Vive la France !

Meaning of the French expression vive la France

Vive la France !
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Even if you don’t speak French, you’ve probably heard the expression vive la France once or twice, especially in mid-July and during the World Cup. Get le scoop on what it actually means as well as how it’s spelled and pronounced with this detailed analysis.

Vive la France at a glance

Meaning Long live France!
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Pronunciation [veev la fra(n)s]
IPA   [viv la frɑ̃s]

How to use vive la France

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 simply means "long live France" and is used to express pride in being French and in French accomplishments. It’s similar to exclamations like “God bless America” and “God save the Queen,” other than the obvious lack of religious reference in the French expression. It’s almost always preceded by Vive la République ! and is sometimes accompanied by other rousing expressions, as you can hear in these vive la France excerpts.

 Common mistake: "viva" la France

Non-native French speakers often write viva la France, probably due to the influence of the term Viva Las Vegas and/or due to the fact that the -e at the end of vive is sometimes pronounced. However, 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.

 Grammar note

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.*

Expressions with vive

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 (stripped of titles in 2012)]
  • 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)

 Related features

Patriotic French expressions

More French patriotism

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