For members


French Expression of the Day: Chassé-croisé

Originally a term from the world of ballroom dancing, this is now something that you will want to avoid while in France.

French Expression of the Day: Chassé-croisé
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know Chassé-croisé?

Because it’s certain you’ll see this phrase pop up every summer, and you might want to know why ahead of time. 

What does it mean?

Chassé-croisé – pronounced shah-say cwah-zay – means ‘crossover’ or ‘crossroads’ in French, and though it might sound like it is related to hunting (la chasse) it is actually all about traffic. 

Every year, holiday goers who enjoyed their vacations in the month of July (les Juillettistes) cross paths on the return with those heading off on their trips for the month of August (les aoûtiens), leading to a weekend of heavy congestion and traffic throughout the country. So, in a way you might need to do a little hunting during the chassé-croise…to find a parking spot during your pit-stop. 

Typically, the ‘grand’ (big) chassé-croisé is the last weekend of July – this year being the 29th through 31st. 

Interestingly, the expression is borrowed from the world of ballroom dance. In the 19th century, the  “chassé-croisé” involved two dancers – one doing the chassé (a ‘step-together-step’) to the right, and the other doing it to the left. 

While it is typically used for traffic, it can be used in other contexts to simply describe a crossover – like two climbers crossing paths with one another on the mountain: one coming up and the other going down.

Use it like this

Ils s’attendent à de gros bouchons pendant le grand chassé-croisé. Nous devrons partir très tôt le matin. – They are expecting big traffic jams during the crossover holiday weekend. We will have to leave very early in the morning.

Il est préférable d’utiliser le site ‘Bison futé’ pour organiser à l’avance le chassé-croisé, comme ça nous pouvons savoir quelles routes seront les plus encombrées tout au long du week-end. –  It is best to use the website ‘Bison futé’ to plan ahead for the crossover holiday weekend, this way we can know which roads will be the most congested.

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For members


French Expression of the Day: À la traîne

Procrastinators might be used to this expression.

French Expression of the Day: À la traîne

Why do I need to know à la traîne ?

Because you probably would prefer to be the opposite of this expression

What does it mean?

À la traîne – roughly pronounced ah lah trahynn – is actually nothing to do with trains.

It means to “lag behind” or to be “at the end” or “at the bottom of the class”. 

It is the opposite of the expression “en avance” which is used to describe the person or group ‘in the front’ or ‘at the top.’

The expression is likely derived from the verb ‘traîner’ in French means ‘to drag’ – usually used when a physical item is trailing behind.

You might see French media make use of this phrase when discussing a topic or theme that has been on the back-burner or less of a priority, as it is often ‘lagging behind’ other items.

Not to be confused with

This sounds similar to the phrase “en train de,” which has a totally different meaning – it means “in the process of” or “in the course of”.

Use it like this

Elle était à la traîne par rapport au reste de la classe dans l’apprentissage de la table de multiplication. – She is lagging behind the rest of the class in learning the multiplication table.

L’article explique que les salaires des enseignants sont toujours à la traîne par rapport à ceux des autres professions, notamment en ce qui concerne les augmentations de salaire. – The article explains that teachers’ salaries are always trailing behind those of other professions, particularly concerning pay raises.