Il y a une expression québécoise, de registre plutôt populaire je crois, « faire dur » ; il s'agit entre autres du commentaire ou constat négatif, sur le ridicule de l'apparence, ou sur une déconfiture particulière ; on conjugue le verbe avec dur invariable, et on la trouve aussi en emploi impersonnel :

Tu fais dur avec ces souliers-là.
Franchement, ça fait dur notre affaire.

[ Exemples tirés du Wiktionnaire, à faire dur ]

C'est un emploi de faire dans le sens de paraître, avoir l'air, produire tel effet (Larousse) ; « La maison faisait grande : il y avait assez de place pour [...] » (Aragon, au LBU14 § 249 f).

  • À quel sens précis de l'adjectif dur l'expression « faire dur » fait-elle appel ?
  • Connaît-on une autre tournure (hormis généralement celle de l'auxiliaire être avec l'adjectif attribut) équivalente à « faire dur », dans un français plus régulier, qui s'emploierait avec les deux exemples ?
  • Trouve-t-on que « ça craint avec ces souliers-là » est suffisamment direct (pronom ça vs. tu) et de même sens/registre, et pourquoi (pas) ?

2 Answers 2



As pointed out in another answer to this question, the TLFi/CNRTL sense #4 of dur as an adjective leads to the notion of “looking bad/awful/terrible,” which is certainly appropriate for use in the first, ces souliers-là, example.

Avec ces souliers-là, tu es [pas mal] dur/difficile à regarder!

(Autrement dit, toi et tes souliers-là, vous me faites mal aux yeux!)

In fact, as far as I can tell, this “hard to look at” notion would work well in nearly every context involving literal appearances and/or the particular sense of sight (Definition 4-d) [En parlant de la vue] …), including “en parlant du visage” [still under Def.4-d)] where it captures nicely for me the ingratitude that I see being criticized in the Wiktionary example about the person refusing a free trip to Florida.

(but see sense #5-B-3 as an adjective “[En parlant princ. d'une pers. ou d'un organe sensoriel (gén. dans des loc. fam.)] Qui n'est pas suffisamment sensible” to the extent that this lack of gratitude could also be viewed as a lack of sensitivity)


In contexts not clearly involving people/things being “hard to look at,” however, (as is perhaps the case in the second, notre affaire, example), maybe a more general, not-sight-specific insulting notion of someone/thing “being hard to take/support/digest/swallow” (from TLFi/CNRTL’s Def. 3-c) of dur) would be more appropriate:

Franchement, notre affaire est/va être dur à supporter/avaler/digérer.

This basic "hard to take" notion could possibly be extended in some contexts to someone/thing “being hard to take seriously,” and from there, even to simply someone/thing “not being [very] serious,” which I think captures well the idea expressed in example 2:

Franchement, ça [ne] fait pas très sérieux, tout ça/notre affaire.


In Wiktionary’s example about fearing China, the sense of “ça craint” you mention would work especially well (as would “ça va faire peur,” I think), but I'll have to defer to the good discussion you cite regarding the appropriateness of that expression's registre.

In the "soulier" example you specifically ask about, however, I think invoking fear (even sarcastically) with “ça craint” might be overdoing it a bit, and even with Wiktionary's "China example," where conveying/predicting fear is clearly and specifically intended, I think one could still rely on the original notions of "hard to take" (NOT extended to “take seriously”) found in Def. 3-c):

Là, ça va bien, mais le jour où les Chinois vont consommer autant que nous, ça va être dur à supporter/digérer/avaler.


Another angle that I considered involves comparing “faire dur” with the similarly constructed notion of “faire le//son/ton [petit] dur,” where only an article or possessive determiner distinguish the two.
(see TLFi/CNRTL: "III.− Emploi subst- C.− Subst. masc. et fém.-2. Pop. Personne prête à la bagarre et que rien n'ébranle")

Personally, I usually interpret “faire le/ton [petit] dur” (especially when directed at me!) as a sarcastic way of ridiculing someone by expressing essentially the opposite of what the words could literally mean, i.e.,

“being a tough guy”= “trying (unsuccessfully) to be a tough guy” or “putting on a/your tough-guy act.”

Although I wouldn’t necessarily say that this “tough guy” notion of “le dur” as a noun is the notion of “dur” as an adjective in “faire dur,” I think it is possible that “faire dur” could be intended for use to similarly express, in a sarcastic and ridiculing way, just the opposite of what[ever] “[faire] dur” could literally mean in a particular context, including the “fort” sense of “dur”:

“Tu fais fort-là avec tes souliers…. NOT!”


“Ça fait fort ça, notre affaire….NOT!”

