Tant Pis is a commonly-used expression that comes up a lot in daily life. Literally translated as “so much (tant) worse” (pis) it really can be thought of as “too bad”, “oh well”, or “tough”. Although there aren’t any expressions in English that match up 100% with tant pis, it’s still not too hard to understand with just a little bit of practice.
There are two main meanings of tant pis that, once learned, will allow you to use it confidently. Let’s take a look at the first meaning.
Tant Pis as a way to accept your fate
This meaning is closer to “oh well” than it is to any other meaning of tant pis. It’s for when you’ve encountered some sort of minor setback, but ultimately shrug it off and move on. A lot of people view tant pis as a synonym of other French expressions such as Quel Dommage, C’est Dommage or simply just Dommage. If you are familiar with any of these expressions then learning tant pis in this sense should be a breeze. If you aren’t familiar with them then don’t fret, just look at the examples below.
S’il me déteste, tant pis – If he hates me, oh well
Si ça tourne mal, tant pis – If it goes wrong, whatever
Tant pis as a way to say too bad
Although this meaning can probably be translated by more ways than just “too bad”, this is probably the best way to remember it. If this doesn’t help you, then it can also be thought of as “tough” (as in “tough luck”).
It shows that you really don’t show any sympathy for whatever complaint or concern someone else expressed. In a way, you’re telling someone that whatever predicament they find themselves in is their own fault.
In all honesty, using tant pis this way isn’t all that nice and shouldn’t be used very often. We translate it below as “too bad”, but it should be noted that in French tant pis is probably a little stronger than that. If it helps, you can think of it as “that’s too damn bad” as the word “damn” adds quite a bit of emotion. If you really care about someone and don’t wish to hurt their feelings, then it’s probably a good idea to avoid using tant pis like this.
– Je ne veux pas aller à l’école – I don’t want to go to school
– Tant pis ! – Too bad!
Je l’achète. Tant pis si elle n’est pas contente – I’m buying it. Too bad if she doesn’t like it.
C’est tant pis pour elle – That’s just too bad for her
That’s all there really is to it! Hopefully with this guide you should be able to get out there and use tant pis confidently in conversation. To learn more French words and expressions check out the page on French vocabulary.