Tout d’un coup

Tout d'un coup
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French Expression

Meaning all at once; ~ all of a sudden
Literally all in one blow
Register normal
Pronunciation [too doo(n) koo]
IPA   [tu dœ̃ ku]

Usage notes: The French expression tout d’un coup is used with two kind of similar meanings, but one of them is wrong.

The real meaning of tout d’un coup is “all at once, in a single move, in one fell swoop.”

Par exemple…

Le séisme a détruit le village tout d’un coup.   The earthquake destroyed the town in one fell swoop.
Tout d’un coup, il a saisi ses affaires et est parti.   All at once, he grabbed his things and left.

Synonyms

  • d’un seul coup
  • d’un trait (with a verb like boire or avaler)
  • en une seule fois
  • en une seule gorgée (boire, avaler)

 Tout d’un coup is an indicator that you need the passé composé rather than imparfait.

 Faux synonym

Native French speakers commonly – but mistakenly – use tout d’un coup to mean tout à coup.

xxx Tout d’un coup, la voiture s’est retournée. xxx   xxx All of a sudden, the car flipped over. xxx
Really means: In a single move, the car flipped over.
xxx Je lisais quand tout d’un coup j’ai eu une idée. xxx   xxx I was reading when I suddenly had an idea. xxx
Really means: I was reading when I had an idea all at once.

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Tout d'un coup
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