16

According to https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/it+is+what+it+is

this idiomatic expression is used to talk about the

The situation, circumstance, or outcome (that) has already happened or been decided or established, so it must be accepted even if it is undesirable.

Some examples of usage:

Look, we lost the game, but it is what it is. All we can do is work even harder for the next one.

I'm not terribly fond of my daughter's new boyfriend, but it is what it is.

What are some colloquial ways to express similar ideas in French?

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

  • 2
    I'm new here. Why is "c'est ce que c'est" wrong? – Aravind Suresh Jul 23 at 12:46
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    @AravindSuresh I had also this query. Based on Deepl "I'm not terribly fond of my daughter's new boyfriend, but it is what it is" is translated by "Je n'aime pas trop le nouveau copain de ma fille, mais c'est ce que c'est." I think c'est ce que c'est is not considered idiomatic. But I am not a native speaker to elaborate more. By the way French of Quebec has c'est ça qui est ça. – Dimitris Jul 23 at 13:11
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    @AravindSuresh I confirm c'est ce que c'est wouldn't work at all. – jlliagre Jul 23 at 20:24
  • 3
    Both c'est ça qui est ça and c'est ce que c'est wouldn't be understood. They are just tautologies and don't express an opinion while c'est comme ça has an implicit continuation et c'est pas autrement. – jlliagre Jul 23 at 21:05
  • 1
    @AravindSuresh Because the French language doesnt use "it" as a replacement pronoun. What you wrote literally does not make sense. que or "that" could work, but it is clumsy. The accepted answer uses proper pronouns, and wouldn't work in English. It is literally "he must make with" – Stian Yttervik Jul 24 at 15:37

10 Answers 10

26

To refer to something that you have to accept even though you may not like it, you can say Il faut faire avec.

  • On a perdu le match, mais il faut faire avec.
  • Je suis pas très fan de son nouveau copain, mais il faut faire avec.

Note (comment @jlliagre)

One would drop the il in a colloquial conversation (i.e. mais faut faire avec).

39

The first expression that comes to mind is:

Mais c'est comme ça.

e.g.:

Regarde, on a perdu le match, mais c'est comme ça. La seule chose qu'on peut faire, c'est travailler encore plus dur pour le prochain.

Je ne suis pas très fan du nouveau petit ami de ma fille, mais c'est comme ça.


While mais c'est comme ça is relatively close to the English "but it is what it is", note that its word by word translation c'est ce que c'est wouldn't work at all in French.


This expression is sometimes used in its "verlan" form (banlieues French, rap lyrics...):

Mais c'est ça comme.

  • 6
    Alternative : « mais c'est ainsi ». – Laure SO - Écoute-nous Jul 22 at 8:19
  • 3
    @Laure Yes, although like c'est la vie, this alternative seems less colloquial than c'est comme ça. On the other hand, petitrien's faut faire avec is spot on. – jlliagre Jul 22 at 9:01
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    Upvoted this one because : 1. That's what I would say as a native speaker. 2. It's quite close to the english version, making it easier to remember for a non-native speaker. – Berthim Jul 22 at 9:01
  • 2
    @StéphaneGimenez The OP explicitely asks for a colloquial expression. C'est ainsi sounds a little formal to me, and c'est la vie a little outdated. I agree the latter is not formal. – jlliagre Jul 22 at 9:53
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    @jillagre I see "C'est comme ça" as closer, "il faut faire avec" is a consequence of this statement. Again just my opinion. Actually I use "c'est comme ça" regularly as a french frog. :D – unludo Jul 24 at 8:37
20

It all depends on the context, but in those two particular cases, believe it or not, a French speaker may actually use “C'est la vie”.

Écoute, on a perdu. C'est la vie. On fera mieux la prochaine fois.

Son nouveau petit ami ne me plaît pas beaucoup, mais que dire ? C'est la vie.

  • 4
    Courant ou pas, vraiment passe-partout le "c'est la vie":-)! – Dimitris Jul 23 at 10:44
12

One idiomatic way to express it, albeit not formal at all, would be :

C'est l'jeu, ma pauv' Lucette.

