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Transfert s01e22, Quiz 14: ils étaient amoureux

This was a fun one for me to work through. It has multiple paces throughout and while long has some great expressions. Dive in and see if you hear what I hear… Here are some words and phrases that stood out for me: “ils étaient amoureux”, “ils se câlinaient”, “Je ne peux pas m’en empêcher”,…

Learn French with a podcast snippet! This clip is is from Transfert s01ep22. We do not own the content. Listen to the entire episode here.

23 seconds, 63 words
, ' '.,.. ',, ' ' '. ' '. ' "-",.
, 'savait 'étaientamoureux.câlinaient,faisaient.euhmettaitderrière. 'image,, ' l'imageidéale 'relation. 'peuxpas m'enempêcher. ' "paf-paf"fesses,.
Lecoupleparents, c'étaitsavait qu'ilsétaientamoureux.câlinaient,faisaienttoujoursbisous.pèreeuhmettaittoujoursmainderrière. C'estimage,moi, c'est l'imageidéale 'bonnerelation. C'estpeuxpas m'enempêcher. l'hommeavecquijesuis "paf-paf"pasfesses,çanelefaitpas.

The above audio sample and transcription is from Transfert s01ep22. We do not own the content. Listen to the entire episode here.

they were in love

Tell me what you’re hearing in this clip! With her laughing and speed changes, it is a challenge!

What’s opening up for you with this clip?

The snippet in English

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

Le couple de mes parents, c’etait… on savait qu’ils étaient amoureux. Ils se câlinaient, ils se faisaient toujours des bisous. Mon père euh mettait toujours la main derrière. C’est un image, pour moi, c’est l’image idéale d’une bonne relation. C’est… Je ne peux pas m’en empêcher. Si l’homme avec qui je suis ne me “paf-paf” pas les fesses, ça ne le fait pas.

My parents’ couple was… we knew they were in love. They were always hugging and kissing. My father always put his hand on her back. It’s an image, for me, it’s the ideal image of a good relationship. It’s just… I can’t help it. If the man I’m with doesn’t pat me on the ass, it just won’t work.

The above translation from Deepl

What does “ils étaient amoureux” mean?

Literal Translation and Meaning:

  • Literal Translation: “They were in love.”
  • General Meaning: The phrase describes a state where two people share romantic feelings for each other.

Usage in Different Contexts:

  1. Romantic Relationship: Most commonly used to talk about a couple that shares a deep, romantic connection.
    • French Example: “Ils étaient amoureux depuis le lycée.” (They were in love since high school.)
  2. Literature and Movies: Frequently appears in stories to depict romantic relationships.
    • French Example: “Dans le film, ils étaient amoureux et ont surmonté tous les obstacles.” (In the movie, they were in love and overcame all obstacles.)
  3. Past Relationships: Can be used to describe a relationship that has ended or changed.
    • French Example: “Ils étaient amoureux, mais la vie les a séparés.” (They were in love, but life separated them.)

Cultural and Nuanced Notes:

  • Romanticism: French culture has a rich history of romanticism, and expressions of love are deeply ingrained in the language and arts.
  • Tense: The phrase is in the imperfect tense, which is often used for descriptions and to set the scene in narratives. It indicates a state that was ongoing or habitual in the past.
  • Emotional Weight: Saying “ils étaient amoureux” can carry a lot of emotional weight, possibly implying a deep and significant romantic connection.


  • “Ils étaient amoureux et tout le monde pouvait le voir.” (They were in love, and everyone could see it.)
  • “Même après tant d’années, ils se souvenaient à quel point ils étaient amoureux.” (Even after so many years, they remembered how in love they were.)

What does “ils se câlinaient” mean?

Literal Translation and Meaning:

  • Literal Translation: “They were cuddling each other.”
  • General Meaning: The phrase describes a situation where two or more people are showing affection towards each other through gentle touches, hugs, or caresses.

