For members


French Expression of the Day: C’est coton

When something is 100 percent cotton, this doesn't necessarily mean it is a quality piece of clothing.

French Expression of the Day: C'est coton
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know c’est coton? 

Because not everything comes easy. 

What does it mean?

C’est coton, pronounced “say cot-on”, literally means “it is cotton” and you will frequently find the word coton in clothing labels.

The figurative sense of this expression is more along the lines of “it is difficult/challenging”. 

The term dates back to the late 19th century when weaving and spinning mills were a major industry in France. 

People working with raw cotton in the mills had to stay highly focused for hours on end to produce a high quality product. The dust created during the cotton processing often caused respiratory illness. It was not uncommon for factory staff to lose fingers in the machinery.

The work was tough and poorly paid – and became synonymous with struggle.

What began as slang for the proletariat of the industrial revolution has lived on through to today. 

Use it like this 

Trouver un emploi, ça c’était coton – Finding a job was difficult

C’est tout à fait possible, mais c’est coton – It is entirely possible, but challenging

Rester alerte, ça c’est coton – Staying alert is difficult

Effectuer des tâches administratives en France, c’est coton – Doing admin tasks in France is tough


C’est le bagne – it’s difficult

C’est un véritable calvaire – it’s a struggle

C’est difficile/dur/compliqué – it’s difficult/tough/complicated. C’est compliqué is the preferred phrase for someone who is about the reject your request

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
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.