Stromae – Papaoutai Lyrics Translation

Stromae
Georges Biard, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Papaoutai – Song background

The French song “Papaoutai(pronounced pah-pah-ou-tay) is one of the great hits of Belgian singer Stromae (Paul Van Haver). The main theme of the song is fatherhood as the the title “Papaoutai” is a mis-spelling of “Papa où t’es?”, which means “Dad, where are you?” Both the song and music video were released in 2013 and went straight to the top of the European charts.

More French song lyrics!
French Learner offers English translations to the lyrics of many other famous French songs including Dernière Danse (Indilia), La Vie En Rose (Edith Piaf), Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien (Edith Piaf), La Bohème (Charles Aznavour), Les Feuilles Mortes (Yves Montand), La Mer (Charles Trenet), Les Champs Élysées (Joe Dassin), C’est Si Bon (Yves Montand) and Ne Me Quitte Pas (Jacques Brel),

Towards the end of this post you can watch YouTube video of Papaoutai and follow along with the French lyrics and English translation.

In the following lyrics analysis section we have hand-selected several lines which offer interesting insights to French grammar and vocabulary.

Papaoutai lyrics translation

Papaoutai – lyrics analysis

In real life, Stomae’s father died in the Rwandan genocide. However, it is said that before his father’s death, he didn’t play in important role in Stomae’s life.

In the opening of the song, Stomae is pleading with his mother to tell him the whereabouts of his father. The mother makes the excuse that he’s gone because he went to work. In the song’s chorus, Stomae repeats over and over, “Dad, where are you?”.

Further into the lyrics, Stomae questions his own ability to be a good father by saying “Everybody knows how to make babies; But nobody knows how to make fathers”.

Dites-moi d’où il vient

This line translates to “Tell me where he’s from”. “Dites-moi” (tell me) is an example of the French imperative mood, which is used to give commands.

Enfin je saurai où je vais

We translated this line to “At least I’ll know where I’m going”. Enfin has several translations including finally, at last, at least and anyway.

Maman dit que lorsqu’on cherche bien

We translated this line to “Mom says when you look thoroughly”. The adverb bien means “well”. Our loose translation was thoroughly. Lorsque is a conjunction meaning both when and while.

On finit toujours par trouver

This line translates to “You end up finding”. Finir means to finish and “finir par + infinitive” means “to end up”.

Elle dit qu’il n’est jamais très loin

Our translation for this line was “She says he’s never far”. This line used the ne…jamais negation rule, which means “never”.

Qu’il part très souvent travailler

This line translates to “That he often goes to work”. Part comes from the verb partir, which can translate to both “to leave” and “to go”.

Maman dit “travailler c’est bien”

This line translates to: “Mom says, working is good”. The expression “C’est bien!” can translate to “Good!” as in “Good job!”.

Bien mieux qu’être mal accompagné

This line was difficult to translate. Our translation was: “Much better than having bad company”. Bien mieux translates to “much better”.

Pas vrai ?

The expression “Pas vrai?” means “Right?”.

Où est ton papa ?

This line translates to “Where is your dad?”. Où est and où sont (where is and where are) are common usages of the verb etre (to be).

Sans même devoir lui parler

This line translates to “Without even having to speak to him.” The preposition sans means without. One of the translation of même is “even”. Lui is an indirect object pronoun that means “to him”.

Il sait ce qui ne va pas

This line translates to “He knows what’s wrong”. Sait comes from the verb savoir (to know). Ce qui is an indefinite relative pronoun meaning “what”.

The literal translation of “ne va pas” is: Isn’t going. However, in this context it means “not going well”. This page offers a complete explanation of the verb aller (to go).

Ah sacré papa

We translated this line loosely to “Oh, dear dad”. The dictionary definition of sacré is sacred or holy. However, other definitions include damn or bloody in a negative context.

Dis-moi où es-tu caché ?

This line translates to “Tell me, Where are you hiding?”. Où es-tu caché is an inversion of the question “Ou est-ce que tu es caché? This page covers asking questions in French in detail.

