For members


French phrase of the day: J’hallucine !

For when something is so unbelievable, you must be seeing things.

French phrase of the day: J’hallucine !
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

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.

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!

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

This expression is more than just your last order at the boulangerie.

French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

Why do I need to know tarte à la crème ?

Because if someone uses this phrase to describe you, you should probably be a bit offended.

What does it mean?

Tarte à la crème – pronounced tart ah lah krem – literally refers to a cream filled tart, or a custard tart, in English. However, this expression has more to do than just baking. It is another way of describing something that is boring, predictable or commonplace.

This expression comes straight from Moliere himself. In the 17th century, there was a popular rhyming game called “Corbillon.” The phrase “Je vous passe mon corbillon” (I pass you by corbillon) is said, and then it is followed by “Qu’y met-on?” (What does one put on it?) To keep the rhyme up, people must respond with something ending in an -ON sound.

In the play, “L’Ecole des Femmes” (The School of Wives), one character says the ideal woman would respond to the question with “tarte à la crème” which is obviously the wrong answer. The right answer would be tarte à la citron (lemon tart). Molière did this on purpose to poke fun at the fact that disgruntled fans would send poor actors cream tarts to express their frustration.

It was a way of ridiculing his critics and showing he was unimpressed by their method of showing discontentment at his plays. Over time, the phrase went on to describe things that are commonplace or boring. It is often used to describe entertainment related topics, such as books, movies, or plays.

A synonym for this phrase in French might be banal and in English you might say something is ‘vanilla’ to describe something that is fairly unexciting.

Use it like this

Le film était vraiment tarte à la crème. Je ne recommande pas d’aller le voir au cinéma, vous pouvez attendre de le voir une fois qu’il sera gratuit en ligne. – The movie was really boring. I don’t recommend going to see it at the movies, you can simply wait to see it once it is free online.

Je pense que l’album est tarte à la crème. Elle a pris tellement d’idées d’autres artistes que ce n’est vraiment pas original du tout. – I think the album is predictable. She really took plenty of ideas from other artists and it was not original at all.