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Language Challenge #4 – Toujours Confused?

At the beginning of the week I had the objective of looking further into the uses of toujours and encore. Two French words that can mean 10 different things in English. Confusing, huh? Read the first post on these theme here.

Primarily I wanted to become more comfortable with encore because since being in France I’ve been afraid to use it to mean still when I know both toujours and encore can translate to it. What came of my investigation? Well, let’s find out. Read on for the details, or watch the video above for the key details and come back to the post.

When does encore mean still?

So, as it turns out this isn’t as complicated as I feared. What a relief. Let’s look at some simple examples:

Il pleut encore

Il pleut toujours

Both of the above can be translated to It’s still raining. Great, go and use both of these without worrying about another meaning. Honestly, you can say both of these and they mean the same thing.

However, sorry, there is a caveat. This is where I got confused in the first place and stopped using encore, but it’s actually really simple. Encore here has a second possible meaning, and that’s again. Context is key here, a French speaker will know (probably) whether you mean still or again from the context. If they don’t they’ll ask. The same thing will happen if they’re speaking to you and you’re unsure.

So let’s look at that alternative meaning. It’s raining again, meaning it was raining before, stopped, and started up again, at which point you’d say Il pleut encore. So it’s a subtle difference but I’m happy I’m aware of it now. It will help me work it out if I’m confused in the future. Every little helps!

Let’s reinforce what we’ve learnt with another simple example:

J’ai encore faim

J’ai toujours faim

Both mean I’m still hungry but again, encore could mean again. The context of the conversation should show which is the intended sense.

So now I’m going to be comfortable mixing up my use of the two to say still.

Can we replace anyway/at least with still?

So, one of toujours‘ possible translations is anyway/anyhow/at least as in “The car’s missing its wing mirrors. Oh well, it’ll be handy anyway to get from A to B.”. My mind automatically wants to use still here instead, therefore reducing the number of translations I have to learn. Of course, it’s a different still to the one used in the first section, where we discuss a situation that is still ongoing. To be honest, I think that because it’s got a different meaning, the articles that I’ve read simply used the words anyway/at least to help clarify it. For me, it’s easy to separate the meanings of still in my head.

What I’m trying to say is, remembering that toujours can be use to mean anyway/at least/still is easy to remember. It’s just a case of memorising it. However, I am almost 100% sure that I can use quand même instead of toujours in these situations. I already do, and I’m going to continue doing so.

Hope that’s all clear.

Encore or Toujours for yet?

Another one that is actually really straightforward. More straightforward than the first pont in fact. In English we could say the two following sentences and they’d mean the same thing, essentially:

I’m not ready yet

I’m still not ready

Both talk about an event that hasn’t been completed. Yet. We expect it to be completed. They may be nuanced, but they mean the same thing for the purposes of this. We can use encore to mean yet here, and toujours to mean still and we get the same result.

Je (ne) suis pas encore prêt[e]

Je (ne) suis toujours pas prêt[e]

Notice the different word order between the 2 sentences. If someone asked you if you were ready. You’d reply with the shortened versions:

Pas encore (I’ve always said this one)

Toujours pas

I think the nuances between the 2 are the same as for English. So I’m going to treat them like I would in English from now on, unless I hear otherwise!

How about the other meanings?

Well, understanding the others is simply a case of memorising them and getting practice in. The often confusing thing between the 2 words is that both can mean still and yet. The others are distinct meanings. Here’s a quick round up:

  • Encore to mean again“Je le ferai encore une fois.” – “I’ll do it one more time.”
  • Encore to mean more/another – “J’aime ce gâteau au chocolat, j’en aimerais encore.” – “I like the chocolate cake, I’d like some more.”
  • Encore to mean even – “Elle a reniflé encore plus que la veille!” – “She snored even more than the night before!”
  • Toujours to mean always – “Il mange toujours un sandwich au jambon pour le déjeuner.” – “He always eats a ham sandwich for lunch.”

What am I still unsure about?

In the examples I looked at this week there’s one example usage of encore as still that I don’t quite understand.

Il est encore plus grand que ma taille.

Translates to “He is still taller than me”. My guess is that there’s an implied “When I’ve got heels on…” before this quote because otherwise it reads just like “Il est encore plus beau que je croyais” – “He is even more handsome than I thought”. This second example wouldn’t require the implied first clause.

I will get to the bottom of this in the next few days, but if there is anyone out there who can clarify this, please let me know in the comments.

Two useful new expressions

Ça peut toujours servirIt can still be handy/useful. Like above I think I can use quand même for this kind of still, but to use servir in this way is handy to know.

Qu’est-ce que tu veux encore?What more do you want? Pretty self explanatory. Phrases are typically more easily memorised than individual words and you can never know too many!


So that’s it for this week. I’m a hell of a lot more clued up than I was last week! Let me know what you think in the comments below or in the comments on the YouTube video.

Thanks for reading. Nerds!

Bonne journée/soirée !

Published inFrenchLanguage ChallengesLanguage Learning