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|Meaning||very quickly (up/down stairs)|
|Literally||four by four|
|Pronunciation||[kah trah katr(eu)]|
|IPA||[ka tʁa katʁə]|
Usage notes: To talk about rapid movement up or down stairs, English uses a phrase like "fly up" or "rush down." In contrast, French uses the expression quatre à quatre to indicate (figuratively, most likely) that the person is taking the steps "four by four" or "four at a time."
|Il a monté l’escalier quatre à quatre.||He flew up the stairs.|
|Nous avons descendu l’escalier quatre à quatre.||We rushed down the stairs.|
The verbs monter and descendre normally need être in the passé composé, but require avoir here due to the direct object escalier – learn more.
Not to be confused with
une quatre-quatre – four-wheel drive vehicle, 4×4
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In English, we say “he took the steps two at a time”.
Yes, but that’s not the same thing. The English expression literally means to take two steps at a time, which you can do while climbing slowly, such as if you have long legs. The French expression quatre à quatre always means that the person is moving very quickly and it is figurative – the person is not actually taking 4 steps at a time.
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