Usage in Different Contexts:

  1. Romantic Context: Often used to describe a couple that is sharing an intimate and affectionate moment.
    • French Example: “Ils se câlinaient sur le canapé, regardant un film.” (They were cuddling on the sofa, watching a movie.)
  2. Familial Affection: Can also be used to describe affectionate moments between family members.
    • French Example: “La mère et son petit garçon se câlinaient avant de dormir.” (The mother and her little boy were cuddling before sleep.)
  3. With Pets: Sometimes used to describe someone cuddling with their pet.
    • French Example: “Il se câlinait avec son chat.” (He was cuddling with his cat.)

Cultural and Nuanced Notes:

  • Tenderness: The verb “câliner” conveys a sense of tenderness and affection.
  • Frequency of Use: It is a fairly common verb in French and is widely understood across different regions.
  • Conjugation: The phrase “ils se câlinaient” is in the imperfect tense, which is often used to describe ongoing or repeated actions in the past.


  • “Après une longue journée, ils se câlinaient pour se détendre.” (After a long day, they would cuddle to relax.)
  • “Les deux amis se câlinaient en riant, heureux de se retrouver.” (The two friends were cuddling and laughing, happy to see each other again.)

What does “je ne peux pas m’en empêcher” mean?


“I can’t help it.”

Literal Meaning:

“I cannot prevent myself from it.”


This phrase expresses an inability to stop oneself from doing something, regardless of whether it is a physical action, a thought, or an emotional response. It conveys a sense of compulsion or a lack of control over one’s actions.


  • Expressing Habit: When someone has a habit that they find hard to break.
    • “Je sais que je parle trop fort, mais je ne peux pas m’en empêcher.” (I know I speak too loudly, but I can’t help it.)
  • Emotional Responses: When someone can’t control their emotional reactions.
    • “Dès que je vois un chat, je fonds; je ne peux pas m’en empêcher.” (As soon as I see a cat, I melt; I can’t help it.)
  • Involuntary Actions: When discussing something that happens reflexively or involuntarily.
    • “Je ne peux pas m’en empêcher de rire quand il fait cette tête.” (I can’t help but laugh when he makes that face.)


  • Social: Can be used in casual or formal conversations, depending on the subject.
  • Emotional: Often used when discussing emotional habits or responses.
  • Behavioral: Discussing behaviors that one finds difficult to change.

Similar Expressions:

  • “Je ne peux pas résister” (I can’t resist)
  • “C’est plus fort que moi” (It’s stronger than me/I can’t control it)


This phrase reflects a universal experience of grappling with habits, emotional responses, or other actions that feel involuntary or difficult to control. It conveys vulnerability and self-awareness, as the speaker is acknowledging their lack of control in the situation. While it can be used in a lighthearted manner to discuss harmless habits or quirks, it can also be used in more serious contexts to talk about behaviors or responses that someone genuinely wishes they could change.

In casual or fast speech, French speakers often drop the “e” in “je” and the “ne,” making it sound more like “j’n peux pas m’en empêcher.” So when spoken quickly or colloquially, the phrase might sound something like “zhuhn p’pahman pêshay.”

What does “paf” mean?

“Paf” is an onomatopoeic French word that is often used to mimic the sound of a light hit, slap, or impact. It can be used in various contexts to describe a sudden or quick action, typically with a humorous or light-hearted tone. Here’s a more detailed breakdown:

Meaning and Use:

  • Sound of Impact: “Paf” is frequently used to imitate the sound made when something hits another object quickly and sharply. For example, “Il a jeté la balle et paf, elle a atterri dans le panier” (He threw the ball and bam, it landed in the basket).
  • Suddenness: It can also convey a sense of suddenness or immediacy. “Je marchais tranquillement quand paf, je suis tombé” (I was walking calmly when wham, I fell).
  • Comic Effect: Due to its onomatopoeic nature, “paf” often adds a comic or playful effect to a sentence.

Cultural and Nuanced Notes:

  • Informal Language: “Paf” is considered informal and is more likely to be used in casual conversation, storytelling, or when trying to add a humorous touch.
  • Versatility: Like many onomatopoeic words, “paf” is quite versatile and can be used in a variety of contexts to convey the sound or feeling of a sudden impact or event.
  • Mimicking Sounds: French, like many languages, has a rich collection of onomatopoeic words used to mimic sounds from everyday life. “Paf” is just one example, and it showcases how language can be playful and expressive.


