French Language Blog

Allumer The Light – Forgetting A Useful Word In French Posted by on Apr 25, 2018 in Vocabulary

It can be surprising how ordinary useful words take a long time to learn. Something as useful as un tournevis (a screwdriver) is often skipped over in textbooks, but when you need one, it’s an important word to know how to say!

Image from Pixnio. Licensed under CC0.

Whether it’s un nouveau lit (a new bed) or une nouvelle expression (a new expression), realizing I don’t know how to say something en français can cause a conversation to suddenly stop as I either try to guess how to say it or think in English.

Most of the time both options lead to somewhat embarrassing learning moments. Par exemple (for exmaple), I was talking with un collègue (a coworker) who wanted to faire le point. As we entered la salle de réunion (the meeting room), I realized I forgot how to say something very simple:

Allumer la lumière
To turn on the light

I stumbled around the words repeating ampoule (light bulb) and lumière (light) and luckily mon collègue figured out what I was trying to say.

Est-ce que tu peux faire le truc…
Quoi ?
Tu sais le truc avec l’ampoule.
Je ne comprends pas.
La lumière ? L’ampoule ?
Tu veux que j’allume la lumière ?
Ah oui c’est ça ! Désolé, j’ai oublié le mot !

Can you do the thing…
You know the think with the light bulb.
I don’t understand.
The light? The light bulb?
You want me to turn on the light?
Ah yes that’s it! Sorry, I forgot the word!

While it was kind of awkward, the moment sticks out in my memory and always helps me remember how to say allumer la lumière.

After la réunion, mon collègue tested mon vocabulaire by asking me to do a similar task:

Tu peux éteindre la lumière, s’il te plaît ?

Can you turn off the light, please?

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About the Author: John Bauer

John Bauer is an enthusiast for all things language and travel. He currently lives in France where he's doing his Master's. John came to France four years ago knowing nothing about the language or the country, but through all the mistakes over the years, he's started figuring things out.


  1. Ackhalyvanh:

    Je​ veux bien​ parler la​ francaise… Parce que j’ai la​ ne utiliser par longtemps

    • John Bauer:

      @Ackhalyvanh Merci pour votre commentaire ! Si vous voulez pratiquer votre français, vous pouvez voir la page Learn French de Transparent Language 🙂