French you don’t learn at school: ‘genre’

When is it, like, ok to use ‘genre’?

26 February 2020
By Connexion journalist

This column exists to bring to your attention certain words or phrases – and, in some cases, alternative uses for them – that rarely form part of a formal education for French language learners, largely because they inhabit the strange world of ‘fillers’.

Namely, words that a sentence could exist without, but which add some colour or inferred tone.

The word genre is a good example.

It has many meanings (origin: the Latin, genus), not least the familiar ‘gender’ or type – we use it in English when alluding to ‘a category of artistic, musical, or literary composition characterised by a particular style, form, or content’, as your dictionary will tell you.

Another use in French is when questioning if someone is telling the truth (while actually implying they are fibbing).

Someone might say to you “J’ai gagné le loto” (“I won the lottery”) to which you might reply “Oui, genre!” – like saying “Yeah, right!

However, it can also be heard in an altogether more tricksy context.

Mastering this might make you sound more authentically French but there is one serious proviso – it is mainly used by adolescents, and traditionalists would probably harrumph in contempt at your attempt at sounding youthful.

Much like the regrettably overused word ‘like’ in English, genre in French is preferred by youngsters.

For example, a teacher might say “Attention, il y aura une évaluation lundi” (“Look out, there will be a test on Monday”). A pupil might reply, partly in anguished disbelief: “Genre, une vraie évaluation, Madame?”) (“Like, a real test, Miss?”) Yes, like a real test!

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