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
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Pronunciation French sound files [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 vas être en retard au travail.
– Non, en fait, je suis en congé, pas de travail aujourd’hui.
  – You’re going to be late for work.
– No, actually, I’m on vacation, no work today.
– Tu n’as pas de chien.
– En fait, si.
  – You don’t have a dog.
– Actually, I do.
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.

French lesson plans En fait in action

Examples of en fait in real-life videos from Lawless French Immersion:

Bref ce geste … est en fait loin de faire l’unanimité.   In short, this gesture … is in fact far from being uncontroversial.
Video: Kneeling gesture at Euro 2021 sparks controversy
Parce qu’en fait, quand t’es un acteur, Lupin c’est le personnage idéal.   Because in fact, when you’re an actor, Lupin is the ideal character to play.
Video: An interview with Lupin’s Omar Sy
Exactement, et en fait il y a un terme qui existe pour désigner ce type de discrimination linguistique.   Exactly, and in fact there is a word for this type of linguistic discrimination.
Video: French regional accents and linguistic discrimination (and more than a dozen other uses of en fait in this video!)
Donc en fait si on parle de la programmation musicale…   So in fact if we’re talking about musical programming…
Video: How to organize your own festival?
En fait, j’ai du mal à réaliser parce que tout va tellement vite.   In fact, it was hard for me to realize because everything went so fast.
Video: Basketball: Tony Parker talks about his career highlights
Donc des réservations qui ne sont jamais arrivées, en fait.   Bookings that never came, in fact.
Video: French families hit ski slopes during winter break

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En fait

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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!

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