Don’t learn French, it’s a mess – Part 5 : La place des adjectifs

An adjective in French must be written after the name. A red house is “une maison rouge”, but poets like to put before to sound poetic.

The meaning can be different if you put it before or after. Un “grand homme” is a great man, and un “homme grand” means a tall man.

Here’s a (uncomplete) list of these : ancien, brave, cher, chic, curieux, certain, drôle, grand, jeune, nul, pauvre, petit, seul, sale…

  • un drôle de chat (a strange cat), un chat drôle (a funny cat)
  • une seule dame (only one woman), une dame seule (a lonely woman)

Short adjectives are often written before the name : un vieux château (an old castle), une jeune fille (a young girl).

Well, some of them can be placed before or after : “un excellent travail”, or “un travail excellent” (good job!).

English adjectives are invariables. In French, adjectives change depending on gender and number (I’m sorry, dear).


  1. Un petit homme (a little man)
  2. Une petite fille (a little girl)
  3. Des petits crayons (little pencils)
  4. Des petites boîtes (little boxes)


Some adjectives like beau (beautiful) and nouveau (new) are really tricky.

You can say “un homme beau” (an handsome man) but more commonly “un bel homme” (I don’t know why, but I suppose it’s because it sounds better like that !).

“Il a un nouveau clavier” (he has a new keyboard) but “Il a un nouvel ordinateur” (he has a new computer) – just because it’d sound ugly with a nouveau-ordinateur (o-o).



Read books and watch movies, that’s a good way to learn all this…

Thanks for reading!



“Ces belles fleurs et ces beaux poissons sont à moi !”


Bécassine is our first French comics character

Bécassine is “a French comic strip and the name of its heroine”, appearing for the first time in the first issue of La Semaine de Suzette in… 1905.

She is of course a “stereotype”, from Bretagne, the typical provincial girl.

One day, she’s asked to embroider a little bird on a napkin. “And the others? – Idem”. Thus, she makes one bird and embroiders IDEM on the others.

Well, that’s all! Here are a few pictures, and our kind of MTV clip, and… a new movie in France this year!

Thanks for reading!






Paul-Jean Toulet, French poet

Paul-Jean Toulet (1867-1920) was a French poet. Don’t worry : he’s completely forgotten in France.

He wrote a delicious novel called “My Friend Nane”, and also Les Contrerimes, very short poems.

I offer you this one :

The evening coolness — as if filtered through
An emerald — brings your knees together, pressed,
And so you seem less nude. But, entre nous,
Your husband would say: “Just look at how you’re dressed!”

Cette fraîcheur du soir, qu’on dirai que tamise
Une émeraude, a fait se joindre tes genoux,
Et tu sembles moins nue ainsi. Mais entre nous,
Ton mari te dirait: “Comme vous voilà mise.


Toulet is free, and naughty, light, but always a bit melancholic…


Across the night’s hollow,
O sea, you whom I sense quiver
Like the breast of a lover
Turning on her pillow;

The heavy wind strikes the bluff…
What! If the mocking dart
Of a siren is in my heart –
O heart, divine rebuff.

What, no more tears,
Since no one heeds…
Quietly, like a heart that bleeds,
The rain appears.

Ô mer, toi que je sens frémir
À travers la nuit creuse,
Comme le sein d’ une amoureuse
Qui ne peut pas dormir ;

Le vent lourd frappe la falaise…
Quoi ! Si le chant moqueur
D’ une sirène est dans mon coeur-
Ô coeur, divin malaise.

Quoi, plus de larmes, ni d’ avoir
Personne qui vous plaigne…
Tout bas, comme d’ un flanc qui saigne,
Il s’ est mis à pleuvoir.

One more ?

Iris, with her brilliant pall
Lights with seven fires dancing
The gentle rain, advancing,

Ah, on the summer roses
Drape the shimmering train,
And veil, soft rain,
Their arid poses.

And you, whose joyous cries
Concealed such fears
May I at last see tears
Fill your eyes

Iris, à son brillant mouchoir,
De sept feux illumine
La molle averse qui chemine,
Harmonieuse à choir.

Ah, sur les roses de l’ été,
Sois la mouvante robe,
Molle averse, qui me dérobe
Leur aride beauté

Et vous, dont le rire joyeux
M’ a caché tant d’ alarmes,
Puissé-je voir enfin des larmes
Monter jusqu’ à vos yeux.

Iris is the rainbow, of course…


A last one, the best for me :


We lightly touch as I awake

      in the wide, untidy bed;

what faithless dream is in her head

      that has her tremble, shake?

A sharp, thin ray of sunlight burns

      the ceiling like a shard.

Outside, down in the yard

      I hear the scrape of churns.

Dans le lit vaste et dévasté

      J’ ouvre les yeux près d’ elle ;

Je l’ effleure : un songe infidèle

      L’ embrasse à mon côté.

Une lueur tranchante et mince

      Échancre mon plafond.

Très loin, sur le pavé profond,

      J’ entends un seau qui grince…


Thanks for reading!

You can buy me a coffee!









Don’t learn French, it’s a mess – Part 4 : Letters you don’t say

You have in English a few letters “you don’t say”, like the K in knife. If French, if you try to speak what your read, you’re dead.

We love useless letters. AND we sprinkled all this with difficulties.

