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French Expression of the Day: Être crevé

The Local France
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French Expression of the Day: Être crevé
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

This French expression has its uses outside of the bike shop.

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Why do I need to know être crevé?

Because it's got a wide variety of slangy uses in addition to its more formal definition. 

What does it mean?

Être crevé - roughly pronounced eh-truh creh-vay - technically translates as ‘to be punctured’. 

In the official definition, it means ‘to puncture’ or ‘to burst’. If you run over something sharp on your bicycle tyre, you would say j'ai un pneu crevé (I have a flat tyre). Similarly, you might use it to describe a bubble popping. 

However, it also has several common colloquial meanings.

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One is ‘to be exhausted’ or ‘to be knackered’ - after a long day of work or 100km bike ride, you might come home and say je suis crevé.

A more formal synonym for exhausted would be epuisé or fatigué.

The word can also be extended to mean something that has died - usually an animal (it would be colloquial to use crever for a human death). It is like saying something or someone has ‘croaked’ in English.

To describe someone who ‘works themselves to death’, you could say il se crève à travailler.

In an emotional sense, you can use crever to describe a sensation. For instance, you might say you are ‘bursting with joy’ (Crever de joie).

This works for anything that you feel strongly or need, so you could also say je creve de faim to mean ‘starving’ or crever de soif for ‘dying of thirst’ or crever de chaud to mean 'dying in this heat' - these are all colloquialisms and you wouldn't use them in a situation where someone is actually starving or dying of thirst.

If you're using them in this context, you say 'je creve de . . .' - if you're talking about being exhausted you say 'je suis crevé'.

The final place where you might see this is at the French Foreign Legion - the legion's motto is Marche ou creve (march or croak) and some of the more committed members of the legion have it tattooed on their face.

Use it like this

Je suis tellement crevée après avoir passé tout le week-end avec mes beaux-parents. - I am so exhausted after spending the whole weekend with my in-laws.

Tu te crèves pour rien. Il faut apprendre à dire non. - You are exhausting yourself for nothing. You must learn to say no.

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