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Not all sugar and spice Posted by on Jun 5, 2018 in Culture, Grammar, Literature, Vocabulary

Last week we read an old story designed to remind les jeunes garçons sages (good little boys) how to behave. As promised at the end of that last post, this week, we look at a similar reminder for les gentilles filles (good girls).


I’ve used the “hidden text” technique again so you can practice your skills without relying on my translations. If you want to see the English, just use your mouse to highlight the hidden text below the French text. Let me know what you think in the comments.

La Mouche

«Qu'as-tu donc à t'impatienter ainsi, Mélanie?
"What has you so impatient then, Melanie?
—Maman, je cherche à attraper une mouche qui m'importune, afin de la tuer.»
I'm trying to catch a fly, Mother, that is bothering me, so that I can kill it."
Le lendemain, la maman était fort occupée* à écrire une lettre, et Mélanie se dérangeait à chaque instant
The next day, the mother was very busy/preoccupied writing a letter, and Melanie went out of her way continuously
pour lui demander une chose ou une autre, et souvent aussi pour le seul plaisir de parler.
to ask her about this and that, often simply for the pleasure of hearing herself talk.
«Il me semble, ma fille, que tu fais absolument comme la mouche d'hier;
"It seems to me, my girl/daughter, that you are acting just like that fly yesterday;
seulement, la mouche est une petite bête sans raison; et toi, tu es une enfant intelligente.»
except the fly is a stupid creature, and you, you are an intelligent child."
Mélanie baissa la tête avec confusion; elle retourna à sa place et ne dérangea plus sa mère.
Embarrassed, Melanie lowered her head; she returned to her own place and bothered her mother no more.

* Listen to how the at the end of fort ‘runs into’ occupée. View this post to refresh your understanding of when to make this elision.

Notice how this week’s story makes use of l’imparfait (vs. last week’s passé simple) to convey the on-going nature of the little girl’s behavior.

Here’s some useful vocabulary from this week’s story.

la mouchehouse fly
le lendemainthe next day
écrireto write
demanderto ask
la chosething
la filleyoung girl, daughter
This story comes from Project Gutenberg, a source of free digital books. You can learn more and find French stories and more on your own here.

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This weeks photo by Pieter Lambregs from Pexels (CC0 license).


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About the Author: Tim Hildreth

Lise: Maybe not always. Paris has ways of making people forget. / Jerry: Paris? No, not this city. It's too real and too beautiful. It never lets you forget anything. It reaches in and opens you wide, and you stay that way. / An American in Paris


  1. Connie Lam:

    Salut Tim, j’aime beaucoup the hidden text format and the sound option. It helps me to pick up new words and correct pronunciations. I’ve been trying to learn french on my own for many years (too many to count!) using mainly Michel Thomas CDs.

    The length of this post is just nice for me. 10 minutes to go through and do a bit of practice without losing focus.

    Merci, Connie.

    • Tim Hildreth:

      @Connie Lam Merci, Connie. I’m glad you find the format and contents useful.