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Anti Smoking Pub, Quiz 1: sur les bras

    Practice your French listening with a PSA about smoking. Whether you agree or not, it’s important to understand PSAs and other announcements in French. What about this one in a business meeting setting? Can you pick up the phrases “fair venir en urgence”, “déchets toxiques”, “sur les bras”, “il faut absolument”, & “et vite”? Take…

    This audio clip is from a French Anti Smoking PSA. Listen and fill in what you hear below. Read more and find a translation below. Listen to the full PSA here.

    21 seconds, 50 words
    ,,, '.. ',, '.,. '.
    ,,faitvenirurgence, 'avonsénormeproblème.tonnesdéchetstoxiques. l'acétone,cadmium, l'ammoniaque.fauttrouverdébarrasser,. J'attendspropositions.
    Mesdames,Messieurs,sijeaifaitvenirurgence, c'estqueavonsénormeproblème.avonsplusdetonnesdéchetstoxiquesbras. l'acétone,cadmium, l'ammoniaque.fautabsolumenttrouversolutionnousendébarrasser,etvite. J'attendspropositions.

    The above audio sample and transcription is from the French PSA from an anti-smoking capaign. We do not own the content. See the full PSA here.

    Hands full

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    Here’s the full PSA for your reference, more from this PSA in tomorrow’s quiz!

    The snippet in English

    Find a translation of this snippet here, how much of this did you hear?

    Mesdames, Messieurs, si je vous ai fait venir en urgence, c’est que nous avons un énorme problème. Nous avons plus de 60 tonnes de déchets toxiques sur les bras. De l’acétone, du cadmium, de l’ammoniaque. Il faut absolument trouver une solution pour nous en débarrasser, et vite. J’attends vos propositions.

    Ladies and gentlemen, the reason I’ve called you here on an emergency basis is that we’ve got a huge problem on our hands. We’ve got over 60 tonnes of toxic waste on our hands. Acetone, cadmium, ammonia. We absolutely must find a solution to get rid of them, and fast. I look forward to hearing from you.

    The above translation from Deepl. Source

    What does “fait venir en urgence” mean?

    The phrase “fait venir en urgence” translates to “summoned urgently” or “called urgently” in English. It’s a French phrase used to denote a situation where someone is needed immediately due to an emergency or urgent circumstance.


    • Medical Emergency:
      • “Ils ont fait venir un médecin en urgence.” (They urgently called a doctor.)
      • “Un ambulancier a été fait venir en urgence.” (An ambulance driver was summoned urgently.)
    • Technical or Mechanical Emergency:
      • “Nous avons fait venir un plombier en urgence pour réparer la fuite.” (We urgently called a plumber to fix the leak.)
      • “Le mécanicien a été fait venir en urgence pour réparer le moteur.” (The mechanic was summoned urgently to fix the engine.)
    • Emergency Response:
      • “Les pompiers ont été faits venir en urgence pour éteindre l’incendie.” (The firefighters were summoned urgently to extinguish the fire.)
      • “Les secours ont été faits venir en urgence après l’accident.” (Rescue services were summoned urgently after the accident.)

    Variations and Similar Expressions:

    • Appeler en urgence (Call urgently):
      • “Nous devons appeler un électricien en urgence.” (We need to call an electrician urgently.)
    • Convoquer en urgence (Summon urgently):
      • “Le directeur a été convoqué en urgence pour gérer la crise.” (The director was summoned urgently to handle the crisis.)

    In Summary:

    “Fait venir en urgence” is a French phrase denoting the urgent summoning or calling of someone, often used in medical, technical, or emergency response contexts to highlight the necessity of immediate action or intervention.

    What does “déchets toxiques” mean?

    “Déchets toxiques” translates to “toxic waste” in English. Here’s an analysis of the phrase, focusing mainly on “déchets”:

    Meaning and Usage: The term “déchets” in French refers to waste material, which can be from households, industries, or any other source. It encompasses a broad range of materials including food waste, paper, glass, metal, and other substances that are discarded because they are no longer needed or usable.

    In Context: In the phrase “déchets toxiques,” the word “toxiques” (toxic) is an adjective that qualifies the noun “déchets,” specifying the type of waste as being harmful or poisonous. This phrase is used to describe hazardous materials that pose a risk to health or the environment.


    • “Il faut éviter le déversement de déchets toxiques dans l’environnement.” (We must avoid dumping toxic waste into the environment.)

    Common Expressions:

    • “Réduction des déchets” (waste reduction)
    • “Triage des déchets” (waste sorting)

    The term “déchets” is often used in discussions around environmental issues, waste management, recycling, and public health. In modern French society, topics like recycling and proper disposal of “déchets” (particularly “déchets toxiques”) are quite pertinent given the global dialogue around pollution and environmental sustainability.

    What does “sur les bras” mean?

    The idiomatic expression “sur les bras” literally translates to “on the arms” in English, but it is often used figuratively to indicate being burdened with something or someone, or having to take care of or deal with an unwelcome responsibility.

    Meaning and Usage:

    This phrase is typically used to express a sense of burden or responsibility, often one that is unexpected or not particularly desired. It can refer to both tangible objects and intangible situations, or even people, especially when they require attention, care, or management.


