For members


French word of the Day: Déjà

You may have heard this one already, but possibly not used like this.

French word of the Day: Déjà
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know déjà?

Because it’s a lot more versatile than you might think.

What does it mean?

Even people who have never studied French are likely to know that déjà means “already”, thanks to the English loan word déjà-vu.

This is its most common use eg J’ai déjà commandé, merci – I already ordered, thanks.

But did you know that it can also be used as a tag word, with a very different meaning?

If you hear somebody say déjà at the end of a sentence, it can mean one of two things.

If it’s used as part of a question, it can be translated as “again”, and means you are asking somebody to remind you of a fact that’s escaping you. So if a celebrity you vaguely recognise appears on TV, you may ask: Elle s’appelle comment, déjà ? – What’s her name again?

On the other hand, when déjà is the first or last word in a declarative sentence, it means “for a start”. It’s often used to put someone in his or her place.

So if you attempt to start a conversation with a stranger without the obligatory bonjour, they might take offence, and begin by saying: Alors, bonjour, déjà – So, hello, for a start. Of course, the incredulous tone makes all the difference.

We don’t recommend you use it this way unless your goal is to make the other person feel bad, in which case, go right ahead!

Use it like this

Je n’ai pas faim, j’ai déjà mangé – I’m not hungry, I’ve already eaten

Ça veut dire quoi, déjà ? – What does it mean, again?

Déjà, je ne suis pas ton pote, donc tu ne devrais pas me parler comme ça – For starters, I’m not your mate, so don’t speak to me that way.

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For members


French Expression of the Day: La Première ministre

A brand new coinage in the French language that reflects the changing times.

French Expression of the Day: La Première ministre

Why do I need to know la Première ministre?

Because France has one now.

What does it mean?

La Première ministre – usually pronounced lah prem-ee-air mean-east-ruh– translates as “the prime minister,” but this spelling is different from what you might be used to seeing.

This title is feminised, indicating that the prime minister in question is a woman. Under former PMs such as Jean Castex, the masculine title Le Premier ministre was used.

Élisabeth Borne made headlines on May 16th not only because she was appointed as France’s second female prime minister, but also because she will be the first to use the feminisation of the work title: Madame la Première ministre. The female prime minister who held the position before her, Edith Cresson, used the masculine version of the title.

Feminising work titles has been controversial in France, and most titles like “le Premier ministre” have been automatically put in masculine form.

But in 2019, France’s infamous Academie Francaise, which polices the French language and typically resists any sweeping changes to it, changed their stance and said there was “no obstacle in principle” to the wholesale feminisation of job titles. 

Use it like this

Le Président Emmanuel Macron a fait une annonce importante. Élisabeth Borne est la Première ministre. – President Emmanuel Macron made an important announcement: Élisabeth Borne is the prime minister.

“Madame la Première ministre, qui avez-vous choisi pour diriger votre nouveau gouvernement ?” a demandé le journaliste. – “Madame Prime Minister, who have you chosen to lead your new government?” asked the journalist.