"Quel caractère !"

Translation:What a temper!

March 29, 2013

This discussion is locked.


What about "What character." referring to an individual's good qualities, e.g., honesty, integrity, etc.?


I tried that out in curiosity and it doesn't work today (May 6, 2015). I can't report it though because I have no clue if it is a correct translation.

Edit: It's not a correct translation! Scroll down a little bit if you want a more in-depth explanation, but in a nutshell caractère translates pretty strictly to "temper" in this context. There are other ways that the word can be used that would translate how you expect it to, n6zs lists a few below.


There are lots of clues on this page, though. Please scroll down and read what other learners have written about this question in the past year.


Oh, wow. I really didn't expect to see a discussion on that translation! n6zs even specifies more uses of the word so that I better grasp it! I'll edit my post to reflect what I've read. Thanks. :)


previously, I learned "les petits caractères" as "small letters/characters". Now, when I saw such sentence, I immediately thought "What a letter!", but actually that was "What a temper!". is it any kind of expression?


I see it translated as "What a character!" which is an expression meaning an interesting or amusing individual. Maybe you have a silly friend who tells outrageous stories. You could say about him "What a character!" It sounds like the other character you are talking about is letter characters. Just type "define character" into google and you can see all the different translations for character. I don't know if "What a temper!" is a common expression but I could see it being said about a toddler throwing a fit or someone who easily angers.


so difficult for me to grasp. To me, "Quel character !" should be "What character!" Where does the word 'a' come in????


"What a character!" means "what a funny person!" = quel personnage !

"What character!" means "what a temper!" = quel caractère !


Just to clarify, the English "What character" never refers to a person's temper whereas "Quel caractère" does. That is the reason why English speakers (and French) find it a bit confusing.

  • Il a un bon caractère = He has a good character.
  • Il a une bonne personnalité = He has a nice personality.
  • Quel personnage ! = What a character! (he has a lively or funny personality)
  • Quel caractère ! = What a temper! (he's a hothead/he gets angry very easily).
  • Ces caractères sont trop petits. Je ne peux pas les lire. = Those letters (i.e., characters) are too small. I can't read them.


Thank you again. Much appreciated!


Does "what character!" mean "what a temper!" in english? I don't think I've ever heard anyone use it that way. In my experience "what character!" refers to a person's good qualities.


As stated above "What character!" is a compliment that expresses an admiration of someone with excellent qualities of morality or strength. Like if someone showed courage and unwavering strength in the midst of trouble, you could say that to mean "how impressive his resilience is!"

On the other hand "What a character!" is something you would say probably with a smile because it implies something odd but usually funny about the person. You could use the phrase, for instance, in reference to Mr Bean


When SiteSurf said "What character" = "What temper," I think he meant Duo' TRANSLATION of "what character" should be "What temper."


I am a native English speaker. N6zs made a clarifying list for me! Bravo.

In English, "What a character!" or "What a personality!" both imply humorous approval of someone is jovial or entertaining. He is playing a role, like a character in a comedy.

My understanding of the French "Quel caractère! is that it is about an explosive or unpleasant personality. To speak of temper in English, I would say "He has a temper" or "He has quite the temper" meaning he is not likely to stay calm. It is his habitual way of being. Be careful; he may flip out!

In English we add an adjective for a more specific judgment on what his temper comprises: "He has a bad/explosive/grouchy/vicious/snarly temper." (adj + noun)

In English, as in French, the judgment is more existential by using the "to be" verb: He is cantankerous. He is grumpy. He is touchy. He is irascible. He is choleric. He is moody. He is crotchety. He is vicious. He is ill/bad/quick-tempered. Be warned!

There is an slightly teasing, chiding idiom of warning or friendly reproval when someone is beginning to "lose it". This phrase is often presented in a humous, sing-song tone, eyebrows raised and maybe even a forefinger wag: "Temper, temper!"


What a temper ..young child losing his temper, control, getting angry, frustration, .. any other age Teenager etc


From the long list of semi-redundant confusion, this looks like a culture-clash issue, to me. Sitesurf, would you consider this more or less an idiomatic expression in both languages ?


Yes, it is idiomatic in both languages.


Is "Such temper!" alright? I tried it, but I was told I needed the article "a". "Quel caractère" seems more to me like "What/such temper", and "Quel personnage" seems best suited for "What a character!" Can this clarification be considered, and implemented by DL?


I think this is because "a temper" is countable in English. We say "He has a temper" but we wouldn't say "He has temper".


Right now the correct solution is provided as "What a character" and "What temper" yet "What a temper" is not accepted - it is still a bit confusing...


How about "Such character!" ? It may be a slightly different meaning, as in 'showing character', but I figured that could also work...


I have three French dictionaries and all accept character!


"What a character!" means "what a funny person!" = quel personnage !

"What character!" means "what a temper!" = quel caractère !


You've got "What a character!" down.

But as n6zs/George mentions, in English "What character!" doesn't refer to a (bad) temper. Instead it's a positive statement that implies integrity and courage.

"What a temper!" refers pretty much exclusively to a tendency to explode with anger.

