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French phrase of the day: Le cœur y est

French phrase of the day: Le cœur y est
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
If you prefer to avoid physical contact, but don't want to offend anyone, use this phrase instead.

Why do I need to know le cœur y est?

Because the Covid pandemic has made us abandon traditional French greetings.

What does it mean?

It literally means “the heart is there”, and it’s often used as a stand-in for a physical gesture you’re not able to do.

People up and down France have been saying this phrase more than usual over the past year and a half, as protective health measures have signalled the end – or at least the pausing – of la bise, the traditional French greeting where you kiss friends and family members on the cheek.

Foregoing la bise is no small change in France, and even after all this time there is often still that moment of hesitation when you don’t know if the person in front of you will go in for the kiss.

READ ALSO La bise blues: How the French are coping with the Covid kissing ban

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If you’re not comfortable with the physical contact, you can explain this, but add that le cœur y est – the thought is there. That way you’re signalling that you would have liked to have kissed them (even if it’s not true and you’re secretly glad you don’t have to awkwardly make a kissing sound while brushing up against your father-in-law’s stubble).

It’s similar to the phrase used by President Emmanuel Macron at the beginning of the pandemic, when, unlike Britain’s Prime Minister, he opted against shaking hands with his colleagues and instead announced to the room, “Je vous serre la main de cœur” – I’m shaking your hands with my heart.

The expression can also be used for when you haven’t been able to go to the lengths you would have liked, but believe it’s the thought that counts (although the is also a specific phrase for this: c’est l’intention qui compte).

Use it like this

Je ne te fais pas de bisou mais le cœur y est – I won’t kiss you but the thought is there

C’est un petit cadeau mais le cœur y est – It’s a small present but the thought is there


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