As a dramatic perboy, I regularly acquire a little bit brought away once somepoint negative, frustrating, or even ssuggest surpclimbing happens. But under the same circumstances, I’ve seen many type of French civilization shrug and say C’est la vie – or some variation of that. 

C’est la vie is an expression you can have heard, also, even exterior of your French lessons or travels. It’s one of those terms that’s been adopted by various other langueras (including English) or is sindicate incredibly quickly recognizable to non-French speakers.

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Let’s look at this iconic French expression – and some of its cousins. 

Interestingly, choose C’est la vie, all of them are the title or refrain of a catchy song, which you’ll likewise acquire to discover below! 


Contents
1 The definition of c’est la vie
2 Other ways to say c’est la vie
3 C’est la vie: French civilization and also tragedy

The definition of c’est la vie

Note: Tright here is just one means to write c’est la vie. Se la vie, say la vie, say la vee, cie la vie, and also sa la vie are all incorrect.

So what does C’est la vie mean?

As you might have the ability to tell, c’est la vie literally translates to “That’s life.” In other words, “This is exactly how it is” – frequently with the implication that there’s nopoint you have the right to do about it.

That might sound negative, and also in many kind of contexts, it is. I’ve eve heard of civilization calling it a de-motivating expression, bereason essentially, it indicates why fight. You can’t execute anything around the case, right? No superhero is going to say it – or at leastern, no typical one; they would try to readjust things, as would certainly many daily inspirational figures. 

But C’est la vie isn’t constantly negative. For instance, take among my favorite songs, Chuck Berry’s “You Never before Can Tell”. It’s a love song around two teens who fall in love and make it work-related despite being young and bad. In this case, C’est la vie reinpressures the truth that life is surpclimbing (“C’est la vie, sassist the old folks, it goes to display you never before deserve to tell.”)

Anvarious other great musical example is Khaled’s Franco-Arab hit C’est la vie which is around forgetting your troubles in love and also just enjoying the night and also dancing. In this case, C’est la vie might be viewed as a kind of “What have the right to you do, tbelow will be problems in a relationship, now let’s dance,” or it can be that the act of dancing and also enjoying life is what life is all around. 


As you deserve to see from these songs, C’est la vie deserve to be offered in an unfavorable, positive, or simply observational context, and also periodically its ambiguity deserve to yield some cool results. 

Other means to say c’est la vie

Of course, tbelow are many other ways to expush C’est la vie. Here are numerous that you’ll consistently hear in French-speaking countries.:

C’est comme ça

According to this forum threview, C’est comme ça is frequently taken into consideration the translation of the English-language expression “It is what it is.”  

But I don’t think that tells the totality story. It deserve to be a neutral statement, but it can also be an extra insistent version of C’est la vie – basically, “That’s the means points are.” I regularly hear it offered by parental fees whose kids complain about among their rules, or something they can’t have actually or do. 

Here’s a typical example: 

– Je peux avoir un bonbon, maman ? (Can I have actually a item of candy, Mommy?)

– Non, c’est l’heure du dîner. (No, it’s dinnertime.)

– Mais maman! Je veux un bonbon maintenant ! C’est pas juste ! (But Mommy, I desire a item of candy now! It’s not fair!)

– C’est comme ça ! Maintenant, mets la table. (That’s the method it is! Now set the table.) 

Note that this phrase deserve to likewise be supplied confirm or fancy on a summary. (Example: C’est comme ça mais avec plus de fraises (It’s like that yet via even more strawberries).

In music: “C’est comme ça” by delightful New Wave team Les Rita Mitsuko is recognized for its catchiness and also award-winning video. Its lyrics are notoriously enigmatic, yet the song is a good way to get this expression stuck in your head. 


On n’y peut rien

On n’y peut rien (literally ‘We are/One is not able do to anypoint here/there”) suggests there’s nopoint to be done about an abstract case (or life in general).  

Example: J’aime la paix mais faire la guerre fait partie de la nature humaine. On n’y peut rien. (I’m all for peace yet warfare is a component of humale nature. There’s nopoint we can do around it.”).

In music: Famous French songwriter Jean-Jacques Goldman’s “Et l’on n’y peut rien” is a song around just how tbelow is nopoint we can execute as soon as it pertains to love. 


