1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: French
  4. >
  5. To mean in French


To mean in French

This is something I haven't come across in my french learning in school or Duolingo. What is the french for meaning something; I have heard of saying vouloir dire but is that what people would normally say.

April 3, 2018



Yes, 'vouloir dire' is common; you can also use 'signifier'

April 3, 2018


It is commonly used, here is an example.:

"J'ai un chat noir et un chat gris. Ça veut dire que j'ai deux chats."


Could you tell me why the second sentence starts 'ça' ? I'm trying to understand when to use 'ça' as subject! Thanks!


I think "ça" is not really easy to explain but I will try it :p

You can use "ça" as a subject when you refer to the previous idea or the previous sentence. Here you can say "J'ai un chat noir et un chat gris. Ça veut dire que j'ai deux chats" because there is the sentence "J'ai un chat noir et un chat gris" so "ça" can be used for "the fact that I said that I have a black cat and a grey cat" and the meaning of the second sentence is "the fact that I said that I have a black cat and a grey cat means that I have two cats". But if the first sentence is not here you can't just say "ça veut dire que j'ai deux chats", grammatically it's correct but there is no sens.

An other example could be "Demain, je dois aller travailler. Ça ne me plait pas." Here it's the same rule " Ça ne me plait pas." means "the fact that I will have to work tomorrow doesn't enjoy me" because of the first sentence.

But take care, "ça" refers to the whole previous idea and not to just one point. If you say "Le chat est noir. Ça me plait beaucoup" the second sentence will never mean "I like the cat a lot" but "I like the fact that the cat is black a lot", you can't refer only to "the cat" with ça.

In fact, I said that you need a previous sentence but it's not totally true, you just need an idea to refer. You can say " Ça m'endort quand tu chantes" and it's totally correct, you just have to know that the idea to which "ça" refers is somewehere else in the sentence. Here it is after "ça m'endort", it's "quand tu chantes" so the sentence means "when you sing, I fall asleep".

Moreover, if in these examples an explicit idea is necessary, it's not always true if the idea to which "ça" refers is easy to understand. For example if you go to an house, show a chair and say "ça ne me plait pas", everyone will know that "ça" refers to the chair and that you don't like it. Or if you are working and say "ça m'énerve", everyone will know that is because of your work that you get worked up.

I hope I was clear enough and that you understand "ça" better ;)

Ça te suffit tous ces exemples? :p


you did a great job explaining that!


Thank you so much for taking time to explain so well! Votre explication est très claire. Ça m'a beaucoup aidé!


ça = ce+la = "that". So in my example above I am saying:

"I have a black cat and a grey cat. That means that I have two cats.


Now I see! Thank you!


Both "signifier" (more formal) and "vouloir dire" (more informal) for a word or action, but only "vouloir dire" for "I mean, my mum means" etc..

Teacher: "Que signifie ce mot?" = "What does this word mean?" Pupil to another pupil: "Que veut dire ce mot?", or probably: "Ça veut dire quoi, ce mot?" ="What does this word mean?"

"Qu'est-ce que tu veux dire?" "Je veux dire que c'est l'amour" = "What do you mean?" "I mean it's love"

Learn French in just 5 minutes a day. For free.