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Lesson Transcript

Michael: What are interjections?
Aurore: And are they commonly used in French?
Michael: At FrenchPod101.com, we hear these questions often. Imagine the following situation: Philippine Petit makes a visit to the hospital for a flu shot. During the process, she says:
Philippine Petit: Aïe !
Philippine Petit: Aïe !
Jacqueline Jérôme: Encore un instant.
Michael: Once more with the English translation.
Philippine Petit: Aïe !
Michael: "Ouch!"
Jacqueline Jérôme: Encore un instant.
Michael: "Just a little longer."

Lesson focus

Michael: In this lesson, we will be looking at interjections in French. The French word for "interjection" is:
Aurore: l'interjection
Michael: But what exactly is an interjection? Interjections are words that are put between other words to express a feeling or a spontaneous reaction. They can also stand on their own and are traditional parts of speech in their own right, in the same way that nouns, verbs, and other words are. In a way, interjections could even be seen as the emojis of language!
Michael: The word "Yuck!" in English is a good example of an interjection. You can combine it with other words, as in, "Yuck, this milk is spoiled!" But it can stand on its own too, as in when someone sees something they don't like and simply says, "Yuck!" or
Aurore: Beurk !
Michael: in French. Just like in most languages, French interjections are used to express certain emotions, such as pain, disgust, fear, shock, and awe. There are also interjections that are associated with noise, food, and annoying situations. Speaking of food, a very common French interjection associated with food is
Aurore: Miam miam !
Michael: It's the French equivalent of "Yum yum!" or "Yummy!" You could always say,
Aurore: délicieux
Michael: when complimenting food in French, but an interjection such as "Yum yum!" should also do the trick in informal situations. A similar expression would be,
Aurore: Que c'est bon !
Michael: which means "How tasty!" or "How good!" Another very common French interjection is
Aurore: Ça alors !
Michael: This is the French equivalent of "Wow," and, like in English, it's an exclamatory phrase that often indicates pleasure and excitement, and can also be used to express indignation and incredulity. What if you want to express that something is not that good or is of a poor quality? Let's say you stayed overnight at some hotel, and you didn't like service there. Someone asks you, "How was their service?" To express disappointment in French, you can say,
Aurore: Bof !
Michael: This can be translated in English as "Meh," an expression that translates to disappointment or unhappiness about something. Another way to express annoyance or frustration is by saying
Aurore: Mince !
Michael: In English, this would be the expression "Drat," something you would say when you forgot your keys or failed to do something very important. A similar expression would be
Aurore: Zut !
Michael: or "Darn!" For times when you want to request silence, like when you're inside the public library and some people are making some noise, you can ask them to keep quiet by saying
Aurore: Chut !
Michael: or "Shush!" And, of course, there's also a French interjection for acknowledging a mistake, which is
Aurore: Oups !
Michael: It sounds like the English "Whoops!" with only the spelling changed. And, finally, there's the interjection
Aurore: Ouf !
Michael: which is one used to express relief. More like the English expression "Phew!"
[Recall 1]
Michael: Let's take a closer look at the dialogue.
Do you remember how Philippine Petit says "Ouch?"
(pause 4 seconds)
Aurore as Philippine Petit: Aïe !
Michael: As mentioned, interjections are used to express emotions like pain, and this is one of them. A similar expression would be
Aurore: Ouille !
Michael: which also means "Ouch!"
Michael: In this lesson, we talked about common French interjections, and we learned that they are used to express certain emotions, such as pain, disgust, fear, shock, and awe. Most of the ones we've learned have their equivalents in English, and, just like English interjections, French interjections can usually stand on their own.
Michael: The more popular and common French interjections usually come as one word, but they can also come in the form of a phrase. Most of these don't really literally translate to English, though. Here's one:
Aurore: Quelle horreur !
Michael: which means "How horrible!" or "How awful!" Another one would be
Aurore: Quel travail !
Michael: This is something you would say when you or someone you know is about to do or has already done an overwhelming amount of work. It means "That's a lot of work!." Interestingly though, this interjection can also be used, in a negative way, as sarcasm. So, instead of saying
Aurore: Quel travail !
Michael: to acknowledge the efforts of someone, you could use it to criticize their non-work, or the poor quality of the efforts that were made. Say you hired someone to repaint a room in your house, and it came out really streaky. You could take a look at it with a friend and say, "What a job he did!" really meaning "Yup, I paid for that and look at that mess…." And remember our French interjection for "Phew?"
Aurore: Ouf !
Michael: Here's another way you can say it:
Aurore: Quel soulagement !
Michael: "What a relief!"
Cultural Insight/Expansion
Michael: French is a beautiful language, but what makes it unique are the little sounds French speakers make that usually go unnoticed. As a learner of French, you must know what these sounds mean if you are to understand and speak French more effectively. Some of these sounds come in the form of interjections, like the ones we're studying in this lesson. Some of them are actually onomatopoeia, or
Aurore: onomatopée
Michael: Be careful not to confuse the two, because, while interjections are words and phrases that express emotions, such as
Aurore: Hein ?
Michael: or "What," onomatopoeia words are those that imitate sounds made by people, animals, or things. And yes, French has a lot of them, and, most of the time, they are mistaken to be interjections. We'll discuss French onomatopoeia in detail in another lesson, but allow us to give you a couple of examples:
Aurore: Toc, toc !
Michael: This one is "Knock, knock," imitating the sound made when knocking on the door. Here's another one:
Aurore: Pan !
Michael: This one is "Bang!" You could say that French guns have an accent too!


Michael: Do you have any more questions? We're here to answer them!
Aurore: À bientôt !
Michael: See you soon!