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French Expression of the Day: Ligne de crête

This is a good word to know because everyone in life faces difficult decisions at one point or another.

French Expression of the Day: Ligne de crête
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know ligne de crête? 

Because in the midst of the Covid pandemic, governments around the world are doing their best to find it.

What does it mean? 

Ligne de crête, pronounced “leen de cret”, literally means the “ridge line” and is often used to describe a series of peaks along a mountain range. In this sense, you would use it like this: 

Cette vallée est parallèle à la ligne de crête des Alpes bernoises au nord et des Alpes valaisannes au sud – This valley is parallel to the ridge of the Bernese alps to the north and the Valais alps to the south

Il s’agit d’une ligne de crête de sept kilomètres – It is a 7km mountain ridge

The word is often used in non-geological contexts too, often to talk about a difficult balance or compromise between two oppositional factors.

It is typically employed in the media to describe policy-making of one kind or another. It can also be used to describe a situation as being on a “knife edge”, implying precariousness. 

Le gouvernement tente de trouver une ligne de crête entre nécessité pour les Français de recouvrer des libertés et l’éradication du virus – The government is trying to find a balance between the need for French people to regain their freedoms and the eradication of the virus

Sur l’immigration, le chef de l’Etat évolue sur une ligne de crête entre fermeté et humanité – The head of state is walking a fine line between closing borders and humanity on immigration  

Les Paradise Papers nous parlent de l’art de surfer sur la ligne de crête de la légalitéThe Paradise Papers tell us about the art of surfing on a legal knife edge


Être sur le fil du rasoir – To be on a knife edge

Tout repose sur le tranchant de couteau – Everything is on a knife edge

Tout se joue à un fil – Everything is hanging by a thread

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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.