I am trying to understand the possible usages of "finalement" and "enfin".

According to https://french.yabla.com/lesson-Finalement-or-Enfin-805 , "enfin" describes a foreseeable outcome and "finalement" describes an unforeseeable one when both mean "finally".

Based on this and my research in dictionaries, I have concluded so far:


  • finally, in the end (unforeseeable outcome). Examples:
    • Finalement, il a quand même pu partir en vacances où il le voulait.
    • Malheureusement, tous leurs efforts n'auront finalement servi à rien.


  • finally, in the end (foreseeable outcome). Examples:

    • Enfin seuls !
    • Il a ecouté tout le monde et a parlé enfin.
    • Vas-tu enfin sortir de la salle de bains ? (expression of impatience)
  • in short (summarizes previous topic). Example:

    • Il boit, il fume ; enfin, il a tous les vices.
  • at least (expresses uncertainty). Example:

    • Enfin, ça, c'est ce qu'il dit !
  • anyway (expresses change of topic). Example:

    • Enfin, je dois partir maintenant.
  • oh well (interjection, expresses acceptance of an unpleasant fact). Example:

    • Enfin ! c'est la vie !
  • oh come on! (interjection, expresses impatience/annoyance). Example:

    • ce n'est pas la même chose, enfin !
  • after all (interjection, expresses that sth is true despite any indications or expectations of the contrary)

    • c'est son droit, enfin !

Is this correct? Are "finalement" and "enfin" interchangeable in any of these examples?


They quite overlap but while finalement is more neutral, enfin can have a positive meaning. I guess that's close to the unforeseeable/foreseeable description.

In your example, enfin seuls ! means being alone is a clearly a relief, same with il a parlé enfin (I'd rather say: il a enfin parlé) which imply everyone was looking forward to hear him.

On the other hand, finalement seuls ! is a little heavy, and might be used to just state we are alone after a long period and il a finalement parlé just means "he eventually spoke".

These adverbs are also not interchangeable in:

Vas-tu enfin sortir de la salle de bains ? (impatience, I want you to leave as soon as possible)

Vas-tu finalement sortir de la salle de bain ? (more neutral, do you plan to eventually leave the bathroom?)

The meaning is identical in enfin/finalement il a tous les vices.

Finalement, ça, c'est ce qu'il dit ! is not very idiomatic and the uncertainty meaning is missing.

Finalement, je dois partir maintenant doesn't mean anyway, I have to leave now, but I'm unsure either about this meaning in enfin, je dois partir maintenant. I guess the context and intonation plays a strong role here.

Note also that a close expression, sometimes still disapproved (in vain), is emerging: au final. The reason is final being an adjective, le final is accused to break the grammar. My kids are constantly using it anyway, along with grave (for "a lot"), trop (for "very") and similar.

It replaces finalement (or à la fin):

Au final, il a quand même pu partir en vacances où il (le) voulait.

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  • Thanks for the answer! I have a related question. wordreference.com/fren/finalement says that "finalement" could mean "at last", but that English expression means that something expected happened after a long time (ref: collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/at-last), which goes against the unexpected meaning of "finalement". Can "finalement" really mean "at last" ? – Alan Evangelista Oct 19 '19 at 16:33
  • What is the "unexpected meaning" of finalement? – jlliagre Oct 19 '19 at 19:58
  • Sorry if I was not clear. I meant that "at last" is always used with foreseeable/expected events, such as "enfin", and "finalement" is not, so I don't understand how "at last" could be translated to "finalement" (or vice-versa). – Alan Evangelista Oct 20 '19 at 2:29
  • 1
    Finalement can actually be used with foreseeable (prévisibles) events too. The difference is not that the event is unexpected (inattendu) but that you are glad it happened with enfin (e.g. enfin, il a réussi) and neutral or sad with finalement (e.g. finalement, il a perdu). – jlliagre Oct 20 '19 at 4:37

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