Au fait is a commonly-used French expression that has a few varying definitions. Even if you don’t speak French or aren’t learning it, you may have heard of au fait because it sometimes finds itself into English. Of all the definitions that au fait takes on, only one of them matches up with how we sometimes use it in English. If you are just interested in that definition then click here. Otherwise let’s go over what au fait means and how to use it.
Au fait as a way to say by the way
The first way of using au fait that we are going to go over can be thought of as the French equivalent to “By the way”. This is by far the most common French usage of au fait and if you only learn this way you’ll understand the majority of situations in which you’ll see or hear it. Let’s look at some examples of this definition in action.
Salut Tim ! Au fait, j’ai vu ton père au magasin vendredi matin. – Hi Tim! By the way, I saw your dad at the store on Friday morning.
Merci pour ton aide, au fait. – Thanks for your help, by the way.
Au fait as a Way to Say Get to the point
The next meaning of au fait that we’re going to go over is admittedly less common than the first one. Nevertheless, you never know what you may hear in conversation, so it’s definitely worth going over. Au fait can also be used when you want someone to “cut to the chase” or “get to the point”. It can be used by itself or put in a more complete sentence. Take a look at the examples below to get an idea of how this works.
J’ai quelque chose à te dire. Est-ce que tu te souviens de…. – I have something to tell you. Do you remember….
Au fait ! – Get to the point!
Il n’a pas beaucoup de temps, donc il va droit au fait – He doesn’t have a lot of time, so he’s going straight to the point.
Au fait used in this instance actually comes from the expression En venir au fait which, when translated literally, is sort of like saying “Come to the point”. This often gets shortened to just au fait like we see above.
Au fait as a way to be informed about something
Our final definition of au fait just so happens to be the definition that it takes on when used in English. This means that if you already use au fait in English, you should be able to adapt it to French no problem. If you aren’t familiar with how to use it, the best way to think of this meaning is “to be informed about”, “to be knowledgeable about” or “to be up to date” on something.
In French, au fait generally becomes au fait de when used in this sense whereas in English it’s just said as au fait. As always, take a look at some examples to get some context.
Le président est bien au fait de cette question – The president is well aware of that issue.
Il a été mis au fait de la situation – He was made aware of the situation
Overall, au fait is a relatively easy expression that you should be able to learn with just a little bit of practice. If you’re interested in learning more French vocabulary or expressions, head on over to the French vocabulary page.