7 Common French Phrases We All Should Know

1. Faux Pas – Primarily used to refer to a “social blunder” or something that breaches some sort of norm or trend. A fashion faux pas, for example, would be used when someone is seen wearing a particularly awful outfit.

I suddenly realised I had carried out the biggest faux pas when I mentioned their affair in front of everyone at the table.

2. Coup de Grâce – The final, ultimate “blow” that finishes something or someone off. Originally, it referred to a deathblow to put someone out of their misery if they were wounded, but it can easily be used today to mean any final act or event. In a zombie movie, a coup de grâce is commonly referred to as a “double tap.”

“To finish a work? To finish a picture? What nonsense! To finish it means to be through with it, to kill it, to rid it of its soul, to give it its final blow the coup de grace for the painter as well as for the picture” – Pablo Picasso

3. Raison D’Etre – “Reason for existence.” Raison d’etre refers to the “thing” at the centre of our reason for being. For instance, creative writing is my raison d’etre.

“The clergyman is expected to be a kind of human Sunday He is paid for this business of leading a stricter life than other people. It is his raison d’être…” – Samuel Butler

4. Fait Accompli – An event or action that has already been set in motion, usually before we know about it, and that is irreversible. Its direct translation is, “accomplished fact.”

She felt as if her life was becoming a kind of fait accompli, a heartbreaking chain of events over which she had not control and that had swept her off her feet before she could even protest.

5. Carte Blanche – Unlimited freedom, unrestricted authority, a clean slate or (literally) a “white paper.” It indicates the complete freedom to act as you choose.

“I understand that you give me carte blanche to act for you, provided only that I get back the gems, and that you would place no limit on the sum I may draw” – Sherlock Holmes

6. C’est La Vie That’s life, folks! Usually used when something unfavourable happens, but we just have to deal with it anyway.

Great, another breakdown in the middle of nowhere, I thought. I stared at the thickening sky, waited for rain. C’est la vie!

7. Dénouement – I love this word, mainly because of its common association with literature and narrative. It essentially means “resolution” or the point where the culmination of various events are resolved.

 The dénouement left me in tears and as everyone stood to applause, I sat as if nailed to my seat. 

Return to: www.nataliesutherlandwriter.com 


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