Alors Meaning & Usage

You’ve heard the French word “alors” before but what does it mean and how do you use it?

AlorsAlors means so, then, well and in that case. Alors has many usages and can cause confusion for beginners. French speakers place alors in different parts of the sentence (Alors, qu’est-ce que tu fais? So, what are you doing?) and use it multiple expressions (Ça alors! You don’t say!). This post also teachers alors vs. donc, which means therefore.

Alors uses and example sentences

The most basic and common usage of alors equates to the english, “so”, and goes at the beginning of the sentence.

  • Alors, qu’est-ce que tu fais ce soir? So what are you doing tonight?
  • Alors, quoi de neuf? So, what’s new?
  • Alors, on commence la leçon? So, shall we start the lesson?
  • Alors, je disais que je n’ai rien appris! So, I was saying that I didn’t learn anything.

Note that alors can also go at the end of a sentence.

  • Qu’est-ce que vous voulez faire alors? So, what do you want to do?

Another translation of alors is “well”. This usage is very similar to the above examples.

  • Alors, dis-moi ce que tu veux! Well, tell me what you want?
  • Alors, raconte-moi toute l’histoire! Well, tell me the whole story!
  • Alors moi, je pense que c’est vrai! Well, I think it’s true!

Alors can also translate to “so then” as to engage somebody in conversation.

  • Alors, parle-moi de ta nouvelle maison en France! So then, tell me about your new house in France.

When coming later in speech alors also translates to so. But, be careful. In this situation it does not translate to therefore, which is donc.

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  • J’ai plusieurs choix. Alors, je ne sais pas excatement ce que je vais faire. I have a lot of choices. So, I don’t exactly know what I’m going to do.
  • J’étais complètement abasourdi. Alors, je n’a rien dit. I was totally dumbfounded, so I didn’t say anything.

Alors vs. Donc

Donc translates to therefore. It is used the same way therefore is used in English, which means that it equates to thus or hence and follows some kind of logical though.

  • Ils n’avaient rien préparé et l’avion est arrivé en retard. Donc, le concert a été annulé. They haden’t prepared anything and the plane was late. Therefore (or thus), the concert was canceled.

Other usages and expressions

Alors que is a conjunction and translates to while, when and even though.

  • Il est arrivé alors que nous étions dans le salon. He came when we were in the living room.
  • Mon oncle est riche alors que mon cousin est pauvre. My uncle is rich while my cousin is poor.

Alors là! is an expression which translates to Well! or Well there!

  • Alors là, ce n’est vraiment pas mon problème! Well, that’s really not my problem!
  • Alors là, je n’ai rien compris! Well, I don’t understand anything!

The expression “Et alors?” can come at the end of phrase to mean so what? or so? The means here can translate to ‘What does that change’? or ‘Who cares’?

  • Le patron n’assiste pas à la fête. – Et alors? The boss isn’t coming to the party. – So what?
  • C’est vrai. La France n’est pas le meilleur pays du monde. – Et alors? It’s true. France isn’t best country in the world. – So?

Zut alors! is an expression that means darn it, shoot or shucks!

  • Zut alors! J’ai oublié mon parapluie! Shoot! I forgot my umbrella!
  • Zut alors! J’ai encore brûlé le gateau! Darn! I burned the cake again!

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About David Issokson

David Issokson is a lifelong language enthusiast. His head is swimming with words and sounds as he speaks over six languages. Of all the languages he speaks, he's the most passionate about French! David has helped hundreds of students to improve their French in his private online lessons. When procrastinating working on his site, FrenchLearner.com, David enjoys his time skiing and hiking in Teton Valley, Idaho.

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