(see/cf: “II.− Emploi adv., fam. A.− Avec force///a) [En parlant d'un cheval] Avoir des réactions fortes/// Soleil dur = Soleil intense, fort,” all again from TLFi/CNRTL)


Finally, pursuing this “faire le dur” vs. ”faire dur” angle a bit further led me to the following entry on page 325 of my hard copy of Pierre DesRuisseaux’s Dictionnaire des expressions québécoises (of which, unfortunately, I can find no on-line version):

ROFFE. Etre (faire le, son) roffe (and toffe [angl. «rough and tough», garnement, canaille]); être (faire le) dur [= en France] Etre (faire le) dur à cuire.

Although this entry essentially just addresses the “tough guy” meaning of “le dur” as a noun in “faire le dur” mentioned above, it was interesting to me that “faire le” is only included parenthetically between “être” and “dur” where it’s used not as a noun but, as in “faire dur,” as an adjective.

I found it interesting as well that one of the words used to explain this “tough-guy,” “être-/faire-le-dur” meaning of “roffe” is “canaille,” which according to my personal hard copy of Le Robert-Micro is “A familiar term of affection applied to/used for children=Petite canaille!” (my translation), just as Wiktionary (transitive verb, sense #3) indicates that “faire dur” is used, albeit rarely, in Quebec.

So with these last few points in mind, maybe the “tough-guy,” “faire-le-dur,” and especially the “être-dur” meaning of “dur” is more closely related to the meaning of “dur” in “faire dur” than I originally thought, which could also justify revisiting the argument (to the extent that "tough guys" are worth fearing) that the full "fear" sense of “ça craint” (still no opinion on its registre) could perhaps fit nicely in all contexts.


  • 1
    When you put the expression next to others such as t'as l'air cave, t'as pas d'allure, t'as pas de bon sang, tu fais pitié, it becomes quite intricate figuring out the differences. Also the one with cave (+- dumb), doesn't sit very well or is imprecise imho with ça + fait/aux., i.e. the situation. It's all quite interesting. Go figure indeed. Thanks again!
    – user3177
    Nov 2, 2016 at 6:38
  • 1
    Thanks, that was insightful and interesting ! Further answers may complement yours concerning that ça craint which I'm less familiar with personally or reference specialized lexical tools for Qc. I think in a way I believe pitiful in appearance/rough in some inappropriate way cannot really mix well, and that most likely they're 2 distinct uses. Really not sure. Anyways. Cheers !
    – user3177
    Nov 7, 2016 at 4:52
  • @exilanceéglisée Thanks! In English there is a slangy meaning of “feeling/looking rough” that could mix w/“pitiful in appearance”: “After drinking all night I’m/you’re really feeling/looking rough today!” but I can’t find examples where “roffe” has been extended to this meaning in French. Maybe that could be a decent question: “Has roffe in French been extended to describe how one looks/feels after a night of heavy drinking (or sickness) as “rough” has in Eng. &/or what are some ways to capture this meaning of “rough” in French (besides “gueule de bois”)?”(désordonné//[mal] fichu/foutu?)
    – Papa Poule
    Nov 7, 2016 at 16:23
  • I don't think it's likely roffe would even be recognized generally in France, although I'm not French. It feels slang in Fr. too I would think. I have never heard it to mean the way you would feel after a hangover, claqué/(je me sens) fini could be more usual, the latter having 2 possible meanings including being impaired, but it's no longer related to what we're discussing. Nevertheless it's easy to draw parallels between some idiomatic Qc French and some types of use in AmE ; it's like in some cases Qc French seems like it "knows" some AmE. Thanks!
    – user3177
    Nov 8, 2016 at 21:33

"Dur" can mean "Qui est pénible, désagréable, rude aux organes des sens." (see TLFi, definition 4). Here is an attempt at an equivalent in English

You look awful/terrible with those shoes.

Intuitively, "dur", here has a connotation of "looking bad" because it hurts those who are seing it (it does not refer to the feet of the person who is wearing the shoes).

The next one ("ça fait dur notre affaire") seems a different case. It is connected to meaning 2 of the word "dur", which is "Difficile à manœuvrer, qui fonctionne mal, qui résiste à une manipulation." But here, note that it is used as an adverb. It would translate into English as:

To be honest, it would hardly pay off.

(and indeed, it might be a calque from English, or influenced by it)

  • 1
    Thank you! I can sort of see why you would translate like you did in the latter case, but please note "it would hardly pay off" misses the meaning by a long shot. It's more along the lines of "we/it stink(s)" or something like that, although I can't say for certain. But did you read it as "it makes our business hard(er)" or something? Anyways, English influence is always possible indeed.
    – user3177
    Oct 30, 2016 at 10:43
  • I am no expert of Québec French and you may be indeed right. It could be that it started as I described, but became used as a euphemism, with a much stronger meaning.
    – fralau
    Oct 30, 2016 at 10:50
  • I'm no expert either, and although I naturally understand this expression, I've never tried to figure it out. As is often the case with that, it's not easy. I appreciate your input. Thanks!
    – user3177
    Oct 30, 2016 at 10:55

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