Oups, hop, paf: French mini expressions that say a lot

The government is about to launch a new website to help people correct mistakes they have made on official documents such as tax declarations – and it is aptly named Oups.gouv.fr. The site name reminded us that there are lots of mini expressions in French just like ‘ oups ’ (oops in English). Here we have a look at some other expressions you might hear in French...

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Berk” or "Beurk" - children like to say this when they do not like something – a bit like ‘yuck’. It can refer to anything they don’t like, from food to clothes.

Hop” or “hopla” is a way to bring attention to something you do. It is common use to say “hop” when completing an action. “Hop” and “hopla” work with everything. If you jump from a small wall, you can say it after jumping. Like the word “voilà” you can use them for any action - the equivalent in English would be ‘there you go’.

However, if someone says “hop hop hop” it is different. “Hop hop hop” is used either to boost someone to do something - or stop them from doing something. For example after a speech, your boss might say “hop hop hop” to encourage people to go back to work. While you may hear a mother saying to her child “hop hop hop qu’est-ce tu fais?” (literally what are you doing) which means you should stop what you are doing. The context and the situation determine the meaning.

If you hear “paf” or “et paf” like in the advert “et paf ça fait des chocapic!”, “paf” like “hop” generally means “voilà”, “it is done”. “Paf” contrary to “hop” insists on the end of the action.

An easier expression that is commonly used is “aïe” to express pain. Children also like to say “ouille”. The meaning is the same and would be “ouch” in English.

If someone says “snif”, it means he is sad. The word “snif” refers to the sound we make when we cry and we actually have to sniff. Sometimes it can be used ironically to mock someone’s story.

Miam” or “miam-miam” means yummy and is used a lot for meals.

When people are happy, they may say “youpi” or “hourra” to express joy. It is often used after hearing some good news.

“Bim” refers to something that falls but can be used like “bam” to show the violence of an action.

Then, if someone tells you “et bim” or “et tac” or “et toc” after an argument, it means that you have been put back in your place and you do not have anything else to add.

“Pfff” is a way to show you are fed up or angry especially when used with disdain.

“Dac dac dac” or “dac” come from the word d’accord (which means okay) and is used to agree with something or to show that you understood.

‘’Bah’’ is a little word that is used as an introduction of a sentence. It could be the equivalent of “well…” or “erm…”

“Et beh” is an expression to show the shock or the exaggeration. You may sometimes hear “et bah dis donc” as well.

“Oh la la” is an expression that can be used for anything when you are in shock, annoyed or happy. The meaning depends on the tone of the voice. It could be replaced by “Oh my God”.

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