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The French They Never Taught You 14: One More Thing


Two of the very first things that you learn in French class are the indefinite article (un, une) and the numbers (un, deux, trois).

In un and une the indefinite article and the number one overlap. This pair of words can mean either "a" or "one." Une personne can be either "a person" or "one person."

What they don't teach you is that French has a way of making it clear that you mean "one" and not "a." Consider the following sentence:

Une même personne ne peut signer plus d'une soumission.

The word même is used after une to make it clear that une means "one" and not "a." So when you translate the sentence from French to English, you can simply ignore the word même and translate it like this:

One person cannot sign more than one bid.

The other thing they don't teach you is the expression la une (not l'une), which means the front page of a newspaper or the cover of a magazine. "On the front page" or "on the cover" is à la une or en une.

Knowing this will keep you from misunderstanding this sentence about the François Hollande scandal:

« Closer sortirait vendredi en une des photos de François et de Gayet. »

Closer is a celebrity gossip magazine (this type of magazine is called la presse people in French), and the conditional form of the verb sortir is a reference to rumor, as we explained in a previous post.

If you don't realize that en une means "on the cover," you might struggle to understand the sentence, since une des photos in other contexts would mean "one of the photos."

But what the sentence says is this:

Rumor has it that Closer is going to publish photos of François Hollande and his girlfriend Julie Gayet on the cover of next Friday's edition.

And as the picture above shows, the rumor was right:

Un journaliste confirme la sortie de Closer avec en une la photo de François Hollande.


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