Getting to the bottom of the French words “dessous” and “dessus”

Three young women in denim jackets stand together with arms linked. We see their upper legs and torsos, up to their necks. We can see that two of the girls are blonde and the other is brunette. They seem to be outdoors, since their hair is blowing in the wind, but we can't make out the background. Below their open jackets, each wears a white t-shirt. Each has painted nails - red, pink, and hot pink, respectively - and each is wearing some kind of jewelry. The woman on the left is wearing a long necklace with a gold pendant. The one in the center is wearing a necklace with stones and a pendant of a ring and leather tie, and the one on the right is wearing a wedding ring and a watch.

In French, you’ll often come across two similar words that are actually each other’s opposite: dessous and dessus. What is the difference between dessous and dessus? What do they mean? And how are they used? Let’s learn about these two sometimes tricky words that can turn the world upside-down! What do dessous and dessus mean? Dessous essentially means “under(it)” or …


What’s that special something behind the phrase je ne sais quoi?

In a patch of light, probably the projection of a sunny window onto a gray wall, a woman runs her hand along the wall. The rest of the scene is in darkness. We can make out part of her back and her sleeve. She is wearing a black sequined long-sleeved top.

Je ne sais quoi is a French phrase that’s crossed over into English. But if you’re wondering what it means, you’re not alone. According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, it ranks in the 1% of the site’s most looked-up words.   What does je ne sais quoi  mean? Is it used differently in French and English?  Let’s …


How to talk about family (la famille) in French

A long line of what seems to be family members, including adults, children, and babies being held in adults' arms, stands on a beach near the water and looks out over the ocean. It's near twilight and the sky is colorful with sunset, light blues and oranges, with a few shadowy, wispy clouds.

How do you say “family” in French? It’s a question that seems pretty simple, but as is the case with families in general, sometimes things can get a little complicated! Let’s look at some common French family vocabulary and clear up some confusion about things like talking about family members in French and how to …


13 awkward French translation fails – NSFW

A woman sits on a plush chair covered in chevron-patterned upholstery in shades of oranges, whites, and grays. She has shoulder-length brown hair and is wearing two rings and a black sweater. She has her hands covering her face, as if in embarrassment.

Translation seems like such an easy thing. For instance, gâteau becomes “cake” — et voilà!  ….Or maybe I meant to say “cookie” because gâteau could mean that, too….   Yep, translation can get complicated, even when it involves a single, common word. Still, I’m not sure that excuses the people (or machines) behind these thirteen French translation fails. …


How do you say “French” in French? With audio

A crowd holds up French flags outside a building possibly the Louvre. In the foreground, a man and woman seem to be kissing but we can only see their foreheads.

“French person”,  “Frenchman” or “Frenchwoman”, “Frenchie”, or even “frog” – there are a number of ways to refer to French people in English. But what terms do French people use to refer to themselves? It turns out there are several fairly common ways French people refer to themselves and their language. Let’s look at how …