This come from a TV advertisement for the Française Des Jeux (French lottery), in which an old couple winning lottery find destinations for holiday by spinning a globe, and land on Australia. The wife say it is too far, and her husband answer with this "That's the game, my poor Lucette".

This used to be popular, but the usage seems to decrease as the TV spot memories grows old.

  • 2
    really, tv ad as a reference? – user13512 Jul 22 at 22:37
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    This TV ad is were this specific expression come from. This is definitely not the most general way to express "it is what it is", but I wanted to include it for completeness. – Kevin FONTAINE Jul 23 at 7:19
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    @GeorgeM it's an expression I've heard a lot (from France / Switzerland). It goes with a condescending / mocking tone, said to somehow who is not happy about losing in a game / gamble. – Pac0 Jul 23 at 13:47
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    @GeorgeM That's true. This ad, aired in the 90's, came into popular culture in France and it's not uncommon to hear it even today. However, it might be used mostly by people in their 30s to 50s, younger people not knowing the origin of the idiom. It's not the answer, but definitely a good alternative one. – Berthim Jul 23 at 14:32
  • 1
    Been recycled by my friends as "c'est l'tarif, ma pov' lucette". Same meaning as 'it is what it is', but exclusively for cruel/unfair situations. – m.raynal Jul 24 at 13:16
11

I also found this (exclusively for French Canadians)

...c'est ça qui est ça...

Source

https://www.reddit.com/r/French/comments/1zhrhf/cest_quoi_l%C3%A9quivalent_en_fran%C3%A7ais_de_it_is_what/

Further insight

https://oreilletendue.com/2014/04/30/cest-tout-bis/

https://www.wikebec.org/cest-ca-qui-est-ca/definition/

  • 3
    A variation on this expression was used to great effect in the popular song "Ça Que C'tait" by rap group Alaclair Ensemble (g.co/kgs/agprkJ): "Tu pensais qu’c’tait ça que c’tait, mais c’tait pas ça que c’tait", i.e. "You thought that's what it was, but that's not what it was". – François Leblanc Jul 24 at 13:23
6

You could try voilà or bon

Look, we lost the game, but it is what it is.

Écoute, on a perdu le match et voilà.

I'm not terribly fond of my daughter's new boyfriend, but it is what it is.

Je ne suis pas un grand fan du copain de ma fille mais bon.

2

Another option:

Écoute, on a perdu, mais ainsi va la vie. On fera mieux la prochaine fois.

I view this option as slightly sadder than "c'est la vie".

2

An expression from a current singer that is used by young people could be c'est rien on s'adapte :

On a perdu le match, c'est rien on s'adapte. On travaillera encore plus dur pour le prochain.

Je ne suis pas très fan du nouveau petit ami de ma fille, mais c'est rien on s'adapte.

  • Isn’t that a bit more optimistic than “it is what it is”? Sounds more like “this isn’t a big deal, we’ll manage” more than “well, we can’t change it, so we may as well try to accept it”. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 24 at 10:37
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    Never heard such an expression, although native French speaker... – Jean Marie Becker Jul 24 at 20:05
2

IMHO, "I'm not terribly fond of my daughter's new boyfriend, but it is what it is." is a poor example. "It is what it is" is used to describe a "general situation" that directly impacts the speaker but for which the speaker has not been able to change. The daughter's selection of boyfriend is not sufficiently general to be used with this phrase. The most pertinent translation suggested is probably "c'est comme cà", although English has another closer translations of "c'est comme ça", (=that's how it is) and that is probably what would be used rather than "it is what it is" when talking of the boyfriend; Although "Il faut vivre avec" shares much of the sense, in English the closest direct translation of this would be "We have to live with it" but again it isn't really a good fit when talking about the personal choice of someone for a boyfriend.

2

In a strategic context, one may see:

C'est le jeu

perhaps less weighty than "c'est la vie".

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