6 French Words That Also Mean Their Opposite

Bonjour !

Some French words mean their own opposite. Isn’t that fascinating?

Depending on the context, you might end up accidentally saying the opposite of what you want.

And this could be (literally) terrible!




The mysterious use of “Allez” in French

Et toi ?

Did you know any of these words already?

Have you heard of other French words that could fit in this list?

Which words in your own language can also mean their opposite?

Bonne journée,

Géraldine

Join the conversation!

    • Hi!

      “Au revoir” means “goodbye” so the opposite would be “Bonjour” / “Salut” / “Coucou” (see our lesson on French greetings for more on their differences)

      “Allez !” means “Let’s go! I’m rooting for you! You can do it!” so I guess the opposite would be… “Don’t bother” ? Like “C’est pas la peine” = “It’s not worth it.” Or “Tranquille” (= “Easy”, as in “take it easy, let’s go slower”)

      – Arthur, writer for Comme une Française

  • Plus: more or no more. I believe you have to pronounce the ‘s’ to mean ‘more’ otherwise it means ‘no more’.

  • C’est le même en Italien, mon langue: “ospite” est comment “hôte”: il a deux sens opposés. 🙂

    • Bonjour Lynda,

      Apprendre quelque chose c’est “to learn”: J’apprends le français.
      Apprendre quelque chose à quelqu’un c’est “to teach” J’apprends le français à Lynda.

      🙂

  • Salut! Pour moi, le mot “plus” est toujours difficile a comprendre. Est-ce que tu as fait une episode sur cette mot? Merci!

  • My 10 year old and his friends use the word ‘sick’ when something is really good! It took me a while to work out what they meant!!

  • Oui, terrible ……………. comment ?
    The word in English that comes to mind, in a similar back-to-front sense
    as terrible, is wicked .. again meaning really good. This is (or was … I don’t
    qualify) “young persons’ ” speak, so it may or may not still be current ..?
    And the person that, again, comes to mind for me in this way is the American
    singer Michael Jackson who tended to use this kind of terminology with
    some of his songs. Indeed, to pick up on what Dick has pointed out in the
    post before mine, one of Jackson’s albums was titled Bad … same thing
    (I think ?) !!
    And you mention for us, Géraldine, in today’s lesson .. Julie’s guitar,
    concerts and music 😀
    Well … as I was saying, Michael Jackson had a hit song titled Beat It back
    in the eighties, but of course, beat it in this sense has nothing to do with
    beating anything .. it’s American slang meaning – clear off, or shove off or ..
    vas t’en, as you say in French (je pense ?) .
    But the reason that I really mention this is not to do with anyone shoving off,
    NO, it’s to do with the stunning Eddie Van Halen (not Julie) guitar solo in
    the middle of said song …………. wicked !!
    And, in case any of you missed it … voici ~
    https://www.youtube.com/wat

    And what does all this have to do with the correct use of the beautiful
    French language ? … er, not much I suspect, but I like really hot guitar
    solos, so there you go.

    And a quick (sensible) question for you Géraldine, before I “vas t’en” :

    Is there a difference in how we use the word An Adventure in English,
    and how you use Une Aventure in French ? I have a feeling I’ve used it
    incorrectly once or twice (in French) !

    Brilliant lesson Géraldine, I’ve enjoyed it so much ..

    merci merci 🙂

  • Merci de vos vidéos, ils sont magnifiques.
    Par contre, j’ai une locution, je ne comprends pas c’est “en outre” que signifie -il? pourraiez-vous nous l’expliquer la prochaine fois. merci et bon week-end!

    • Bonjour Lyfen,

      C’est proche de “de plus”. Mais c’est utilisé surtout dans un français formel et écrit.

  • Back in the 1970’s in American slang, “bad” meant “really really good,” much like “terrible” means “awesome” in French now. Stretching the word out when speaking it — as in “the new Clapton album is really baaaaad!” — was the main clue that the word was being used with its opposite meaning. Thankfully, that usage has pretty much died out. I can’t think of any other English words that have 2 opposite meanings, but here’s a word and its opposite that have the *same* meaning: regardless and irregardless.

      • Usage Note: Irregardless is a word that many people mistakenly believe to be correct in formal style, when in fact it is used chiefly in nonstandard speech or casual writing. The word was coined in the United States in the early 1900s, presumably from a blend of irrespective and regardless.

  • I had NO idea that ‘terrible’ could also translate as awesome. I hope I haven’t used it inappropriately…

    • Maybe you did, but don’t worry about it, Debbie. 🙂 People would assume you don’t know the double meaning.

  • Bonsoir Géraldine (minuit)
    La chanson de Thomas Dutronc “J´aime plus Paris” est negative au debut. Je (ne) aime plus Paris. Mais finalement J´aime plus Paris signifie que il aime Paris plus que autres villes. Le petit mot ne peut faire la différence, même quand on l´omis.

  • Je suis tombé sur cette gemme.
    Fight with can be interpreted three ways. “He fought with his mother-in-law” could mean “They argued,” “They served together in the war,” or “He used the old battle-ax as a weapon.” (Thanks to linguistics professor Robert Hertz for this idea.) <(“)

    • Bonjour Trudy,

      Ce sont des sous-titres de YouTube ? Si oui, il sont générés automatiquement par YouTube et pas par Comme une Française. Je t’invite à les désactiver en cliquant sur la petite roue en bas à droite de la vidéo.

  • Salut, Géraldine, et merci pour les vidéos géniales. Elles sont terribles ! ???? J’ai une question à te poser. Je ne comprend pas la expression ” tu parles ” Pourrait tu l’expliquer, s’il te plaît ?

  • Merci, Géraldine, pour cette nouvelle vidéo fascinante. Là en effet, on entre dans le vif du sujet – les nuances de la langue parlée ! Quand même ! Pourtant, les soi-disant sens « opposés » de pourquoi ? … je ne vois pas trop ; c’est pareil en anglais, non ?

    • C’est une différence subtile entre la raison et le but. Ne t’inquiète pas si tu ne comprends pas, Joe. C’est pas très important.

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