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French Word of the Day: Causer

This word is for those who enjoy a good chit-chat, chinwag or natter.

French Word of the Day: Causer
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know causer? 

Because it is not always what it sounds like.

What does it mean?

Causer, pronounced “cause-ey”, has multiple meanings in French. 

The first, most obvious meaning to English-speakers, is “to cause”.

In this sense, you would use it like this. 

Les grosses précipitations ont causé une inondation – Heavy rainfall caused a flood

Je ne veux pas causer des problèmes – I don’t want to cause problems

But a second meaning of causer is “to chat” or “converse informally” with someone. It is a really familiar or slang way of using the word and is something you would generally say aloud rather than write down. 

You can use causer in this sense like this: 

J’ai causé avec mon ami en prenant un café – I chatted with my friend over a coffee

Elles ont causé pendant une heure – They chatted for an hour

Est-ce qu’on peut causer deux minutes? – Can I chat with you for two minutes?

Good to know 

A nifty little expression in French is à cause de, which means because of – when you want to talk about a negative consequence of an action. 

For example:

À cause de la circulation sur la route, j’ai raté mon avion – Because of traffic, I missed my plane

À cause de la pénalité, l’équipe a perdu – Because of the penalty, the team lost

If you want to say “because of” to talk about a positive or fortunate event, you should use grace à, which better translates as “thanks to”. 

Grace à mon bon niveau de français, je cause avec pas mal de personnes – Thanks to my good level of French, I speak with a fair number of people

Grace à ses bonnes notes, elle a pu étudié à l’université – Thanks to her good grades, she could study at university

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Chercher midi à quatorze heures

This expression doesn't actually have much to do with lunchtime.

French Expression of the Day: Chercher midi à quatorze heures

Why do I need to know chercher midi à quatorze heures?

Because when someone makes what should take fifteen minutes into an hour-long effort, you might want an appropriate phase.

What does it mean?

Chercher midi à quatorze heures – usually pronounced share-shay-mid-ee-ah-cat-orz-ur – literally means “to look for noon at 2 pm.” When taken literally, the expression does not make much sense. However, in practice, it means “to make a simple thing overly complicated.” It is basically the French equivalent of “don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.”

The expression is quite old, but it is still in use…though it might be more common to find it spoken in the countryside rather than on Twitter.

It was first used as early as the 16th century – the version then was “to look for noon at eleven.” As time went on, it changed to reflect its current form in the 17th century. 

As noon is an important marker for the middle of the day, particularly as l’heure de déjeuner (lunch time), the expression makes fun of making something overly difficult. 

You’ll most likely hear this in the negative command form – as it is something you should probably avoid doing.

Use it like this

Pourquoi avoir pris la route la plus longue pour aller au supermarché ? Ne cherchez pas midi à quatorze heures. – Why take the longest route to get to the supermarket? Don’t overcomplicate things.

Tu n’as pas besoin d’essayer toutes les lettres de l’alphabet pour trouver le Wordle. C’est mieux de penser à des mots simples. Ne cherche pas midi à quatorze heures. – You don’t need to try every letter in the alphabet to get the Wordle. Just think of simple words. Don’t over complicate it.