For members


French Expression of the Day: Faire long feu

When translated literally, this expression sounds like something a caveman might say - in reality, it is a little more complex.

French Word of the Day: Faire long feu
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know faire long feu? 

Because sometimes things don’t go the way we want. 

What does it mean?

Faire long feu, pronounced fair long phö (like the Vietnamese noodle soup dish), literally means to make a long fire. 

But this obviously doesn’t really make sense. 

In reality, faire long feu is an expression used to describe something that doesn’t go as planned, that fizzles out or that takes longer than you were expecting. 

It comes from an era when muskets and canons were still used in battle. To fire a projectile, the user would have to light a fuse which would burn all the way to the gunpowder in the barrel, triggering an explosion. This would propel the cannon or musket ball towards the enemy. 

Sometimes though, the fuse would burn but fizzle out before reaching or igniting the stock of gunpowder, meaning that the weapons would not fire at all. This is where the expression faire long feu comes from. 

Use it like this 

Cette stratégie de neutralité a-t-elle fait long feu ? – Has this neutral strategy failed? 

Ce projet a fait long feu – This project has fizzled out

Pensez-vous faire long feu à Matignon ? – Will you last a long time as Prime Minister? 

Lionel Messi pourrait ne pas faire long feu au PSG – Lionel Messi might not last long at PSG

Elle ne va pas faire long feu dans ce boulot – She will not last a long time in this job


There is a similar expression that conveys the same meaning and stems from military language:

Avoir des ratés – To misfire 

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For members


French Expression of the Day: La Première ministre

A brand new coinage in the French language that reflects the changing times.

French Expression of the Day: La Première ministre

Why do I need to know la Première ministre?

Because France has one now.

What does it mean?

La Première ministre – usually pronounced lah prem-ee-air mean-east-ruh– translates as “the prime minister,” but this spelling is different from what you might be used to seeing.

This title is feminised, indicating that the prime minister in question is a woman. Under former PMs such as Jean Castex, the masculine title Le Premier ministre was used.

Élisabeth Borne made headlines on May 16th not only because she was appointed as France’s second female prime minister, but also because she will be the first to use the feminisation of the work title: Madame la Première ministre. The female prime minister who held the position before her, Edith Cresson, used the masculine version of the title.

Feminising work titles has been controversial in France, and most titles like “le Premier ministre” have been automatically put in masculine form.

But in 2019, France’s infamous Academie Francaise, which polices the French language and typically resists any sweeping changes to it, changed their stance and said there was “no obstacle in principle” to the wholesale feminisation of job titles. 

Use it like this

Le Président Emmanuel Macron a fait une annonce importante. Élisabeth Borne est la Première ministre. – President Emmanuel Macron made an important announcement: Élisabeth Borne is the prime minister.

“Madame la Première ministre, qui avez-vous choisi pour diriger votre nouveau gouvernement ?” a demandé le journaliste. – “Madame Prime Minister, who have you chosen to lead your new government?” asked the journalist.