The expression au contraire has sort of a special status as it’s one of only a few that are actually known and used in English. Because of this you may already be familiar with it and perhaps even how to use it. For those who aren’t aware of how to use au contraire keep reading because that’s exactly what we are going to go over in this article.
What does au contraire mean?
To make things simple you use the expression au contraire when you not only want to say that a given claim is wrong or incorrect, but also want to say that the truth is in fact the opposite. The most common English translations for au contraire are as follows:
- On the contrary
- Quite the contrary
- Quite the opposite
- Just the Opposite
Whenever au contraire is used in English it’s typically in a silly or even ironic sense. However this is not at all the case in French. You are free to use it as much as you like without fear of people not taking you seriously.
Examples of au contraire in action
As with anything in French it’s best to look at some examples of whatever you’re learning, so let’s take a look at some examples of au contraire used in action.
– Tu ne m’aimes pas.. – You don’t love me..
– Au contraire, je t’aime plus que tout au monde – Quite the contrary, I love you more than anything in the world
Ce n’est pas parce que je suis au chômage que je suis inactif. Au contraire, je cherche du travail tous les jours – It’s not because I’m unemployed that I’m inactive. Quite the contrary, I look for work every day.
Using bien au contraire and tout au contraire
If you want to make your phrase a little bit stronger then you can add tout or bien to it. See the examples below.
Il ne se lamente pas sur son sort, tout au contraire – He doesn’t complain about his lot in life, quite the opposite
Est-ce que tu es déprimé ? – Are you depressed?
Bien au contraire ! – Just the opposite!
Using Au contraire de in a sentence
Au contraire is often used by itself as part of a larger sentence, but this doesn’t have to be the case. You can use au contraire de when what follows is a noun or clause. The best translation for this is “contrary to”, but as you’ll see there are other translations that work as well.
Au contraire de ce que pense Kevin, Paul est très intelligent – Contrary to what Kevin thinks, Paul is very intelligent
Au contraire de votre ancien patron, j’aime aider mes employés à grandir et apprendre – Unlike (contrary to) your former boss, I like helping my employees grow and learn
Using au contraire mon frère in a sentence
For one reason or another there actually exists a French expression involving au contraire that French speakers don’t even use. Au contraire mon frère (literally “on the contrary my brother”) is used the same way that au contraire is used in English.
This is like the expression c’est la vie, c’est la guerre, c’est la pomme de terre (which is another expression in French that only English speakers use) that we covered in the article on c’est la vie.
The only time that it would actually make sense to use au contraire mon frère would be if you were actually speaking to your brother. You’re still not likely to hear it, but at least it would make sense if you were speaking to your brother.
With just a little bit of practice you should be able to learn how to properly use au contraire in no time. The next time you’re in a conversation with a native-French speaker try using au contraire in a sentence and see how it goes. For more guides on French vocabulary check out the French vocabulary page.