Skip to content

Anti Smoking Pub, Quiz 2: sur le dos

    Hear a bunch of ideas pitched to the boss. Can you follow along? Listen for “on peut pas ?”, “une usine de retraitement”, “la dernière fois”, enfouir discrètement”, “les écolos”, “sur le dos”, & “moins regardant”. Take on today’s quiz and improve your ear with fast spoken French in real life!

    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, 75 words
    ? ,.,. ',.. '.,, ?
    envoyerusineretraitement ? ,cher.fairedernièrefois,achèteterrainenfouitdiscrètement. 'finiépoque,auraécolos.embarquerverspaysmoinsregardant. '.trouversolutionsimple,économique,efficace ?
    peutpasenvoyerdansusineretraitement ? Maisnon,tropcher.Oufairecommedernièrefois,achèteterrainonlesenfouitdiscrètement.mais c'estfiniépoque,auraécolossurdosenmoinsheures.vaisembarquerverspaysmoinsregardant.mais c'esttout.pouvezpastrouversolutionplussimple,pluséconomique,plusefficace ?

    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.

    On our backs

    What’s opening up for you with this clip?

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

    The snippet in English

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

    On peut pas les envoyer dans une usine de retraitement ? Mais non, trop cher. Ou faire comme la dernière fois, on achète un terrain et on les enfouit discrètement. Non mais c’est fini cette époque, on aura les écolos sur le dos en moins de 24 heures. Je vais les embarquer vers un pays moins regardant. Non mais c’est tout. Vous pouvez pas me trouver une solution plus simple, plus économique, plus efficace ?

    Can’t we send them to a reprocessing plant? But no, too expensive. Or do what we did last time: buy a plot of land and bury them discreetly. We’ll have the environmentalists on our backs in less than 24 hours. I’m going to ship them off to some country with less scrutiny. But that’s it. Can’t you come up with a simpler, cheaper, more efficient solution?

    The above translation from Deepl. Source

    What does “on peut pas” mean?

    In the form of a question, “On peut pas” would typically come with a rising intonation at the end to signify the interrogative nature, just as in English. However, the more formal way to structure the question would be “Ne peut-on pas?” or “On ne peut pas?”. In informal speech, the “ne” is often dropped, and you might hear “On peut pas?” It’s a way to ask for permission or inquire about the possibility of something in a casual manner.


    1. “On peut pas aller au cinéma ?” (Can’t we go to the movies?)
    2. Informal conversation:
      • A: “On peut pas prendre une pause ?” (Can’t we take a break?)
      • B: “Si, bien sûr !” (Yes, of course!)

    In a casual conversation, the context and the intonation largely carry the interrogative nature of the phrase. Nonetheless, it’s less likely to encounter “On peut pas ?” in formal written dialogue or in a formal setting, where the full negative form “On ne peut pas ?” or the inverted “Ne peut-on pas ?” would be more appropriate.

    While in English, the phrase “Can’t we?” is quite common and versatile across both formal and informal contexts, in French, distinguishing between “On peut pas ?” and “On ne peut pas ?” or “Ne peut-on pas ?” can signal the speaker’s awareness of the formality of the situation.

    It’s also common to hear people phrase questions in a slightly different way for clarity, like adding est-ce que at the beginning of the question, albeit more formally:

    • “Est-ce qu’on peut pas aller au parc ?” (Can’t we go to the park?)

    This nuanced use of negation and questioning form encapsulates the rhythmic flexibility of everyday French, which often hinges on context and the level of formality involved in the conversation.

    What does “une usine de retraitement” mean?

    “Usine de retraitement” translates to “reprocessing plant” in English. It refers to a facility where materials are treated to be reused or recycled.

    • Example: “L’usine de retraitement transforme les déchets en matériaux réutilisables.” (The reprocessing plant turns waste into reusable materials.)


    The term is generally used in a formal or technical context, particularly when discussing waste management, recycling, and environmental policies.

    Synonyms and Antonyms:

    • centre de recyclage (recycling center)
    • installation de retraitement (reprocessing facility)
    • Antonyms: décharge (dump), site d’enfouissement (landfill site)

    Cultural Notes:

    Recycling and waste management are important discussions in France, as in many parts of the world. The phrase “usine de retraitement” reflects the nation’s efforts in sustainability and reducing environmental impact.

    France has a well-developed system for waste management and recycling, and the language surrounding this system reflects a societal awareness of environmental issues.

    The phrase “usine de retraitement” can evoke different reactions in the public discourse, sometimes seen as a positive step towards sustainable waste management, while others might focus on the challenges or shortcomings of such facilities.

    The use of the word “retraitement” rather than “recyclage” in this phrase might reflect a broader process that goes beyond just recycling, encompassing a wider range of materials management and processing.

    What does “la dernière fois” mean?

    “La dernière fois” translates to “the last time” in English. It’s used to refer to the most recent or final occurrence of an event.

    • “La dernière fois que je l’ai vu, il était très content.” (The last time I saw him, he was very happy.)
    • “Je suis allé à Paris pour la dernière fois il y a trois ans.” (I went to Paris for the last time three years ago.)


    This phrase is used in both formal and informal contexts to denote the most recent or final occurrence of an event.

    Synonyms and Antonyms:

    • Synonyms: “l’ultime fois” (the ultimate time), “la fois précédente” (the previous time)
    • Antonym: “la première fois” (the first time)


    There are no significant variations of “la dernière fois,” but it can be used in different tenses to convey different meanings based on the context.