You might have noticed the l’on in the title rather of on. Generally, l’on is supplied in creating or more formal conmessages. This is expected to be a renowned song, though, so I’m assuming it was done right here for factors of sound and also rhythm.

Que veux-tu ? /Que veux-tu faire ?

Literally interpreted, this expression implies “What carry out you want?” or “What carry out you want to do?” Its English tantamount is “What deserve to you do?”  

Basically, there’s no suggest in fighting or wanting something else, this is just how it is.

Note that this expression is seldom, if ever, used via vous, because the tu below have the right to be the person you’re talking to, or just a means to address a team or vague entity.

Example : J’essaie de faire un régime mais que veux-tu – on habite au dessus de la meilleure pâtisserie de la ville ! (I’m trying to diet however what have the right to you do? We live above the finest bakery in town!)

In music: Conshort-term French team Yelle’s fun song “Que veux-tu” addresses a crush as many of us perform in our hearts: Que veux-tu, je suis folle de toi (“What deserve to you carry out – I’m crazy around you!”) 

C’est la vie: French civilization and also tragedy

When French Together founder Benjamin Houy and I were stating this article, he sassist it would certainly be amazing for me to encompass any kind of observations I could have around how the French address tragedy: Is C’est la vie mainly the French strategy to life?

The question offered me a lot to think about.  

First, it’s essential to say that “the French” or “French people” is, of course, a blanket term. Tbelow are all kinds of French people, and also they may all react in different ways to points. I understand some French human being that cried when Johnny Hallyday passed away, or that tear up when they watch the same TV mirrors I (an overly emotional Italian-American) perform. I’ve watched French civilization holding each various other and also quietly sobbing on the street while looking at impromptu memorials erected for friends who were victims of the 2015 terrorist attack at the Bataclan. I recognize French people who have actually tattoos in memories of deceased loved ones.

But in its entirety, the French execute seem to take a C’est la vie technique to tragedy. Maybe it’s a bit favor the British “stiff top lip” principle, or its present incarcountry, “Keep calm and also carry on.” When a sad or tragic occasion is spanned on the French national news, the newscasters may seem slightly relocated, however we are nowright here close to Jimmy Kimmel (who, granted, isn’t precisely a newscaster) crying over Cecil the Lion. The story is spanned in a neutral means, without seeking out drama. Even the saddest details are recounted in a calm, informative voice.

Tragedies aren’t dwelt on here. While tright here are yearly ceremonies to commemoprice whatever from the courage and sacrifice of soldiers in both World Wars, to the victims of recent terrorist attacks, once news of a destructive occasion occurs, it’s not lingered over. Tbelow aren’t souvenirs commemorating the Bataclan strike the way tright here are 9/11-connected objects of all sorts. The French are more scheduled around mirroring their emovements. No one denies these events are sad and also even traumatizing, yet that’s all preserved neatly away. 

On a personal level, everyone is various. But as soon as there’s a sad or tragic occasion, French civilization jointly seem to emphasis on improving the situation or acquiring previous it, fairly than wenabling. 

After 9/11, it was difficult to think of anything else. Funny talk mirrors and also other humor-associated offerings quit airing for a while. On the various other hand also, almost instantly after the November 2015 terrorist assaults below in Paris, I was astonimelted and also complete of admiration for the fact that Parisians decided to deliberately sit outside at restaurant terraces. It was a message that their lifestyle would certainly not change, no matter what taken place – a true “We perform not negotiate through terrorists” if there ever was one.

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In this method, C’est la vie really could be the correct overall French response to tragedy, whether you think the expression is about feeling prefer this is just how it is and also there’s nopoint we deserve to execute, or saying “This is just how it is, currently let’s move on and not let negative things stop us from living.”


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Alysa Salzberg is an American writer, worrier, teacher, and also cookie enthusiast that has actually lived in Paris, France, for more than a decade. She has actually taught English and French for more than ten years, many notably as an assistante de langue vivante for L"Education Nationale.She newly published her initially novel, Hearts at Dawn, a "Beauty and the Beast" reinforming that takes place in the time of the 1870 Siege of Paris. You have the right to review around her adendeavors below, or feel complimentary to stop by her website.