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Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Candice here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I'll answer your most common French questions.
The question for this lesson is When should I use tellement, si, and tant?
We might translate all of these words as “so” or “so much.” They all intensify words. So instead of something being just good, it’s “so good.” Or instead of someone working, someone can work “so much.” But, we can’t use them interchangeably. So let’s take a look at each one.
First, si. You might remember that si can be used to respond negatively to a negative question. If you go to France, you will often hear people saying mais si! meaning “yes it is!” in English. But si can also be used to emphasize an adjective or adverb. For example, Il est si gentil! Meaning “He is so nice!” Here, si, modifies the adjective gentil. Now let’s use it with an adverb – Elle court si vite. This means “She runs so fast.”
You can also use tellement in either of these sentences. Il est tellement gentil! Meaning “He is so nice!” and Elle court tellement vite. Meaning “She runs so fast.” So when should you use tellement and not si or vice versa?
First you should use si and not tellement when making comparisons. So you could say, elle ne court pas si vite que toi. Meaning “She does not run as fast as you.” But you cannot say elle ne court pas tellement vite que toi. That would be incorrect. And remember tellement is not as formal as si.
Here’s an example of when you shouldn’t use si, but tellement instead – Tellement can be used to mean “so many/much.” It can modify nouns, whereas si cannot. So you could say, cet été, j’ai lu tellement de livres. Meaning “This summer, I read so many books.” Notice how we added de. Additionally, tellement can be an adverb all by itself. For example, J’aime tellement cette pièce. “I like that play so much.” You couldn’t say, J’aime si cette pièce because there is no adverb to modify.
Alright, now let’s talk about tant. Like tellement, tant means “so much/so many.” It’s used to emphasize quantity. For esa“you can laugh so much.” Tu peux tant rire. Or, maybe you want to say, “there are so many people.” Il y a tant de monde. Again notice the de used when tant is before a noun. Tant is probably more common than tellement. So as a rule of thumb, use tant to talk about quantity, tellement as an adverb, and si if you want to make a comparison or to intensify an adverb or adjective.
Here are two expressions with tant that French people use all the time. The first is Tant pis meaning “too bad.” And Tant mieux means “all the better.”
Pretty neat, right?
If you have any more questions, please leave a comment below!
A bientôt, see you soon!