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French Word of the Day: Bombe à retardement

This word is useful in more than just military contexts.

French Word of the Day: Bombe à retardement
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know bombe à retardement? 

Because there is always a crisis just around the corner. 

What does it mean? 

A bombe à retardement, pronounced “bom ah ray-tard-ah-mon”, literally means “time bomb”. 

As in English, the French use this both literally and as a metaphor for something that will become a problem in the future. 

It can be used in a wide range of catastrophic contexts.

Typically, it would be employed to describe a situation rather than a person. 

The plural is bombes à retardement – the ‘s’ is silent. 

How do I use it? 

La situation est une bombe à retardement – The situation is a time bomb 

Une centrale nucléaire, sur terre ou sous terre, c’est une bombe à retardement – A nuclear power plant, above ground or underground, is a ticking time bomb.

Le pays est confronté à une bombe à retardement au plan démographique – The country is confronted by a demographic time bomb

La question de savoir si la torture est justifiée dans les scénarios de «bombe à retardement» reste controversée – The question of whether torture is justified in a time bomb situation remains controversial 


Une grenade dégoupillée, or “unpinned grenade”, is another explosive metaphor to describe a pending disaster. 

It can be used to describe both a situation and a person. 

Zemmour est une grenade dégoupillée pour faire exploser la droite – Zemmour is an unpinned grenade poised to destroy the political right

Cette nouvelle souche virale est une grenade dégoupillée – This new viral strain is an unpinned grenade

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For members


French Word of the Day: T’inquiète

This is a good example of something you won't find in your French textbook, but will nonetheless hear all the time in France.

French Word of the Day: T’inquiète

Why do I need to know t’inquiète?

Because you might be wondering why people keep telling you to worry all the time.

What does it mean?

T’inquiète – usually pronounced tan-kee-ett – literally means ‘you worry’ but in actuality it means ‘don’t worry.’

It’s a good example of the difference between spoken and written French.

It is the ‘tu’ conjugation of the verb ‘S’inquieter’ which means to worry.

The command “don’t worry,” which is reflexive in French, should actually be written as “ne t’inquiète pas” (do not worry yourself).

But in colloquial speech this is often shortened it to t’inquiète pas or simply t’inquiète.

It’s one of many examples where the ne of the ne . . pas negative form disappears in spoken French. 

This is in the ‘tu’ form, meaning it is informal, it’s not rude but you might not want to tell your boss to t’inquiete.

Use it like this

Vous vous en sortirez bien à l’examen de langue, votre français est excellent. T’inquiète. – You will do fine on the language exam, your French is great. Don’t worry.

Non, non, t’inquiète ! Tout le monde a adoré ton idée. – No, no don’t worry! Everyone loved your idea.


If you want the more formal version of telling someone not to worry it’s Ne vous inquiétez pas

If you want a ‘no problem/don’t worry about it’ type response, especially if someone has apologised for something, you could say Ce n’est pas grave (it’s not serious)

While you can also use Pas de soucis to say ‘no worries’, although that is slightly controversial and more often used by younger people.