French phrase of the day: J’hallucine !

French phrase of the day: J’hallucine !
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
For when something is so unbelievable, you must be seeing things.

Why do I need to know j’hallucine?

In English, if you say you’re hallucinating, people will be worried for your health. But say it in French, and they won’t bat an eyelid.

What does it mean?

J’hallucine, from the verb halluciner, literally means “I’m hallucinating”, but it’s also a common way of expressing shock. It means you’re so surprised, you can’t believe your eyes. As usual in French, the h is silent.

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For example, you could say, “€5 pour un café ? J’hallucine !” – €5 for a coffee? Unbelievable!

Alternatively, you can express the same idea using the adjective hallucinant (staggering): “Les prix dans certains cafés à Paris sont hallucinants” – The prices in certain cafés in Paris are unbelievable.

J’hallucine is often used pejoratively, when you want to complain about something or someone.

Just don’t let anyone from the Académie Française hear you using it – they consider it an “improper expansion in meaning”. 

Like a lot of colloquaial French expressions, it’s often introduced by Non, mais (No, but), which doesn’t really add any extra meaning but serves to emphasise what you’re about to say and to underline your shock.

Use it like this

Non mais j’hallucine, elle a vraiment fait ça ? – I can’t believe it, she really did that?

Rien n’est ouvert dans cette ville, j’hallucine ! – Nothing is open in this city, it’s unbelievable!

J’hallucine, elle me copie tout le temps ! – I can’t believe my eyes, she’s always copying me!

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