March 9, 2012


In school we’re taught that après means after. After as in subsequent to, for example “after we eat diner, we do the dishes,” and not as in to resemble, for example “he takes after his father.” While that second one is a phrasal verb, when I thesaurus-ed “after” it came up with both.

The French don’t seem to have such a rigid view of the word après, and it took me quite a while to get used to it.

When we first started dating, FBF would often ask me if I wanted to do something après.

To which I would reply, “after… What?”

He would reply with things like, “oh, after we finish eating” or “after the game is over” and would put it into a more concrete context.

But once we were finished with the designated activity, we wouldn’t always do what was supposed to happen après immediately after.

After much frustration and confusion, one day it dawned on me. I had to stop thinking about after quite so literally.

Après when used like this is actually similar to the dreaded American usage of “later.” Later as in some unidentified time in the future, for example "I'll call you later."

Later holds all the annoying flexibility that the French put into the word après.

I wonder if the use of après when said by one's crush in relation to an activity the two of you are going to do together sends French girls into a fit of over-analysis just as "later" did to 14 year old me.


  1. Speaking about it, I remember I was a bit surprised by the expression "named after". I didn't really get it the first time I heard "I named my son after his grandfather" or something like this. It makes sense now but for me "after" referred to a moment, not to a person.
    In French, we also have "d'après" which means "according to" or "in the manner of", and is then followed by a person. But the "d'" makes all the difference! :-)

  2. My one condolence for sometimes getting frustrated with the French language is that English is much harder and wackier to learn, especially if you factor in all the nuances in differences between English/Australian/Scottish/Irish/American English.

  3. Excellent blog and glad you are back at it. Hope you post more frequently apres. Dad

  4. Makes sense. I think it's somewhat equivalent to the phrase "come with." "Wanna come with?" (With whom?!)


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