For members


French word of the day: Assumer

Don't assume that you know what this means.

French word of the day: Assumer
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know assumer?

Because it’s a sneaky ‘false friend’ – it looks and sounds like the English ‘assume’, but it means something quite different.

What does it mean?

Assumer is a French verb that has nothing to do with ‘assuming something’. It’s what we call a false friend: it is very similar to an English term, which means it is easy to get them mixed up.

But translating ‘I assume’ as j’assume doesn’t really work.

Assumer means ‘admit’ or ‘accept’, so j’assume can be like saying j’avoue – ‘I admit’.

The exact English translation will vary depending on the context. Assumer can be about admitting responsibility for something, or accepting a situation as it is, like ‘coming to terms with’ it. 

J’assume complètement le confinement. – I have come completely to terms with the lockdown.

If you want to say you assume something in French, use présumer, (to presume), supposer (to suppose) or imaginer (to imagine or to guess). All these are, like assumer, ER-verbs, which are among the easiest verbs to conjugate.

Use it like this

Il faut assumer les conséquences de ses choix. – You have to take responsibility for the consequences of your choices.

Elle assume pleinement ses origines bourgeouises. – She fully accepts her bourgeois origins. 

Assume tes responsabilités, s’il te plaît. –  Take responsibility, please.


Endosser – take responsibility for something (put something on one’s back, figuratively)

Prendre la charge – take charge

Prendre à son compte – admit responsibility

Accepter sa responsabilité – admit responsibility

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

This might look like a mix of Spanish and French, but it is definitely not Franish.

French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

Why do I need to know mettre le holà?

Because you might need to do this if your friends go from laughing with you to laughing at you. 

What does it mean?

Mettre le holà – pronounced meh-truh luh oh-la – literally means to put the ‘holà’ on something. You might be thinking this must be some clever mix of Spanish and French, but ‘holà’ actually has nothing to do with the Spanish greeting. 

This expression is a way to say that’s enough – or to ‘put the brakes on something.’

If a situation appears to be agitated, and you feel the need to intervene in order to help calm things down, then this might be the expression you would use. Another way of saying it in English might be to ‘put the kibosh on it.’

While the origins of ‘kibosh’ appear to be unknown, ‘holà’ goes back to the 14th century in France. Back then, people would shout “Ho! Qui va là?” (Oh, who goes there?) as an interjection to call someone out or challenge them. 

Over time this transformed into the simple holà, which you might hear on the streets, particularly if you engage in some risky jaywalking. 

A French synonym for this expression is ‘freiner’ – which literally means ‘to break’ or ‘put the brakes on,’ and can be used figuratively as well as literally. 

Use it like this

Tu aurais dû mettre le holà tout de suite. Cette conversation a duré bien trop longtemps, et il était si offensif. – You should have put a stop to that immediately. That conversation went on for too long, and he was so offensive. 

J’ai essayé de mettre le holà à la blague sur ma mère, mais ils étaient sans pitié. – I tried to put a stop to the joke about my mother, but they were merciless.