For members


French phrase of the day: Point barre !

This is the perfect way to end an argument in French.

French phrase of the day: Point barre !
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know point barre?

It’s particularly useful if you have kids, or anybody else in your life who won’t do what you tell them.

What does it mean?

Point barre is used the same way as “period” in American English and “full stop” in British English. You would say it once you’ve made your final point and want to make it clear the conversation is over.

Why can’t you just say Point ! which on its own means period/full stop? Well, you can, but point barre is just as common.

As for the barre (bar), some have suggested that it refers to the spacebar, since when you end a sentence on a computer or typewriter you will add a full stop and then a space.

Another theory says that it comes from the Telex communications systems used by the military in the mid-20th Century, where the end of a message would be signified by “./”. “This allowed one to verify the authenticity of a document,” according to the online dictionary Expressio.

You also have the option of the more wordy un point c’est tout (a full stop, that’s all), which means more or less the same thing.

Use it like this

C’est le meilleur film de l’année, point barre – It’s the best film of the year, end of discussion

On n’y va pas, point ! – We’re not going, and that’s final!

Tu vas faire tes devoirs tout de suite, un point c’est tout – You’re going to do your homework right now, period

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

This might look like a mix of Spanish and French, but it is definitely not Franish.

French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

Why do I need to know mettre le holà?

Because you might need to do this if your friends go from laughing with you to laughing at you. 

What does it mean?

Mettre le holà – pronounced meh-truh luh oh-la – literally means to put the ‘holà’ on something. You might be thinking this must be some clever mix of Spanish and French, but ‘holà’ actually has nothing to do with the Spanish greeting. 

This expression is a way to say that’s enough – or to ‘put the brakes on something.’

If a situation appears to be agitated, and you feel the need to intervene in order to help calm things down, then this might be the expression you would use. Another way of saying it in English might be to ‘put the kibosh on it.’

While the origins of ‘kibosh’ appear to be unknown, ‘holà’ goes back to the 14th century in France. Back then, people would shout “Ho! Qui va là?” (Oh, who goes there?) as an interjection to call someone out or challenge them. 

Over time this transformed into the simple holà, which you might hear on the streets, particularly if you engage in some risky jaywalking. 

A French synonym for this expression is ‘freiner’ – which literally means ‘to break’ or ‘put the brakes on,’ and can be used figuratively as well as literally. 

Use it like this

Tu aurais dû mettre le holà tout de suite. Cette conversation a duré bien trop longtemps, et il était si offensif. – You should have put a stop to that immediately. That conversation went on for too long, and he was so offensive. 

J’ai essayé de mettre le holà à la blague sur ma mère, mais ils étaient sans pitié. – I tried to put a stop to the joke about my mother, but they were merciless.