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I constantly heard en fait when I was in France, but I am still unsure what it means or how to use it.

Can somebody shed some light on this please?

I am fully aware it may be spelt totally wrong.

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What's the context? With only approximate pronunciation and no context, it's hard to guess. –  Gilles Jul 6 '13 at 20:46
    
Correct answer below, thanks for attempting to help though. –  m88ulv Jul 7 '13 at 17:52
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2 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

I think you heard en fait, which means basically in fact or actually. This short expression is used a lot nowadays in France (maybe too much?) at the end of a sentence to state that there might be a difference between what has been expressed previously and the statement preceding the en fait. It can also start a sentence to express clearly in that case the divergence.

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I'm on board with this. There are speakers that do merge the nasal vowels of en/an and on, which account for the other half of the confusion. –  Circeus Jul 7 '13 at 5:43
    
Thanks, this sounds exactly like what I'm asking for! –  m88ulv Jul 7 '13 at 17:49
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Not to mix up with "Au fait", which means "by the way". And not to mix with "amphet'", which is a drug. –  Impair Jul 8 '13 at 12:28
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What's the difference between en fait and en effet? –  citizen Mar 12 at 22:26
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I have noticed that over the past decade or so, "en fait" is being greatly over-used in France. It seems to be very popular among teenage girls who can be heard on TV using it every three or four words, as a sort of filler between otherwise disjointed phrases. It also conveys a sense of sophistication, because it infers that the speaker is able to distinguish a "real fact" when he sees one. Although the kids seem to have got the "en fait" epidemic started, it is now being used by well-educated adults as well, who seem to do it unconsciously, without thinking if it adds anything to the meaning of their speech. The rule of thumb seems to be, when you need a pause to think what to say next, fill it up by saying, as archly as possible, "en fait". In English "hopefully" played, and to some extent still plays, a similar role, giving an intellectual veneer to the tritest utterance. If French people were to replace "en fait" with a similar expression like "en réalité" they would see how superfluous "en fait" is, in much of its current usage.

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Really! Totally so! ;-) –  Drew Mar 13 at 2:25
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