Ça doit, faire au moins mille fois que j’ai, Compté mes doigts

These two lines translate to “It must be at least a thousand times that I, Counted on my fingers”. We’re not exactly sure what Stomae is referring to? Perhaps how many times he’s seen his father or tried to find him.

Quoi, qu’on y croit ou pas

We translated this line to “What, whether you believe it or not”. The “y” is an indirect object pronoun meaning “in it”.

Y aura bien un jour où on n’y croira plus

This line translates to “There will be a day when you no longer believe”. The first “y” in this line is a shortening of “Il y a” which means “there is” or “there are”. The second “y” is the previously mentioned indirect object pronoun.

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Un jour ou l’autre on sera tous papa

This line translates to “One day or another we’ll all be dads”. The expression “Un jour ou l’autre” also translates to “someday”. Sera is the future tense of the verb être (to be).

Et d’un jour à l’autre on aura disparu

Our translation for this line was “And from one day to the next we’ll have disappeared”. The grammar used in this line is the past future (le futur antérieur) tense to express “will have”.

Des géniteurs ou des génies ?

This line translated to “Biological fathers or geniuses”. Géniteur means biological or natural father. We are not really sure what Stomea meant by this line.

Dites-nous qui donne naissance aux irresponsables ?

This line translates to “Tell us who gives birth to irresponsible people?”. This is the crux of the song. Stomae is trying to make sense of irresponsible fatherhood.

Stromae
Eddy BERTHIER from Brussels, Belgium, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Tout le monde sait comment on fait des bébés, Mais personne sait comment on fait des papas

These are probably the two most important lines of the song, translating to: “Everybody know how to make babies, But nobody knows how to be dads”.

We believe Stromae may be trying to get his young listeners to question and think about fatherhood before becoming parents themselves.

Monsieur Je-sais-tout en aurait hérité, c’est ça

This line translates to “Mister know-it-all would have inherited it, that’s it”. It is difficult to interpret the meaning of these next few lines. We believe Stomae may be alluding to people with good dads or easy lives.

Faut l’sucer d’son pouce ou quoi ?

This line translates to “You have to suck it off his thumb or what?”. We are not sure what exactly Stomea means by this line but we sense that he is expressing discontent.

Dites-nous où c’est caché, ça doit, Faire au moins mille fois qu’on a, Bouffé nos doigts

These three lines translate to: “Tell us where it’s hidden, it must, Be a thousand times that we, Ate our fingers”. These lines are very difficult to interpret. According to this discussion on WordReference, the lines suggest that the kids were so hungry with the absence of dad that they had to eat their fingers.

Eddy BERTHIER from Brussels, Belgium, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Papaoutai Lyrics Translation

Dites-moi d’où il vient
Enfin je saurai où je vais
Maman dit que lorsqu’on cherche bien
On finit toujours par trouver
Elle dit qu’il n’est jamais très loin
Qu’il part très souvent travailler
Maman dit “travailler c’est bien”
Bien mieux qu’être mal accompagné
Pas vrai ?

Tell me where he’s from
At least I’ll know where I’m going
Mom says when you look thoroughly
You end up finding
She says he’s never very far
That he often goes to work
Mom says “working is good”
Much better than having bad company
Right?

Où est ton papa ?
Dis-moi où est ton papa ?
Sans même devoir lui parler
Il sait ce qui ne va pas
Ah sacré papa
Dis-moi où es-tu caché ?
Ça doit, faire au moins mille fois que j’ai
Compté mes doigts
Hey !

Where’s your dad?
Tell me where’s your dad?
Without even having to speak to him
He knows what’s wrong
Oh dear dad
Tell me, Where are you hiding?
It must be at least a thousand times that I
Counted on my fingers
Hey!

