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Patriotic French Expression
|Meaning||Long live France!|
|Pronunciation||[veev la fra(n)s]|
|IPA||[viv la frɑ̃s]|
Usage notes: You probably won’t hear the patriotic exclamation Vive la France ! more than a few times a year; it tends to be reserved for occasions like Bastille Day, French elections, international sports, and, sadly, national tragedy.
Vive la France is used similarly to exclamations like “God bless America” and “God save the Queen,” other than the obvious lack of religious reference in the French expression.
Vive is the third person singular subjunctive of the verb vivre (to live). It was originally used as a third person imperative in this type of expression, but most grammarians now consider it an invariable presentative.*
Non-native French speakers often write viva la France, probably due to the influence of the term Viva Las Vegas, unaware that viva is not a French word: it’s Spanish, Italian, or Portuguese. Even so, viva la France does not mean “long live France” in any of those languages; that would be viva Francia, viva la Francia, and viva França, respectively.
Vive is also used with other cherished things or people, such as
- vive l’amour – long live love, hurray for love
- vive les Bleus* – long live the French soccer / football team
- vive la différence – long live the difference (typically between men and women)
- vive les mariés* – long live the bride and groom
- vive la reine – long live the queen
- vive le roi – long live the king
- vive les vacances* – hurray for vacation / the holidays
*Think these should be plural, as in vivent les Bleus, vivent les mariés, vivent les vacances? According to Le Bon Usage, vive is invariable in this type of construction. Some native French speakers disagree, and conjugate it as vive or vivent according to the number of the noun it precedes.
You’re likely to encounter other expressions with vive in movies and ads: vive les femmes (hurray for women), vive les produits pays (hurray for local products), Vive le vent (“long live the wind” – a French Christmas carol), etc. Sometimes they even make it into the news:
- vive le Lance – long live Lance [Armstrong, seven-time winner of the Tour de France]
- vive le Tour, forever – long live the Tour [de France], forever (Lance Armstrong, in his farewell speech)
- vive le Québec libre – long live free Quebec (Charles de Gaulle, during a controversial speech in Montreal in 1967)
- vive les racailles – long live scumbags (one of the responses to then-Interior Minister Nicholas Sarkozy’s comment just before les émeutes des banlieues de 2005)
More French patriotism
- La Marseillaise
- Listening: Quatorze Juillet / Bastille Day
- Reading: Quatorze Juillet / Bastille Day
- 7 names for "France"
- Current events
- French symbols and motifs