For members


French Word of the Day: Causer

This word is for those who enjoy a good chit-chat, chinwag or natter.

French Word of the Day: Causer
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know causer? 

Because it is not always what it sounds like.

What does it mean?

Causer, pronounced “cause-ey”, has multiple meanings in French. 

The first, most obvious meaning to English-speakers, is “to cause”.

In this sense, you would use it like this. 

Les grosses précipitations ont causé une inondation – Heavy rainfall caused a flood

Je ne veux pas causer des problèmes – I don’t want to cause problems

But a second meaning of causer is “to chat” or “converse informally” with someone. It is a really familiar or slang way of using the word and is something you would generally say aloud rather than write down. 

You can use causer in this sense like this: 

J’ai causé avec mon ami en prenant un café – I chatted with my friend over a coffee

Elles ont causé pendant une heure – They chatted for an hour

Est-ce qu’on peut causer deux minutes? – Can I chat with you for two minutes?

Good to know 

A nifty little expression in French is à cause de, which means because of – when you want to talk about a negative consequence of an action. 

For example:

À cause de la circulation sur la route, j’ai raté mon avion – Because of traffic, I missed my plane

À cause de la pénalité, l’équipe a perdu – Because of the penalty, the team lost

If you want to say “because of” to talk about a positive or fortunate event, you should use grace à, which better translates as “thanks to”. 

Grace à mon bon niveau de français, je cause avec pas mal de personnes – Thanks to my good level of French, I speak with a fair number of people

Grace à ses bonnes notes, elle a pu étudié à l’université – Thanks to her good grades, she could study at university

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For members


French Expression of the Day: De bonne heure

Surprisingly, this French phrase does not mean ‘on time’.

French Expression of the Day:  De bonne heure

Why do I need to know de bonne heure?

Because someone might tell you to arrive at this time, and you’ll want to know what they mean.

What does it mean?

De bonne heure – usually pronounced “duh bohn urr” – literally translates to “the good hour,” which you might think would mean “to be on time.” However, in practice, the phrase actually means to be early or to be in advance. The most common French synonym of this phrase would simply be “tôt” which means early.

It can also be used to describe something that happens early in the morning or early in the day more generally. 

Interestingly enough, when the phrase started being used in the 14th century, it did mean to be on time, but its meaning shifted over time, the reason for which remains unclear. 

Up for a pun? Say this phrase three times fast to feel happy (if you didn’t get the joke, it’s because bonne heure sounds like bonheur, French for happiness).

Use it like this

Nous avons commencé la réunion de bonne heure, vers 7h30, avant l’ouverture des marchés boursiers. – We started the meeting early, around 7:30am, before the markets opened.

Je n’avais même pas encore commencé à cuisiner quand il est arrivé de bonne heure. Je n’étais pas préparée à le recevoir. – I hadn’t even started cooking when he arrived early. I wasn’t ready to have him over.