Où t’es, papaoutai ?
Où t’es, papaoutai ?
Où t’es, papaoutai ?
Où t’es, où t’es où, papaoutai ?
Où t’es, papaoutai ?
Où t’es, papaoutai ?
Où t’es, papaoutai ?
Où t’es, où t’es où, papaoutai ?
Où t’es
Où t’es…

Where are you dad?
Where are you dad?
Where are you dad?
Where are you, where are you, dad?
Where are you dad?
Where are you dad?
Where are you dad?
Where are you, where are you, dad?
Where are you?
Ware are you?

Quoi, qu’on y croit ou pas
Y aura bien un jour où on n’y croira plus
Un jour ou l’autre on sera tous papa
Et d’un jour à l’autre on aura disparu
Serons-nous détestables ?
Serons-nous admirables ?
Des géniteurs ou des génies ?
Dites-nous qui donne naissance aux irresponsables ?
Ah dites-nous qui, tiens
Tout le monde sait comment on fait des bébés
Mais personne sait comment on fait des papas
Monsieur Je-sais-tout en aurait hérité, c’est ça
Faut l’sucer d’son pouce ou quoi ?
Dites-nous où c’est caché, ça doit
Faire au moins mille fois qu’on a
Bouffé nos doigts
Hey !

What, whether you believe it or not
There will be a day when you no longer believe
One day or another we’ll all be dads
And from one day to the next we’ll have disappeared
Will be be hateable?
Will we be admirable?
Biological fathers or geniuses
Tell us who gives birth to irresponsible people?
Ah tell us who, hey!
Everybody know how to make babies
But nobody knows how to be dads
Mister know-it-all would have inherited it, that’s it
You have to suck it off his thumb or what?
Tell us where it’s hidden, it must
Be a thousand times that we
Ate our fingers
Hey!

Où t’es, papaoutai ?
Où t’es, papaoutai ?
Où t’es, papaoutai ?
Où t’es, où t’es où, papaoutai ?
Où t’es, papaoutai ?
Où t’es, papaoutai ?
Où t’es, papaoutai ?
Où t’es, où t’es où, papaoutai ?
Où t’es
Où t’es…

Where are you dad?
Where are you dad?
Where are you dad?
Where are you, where are you, dad?
Where are you dad?
Where are you dad?
Where are you dad?
Where are you, where are you, dad?
Where are you?
Where are you?

Où est ton papa ?
Dis-moi où est ton papa ?
Sans même devoir lui parler
Il sait ce qui ne va pas
Ah sacré papa
Dis-moi où es-tu caché ?
Ça doit, faire au moins mille fois que j’ai
Compté mes doigts
Hey

Where’s your dad?
Tell me where’s your dad?
Without even speaking to him
He knows what’s wrong
Oh dear dad
Tell me where you’re hiding
It must be at least a thousand times that I
Counted on my fingers
Hey!

Où est ton papa ?
Dis-moi où est ton papa ?
Sans même devoir lui parler
Il sait ce qui ne va pas
Ah sacré papa
Dis-moi où es-tu caché ?
Ça doit, faire au moins mille fois que j’ai
Compté mes doigts
Hey !

Where’s your dad?
Tell me where’s your dad?
Without even speaking to him
He knows what’s wrong
Oh dear dad
Tell me where you’re hiding
It must be at least a thousand times that I
Counted on my fingers
Hey!

Où t’es, papaoutai ?
Où t’es, papaoutai ?
Où t’es, papaoutai ?
Où t’es, où t’es où, papaoutai ?
Où t’es, papaoutai ?
Où t’es, papaoutai ?
Où t’es, papaoutai ?
Où t’es, où t’es où, papaoutai ?
Où t’es
Où t’es…

Where are you dad?
Where are you dad?
Where are you dad?
Where are you, where are you, dad?
Where are you dad?
Where are you dad?
Where are you dad?
Where are you, where are you, dad?
Where are you?
Where are you?

Stromae – Papaoutai (Official Music Video)

The following is the official music video of Stomae’s Papaoutai. The video had almost 900 million views as of April, 2022. In the video, Stomae plays an expressionless father who dances with his son. The video is done with a 1950s setting.

Papoutai – Spotify

The following is a Spotify player where you can listen to Papaoutai.

Discover more French songs:

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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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