How to Use the French Expression 'Tant Pis'

The English equivalents range from 'oh well' to 'tough'

'Tant pis' ('Oh well') shrugs this French gentleman.
'Tant pis' ('Oh well') shrugs this French gentleman. Tetra Images/Getty Images

Tant pis, pronounced ta(n) pee, is an everyday French idiomatic expression that literally means "so much worse." In use, the phrase is very often used as a mild exclamation that can be construed as "oh well," "never mind," "too bad," "so be it," to the vulgar "tough."

The Speaker Can Be Resigned or Angry

This expression, one of the most common in the French language, can be either fatalistic, expressing a disappointed resignation, or accusatory, indicating that whatever happened is one's own fault.

In the most extreme cases, tant pis would be the equivalent of something along the lines of an angry "too damn bad" or "tough."

In most cases, though, it's said with a lilt, a shrug, and even a smile suggesting "oh well" or "never mind" [it's not a big deal]. A synonym in French could be Dommage, C'est dommage, or Quel dommage ("What a shame."). When something disappointing or sad has happened, a more likely synonym would be, C'est dur. ("That's hard.")

An appropriate antonym of tant pis would be "good" or "all the better."

Expressions and Usage

J'ai oublié d'apporter le cadeau, mais tant pis. > I forgot to bring the gift, but oh well / never mind.

C'est tant pis pour lui. > That's just too damn bad for him.

Je dirais tant pis, mais c'est dommage. > I'd say too bad, but it's just so sad.

Il répond que c'est tant pis. > He says that's too bad.

Si vous êtes jaloux, tant pis. > If you guys are jealous, that's fine.

Si tu veux pas comprendre, tant pis. > If you didn't understand it, too bad for you.

Bon. Tant pis, on y va. > All right, so much for that. We're off.

Le gouvernement veut contrôler chaque sou, tant pis si les Canadiens souffrent. > The government wants to control every penny; never mind if Canadians suffer as a result.

Si c'est impossible, tant pis. > If that's impossible, no worries [there's nothing we can do about it].

Je reste. Tant pis s'il n'est pas content. > I'm staying. Too bad if he doesn't like it.

Tant pis pour lui. > Too bad (for him).

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Lawless, Laura K. "How to Use the French Expression 'Tant Pis'." ThoughtCo, Aug. 2, 2017, Lawless, Laura K. (2017, August 2). How to Use the French Expression 'Tant Pis'. Retrieved from Lawless, Laura K. "How to Use the French Expression 'Tant Pis'." ThoughtCo. (accessed January 21, 2018).