For members


French Expression of the Day: Vol à l’arraché

This is why there are announcements on public transport warning you to “soyez vigilant” when using your smartphone.

French Expression of the Day: Vol à l'arraché
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know vol à l’arraché?

Because it’s unfortunately a part of life in many French cities.

What does it mean?

Vol à l’arraché – pronounced vole ah lah-rah-shay – literally means “stealing by way of grabbing.”

It is another way to refer to having items stolen – it can be used as a synonym for pickpocket but it’s more commonly used to describe having items snatched. 

It is usually used to describe a purse or smaller personal item (maybe a phone, wallet, or piece of jewellery) being grabbed and stolen. 

While France is generally a safe country, petty theft is relatively common, especially in cities and tourist zones – often thieves simply snatch smartphones or wallets out of your hand and run, or grab your bag and run off.

There’s also the more stealthy form of theft of pickpocketing, where you only realise later that your items are missing.

Fortunately violence muggings or thefts with a weapon are less common.

Some home insurance plans actually offer reimbursement for stolen items, like smartphones. If this happens to you, you can file a police report right from the station. 

A synonym for this expression is “vol à la tire,” which translates to the more stealthy form of theft – pickpocketing. 

Use it like this

Les touristes sont souvent victimes de vols à l’arraché. – Tourists are often victims of snatch-theft

Il a volé mon sac quand j’étais assise près de la porte dans le métro. C’était un vol à l’arraché – He stole my phone when I was sitting next to the door on the metro. It was a bag-snatching 

Member comments

  1. I came across an expression today you might want include in this series. In a discussion of the tortuous negotiations going on between various parties and groupuscles before the Parliamentary election, aimed at forming more or less united fronts, Politico France referred to ‘les macronistes pur sucre’ which I took to mean those politicians who are mainstream direct supporters of EM rather than allied to other factions, either in LREM or outside it. I suppose it may derive from the jam label where ‘pur sucre’ means without artificial sweeteners.

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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