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French : en fait v. au fait - The Language Nook - Yolaine Bodin

“En fait” or “Au fait”?

by | 27 Sep 2018 | French Language


En fait and au fait are two short French phrases that are extremely common. If you think you haven’t heard them much yet, pay attention next time you hear a French conversation and you will soon realize how often both en fait and au fait are used.

Of course, there is a difference in pronunciation that is obvious to native speakers but it may sometimes be a little difficult to tell one from the other, especially if you ear is not yet well trained in the French language.

Listen and learn to discriminate between en fait and au fait:


En fait


Au fait


However similar both phrases may sound to you, you can’t use one for the other for they are different in meaning and as a result, are not used in the same context.  


Use en fait to say actually when it means in fact, as a matter of fact. En fait can be replaced with phrases such as en réalité or à vrai dire :

  • Il s’est inscrit à un cours de français. En fait, il a décidé de le faire l’été dernier. (He enrolled for a French class. Actually, he decided to do so last summer.)
  • J’ai déjà faim. En fait, je n’ai pas pris mon petit déjeuner ce matin. (I’m already hungry. In fact, I didn’t have breakfast this morning.)


Use au fait to say actually when it means by the way or incidentally. Look at these examples:

  • Je vais au cinéma ce soir. Au fait, tu y es allé samedi dernier ? (I’m going to the cinema tonight. By the way, did you go last Saturday?)
  • Ah, au fait, j’ai réservé une table pour ce soir. (Oh, by the way, I’ve booked a table for tonight)


Now try to use en fait and au fait when you speak French. You’ll see, you’ll quickly get used to both phrases and this way your conversations will sound much more natural. 🙂


There you are! You now know the difference between en fait and au fait in French. Congratulations! 😉


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