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Essential French Expression
|Literally||to pain / effort|
Usage notes: À peine is a very common French expression, equivalent to the English adverbs "barely, hardly."
The literal translation can seem odd, but there is a certain logic to it. Peine has two meanings, both of which lend themselves to the idea of doing something with difficulty. Peine meaning "pain" hints at a reluctance to do more than is absolutely necessary, since it’s painful, while the other meaning of peine highlights the effort required for the task.
|Ce chiot a à peine deux mois.||This puppy is barely two months old.|
|J’avais à peine terminé quand il est arrivé.||I’d barely finished when he arrived.|
|À peine savons-nous ce qui s’est passé.||We barely know what happened.|
Somewhat synonymous: ne … guère
À peine can also be used informally, as an interjection to express disbelief.
|– Je l’ai fait moi-même.
– À peine !
|– I did it myself.
– Yeah, right!