  • “Il a glissé sur la peau de banane et paf, par terre !” (He slipped on the banana peel and bam, on the ground!)
  • “J’étais en train de conduire tranquillement, quand paf, un oiseau a heurté le pare-brise.” (I was driving calmly when wham, a bird hit the windshield.)

What does “les fesses” mean?

Literal Translation and Meaning:

  • Literal Translation: “The buttocks” or “The bottom.”
  • General Meaning: Refers to the posterior part of the human body, specifically the two rounded portions of the anatomy located on the pelvis.

Usage in Different Contexts:

  1. Anatomy: Used to describe a part of the body.
    • French Example: “Il s’est fait mal aux fesses en tombant.” (He hurt his bottom when he fell.)
  2. Informal Language: Can be used in a casual or colloquial manner.
    • French Example: “Arrête de te laisser botter les fesses!” (Stop letting yourself get kicked in the butt!)
  3. Expressions: Appears in various French idioms and expressions.
    • French Example: “Se casser les fesses” (Literally “to break one’s buttocks,” meaning to work very hard.)

Cultural and Nuanced Notes:

  • Informality: While “les fesses” is a common and informal way to refer to the buttocks, it is not considered vulgar. However, the level of formality depends on the context in which it’s used.
  • Playfulness: Can be used in playful or teasing situations, especially among friends or in family settings.
  • Body Language: In French culture, as in many others, body language and gestures associated with certain parts of the body, including “les fesses,” can convey specific meanings or emotions.


  • “Elle a mal aux fesses après avoir fait du vélo tout l’après-midi.” (She has a sore bottom after riding the bike all afternoon.)
  • “Il a reçu une fessée sur les fesses.” (He got a spanking on the buttocks.)

What does “ça ne le fait pas” mean?

Literal Translation and Meaning:

  • Literal Translation: There isn’t a direct, word-for-word translation into English, but it roughly translates to “it doesn’t do it” or “it doesn’t work.”
  • General Meaning: The phrase is used to express that something is not appropriate, not working well, or just not right in a particular situation.

Usage in Different Contexts:

  1. Inappropriateness: Indicating that something is not suitable or appropriate for the situation.
    • French Example: “Porter un jean à un mariage, ça ne le fait pas.” (Wearing jeans to a wedding isn’t appropriate.)
  2. Lack of Style or Coolness: When something is not considered stylish or cool.
    • French Example: “Cette coupe de cheveux, ça ne le fait pas du tout sur toi.” (That haircut doesn’t look good on you at all.)
  3. When Something Doesn’t Work: Used to express that something is not functioning properly.
    • French Example: “Mon ordinateur est lent, ça ne le fait pas.” (My computer is slow, it’s not working well.)

Cultural and Nuanced Notes:

  • Informality: The phrase is informal and is more commonly used in casual conversations.
  • Variations: You might also hear variations like “ça le fait” (it works/it’s cool) which is the positive counterpart.
  • Subjectivity: What “ne le fait pas” for one person might “le faire” for another, as it often reflects personal opinions or societal expectations.


  • “Mettre ses pieds sur la table en mangeant, ça ne le fait pas.” (Putting your feet on the table while eating isn’t proper.)
  • “Sortir sans parapluie quand il pleut, ça ne le fait pas.” (Going out without an umbrella when it’s raining doesn’t work.)

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!

This was a fun one for me to work through. It has multiple paces throughout and while long has some great expressions. Dive in and see if you hear what I hear… Here are some words and phrases that stood out for me: “ils étaient amoureux”, “ils se câlinaient”, “Je ne peux pas m’en empêcher”,…

2 thoughts on “Transfert s01e22, Quiz 14: ils étaient amoureux”

  1. Heya,

    I think it might be “mettait toujours la main au derrière”. With that as context, I’m not sure that any pronoun makes sense before mettait, but I hear “nous”, if anything.

    1. On relistening after hearing many minutes of this woman’s speech, I’m tempted to say it’s probably another “euh”. I’ve changed it to that as I agree no pronoun fits here…

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