The French Say 'Par Exemple'; We Say, 'For Example.' Not So Different!

The French Say 'Par Exemple'; We Say, 'For Example.' Not So Different!

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We say "for example" when we want to illustrate, expand upon, or explain something, and so do the French, who say par example. Same construction, same meaning. Par exemple is also one of those everyday expressions that's just as common in French as it is in English. In fact, it's one of the ​most common phrases in the French language, along with such famous expressions as bon appétit, déjà vu, and je t'aime.

Here are a couple of examples of how to use par exemple:

Il est important de faire du sport. On peut, par exemple, faire du tai chi.
It's important to practice a sport. You can, for example, practice tai chi.

On pourrait proposer ce garçon, par exemple, a toutes les filles.
We could suggest this boy, for example, to all the girls.

'Par Exemple' Without a Verb

Note that when using par exemple, we often omit part of the sentence, which is implied.

Il est important de faire du sport : du tai chi, par exemple.
It's important to practice a sport: tai chi, for example.

The repetitive words “one can practice” are implied after the colon in the above English language example.

Synonyms of 'Par Exemple'

There are two approximate synonyms for par exemple in French but nothing as direct as the English "for instance." As French instructors will tell you, French is "poor in vocabulary, rich in syntax." So instead of par exemple, you could say:

  • Ansi, meaning literally "thus" or "therefore"
    This word is quite old-fashioned and not used as much as par exemple.
    Il aime les fruits. Ainsi, il mange une banane tous les jours.
    He likes fruits. Thus, he eats a banana every day.
  • Comme, meaning literally "such as"
    Tu peux manger quelque chose de léger. Comme un fruit.
    You can eat something light. Such as (or "Like") a piece of fruit.

Meaning of the French Expression 'Ça Par Exemple'

Ça par example is an interjection that expresses surprise and sometimes disapproval, but not always. The expression is a bit old-fashioned, though, and it's not so common these days. Instead, a French speaker today would probably prefer a more literal expression like, Je ne peux pas le croire, or “I can't believe it.”

Finalement, après t'avoir fait la cour pendant des mois, il t'a posé un lapin! Ça par exemple!
Finally, after courting you for months, he stood you up! I can't believe it!

Mistakes to Avoid When Using 'Par Exemple'

The word exemple in French is written with an e in the middle, not the a we use in the English word “example.” Also, the "for" is not translated as pour (literally "for") but as par (literally "by"). So the French expression literally translates to "by example," and many French speakers make the mistake of saying "by" (instead of "for") when they try to say "for example" in English.


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