"What (a) temperament", on the other hand, would often be used disparagingly but would ultimately depend on context. It could conceivably refer to any one of a good, bad, or peculiar disposition (golden retriever, formerly tormented small dog, or any kind of cat, respectively).

("Temper" itself can be neutral, good, or bad, depending on the context, but as soon as we say someone has "a temper", without any adjective, it means pretty much only that the person has a tendency to become very angry, very easily.)

I'm just clarifying the English because of this recent comment of yours and your earlier comment where you say "Quel caractère !" definitely means "what a (bad/explosive/peculiar...) temper!"

"Peculiar" isn't really an adjective we would assume with "what a temper" in English, except perhaps to say that it was strange that the person would become so angry without any real provocation (unless by "peculiar" you mean "uniquely extreme").

As a result of all of this I'm left slightly confused as to the meaning of the French after reading everything here (and particularly as to whether the French has a slightly broader meaning than the English translation currently provided).


"Quel caractère !" being exclamative, it is a reaction to an attitude or behavior of someone with a 'sturdy character' (un caractère bien trempé).

This is someone who dares to say what he/she thinks, someone who has opinions and expresses them aloud. In many cases, the speaker is impressed, in particular if he/she is an introvert, or even a coward.

But, this is also pejorative; about a baby or child crying a lot, stomping, rolling on the floor, etc. this an indirect criticism of their parents' educational skills. About a woman, very sadly, this is an overt criticism of her (alleged) lack of self-control, to say the least.

"Quel tempérament !" also comments on personality traits of someone who is energetic, decisive, indefatigable.

"Quel personnage !" or "quel phénomène !" will be laudatory of the person as a whole, when no adjective is added.


Thanks Sitesurf – this is all very interesting and helpful indeed.

Apparently "quel caractère" and these related phrases are all somewhat complicated to translate into English.

In fact, if I read you correctly, it seems as though "quel caractère" could mean "what character", "what a character" (which is not necessarily disparaging in English, depending on the context), "what a temper", or "what (a) temperament" (which is also context-dependent), and the context would be quite necessary in determining which of these would be the closest approximation.


PeaceJoyPancakes, I agree with you. Having read the "whole yard of this thread" one must conclude as you have. There probably should be a whole section on 'Caractère'/Behaviour(?) where the nuances of character and behaviour are taught.

Sitesurf/ThankWee/n6zs -

Whaty'all think? I see that describing a person's behaviour and/or character in French has lot's of faux amis in English.


I used the french plural here and was marked wrong. In fact, working from the "type what you hear" I am not sure how the pronunciation of singular and plural can be differentiated if "caractère" can also mean "characters"


Relatedly: are "quel" and "quelle" homophones? I thought she pronounced the 'l' clearly enough for it to have been "quelle" (I was wrong, obviously enough). Ie. Do you just have to remember the gender of the word to which they are attached?


Yes, the pronunciation would be the same, so you just have to remember the gender of the noun.


this makes no sense to me so im going to "tempérer ma colère"


Larousse gives "what a temper" as the translation of "quel caractère", but from the discussion on this page it seems to be a phrase that can't necessarily be translated by one direct equivalent that works in all contexts, which is as much the fault of English as of French.

The appropriate translation of "caractère" seems to lie along the lines of "temper", "temperament", "character", and "nature", depending on the context. The various translations of the word in different contexts provided by Collins and Larousse may be helpful:

Thanks for the phrase "tempérer sa colère".


I've never ever come across this phrase meaning what a temper. A temper in French is usually "mauvais character" or more often, "sale character"


If listening to just the audio, how do you distinguish between singular and plural? "Quelles caractères" was not accepted.


The editors have changed the course to accept homophones in the listening exercises, however, you got the gender of « quelles » wrong. « Caractère » is masculine (OK, there is also one meaning that can be either feminine or masculine - an emotionally disturbed child - but it's unlikely that you meant that) so you should have written « Quels caractères ». It's possibly a slightly strange phrase as "What a temper!" (a single person) is going to be much more common than "What tempers!" (a group of people).


I have never seen "caractère" in feminine.

"quels caractères !" could be said about signs or letters, not about several people.

Remember that plural subjects can have singular objects and it would be a typical case of "each their own".


Is there a French equivalent for "character actor"? In English, a "character actor" is someone who seldom, if ever, stars in movies, but always plays prominent supporting roles.


I don't know if the French have a phrase for that or not, but "a character" in a book or a movie is « un personnage ».


"Acteur/Actrice de genre" seems applicable. I have no idea whether it's commonly used.

character actor


  1. acteur(‑trice) m f de genre


Thanks! I back-translated "acteur de genre" on Reverso and it does indeed translate as "character actor," with the appropriate examples.


I put 'quel personnage!' and was marked wrong!!


What English were you given?


in the dictionary it is define as character. Why DL rejects it and impose temper?


Because there is a difference between a word standing alone and a word as part of an idiomatic phrase. Faire is to do or to make, but il fait froid is how you say "it is cold" when talking about the weather.

BTW, Sitesurf might have already clarified this in the discussion, so please read if you haven't.

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