People all over the world get astonished by many things all the time. French speakers are no exception! In English, saying "wow!" is one of the most common ways of expressing amazement or astonishment. But how do French speakers express these feelings?
This article complements this earlier post on how to express surprise in spoken French.
The closest thing to the
The French interjection "waouh" is an "anglicism", probably brought into the French language by the U.S. movies and TV shows - French translators have long gotten into the habit of saying "waouh" as the easiest way to achieve lip sync for dubbing. No now, "waouh!" has become part of the French language, especially for the younger crowds.
tuas vu cequ'elle a fait surson skate! (wow did you see what she did on her skateboard!)
Je viens d'acheter ce nouveau vélo! -> Waouh il est
superbe! Félicitations! (I just bought this new bike -> wow it's beautiful)
Waouh je ne pensais pas qu'elle y arriverait! (Wow I didn't think
she's pullit off)
A more classic way of saying "wow!" in spoken French is "ça alors!" The phrase "ça alors" is sort of old school, few teens and hip youths use it nowadays (read on for what they use).
enfin euma promotion au boulot! -> Ça alors! C'est incroyable! (I finally had my promotion at work -> Wow! That's incredible!)
"Ça alors" is often used to react to positive news:
La France a gagné le match hier soir. -> Ben ça alors! Je ne m'y attendais pas! (France won the game last night -> Wow! I didn't expect it!)
In some cases, though, "ça alors!" can also be used to express negative astonishment or indignation:
Excusez-moi Madame, je suis très pressé -> Ben ça alors! Quel culot! (Sorry Madam but I'm in a big hurry -> I can't believe it! Some nerve!)
In this case, "ça
Alors notice the leading "ben" (colloquial version of "eh bien") which adds to the expression of disbelief and indignation.
n'en reviens pas, j'y crois pas!
Another way to say "wow!" in spoken French is "je n'en reviens pas!", literally "I'm not coming back from this". This is equivalent to saying "je n'y crois pas" (I don't believe it) or more colloquially "j'y crois pas!"
Here again, these French expressions are similar to "wow!" when used to express positive surprise, amazement:
Il a nettoyé toute la maison! -> Je n'en reviens pas! (he cleaned up the whole house -> wow, I can't believe it!)
C'est elle qui a fait ça toute seule! -> Non, j'y crois pas! (she did all this on her own -> wow I can't believe it!)
This is another way to express a "wow!", literally meaning "I'm hallucinating!", that is, I can't believe what I'm seeing, this is amazing:
Ils ont fini le marathon en 1h10! -> non mais j'hallucine! (they finished the marathon in 1h10 -> Wow I don't believe it!)
Note that "j'hallucine" can also be used in a negative way, in which case it can be considered a negative "wow!":
hallucine, tu n'aspas travaillé de toutela journée! (Wow you haven't done any work all day!)
Another way to express a "wow!" feeling is to simply say "
- C'est extra / extraordinaire! (it's great, awesome)
- C'est génial / génialissime! (it's great, awesome)
- C'est fantastique / magnifique! (it's fantastic, awesome)
- C'est top! (it's the best!)
"C'est top!" is a relatively recent colloquial expression (spoken French only) that younger people use a lot to "wow" things. It seems French speaker are always running out of superlatives, so they often combine these adjectives with modifiers:
- C'est hyper
bien! (it's "hyper great")
vachement bien: an older French expression also meant to express a "wow" reaction. "Vachement" literally means " cowly" so this translates into something like "holy cow, this isgreat!"
trop bien! "Trop" means too much, but in the race for better ways to "wow" things, the French have deformed its use to mean "uber good". Such altered use of " trop" is rooted in people of Arab culture who tend to use " trop" instead of "très" when speaking French. Over time this usehas made its way into common colloquial French as another "wow" adjective.
Here's a thought: older French generations were much more conservative in the way they spoke and "wow!" was not really part of their language as public expressions of amazement were to be kept to a minimum by good-mannered people. In recent years, thouth, the influence of the more vocal and expressive U.S and Arab cultures have resulted in the need for newer and stronger phrases for saying "wow" in French.
c'est la meilleure!
This traditional spoken French expression is most often used as an expression of negative surprise and indignation:
votrebillet a étéannulé -> Ça c'estla meilleure! (Sorry sir, your ticket has been cancelled-> now that's something else!)
In some situations, however, the phrase can also be used to meant "wow!", "that's really some news!":
Elle a eu le premier prix -> Non! Ça c'est la meilleure! (she won the first prize -> no way! Now that's really some news!"
Ça pour une surprise!
This is another traditional expression for expressing surprise, often use to mean "wow!" as well:
Regarde qui est là! -> Ah ça pour une surprise! (look who's here! -> wow that's a surprise for sure!)
The complete traditional phrase goes like this
"Ça pour unesurprise, c'est unesurprise!" (well that's a surprise for sure!)
Here again, this French expression is more often used to express surprise though it's also used for amazement sometimes.
Non tu plaisantes / c'est une blague!
This is equivalent to "you're kidding!" and "it's a joke right?", so in the right context it can be used to express a "wow!" feeling as well:
nouvelle voiture! -> Non! tu plaisantes! (Here's your new car! Wow you're kidding!)
Je pars vivre en Polynésie! -> c'est une blague! (I'm moving to the Polynesia islands! -> Wow it's a joke, right?)
Tu es sérieux(se)?
This phrase has also made it into French as a result of all the English movies and shows the French have been increasingly watching over the past years, it's not a traditionally used expression in spoken French.
In French, "sérieux" traditionally means dependable, important, or professional. With this expression, however, it's used for "do you mean what you're saying?", "you're not just saying that for joking?"
By extension, just like in English, French speakers increasingly use it to mean "wow!" in some situations:
Nous avons construit cette maison nous-mêmes! -> Tu es sérieuse? (we built this house ourselves -> wow are you serious !)
Elle a hérité d'une grande fortune -> Tu es sérieux là? (she inherites a large fortune -> wow are you being serious?)
Note in the last example the trailing "là" which is roughly equivalent to "now": are you being serious now?
In English, a current trend is to use the phrase "seriously?" in many types of situations, including "wow!" situations but also to react to a bad surprise or to express disbelief and indignation. Recently the French have also started saying "sérieusement?" in similar contexts - again an influence from the English-speaking culture due to movies and TV shows:
Sérieusement? tu as fait ça sans l'aide de personne? (wow seriously? You did that without anyone's help?)
That's all folks
Wow! As you can see, there are quite a few ways to say it in French - there are actually more than I've listed here. These, however, are the ones you'll probably hear the most often in your French life. C'est dingue non?