C'est la vie

French expressions analyzed and explained

French cafe called c'est la vie
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Expression: C'est la vie

Pronunciation: [say la vee]

Meaning: That's life, Such is life

Register: normal

Notes: The French expression c'est la vie is used far more in English than in French, though unlike many borrowed expressions, the meaning is the same in both languages. C'est la vie is a way of acknowledging something less than ideal that has to be accepted because "that's just the way life is."

   - Il a perdu son boulot et sa maison le même jour, tu te rends compte ?
   - C'est la vie !

   - He lost his job and his home the same day, can you imagine?
   - C'est la vie! / That's life!

Misspellings: say la vie, se la vie

Related expressions / variations:

  • C'est la guerre - That's war (for you), Such is war
  • C'est la vie, c'est la guerre, c'est la pomme de terre - literally, "That's life, that's war, that's the potato" (only English speakers use this one)

A vulgar slang equivalent in English is "sh** happens."

In French, c'est la vie can also be used non-fatalistically, though in this case it's not really the expression c'est la vie, but rather the presentative c'est introducing la vie. It can talk about something that is essential to life:

   L'eau, c'est la vie.
   Water is life.

Or a particular way of life:

   C'est la vie de famille qui me manque.
   It's family life that I miss.

   Vivre dans le besoin, c'est la vie d'artiste.
   Living in poverty is the life of an artist.

Related expression:
   C'est la vie de château (pourvu que ça dure)
   This is the life, It's the good life, Live it up (while it lasts)