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French Expression of the Day: Ligne de crête

This is a good word to know because everyone in life faces difficult decisions at one point or another.

French Expression of the Day: Ligne de crête
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know ligne de crête? 

Because in the midst of the Covid pandemic, governments around the world are doing their best to find it.

What does it mean? 

Ligne de crête, pronounced “leen de cret”, literally means the “ridge line” and is often used to describe a series of peaks along a mountain range. In this sense, you would use it like this: 

Cette vallée est parallèle à la ligne de crête des Alpes bernoises au nord et des Alpes valaisannes au sud – This valley is parallel to the ridge of the Bernese alps to the north and the Valais alps to the south

Il s’agit d’une ligne de crête de sept kilomètres – It is a 7km mountain ridge

The word is often used in non-geological contexts too, often to talk about a difficult balance or compromise between two oppositional factors.

It is typically employed in the media to describe policy-making of one kind or another. It can also be used to describe a situation as being on a “knife edge”, implying precariousness. 

Le gouvernement tente de trouver une ligne de crête entre nécessité pour les Français de recouvrer des libertés et l’éradication du virus – The government is trying to find a balance between the need for French people to regain their freedoms and the eradication of the virus

Sur l’immigration, le chef de l’Etat évolue sur une ligne de crête entre fermeté et humanité – The head of state is walking a fine line between closing borders and humanity on immigration  

Les Paradise Papers nous parlent de l’art de surfer sur la ligne de crête de la légalitéThe Paradise Papers tell us about the art of surfing on a legal knife edge


Être sur le fil du rasoir – To be on a knife edge

Tout repose sur le tranchant de couteau – Everything is on a knife edge

Tout se joue à un fil – Everything is hanging by a thread

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For members


French Expression of the Day: La clim’

You'll definitely want to know about this during the summer.

French Expression of the Day: La clim'

Why do I need to know la clim’?

Because the lack of green spaces in cities might find you looking desperately for fresh air.

What does it mean?

La clim’, pronounced la-cleem, means air conditioning, it is a shortened version of la climatisation.

Climatisation comes from the word climatiseur, which itself comes from Klima in Greek and means the inclination of planet Earth from the equator to the poles. This inclination of the planet on its axis is responsible for the seasons and if you find yourself in a French city in August your inclination will definitely be towards climatisation.

Air-conditioning in private homes is not common France, some hotels have it but not all and in the summer months restaurants will often advertise air-con if they have it, as a way of luring in hot-and-bothered tourists.

If you find yourself desperate for cool air, head to a supermarket – almost all French supermarkets are air-conditioned in the summer. Or for a more fun option just head to the nearest city fountain or water feature and join the locals who are splashing around to cool off.

Use it like this

Il fait très chaud, avez-vous la clim’ dans votre hotel ? – It’s really hot, do you have air-con in the hotel?

Je n’aime pas mettre la clim’ en route car cela est mauvais pour la santé et l’environnement – I don’t like turning on the AC, it’s bad for my health and for the environment

Il fait froid, peut-on s’il vous plait éteindre la clim’ ? – It’s cold, could  we turn off the air-con?

La clim’ fait beaucoup de bruit, pouvons-nous la mettre en sourdine ? – This AC is really noisy, could we turn it down?


Un climatiseur – the formal name for an air-conditioner (in French the air conditioning is feminine by the air conditioner is masculine)

Un ventilateur – a ventilator

Un Brumisateur – a ‘fogger’ – these machines which pump out cool water vapour are often seen on the streets and in parks during the summer

Un Rafraichisseur d’air – an air freshener