À peine

French expressions analyzed and explained

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Expression: à peine

Pronunciation: [ah pehn]

Meaning: hardly, barely

Literal translation: to pain, to effort

Register: normal


The French expression à peine acts like an adverb and means "hardly" or "barely." If you have trouble with this expression, the literal translation might help. One possibility is "to pain," which would seem to suggest that whatever is being (barely) done is so difficult as to be painful, and therefore just the minimum amount is done. But peine also means "effort," so a more accurate literal translation might be "with effort," as if you have to expend effort to perform the task.


  • J'ai à peine faim. (I'm barely hungry.)
  • Il est à peine midi. (It's barely noon, It just struck noon.)
  • Ça s'aperçoit à peine. (It's hardly noticeable, You can barely see it.)
  • C'est à peine croyable. (It's hard to believe.)
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Team, ThoughtCo. "À peine." ThoughtCo, Dec. 6, 2021, thoughtco.com/a-peine-1371087. Team, ThoughtCo. (2021, December 6). À peine. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/a-peine-1371087 Team, ThoughtCo. "À peine." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/a-peine-1371087 (accessed March 27, 2023).