French Expression of the Day: Changer de cap

French expression of the day: Changer de cap
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Politicians do it all the time, but it's not a fashion statement.

Why do I need to know changer de cap?

Because we have elections coming up in France. 

What does it mean?

It means to change direction – and is often used in a political context. 

It is thought to derive from the old nautical terms, tenir le cap and maintenir le cap, which mean ‘to stay on the same tack’ (carry on in the same direction). 

The cap in question here is not headgear (a baseball cap in French is usually known as a casquette). Un cap vrai is a ‘true heading’ – a navigational term used to describe the direction of travel relative to the north pole. 

Use it like this

Emmanuel Macron a assuré qu’il n’y aura pas un changement de cap de sa politique – Emmanuel Macron promised that there would not be a change of direction in his politics 

Xavier Bertrand n’a pas l’intention de changer de cap politique – Xavier Bertrand does not intend to change direction

Presque tous les présidents ont connu des désillusions et ont dû changer de cap politique – Nearly all presidents have known disillusion and have had to change their political direction

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