For members


French Word of the Day: Filer

This verb has a plethora of uses - some of which are more useful than others - and there's even a way to do it 'English style'.

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

Why do I need to know filer? 

Because this word is used in a wide range of settings and it is best to avoid confusion. 

What does it mean? 

Filer, pronounced fee-lay, has multiple meanings. 

Formally, it is used to talk about spinning a material into thread – this is because fil means thread. 

J’utilise un rouet pour filer de la laine – I use a spinning wheel to make wool.

In a similar vein, it is the verb used to describe a spider spinning its web. 

Une araignée file sa toile – A spider spins its web

Filer is also used to talk about policemen, detectives and private investigators shadowing or inconspicuously following someone at a distance. It is thought that this is because this involves weaving through a crowd and maintaining a ‘thread’ to the target. 

Le policier a filé le voleur sans être vu – The policeman shadowed the robber without being seen

L’enquêteur a filé le suspect, puis il l’a perdu de vue – The investigator tailed the suspect, then he lost sight of him.

On the other end of the law-and-order spectrum, filer can be used to talk about making a quick getaway. 

Le cambrioleur a filé dès que l’alarme s’est déclenchée – The burglar fled as soon as the alarm went off

It is not just to talk about escaping after committing a crime however. It can also be used to describe any instance when you leave a location. 

J’ai dû filer de la soirée pour aller chercher ma mère à l’aéroport – I had to scoot from the party to pick up my mother from the airport

The word filer is often also used in a very slangy context to talk about giving something. 

Filer de l’argent à un ami – To give money to a friend

Filer une gifle à ton copain -To slap your boyfriend 

What is a filer à l’anglaise? 

You may have heard of a ‘French exit’ or ‘French leave’ – the idea of slipping away from a location or event without saying goodbye or letting anyone know.

Well in France, it should come as no surprise that this is referred to as filer à l’anglaise (to leave the English way). 

Other countries are divided on whether to attribute an unannounced departure as typically French or typically English. 

In Portuguese, German and Spanish, people refer to the French exit. 

In Czech, Russian, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Romanian, Ukranian and Walloon, people refer to an English exit. 

Ella a filé à l’anglaise – She left unannounced 

Member comments

  1. And not to forget the peremptory ‘Files, files’ a shouted at our neighbour’s dogs when they romp out to meet us. Equivalent of ‘Get back indoors!’

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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