Literary Classics with…Nabilla?

Posted on 23. Apr, 2015 by in Culture, Literature

Image courtesy of Huffington Post.

Image courtesy of Huffington Post.

Sometimes you want nothing more than to curl up with a good book. With the internet, it’s easy to hop on to a site to find suggestions for new things to read. If not, you can choose to read one of the classics. Every language has their own canon of classics. Even if you haven’t read them, you can still probably complete their titles because of their influence on your culture. French reality TV star and auteur (auteure?) Nabilla Benattia was given ce défi (this challenge) on an episode of  L’Œuf ou la Poule ? (The Egg or the Chicken?).

It should be noted that Nabilla isn’t exactly known for her intelligence. She shot to fame with one expression on the show les Anges de la Télé-réalité (The Angels of Reality TV) in 2013. In an episode, Nabilla and 2 others are doing shopping for the house. The other woman puts shampoo in the cart because the other girls at the house didn’t have any. Nabilla wasn’t happy about it because she considered this a personal product and shouldn’t be purchased as something for the house. During filming back at the house, she spit out what has become une phrase culte (a cult phrase): Allô! non, mais allô, quoi ! This uttering became so common that even Ikea and Carrefour used it in their advertisements.

Now that we’ve established Nabilla’s credentials, let’s talk more about the contest she was given. She was given the first part of the title of 15 books and had to complete the title correctly. Other guests on the show were able to guess how many Nabilla would answer correctly (1 title, between 2 and 5 titles, between 6 and 10 titles, or more than 10 titles). I’m going to give you the same challenge. Most of these novels are French, but there are a few that come from other countries. I’ve listed the titles in English, too, if you want an easier challenge. Answers at the bottom.


  1. Lettres de mon ______ (Letters from My ____) by Daudet
  2. Le Rouge et le ______ (The Red and The ______) by Stendhal
  3. Les Malheurs de ______ (______’s Misfortunes) by la comtesse de Ségur
  4. Les Fleurs du ______ ( The Flowers of ______) by Baudelaire
  5. Le Bourgeois ______ (The Middleclass ______) by Molière
  6. La Gloire ______ (____ Glory) by Pagnol
  7. Le Barbier de ______ (The Barber of _____) by Beaumarchais
  8. Le Lièvre et la ______ (The ____ and the Hare) by de la Fontaine
  9. Crime et _____ (Crime and _____) by Dostoyevsky
  10. Madame ______ (Madame ______) by Flaubert
  11. Le vieil homme et ______ (The Old Man and _____) by Hemingway
  12. Anna ______ (Anna ______) by Tolstoy
  13. 19__ (19__) by Orwell
  14. L’Art de la ______ (The Art of _____) by Sun Tzu
  15. Boule de ______ (Ball of _____) by Maupassant

How did you do? I got 14. Nabilla managed 4, but she was given Le vieil homme et la mer because she said sa mère. Close enough. Check out the video of her playing below.

YouTube Preview Image



  1. Moulin (Windmill); 2. Noir (Black); 3. Sophie; 4. Mal (Evil); 5. Gentilhomme (Gentleman); 6. mon Père (My Father’s); 7. Séville (Seville); 8. Tortue (Tortise); 9. Châtiment (Punishment); 10. Bovary; 11. la Mer (the Sea); 12. Karénine (Karenina); 13. 84; 14. la Guerre (War); 15. Suif (Lard)

French Punctuation: How Different Could It Be?

Posted on 22. Apr, 2015 by in Grammar

Photo by Horia Varlan on Flickr.

Something as basic as how to use a period, a comma, and a colon doesn’t seem like the kind of thing you’d need to learn how to use en français. A period goes at the end of the sentence, a comma separates clauses or lists, and a colon introduces a title or a list or many other things.

En anglais, there’s a space after each of these punctuation marks. Cependant (However), en français the rules for these spaces are not the same! En règle générale (as a general rule of thumb), any punctuation that is made up of two different points or a line and a point ( ! ? ; : etc) has a space before and after it in French (except in Canadian French).

Voici un exemple d’une question en anglais :

What do you want?

Mais en français c’est :

Qu’est-ce que vous voulez ?

Remarquez l’espace ! (Notice the space!)

There’s another tricky punctuation point that can cause a lot of confusion between French and English. French numbers are pretty easy at first, but there’s a small detail that can be un vrai casse-tête (a real headache).

En anglais, the decimal point is written with un point (a period or full stop) and thousands are marked with une virgule (a comma), but in French thousands are marked with un point (or sometimes just a space) and une virgule is used for decimal points!

Voici un exemple simple :
Anglais : 1.5
“One point five”

Français : 1,5
“Un virgule cinq”
One comma five

It can become confusing with larger numbers and more decimal places:
Anglais : 1,500.005
“One thousand five hundred point zero zero five”

Français : 1.500,005 ou 1 500,005
“Mille cinq cents virgule zéro zéro cinq”
One thousand five hundred comma zero zero five

Next time you see des numéros français, double check la ponctuation! You don’t want to confuse mille cinq (1.005) and un virgule zéro zéro cinq (1,005) ! Surtout (especially) if you’re trying to get a vingt sur vingt !

5 Faux Amis to Watch Out For

Posted on 20. Apr, 2015 by in Grammar

Courtesy of Pamela Poole at

Courtesy of Pamela Poole at

Les faux amis, or false friends, are words or phrases that look the same or very similar in one language, but differ greatly in meaning. These are also known, more technically, as false cognates.

Les faux amis can be tricky for many levels of French learners and are made even trickier by the fact that English and French share so many roots (and words). Many of these roots and words in English and French share similar meanings, so it can certainly be difficult to recognize the cases where they do not, in fact, mean the same thing. For example, une librarie is a bookstore and not, in fact, a library (which would be une bibliothèque).

Here are five common faux amis (in all the examples below, the French word comes first, followed by the English word):

1. Actuellement/actually

This is, perhaps, the most common faux amiActuellement means “currently,” and the adjective actuel means “current”. If you want to say “actually,” you could use en fait instead.

2. Prétendre/pretend

In fact, preténdre CAN mean “pretend,” but this is not its common meaning. Rather, preténdre means to claim or assert something. For example, il prétend jouer au piano means “he claims to play piano.” If you want to say “pretend” in French, use faire semblant instead.

3. Attendre/attend

In French, attendre means to “wait,” although it unfortunately sounds very much like the English word “attend.” If you would like to say that you are attending a conference, for example, you would use the verb assister. For example: Elle assiste à une conference aujourd’hui.

4. Monnaie/money

In French, monnaie refers strictly to change or loose coins. It does not mean the more general concept of money. Rather, “money” in French would be l’argent.

5. Demander/demand

Demander is the common verb used for “to ask.” It does not mean “demand,” which carries more force with it. If you want to say “demand” in French, use the verb exiger. You can also use it as an adjective: Elle est très exigeante means “she is very demanding.”

Can you think of any other faux amis?