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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French phrase of the day: N’empêche

Another one of those French phrases which seem to be missing a few words.

French phrase of the day: N’empêche
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know n’empêche?

It can be hard to wrap your head around the grammar in this phrase, but it’s worth the effort, because it’s a succinct way of hinting at a contrast.

What does it mean?

N’empêche is a shortened version of the phrase il n’empêche que, which means “nevertheless”, or “be that as it may”.

Even the longer phrase can be confusing for French learners since it’s missing the word pas, which usually signals a negative construction, but an easier way of spelling it out would be Cela n’empêche pas que…, meaning literally, “This doesn’t prevent that…”

N’empêche is a staple of spoken French, although it’s rather informal so you won’t often see it written down.

It’s most often used at the beginning of a sentence – in a similar way to “still” or “yet” – to introduce a phrase which slightly contradicts what has come before. It means you have taken everything into consideration, but this one thing you’re about to say remains true.

Sometimes you might hear somebody begin a sentence by saying, “N’empêche que…”, while other times the que is omitted as well.

So while it may sound like a floating verb, you have to imagine the words which aren’t there in order to grasp its meaning.

Use it like this

N’empêche, ça aurait été bien de la revoir – Still, it would have been nice to see her again

N’empêche, cette victoire est bien méritée – That being said, this victory is well-deserved

N’empêche que j’aurais bien aimé qu’il me le dise plus tôt – Regardless, I would have liked it if he had told me sooner

Synonyms

Néanmoins – nevertheless

Malgré tout – despite everything

Cela dit – that being said

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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French phrase of the Day: Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines

Being patronised by a Frenchman? Roll out this phrase.

French phrase of the Day: Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines

Why do I need to know ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines?

Because someone might be trying to take you for a fool.

What does it mean?

Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines – pronounced ne me pren pah pour un lapan de see sem-enn – translates as ‘don’t take me for a six-week-old rabbit’, and is a go-to phrase to warn people not to mistake you for a fool, someone who doesn’t understand what’s going on.

The podcast Hit West from French regional newspaper Ouest-France suggests that the ‘six weeks’ comes from the age a rabbit is weaned at, and must therefore be ready to survive on its own.

And why a rabbit at all? Well no-one really seems very sure. Rabbits don’t get a good rap in the French language though, to stand someone up is poser un lapin in French.

English-language metaphor equivalents may be, “I didn’t come down in the last shower”, “I wasn’t born yesterday”, or, as Line of Duty’s DCI Hastings might say, “I didn’t float up the Lagan in a bubble”.

Use it like this

Honestly, keep it simple. If someone’s speaking to you in a patronising manner, simply say: Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines.

Ouest France suggests that this is the ‘more elegant’ way to request that people don’t take you for a fool. It’s not offensive, but it might be a little old-fashioned. 

Alternatives

You can use the more basic version of this phrase – Ne me prends pas pour une idiote (don’t take me for a fool) or the slightly more punchy Ne me prends pas pour un con (don’t take me for a moron).

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