Voilà

Voilà !
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Essential French Expression

Meaning (where to begin?)
Literally there is
Register normal, informal
Pronunciation [vwah lah]
IPA   [vwa la]

Usage notes: Voilà is the quintessential French word – commonly used in French, easy to say, and exotic sounding (and therefore used in English to give a bit of je ne sais quoi to whatever you’re saying).

 Voilà is a contraction of vois là – literally, "see there"

Voilà has any number of meanings, it’s definitely one of those words that you pick up a feeling for when spending time with native speakers. In the meantime, here are lots of examples to help you understand the different uses.

1) Presentation

The original meaning of voilà is "there is, there are" as a presentative, to point out one or more distant objects to another person. The nearby equivalent is voici (here is, here are), but in spoken French, voilà tends to be used in both cases, except when a distinction needs to be made.

Voilà notre école.   There’s (Here’s) our school.
Voici mon sandwich et voilà le sien.   Here’s my sandwich and there’s his.

Somewhat synonymous: tiens

Voilà can be used with direct object pronouns.

Me voilà !   Here I am!
Ah, te voilà !   Ah, there you are!
Où est la voiture ? Ah, la voilà.   Where’s the car? Ah, there it is.

2) Explanation

Voilà introduces an explanation when followed by

Interrogative adverb

Voilà pourquoi je n’y habite plus.   That’s why I don’t live there any more.
Voilà où il faut aller.   Here’s where we need to go.

Indefinite relative pronoun

Voilà ce que tu dois savoir.   Here’s what you need to know.
Voilà ce dont j’ai envie.   Here’s what I want.

Synonym: c’est

3) Agreement

Voilà often expresses agreement with what was just said, meaning something like "that’s right" or "exactly."

– Tu ne veux pas déjeuner avant 15 heures ?
– Voilà.
  – You don’t want to have lunch until 3pm?
– That’s right.
– Alors, nous avions tort.
– Voilà.
  – So, we were wrong.
– Exactly.

Synonyms: en effet, c’est ça, exact, exactement

4) Filler

You can used voilà as a filler at the end of a statement or explanation. The English equivalent is typically either much longer or else left out entirely.

C’est ma sœur et ma meilleure amie, voilà.   She’s my sister and best friend (and that about sums it up).
Tu vas finir tes devoirs avant de sortir, voilà.   You’re going to finish your homework before going out (and that’s all there is to it).

5) "Ago, for"

Informally, voilà can replace il y a (ago) and depuis (for).

Je l’ai vu voilà une semaine.   I saw him a week ago.
Voilà une heure que je t’attends !   I’ve been waiting for you for an hour!

Lesson: depuis vs il y a

6) "I warned you"

When a child ignores a warning and just what you knew would happen happens, et voilà is the response.

Ne mets pas ton verre par terre, le chien va le renverser … et voilà.   Don’t put your glass on the floor, the dog is going to knock it over … and he did, I warned you.
Je t’ai dit de ne pas laisser ton vélo derrière la voiture, quand Papa fait marche arrière … et voilà.   I told you not to leave your bike behind the car, when Dad goes in reverse … I warned you.

 Spelling: The only correct French spelling is voilà, with a grave accent on the a. In English, both "voilà" and "voila" are acceptable. These are all wrong:

  • voilá – wrong accent
  • viola – not a French word. This is the English name for a musical instrument called an alto in French
  • voala – nope, this doesn’t mean "there’s the koala," lol
  • vwala – horrible Anglicized spelling, please avoid
  • walla – even more horrible, please just stop!

 Related lessons

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Voilà
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