Quatre à quatre

Quatre à qutre
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French Expression

Meaning very quickly (up/down stairs)
Literally four by four
Register normal
Pronunciation [kah trah katr(eu)]
IPA   [ka tra katrə]

Usage notes: To talk about rapid movement up or down stairs, English uses a verb 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."

Par exemple…

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.

  Grammar note

The verbs monter and descendre normally need être in the passé composé, but require avoir here due to the direct object escalierlearn more.

  Not to be confused with

une quatre-quatre – four-wheel drive vehicle, 4×4

Lesson: French numbers

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2 Responses

  1. Joanne Drennan 12 August 2014 / 15:57

    In English, we say “he took the steps two at a time”.

    • lkl 12 August 2014 / 16:01

      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 is figurative – the person is not actually taking 4 steps at a time.