For members


French Word of the Day: Astuce

This is a common and highly versatile French word - it is always good to have an astuce up your sleeve.

French word of the Day: Astuce
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know astuce? 

Because energy flows in the path of least resistance. 

What does it mean? 

Astuce, pronounced ass-stoos, is a noun that is generally used to refer to tips, tricks or skills that make something easier. 

We would like to think that our journalism is full of astuces to help you navigate life in France. 

You can also use it to describe a short-cut or work-around, particularly for technical difficulties (for example if a French form is demanding your département number but you don’t live full time in France, you can fill in 99 to indicate that you live overseas).

In this sense of the word, you could use astuce like this: 

Cette fille est pleine d’astuce – This girl is full of tricks  

Ce livre est plein d’astuces pour confectionner le gâteau parfait – This book is full of tips to make the perfect cake

Astuce can also be used to mean ingenuity. 

J’ai fait preuve d’astuce en résolvant le problème I proved my ingenuity by solving the problem. 

An astuce is not always positive however. If said in a certain tone of voice, it can be used disparagingly to suggest that something is a gimmick or facade. 

Il est considéré comme une astuce pour gagner l’élection – It is considered a trick to win the election 

La politique environmental d’Emmanuel Macron est une astuce – Emmanuel Macron’s environmental policy is a gimmick. 

Sometimes the word astuce is also used with the verb faire (to do) to describe word-play or pun-making. 

Je n’ai pas fait des astuces dans mon article – I didn’t make any puns in my article 


Astuce has various synonyms depending on which meaning of the word you are looking for. 

Tip/trick: raccourci (short cut), conseil (advice), competence (skill)

Ingenuity: ingéniosité, inventivité (inventiveness), génie (genius) 

Gimmickry/trickery: supercherie, tromperie, escroquerie, tricherie, artifice

Pun-making: jeu de mot (play on words), calembour (pun), plaisanterie (joking) 

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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.