Learn the Meaning of "Vive la France"

The Historical French Patriotic Phrase Dates to the Storming of the Bastille

Patriotic French Expressions
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"Vive la France" is an expression used in French to show patriotism. It’s difficult to translate the term literally into English, but it generally means “long live France” or “hurray for France.” The phrase has its roots in Bastille Day, a French national holiday commemorating the storming of the Bastille, which took place on July 14, 1789, and marked the beginning of the French Revolution.

Patriotic Phrase

“Vive la France” is mostly used by politicians, but you will also hear this patriotic expression around national celebrations, such as Bastille Day, around French elections, during sporting events, and, sadly, at times of French crisis as well, as a way to invoke patriotic feeling.

La Bastille was a prison and a symbol of the monarchy in late 18th-century France. By capturing the historic structure, the citizenry signaled that it had now held the power to rule the country. Britannica.com notes that  the related phrase “Vive le 14 juillet!”  -- literally “Long live the 14th of July!” -- has been associated with the historic event for centuries. The key term in the phrase is "vive," an interjection that literally means "long live," according to Dictionary.com.

The Grammar

French grammar can be tricky; not surprisingly, knowing how to use the term "vive" is no exception. “Vive” comes from the irregular verb “vivre,” which means "to live." It’s the subjunctive. So, an example sentence might be: “Nous souhaitons, nous espérons que la France vive longtemps, heureusement.” This translates to "We hope that France will live for a long time, fortunately.

Note, that the verb is "vive" -- not "viva" as in "Viva Las Vegas" -- and it is pronounced "veev," where the final "e" is silent.

Other Uses for "Vive"

The expression “vive” is very common in French to show enthusiasm for many different things, such as:

  • Vive les vacances - Hurray for the vacation.
  • Vive les soldes - Hurray for the sales season.
  • Vive moi - Yeah me!

So, as you see, the saying "Vive la France" is deeply rooted in French culture, history, and politics.

While the full slogan is generally invoked only on historical occasions and during political events, the key term in the phrase -- "vive" -- is widely used by the French to express joy and happiness on many occasions.

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Lawless, Laura K. "Learn the Meaning of "Vive la France"." ThoughtCo, Aug. 2, 2017, thoughtco.com/vive-la-france-1371434. Lawless, Laura K. (2017, August 2). Learn the Meaning of "Vive la France". Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/vive-la-france-1371434 Lawless, Laura K. "Learn the Meaning of "Vive la France"." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/vive-la-france-1371434 (accessed January 22, 2018).