t a lot of documentaries about Josephine Baker”

    Vous ne pouvez pas être sérieux!

    Youtube has dozens and dozens. Not to mention JB’s vast appearances in film, soundtracks, music halls, and so forth. Of course, more would be better! (Angela Bassett where are you?) I like La Piscine Joséphine Baker, moored on the Siene, Paris 13.

    Trivia: Josephine Baker is the only American-born person to receive full French military honors at her Roman Catholic high mass funeral held at L’Église de la Madeleine. A massive procession followed. Baker is interred at Monaco’s Cimetière de Monaco.

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For members

FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

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.

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