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French phrase of the day: J’avoue !

French phrase of the day: J’avoue !
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
If you hear somebody use this exclamation, don't worry, they're not about to confess to a crime.

Why do I need to know j’avoue?

It’ll help you better understand the young French people in your life.

What does it mean?

J’avoue, from the verb avouer, means “I confess”, or “I admit”. There’s nothing unusual or informal about the verb itself – for instance, you might say, Il a avoué le meurtre de son patron – He confessed to murdering his boss.

Or in casual conversation, you could say J’avoue que je n’ai pas fait beaucoup de sport pendant le confinement – I’ll admit that I didn’t do a lot of exercise during lockdown.

It’s pronounced the same way as vous, to rhyme with ‘you’ in English.  

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But these days you’re more likely to hear somebody use j’avoue on its own. Particularly among younger French people, it’s often used as an informal way of expression agreement with something that’s just been said. In this case, you’re admitting that the person you’re speaking to makes a good point.

If you think exclaiming “I admit” doesn’t make much sense, you’re not alone, because its use divides opinion in France itself. Be sure to judge your audience before trying this one out – much like verlan slang, it’s an element of speech which traditionalists find particularly upsetting.

“You might not have noticed right away, but there is somebody living in your home whose entire vocabulary seems to have suddenly flown away only to be replaced by this strange expression which seems to mean ‘yeah’, ‘yes’, or, ‘I agree with you’,” complains one writer in Elle magazine.

Use it like this

Elle aurait pu nous prévenir si elle ne voulait pas venir ! – J’avoue. – She could have let us know if she didn’t want to come. – I know, right?

Tu as déjà rencontré son frère ? Il est grave cool.- Ouais, j’avoue. – Have you met his brother? He’s really cool. Yeah, true!

Ces frites sont trop bonnes. – J’avoue. – These chips are so good. – Totally.

Synonyms

Grave ! – Absolutely!

Tu m’étonnes – Tell me about it


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