French of the Week: Où sont les toilettes?

ousontlestoilettesThis is THE question to know.  You’re running around a foreign city, soaking in as many sites as possible and you just simply forget to use the bathroom.  Its already hard enough to drink water and stay hydrated, but when you do, that stuff goes right through you.  Not to mention, if you’re having any extra fun, that alcohol needs to go somewhere eventually, so where do you go?

The phrase:  Où sont les toilettes?

The meaning:  Where are the toilets?

The breakdown:   – pronounced “oo,” this is the French word for “where.” The little line above the u is called accent grave (gr-ah-v) and when it is used in French language, it usually signifies that there is another word out there, spelled the same way, but with a different meaning.  So as in English, we have there, their, and they’re, generally spelled in similar manners (therefore always confused) and sounding exactly the same, but three very distinct different meanings.  Here, with the accent, the Où is “where” without the accent, ou is the word for “or.”

Sont – pronounced “c-oh,” with a slightly silent “n” and completely silent “t” – this is a verb, conjugated from the Être family for “are”.  Être means “to be”, and in English we say “I am” or “He is” and “We/They are.” In French “sont” is the form taken on when you refer to a multiple group of others who are, even if its an inanimate object.

Les Toilettes – pronounced “leh t-wol-eh-t”, if you can’t already tell, this is the term for the toilets.  Not to be confused with bathroom, a toilet is not a bathroom in France. Those two deeds are entirely separate, and if you need a bathroom to wash up, it would be “la salle de bain” (the room of the bath) “lah c-ah-l duh ben”. For now, the article, “Les” signifies multiple toilets with the “s” at the end of the word, but do NOT pronounce the “s.” It is meant to be there in writing so if you were reading the word, you would know which one is meant. When spoken, the words around what you are saying tells the recipient what to expect.

Questions? Comments? Totally confused? Post a comment below!

À votre santé!


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