En fait

Tu n'as pas de chien. En fait, si.
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Essential French Expression

Meaning in fact, as a matter of fact, actually
Register normal
Pronunciation [a(n) feht]
IPA   [ɑ̃ fɛt]

Usage notes: The French expression en fait is used to contradict something and offer an explanation. It’s very common, but in fact probably not as common as you think – see note at the end of this lesson.

Par exemple…

– Tu n’as pas de chien.
– En fait, si.
  – You don’t have a dog.
– Actually, I do.
– Tu vas être en retard si tu ne pars pas immédiatement.
– En fait, je ne travaille pas aujourd’hui.
  – You’re going to be late if you don’t leave immediately.
– Actually, I’m not working today.
J’ai dit « oui », mais en fait je trouve que c’est une très mauvaise idée.   I said "yes," but as a matter of fact, I think it’s a terrible idea.
J’allais commencer à 9 heures, mais en fait je me suis réveillé trop tard.   I was going to start at 9am, but in fact I overslept.

Somewhat synonymous

  • à vrai dire – to tell (you) the truth
  • au contraire – on the contrary
  • au fond – actually
  • en l’occurrence – in the event
  • en réalité – in reality

  Potential confusions

1) Many French students use en fait indiscriminately to mean "in fact," but this is often a mistake. Sometimes, the correct French translation is en effet.

2) Despite its seeming similarity, the expression au fait has an entirely different meaning.

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2 Responses

  1. lawrence bohme 27 August 2017 / 0:55

    It’s similar to the “hopefully” epidemic in the US back in the 60’s and 70’s, until it petered out. A trendy crutch for people who don’t know what to say but want to sound as if they did. En fait was at its height around 2010 or so but has faded since.

  2. ArthurF 23 November 2015 / 17:47

    Many native French speakers use “en fait” as a pause mechanism, as we would use “I mean” or “umm” in English. Sometimes it seems that speakers, especially those feeling a little uncomfortable, will begin every single sentence with “en fait”. I first became aware of this while in a four-week French school in Paris some years ago. One afternoon we had a young teacher-in-training give us a talk on French cheese. She was quite nervous, and used “en fait” multiple times per sentence!