We love the final useless S, and you have to say Paree for Paris (BUT you have to say it for the city of Reims). I know…

Forget the P and the S in Temps (time), and don’t say the C in Tabac (tobacco). Haut (up) is pronunced “Ho”.

Imagine you have to say “I want” : Je veux. OK, you say “Je ve”, that’s all.

“A knot”? Un nœud – just say “Un ne”.


Monsieur” is worse, because… Oh forget it!

Other cities? You say all the letters of Brest, but forget the final S for Orléans or Calais, OK? Metz : says “mess”. Bruxelles? Well, some say Bruxel, some others Brussel. Rahhhh!

We don’t say the M in Automne, we don’t say the P in Compter (to count), we don’t say the D in Grand or in Dernier, or the G in Long. But we have to say it if it’s féminine : Dernière, “the feminine last”…

Yes, the genre. A car in feminine. Oh hell… that’s another article, right? 🙂

Thanks for reading! Bonne nuit !


Henri Michaux : La Ralentie “The slowed down”

Henri Michaux : La Ralentie “The slowed down” (extract)


Slowed down she feels the pulse of things; there one snore; one has all the time; quietly, all the life.
One gulps down sounds, one swallow them quietly; all the life.
One live in one’s shoe.
One cleans it up.
One doesn’t need to squeeze oneself.
One has all he time.
One savors.
One laughs in one’s fist.
One doesn’t believe what one knows anymore
One doesn’t need to count anymore.
One is happy drinking; on is happy not drinking.
One is, one has time.
One is the slowed down.
One has gone out of the drafts.
One has the smile of the clog.
One is not tired anymore.
One is not touched anymore.
One has knees at feet’s end.
One has no shame anymore under the cloche.
One has sold one’s hills.
One put down one’s egg, she put down her nerves.


Ralentie, on tâte le pouls des choses; on y ronfle; on a tout le temps; tranquillement, toute la vie.
On gobe les sons, on les gobe tranquillement; toute la vie.
On vit dans son soulier.
On y fait le ménage.
On n’a plus besoin de se serrer.
On a tout le temps.
On déguste.
On rit dans son poing.
On ne croit plus qu’on sait.
On n’a plus besoin de compter.
On est heureuse en buvant; on est heureuse en ne buvant pas.
On est, on a le temps.
On est la ralentie.
On est sortie des courants d’air.
On a le sourire du sabot.
On n’est plus fatiguée.
On n’est plus touchée.
On a des genoux au bout des pieds.
On n’a plus honte sous la cloche.
On a vendu ses monts.
On a posé son œuf, on a posé ses nerfs.



Don’t learn French, it’s a mess – Part 3 : “tu” or “vous”?

“You” is a little mess in English because one uses the same word to one or to a group :

“You come with us?” addressed to five persons is a problem : You to the group or you to one person of the group?

In French the first you is “tu”, and the plural one is “vous”. Therefore it’s clearer (even if in real life I know the context helps). “You come with us” means :

  • Tu viens avec nous (to one person)
  • Vous venez avec nous (to the group)


But we complicated it a bit much of course. Because in French you can only use “Tu” to persons you know very well : friends, family, or maybe little kids. First names = Tu.

The formal, polite way to address someone you just met, an employee, your superior or anyone you have to show respect, is not “Tu”, but “Vous”.

If you buy a coffee, if you’re a teacher in front of teens or adults, if you just met your future mother in law, you have to say “Vous”. Yes, like the plural. I know…

Therefore, “You come with us?” becomes :

  • Tu viens avec nous ? (to one person)
  • Vous venez avec nous ? (to the group)
  • Vous venez avec nous ? (to one person you want to show respect)


Yaah if you use the casual “Tu” to your new boss or to the waiter in a bar, you are clearly disrespectful.

The problem, then, is to find the frontier between both!

  • Some teachers (but not all of them) say “Tu” to students, even when they are 17 years old.
  • You can say “Tu” to your manager, but you’ll never do that with the top manager.
  • You will be asked by your future mother in law to address her with “Tu”, when you’ll know her a bit more. It’s often very hard to pass from one to another, and you’ll hear yourself telling back “Vous” sometimes. Maybe you’ll stay in that state!
  • We sometimes want to sound aristocratic for fun, and if you want to sound like a baroness, you’ll tell your mother “Mère, voulez-vous me passer le sel s’il vous plaît ?” insteat of “Maman, passe-moi le sel, stp” – “Mother will you please…” instead of “Mom pass the salt, please”.
  • Your “Please” becomes “s’il vous plaît” (formally), “s’il te plaît” (friends). Kids say for fun : “steup“.


To use tu is “tutoyer”. To use vous is “vouvoyer”.

I have a couple of online friends with whom we use only “Vous” in our emails – even if I’ve known them for 20 years. It gives a way I can’t really explain. A way to stand, to be focused and maybe elegant. It’s clearly a smile…


Let’s call it the “don’t call me by my first name” state…


Thanks for reading!

(and oh sorry for my English here)…



Instagram : keri_karina



Bastien Vives, French comic book artist

Bastien Vives is a Type. I use his work here to talk about these artists, who are :

Fast. Talented. Minimalist.

Economy of means is fascinating. As you see, a hair (or a face) is made of a few lines. No need for eyes sometimes. It says something, it showsonly what is needed, it also shows also an attitude : let’s be fast, casual, and genuine.

I wonder who I’d put into this splendid basket : Musicians? Movie directors? Writers? Do you have an idea?

Thanks for reading!