    Idiomatic Usage:

    While “la dernière fois” itself isn’t an idiom, it’s a common phrase used in everyday conversation and can be found in various expressions or statements.

    What does “enfouir discrètement” mean?

    The phrase “enfouir discrètement” translates to “to discreetly bury” or “to hide away discreetly” in English. This phrase may be used literally to describe the action of hiding something in a secretive manner, or metaphorically to describe concealing information, feelings, or actions.

    • “Il a décidé d’enfouir discrètement les documents dans le jardin.” (He decided to discreetly bury the documents in the garden.)
    • “Elle a tenté d’enfouir discrètement ses sentiments pour lui.” (She tried to discreetly hide away her feelings for him.)


    The phrase can be used in both formal and informal contexts, depending on the situation. It might be encountered in literary works, personal conversations, or even in professional settings where concealment of information is being discussed.

    Synonyms and Antonyms:

    • Synonyms: “cacher discrètement” (to hide discreetly), “dissimuler discrètement” (to disguise discreetly)
    • Antonyms: “révéler ouvertement” (to openly reveal), “exposer ouvertement” (to openly expose)


    There are not many variations of “enfouir discrètement” but the adverb can be changed to alter the nuance of hiding, e.g., “enfouir soigneusement” (to bury carefully).

    Idiomatic Usage:

    There’s no specific idiomatic usage related to “enfouir discrètement,” but it is a vivid phrase that can paint a picture of secretive or cautious behavior.

    What does “les écolos” mean?

    “Les écolos” is a colloquial term in French which translates to “the eco-friendly people” or “the environmentalists” in English. It’s often used to refer to individuals or groups who are passionate about environmental conservation and eco-friendly practices.

    • “Les écolos manifestent pour la protection des forêts.” (The environmentalists are protesting for the protection of forests.)
    • “Il a rejoint les écolos pour lutter contre le changement climatique.” (He joined the environmentalists to fight against climate change.)


    The phrase is informal and is often used in casual conversations, media, or in political contexts when discussing environmental issues or individuals/groups advocating for environmental conservation.

    Synonyms and Antonyms:

    • Synonyms: “les environnementalistes” (the environmentalists), “les verts” (the greens)
    • Antonyms: “les anti-écolos” (the anti-eco-friendly people)


    There isn’t a significant variation to “les écolos” but it can be used singularly as “un écolo” (an environmentalist).

    Idiomatic Usage:

    There’s no specific idiomatic usage related to “les écolos,” though it is an informal and somewhat endearing term used to identify those with a green thumb or an environmentalist stance.

    Cultural Notes:

    In France, environmentalism is a substantial part of the political and social dialogue, and there are various groups and parties, like “Les Verts” (The Greens), dedicated to environmental causes. “Les écolos” can sometimes be used in a slightly derogatory manner by those opposing environmental measures, but often it’s used neutrally or positively to describe eco-conscious individuals. The phrase reflects a broader cultural awareness and engagement with environmental issues within France. While eco-consciousness is a global trend, the French often have a distinct approach to environmentalism, and the term “les écolos” is a casual way to reference this group within the societal context.

    What does “sur le dos” mean?

    “Sur le dos” literally translates to “on the back” in English.

    • Example: “Il porte son sac sur le dos.” (He carries his bag on his back.)

    Figuratively, it’s used to describe someone being closely monitored, pressured, or burdened by another person or a situation, similar to the phrases “on our backs” or “breathing down our necks” in English.

    • “Les patrons sont toujours sur le dos des employés.” (The bosses are always on the employees’ backs.)
    • “Avec le projet en retard, le chef est constamment sur notre dos.” (With the project running late, the boss is constantly on our backs.)

    The way these phrases are utilized in both languages showcases a common sentiment and the similar metaphorical use of language to express such feelings.

    • The phrase is versatile and can be used in both formal and informal contexts, although it might be seen as more colloquial in formal settings.

    Synonyms and Antonyms:

    • Synonyms: sous pression (under pressure), sous surveillance (under surveillance)
    • Antonyms: libre (free), sans surveillance (unmonitored)

    What does “moins regardant” mean?

    “Moins regardant” is a French expression which translates to “less particular,” “less picky,” or “less fussy” in English. It’s used to describe a person who is not very demanding or discerning in certain situations, usually regarding quality, rules, or standards.


    • “Il est moins regardant sur la qualité des produits.” (He is less particular about the quality of the products.)


    This expression can be used in both informal and formal settings. It is often used to talk about people’s preferences or attitudes toward standards, be it in personal or professional scenarios.

    Synonyms and Antonyms:

    • Synonyms: moins exigeant (less demanding),
    • moins pointilleux (less meticulous)
    • Antonym: très regardant (very particular)

    Cultural Notes:

    In some aspects, this phrase could highlight a cultural difference where, for instance, French society is often seen as being meticulous or particular about quality, especially in matters of food, fashion, or art. The phrase “moins regardant” could be employed to denote a departure from or a lesser degree of this stereotypical exactness.

    This phrase can be a subtle way of indicating a more relaxed or lenient approach, or perhaps a critique of lowered standards depending on the context in which it’s used.

    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!

    Hear a bunch of ideas pitched to the boss. Can you follow along? Listen for “on peut pas ?”, “une usine de retraitement”, “la dernière fois”, enfouir discrètement”, “les écolos”, “sur le dos”, & “moins regardant”. Take on today’s quiz and improve your ear with fast spoken French in real life!

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *