Essential French Expression
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|Meaning||here, take this; there you are; look, listen, you know…|
Usage notes: They may look like just words, but tiens and its plural tenez are extremely common and useful French expressions.
|J’ai trop de paquets, tiens / tenez.||I have too many packages, here. (as you hand a few to other people)|
|Tiens, je dois répondre à la porte.||Take this, I need to answer the door. (as you give someone your drink)|
Tiens and tenez can also be used for giving a gift or responding to a request:
|Tenez, je vous ai acheté des bonbons.||Here, I bought you some chocolates.|
|– Tu me prêtes un stylo ?
|– Can I borrow a pen?
– Here you go.
Somewhat synonymous: voilà
Tiens and tenez are usually used as interjections or fillers, with essentially three different meanings:
1. Upon seeing someone, you can say tiens or tenez to mean something like “there you are” or “there he is.”
|Tiens, Bernard !||Bernard, there you are!|
|Tenez, voilà Pascal.||Hey, there’s Pascal.|
2. Use tiens and tenez to draw attention to what you’re about to say, where in English you might say something like “see,” “look,” or “you know.”
|Tiens, je dois t’expliquer une chose.||Look, I need to explain something to you.|
|Tenez, c’est plus difficile que ça.||You know, it’s more difficult than that.|
3. Express surprise, equivalent to “hey!” or “how about that!”:
|Tiens, c’est Jean Dujardin !||Hey, that’s Jean Dujardin!|
|– J’ai acheté une nouvelle voiture.
– Tiens !
|– I bought a new car.
– How about that!
Related expression: Tiens, tiens means “well well” or “how about that.”
|Tiens, tiens, le retour du fils prodigue.||Well well, the prodigal son returns.|
In addition to being second person imperatives, tiens is also the first and second person singular present tense tenir conjugation (je tiens, tu tiens) and tenez is the second person formal/singular and plural (vous tenez).
Plus, les tiens is the plural of le tien, the tu form of the possessive pronoun.
|Je suis en train de faire mes devoirs, as-tu fini les tiens ?||I’m doing my homework, have you finished yours?|