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French Expression of the Day: À tte

Don't worry, your French friend did not message you this jumble of letters accidentally.

French Expression of the Day: À tte
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know à tte?

Because you might be looking to decipher the meaning of these letters jumbled together after receiving a confusing text message. 

What does it mean?

À tte – is a French abbreviation, so if you were to read this aloud, the pronunciation probably would not make much sense. This is because à tte is only written, and it is part of a growing lexicon of French texting and internet slang. 

It stands for à toute (roughly pronounced ah toot), which is the shortened version of à tout à l’heure (roughly pronounced ah toot ah lurr).  

The expression means “see you soon” or “see you later,” and an English equivalent could be the texting phrase “C U l8r” (see you later). 

It can also be used to mean “recently,” “earlier” or “a short while ago,” depending on the context. If someone says that they did something, using the past tense, and then they add “à tout à l’heure” then that means they did it recently. For example, you could say: “j’ai appris ça à tout à l’heure,” which would mean “I learned that earlier.”

When it comes to gender, this phrase can be a bit tricky – both for native speakers and foreigners alike. Grammatically, “tout” should be in the masculine form, but in the phrase à tout à l’heure you pronounce the ‘t’ at the end of tout because of the liaison, so it has over time come to be conjugated in the feminine form (toute) as well.

This is most often done when someone is writing the shortened version “à toute” because the objective is for the reader to remember to pronounce the T sound at the end – otherwise it could be confused with atout (ah-too), which is a different word altogether. Thus, the written abbreviation “à tte” was born, using the feminine “toute.” 

The other option for ‘see you later’ in a text is A+ which means à plus.

READ ALSO 15 of the most common French text abbreviations

Use it like this

Je monte dans le train maintenant. À tte. – I am getting on the train now. See you soon.

Je rentre à la maison et je vais faire des courses.

Ok, à tte 

I am on the way home and I will pick up groceries.

Okay, see you soon.

Member comments

  1. If you wanted this expression to mean “a short while ago” or “earlier” or “just now” you would leave out the first “à” – “Je l’ai vue tout à l’heure” – “I saw her just now” ; “J’ai appris ça tout à l’heure” (not “J’ai appris ça à tout à l’heure”) – “I learned that earlier”

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French phrase of the Day: Etre en PLS

This one can actually save someone's life.

French phrase of the Day: Etre en PLS

Why do I need to know être en PLS? 

Because it’s not quite as life-threatening as it sounds.

What does it mean 

Être en PLS or je suis en PLS – roughly pronounced zhe swee en pay el ess – literally means ‘I am in the PLS (Position Latérale de Sécurité)’, which is the medical position you put an unconscious victim in. In English you would usually say ‘the recovery position’.

However it’s real meaning is ‘I am tired’ or ‘I am disappointed in a situation’ or sometimes ‘I have a terrible hangover’ – it’s roughly equivalent to saying in English ‘I’m knackered’, ‘I’m broken’ or ‘I’m destroyed’ – but crucially it’s not used for really serious situations that might genuinely destroy your life. It’s an exaggerated complaint. 

This is a phrase common among young people. ‘En PLS‘ is used in its original form by rescue teams trying to save lives, but has recently entered Gen Z’s vocabulary to emphasise a complaint.

Use it like this 

Après cette réunion, je suis en PLS – I’m knackered [British English] after that meeting

J’ai trop bu hier soir, je suis en PLS – I drank too much last night, I’m broken

J’ai perdu mes clés de voiture, je suis en PLS – I lost my car keys, I’m so pissed off. 

You can also say 

Je suis au fond du gouffre – I am at the bottom of the abyss (another dramatic one, it means being disappointed)

Je suis dans le mal – I’m in trouble

Je ne me sens pas bien – I don’t feel good

Je suis KO – I’m exhausted [from the English sporting term KO – knock out]