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Normalement – The Word That Packs A Punch


As English speakers it’s an obvious choice for the translation of normally and in most circumstances you can say normalement to mean exactly that. Such as in these examples:


Voilà il respire normalement” – “There we go, he’s breathing normally”

Est-ce qu’on peut se parler normalement?” – “Can we talk to each other normally?”

And to mean usually:

“Normalement, je cours le matin” – “Usually/normally, I go running in the mornings.”

But this French word has one meaning that in English can not simply be translated by one word. I think it packs in a lot of meaning to just 11 letters. Let me explain.

Normalement in this case roughly translates to if all goes well or if everything goes to plan. Let’s take a look at an example where it doesn’t mean normally/usually/regularly/ordinarily:

“Normalement, je vais au ciné ce soir.”. To translate this to “Normally, I’m going to the cinema tonight.” It’s not describing something habitual or regular. Yet it’s a very legitimate phrase in French and it means “If all goes to plan/if nothing changes I’m going to the cinema tonight.”

Let me just say: I love this! It looks like an English word, it often means the same, but as you advance you realise you have learned to think like a French person by using it in this new way. That feels good!

When you learn to say things in a foreign language that are correct and not just direct translations from your native tongue it’s a superpowered way to boost your self-belief and sense of achievement. It means you’ve absorbed yet another tiny but important part of the language and therefore how someone, in this case French, thinks.

French man pondering life - Normalement

What’s funny is when I hear English speakers who’ve been in France for so long that when speaking English they say “normally” because they’re now translating from French to English. Hahaha.

Go forth and normalement you’ll sound more French in no time!

P.S. I hear d’habitude said more than I do normalement to mean usually. I’d love to hear what French speakers think of this in the comments. Maybe it’s just my ears.


Published inFrenchFrench Friday