What Does "C'est-à-dire" Mean in French?

Learn How to Say "I Mean"

Là, c'est à dire ici
Blend Images - LWA/Dann Tardif

C'est-à-dire is a common expression in French and you can use it when you want to say "I mean" or "that is." It's a way to clarify what you're trying to explain and you will find it very useful in conversations.

The Meaning of C'est-à-dire

C'est-à-dire is pronounced say ta deer. It literally translates to mean "that is to say" and uses the French verb dire (to say). However, we most often translate it to "that is" or "I mean." You can even use it to vocalize the written example of "i.e."

The expression is used to explain or expand upon something that was just said. You might also use it to ask for clarification. In informal writing, c'est-à-dire may be abbreviated to c-à-dcàd, or even cad.

The phrase is within the normal register, meaning that it is part of everyday language. In French, it's acceptable to say it in both formal and informal settings.

Examples of C'est-à-dire in Context

There are many situations in which you might use the phrase. Essentially, any time you need to clarify, you can rely on c'est-à-dire.

  • Il faut écrire ton nom là, c'est-à-dire, ici. - You need to write your name there, I mean, here.
  • Un traducteur, c'est-à-dire quelqu'un qui récrit les documents dans une autre langue... - A translator, that is, someone who rewrites documents in another language...
  • Je dois travailler ce soir, c'est-à-dire que je ne peux pas aller au ciné avec toi. - I have to work tonight, which means I can't go to the movies with you.

    As another example, you might use the phrase in a conversation such as this:

    • Il faut que tu commences à y mettre du tien ici. - You need to start pulling your weight around here.
    • C'est-à-dire ? - Meaning? / What does that mean?
    • C'est-à-dire que tu vas nous aider à faire le ménage. - It means you're going to help us out with the housework.
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      Lawless, Laura K. "What Does "C'est-à-dire" Mean in French?" ThoughtCo, Oct. 28, 2017, thoughtco.com/cest-a-dire-1371130. Lawless, Laura K. (2017, October 28). What Does "C'est-à-dire" Mean in French? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/cest-a-dire-1371130 Lawless, Laura K. "What Does "C'est-à-dire" Mean in French?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/cest-a-dire-1371130 (accessed January 19, 2018).