Au Contraire - French Expression Explained

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The French expression Au contraire translates to "on the contrary" or  "just the opposite." It has a normal register.

Explanation and Examples

The French expression au contraire is used not only to deny what someone just said but also to proclaim that the very opposite is true.

   Je n'ai pas besoin d'assistance ; au contraire, je suis ici pour vous aider.
   I don't need help; on the contrary, I'm here to help you.

   Non, je ne me moque pas de toi. Au contraire, j'admire ce que tu as fait.
   No, I'm not making fun of you. On the contrary, I admire what you've done.

Note that au contraire can also used be in English with the same meaning, as can an emphatic variation: au contraire mon frère - on the contrary, my brother. In French, you can only use mon frère if you are actually talking to your brother, but in English, the rhyme seems to make fraternal considerations unnecessary.

In French, au contraire can be modified with bien or tout, to make the contradiction that much stronger.

   Il ne déteste pas les langues, tout au contraire.
   He doesn't hate languages, just the opposite.

   - Es-tu fâché ?
   - Bien au contraire !

   - Are you angry?
   - Just the opposite! Quite the reverse! Anything but!

In the above examples, au contraire is a stand-alone interjection or conjunction. But it can also be used with the preposition de followed by a noun or clause to mean "contrary to." (Synonym: à l'encontre de)

   Au contraire de votre analyse, nous allons perdre beaucoup d'argent.
   Contrary to your analysis, we're going to lose a lot of money.

   Au contraire de ce qu'il pense, à mon avis nous devons....
   Contrary to what he thinks, in my opinion, we have to...

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Team, ThoughtCo. "Au Contraire - French Expression Explained." ThoughtCo, Dec. 6, 2021, Team, ThoughtCo. (2021, December 6). Au Contraire - French Expression Explained. Retrieved from Team, ThoughtCo. "Au Contraire - French Expression Explained." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 28, 2023).