From a song from 2013 by belgian singer Stromae:

Formidable, formidable Tu étais formidable, j'étais fort minable, Nous étions formidables

What is the correct translation of 'formidable' in this case? Can it be translated as 'wonderful' or 'amazing' or maybe even as formidable, a word that also exists in English but usually not used to describe a couple? I had seen the song translated with all those variations.

I am doing my baby steps in studying French and trying to understand if I spot a word that has an English equivalent like in this case, what are the chances that they have the same meaning?

  • 1
    General, enthusiastic praise.
    – Luke Sawczak
    Jan 7, 2018 at 17:20

2 Answers 2


There are many synonyms in French as in English which could be used in this sentence. The word play formidable/« fort minable » could explain why this word was chosen by Stromae (and not stormae as you wrote, Stromae meaning « maestro » in verlan, a form of French where you swap syllables). It could then be translated into wonderful, amazing, great, superb, or any similar word, although I guess the word play will be lost in translation.

  • Thanks, corrected. Also, i got the idea of the pun, as to my untrained ear 'formidable' and 'fort minable' sounded the same :P, but it still was strange, to describe a romantic partner as 'formidable'. Jan 7, 2018 at 17:21
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    Indeed, best to get the faux amis out of the way as soon as possible! "Formidable" in English can probably be translated redoutable or similar.
    – Luke Sawczak
    Jan 7, 2018 at 17:24
  • In context, when formidable is used in French, it often refers to a wonderful performance. Also, minable and formidable are rhymes. The term is very, very common and much used.
    – Lambie
    Jan 7, 2018 at 18:07
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    @Morrigan don't worry, Stromae makes strange songs, so it sounds strange to anyone. That's what we call "des chansons à texte", where you have to pay very careful attention to the words he uses to fully understand the song and what it really means.
    – Random
    Jan 9, 2018 at 8:31
  • Larousse suggests redoutable as a synonym for formidable, though ... Jan 9, 2018 at 18:57

formidable = wonderful.
minable = pathetic.

fort XXX is used to express that you are very XXX.
Example :
tu as été fort méchant
tu as été très méchant.
Hence, fort minable should mean very pathetic. But fort minable is prounonced as forminable, i.e. wonderful.
If you have the lyrics, you can read what the author means. But if you don't, you've got to listen carefuly how words are prounonced and understand the whole song. It's quite subtile. Even french native can be confused. That's an interesting part of this song ;)

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