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Au fait – en fait : What’s the Difference ?

Salut !

Au fait and en fait are two common expressions—and they’re really useful in day-to-day conversation.

But they sound the same, and sometimes even French people mix them up.

Don’t worry ! Today I’ll show you all there is to know about this topic. (Spoiler : it’s easier than it sounds !)

Et toi ?

Did you know the difference between “en fait” et “au fait”?

Have you heard these expressions in a French sentence?
What other confusing pairs do you still always mistake for one another?

Share your experience (in French if you dare!) in the comments below. We can all learn from your story. The comment section is the best place to start discussions and ask questions!

Bonne journée,

Géraldine

Salut c’est Géraldine, bienvenue sur Comme une Française TV, Sound French, even to the French.

You know, sometimes French people don’t speak perfect French.
I mean, most of the time, to be honest.
And for foreigners, it can be scary : how are you supposed to master all the subtleties of the language, if even native speakers can’t ?
Well, don’t worry – sometimes it’s easier than it sounds.

Like with today’s topic !

Let’s dive in.

1. Au fait

Au fait means by the way.
We use it to add something to the preceding conversation or line of thought.
We always pronounce the t : au fait.
It’s usually placed at the beginning of the sentence, and sometimes at the end.

Au fait, tu as acheté le pain ? “By the way, did you buy bread ?”
Au fait, j’ai oublié ton prénom, tu peux me le rappeler ? “By the way, I forgot your name, can you remind me what it is?”
Je t’attends depuis une heure, au fait. “I’ve been waiting for you for an hour, by the way”

It’s short and useful. You can vary your words by using synonyms, like D’ailleurs or maybe J’y pense, or ça me fait penser
It doesn’t mean the exact same thing, but it’s close enough.

J’y pense, j’ai pris tes clés de voiture ce matin.
D’ailleurs, tu as changé l’ampoule du salon ?

We do sometimes use au fait at the end of the sentence, but it feels less natural.
J’ai pris deux places pour le spectacle ce soir, au fait.

It’s correct, but the main problem is that, when we say it this way, it sounds almost like en fait. Which brings us to :

2. En fait

En fait is actually.
Don’t mix it up with actuellement – it’s un faux ami, actuellement means now, and Actuel means Current.

En fait, it used to mean the same thing, and for instance in philosophy, actuel still means the same as the English actual… But revenons à nos moutons, let’s go back to the topic at hand.

With En fait, we also always pronounce the t.
En fait, tu avais raison !
Je crois que je suis perdue, en fait.

You can replace it most of the time with en réalité or effectivement
Le français c’est pas très compliqué, en fait !
En réalité, le français c’est simple !
Ah, effectivement, le français c’est très facile !

3. Le fait

Outside of Au fait and En fait, the t is silent and le fait / un fait has a different meaning : a fact.

« Le fait de marcher 15 minutes tous les jours est bon pour la santé »
(You could also simply say « Marcher 15 minutes tous les jours est bon pour la santé », but the first version is more explicit and a bit clearer.)

« Ce qui est important, ce sont les faits »
What matters are the facts.

The noun comes from the verb faire (to do, to make, and plenty of other meanings – it’s a useful verb to know).
When you use faire, you find its conjugation fais / fait. The t and s are still silent
Qu’est ce que tu fais ?
Elle fait du piano.
Vous faites un gâteau ?

For the extra mile, it’s also le participe passé – we use it for the passive voice.
« C’est fait ! » - it’s done

Or in the expression « C’est bien fait ! » or « C’est bien fait pour toi ! », « C’est bien fait pour lui ! » - you could translate by saying « that’s a just retribution », « you deserved it »… but in a bad way. Be careful, it’s NOT a translation for “Well done !” - It’s specifically for a situation when something bad happens to someone who deserved it, or who brought it on herself ; It’s teasing, and the opposite of empathy. It’s a special expression that depends on context, though—and if someones tells you, “Ton dessin est bien fait”, it does mean that your drawing is well done, don’t worry.

When you mix the verb with a pronoun, you can find our old friend again :
“Des pompes ? Elle en fait deux cents tous les matins ”
(« Push ups ? She does two hundred every morning » )
OK, you can see « en fait » in the middle of the sentence, but don’t worry – it’s rare, the t stays silent, and you can guess what it means from the context.
When En fait and Au fait are singled out by commas, at the beginning or at the end of a sentence, it’s always the first interpretation.

Don’t worry ! Let’s get to something more joyful finally.

4. La fête

Au fait, don’t mistake « en fait » with la fête – a party.
Sure, it may sound the same : On va souvent aux fêtes d’anniversaire de mes amis.
Or maybe you found the expression « en fête », joyful :
Paris est en fête !

The sound may be similar, but it’s a completely different meaning.

Is French language confusing ? Yes.
But can you make sense of it ? Yes !
Don’t worry ! Ne t’en fais pas ! ;)

Et toi ?
Did you know the difference between “en fait” et “au fait”?
Have you heard these expressions in a French sentence?
What are the other confusing pairs that you still always mistake for one another?

Share your experience (in French if you dare!) in the comments below. We can all learn from your story. The comment section is the best place to start discussions and ask questions!
Don’t hesitate to comment if you liked this video, or if you have something you want me to talk about - I’ll read all your comments.

--- If you liked this video, share it with your friends on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest! Help me spread the word about Comme une Française. Merci !

Love France? Dream of sounding French, even to the French? Learn how with me, Geraldine, on Comme une Française.com and subscribe to my email updates for exclusive tips on Real Life in France every Tuesday PLUS an exclusive video lesson: “Introduce yourself in French.” It's FREE!

Merci for watching Comme une Française TV, sound French, even to the French.

Allez, salut !
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