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French Expression of the Day: L’eau brute

It might sound like a perfume, but you probably won't smell better after spraying this on your body

French Expression of the Day: L’eau brute
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know l’eau brute ?

Because you might soon be getting notices about this through your door, especially if you are a gardener.

What does it mean?

L’eau brute – pronounced low broot – might look like savage water, or hard water to the English-speaker at first glance but it literally translates to ‘raw water.’ However, the easiest way to understand this is that it is non-tap water.

The water that comes out of your tap (robinet) is considered ‘l’eau traité’ (treated water). 

And you might need to understand the difference if France’s summer drought continues – authorities in northern Corsica have announced rules around using both tap and non-tap water (l’eau brute) to water outdoor spaces. 

‘Raw water’ is not sewage, it’s just water that has not been treated and doesn’t come from the tap – for example if you have a well or spring in your garden then that’s l’eau brute.

In principle, l’eau brute comes from a water supply source that belongs to the commune or local authority – even if the well or spring is on your property – therefore local authorities can create rules around drawing from these sources, especially during periods of extreme drought.

Use it like this

Ainsi, pour l’eau brute (issue d’un captage ou d’un forage), la préfecture a décidé d’allonger la durée de l’interruption d’arrosage hebdomadaire de 24 heures à 36 heures. – Thus, for raw water (either from a catchment or well/borehole), local authorities decided to extend the weekly watering hiatus from 24 hours to 36 hours.

Il est dangereux de boire de l’eau brute, car elle n’a pas encore été traitée et peut contenir des bactéries ou des produits chimiques dangereux. –  It is not safe to drink non-tap water, as it has not yet been treated and could contain harmful bacteria or chemicals.

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

This might look like a mix of Spanish and French, but it is definitely not Franish.

French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

Why do I need to know mettre le holà?

Because you might need to do this if your friends go from laughing with you to laughing at you. 

What does it mean?

Mettre le holà – pronounced meh-truh luh oh-la – literally means to put the ‘holà’ on something. You might be thinking this must be some clever mix of Spanish and French, but ‘holà’ actually has nothing to do with the Spanish greeting. 

This expression is a way to say that’s enough – or to ‘put the brakes on something.’

If a situation appears to be agitated, and you feel the need to intervene in order to help calm things down, then this might be the expression you would use. Another way of saying it in English might be to ‘put the kibosh on it.’

While the origins of ‘kibosh’ appear to be unknown, ‘holà’ goes back to the 14th century in France. Back then, people would shout “Ho! Qui va là?” (Oh, who goes there?) as an interjection to call someone out or challenge them. 

Over time this transformed into the simple holà, which you might hear on the streets, particularly if you engage in some risky jaywalking. 

A French synonym for this expression is ‘freiner’ – which literally means ‘to break’ or ‘put the brakes on,’ and can be used figuratively as well as literally. 

Use it like this

Tu aurais dû mettre le holà tout de suite. Cette conversation a duré bien trop longtemps, et il était si offensif. – You should have put a stop to that immediately. That conversation went on for too long, and he was so offensive. 

J’ai essayé de mettre le holà à la blague sur ma mère, mais ils étaient sans pitié. – I tried to put a stop to the joke about my mother, but they were merciless.