The French “Déjà” Explained for English Speakers

Déjà is a French adverb, that you might know from déjà vu, for example.

It’s pronounced like “dey – jah” (\de.ʒa\ in phonetic), or sometimes “djah” when speaking fast (and “à” is pronounced just like “a.”)

Déjà is very short – yet it’s packed with meanings and subtlety.

You don’t have to learn all the meanings, but learning a few idiomatic expressions will help you a lot. Or a few chosen real spoken French sentences, that are used most often.

Let’s dive in.

Index:
1. Déjà = Already
2. Déjà = Before
3. Déjà = At least
4. Déjà = Again
5. Déjà = First of all
6. Déjà shortcut: the only 4 sentences you need

Want all the vocabulary of the lesson ?

1. Déjà = Already

Il a déjà payé l’addition. = He’s already payed the bill.
Tu es déjà là ? = Are you already there?

Here, déjà means “already.” Or “sooner than expected.” The opposite is pas encore = not yet.

Tu es déjà là ? = Are you already there?
Non, je ne suis pas encore là. = No, I’m not here yet.

2. Déjà = Before

Déjà can also mean “before,” or “at least once,” “ever.”

Tu es déjà allée à New York ? = Have you been to New York before ? // Have you ever been to New York?

This meaning is really close to “already,” but here, the opposite would be jamais (= never.)

Non, je n’y suis jamais allée. = No, I’ve never been there.

Digression: Déjà vu

The French expression déjà vu means literally “already seen.” Or “seen before.” Here, déjà lands somewhere between these two first meanings.

It can be its own expression, quite like how it’s used in English: Un sentiment de déjà vu. = A feeling of… deja vu.

In French though, “deja vu” can come up naturally: J’ai déjà vu ce film. = I’ve already seen this movie.

And it’s also an expression for “derivative, not original.
C’est du déjà vu ! = It’s derivative! It’s stale!
The opposite expression is : C’est du jamais vu ! = We’ve never seen something like this before !

Which can be good… or exceptionally bad, too. But it’s new, at least.

3. Déjà = At least

Déjà can mean “at least,” especially in the expression C’est déjà ça. = at least there’s that // So that’s a start.

Maintenant tout le monde est là, c’est déjà ça.
= Everybody’s here now, at least. // Everybody’s here now, so that’s at least one good thing.

Or C’est déjà bien. = It’s a good start., Ce n’est déjà pas mal. = It’s not too bad, at least.

In a sentence, it can make something like:
Il parle français et anglais, c’est déjà pas si mal. = He speaks French and English, so that’s not too bad at least, that’s not too bad for a start, at least it’s not too bad.

Instead of C’est déjà ça., we also use C’est toujours ça. Or C’est toujours ça de pris. = At least we have that.

4. Déjà = Again?

On parlait de quoi, déjà ? = What were we talking about, again?
Tu sais où il habite, déjà ? = Do you know where he lives, again?

When you’re lost in a real French conversation, you can use …déjà ? to mean “Can you repeat please?” / “I forgot, sorry?” at the end of a sentence. Basically, it’s like adding “Again?” as a question.

It’s for when you forgot a piece of information, or you lost track of the conversation. It’s really idiomatic, so you’ll have fun using it!

5. Déjà = First of all

Using Déjà as “first of all” is also really idiomatic. That’s everyday spoken French for you!

On peut déjà entrer, on verra s’il y a de la place pour nous. = First of all, we can go in, we’ll see if there’s enough room for all of us. / We can start by going in, then we’ll see if there’s enough room for us.

It’s for saying “let’s cut to the chase, let’s stop talking about what-ifs and start by acting.” Except it’s a single small adverb.
This meaning can be more assertive:
Déjà, tu me parles pas comme ça ! = First of all, you don’t speak to me like that!

It’s a bit like Quand même, another short expression that can be used almost anywhere in a French conversation.

6. Déjà shortcut: the only 4 sentences you need to start learning

Of course, the right meaning for “Déjà” depends on the context. For example:

  • Tu t’en vas déjà ? = “Are you leaving already ?”
  • Tu t’en vas quand, déjà ? = “When are you leaving, again?”
  • Déjà, tu t’en vas ! = “First of all, get out of here!”

 

But don’t worry, here’s how you can cheat.
You don’t have to learn all this today. I know it’s a lot!

Instead, just keep in mind any four examples you like. When they’re in your personal toolbox, you’ll be able to tweak them for use in your own conversations.

For example, those sentences can be :


  • J’ai déjà mangé des escargots. = I’ve eaten escargots before.
  • Je te l’ai déjà dit. = I’ve told you already.
  • C’est quoi ton nom, déjà ? = What’s your name, again?
  • Il est neuf heures. / Quoi ? Déjà ? = It’s nine. What? Already?

And now you’re ready for your French conversation club!
You can also follow the same process on other tricky French expressions:

I made full lessons on each of these.
Click on the links to get to the next lesson!

À tout de suite.
I’ll see you in the next video!


→ If you enjoyed this lesson (and/or learned something new) – why not share this lesson with a francophile friend? You can talk about it afterwards! You’ll learn much more if you have social support from your friends 🙂

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Join the conversation!

  • Je suis commencer ma première semaine utilisant le format structure de votre vidéo 10 Minutes Par Jour ! J’ai hâte d’apprendre ce lesson et être capable de mémorisé ces façons utiles d’utiliser ‘deja’, spécialement les façons idiomatique 🙂 Merci !

  • Merci pour cette leçon, en lisant un roman en français pour enfants, je suis tombé sur l’utilisation de déjà comme example N° 4 où ça signifie . L’example dans le roman est Chaque jour je tombe sur quelque chose que j’ai appris récemment et a ça me rend heureux car je reconnai de plus en plus de mots.

  • “It’s déjà vu all over again.”
    –Yogi Berra

    I saw a French film recently where a young guy goes to a party with his new rich friend from his class at the Sorbonne, about 1955-60 or so.

    He knows no one else at the party.

    He hasn’t danced at all yet, but a slow song starts playing, and he asks the hostess to dance.

    She says, “Un slow? Déjà?”

  • Vos leçons sont fantastiques. Sincères remerciements de la Pennsylvanie. Deja, une autre leçon utile.

  • Thanks very much , this format is quite helpful. I prefer reading a lesson several times and this is done really well.

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