Home French Language The opposite frequent meanings of “mais”

The opposite frequent meanings of “mais”

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The opposite frequent meanings of “mais”

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Mais means “however” in French – however it could possibly additionally produce other meanings. Notably, it’s usually used for emphasis — often to point out disbelief or annoyance. It’s additionally a standard filler or transition phrase.

Let’s get to know the commonest meanings of mais.

Mais as “however”

A long-haired gray tabby cat sits on a chair and looks at the camera in a friendly way.
Son chat est très gentil mais c’est le mien que je préfère.

Mais might be mostly  used to imply “however” in French.

As is the case with “however” in English, it seems that there’s some debate amongst hardcore grammarians as as to whether or not you can begin a sentence with mais, however most on a regular basis individuals do that.

Additionally as in English, the concept of opposition will be apparent or extra delicate, as in a phrase like Désolé, mais je dois partir (Sorry however I’ve to go) – you’re basically contradicting the concept that the opposite particular person thought you have been going to remain.

Listed below are some extra examples of mais as “however” in French:

Il a hérité d’une belle voiture mais il ne conduit pas. (He inherited a fantastic automobile however he doesn’t drive.)

Son chat est très gentil mais c’est le mien que je préfère. (His cat may be very good however I want mine.)

Elle gagne bien sa vie. Mais elle n’a pas assez d’argent pour acheter un château. (She makes a great dwelling. However she doesn’t manage to pay for to purchase a fortress.)

C’est incroyable mais vrai. (It’s unbelievable/unimaginable however true. (It is a frequent, considerably cliche expression in French.))

Word that French punctuation with mais as “however” is much more fluid than it’s in English. You’ll be able to learn extra about this in our article on methods to say “however” in French.

Mais as a transition phrase

This use of mais is so just like one other use of “however” in  English that almost all English audio system received’t bat an eye fixed if they arrive throughout it. I do know that’s been the case for me.

Right here’s an instance:

Mais remark va ta tante ? (So/Anyway, how’s your aunt?)

Mais as an add-on to “not solely”

In English, there’s the phrase “not solely…however (additionally)…” In French, mais is used within the equal: non seulement…mais aussi.

For example:

Non seulement elle est intelligente mais elle est gentille aussi. (She’s not solely clever but in addition good.)

You may also see mais used this manner in the same expression: non seulement…mais en plus (not solely…however, too/additionally/on prime of that).

This one is often used to precise unfavourable sentiments, whereas non seulement…mais aussi can be utilized for each unfavourable or optimistic/impartial statements.

For instance:

Non seulement je suis en retard, mais il y a une grève de transports en plus ! (Not solely am I operating late, however there’s a transport strike on prime of that!)

Mais as a phrase used for emphasis

A man and a woman in black pants and colorful patterned shirts stand in the middle of a palm tree- and house -lined street with cardboard boxes on their heads. On each box is a basic drawing presumably of what their faces look like underneath.
Mais qu’est-ce qu’ils foutent ?

In English, you could hear a phrase like “however no!” or “however after all!” ….In truth, that final phrase is usually uttered by English-speaking French characters in Hollywood films.

That’s as a result of, as with “however”, mais can be utilized for emphasis.

Mais is used for emphasis much more usually in French than in English. After its use as “however”, I’d say that is the commonest means you’ll see it in French.

Mais will be added to a press release to point out emphasis, or it may be part of an emphatic phrase.

Listed below are some examples of mais added to a press release for emphasis:

Mais putain ! (Fucking come on!/Nicely, fuck!/Fuck it!)

Mais qu’est-ce qu’il fout ? (What the heck/hell is he doing?)

Mais quand allais-tu me le dire ? (So when have been you going to inform me?)

Mais qu’est ce que c’est compliqué tout ça ! (My goodness, that is all so difficult!)

For us non-native audio system, it could be difficult to formulate a standalone emphatic phrase with mais within the warmth of the second, however you’ll positively hear quite a lot of French native audio system do it. Exasperated phrases like Mais putain ! or puzzled/amused expressions like Mais qu’est-ce qu’il fait ? abound in on a regular basis casual spoken French.

Mais as part of a number of frequent emphatic phrases

As a result of mais is so generally used to point out emphasis, some quite common phrases utilizing mais have developed that serve the aim of emphatic or emotional placeholders and don’t essentially translate actually.

Two of the commonest of those phrases are mais non and non mais. These two are so generally utilized in French that we lined them in a separate article.

Relying on the context, mais non can imply “completely not”, “after all not”, “Oh no!”, or ”I can’t imagine it!”

You’ll usually see it used within the phrase Mais non, ce n’est pas potential ! (I can’t imagine it!/Oh no! This could’t be taking place!) – or its on a regular basis spoken French variant, Mais non! C’est pas potential ! 

Non mais is way more casual than mais non and is often solely utilized in on a regular basis spoken French. It mainly means “No means!” When used by itself, relying on the context, it could possibly additionally typically categorical outrage, like a a lot much less formal “How dare you?” – roughly equal to “Are you kidding me?” or “Get misplaced!”

Listed below are some examples of how non mais and mais non are used:

– Tu le trouves plus beau que moi ? – Mais non. (“You suppose he’s handsomer than me?” “In fact not.”)

Mais non, ce n’est pas potential ! (Oh no, I can’t imagine it!)

Non mais, tu es sérieux ? (Are you kidding me? You’ll be able to’t be critical.)

Non mais, c’est trop moche ce truc. (No means, this factor is so ugly.)

You’ll be able to be taught extra about mais non and non mais in our article about them.

These two phrases are the celebs of the present, since they’re used fairly often, particularly in up to date spoken French. However there are a number of different frequent phrases by which mais is used emphatically.

These standalone expressions embrace:

Mais oui ! – However sure!/In fact!

Mais oui, bien sûr. – Sure, after all.

Mais enfin ! – Oh, come on!

Non mais ça va pas (la tête) ? – Are you loopy/Are you out of your thoughts?

Non mais oh ! – It’s onerous to translate this one – take into account it a form of speechless outrage

Mais as a standalone expression of shock/anger

We’ve seen that mais is usually utilized in a sentence or as part of a phrase to emphasise one thing and/or categorical feelings like disbelief, anger, or outrage. But it surely can be used by itself this manner.

That is usually a heat-of-the-moment factor – as an example, you might even see two kids combating and one grabs a toy from the opposite. The sufferer of the grabbing may yell (or whine) Mais ! 

On this sense, Mais ! is form of like “Hey!”

In different contexts, it might be like “Come on!” For example, the dad or mum who sees the youngsters combating may yell Mais ! in outrage at their outburst. 

The place to search out different meanings of mais

Our checklist covers the commonest meanings of mais. However if you wish to dive deeper, the phrase’s Wiktionnaire entry is an effective place to start out. WordReference additionally lists some much less frequent meanings of mais.

The mais fake ami

Be very cautious if you happen to see the phrase maïs – this implies “corn” (“maize” in British English) and has nothing to do with mais!


I hope you’ve loved this take a look at the meanings of mais.

Do you will have a favourite mais expression? Be happy to share it within the feedback!

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