'Important' is a key word to know how to use in French

Some awkward situations can arise if you do not understand the nuance of its meaning

It's important to understand what is 'important'
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Building up a good reputation is vital when you work for yourself, and is a point of pride regardless of the country you work in. 

With this in mind, imagine being told by a trusted client that they are going to call in other people because this particular project is simply too important for them to entrust it to you alone. 

This takes a different turn when you realise that French speakers use the word important in very different ways: for them, it can also be about volume or size. 

So if le projet est juste trop important for you to handle it alone, they are not questioning the quality of your work; they are saying there is simply too much work for one supplier. 

English-speakers use ‘important’ in a vertical sense, only referring to priorities, which is why a VIP (very important person) is treated with respect. 

In the French understanding of the word, important can be a matter of priority and urgency (il est très important d’être à l’heure) or it can refer to magnitude, more like ‘considerable’ (j’ai investi une somme importante).

Another use to listen out for is how important can also be used alone, not just as an adjective. 

We might say “Well, the important thing is to stay optimistic”, which becomes “L’important, c’est de rester optimiste”. Notice that you need the c’est, making it literally “the important, it is”.

And finally, it becomes a verb. To say that it’s important to do certain things, you can say il importe de faire certaines choses

Which brings us to cela importe peu (it hardly matters) and peu importe (it doesn’t matter): peu importe le résultat, l’important c’est de faire un effort (the result isn’t what matters; the main thing is to try) – a consolation for all French learners!