In French, one of the most common words you’ll hear is formidable. At first you may think the means “formidable”, as an “formidable task”. However, formidable is a false cognate (or faux ami in French), meaning “terrific” and “great”. This post will explain precisely how to use formidable in conversational French. Keep reading.
/for·mee·dah·bluh/ – [fɔʀmidabl]
Etymology of formidable
According to Projet-voltaire.fr, until the beginning of the 19th century, the only usage of formidable was to describe a person, object or situation which caused fear. In Latin, the adjective formidabilis translates to “causing or inspiring fear”. It’s only in modern French that the meaning of formidable has taken on a postive connotation to mean “great” and “terrific”.
In French, you can use formidable as a one-word exclamation. You can also say “c’est formidable !” (it’s/that’s wonderful!). Here are some example sentences.
Formidable ! J’y serai demain !
Great! I’ll be there tomorrow!
Hier j’ai vu un film formidable. Je suis certain que vas l’aimer !
I saw a great film yesterday. I’m sure you’ll like it!
J’ai vraiment apprecié la pièce. C’était formidable !
I really liked the play. It was wonderful!
According to WordReference, other translations of formidable include “outstanding”, “astonishing” and of course “formidable”.
Elle a appris le poème par coeur. Elle a une mémoire formidable.
She learned the poem by heart. She has an outstanding memory.
Et voilà ! Now you hopefully have a solid grasp of how to use formidable in French. Now check out our posts covering the verb se débrouiller (to get by, to manage) and the fun expression le coup de foudre (love at first sight). You can also check our post covering the song “Formidable“ by Belgian singer Stormae.