    • “Je me retrouve avec trois chats sur les bras.” (I find myself burdened with three cats.)
    • “Depuis que Pierre a perdu son emploi, ses parents l’ont sur les bras.” (Since Pierre lost his job, his parents have been burdened with him.)
    • “Avec la rénovation de la maison, nous avons beaucoup sur les bras.” (With the house renovation, we have a lot on our hands.)

    Cultural Context:

    This idiom is quite common in everyday French language and illustrates a light-hearted or exasperated way to express being encumbered with some sort of responsibility. It paints a vivid picture of carrying a burden, much like one would carry a heavy object on their arms.

    The tone with which “sur les bras” is used can range from humorous to mildly exasperated, depending on the context and the nature of the responsibility being referred to.

    Other phrases that might be used in a similar sense:

    • “avoir du pain sur la planche” (to have a lot on one’s plate)
    • “avoir fort à faire” (to have one’s hands full).

    This expression paints a colorful image of carrying a burden and is a casual, colloquial way to express a sense of responsibility or duty toward a situation or individual.

    What does “il faut absolument” mean?

    “Il faut absolument” translates to “it is absolutely necessary” or “one must absolutely” in English.

    Meaning and Usage: This phrase is used to stress the necessity or urgency of a particular action or condition. It combines the generic need denoted by “il faut” (it is necessary/one must) with an emphasis provided by “absolument” (absolutely). Here’s how it might be used:

    • “Il faut absolument que tu voies ce film.” (It’s absolutely necessary that you see this movie.)
    • “Il faut absolument que nous partions avant midi.” (We must absolutely leave before noon.)

    Context: The phrase is common in both formal and informal contexts. It’s a way of highlighting the importance or urgency of a matter, making it clear that action is crucial.


    • Il est impératif que
    • Il est crucial que
    • Il est essentiel que

    These phrases also stress the necessity of the action, but with varying degrees of formality and intensity.

    Variations: The phrase can be varied by substituting other adverbs, like “peut-être” (maybe) or “généralement” (generally), changing the level of urgency:

    • “Il faut peut-être que tu voies ce film.” (Maybe you should see this movie.)
    • “Il faut généralement que nous partions avant midi.” (We generally need to leave before noon.)

    “Il faut absolument” is an effective phrase to employ when wanting to underline the importance of an action or a situation in a conversation.

    What does “débarrasser” mean?

    “Débarrasser” translates to “to clear” or “to get rid of” in English.

    Meaning and Usage:

    • Clearing: It’s often used in the context of clearing the table after a meal.
      • “Peux-tu débarrasser la table, s’il te plaît?” (Can you clear the table, please?)
    • Getting rid of: It can also refer to getting rid of unwanted items or obstacles.
      • “Nous devons débarrasser la maison des vieux meubles.” (We need to get rid of the old furniture from the house.)

    Context: “Débarrasser” is a versatile word used in a variety of contexts, both informal and formal. It’s often seen in household or everyday scenarios when referring to clearing away objects. In a broader sense, it could be used in professional or formal situations to talk about removing obstacles or unwanted elements.


    • Enlever (to remove)
    • Se défaire de (to rid oneself of)

    Variations: The reflexive form “se débarrasser de” is also commonly used, which translates to “to get rid of.”

    • “Il veut se débarrasser de ses vieux jouets.” (He wants to get rid of his old toys.)

    “Débarrasser” is a handy verb to know for talking about clearing spaces or removing unwanted items, whether you’re at home, at work, or dealing with more abstract kinds of removal or clearance.

    What does “et vite” mean?

    “Et vite” translates to “and quickly” or “and fast” in English.

    Meaning and Usage:

    Urgency: This phrase is often used to express urgency or to emphasize the need for swift action.

    • “Il faut trouver une solution, et vite !” (We need to find a solution, and quickly!)

    Speed: It can also be used to comment on the speed at which something needs to be or was done

    • “Elle a répondu aux questions, et vite.” (She answered the questions, and quickly.)


    The phrase “et vite” is fairly informal and is more likely to be used in casual conversation rather than in formal or written discourse. However, it could appear in a variety of settings whenever there’s a need to emphasize speed or urgency.


    The phrase encapsulates a sense of immediacy which can underline the importance of the matter at hand. It can also sometimes reflect impatience or high priority.


    There aren’t exact variations of “et vite,” but similar phrases or expressions that also indicate urgency include “tout de suite” (right away) or “immédiatement” (immediately).

    The phrase “et vite” is a simple, effective way to express the need for haste or to comment on the speed of action in both personal and professional contexts.

    What is opening up for you?

    Comment below with the words you thought you heard, where you struggled, where you surprised yourself, or what you thought about this clip. Every little bit inspires other learners, thank you for being that inspiration to others on their French fluency journey!

    Practice your French listening with a PSA about smoking. Whether you agree or not, it’s important to understand PSAs and other announcements in French. What about this one in a business meeting setting? Can you pick up the phrases “fair venir en urgence”, “déchets toxiques”, “sur les bras”, “il faut absolument”, & “et vite”? Take…

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