For members


French word of the Day: Déjà

You may have heard this one already, but possibly not used like this.

French word of the Day: Déjà
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know déjà?

Because it’s a lot more versatile than you might think.

What does it mean?

Even people who have never studied French are likely to know that déjà means “already”, thanks to the English loan word déjà-vu.

This is its most common use eg J’ai déjà commandé, merci – I already ordered, thanks.

But did you know that it can also be used as a tag word, with a very different meaning?

If you hear somebody say déjà at the end of a sentence, it can mean one of two things.

If it’s used as part of a question, it can be translated as “again”, and means you are asking somebody to remind you of a fact that’s escaping you. So if a celebrity you vaguely recognise appears on TV, you may ask: Elle s’appelle comment, déjà ? – What’s her name again?

On the other hand, when déjà is the first or last word in a declarative sentence, it means “for a start”. It’s often used to put someone in his or her place.

So if you attempt to start a conversation with a stranger without the obligatory bonjour, they might take offence, and begin by saying: Alors, bonjour, déjà – So, hello, for a start. Of course, the incredulous tone makes all the difference.

We don’t recommend you use it this way unless your goal is to make the other person feel bad, in which case, go right ahead!

Use it like this

Je n’ai pas faim, j’ai déjà mangé – I’m not hungry, I’ve already eaten

Ça veut dire quoi, déjà ? – What does it mean, again?

Déjà, je ne suis pas ton pote, donc tu ne devrais pas me parler comme ça – For starters, I’m not your mate, so don’t speak to me that way.

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Les plus modestes

Surprisingly, this phrase has nothing to do with provocative dress or bragging about your achievements.

French Expression of the Day: Les plus modestes

Why do I need to know les plus modestes ?

Because you might want to understand why “the most modest” are always called out in government announcements and in articles

What does it mean?

Les plus modestes – roughly pronounced lay ploos moe-dests – literally translates to “the most modest.” 

At first glance, this phrase in French might be misleading for anglophones because “modest” is a bit of a false-friend.

In English, one might think of a Jane Austen character who is very respectable and never shows too much skin, or perhaps just someone who is very self-deprecating about their own achievements.

But in the French phrase, les plus modestes means people who are on low incomes or generally don’t have much money.

You might also see the phrase “les ménages modestes” (low-income households). 

You will often hear this term when the French government or press are discussing subsidy plans or budgeting efforts to assist low-income families.

It’s different to les plus fragiles – which is also often used in government announcements but refers to people who vulnerable for health reasons, such as the elderly or people with long-term medical conditions.

Use it like this

Pour protéger les plus modestes, le gouvernement a annoncé une subvention spécifique pour aider à payer l’énergie. – To protect the most vulnerable households, the government has announced a specific subsidy to help pay for energy.

Même avec les interventions du gouvernement, l’inflation touchera surtout les plus modestes. – Even with government interventions, inflation will impact low-income households the most.