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Word of the day: Trombe

This expression will come in handy this week with bad weather forecast in much of the country.

Word of the day: Trombe
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know trombe?

Because it’s a useful when talking about the weather, but also has various other meanings.

What does it mean?

Trombe literally means waterspout: a rotating column of water formed by a whirlwind over the sea. 

However it’s also an expression for bad weather. Il pleut en trombe means it’s pouring down with rain. Here are a few other common expressions the French use to talk about the weather. 

And when used with the verb démarrer (to take off), en trombe means at great speed, to take off ‘like a shot’ or ‘at full throttle’. It also means ‘to kick start’ something.

Use it like this

D’un coup, il s’est mis a tomber des trombes d’eau – Suddenly, it was chucking it down with rain

S’il atteint le sol, c’est une tornade et s’il touche l’eau, c’est une trombe marine – If it reaches the ground, it’s a tornado and if it touches water, it’s a waterspout.

Les personnes âgées qui traversent la rue ne veulent pas se faire frapper par une voiture qui arrive en trombe. – Older people crossing the street don’t want to get hit by car going at full speed

Je dois démarrer en trombe – I have to hit the ground running


Il pleut des cordes – It’s pouring with rain

Partir comme une flèche – To set off like a shot

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For members


French Expression of the Day: À la traîne

Procrastinators might be used to this expression.

French Expression of the Day: À la traîne

Why do I need to know à la traîne ?

Because you probably would prefer to be the opposite of this expression

What does it mean?

À la traîne – roughly pronounced ah lah trahynn – is actually nothing to do with trains.

It means to “lag behind” or to be “at the end” or “at the bottom of the class”. 

It is the opposite of the expression “en avance” which is used to describe the person or group ‘in the front’ or ‘at the top.’

The expression is likely derived from the verb ‘traîner’ in French means ‘to drag’ – usually used when a physical item is trailing behind.

You might see French media make use of this phrase when discussing a topic or theme that has been on the back-burner or less of a priority, as it is often ‘lagging behind’ other items.

Not to be confused with

This sounds similar to the phrase “en train de,” which has a totally different meaning – it means “in the process of” or “in the course of”.

Use it like this

Elle était à la traîne par rapport au reste de la classe dans l’apprentissage de la table de multiplication. – She is lagging behind the rest of the class in learning the multiplication table.

L’article explique que les salaires des enseignants sont toujours à la traîne par rapport à ceux des autres professions, notamment en ce qui concerne les augmentations de salaire. – The article explains that teachers’ salaries are always trailing behind those of other professions, particularly concerning pay raises.